The Inquisition


  1. Origins

The Inquisition was never a pan-Christian movement – it was always a specific Roman Catholic institution. That being the case, Protestants hold no blame for its actions. The Inquisition began in the 12th century as a result of the quasi-Gnostic Cathar (Albigensian) heresy in Provence (France). A Crusade was called against the Cathars, and linked to this, was the need to expose heresy and heretics, convert and if necessary, punish them through secular means – imprisonment and execution. In the NT, heresy and apostasy are only punishable by excommunication. Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Vol. 1 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010, originally published 1888), p. 307, presents the origins of the Inquisition:

In 1204 Gui, Archbishop of Reims, summoned Count Robert, cousin of Philip Augustus, the Countess Yolande, and many other laymen and ecclesiastics to sit in judgment on some heretics discovered at Brienne, with the result of burning the unfortunate wretches. In 1201, when the Knight Everard of Chateauneuf was accused of Catharism by Bishop Hugues of Nevers, the Legate Octavian summoned for his trial at Paris a council composed of archbishops, bishops, and masters of the university, who condemned him.

Later, the Papacy organised a more systematic means of enforcing uniformity (p. 320): ‘Innocent III endeavored, at the Lateran Council of 1215, to secure uniformity by a series of severe regulations defining the attitude of the Church to heretics, and the duties which the secular power owed to exterminate them under pain of forfeiture, and this became a recognized part of canon law..’ It was under Pope Honorius III that the system became more firmly established (p. 321):

In a series of edicts dating from 1220 to 1239 he thus enacted a complete and pitiless code of persecution, based upon the Lateran canons. Those who were merely suspected of heresy were required to purge themselves at command of the Church, under penalty of being deprived of civil rights and placed under the imperial ban; while, if they remained in this condition for a year, they were to be condemned as heretics. Heretics of all sects were outlawed; and when condemned as such by the Church they were to be delivered to the secular arm to be burned. If, through fear of death, they recanted, they were to be thrust in prison for life, there to perform penance. If they relapsed into error, thus showing that their conversion had been fictitious, they were to be put to death. All the property of the heretic was confiscated and his heirs disinherited. His children, to the second generation, were declared ineligible to any positions of emolument or dignity, unless they should win mercy by betraying their father or some other heretic. All “credentes,” fautors, defenders, receivers, or advocates of heretics were banished forever, their property confiscated, and their descendants subjected to the same disabilities as those of heretics. Those who defended the errors of heretics were to be treated as heretics unless, on admonition, they mended their ways. The houses of heretics and their receivers were to be destroyed, never to be rebuilt. Although the evidence of a heretic was not receivable in court, yet an exception was made in favor of the faith, and it was to be held good against another heretic. All rulers and magistrates, present or future, were required to swear to exterminate with their utmost ability all whom the Church might designate as heretics, under pain of forfeiture of office.

We should conceptually distinguish the Episcopal and the later Papal Inquisitions (Michael C. Thomsett, The Inquisition: A History, [Jefferson & London: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2010], p. 13):

Pope Lucius III (1181–5) declared the Episcopal Inquisition on November 4, 1184, through his papal bull Ad abolendum (On Abolition). Also referred to as the Charter of the Inquisition, the bull stated the pope’s intention:

To abolish the malignity of diverse heresies which are lately sprung up in most parts of the world, it is but fitting that the power committed to the church should be awakened, that by the concurring assistance of the Imperial strength, both the insolence and mal-pertness of the heretics in their false designs may be crushed, and the truth of Catholic simplicity shining forth in the holy church, may demonstrate her pure and free from the execrableness of their false doctrines…. [W]e likewise declare all entertainers and defenders of the said heretics, and those that have showed any favor or given countenance to them, thereby strengthening them in their heresy, whether they be called comforted, believers, or perfect, or with whatsoever superstitious name they disguise themselves, to be liable to the same sentence…. And as for a layman who shall be found guilty either publicly or privately of any of the aforesaid crimes, unless by abjuring his heresy and making satisfaction he immediately return to the orthodox faith, we decree him to be left to the sentence of the secular judge, to receive condign [deserved] punishment according to the quality of the offense…. [B]ut those who after having abjured their errors, or cleared themselves upon examination to their bishop, if they be found to have relapsed into their abjured heresy—We decree that without any further hearing they be forthwith delivered up to the secular power, and their goods confiscated to the use of the church.

This bull specifically instructed bishops to turn unrepentant heretics over to civil authorities for punishment.

Pope Gregory IX established the Papal Inquisition in 1231 (p. 28):

In the same year, Gregory established the formal Papal Inquisition. Unsatisfied with the progress made toward stamping out heresy, Gregory took away from Church bishops the authority to manage punishment, and claimed it to be within the pope’s authority to set rules. Thus, the Medieval Inquisition replaced the earlier, less formal Episcopal Inquisition that had been established by Lucius III. The failure of the Episcopal Inquisition influenced Gregory’s decision to create a more encompassing Inquisition under the control of the papacy itself. He determined to staff investigations with professionals, primarily from the Dominican Order. Gregory’s Inquisition had an organized, systematic character and was far more effective in gaining the desired result, the punishment of heretics.

Thus, it can be seen that the original aim of the Inquisition was to extirpate heresy, not Islam or Judaism. Therefore, when the Reformation came, the Inquisition was used against Protestants, since the Papacy – and thus the Inquisition – saw them as heretics.

  • First Victims

The first victims were Cathars, who held to a form of Gnosticism. Another early victim was the Waldensian sect, essentially a proto-Protestant group (pp. 14-15):

Among the targets of the initial Episcopal Inquisition enacted by Lucius III were the Waldensians. This was a movement that began in about 1177 in Italy, based on the beliefs of Peter Waldo…

Among the important theological differences between the Waldensians and the Church was the former’s refusal to accept the concept of purgatory (purgare, meaning to make clean), since it is not mentioned in the Bible. They also refused to venerate the saints. Perhaps most offensive to the Church, the Waldensians believed that anyone, not only priests, had the right to consecrate sacramental bread and wine. In short, the Waldensians thought of the Churchas unbiblical in much of its dogma.

Waldensians also refused to swear oaths, so that in a tribunal aimed at presenting evidence of heresy, a member of this sect was treated as a suspect refusing to tell the truth. Both Church and secular authorities were troubled as well by the Waldensians’ refusal to go to war.

Hence, even though they posed no military threat to the Papacy or the State, they were condemned and persecuted by the Inquisition. Another group were alleged witches, p. 15: ‘The Waldensians were later accused of practicing witchcraft and were among those persecuted in Europe’s Great Witch Hunt (1450–1750), a variant of the Inquisition focused on witches as heretics.’ As witch-fever mounted, the Papacy acted (p. 97):

It has indeed lately come to Our ears, not without afflicting Us with bitter sorrow, that in some parts of Northern Germany … many persons of both sexes, unmindful of their own salvation and straying from the Catholic Faith, have abandoned themselves to devils, incubi and succubi, and by their incantations, spells, conjurations, and other accursed charms and crafts, enormities and horrid offences, have slain infants yet in the mother’s womb, as also the offspring of cattle.

—Pope Innocent VIII, papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus, December 5, 1484

Sometimes, witches were treated leniently – notably (if somewhat ironically) in Spain (p. 101):

In Spain in the mid-period of the Great Witch Hunt, Inquisition tribunals were far more lenient than in the rest of Europe. This may seem to contradict the history of the Inquisition’s harshness against other groups, notably converted 

Jews and Lutherans. In Spain, as elsewhere, accused witches told fantastic tales of their supernatural exploits, stories brought out under torture or the threat of it. But the inquisitor in Saragossa, Pedro Ciruelo, had an explanation. He believed that the stories inquisitors were hearing came from pacts entered with the devil, but that people entered these pacts as the result of ignorance and superstition. Ciruelo urged leniency toward accused witches.

Other times and elsewhere, they felt the full wrath of the Inquisition (p. 102): 

In 1427, Franciscan missionary and preacher Bernardino da Siena campaigned against baby killers and witches, whom he termed “devilish women” (femmine indiavolate). He encouraged his listeners to denounce witchcraft and to show no sympathy for witches, asking how they would feel if a witch had murdered one of their children. He asked that anyone who suspected another of being a witch report them at once to the Inquisition. The denunciations soon began in large numbers. A trend began, in which those accused of the most fantastic crimes were most likely to be found guilty and burned at the stake.

Other groups attacked by the Inquisition included the proto-Protestant John Wyclif’s followers in England – the Lollards (p. 91):

Although Wyclif died at the end of 1384, he remained a problem for the Church for many years to follow. In 1401, an anti–Wyclif statute was extended to the Lollards by Parliament, condemning Wyclif and his followers. The statute, De hæretico comburendo (The Burning of Heretics), described the Lollards:

And of such sect and wicked doctrine and opinions, they make unlawful conventicles and confederacies, they hold and exercise schools, they make and write books, they do wickedly instruct and inform people, and, as much as they may, excite and stir them to sedition and insurrection, and make great strife and division among the people, and do daily perpetrate and commit other enormities horrible to be heard, in subversion of the said Catholic faith and doctrine of the Holy Church,

in diminution of God’s honor, and also in destruction of the estate, rights, and liberties of the said English Church; by which sect and wicked and false preachings, doctrines, and opinions of the said false and perverse people, not only the greatest peril of souls, but also many more other hurts, slanders, and perils, which God forbid, might come to this realm….

In 1408, the Constitutions of Oxford banned all of Wyclif ’s writings, especially his late-life translation of the Bible into English.

Later, the attack on heresy in England became legally formalised (p. 92):

In the decades after Wyclif ’s death, Lollards were brought before the tribunals of the Inquisition and an active crusade was initiated against them. Many recanted but many more were found guilty of heresy and executed. Heresy trials in England had been rare up until this time, but the Lollards were of special interest to the inquisitors. The movement had gained in popularity in spite of persecution. One writer of the day claimed that out of every two men encountered on the road, one was sure to be a Lollard.

In 1401, Henry IV became King of England and under his rule a new policy was undertaken in dealing with the Lollards. Parliament passed an act the same year legalizing the burning of heretics, the first law of its kind in England, which led to executions of hundreds of accused heretics. This law outlawed preaching, teaching or publishing by Lollards; offenders were to be tried by courts of the local diocese and upon being found guilty, handed over to civil authorities and burned at the stake.

In Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic), Jan Hus, a follower of Wyclif, was condemned by the Pope, and his supporters were persecuted (p. 93): ‘When followers of Hus expressed their view agreeing with Hus that indulgences were improper, they were beheaded, becoming the first martyrs in what came to be known as the Hussite Church.’ Hus himself was burnt, and we should note what the death-sentence involved as to terminology (pp. 94, 95): ‘ The ritual continued; a paper hat was placed on his head with the inscription Hæresiarcha (leader of a heresy) and a drawing of the devil. He was then delivered under guard to the local secular authorities with the order, “Take him and do to him as a heretic.”… Then the fire was lit.’ Note what was stated: ‘do to him as a heretic’. It follows that the initial emphasis of the Inquisition was on heresy, not Judaism or Islam, and burning people was originally the punishment of a heretic. 

  • Spain under Islam

Islam did not arrive in the Iberian Peninsula as a missionary faith, but rather as a political conqueror. It began in 711 (Roger Collins, Early Medieval Spain: Unity in Diversity, 400-1000, [Basingstoke & London: Macmillan Education Ltd, 1983], p. 151):

Essentially, the Arab conquest of Spain seems to have developed along the following lines: after the military subjugation of most of North Africa had been completed, but long before the cultural and religious assimilation of its indigenous Berber inhabitants can have occurred, an expedition, probably originally intended as a probing raid, was sent into Spain in 711 by Musa ibn Nusayr, the Arab governor of Ifrikiya (the new Arab North Africa), under the command of his former slave Tarik.

Thereafter the conquest continued so that within a few years most of the Peninsula was under Islamic rule (Joseph F. O’Callaghan, Reconquest and crusade in medieval Spain, [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003], p. 1):

From 711, when a mixed force of Arabs and Moroccan Berbers crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and overthrew the Visigothic kingdom, until the collapse of the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba in 1031, Muslim supremacy in Spain was unquestioned. As the seat of Islamic power was Cordoba, an eccentric location in the southern part of the peninsula, the Muslims did not permanently occupy large stretches of mountainous zones in the north. That made it possible for small groups of Christians to form the tiny, independent states of Asturias, Leon, Castile, Navarre, Aragon, and Catalonia. Clinging to the Cantabrian and Pyrenees mountains, this congeries of Christian enclaves, variously ruled by kings or counts, was kept on the defensive for nearly three hundred years, as Muslim armies marched northward every summer to ravage their lands but never to conquer them. 

The treatment of non-Muslims was based on subjugation, especially of the Catholics (Collins, Early Medieval Spain, p. 203):

New synagogues were built, such as the one founded in Cordoba by Hasdai ibn Shaprut’s father Isaac, while a ban existed on the erection of Christian churches. Like the Christians, the Jews were obliged, as non-Muslims, to wear distinctive dress, and both groups were forbidden, by a survival of principles from earlier Roman and Visigothic legislation, to own Muslim slaves. Their other slaves could in theory obtain liberty by embracing Islam, but it is tempting to wonder if the difficulties of applying these rulings in practice differed appreciably from those of earlier centuries.

Other restrictions were made (p. 207): ‘They were forbidden to build new churches or to advertise their worship by the ringing of bells…’ Islamic law was State law, and blasphemy was severely punished (Darío Fernández-Morera, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain[Wilmington: ISI Books, 2016], pp. 102-103):

In Umayyad Córdoba, Maliki authority Uthman ibn Kinana (d. 802) asserted that a ruler could choose what kind of punishment to administer for blasphemy, either beheading or crucifixion. The few documents that have reached us confirm the application of these penalties. The qadi (judge) Said ibn Sulayman al-Balluti agreed that death must be dealt to a blasphemer. In Umayyad Córdoba between 961 and 976, the ulama condemned to death a man, Abu al-Hayr, for insulting the Companions of the Prophet publicly and saying that one should be allowed to drink wine (something expressly prohibited, as we will see). Earlier, in 919, a Córdoban qadi prescribed death for a Christian female dhimmi guilty of saying publicly that Jesus was God and Muhammad a false prophet. In 1064, in Muslim-ruled Toledo, a Muslim man was crucified for blasphemy at the entrance to the city’s main bridge. 

In the History of the Judges of Córdoba, al-Khushani gives another instructive example under Umayyad ruler Abd al-Rahman II in the mid-ninth century. Abd al-Rahman removed a judge for prescribing a punishment less strict than death against a Muslim man accused of uttering words offensive to Allah—blasphemy. The ruler then named a new judge, who had the impious man suffer the death prescribed by Maliki jurisprudence: crucifixion. While being placed on the cross, the blasphemer shouted that he was innocent and that he did believe after all that there was no other God but Allah and that Muhammad was indeed His Prophet, but this repentance did not stop his crucifixion. 

An extant account of the punishment of an alim accused of blasphemy under Abd al-Rahman II indicates that in Islamic Spain a blasphemer could be both crucified and stabbed on the cross, a curious combination that was in fact proper according to Maliki doctrine. To be sure, as in Catholic Spain, the authorities could finesse what constituted blasphemy in view of their interests of the moment, and a blasphemer might be given the opportunity to recant and be guided back to the straight path. A blasphemer’s life, however, remained always at serious risk in al-Andalus.

Heresy and apostasy were also capital crimes (Ibid.):

Heresy also was punishable with death, though circumstances, or a ruler’s intervention, could save the occasional alim suspected of heresy. Al-Khushani records that a favorite of the Umayyad ruler Muhammad I (reigned 852–886) was accused of holding heretical views. The Córdoban fuqaha decided that this heretic deserved death “to extirpate the bad effects that his ideas would cause.” The only way Muhammad I found to save his favorite was to remove the judge before whom the case was being argued, thereby nullifying the judicial process, which then died out through legal inertia.

Islamic law treatises used even by Muslims under Christian domination prescribed death for a Muslim who, after three days in jail, still did not repent from his heresy; after he was killed, his property went to the community. In these treatises, apostasy and blasphemy were even worse than heresy: if a Muslim practiced another religion in secret, he must be killed and no attention must be given to his denials or his vows of repentance; a Muslim who offended Allah must be killed; whoever insulted the Prophet Muhammad must be killed and no repentance was acceptable.

Along with other restrictions, such as the Jizya, it is clear that Muslim Andalusia was no Paradise for the native Catholic inhabitants (Kenneth Baxter Wolf, Christian martyrs in Muslim Spain. [Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988], pp. 11-12):

The Christians of Cordoba were without a doubt subject to regular taxation. Eulogius complained of a “monthly tribute” that constituted a financial hardship for the Christians. Similarly Alvarus wrote of an “unbearable tax” that weighed heavily on Christian necks. There is little doubt, given the tone of victimization that both men adopted when speaking of the levies and the regularity with which they were collected, that tributum, vectigal, and census were simply Latin synonyms for the universal dhimmz tax, the Jizya.

The Cordoban authorities also prosecuted Christians guilty of blasphemy. In the spring of 850, a priest named Perfectus was arrested and later executed for publicly expressing his opinions about the errors of Islam to a group of Muslims. Months later a Christian merchant named Joannes suffered a severe lashing, public humiliation, and a long prison term for invoking the prophet’s name as he sold his wares in the marketplace.

Clearly, the laws regarding blasphemy were enforced with vigour against the native Catholics by the conquering Muslims.

  • Spain under Reconquista and Inquisition

From the eleventh century, the Muslim dominance of the Peninsula began to recede, and the re-conquest (Reconquista) began, completed in 1492 with the fall of the last Muslim emirate, Granada. During the era of Islamic domination, many Catholics had converted to Islam, usually to avoid the Jizya and to gain social preference (as elsewhere in Dar al-Islam). The Catholic rulers – and the Catholic Church – were determined to win these ‘back’ to the Papal obedience (although by then, we are speaking of the descendants of the original converts). Roman Catholic policies were already negative towards Judaism, but the idea, though perhaps exaggerated, the Jews had been favoured by the Muslims above Catholics intensified hostility. At any rate, the Catholic rulers were determined to have a monolithic Catholic populace, either by expulsion of Jews and Muslims, or their conversion. The problem for the Catholics, is that many Jews and Muslims merely feigned conversion (Conversos and Moriscos), but secretly practised their old faiths. Hence the Inquisition (Thomsett, The Inquisition: A History, p. 147): ‘Two years after Spain’s King Enrique IV requested that the pope establish a new Inquisition, Pope Pius II (1458–64) complied. The overall purpose of this new Inquisition was to investigate instances of heresy among the Conversos of Spain.’ 

The Inquisition began to accelerate in action and scope under Queen Isabella of Castile, and her husband, Ferdinand of Aragon (p. 149):

In 1478, after repeated requests from Hojeda and other anti–Conversos, Isabella and Ferdinand asked Pope Sixtus IV (1471–84) to issue a papal bull to establish a new Inquisition. On November 1, 1478, Sixtus issued his bull, Exigit sinceras devotionis affectus, creating the new Inquisition to be based in Castile. Terms of this new Inquisition included a ruling that three priests were to be appointed to a tribunal, with their selection left up to the royal couple as Ferdinand and Isabella had insisted. In 1480, the first tribunal was established, consisting of royal appointees of two Dominicans, Juan de San Martín and Miguel de Morillo, as well as Juan Ruiz de Medina as adviser. Allegations of Converso plots to arm and assault or assassinate the inquisitors led to numerous arrests and the convictions of many among the accused. On February 6, 1481, six Conversos were found guilty of heresy and condemned to be burned at the stake. The Spanish Inquisition had begun after years of consideration, debate and negotiation.

As well as secret Jews, secret Muslims were also targeted (p. 152):

…the Spanish Inquisition is best remembered for its persecution of Conversos. But in addition, Muslims who had converted to Christianity were also investigated and for the same reasons. Those suspected of secretly practicing Islam after conversion were called Moriscos (meaning Moor-like), and the majority of these Moriscos resided in Granada, Aragon and Valencia. By law, all Muslims living in Castile were legally required to convert in 1502. Muslims in Aragon and Valencia were not legally required to convert until 1526, although the majority had undergone forced conversions during the Revolt of the Brotherhoods (1519–23).

Arguably, there was a measure of revenge in all this – retribution for the treatment of Catholics during the long years of Islamic domination. There was also the fear of a fifth column – Islam still dominated across the sea in North Africa, and the Ottoman empire was still expanding. However, it was lack of conformity to Catholicism that was the defining issue. Later, the Spanish Inquisition turned on the nascent Protestant movement (p. 169): ‘The Inquisition was most active against Protestants in the 1550s and 1560s. In 1558, inquisitors in Valladolid and Seville arrested many accused of practicing Lutheranism or sympathizing with the movement. Arrests included many members of the clergy and nobility.’ Their fates were no different than the Moriscos, even though they posed no military/political threat (p. 170):

On May 21, 1559, fourteen accused heretics were sentenced to death, including some already dead who were exhumed and their remains burned at the stake. In Seville on September 24 of the same year, more than one hundred more were condemned, with twenty-one receiving death penalties. In December 1560, seventeen more were burned at the stake. Most of the condemned in these trials were from the clergy and nobility. Their heresy was being Protestant, which inquisitors easily defined as a form of “error” or being knowingly heretical. An outcome of this sudden inquisitorial fervor against Lutherans was the beginning of anti–Inquisition expression. Pamphlets and books appeared around Europe protesting the punishments of Lutherans in Spain.


The Inquisition was a purely Roman Catholic institution, of which Protestants are innocent. Indeed, they were also its victims – and proto-Protestants like the Waldensians were among its earliest victims. The basic issue was heresy. However, as we have seen, Islamic Spain also punished heresy – along with blasphemy and apostasy. It follows that Muslim criticism of the Spanish Inquisition is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Islamic Law On Heresy, Apostasy And Dhimmis In Relation To Spain


It is a favorite tactic of dawah team to reference the Inquisition, especially the Spanish variant thereof, as a stick with which to assault Christianity. In fact, the Inquisition began as an attack on heresy – the Cathars in Provence, the Waldensians in north Italy, then the Lollards in England, and Hussites in Bohemia. There were particular political circumstances that led to the Inquisition in Spain addressing Jews and Muslims who were suspected of feigning conversion, and it should be noted that the Spanish Inquisition effectively eradicated Protestants, who posed no potential subversive threat to the Spanish Crown, but were simply persecuted for heresy.

The problem with the dawah teams criticism is that it is so hypocritical. Muslim Andalusia persecuted heretics and apostates, as well as imposing dhimmi status on non-Muslims. Neither can this be presented as an exceptional quirk of Iberian Muslims. Rather, it was based on Islamic Law – Shari’ah – itself founded on the Qur’an and Sunnah. In this paper, we will examine what Islamic Law says about heretics, apostates and dhimmis.

  1. Heretics and Apostates

Islamic law has problems with the court testimony of heretics:

4832 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[The evidence of the sect of Hawa, and other heretics, admissible, but not that of the tribe of Khetabia.]

THE evidence of the sect of Hawa* (that is, such as are not Soonis) is admissible; excepting, however, the tribe of Khetabia, whose evidence is inadmissible, for reasons that will be hereafter explained. – Shafe’i maintains that the evidence of no tribe whatever of the sect of hawa is admissible, because the heterodox tenets they profess argue the highest degree of depravity. – Our doctors, on the other hand, argue that although their tenets be in reality wrong, yet their adherence to them implies probity, since they have been led to embrace them from an opinion of their being right; and there is, moreover, reason to think that they will abstain from falsehood, because it is prohibited in every religion. Hence the case is the same as if a person should eat of an animal which had not been slain according to the prescribed form of Zabbab, because of its being lawful amongst his sect. It is otherwise where the baseness proceeds from the actions, not from the belief. – With respect to the sect of Khetabia, it is to be observed that they are in a high degree heretics; and amongst them it is lawful to ear positive testimony to a circumstance on the grounds of another having sworn it to them. Some have said that it is an incumbent duty upon that sect to give evidence in favour of each other, whence their testimony is not free from suspicion.

* Anglice, the air; a derisive appellation given by the Soonis to the Shiyas.— Hawa, also, is used to express the sensual passions, whence the term Ail Hawa signifies sensualists, or Epictureans.

However, there were worse practices. The Catholic Inquisition punished – often by execution – false Catholics, whether Jews or Muslims who feigned conversion, but it also persecuted Protestants, who were heretics and had left the Catholic Church (i.e. they had apostatized). As for Islamic law, conversion from Islam – apostasy – is usually seen as a crime to be punished by the State:

4130AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

CHAP. IX Of the Laws concerning Apostates.

[An exposition of the faith is to be laid before an apostate]

When a Muslim apostatises from the faith, an exposition thereof is to be laid before him, in such a manner that if his apostasy should have arisen from any religious doubts or scruples, those may be removed. The reason for laying an exposition of the faith before him is that it is possible some doubts or errors may have arisen in his mind, which may be removed by such exposition; and as there are only two modes of repelling the sin of apostasy, namely, destruction or Islam, and Islam is preferable to destruction, the evil is rather to be removed by means of an exposition of the faith; – but yet this exposition of the faith is not incumbent*, (according to what the learned have remarked upon his head,) since a call to the faith has already reached the apostate.

* That is, it is lawful to kill an apostate without making any attempt to recover him from his apostasy.

4134 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[A female apostate is imprisoned until she return to the faith.

If a Muslim woman become an apostate, she is not put to death, but is imprisoned, until she return to the faith.Shafe’i maintains that she is to be put to death; because of the tradition before cited; – and also, because, as men are put to death for apostasy solely for this reason, that it is a crime of great magnitude, and therefore requires that its punishment be proportionally serve, (namely, death,) so the apostasy of a woman being likewise (like that of man) a crime of great magnitude, it follows that her punishment should be the same as that of a man…  

7512 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual)


A freethinker (zindiq) must be put to death and his repentance is rejected. A freethinker is one who conceals his unbelief and pretends to follow Islam. A magician also is to be put to death, and his repentance also is to be rejected. A apostate is also killed unless he repents. He is allowed three days grace; if he fails to utilise the chance to repent, the execution takes place. This same also applies to women apostates.

If a person who is not an apostate admits that prayer is obligatory but will not perform it, then such a person is given an opportunity to recant by the time of the next prayer; if he does not utilise the opportunity to repent and resume worship, he is then executed. If a Muslim refuses to perform the pilgrimage, he should be left alone and God himself shall decide this case. If a Muslim should abandon the performance of prayer because he disputes its being obligatory, then such a person shall be treated as an apostate – he should be given three days within which to repent. If the three days lapse without his repenting, he is then executed.

Whoever abuses the Messenger of God – peace and blessing of God be upon him – is to be executed, and his repentance is not accepted…

The property of an apostate after his execution is to be shared by the Muslim community.

7599 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual)


God, Glorified be He, has prohibited the shedding of the blood of Muslims; so also has he prohibited assault on their property except for a lawful cause.

It is not lawful to shed the blood of a Muslim except when he commits apostasy, or when he commits adultery, or when he kills a person and this is not in retaliation, or when he becomes an outlaw, or when he renounces the faith.

Sahih Al-Bukhari 5.632 Narrated by Abu Burdah, The Prophet (peace be upon him) sent AbuMusa and Mu’adh to Yemen and said to both of them “Facilitate things for the people (be kind and lenient) and do not make things difficult (for them). Give them good tidings, and do not repulse them; and both of you should obey each other.” …

Once Mu’adh paid a visit to AbuMusa and saw a chained man. Mu’adh asked, “What is this?” AbuMusa said, “(He was) a Jew who embraced Islam and has now turned apostate.” Mu’adh said, “I will surely chop off his neck.!”

Sahih Al-Bukhari 9.17 Narrated by Abdullah, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Messenger, cannot be shed except in three cases: in Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who abandons Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”

Sahih Al-Bukhari 9.37 Narrated by AbuQilabah, Once Umar ibn AbdulAziz sat on his throne in the courtyard of his house so that the people might gather before him. Then he admitted them and (when they came in) he said, ‘What do you think of al-Qasamah?” They said, “We say that it is lawful to depend on al-Qasamah in Qisas, as the previous Muslim caliphs carried out Qisas depending on it.” Then he said to me, “O AbuQilabah! What do you say about it?”  

He let me appear before the people and I said…“By Allah, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations: a person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed (in Qisas); a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse; and a man who fought against Allah and His Messenger, deserted Islam and became an apostate.”  Then the people said, “Didn’t Anas ibn Malik narrate that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) cut off the hands of the thieves, branded their eyes and then threw them out into the sun?” 

I said, “I shall tell you the narration of Anas. Anas said: “Eight people from the tribe of Ukl came to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and took the pledge of allegiance to Islam (became Muslim). The climate of the place (Medina) did not suit them, so they became sick and complained about that to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). He said (to them), ‘Why don’t you go out with the herdsman of our camels and drink, the camels’ milk and urine (as medicine)?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ So they went out and drank the camels’ milk and urine. After they had recovered, they killed the herdsman of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and took away all the camels.  

This news reached Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) , so he sent (men) to follow their traces and they were captured and brought (to the Prophet (peace be upon him). He then ordered their hands and feet to be cut off, their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron, and then he threw them out into the sun until they died.” I said, “What can be worse than that which those people did? They deserted Islam, committed murder and theft.”… 

  • Dhimmis

A feature of life for non-Muslims in Al-Andalus is that they were reduced to dhimmi status, which allowed them to endure a second-class existence with severe restrictions on religious liberty in return for paying the Jizyah (Darío Fernández-Morera, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain [Wilmington: ISI Books, 2016], pp. 113-114): 

Even in 1100, centuries after the Muslim conquest of Spain, the Andalusian clerics’ obsessive preoccupation with the contaminating potential of the infidels was echoed in the regulations issued in Seville by the faqih Ibn Abdun:

A Muslim must not massage a Jew or a Christian nor throw away his refuse nor clean his latrines. The Jew and the Christian are better fitted for such trades, since they are the trades of those who are vile. A Muslim should not attend to the animal of a Jew or of a Christian, nor serve him as a muleteer [neither Catholics nor Jews could ride horses; only Muslims could], nor hold his stirrup. If any Muslim is known to do this, he should be denounced.… No … [unconverted] Jew or Christian must be allowed to dress in the costume of people of position, of a jurist, or of a worthy man… They must on the contrary be abhorred and shunned and should not be greeted with the formula, “Peace be with you,” for the devil has gained mastery over them and has made them forget the name of God. They are the devil’s party, “and indeed the devil’s party are the losers” (Qur’an 57:22). They must have a distinguishing sign by which they are recognized to their shame [emphasis added].

Non-Muslims in Al-Andalus were to be distinguished from Muslims and avoided if possible (pp. 111-112):

In Umayyad al-Andalus, the ninth-century Maliki cleric Ibn Habib warned against performing ablutions with whatever a Christian had touched or used. Safran cautiously observes that this warning could have “implied” that Muslims should also, for example, keep away from bathhouses used or owned by Christians. In fact, all Maliki manuals of jurisprudence contain many injunctions regarding the problems posed by water, garments, and food touched by Christians.

Maliki scholar Yahya ibn Umar al-Kinani (d. 901), who grew up in Umayyad Córdoba before traveling to pursue his divine studies in Egypt, Baghdad, and Hejaz, warned Muslims against Jews or Christians who in the marketplace might try to blend with Muslims by not wearing the distinguishing piece of cloth or belt that was required of both…

The Utbiyya confirms that Malik taught that Christians should not be allowed to build new churches, and that if the churches had been built, they should be destroyed. Muslims were forbidden to help even in the renovation of existing churches.

Other restirctions were ritually abusive (p. 115): “In Muslim-controlled cities, Christians were forbidden to celebrate their religion in public, even in their own neighborhoods (crosses could not be displayed even on the outside of church walls or on top, and bells could not be wrung)…” This was not mere theoretical jurisprudence. Kenneth Baxter Wolf, ‘Convivencia as Persecution in Ninth-Century Córdoba’ relates the experience of Eulogius (Mark T. Abate [Ed.] Convivencia and Medieval Spain: Essays in Honor of Thomas F. Glick, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, p. 145): “One challenge faced by Christian dhimmis living under Muslim rule was how to participate in a pluralistic society dominated by Islam without compromising their own religious identity… Thanks to the writings of the priest Eulogius, we are in an unusually good position to appreciate it in all its complexity.” This is addressed in detail (p. 151):

Eulogius’ response is one of the most revealing passages in the Memoriale sanctorum.

Clearly [the ones who say this] do not think of the destruction of churches, the taunts directed at priests, and the fact that we pay a monthly tribute with such hardship as constituting “troubles.” … Who among all the persecutors of the faithful has attacked the church as cruelly as this abominable one? Who has heaped up so much in subversion of Catholics as this ill-omened one? No one of us [clergy] may walk secure in their midst, no one may pass by in peace, no one may penetrate their enclosures without being dishonored.

Indeed whenever the need for any ordinary thing compels us to go forth in public, or some pressing domestic necessity forces us to head out into the forum from the recesses of our huts, the moment they notice the symbols of our sacred order, with a shout of derision they attack, as if madmen or fools. This is not to mention the daily mockery on the part of the children, for whom it is not enough to inflict verbal abuse and heap up shameful [examples] of scurrility; they do not cease from pelting us with rocks from behind. Why should I mention what they do as an insult to the venerable sign? For when the appropriate time for singling psalms compels us to give a signal to the faithful, and the hour demands that we make the accustomed indication of prayer to the people, the crowds of people, enticed as they are by lying superstition, try to detect the clang of reverberating metal and do not hesitate to exercise their tongues in every curse and obscenity. Therefore not unfairly are they cursed, who inform their followers with so much hate aimed at God’s portion. We are often—indeed incessantly— slandered by them and everywhere we endure their ferocity on account of religion. Many of them judge us unworthy to touch their garments and abhor our coming close to them. They deem it pollution if we mix in any of their affairs.

Here Eulogius identifies three particular “troubles” faced by dhimmi Christians—“the destruction of churches, the taunts directed at priests, and the fact that we pay a monthly tribute”—adding a fourth—curses directed at the sound of bells—in medias res. It turns out that each of these “troubles” can be traced to a legal restriction imposed on the Christians by virtue of their status as dhimmis, that is, as members of a “People of the Book” residing within the Dar al-Islam and subject to the terms of a capitulation agreement or dhimma.

How far did such restriction reflect Islamic law? Very closely, as we shall see (Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: Revised Edition [Beltsville: Amana publications, 1988] p. 602):

o9.R The caliph (025) makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians (N: provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya, def: 01 L4)-which is the significance of their paying it, not the money itself – while remaining in their ancestral religions) (0: and the war continues) until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax (0: in accordance with the word of Allah Most High,

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden-who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book-until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled” (Koran 9:29)

The second-class status of dhimmis becomes clear when we look at the provisions of the Dhimmi “contract”:


011.1 A formal agreement of protection is made

with citizens who are:

(1) Jews;

(2) Christians;

(3) Zoroastrians;

(4) Samarians and Sabians, if their religions do not respectively contradict the fundamental bases of Judaism and Christianity;

(5) and those who adhere to the religion of Abraham or one of the other prophets (upon whom be blessings and peace)…

011.3 Such an agreement is only valid when the subject peoples:

(a) follow the rules of Islam (A: those mentioned below (011.5) and those involving public behavior and dress, though in acts of worship and their private lives, the subject communities have their own laws, judges, and courts, enforcing the rules of their own religion among themselves);

(b) and pay the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya).

011.4 The minimum non-Muslim poll tax is one dinar (n: 4.235 grams of gold) per person (A: per year). The maximum is whatever both sides agree upon. It is collected with leniency and politeness, as are all debts, and is not levied on women, children,

or the insane.

011.5 Such non-Muslim subjects are obliged to comply with Islamic rules that pertain to the safety and indemnity of life, reputation, and property. In addition, they:

(1) are penalized for committing adultery or theft, though not for drunkenness;

(2) are distinguished from Muslims in dress, wearing a wide cloth belt (zunna:r);

(3) are not greeted with “as-Salamu ‘alaykum” 

(4) must keep to the side of the street;

(5) may not build higher than or as high as the Muslims’ buildings, though if they acquire a tall house, it is not razed;

(6) are forbidden to openly display wine or pork, (A: to ring church bells or display crosses,) recite the Torah or Evangel aloud, or make public display of their funerals and feastdays;

(7) and are forbidden to build new churches.

We have seen that this was the case in Al-Andalus – the essential features of religious discrimination as outlined here were normative in Islamic Iberia. The Dhimmis were under Muslim authority, and never the reverse:

4018 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual) [The protection granted by a Zimmee.]

If a Zimmee grant protection to an alien infidel, his protection is not valid, because the acts of a Zimmee are liable to suspicion, with respect to granting protection, on account of his infidelity; besides, a Zimmee has no authority with respect to Muslims.

We noted that Islamic law requires non-Muslims to walk separately from Muslims on the road, and also in relation to transport and this religious Apartheid was true of Al-Andalusia:

 4122AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[Their wives must not associate with the wives of Muslims.]

It is requisite that the wives of Zimmees be kept separate from the wives of Muslims, both in the public roads, and also in the baths: and it is also requisite that a mark be set upon their dwellings, in order that beggars who come to their doors may not pray for them.  The learned have also remarked that it is fit that Zimmees be not permitted to ride at all, except in cases of absolute necessity; and if a Zimmee be thus, of necessity, allowed to ride, he must alight wherever he sees any Muslims assembled; and if there be a necessity for him to use a saddle, it must be made in the manner of the panniers of an ass. Zimmees of the higher orders must also be prohibited from wearing rich garments.

3994 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[and, if they refuse the faith, to pay tribute.

If they do not accept the call to the faith, they must then be called upon to pay Jizyat, or capitation-tax*; because the prophet directed the commander of this armies so to do; and also, because by submitting to this tax, war is forbidden and terminated, upon the authority of the Koran. (This call to pay capitation tax, however, respects only those from whom the capitation-tax is acceptable; for as to apostates and the idolaters of Arabia, to call upon them to pay the tax is useless, since nothing is accepted from them but embracing the faith, as it is thus commanded in the Koran.) – If those who are called upon to pay capitation-tax consent to do so, they then become entitled to the same protection, and subject to the same rules as Muslims, because Alle has declared “Infidels agree to a capitation-tax only in order to render their blood the same as Muslim blood, and their property the same as Muslim property.”

*    Tribute from the person, in the same manner as Khiraj is tribute from lands.

4125 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[when he becomes liable to the same penalties with an apostate.

A Zimmee, upon breaking his contract of subjection, stands in the same predicament with an apostate, – that is, he is condemned to death upon absconding to the territory of the infidels, in the same manner as holds in the rule with respect to apostates. The rule also with respect to such property as he may carry off along with him into the said territory, is the same as with respect to the property of an apostate; – that is, if the Muslims afterwards conquer that territory, the property aforesaid is forfeited to the state, in the same manner as the property of an apostate: – but if the Zimmee be made captive, he is a slave : contrary to the case of an apostate, who, if he repent not, is put to death.

It follows that if a Spanish Catholic had left Al-Andalus to the Catholic Kingdom of Asturias in north-eastern Spain, or to Francia (the kingdom of the Franks) to escape his dhimmi status (e.g. paying the Jizya), he was to be killed. 

7512 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) 37.19 CRIMES AGAINST ISLAM

…If any dhimmi (by ‘dhimmi’ is meant a non-Muslim subject living in a Muslim country) curses the Prophet – peace be upon him – or abuses him by saying something other than what already makes him an unbeliever, or abuses God Most High by saying something other than what already makes him an unbeliever, he is to be executed unless at that juncture he accepts Islam.

Part of the dhimmi status was that non-Muslims had to pay Jizyah as a sort of “protection money”, and this was practice in Al-Andalus: 

7351 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) 25.10 LEVIES ON NON-MUSLIMS

Jizyah tribute is taken from non-Muslim citizens in an Islamic state, who are freeborn male adults. It is not taken from their women, children and slaves. Similarly, jizyah tribute is taken from Magians, that is Zoroastrians, as well as Christian Arabs.

The amount of jizyah taken from people whose currency is gold is four pieces of gold from each man. And for the people whose currency is silver, forty dirhams. The poor from amongst them are allowed some concession.

Customs duties are taken from their merchants who conduct international commerce. The rate is a tenth of the value of their wares. This is taken from them each time they come, even if they enter the Muslim state many times in a year.

If they carried foodstuffs specially to Mecca and Medina only, one half of one tenth of the value of that is taken from them.

Customs duties taken from the citizens of those nations which are at war with the Muslims states shall be one tenth of the value of their wares except where they agreed to pay more.

In the case of a Rikaz treasure buried by the pre-Islamic people, the finder shall pay a fifth of it to the state.

4118 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[In a case of arrear for two years, one year’s tax only is levied.

… capitation-tax is a sort of punishment inflicted upon infidels for their obstinacy in infidelity, (as was before stated;) whence it is that it cannot be accepted of the infidel if he send it by the hands of a messenger, but must be exacted in a mortifying and humiliating manner, by the collector sitting and receiving it from him in a standing posture: (according to one tradition, the collector is to seize him by the throat, and shake him, saying, “Pay your tax, Zimee!”)… SECONDLY, capitation-tax is a substitute for destruction in respect to the infidels…  

7389 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) CHAPTER 30: A Chapter on Jihad or Holy War


Jihad is a duty upon Muslims from which, however, a section of the community can relieve other sections. What is preferable in the Maliki view is that the enemy should not be fought until they are called upon to accept the religion of God, that is, the Islamic faith. But this caution can be ignored when the enemy attacks first.

The choice given by the Muslims to the enemy is for the enemy to either accept the Islamic faith or undertake to pay the periodic tribute known as jizyah. If they decline to accept either of these, they are then fought.

Jizyah tribute can only be accepted from them if they are located in a place where the Muslim government can have authority over them. But if they are very far away, jizyah tribute shall not be accepted from them until they migrate into the Muslim territory, and if they refuse to do that they are to be fought.

Flight from the enemy in battle is one of the mortal sins in Islam when the enemy are twice the number of Muslims or less. But if they are more than twice the number of Muslims, there shall be no harm in that.

A Muslim is under an obligation to fight the enemy, under the command of the Muslim ruler, whether such a ruler is a devout Muslim or a sinner.

There is no harm in killing the infidels taken captive. But nobody shall be killed after they have been given an assurance of their safety. Nor must there be a violation of a covenant once entered into with them. Women and children are not to be killed. Muslims must avoid the killing of monks and learned men except where these fight them. Similarly, if a woman fights she can be killed.

It is lawful for a Muslim of humble status to conclude a peace treaty on behalf of the rest of the Muslims. Similarly a woman and a child have permission to do that, but in the case of the child, he has to be able to appreciate the implications of the peace he concludes on behalf of fellow Muslims. However, according to another view, such a peace treaty, that is, one by a Muslim of humble status, a woman and a child, is subject to the ratification of the Muslim ruler.

Sahih Muslim 4294 Narrated by Burayd, When the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment… He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the cause of Allah. Fight against those who do not believe in Allah. Wage a holy war…  

When you meet enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and restrain yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them… If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizyah. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold your hand. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.  

Sahih Al-Bukhari 4.404A Narrated by AbuHurayrah, Sa’id narrated that AbuHurayrah once said (to the people), “What will your state be when you can get no Dinar or Dirham (i.e. taxes from the Dhimmis)?” On that someone asked him, “What makes you know that this state will take place, O AbuHurayrah?” He said, “By Him in Whose Hands AbuHurayrah’s life is, I know it through the statement of the true and truly inspired one (i.e. the Prophet (peace be upon him).” The people asked, “What does the statement say?” He replied, “Allah and His Messenger asylum (granted to Dhimmis, i.e. Non-Muslims living in a Muslim territory) will be outraged, and so Allah will make the hearts of these Dhimmis so daring that they will refuse to pay the Jizyah they will be supposed to pay.”


It is true that the Catholic Inquisition in Spain persecuted non-Catholics – Jews, Muslims and Protestants, to the extent of executing false Catholics and those who had apostatized to Protestantism. However, dawah team are in no position to criticize the Spanish Inquisition, both from a historical perspective, given the treatment of non-Muslims in Al-Andalus, but even more importantly, from a theological standpoint, when we consider the attitude of Islamic law to heretics, blasphemers, apostates and dhimmis. Dhimmis were always under threat of execution unless the paid the humiliating Jizyah, and were always humiliated and the victims of discrimination. The complaints of dawah team about the Catholic Spanish Inquisition ring hollow; people in glass houses should not throw stones.

Lies, dam’d lies and taqqiya

Yesterday the government announced new counter-terrorism measures: a mandatory 14 year jail term for convicted terrorists, more imams to de-programme the radicalised and a polygraph test for those eligible for parole.

While none of the above will work, because none of it gets to the root of the problem, it’s the last one that is the most crazy bananas. Why, suddenly, is a cheap-trick, gotcha-useless bit of tech, ditched even by Jeremy Kyle, suddenly considered useful by Her Majesty’s Government in catching dangerous criminals?

Lie detectors measure physiological changes in a person in response to questions. If your heart rate increases, your respiratory rate increases, if you touch your nose, fidget etc etc, poly says: you’re lying. Or are you? Did you just have a cup of coffee? Are you distracted by last night’s Love Island? Are you angered by being hooked up to a polygraph machine to prove your innocence? They are notorious for false positives. And false negatives too – we’re all very skilled liars when we want to be, and can mitigate our physiological responses if we want to get off the hook that badly. Mind over matter. But surely it’s better than nothing, says the government, in its throw-the-kitchen-sink-at -it approach to dealing with the terrorist threat.

Except there is something available that is far cheaper, far more obvious and has a decent chance of being effective if anyone would just have the cojones to try it. Introducing the very simple, two-step DCCI de-radicalisation programme! Step one: identify the issue.  Ask what the motivation is behind an Islamic terrorist’s desire to lie through their teeth? Step two: destroy the thing that motivates them.

Step one. What motivates an Islamic terrorist to lie? Answer: the objects of their worship and adoration above all other things, even life itself, Allah and Muhammad. According to the Qu’ran, Allah is a deceiver:

“and they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed against them: and Allah is the best of schemers” (Sure 3:54)

The tafsir of Khashf Al Asrar translates it as “and they deceived, and God deceived, and God is the best of deceivers,” ‘deceive’ being closer to the Arabic, makr. The context of this verse is the crucifixion of Jesus.  In other words, Allah made the crucifixion look like it happened when it didn’t really, deceiving Jesus’ own mother and generations of Christians. (Wow. Big lie.)

Muhammad also sanctioned lying. On one occasion he allowed his followers to lie in order to assassinate an old ally.  Sahih Bukhari 5:59:369 states:

Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (falsething (i.e. to deceive Kab).” The Prophet said, “You may say it.” […] When Muhammad got a strong hold of him, he said (to his companions), “Get at him!” So they killed him and went to the Prophet and informed him. 

He did so again in revenge for someone who had written a mocking poem about him:

Then he composed amatory verses of an insulting nature about the Muslim women. The apostle said-according to what ‘Abdullah b. a1-Mughith b. Abu Burda told me-‘Who will rid me of Ibnu’I-Ashraf?’ Muhammad b. Maslama, brother of the B. ‘Abdu’l-Ashhal, said, ‘I will deal with him for you, O apostle of God, I will kill him.’ He said, ‘Do so if you can:(…) He said, ‘O apostle of God, we shall have to tell lies.’ He answered, ‘Say what you like, for you are free in the matter.” (Life of Muhammad, Guillaume, p367)

Are Muslims supposed to lie too? Yes they are. For example, the Qur’an commands them not to take disbelievers as friends (Sura 3:28). This being impractical sometimes, Ibn Kathir elaborates: 

believers are allowed to show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly. For instance, Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Ad-Darda’ said, “We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them.” Al-Bukhari said that Al-Hasan said, “The Tuqyah (lie) is allowed until the Day of Resurrection .” 

Tirmidhi 4:1:1939 writes that there are three conditions under which it is permissible for a Muslim to lie, one of which is “during war.” And in Islam, there are only two states to inhabit: the dar al-Islam (the house of Islam) or the dar al-Harb (the house of war.) Which one do you think the likes of Usman Khan considers Britain to be?

Stage One complete. Stage Two: ask Muslims the question, if their god deceives, and their prophet deceived, how do they know they are not being deceived too? Even Caliphs like Abu Bakr feared the deception of Allah, even if they had one foot in paradise. Can they live with such dreadful uncertainty? Or is there an alternative God, and an alternative Prophet, Priest, King and Saviour?

The Bible teaches consistently that lying is sinful. The 9th commandment says to ‘not commit false testimony against your neighbour’. The Bible says it is “impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18) and calls Satan ‘the father of lies’ (John 8:44.) Christians are exhorted not to lie to each other, because have ‘taken off’ our old self (Colossians 3:19.) Jesus makes it even simpler in Matthew 5:36:

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

But Jesus goes further than just telling his followers to tell the truth. He embodies the truth, He is the truth:

“I am the the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 3:16)

And, that true freedom comes from believing in him and following him:

“Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Imagine freedom as new birth, total cleansing from sin, full forgiveness made possible by Christ on the Cross. A liberation for the heart irrespective of the presence of physical walls. Imagine if a message like that was received by all the wannabe Usman Khans in prison. Until they hear it, they’ll be dreaming of their liberation the Islamic way, with 72 virgins and thinking how they can convince a machine that they really, really have changed. (Promise.)

Destruction of Sodoms


In a previous paper, The Bible and Islam on ‘Slave ‘Wives’, we noted the nature of Canaanite religion and culture, and the ‘abominations’ that the Canaanites practised, as in Leviticus 18:21ff, child sacrifice, homosexuality and bestiality:

You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am YHWH. 22.You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. 23.Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion. 24.Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. 25.For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. 

There is a further implication in Leviticus 18 that the Canaanites practised incest, with the possible implication of paedophilia:

6.None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness… 7. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, that is, the nakedness of your mother. She is your mother; you are not to uncover her nakedness… 9.The nakedness of your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether born at home or born outside, their nakedness you shall not uncover. 10.The nakedness of your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter, their nakedness you shall not uncover; for their nakedness is yours.

To repeat what we stated earlier: the very fact that the Israelites are commanded not to have sexual relations with their grandchildren may point to a ban on paedophile activity. Significantly, v3 commands: ‘nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes’ , and v24 warns that the Canaanites practised these abominations: ‘Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled.’ Leviticus 18 banned Israelites from performing sexual activities common to the Canaanites – such as adultery, incest and probably child molestation. These practices were part and parcel of their religion.

To understand what happened in Numbers 31, with the destruction of the Moabites/Midianites at Baal Peor (save for their virgins), we looked at the fact that these people seduced the Israelites into a religious orgy of worship to Baal in Numbers 25:1-6, for which the judgement of YHWH was their destruction (and that of treacherous Israelites who had participated in that abomination). Along with the destruction of the Amalekites, the destruction of the Moabites/Midianites at Baal Peor and the destruction of Canaanites is a favoured area of denunciatory polemic for dawah activists, to avert criticism of what the Hadith states about the genocide of the Banu Qurayza and the injunctions of the Qur’an and Hadith about jihad.

However, this paper will argue that such polemic is based upon a double standard – because it ignores that the Qur’an – in a very edited way – reproduces the first such divine judgment (after the Flood) of a people, specifically a people in the region to which Abraham migrated (Canaan) – the people of Sodom. We will see that some of the abominations for which the Canaanites were punished, and some for which the Amalekites were later judged, also are true of the Sodomites. On that basis, the polemic of dawah activists against the Bible for the various acts of judgment against the Moabites of Midian, the Canaanites and the Amalekites is indeed hypocritical. 

  1. The nature of the Cities of the Plain – economy, culture and religion 

Genesis 10 presents Sodom as at the boundaries of Canaanite territory: ‘And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha’. It seems to be distinguished from Canaan in 13:12: ‘Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom.’ The reason Lot moved towards Sodom was its beautiful, fertile land: ‘10 And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of YHWH, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before YHWH destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)11 So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other.’ 

This tells us that Sodom and its sister cities were situated in a rich area. Economically therefore, the Cities of the Plain were prosperous. That is also implied by what we know of their political condition. This is revealed in Genesis 14, where we learn that the cities – although having ‘kings’ of their own, were vassals of Elam:

In the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim,2 these kings made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar).3 And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea).4 Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim,6 and the Horites in their hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the border of the wilderness. 

The suzerainty under Elam obviously involved the payment of tribute by the Pentapolis, and the rebellion would have been of the nature to refuse any further such tribute, as implied by the northern alliance taking plunder of both goods and people (obviously to be enslaved):

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddimwith Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five.10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country.11 So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way.12 They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.

So, the Cities of the Plain were rich, autonomous, and obviously did not appreciate being subject to outsiders or having to share their wealth. The prosperity of Sodom is also implied by Abram’s refusal in Genesis 14 to retain any part of the great plunder that in ancient society was his by right, let it be said that the wicked city had enrichedAbram:

21 And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.”22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to YHWH, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth,23 that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’

In contrast, Abram gives a tenth to the righteous king Melchizedek and receives blessing from him:

17 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)19 And he blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Possessorof heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
    who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

And Abram gave him a tenth of everything

Further corroboration comes from Ezekiel 16: ‘49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.50 They were haughty and did abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.’ It must be remembered that in Leviticus 19, YHWH expresses His concern for the poor by demanding that provision be made for them: ‘“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am YHWH your God.’ 

The inference fromEzekiel 16 is that the inhabitants of the Cities of the Plain were callous – rather like the Amalekites. To understand what is meant by this, we will two modern analogies. In terms of wealth and callousness to the poor, consider the relationship of the rich United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its poverty-stricken neighbour, Yemen. Like the Pentapolis of the Cities of the Plain, the UAE is a collection of self-governing entities, made rich by oil wealth and more recently the Finance industry. Instead of sharing its wealth with its poor fellow-Arab Yemenis on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula, currently (2019), the UAE – along with its rich, bigger neighbour Saudi Arabia – is waging a vicious war on the Yemeni population. That is an example of callousness.

Another analogy would be with California – the richest state in the richest country in the world (the USA). California is a beautiful place, famous for its orange-groves and its lovely beaches, renowned for surfing. It is also the home of the movie industry – Hollywood, in Los Angeles, which is also the home of the famed rich area Bel Air. California is also known for its social liberalism, notably San Francisco, which is famed for its pro-LGBT attitudes. This is also true of Hollywood, which in its films and TV programmes produces an unending stream of movies and series displaying sexually immoral behaviour as normal, and critics – especially Evangelical Christians – as judgmental, hypocritical bigots. The Hollywood community has also a long-standing reputation for ‘wild-living’ – drugs, wife-swapping, serial marriages, affairs, etc. It has recently emerged how callous are certain powerful people in Hollywood, with at least one member of the acting profession denounced for repeated homosexual abuse of younger men, and a producer condemned for serial sexual abuse of female actors. That is, Hollywood has developed a reputation for sexual callousness. This is linked to its hostility to Biblical faith and ethics: the Hollywood community is godless.

We are not told anything about the religious beliefs or practices of the Cities of the Plain – something also true of the Amalekites – but if they did have any religious beliefs (and it may be difficult to imagine that they did not), they doubtless shared in the worship of Baal that was common in the region. It is significant that whereas there is mention of religious matters when Abram encounters Melchizedek, there is none with Bera, King of Sodom. All the latter wants to discuss is the return of his people. The contrast between the reaction of Melchizedek, King of Salem and Bera, King of Sodom in their reaction to God Most High is stark. Consider again Genesis 14:17-19: 

17 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)19 And he blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Possessorof heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
    who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

The text indicates that Bera was present when Melchizedek appeared. The Deity whom the latter invokes – El Elyon(God Most High) – was also the name of the chief god of the Canaanite religion. Unless the Sodomites worshipped a different god – which is unlikely – the lack of reference to him by their king suggests religious indifference. There is no record of Sodom’s King, like Melchizedek, praising El Elyon– God Most High – for the deliverance, despite the obvious supernatural intervention obvious in Abram’s defeat of the northern alliance in Genesis 14, in contrast to the retreat of the Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the fleeing of their people as refugees:

10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country.11 So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way.12 They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.

13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram.14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.15 And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus.16 Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people.

Melchizedek recognised that there had indeed been divine, supernatural deliverance involved in Abram’s defeat of the northern alliance v20: ‘and blessed be God Most High,who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ Abram’s victory was in glaring contrast to the defeat of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. We should recognise thepropheticformof Melchizedek’s statement:

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Possessorof heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
    who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

In Genesis 12:3 YHWH had stated to Abram: ‘I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This looked to the New Testament age, when through the Gospel, people of every ethnicity would become spiritual sons of Abraham, as Jesus states in Matthew 8:11: ‘I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven’. In a sense, the promise to Abraham had begun to come to pass already with this prophetic statement by Melchizedek. This king, Melchizedek, was a local ruler, and probably shared in the general religious beliefs of the region. In Canaan, which relied on rain to irrigate the crops, the emphasis fell on Baal. However, in the light of the intervention of YHWH through Abram, Melchizedek came to identify El Elyon with the God of Abram, and thus YHWH. 

From the Ras Shamra tablets, found at Ugarit in Syria in 1929, we know something of Canaanite religion. Although El was seen as the Creator, increasingly there emerged ‘a sort of co-regency between El as the executive power and Baal as the military power in the cosmos’ (Michael D. Coogan, Mark S. Smith, Stories from Ancient Canaan, Louisville: Westminster Press, 2012, Second Edition, pp. 6-7). Baal’s sister Anat was depicted as the goddess of war (p. 29). Yet, in the Genesis account, it is clear that El Elyon – in the sense of being the God of Abram – is no constitutional monarch, nor the deity of Deism, who simply creates and then withdraws, nor is He only transcendent, whilst other entities accomplish His work on the earth. Rather according to Melchizedek, the victory of Abram was indeed the unique act of El Elyon. God Most High was not only the Creator, but is the ‘Possessor’ of bothheaven and earth. This has come as a literal divine revelation to Melchizedek, and in the power of El Elyon he makes the prophetic statement that God Most High delivered Abram’s foes into his hands – that is, Abram’s victory against the greater, stronger Elamite and allied forces was supernatural in character – something that the coalition of kings of the Pentapolis, with presumably greater resources could not accomplish. 

However, the spiritual insight of Melchizedek does not seem to have been shared by Bera, King of Sodom – or his people, as we later learn, even though Bera hears this and knows the facts about the war. Bera does not praise God Most High for his supernatural intervention on Abram’s side to beat Chedorlaomer and his allies. Despite the fact that Abram was obviously a migrant, a resident alien in the area, who worshipped only YHWH, and who had acted in defence of his nephew, Lot, this does not appear to have caused either Sodom’s king or it people to investigate the God both Abram and Lot worshipped and Who had clearly performed a miracle which had led to their own deliverance as well. Bear in mind that in answer to the King of Sodom’s request invitation to keep the spoil, Abram declines, in these words: ‘22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to YHWH, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth,23 that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’24 I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the  share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.’ So, Abram had taken an oath to YHWH to keep nothing. In some ways, Abram’s action in this mirrors that of Joshua during the conquest of Canaan – the Ban (Walter Kaiser, Toward an Old Testament Theology, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978, p. 135):

In this type of warfare, spoils were not to be taken by anyone, for everything in this war was under “ban”(herem=hdram, “to utterly destroy” — Deut 20:17; 2:34; 3:6; 7:2). It was the exclusive property of the Lord; therefore, it was to be totally devoted to destruction (Josh. 6:17-27; 1 Sam. 15:3). What could not be burned, such as silver, gold, or iron, was to be placed in the sanctuary of God. The “ban” was just the opposite of a voluntary whole-burnt offering in which the offerer willingly gave up the entire animal in an act of total submission (Lev. 1; cf. Rom. 12:1-2). Here, after much divine long-suffering and waiting, God called for everything that belonged to Him in the first place — life, possessions, valuables — as an involuntary whole-burnt offering. Thus more was involved than mere destruction; it was a “religious punishment” which signified “the separation from the profane sphere and deliverance into the power of God.”

Elsewhere, Kaiser observes (Toward Old Testament Ethics, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983, p. 75): ‘More frequently the idea is a compulsory dedication of that which impedes or opposes God’s work. Accordingly, the Israelites promised to devote all the spoils of southern Canaan if God granted victory to Israel in Numbers 21:2-3.’ In this case, Abram’s triumph over the superior northern alliance could only have been accomplished through the supernatural intervention of YHWH. The victory belonged to God Most High alone, not to Abram’s military prowess. Further, the goods of Sodom (and its neighbours) were all tainted by the fact that the Sodomites were wicked sinners. Abram could not keep goods that would enable people to say that someone so evil had enriched him; it would be like someone today accepting a financial gift from a corrupt tyrant. 

However, the principal point here is that the King and people of Sodom were not impacted by the divine revelation given through Melchizedek’s prophetic statement, nor by the comment Abram made to Bera, where the Patriarch identified God Most High with YHWH – ‘YHWH, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth’. The revelation of this identification made no impression on the people of the Pentapolis, nor the implication from Abram’s statement about the goods of the Five Cities being tainted. There was no soul-searching either in terms of theology or ethics among the people.

Hence, Sodom was not only callous to human beings, but also to God. This reflects 13:13 where it states: ‘Now the men of Sodomwere wicked, great sinners against YHWH.’ They were not God-fearing – essentially, they were a godlesspeople. Their wickedness is demonstrated by their lack of gratitude towards God Most High/YHWH for their deliverance through the God of Abram. Above all, despite having the example of the righteous man Lot living among them, whose presence was the occasion of their salvation from defeat and enslavement, they never repented of their wicked ways, sought out knowledge of YHWH from either Abram or Lot, nor gave thanks to God Most High, and were later to turn on Lot to the point of dishonouring his house and threatening to sexually violate him. The revelation of the power and compassion of YHWH through Abram for the sake of Lot was ignored by the inhabitants of the Cities of the Plain.

  • The character of Lot and his story 

Muslims are often unaware that in the Bible, Lot is not presented as a prophet. He is presented as a righteous individual in 2 Peter 2:7-8: ‘7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)’. However, he is also presented as a flawed, compromised man. He followed his uncle Abram to Canaan (Genesis 12:4-5), but separated after there was strife between their employees over resources, Genesis 13:

And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents,so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together,and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land.

Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”

From this we learn that both Abram and Lot had prospered in the land of their migration. The generous offer of Abram is met by Lot making a very dubious choice:

10 And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of YHWH, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before YHWH destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)11 So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other.12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom.13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against YHWH.

Attractive as this California of the Levant may have been, this decision involved a major ethical compromise on Lot’s part – he pitched his tent adjacent to the equivalent of the Hollywood community, with all the sexual immorality and abuse that characterised both Sodom and Hollywood. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that Lot organised something like the #MeToomovement to combat sexual abuse, because in Genesis 14:12 we learn that Lot was actually dwelling in Sodom: ‘They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.’ Further evidence of this compromise is found in the fact that Lot allowed his daughters to become betrothed to men from Sodom – despite the fact that they had obviously not come to believe in YHWH, as demonstrated by their scoffing at the warning of the angels about Sodom’s imminent destruction, Genesis 19:

12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place.13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before YHWH, and YHWH has sent us to destroy it.”14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for YHWH is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.

Remember this had occurred after the miraculous liberation of both Lot and the people of Sodom by YHWH through Lot’s uncle Abram, which allowed the people of the Cities of the Plains to escape captivity/enslavement, return to their homes (including those men who had fled from the Battle of Siddim to the hills), and receive back their possessions through the integrity of Abram. Recall also that this happened after a more immediate miracle – the supernatural blinding of the Sodomite men who wished to have sexual relations with the angels: ‘11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.’ If the prospective sons in-law were not convinced by this latest miracle of deliverance – about which they must have heard, given the numbers involved – it is doubtful that anything would have moved them to faith. Yet these were the men to whom righteous Lot was willing to entrust with his daughters. 

We see evidence of the degeneration in Lot’s wife, who disobeys the injunction not look back and is transformed into a pillar of salt (vs. 17, 26), perhaps signifying a longing for her home and rich lifestyle, but still, an act of disobedience to God. Indeed, we see that Lot himself was reluctant to leave, and had to be pressed to do so by the angels: ‘15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.”16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, YHWH being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.’ The final sign of the effects of the compromised life that Lot’s decisions had caused can be seen in what his daughter do to him after the destruction of Sodom:

30 Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters.31 And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth.32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.”33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose.

34 The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.”35 So they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.36 Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day.38 The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.

We previously noted that incest was a feature of Canaanite religion and culture, and rape/sexual abuse can be seen in the fact that the men of Sodom try to violently molest Lot: ‘9 But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down.’ Again, despite Lot’s own witness, the deliverance of Lot by YHWH through Abram about which Lot’s daughters must have known, which demonstrated the providential care of YHWH, and the fact that they would have known about the miraculous blinding of the Sodomite men, Lot’s daughters had imbibed the godless ethics of Sodom, rather than faith in YHWH to care for them as He had done in recuing them form the destruction of the Cities of the Plain, and, like (usually male) sexual abusers throughout history, they got their victim drunk in order to sexually molest him – their own father. They had been taken out of Sodom, but Sodom had not been taken out of them. The Moabites and Ammonites (with few exceptions, such as Ruth) became the enemies of Abram’s progeny, rather than sharing his faith in YHWH.

  • The nature of the Sodomites and their destruction 

We have seen the nature of Sodom’s sins – they were callous about the poor; they were sexually immoral and perverse; they were godless. Their callousness to God Most High/YHWH is demonstrated by their religious indifference after Abram’s miraculous victory and the display of his integrity in refusing to keep any plunder from their city, their attempt to rape the man for whom Abram had fought, and indeed, the angelic miracle which blinded them. Like the Amalekites, they were incorrigible.  We need to consider the effect of the last miracle they experienced before the city’s destruction: ‘4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house… 11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.’ 

According to this, all the men of the city were affected by this miracle, yet unlike Saul on the Damascus Road many centuries later (Acts 9: ‘8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.’), who was converted after being miraculously blinded, even thismiracle did not cause the men to repent – to realise that the same God who had miraculously delivered them from the northern alliance through Abram for the sake of Lot had once again displayed His power by delivering Lot from them. This was how callous and hardened they were. 

It needs to be mentioned how patient YHWH was with the Cities of the Plain. YHWH revealed to Abram that he was going to judge the people of Canaan – but not for centuries, as their sin had not yet reached its zenith, Genesis 15:

13 Then YHWH said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

When we first encounter the people of Sodom, we learn that they were already near the apex of their heinousness, 13:13: ‘Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against YHWH.’ Despite this, YHWH gave them an opportunity to repent – they saw His power after the Battle of Siddim when they were rescued through Abram, a victory that was recognised as a divine deliverance on the part of God Most High by Melchizedek. This Melchizedek was the King of Salem, sometimes thought to be Jerusalem, but it may refer to Salim, of which we read in John 3:23: ‘John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized’. Aenon was west of, but obviously by the Jordan, and possibly Salim was actually the city meant in Genesis 14, so perhaps Melchizedek was a neighbour of the Pentapolis, and so more invested in Abram’s victory. If this identification is correct, and Salim was nearby the Five Cities, Melchizedek’s faith in the God of Abram makes Sodom’s godlessness after their miraculous deliverance all the more blameworthy.

Even then, YHWH did not judge them immediately. Weak and compromised as Lot’s testimony doubtless would have been, it had been vindicated by the supernatural intervention after the Battle of Siddim, yet this had no effect on the Sodomites. As we have seen, neither did the miraculous blinding of the men who tried to attack Lot. As with the Canaanites, as with the Amalekites, YHWH gave them ample opportunity to repent, and like both of these peoples, the Sodomites both saw and heard of the power of YHWH in operation – but they were callous toward Him. Even at the last moment, we should consider what the Theophany of YHWH says to Abram in Genesis 18:

16 Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way.17 YHWH said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do,18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?19 For I have chosenhim, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of YHWH by doing righteousness and justice, so that YHWH may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”20 Then YHWH said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave,21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogetheraccording to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

This presents YHWH as a cautious judge, who does not rush to judgment, but investigates. In one sense, we can see the arrival of the angels at Sodom as the city’s last chance – one squandered by the people when they confirm their degradation by their desire to have sexual relations with the angelic visitors and attempts to violently molest Lot. Indeed, YHWH, in answer to Abram’s intercession, promised to spare Sodom if even ten righteous could be found in the city (18:32) – in the event, there could not be found even that few. 

Remembering that YHWH promised to investigate the truth of the ‘outcry’ or ‘outrage’ (za·‘ă·qaṯ–  זַעֲקַ֛)against the grievous sin of the Sodom and Gomorrah, note the word of Kaiser (Toward Old Testament Ethics, pp. 11-12) on this subject about the Hebrew word here: ‘It indicates the anguished cry of the oppressed and the agonizedplea of the victim(s) for relief from the great injustices and indignities suffered. In some ways, it is the very antithesis of “righteousness,”, for in Isaiah 5:7 God looked for… “righteousness”… and found an “outcry”…instead’.  This is important when we consider what clinched the judgment. Some elements have tried to argue that the following text indicates either a demand for identification or a desire to commit homosexual rape, Genesis 19:

4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house.5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”6 Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him,7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly.8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”9 But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down.

The fact that Lot is horrified by the men’s request and even offers his virgin daughters in exchange for the visitors indicates that the Sodomites were not asking for the angels’ passports! Although there is the implication of sexual violence against Lot in v9, is that what the men had in mind for the visitors? Victor P. Hamilton (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995, pp. 34-35) make several vital points on this:

We see at least four problems with the view that the prohibition here is only on homosexual rape. First, nowhere in the OT does the verb yādahave the nuance of ‘abuse’ or ‘violate’. Second, the OT uses unmistakable language to relate rape incidents. Thus the Shechemites ‘seized’ and ‘lay with’ and ‘humbled’ Dinah (Gen. 34:2). Amnon ‘forced’ and ‘lay with’ his half sister Tamar (2 Sam.13:14). Similarly, the biblical laws about rape also use these terms: ‘seize,’ ‘lie with’ (Deut. 22:25-27). Third, this interpretation forces one meaning on ‘know’ in v. 5 (i.e. abuse) but a different meaning on ‘know’ three verses later (i.e. have intercourse with’), for it is unlikely that Lot is saying: ‘I have two daughters who have never been abused.’ Fourth, such an interpretation forces these incredible words in Lot’s mouth: ‘Do not rape my visitors. Here are my daughters, both virgins – rape them!’ Clearly, then, the incident frowns on homosexual relations for whatever reason.Note that in the often cited parallel to Gen. 19, viz. Judg. 19, the host offers both his own virgin daughter and his guest’s concubine to Gibeah’s city dwellers with the statement ‘and sexually mistreat them’…By contrast, Lot avoids using any verb that has clear-cut indications of sexual aggression.” 

This being in mind, we can begin to understand what happened at the beginning of Genesis 19: ‘The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth2 and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.”3 But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.’ Why would the angels want to spend the night in the town square? Obviously, they were aware who Lot was – one of their responsibilities to deliver him and his family, but they had also been sent to investigate if the reports of Sodom’s iniquity were true. 

This is where a proper understanding becomes crucial. If Sodom had a reputation for raping visitors, then it is likely that its commercial relations with others would have ceased, since traders would have been unlikely to want to spend any time there, or even visit for purposes of trade and commerce. However, if it had a reputation for ‘wild living’ – which included homosexuality, bestiality, fornication, etc., then it would have attracted what in modern-day parlance would be ‘sex tourists’, notably people who visit the notorious red-light district in Amsterdam. In that sense, the town square at night would have been what Americans call a ‘pick-up joint’. The angels, then, would be testing whether they would be met with the ordinary Eastern hospitality to strangers, or by a perverse proposition, such as might occur in a modern-day bar of certain inclinations. Lot’s insistence precludes this test in the square itself, but the fact that all the men of the city surround his house to seek unnatural relations with the men should be seen less as a threat of something analogous to prison rape, but rather an invitation to the men – possibly of a very attractive countenance – to ‘party’ (sexually) with them. They would be aware of Lot’s puritanism, and possibly felt that his invitation to the men had pre-empted the purpose of their visit – to engage in casual, perverse relations. This would be in keeping with Hamilton’s exegesis, and would explain Lot’s offer of his daughters – as ‘my girls are virgins – why not party with theminstead?’.

The offer of the daughters might seem incongruous where homosexual activity is involved, but we must remember that in the ancient world, unguided and unguarded by Biblical ethics, men (in this case, the emphasis should be on males) were often thought to be ‘metro-sexual’ in the sense that they were happy to satisfy their lusts with either/both men and women. There was no clear division between heterosexual activity one day, and homosexual activity by the same man the following day. The men of Sodom were fully aware of Lot’s attitudes, and by his trying to prevent the culture of Sodom having its full expression, they were angered to violence, seeing him as judgmental, an attitude intensified by the fact that he was an outsider. It would be the same as if a British actor of high moral principles were to criticise the pervasive sexual immorality, abuse and perversion among the Hollywood community, or the pro-LGBT attitudes of San Francisco; he would be angrily denounced as a bigoted, judgmental outsider who came to California to enjoy its wealth and had the impudence to criticise its ‘inclusive’ ethics. By this, the angelic investigation was fulfilled – Sodom had shown itself to be incorrigibly corrupt, given that its men all wanted to engage in what would later be revealed as an ‘abomination’ – man lying with man – Leviticus 18:22, for which the penalty was death – 20:13: ‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.’ This was the punishment that awaited Sodom.

We should remember that the angels originally arrived at Abraham’s tent with the Theophany – a manifestation of YHWH in human form (but not yet human nature). He was still on the earth at this point. The investigation completed, the charges against Sodom confirmed, YHWH destroys Sodom in a text which suggests plurality within the Godhead (19:24): ‘23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.24 Then YHWH rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur and fire from YHWH out of heaven.25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.’ So, YHWH on the earth rained destruction from YHWH in Heaven. 

Before considering the Islamic perspective, we need to consider three points. The reference in Ezekiel 16: 50 (וַֽתִּגְבְּהֶ֔ינָה וַתַּעֲשֶׂ֥ינָה תוֹעֵבָ֖ה לְפָנָ֑י וָאָסִ֥יר אֶתְהֶ֖ן כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר רָאִֽיתִי׃) is in the singular in Hebrew (תוֹעֵבָ֖ה to’ey-vah) ‘They were haughty and did abomination before me’, but in the Septuagint, it is in the plural: καὶ ἐμεγαλαύχουν καὶ ἐποίησαν ἀνομήματα ἐνώπιόν μου καὶ ἐξῆρα αὐτάς καθὼς εἶδον – ἀνομήματα – anomēmata– ‘lawless acts’, sinsin the plural. This would suggest that we see the reference to ‘abomination’ in Ezekiel 16:50 as generic– that is, the people of Sodom committed a series of abominations. Other sexual sins included incest, which we have seen was the consequence of living in Sodom for Lot’s daughters. Another was bestiality. The reference in Jude 7 suggests this: ‘even as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, in like manner giving themselves over to fornication and going after different flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.’ What was the ‘differentflesh’, which counterposed with ‘fornication’? Obviously, homosexuality and bestiality leap to mind. Added to incest and fornication, we can se that Sodom was characterised by complete sexual abandon, along with violence against those thought to be judgmental bigots, and callous disregard for the poor. 

The second point, which is related to theheremwe considered earlier, is that often other elements of nature suffer along with the guilty. Remember what Kaiser commented on this (Toward an Old Testament Theology, p. 135): ‘Thus more was involved than mere destruction; it was a “religious punishment” which signified “the separation from the profane sphere and deliverance into the power of God.”’ This included possessions such as inanimate objects and animals. Remember that in Flood, only those humans and animals in the Ark survived – the rest were destroyed. In some cases, animals had to be destroyed since they had become tainted agents of sin. For example, the Amalekites used animals as transport in their raids, and their whole economy was based on raiding, which included the theft of animals, so the destruction of even animals commanded in 1 Samuel 15:3 needs to be seen in this light. This is also true of animals used in bestiality, as stated in Leviticus 20: ‘15 If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal.16 If a woman approaches any animal and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.’ Again, it must be recalled that when Adam sinned, the whole of Creation fell with him – animals became alienated from Man, and the ground was cursed in consequence of Adam’s fall in Eden, Genesis 3:

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.

We saw that in Genesis 13:10, Lot chose Sodom specifically because of the well-watered fertility of the Jordan Valley: ‘And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of YHWH, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before YHWH destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)’ Hence, the prosperity of the Cities of the Plain rested to a large degree on the agricultural fertility of their lands, which resembled Eden in this respect. It was fitting, therefore, that the punishment on the people of Sodom and Gomorrah – which, like the Flood, like the destruction of the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, Canaanites and the Amalekites – included women and children, and any animals (for while they are not mentioned, animals would have been used in agriculture and transport), would also have involved the destruction of the fertile land, and its transformation into something less inviting, Genesis 19:

23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.24 Then YHWH rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur and fire from YHWH out of heaven.25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before YHWH.28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.

29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.

The third point is the agency involved. In the Flood, YHWH acted directly in sending down the waters. In the miracles of the Exodus, He again acted, but this time partly through human agency -specifically Moses and Aaron – and partly through an angel, at the Passover. In the case of Sodom. No human agency is involved, but rather YHWH acts directly through sending down the sulphur and fire, and partly through angels. In each case, divine judgment is involved. Sometimes God is both Judge and Executioner, sometimes he uses angels and to a lesser extent, human beings as His executioners. 

In terms of the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, Canaanites and the Amalekites, YHWH was the Judge who sentenced the guilty parties to capital punishment, but He used human agency as His Executioners. In that sense, when we examine the cases of the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, Canaanites and the Amalekites and compare them with the case of the Sodomites, there is only one difference – in the case of the Cities of the Plains, God acted directly to some degree and used angels in part of the plan, but the sentence was still the same as the first three cases – complete destruction, albeit through human agency. It was not a case of the Israelites simply not liking the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, Canaanites and the Amalekites, but rather God exercising sentence of judgement upon wicked sinners, and using human agency to implement that sentence. None of these examples are to be found in the Qur’an. However, the story of the Sodomites is present, so it follows that if we find that Allah engages in wholesale destruction of everyone in Sodom – which would have included women and children, and even animals – then the criticism of dawah activists against the Biblical narratives about Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, Canaanites and the Amalekites is guilty of hypocrisy.

Before we move on to the Islamic treatment of Sodom, we should consider the beauty and nuances of the Biblical narrative of Lot in relation to Abram/Abraham and Sodom. They arrive in the Promised Land as two migrants from Ur – rather like two Middle East Christian immigrants arriving in America, the Land of Opportunity. One goes with his wife to the wholesome farming communities of the Mid-West, the other makes straight for California, the richest state in the Union. This is what happened with Lot – he saw the prosperity and fertility of the Jordan valley, the California of the region, and despite the moral (or rather, immoral) character of the local inhabitants, he moves there. 

At this stage, we are not told whether Lot has a wife, and the fact that no mention is made of her during the narrative of Lot’s abduction in Genesis 14:12 and indeed, that nothing is heard of her until the angels enter Sodom in Genesis 19 may imply that she came from Sodom. Possibly that is why Lot moved into Sodom – after marrying his wife. Given that Sodom was a place of ‘wicked, great sinners against YHWH’, this shows great compromise by Lot – it was the equivalent of the aforementioned Middle East Christian immigrant not only marrying outside his faith community, but even marrying someone whose values were those of the pro-LGBT or Hollywood communities. That being the case, it is hardly surprising that she looked back in disobedience to the directive of YHWH given through the angels, and no surprise that Lot’s daughters were not insulated against the values of Sodom – they may have learnt these from their mother. The Moabites were descended from one of the daughters, and it was people from this group that used sexually immoral behaviour to entice the Israelites into orgiastic pagan activity at Baal Peor –  as the American saying goes, a case, perhaps of the apple not falling far from the tree.

It is interesting to see the nuances in gradual degeneration of Lot. First, he moves toward Sodom, Genesis 13:12: ‘…Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom.’ Abram/Abraham lived in tents all his life – the equivalent of the Middle East Christian immigrant living his whole life in agrarian communities in the U.S. Mid-West. Despite the fact that Lot was also a pastoralist, 13:5 (‘…Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents…’), by 14:12 he seemed to be living in Sodom itself (‘…Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom’), unless it implies that he was just in its vicinity, and by 19:1-3, Lot was definitely living in a house within the city: ‘The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them… 2 and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night… 3 …they turned aside to him and entered his house.’ This was the equivalent of the other Middle East Christian immigrant moving into an area of San Francisco where the norms of Biblical ethics were rejected both in theory and practice by the locals. 

Such a man may well have been tormented by the anti-Biblical lifestyle he encountered among the locals on a daily basis – 2 Peter 2: ‘7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)’ –but the fact is, the modern immigrant would have placed himself in a situation where the norms of the society in which he lived, its rulers, the media, even its pseudo-religious leaders all rejected – with great hostility, to the point of violence – the ethics he upheld and propagated. Finally, he lost everything – his wealth and his wife – when an earthquake rocked San Francisco, and his children had absorbed not hismorals, but rather the culture of the place where they had lived. It was the American Dream in reverse.

The other nuances of the story can be found in the gradual disclosure of the moral degeneracy of the Sodomites. We are told in Genesis 13:13 about their being great sinners, but we are not told in what way. In chapter fourteen, we see the religious indifference of the Sodomites, their lack of appreciation for the miraculous deliverance by YHWH, and the fact that Abram had given an oath not to take anything from Sodom’s king – though we do not know why as yet that taking anything from Sodom’s king should be so objectionable. It is only in Genesis 19, when all the men of Sodom surround Lot’s house asking that he should send out the two visitors so that they could have sexual relations with them do we know what is the heinous sin that caused Genesis to characterise the Sodomites as being especially wicked. This is the first mention of homosexuality in the Bible. 

From what we learn from other texts about the sinfulness of Sodom, we can see that many of the attitudes and practices of the Canaanites and Amalekites are reproduced – or rather, presaged – in the conduct of the Sodomites. They engaged in homosexuality, fornication, probably bestiality and judging by the conduct of Lot’s daughters, born and raised in Sodom, in incest – possibly even paedophilia. They were willing to use violence to sexually molest Lot. In short, they were guilty of many of the same sins as the Canaanites. Like the Amalekites, they had no fear of God, were callous to others, and prepared to use violence against the vulnerable (Lot was greatly outnumbered by the men of Sodom). The Amorites may not have reached the apex of iniquity in the time of Abram, but the Sodomites indeed had– with the same consequence, destruction of the entire society, the only difference being the meansof execution. 

  • Lot and Sodom in Islam

The story of the migration of Abraham and Lot from Ur and Haran to Canaan is not explicitly reproduced in either the Qur’an or Hadith, but it is stated in Surah Al-Anbiya 21:71: ‘And We rescued him and Lot (and brought them) to the land which We have blessed for (all) peoples.’ Give that this is usually taken as a reference to Palestine, this may at least hint at the migration. It is interesting that in Ibn Kathir’s Stories of the Prophets(Written by Al-Imam ibn Kathir, Translated by Muhammad Mustapha Geme’ah, Al-Azhar, Riyadh: Darussalam, n.d., p. 38), he has to resort to Jewish/Christian traditions to suggest this:

Some of the People of the Book stated that his name was Abraham Ibn Tarikh, Ibn Nahur, Ibn Sarough, Ibn Raghu, Ibn Phaligh, Ibn Aher, Ibn Shalih, Ibn Arfghshand, Ibn Sam, Ibn Noah. They said that when Tarikh was seventy five years old, he had Abraham, Nahor (Nohour) and Haran. Haran had a son named Lot. They also said that Abraham was the middle child and that Haran died in the lifetime of his father in the land where he was born, the land of the Chaldeans (Al Kaldanieen), also known as Babylonia. At that time some people worshipped idols of stone and wood; others worshipped the planets, stars, sun and moon; still others worshipped their kings and rulers.

Once again, it should be noted that the exact relationship between Abraham and Lot (Lut in Arabic) as uncle and nephew is never presented in either the Qur’an or Hadith, but in Surah Al-‘Ankabut 29:26it appears that Lot was in the vicinity when Abraham proclaimed his rejection of idols: ‘And Lot believed him, and said: Lo! I am a fugitive unto my Lord. Lo! He, only He, is the Mighty, the Wise.’ However, this is where the Qur’anic text becomes self-contradictory. It presents Lot as a prophet to a place which is not named. However, the Qur’an repeatedly presents the Sodomites as Lot’s people or brethren:

Al-A’Raf 7:80

And Lot! (Remember) when he said unto his folk: Will ye commit abomination such as no creature ever did before you?

Hud 11:70

And when he saw their hands reached not to it, he mistrusted them and conceived a fear of them. They said: Fear not! Lo! we are sent unto the folk of Lot.

Hud 11:74

And when the awe departed from Abraham, and the glad news reached him, he pleaded with Us on behalf of the folk of Lot.

Hud 11:89

And, O my people! Let not the schism with me cause you to sin so that there befall you that which befell the folk of Noah and the folk of Hud, and the folk of Salih; and the folk of Lotare not far off from you

Al-Shura’ 26:160

The folk of Lotdenied the messengers (of Allah),

Al-Shura’ 26:161

When their brother Lotsaid unto them: Will ye not ward off (evil)?

Al-Naml 27:54

And Lot! when he said unto his folk: Will ye commit abomination knowingly?

Al-‘Ankaboot 29:28

And Lot! (Remember) when he said unto his folk: Lo! ye commit lewdness such as no creature did before you.

Qaf 50:13

And (the tribe of) A’ad, and Pharaoh, and the brethren of Lot,

Al-Qamar 54:33

The folk of Lotrejected warnings.

So, rather than being a sojourner, Lot seems to be presented in the Qur’an as a nativeof Sodom. There is nothing about Abram and Lot separating, nor about Lot being dazzled by the beauty and prosperity of the Jordan Valley, and certainly nothing about his ethical compromises. This is because Islam does not believe in the sinfulness of prophets. In the Bible, Lot is not presented as a prophet, but the Qur’an: Surah As-Sa’Affat 37:133: ‘And lo! Lot verily was of those sent (to warn)’, or literally ‘Lot was [one] of the Messengers’ (وَإِنَّإِلْيَاسَ لَمِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ). It is also implied in the fact that Lot is included among the list of righteous prophets in Surah Al-An’am 6: ‘85. And Zachariah and John and Jesus and Elias. Each one (of them) was of the righteous. 86. And Ishmael and Elisha and Jonah and Lot. Each one of them did We prefer above (Our) creatures’. There is a further implication in Surah An-Anbiya’ 21: ‘74. And unto Lot We gave judgment and knowledge, and We delivered him from the community that did abominations. Lo! they were folk of evil, lewd. 75. And We brought him in unto Our mercy. Lo! he was of the righteous.’ How then did Islam arrive at the idea that Lot was a prophet? Possibly, because the Bible presents him as ‘righteous’, which would be in keeping with some of the texts in the Qur’an, but also because of the existence of the Byzantine Church of Saint Lot and Saint Procopius, in Jordan, and the Monastery of Saint Lot, unearthed in 1986 near the ancient site of Zoar also in Jordan. The fact that Lot was held to be a saint in the Byzantine region of Arabia Petræa (Transjordan and northern Hijaz) before the advent of Islam may have influenced the tradition that went into the Qur’an. 

Rather than a consistent narrative developing the character of Lot, and showing how his eye for the main chance – to realise his own version of the (later) American Dream by moving to the Jordan Valley, the California of his time, and then his gradual descent into further compromise – first moving toward Sodom, then moving intothe city characterised by great wickedness and sin, the Qur’an presents Lot as being sent to Sodom ( although the city is not named), as we saw in As-Sa’Affat 37:133, since he is presented as one of the Messengers – i.e. he was a rasul– of Allah. Furthermore, rather than the nuanced disclosure of the identity of the specific sin that makes Sodom so wicked in Genesis 19, when the men surround Lot’s house, the Qur’an presents Lot as directly sent to confront the homosexuality of the city’s males.’ This is spelled-out in Surah Al-Shura’ 26:

160. The folk of Lot denied the messengers (of Allah),

161. When their brother Lot said unto them: Will ye not ward off (evil)?

162. Lo! I am a faithful messenger unto you,

163. So keep your duty to Allah and obey me.

164. And I ask of you no wage therefor; my wage is the concern only of the Lord of the Worlds.

165. What! Of all creatures do ye come unto the males,

166. And leave the wives your Lord created for you? Nay, but ye are froward folk.

In Surah Al-Naml 27 the nature of the sin as homosexuality is also clear: ‘54. And Lot! when he said unto his folk: will ye commit abomination knowingly? 55. Must ye needs lust after men instead of women? Nay, but ye are folk who act senselessly.’ The same is true of Surah Al-‘Ankaboot 29: ‘28. And Lot! (Remember) when he said unto his folk: Lo! ye commit lewdness such as no creature did before you. 29. For come ye not in unto males, and cut ye not the road (for travellers), and commit ye not abomination in your meetings?’. Further evidence is found in the way the people of Lot’s city react to his visitors: Surah Hud 11:

77. And when Our messengers came unto Lot, he was distressed and knew not how to protect them. He said: This is a distressful day.

78. And his people came unto him, running towards him and before then they used to commit abominations He said: O my people! Here are my daughters! They are purer for you. Beware of Allah, and degrade me not in (the person of) my guests. Is there not among you any upright man?

79. They said: Well thou knowest that we have no right to thy daughters, and well thou knowest what we want.

Likewise, Surah Al-Hijr 15 presents a similar picture:

61. And when the messengers came unto the family of Lot..

67. And the people of the city came, rejoicing at the news (of new arrivals).

68. He said: Lo! they are my guests. Affront me not!

69. And keep your duty to Allah, and shame me not!

70. They said: Have we not forbidden you from (entertaining) anyone?

71. He said: Here are my daughters, if ye must be doing (so).

So, according to the Qur’an, the focus of Lot’s message to Sodom was to repent of homosexuality. The only variation on this is found in Surah Al-‘Ankaboot 29:29, where it states: ‘For come ye not in unto males, and cut ye not the road (for travellers), and commit ye not abomination in your meetings?’ Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir interprets this text as follows:

Allah tells us that His Prophet Lut, peace be upon him, denounced his people for their evil deed and their immoral actions in having intercourse with males, a deed which none of the sons of Adam had ever committed before them. As well as doing this, they also disbelieved in Allah and rejected and opposed His Messenger, they robbed wayfarers, they would lie in wait on the road, kill people and loot their possessions.

(And practice Al-Munkar in your meetings.) This means, ‘in your gatherings you do and say things that are not befitting, and you do not denounce one another for doing such things.’ Some said that they used to have intercourse with one another in public; this was the view of Mujahid. Some said that they used to compete in passing gas and laughing. This was the view of ‘A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, and Al-Qasim. Some of them said that they used to make rams fight one another, or organize cockfights. They used to do all of these things, and they were even eviler than that.

The History of Tabari(Translated by William M. Brinner, Albany: SUNY Press, 1987p. 112), similar explanations are given regarding the Sodomites:

God sent Lot to the people of Sodom. The people of Sodom were disbelievers in God, and were also immoral, as God has said, “You commit lewdness such as no creature has done before you. For do you not come into males, and do you not cut the roads, and do you not commit abominations in your assemblies?” As has been said, “cutting the road” means that they committed lewdness with anyone who came into their town. According to Yunus b. ‘Abd al-A’la-Ibn Wahb-Ibn Zayd: As for God’s statement, “you cut the roads,”the road is the way of the traveler. When the traveler, the son of the road, passed by them, they would block the road and perform with him that ugly deed. As for what they did in their assemblies, scholars disagree about what it was. Some say that they used to shorten whoever passed by them. Others say that they used to break wind in their assemblies, while some said that they used to have intercourse with each other there.

So, according to these two exegetes, the Sodomites behaved very much as did the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, with the exception that the Sodomites engaged in homosexual activity, which reminds us of the Canaanites, or they would violently plunder the vulnerable, which recalls the conduct of the Amalekites. 

Among the differences between the Biblical and Qur’anic texts is that Lot is presented as warning the Sodomites about their behaviour and its consequence, and the reaction of the Sodomites is to threaten to expel him from the city:

Surah Al-Hijr 15

67. And the people of the city came, rejoicing at the news (of new arrivals).

68. He said: Lo! they are my guests. Affront me not!

69. And keep your duty to Allah, and shame me not!

70. They said: Have we not forbidden you from (entertaining) anyone?

Surah Al-Shura’ 26:

167. They said: If thou cease not, O Lot, thou wilt soon be of the outcast.

168. He said: I am in truth of those who hate your conduct.

Surah Al-Naml 27 the nature of the sin as homosexuality is also clear:

56. But the answer of his folk was naught save that they said: Expel the household of Lot from your township, for they(forsooth) are folk who would keep clean!

The Qur’an also presents Lot as praying for deliverance from the Sodomites, and asking for victory over them, whereas such a plea is absent from the Bible: Surah Al-Shura’ 26:169. My Lord! Save me and my household from what they do; Surah Al-‘Ankaboot 29:30. He said: My Lord! Give me victory over folk who work corruption. In that sense, the destruction of Sodom would essentially be an answer to prayer rather than something that was by divine initiative and that took Lot by surprise, Surah Al-‘Ankaboot 29:

30. He said: My Lord! Give me victory over folk who work corruption.

31. And when Our messengers brought Abraham the good news, they said: Lo! we are about to destroy the people of that township, for its people are wrong doers.

32. He said: Lo! Lot is there. They said: We are best aware of who is there. We are to deliver him and his household, all save his wife, who is of those who stay behind.

Another difference is that the intercession of Abraham for Sodom is not present, save in a very limited way, and rather than YHWH hearing the Patrarch’s prayer, in the Qur’an, Allah (through the angels) commands him to cease:

Surah Hud 11

69. And Our messengers came unto Abraham with good news… 

74. And when the awe departed from Abraham, and the glad news reached him, he pleaded with Us on behalf of the folk of Lot.

75. Lo! Abraham was mild, imploring, penitent.

76. (It was said) O Abraham! Forsake this! Lo! thy Lord’s commandment hath gone forth, and lo! there cometh unto them a doom which cannot be repelled.

A final difference to consider is that the Qur’anic text presents the angels as declaring that they will not save Lot’s wife, as she is evil, rather than commanding all the family to flee and leaving it to her to obey or not:

Surah Hud 11

81. (The messengers) said: O Lot! Lo! we are messengers of thy Lord; they shall not reach thee. So travel with thy people in a part of the night, and let not one of you turn round (all)save thy wife.Lo! that which smiteth them will smite her (also).Lo! their tryst is (for) the morning. Is not the morning nigh?

Surah Al-Hijr 15

59. (All) save the family of Lot. Them we shall deliver everyone,

60. Except his wife, of whom We had decreed that she should be of those who stay behind.

Surah Al-Shura’ 26:

170. So We saved him and his household, every one,

171. Save an old woman among those who stayed behind.

Surah Al-Naml 27:57: ‘Then we saved him and his household save his wife; We destined her to be of those who stayed behind.’

Surah Al-‘Ankaboot 29

32. He said: Lo! Lot is there. They said: We are best aware of who is there. We are to deliver him and his household, all save his wife, who is of those who stay behind.

33. And when Our messengers came unto Lot, he was troubled upon their account, for he could not protect them; but they said: Fear not, nor grieve! Lo! we are to deliver thee and thy household, (all) save thy wife, who is of those who stay behind.

Surah As-Sa’Affat 37

134. When We saved him and his household, every one,

135. Save an old woman among those who stayed behind;

Tabari comments on the issue of Lot’s wife (History of Tabarip. 117):

According to Bishr b. Mu’adh-Yazid-Said-Qatadah-Hudhayfah:When the messengers came to Lot,they reached him while he was working on a plot of his land. They had been told-but God knows best – “Do not destroy them until Lot bears witness against them.” They went to Lot and said, “We seek hospitality from you tonight.” So he took them with him. Presently, after they had been walking for an hour,he turned to them and said, “Do you not know what the people of this town do? By God! I do not know of any people on the face of the earth more wicked than they are.” He went on with them, and later said the same thing to them once again. When an evil old woman,Lot’s wife, saw the approaching messengers, she went off to give notice to the people of Sodom.

This idea about Lot’s wife being so evil that she would warn the other Sodomites may be influenced by Jewish legend (Howard Schwartz, Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 467):

On the night that the angels visited Lot, Lot prepared a feast for them, as he had learned hospitality from Abraham, and he asked his wife to give them a little salt. She grew angry and said, “Do you want to introduce that evil practice of giving strangers salt?” Then she went to all of her neighbors asking for salt. In this way she alerted them to the presence of the guests, and precipitated the mob who demanded that Lot turn the angels over to them. Thus, because she sinned with salt, she was punished with salt.

The act of the angels’ blinding the Sodomite men is present in the Qur’an – Surah Al-Qamar 54:37: ‘They even asked of him his guests for an ill purpose. Then We blinded their eyes (and said): Taste now My punishment after My warnings!’

It is at this point we reach the crux of the story. The angels warned Lot that Allah was going to destroy the town and all its inhabitants – including his wife, so he and his family must flee:

Surah Hud 11

81. (The messengers) said: O Lot! Lo! we are messengers of thy Lord; they shall not reach thee. So travel with thy people in a part of the night, and let not one of you turn round (all) save thy wife. Lo! that which smiteth them will smite her (also). Lo! their tryst is (for) the morning. Is not the morning nigh?

82. So when Our commandment came to pass We overthrew (that township) and rained upon it stones of clay, one after another,

83. Marked with fire in the providence of thy Lord (for the destruction of the wicked). And they are never far from the wrong-doers.

Surah Al-Hijr 15

65. So travel with thy household in a portion of the night, and follow thou their backs. Let none of you turn round, but go whither ye are commanded.

66. And We made plain the case to him, that the root of them (who did wrong) was to be cut at early morn.

73. Then the (Awful) Cry overtook them at the sunrise.

74. And We utterly confounded them, and We rained upon them stones of heated clay.

Surah Al-Shura’ 26:

172. Then afterward We destroyed the others.

173. And We rained on them a rain.And dreadful is the rain of those who have been warned.

Surah Al-Naml 27 

58.And We rained a rain upon them.Dreadful is the rain of those who have been warned

Surah Al-‘Ankaboot 29:

34. Lo! we are about to bring down upon folk of this township a fury from the skybecause they are evil livers.

35. And verily of that We have left a clear sign for people who have sense.

Surah As-Sa’Affat 37

136. Then We destroyed the others.

137. And Lo! ye verily pass by (the ruin of) them in the morning

138. And at night time; have ye then no sense?

Surah Al-Qamar 54:

34. Lo! We sent a storm of stones upon them (all) save the family of Lot, whom We rescued in the last watch of the night…

38. And in truth the punishment decreed befell them early in the morning.

As in the Bible, all save the family of Lot are destroyed. There is not record of the ecological disaster that we find in the Bible, but the Qur’an is clear enough about the city and its citizens – everyone of them, except for Lot and his family (minus his wife), were judged and destroyed. This means that everyone in the city – men, women and children – and animals, one must suppose – were all exterminated. The judgment spared no one outside of Lot’s household. It is interesting that the punishment of death for sodomy is found in the Hadith, and directly linked to the experience of Lot:

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas

Abu Dawud 4447

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas

Mishkat Al-Masabih 3575

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.”

Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah transmitted it.

Narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah

Mishkat Al-Masabih 3577

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “The thing I fear most for my people is what Lot’s people did.”

Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah transmitted it.

Indeed, Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) states that sodomy is a capital offence:

7523 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual)


If a man commits sodomy with a male adult who consented, then the two must be stoned to death whether they were muhsans or not.

Obviously, this reflects the fact that Allah put the people of Sodom to death for practising homosexual acts.


The Qur’anic data is very scattered, and does not flow well. It lacks the nuances of the Biblical narrative, and the development of Lot’s character therein, nor does it contain the disclosure of the moral degradation involved in Lot’s choices. The depiction of Lot as a prophet in the Qur’an is not found in the Bible, where he is presented as a personally righteous, but deeply flawed character whose choices, based on economic advancement, lead to disaster, as he loses everything in the destruction of Sodom, including his wife, and his daughters are revealed to be hopelessly defiled in their ethics. The Bible presents Sodom and the Cities of the Plain as characterised by sexual immorality and perversion, and callousness towards human suffering or lack, including violence. In this respect, their character – and actions – presages that of the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, the Canaanites and the Amalekites. Much the same could be said of the character of the Sodomites as presented in the Qur’an, and in its tafsir.

In both the Bible and the Qur’an, the punishment for the perversions is the general destruction of the society – with the unique exception of Lot and his family. Although not expressly stated in either book, this would have involved the deaths of every man, woman, child, and animal in Sodom, as well as the destruction of its buildings. This is accomplished by direct divine action and angelic involvement – true of both books. When we consider the cases of Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, the Canaanites and the Amalekites, their judgment also involved wholesale destruction. The difference between these instances and that of Sodom (and its sister towns) was merely one of agency– in the case of the Cities of the Plain, God acted directly, in these later cases, God used humanagency. The judgement was the same, only the executioner was different. That being so, God had to spell out to the human agents involved – since it was a command– that no one and nothing was to be spared. Obviously, when God acted directly, he would not have to declare this explicitly. 

It follows that the frequent criticism of dawahactivists about the wholesale destruction of Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, the Canaanites and the Amalekites is a case of double standards. The Qur’an echoes – albeit in an edited and very inadequate way – the Bible’s record of the wholesale destruction of the Sodomites for committing essentially the same sins as these other peoples. To repeat, the only difference is that of agency. If dawahactivists condemn the Bible for this, they must also condemn the Qur’an, or be exposed as hypocrites. The destruction of Sodom by God sent a message to the surrounding peoples, not only of the power of YHWH, but also His moral standards – something severely lacking in the pantheons of the local pagans. The lesson, unfortunately, was not heeded by the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, the Canaanites and the Amalekites, and so they faced the same judgement as the people of Sodom. It follows that the position of the Bible is consistent: the same cannot be said for dawahactivists.

Oholah and Oholibah in the book of Ezekiel

The dawah team frequently focus their attacks on Old Testament passages, always taking them out of context, to attack the divine inspiration of the Bible. One such passage is in Ezekiel 23, which speaks of two sisters, Oholah and Oholibah, in particular these verses, in relation to the latter sister:

19 Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt20 and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses.21 Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.”

This has been attacked by the dawah team as pornographic, and comments have been made that God would not let young women be treated in this way, or even speak like this. As always, the dawah team ignores both the historical context of the passage and its genre.

  1. Israel as the metaphorical ‘Bride’ of YHWH

One of the metaphors of Biblical Israel as the People of YHWH in the Old Testament is that She was the ‘Bride of YHWH’, by virtue of the Covenant (in Biblical terms, an oath-bound promise with obligations enjoined on the recipient) imposed on the progeny of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This concept is also found in the New Testament, where the Church, as the New Covenant People of God, is the Bride of Christ, Ephesians 5: “31“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Also, in 2 Corinthians 11:2: “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” Marriage is presented as a covenant in Malachi 2:14: “But you say, “Why does he not?” Because YHWH was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” Unfortunately, Israel was not a faithful Bride, as Hosea 2 demonstrates:

“Plead with your mother, plead—
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband
that she put away her whoring from her face,
and her adultery from between her breasts;
lest I strip her naked
and make her as in the day she was born,
and make her like a wilderness,

and make her like a parched land,
and kill her with thirst.
Upon her children also I will have no mercy,
because they are children of whoredom.
For their mother has played the whore;
she who conceived them has acted shamefully…

Likewise, Jeremiah 3, in language and content that resembles Ezekiel 23,presents the same story about Israel and Judah, referring to the Northern and Southern Kingdoms after the secession under Jeroboam, son of Nebat who led the northern rebellion:

YHWH said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. 10 Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares YHWH.”

By “adultery” and “prostitution”, YHWH is referring to Israel’s apostasy, by mixing the pure worship of YHWH and His revelation in the Torah with the polytheistic religion of the Canaanites and surrounding peoples and their ethical codes which were actually devoid of moral content, involving as they did homosexuality, incest, bestiality and child sacrifice. 

  • Israel as the metaphorical ‘Virgin Daughter’ 

Another metaphor used of Biblical Israel is that of ‘Virgin Daughter’:

Isaiah 37:22; “virgindaughter of Zion”

Jeremiah 14:17: “…the virgindaughter of my people is shattered with a great wound, with a very grievous blow.”

Lamentations 1:15: “…the virgindaughter of Judah.”

Lamentations 2:13: “What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you, O virgindaughter of Zion?”

Similarly, we several times encounter the phrase ‘the virgin Israel’:

Jeremiah 18:13: “Therefore thus says YHWH: Ask among the nations, Who has heard the like of this? The virginIsraelhas done a very horrible thing.

Jeremiah 31:4: Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virginIsrael! Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.

Jeremiah 31:21: “Set up road markers for yourself; make yourself guideposts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went. Return, O virginIsrael, return to these your cities.

Amos 5:2: “Fallen, no more to rise, is the virginIsrael; forsaken on her land, with none to raise her up.”

This metaphor influences the content of Ezekiel 23, where Oholah and Oholibah are guilty of prostitution, rather than being virgins. 

  • The historical context of Ezekiel 23

After the secession of the northern tribes, Jeroboam altered the nature of the religion in his kingdom, 1 Kings 12:

25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel.26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David.27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of YHWH at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.”28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites.32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made.33 He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings.

These actions violated the Second Commandment, which forbade representations of YHWH; it violated the divine commandment that sacrifice can only be offered at the place YHWH would choose, which ultimately (in the Old Testament) was Jerusalem,Deuteronomy 12:2-27; and only Levitical priests could serve in the Temple. Matters deteriorated under later kings, such as Ahab (1 Kings 16):

29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of YHWH, more than all who were before him. 31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke YHWH, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. 34 In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of YHWH, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.

Ahab and Jezebel promoted a syncretistic religion whereby both YHWH and the Canaanite gods were worshipped, in defiance of the First Commandment demanding the exclusive worship of YHWH. The same features were found in some Kings of Judah, e.g. Manasseh, 2 Kings 21:

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah.And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom YHWH drove out before the people of Israel.For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them.And he built altars in the house of YHWH, of which YHWH had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.”And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of YHWH.And he burned his son as an offeringand used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of YHWH, provoking him to anger.And the carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which YHWH said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever.And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them.”But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom YHWH destroyed before the people of Israel.

It was not limited to idolatry. The People of YHWH were supposed to depend on YHWH alone for security, since dependent alliances with other powers implied that YHWH was either unable or unwilling to defend His People, a falsehood which YHWH, through Isaiah 31, denounced:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult YHWH!

And yet he is wise and brings disaster; he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. 

The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.
When YHWH stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together.

At different times, the northern and southern kingdoms came under dependent alliances – vassalage – with Egypt, Assyria and Babylonia. This was not supposed to happen, since the People of YHWH were supposed to serve YHWH alone, and trust only in Hisprotection. Therefore, when Israel and Judah submitted to such unequal relationships, YHWH was angered by their unfaithfulness to His covenant – to their spiritual prostitution. Walther Eichrodt (Ezekiel: A Commentary, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970, p. 3) refers to the historical situation:

The prophet’s struggle against the oppressor was soon justified by events. When Jehoiakim repudiated his position as a vassal of Babylon in 602 (II Kings 24.1), he returned once more to the old political manoeuvre practised by the Syrian states, according to which they seized the first opportunity to throw off such a galling yoke, and tried to have-their own way by playing off the rival powers of the Euphrates and the Nile against each other.

The Babylonian king Nebucharezzar reacted by, eventually, besieging Jerusalem (Ibid.):

A Babylonian army appeared before Jerusalem and began to besiege it… The palace and temple were indeed plundered, and the king and royal family led off into captivity in Babylon, and along with them large numbers of the upper and artisan classes of the country. At that time, young Ezekiel was one of those who underwent the bitter fate of deportation, which prevented him from taking up his priestly office, and annihilated all natural hopes.

We can see the fruit of departing from YHWH.

  • The genre of Ezekiel 23

Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of the dawahteam’s polemic on this passage is to take the language literally. It is, quite obviously and self-evidently, an allegorical or rhetorical parable, as suggested by Walter Bruggemann and Tod Linafelt(An introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian imagination, Louisville; Westminster John Knox Press, 2003, 2012 second edition, p. 227 [bold type ours]):

In three extensive and remarkable chapters, Ezekiel traces the history of Israel with YHWH as a history of failure and obscene violation of trust (16; 20; 23). These are remarkable rereadings of that long history, not only because it is a history of failure (a theme differently articulated in Ps 106), but because the relationship of YHWH and Israel is imagined as an intimate relationship that became erotic, and that in turn became obscene in ways that display all of the distortions and betrayals of which an erotic relationship is capable.The impression given us of this rhetoricis that the prophet must find the most extreme and offensive imagery in order to voice what he knows to be the most extreme and offensive distortion of a relationship that began in generosity and compassion. The negation of the relationship is unspeakable in its abhorrence, and so Ezekiel finds a way to speak the unspeakable:

You played the whore with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your whoring, to provoke me to anger. Therefore I stretched out my hand against you, reduced your rations, and gave you up to the will of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. You played the whore with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied. You multiplied your whoring with Chaldea, the land of merchants; and even with this you were not satisfied. (16:26–29)

And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their lust; and after she defiled herself with them, she turned from them in disgust. When she carried on her whorings so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned from her sister. Yet she increased her whorings, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose emission was like that of stallions. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians fondled your bosom and caressed your young breasts. (23:17–21)

Eichrodt likewise presents this as a parable and allegory (pp. 320-321): 

One can see from the very beginning that the narrative in which this is clothed has no importance whatsoever; this is no parablestory full of charm and poetic beauty, like ch. 16, 17 and 19. It is an allegory, which gives no more than the bare essentials, and applies only a few stereotyped pictorial imagesto bring out the point as clearly and unmistakably as possible. The images which it employs have no life of their own; their only purpose is to reproduce in quite coarse terms the unspeakable event they convey. This renunciation of all attempts to impart any artistic adornment to the parable can, of course, only result in a completely matter-of-fact and soberly plain and realistic narrative. To criticize it for its flatness, colourlessness, prosaic frigidity, or unpoetic repetitiveness shows a complete failure to understand its nature.

The kindest thing we can say about the dawahteam’s propaganda on this passage is that it is, in the words of Bruggemann, ‘a complete failure to understand its nature’. However, it is difficult to understand how anyone could possibly misunderstand the nature and genre of the passage. This is how the chapter begins:

The word of YHWH came to me:“Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother.They played the whore in Egypt; they played the whore in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and their virgin bosomshandled.Oholah was the name of the elder and Oholibah the name of her sister. They became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem.

It is obvious from the start that this is the language of allegorical parable. Oholah is Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, and Oholibah is Jerusalem, capital of Judah. So, clearly, we are not dealing with two literal women here, but rather with a metaphorical representation of the two Hebrew kingdoms – Israel and Judah. It follows, therefore, that the erotic language is likewise metaphorical. The ‘whoring’ of Oholah (Samaria) was with Assyria – its dependent alliances (and then treacherous breaches), and the whoredom of Oholibah (Jerusalem) was with Assyria, Babylonia and Egypt. Obviously, the contrast is between the ‘virgin Israel’ – where the People were faithful to YHWH and His Torah – with the ‘whoring’ of Samaria and Judah, in terms of their infidelity, their idolatry, vassalage to pagans, and general apostasy – ‘29 …Your lewdness and your whoring30 have brought this upon you, because you played the whore with the nations and defiled yourself with their idols.’ So, the opposite to the language of ‘virginity’ is that of ‘prostitution’ – whoring. 

It follows that to comprehend the sexual imagery of Ezekiel 23, we must understand the general teaching of the Old Testament about the Covenant, about the language of ‘virginity’ in relation to Biblical Israel as the metaphorical Bride of YHWH and of references to ‘the virgin daughter of YHWH’. Adultery is usually related to lust – a desire for someone’s body, and in the case of women, for the distinctive anatomy of the male, which explains the references in the following texts;

12 She lusted after the Assyrians, governors and commanders, warriors clothed in full armor, horsemen riding on horses, all of them desirable young men…14 But she carried her whoring further. She saw men portrayed on the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed in vermilion,15 …all of them having the appearance of officers, a likeness of Babylonians whose native land was Chaldea…19 Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt20 and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses.21 Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressedyour young breasts.

The imagery of a woman impressed by a handsome, well-built man in uniform, which causes her to be unfaithful to her husband. There is also the implication of her engaged in something just short of pornography, with her looking at pictures of men and lusting after them. A faithful wife would not be interested in the bodies of other men, whether their chests, their muscles or – most definitely – their private parts. The imagery is that of a totally sexually degenerate woman, in contrast to a pure virgin or faithful wife. YHWH responds with judgment – using the very ‘lovers’ after whom Samaria and Jerusalem ‘lusted’ – the Assyrians, Egyptians and Babylonians. The Assyrians destroyed Samaria in 722 B.C. and deported most of the population, the Babylonians did likewise to Jerusalem in 586. Before this, the Egyptians invaded and imposed a puppet ruler. The chapter ends on a note of judgment upon the adulterous whoring – idolatry – of His apostate people:

46 For thus says the Lord God: “Bring up a vast host against them, and make them an object of terror and a plunder. 47 And the host shall stone them and cut them down with their swords. They shall kill their sons and their daughters, and burn up their houses. 48 Thus will I put an end to lewdness in the land, that all women may take warning and not commit lewdness as you have done. 49 And they shall return your lewdness upon you, and you shall bear the penalty for your sinful idolatry, and you shall know that I am the Lord God.”

It follows that to present the metaphorical language of the text as literal is either to be guilty of ineptitude or wilful misrepresentation. As the quoted scholars have observed, it is obviously the language of an allegorical parable, reflecting the contrast between YHWH’s creation of the virgin Israel and her descent into spiritual lewdness.