Saturday 17 November 2012
In Queering the Quran, Michael Muhammad Knight discusses some attempts at reconciliation between Islam and homosexuality. With regards to Quranic interpretation he writes:
"As with anti-queer readers of the Bible, anti-queer readers of the Qur’an mention the fate of Lot’s people as proof that God hates same-sex desire. However, there are also readers of the Qur’an who attempt to produce new meanings from the episode. Among progressive Muslims, an argument exists that the story of Lot does not discuss men who want consensual sex with other men, but rather men who intend to commit rape. I have to confess that this argument strikes me as a bit of a reach, but I do appreciate the effort, if only so that I can say that alternative readings do exist.
Unfortunately, when I read the Qur’an, I find it mocking men who want to have sex with men. This is not what I want to see, and I hope to someday find an interpretation that will change this for me. I appreciate the need for queer Muslims to find new meanings in the words, and I'm on their side, but the project remains a matter of making the Qur’an say something other than what it appears to be obviously saying."
I wouldn't delve into whether Quran condemns homosexuality or not, but I want to draw attention to a broader aspect of what such progressive attempts at interpreting Quran entail.
There is a fine but important difference between:
1) Quran does not condemn homosexuality.
2) Quran supports homosexuality as a morally valid religious practice.
The truth of the first statement does not by itself imply the truth of the second statement. The former may be the case, but there is simply no scriptural evidence and support for the latter. (Here I might add that Quran and Hadith unambiguously disapprove of sexual relations outside marriage. So even if homosexuality is allowed within Islam, it would have to be within the fold of marriage. In this regard the historical support is abysmal, as I am not aware of a single homosexual marriage that took place in the days of Prophet and early Islam.)
If the first statement alone is true, then it shows that Quran and homosexuality can be reconciled. However, it would also imply that the source of moral validity of homosexuality is extra-Quranic. This, of course, is linked to the larger philosophical debate regarding the source of morality and the foundation for human ethics. Secular philosophy proves at least this much that moral reasoning is not dependent on locating the moral injunctions in the scriptures. In fact, often moral reasoning and scriptural injunctions can be in conflict.
If moral reasoning is not dependent on scripture, what then is the validity of scripture as a source of morality? This, I believe, is a larger theological question that most progressive Muslims simply do not seem to be aware of. Are there two source of morality, one scriptural and the other extra-scriptural? Does secular moral reasoning lack something that scriptural morality offers? If so, what does it lack? And if it doesn't lack anything, what need is there for scriptural morality?