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social sciences

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Islam is the third Abrahamic world religion, annexing Moses and Jesus, founders of the previous two, as prophets, but believing that the final and complete revelation of divine will for humankind was dictated to Muhammed during the seventh century C. E.

The core beliefs of Islam are that there is one and only god (Allah) and that Muhammed conveyed the words of Allah in writing the Qu'ran (Koran in older spelling). The Qu'ran details proper conduct and the divine plan for human society to which every believer (Muslim) must submit ("Islam" is Arabic for "submit").

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The text of the Qu'ran was supplemented by sayings attributed to the Prophet, the hadith ("traditions"). Acceptance of particular hadith vary, as do interpretations of the Qu'ran by those implementing it as law (sharia).

Despite important regularities across both time and space, there are multiple Islamic societies, and a major schism that occurred while followers who had known and heard the Prophet were still alive continues (between Sunni and Shi'a faiths).

Since Islam lacks anything like the papacy's centralization of authority over definition of God's will and sacred book, various interpretations co-exist. Away from the Sunni/Shi'a borders, however, most Muslims have believed that there is a singular dar-al-Islam (abode of Islam) with shared interpretations and moral/social arrangements.

There is unanimity about the obligation to marry and procreate. Sexual pleasure is a good thing that Muslim men are entitled to enjoy (from their lawful female partners, up to four wives at a time). Female sexual desire is generally regarded as dangerous. Thus, in most Islamic societies females have been and are secluded and supervised to the extent that husbands and fathers have been able to afford to do so.

Attitudes toward Same-Sex Sexual Relations

Adultery is a very serious offense (although penalties for it vary), and sex with a person of the same sex (liwat) is regarded by many as an aggravated kind of adultery (that is, sex with an illicit partner). For a Muslim male to be penetrated is widely seen as constituting a revolt against the divine order, which established two complementary sexes. Penetrating a non-Muslim male has generally been shrugged off, though not regarded as entirely licit. (The poet Abu Nuwas proclaimed it a "duty" to make non-believer males submit to penetration by a believer, a view also reported among some contemporary Palestinians.)

The Qu'ran 4.16 proscribes sex between two Muslim males and orders both to be punished, though mandating lenience if they repent and cease such sin. As Qu'ranic punishments go, this is lenient (contrast, for instance, the hundred lashes for fornication and death for adultery).

However, the story of the destruction of Sodom, interpreted as divine punishment for males seeking to rape male guests, is alluded to seven times within the Qu'ran (7:80-84, 11:77-83, 22:43, 16:165-75, 26:165-75, 27:56-59, 29:27-33). Although it was Lot who went so far in trying to protect the visitors that he offered his daughters to fellow inhabitants of Sodom, his name has been taken (luti--Lot's people) as the most common term for those engaging in male-male sex.

There are hadith that record Muhammed's being amused by transvestite males (mukhannath) and permitting them freely to visit his wives when they were not veiled, and others showing him appreciating the beauty of young males--but not acting upon desire for them. The paradise promised in the Qu'ran 56:17-18 has beautiful male attendants (houri) as well as female ones, though their availability for sex is not specified.

Hadith decrying "abomination" are more frequent than those exhibiting tolerance or appreciation of sexual or gender nonconformity. In one, male-male sex makes the throne of God tremble and deserves a rain of stones. Another reports Mohammed's father-in-law having a luti burned alive.

The Hanbalite school of jurists have recommended and ordered stoning of Muslim males witnessed by four adult Muslim males having sex with another Muslim male. (Up to eighty lashes is the punishment for slander, that is, accusation of not supported by three other eyewitnesses or by repeated confessions.) In contrast, the Hanafite school has taken the hadith that "Muslim blood can only be spilled because of adultery, apostasy, or homicide" to exclude capital punishment of homosexual relations.

An extensive literature celebrating the beauty of young males developed in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, and other languages. The beautiful young male may be a metaphor for the divine in much of this, though the poems decrying the evasiveness and fickleness of beloved male youth strains such explaining away.

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Though the Qu'ran proscribes male-male sex, a substantial literature celebrating the beauty of young males developed in Islamic lands. In this sixteenth-century Persian illustration, a youth is courted by two male suitors.
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