Sunday, May 28, 2006

Homosexuality and Islam: Oppression and Tolerance in a Medieval Civilization

Sample News Story [This from 1998]

--" Islamic fundamentalists tried to beat up a gay man and threatened
to kill him at a London conference on "Islamophobia", designed to
promote understanding and tolerance of Muslim values, and attended by
Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders. "The conference declaration
claimed that "Islam is wrongly and unjustly portrayed as barbaric,
irrational, primitive, sexist, violent and aggressive". Some gay
activists went on the attack, basically, to claim that this statement
is wrong, and noting the dreadful treatment of a gay activist at the

The issue is not quite so simple, however. Although today Islam is
presented as a Monolithic religion and culture, this has little
relation to Islam's past, and much to to do with a mutally beneficial
collaboration by Western media *and* legalistic elements within the
Islamic world.

The Islam that we hear of - both Shia and Sunni - is presented as a
form of legalistic religious totalitarianism. But this represents only
one aspect of Islam's past and present culture [an aspect which can be
seen in certain historical manifestations of Christianity, Judaism,
"Hinduism", and Buddhism]. In practice, Islamic culture has exhibited
many periods of tolerance, including tolerance of homosexuality -
indeed the poetry of Islamic Spain is full of such references.

The history of homosexuality in Islamic culture is not reducible to
such periods of "tolerance". The form of Islam known as Sufism - a
form which emphasizes love and faith [iman] over submission [islam]
[and iman is used much more frequently in the Qu'ran than "islam"] -
has always been much more open. Sufism is *not* an obscure mystical
movement, but was a dominating force in the religious life of much of
the Muslim world.

Outside Saudi Arabia [which was "cleaned" by anti-Sufi Wahabists in
the 19th century], Islam is still awash in Sufi religiosity -
especially the importance given to saint's tombs and pilgrimages to
them. In South Asia [India, Pakistan and Bangladesh contain by far the
world's largest number of Muslims], Sufism has proved especially
important. The Sunni religious authorities do not "own" Islam, any
more than the Vatican "owns" the Catholicism of Mexican women devoted
to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Unfortunately the modern western commentators buy into this conflation
of legalistic Islamic authoritarianism with Islam as a whole. [They
also fail to analyze why immigrant communities often end up under the
control of conservative religious authorities, and embroiled in the
practice of the most conservative elements of a religious tradition.
There has been a lot of sociological study of this common phenomenon:
it seems clear that in immigrant subcultures, especially when the
immigrant group is subject to discrimination, the complexity of the
home society is reduced to much harsher lines. Homeland political,
regional and clam relationships come to have little role in the new
land, but religious affiliation remains clear. In these circumstances,
immigrant religious leaders acquire a new level of power.]

So let's summarize what Islamic culture has actually said and done
about Homosexuality.

M U H A M M A D A N D T H E Q U' R A N

The Qur'an actually says very little

The following Qur'anic are often seen verses as relevant to
homosexuality: [texts are from the Qur'an edition at Virginia Tech's
etext collection.]

SURA IV: 19-21

19. But whoso rebels against God and His Apostle, and transgresses His
bounds, He will make him enter into fire, and dwell therein for aye;
and for him is shameful woe. 20. Against those of your women who
commit adultery, call witnesses four in number from among yourselves;
and if these bear witness, then keep the women in houses until death
release them, or God shall make for them a way. 21. And if two (men)
of you commit it, then hurt them both; but if they turn again and
amend, leave them alone, verily, God is easily turned, compassionate.

-Note: if Surah 4:21 is about homosexuality, the Qu'ran is notably
less aggressive than the comparable verses in the Book of Leviticus.

SURA VII: 78-84 [On Lot at Sodom] 78. Then the earthquake took them,
and in the morning they lay prone in their dwellings; 79. and he
turned away from them and said, 'O my people! I did preach to you the
message of my Lord, and I gave you good advice; but ye love not
sincere advisers.' 80. And Lot, when he said to his people, 'Do ye
approach an abomination which no one in all the world ever anticipated
you in? 81. verily, ye approach men with lust rather than women- nay,
ye are a people who exceed.' 82.But his people's answer only was to
say, 'Turn them out of your village, verily, they are a people who
pretend to purity.' 83. But we saved him and his people, except his
wife, who was of those who lingered; 84. and we rained down upon them
a rain;- see then how was the end of the sinners!

See also SURA XI: 77-84 [On Lot at Sodom] SURA XXVI: 160-174 [On Lot
and Sodom] SURA XXIX: 28-35 [On Lot and Sodom]

-Note. To western readers the Qur'an is notably repetitive. Muhammad
(or, in Muslim eyes, God, the author of the "Qu'ran), in delivering
the various recitations, had some knowledge of the Five Books of
Moses. The same story gets repeated and repeated. The Sodom story was
clearly seen in homosexual terms [Sura 7:81], but the focus of the
story seems to be simply an attack on wickedness and turning away from
God in general.


Although the Qu'ran does not have verse explicitly in favor of
homosexuality, it does have verses which show awareness of male
beauty. These are promises made to Muslim men who make it to Heaven.

SURA LII:24 "And there shall wait on them [the Muslim men] young boys
of their own, as fair as virgin pearls."

SURA LXXVI:19 "They shall be attended by boys graced with eternal
youth, who will seem like scattered pearls to the beholders."


There were varying traditions about homosexuality in Islamic
tradition. What follows is from an old post by Kamran Hakim
[] to soc.religion.bahai [in which he is
seeking to show tha Bahai's are unequivocal in their condemnation of
homosexuality, while Muslims were lax.]

"References to effeminacy can be found in Islamic Hadith which is, in
a sense, a verification of the account of the New Testament.
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:

"The Prophet cursed the effeminate men and those women who assume the
similitude (manners) of men. He also said, "Turn them out of your
houses." He turned such-and-such person out, and 'Umar also turned out
such-and- such person.
Sahih Bukhari 8.820

There doesn't appear to be too much room for effeminate men within the
Muslim community. However, effeminacy might not exactly equate with
sexual tendencies toward another man. Furthermore, both the Qur'an and
the Hadith deal with male-male sexual relationship in particular.

"The mentioning of the story of Lot, the nephew of Abraham and the
people of Sodom in the Qur'an appear to imply that Arabs of the time
of Muhammad must have also had similar social norms regarding sodomy.
Else there was no reason for Prophet Muhammad to repeat, by the virtue
of inspiration, the Biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah in the

"The Qur'an does not directly refer to "lavaat", "sodomy" or the
homosexual act. On the contrary the Qur'an treats this issue in a
peripheral manner. The following verses of that Book describe the
story of "Lot" and the people of Sodom and hint at sodomy by
implication: "For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to
women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bonds." Qur'an 7:81

"-Would ye really approach men in your lust rather than women? Nay ye
are a people grossly ignorant." Qur'an 27:55

-Surih Sho'ara:105 of the Qur'an reiterates further on this same theme.

Imam Ali describes the reason behind the injunction of the Qur'an
against sodomy in a rather practical manner:

"Amir al-mu'menin, peace be upon him, said: Allah has laid
down...abstinence from sodomy for increase of progeny..."
Nahj-ul-Balagha, selection from the preachings of Ali, # 253, p. 621

Regardless of such admonishment and unlike the severe approach of the
Torah in punishing those guilty of sodomy, the Qur'an appear to treat
this issue in a far more lenient manner than the Torah:

"And as for the two of you [i.e. The sentence structure refers
exclusively to two men and not a man and a woman. KH] who are guilty
thereof [guilty of sexual relationship. KH], punish them both. And if
they repent and improve, then let them be. Lo! Allah is Relenting,
Merciful." Qur'an 4:16

Qur'an while speaking of "punish them both", does not prescribe any
form of punishment, as in the case of adultery, for sexual
relationship between two men and prescribes acceptance of their
repentance. However, there are some Ahadith (i.e. Traditions, saying
of Prophet Muhammad) that prescribe the severe punishment of the Torah
for those guilty of this charge. For example the following two Ahadith
are from Sunan of Abu Dawood vol 4, chapter on the people of Lot. The
Arabic text reads as follows:

"man laata beh ghulaam faqtaloo al-fa'il val-maf'ool." Which
translates to: "When a man commits sodomy with a boy: kill the doer
and the one done to."


"qala an-nabi man vajde tamooh ya'mala 'amale qawme Lot fa-aqtaloo
al-fa'il val-maf'ool." Which translates to: "Prophet said: He who
commits that which the people of Lot committed [i.e. People of Lot
committed Sodomy. KH]: kill the doer and the one done to."

Since the Qur'an has not clearly prescribed a punishment for sodomy,
some Schools of Thought in Islam have considered sodomy as "mobaah"
[i.e. meaning allowable in an impunible and indifferent sense.] while
others have considered it "jaa'iz" [i.e. meaning allowable,
permissible and lawful.]. For example Maleki, the founder of the
Maleki School of Thought within Sunni Islam says:

"Having sex with a young man (without beard) is fine for a man who is
not married and who is on a trip." cit. Hesaam Noqaba'i, Hoquq-i Zan,
pp. 126-127 (section on "lavaat"/"sodomy")

The Shi'ah books of law also leave the door unlocked for the cases of
"Oops, I forgot! sodomization of boys. The following Shi'ah ruling
hints at this:

"If he has had sexual intercourse with a boy according to
precautionary rule, it becomes unlawful for him forever to marry the
boy's mother, his sister, or his daughters even if they are boys not
adults. If one is married to one of such ladies before such act, it
does not affect the already existing marriage, although it is a
precautionary rule to avoid such marriage. Extending this rule to the
case wherein one doing the act is a minor the one letting it done to
him is an adult, is objectionable, according to a clear view it does
not apply. The daughter or brothers and sisters of the one letting it
done to him do not become unlawful to one who has done the act."
Islamic Laws of Worship and Contracts, p. 614, CR #1259 Ayatullah
Al-'Uzma Al-Sayyid Muhammad Al-Husayni Shirazi

In the Ottoman Empire the Sultans use to keep youths in the Harem for
satisfying their sexual appetites [Such reference may be found in
books such as: "The Spirit of Laws" by Montesquieu and "Chronichles of
Shirly Brothers"]. Within the Iranian society "bache-bazi" or "sexual
play with young boys" has been an under the carpet social norm for
many centuries and the ambiguous nature of the Qur'anic prescription
has not been able to bring halt to this social illness.

Will Durant refers to this issue in his book "History of
Civilization". He writes: "Sexual indulgence was apparently more
abundant and enervating in Islam than in Christiandom, though it was
usually kept within the orderly limits of polygamy. Turkish society
was almost exclusively male, and since there was no permitted
association of men with women outside the home, the Moslems found
companionship in homosexual relationships, Platonic or physical.
Lesbianism flourished in the zenana." -Will & Ariel Durant, History
of Civilization vol 7 (The Age of Reason Begins) p. 520 Also;

"The women were 'very richly habited,'wrote Tavernier, and 'little
otherwise than the men...They wear breeches like the men.' The women
lived in the privacy of the zenana, and seldom stirring from their
homes, and then rarely on foot. There were three sexes. Much of the
love poetry was addressed by men to boys, and Thomas Herbert, and
Englishman at Abbas' [i.e Shah Abbas of the Saffavid Dynasty. Their
court, saw 'Ganymade boys in vests of gold, rich bespangled turbans,
and choice sandals, their curled hair dangling about their shoulders,
with rolling eyes and vermilion cheeks.'

Chardin noted a decrease in population in his time and ascribed it to
First, the unhappy inclination which the Persians have, to commit that
abominable sin against nature, with both sexes [Here he is referring
to sodomy. KH].

Secondly, the immoderate luxury [sexual freedom] of the country. The
women begin there to have children betimes, and continue fruitful but
a little while; and as soon as they get on the wrong side of thirty
they are looked upon as old and superannuated, The men likewise begin
to visit women too young, and to such an excess, that though they
enjoy several, they have never the more children for it. There are
also a great many women who make themselves abortive, and take
remedies against growing pregnant, because [when] they have been three
or four months gone with the child, their husbands take to other
women, holding it ... indecency to lie with a woman so far in her
time. Despite polygamy there were many prostitutes. Drunkenness was
widespread, though Muhammadan law forbade wine."
Will & Ariel Durant, History of Civilization vol 7 (The Age of Reason
Begins) p. 532

It is important to point out that Durant's observation is not far from
the truth. Perhaps the following quotes from the Shi'ah compilations
offers a certain measure of validity to Durant's view:

"The woman becomes the owner of the dowry by the contract and it is
reduced by one half by divorce before sex, also because of death of
one party, according to a more clear reason if sex is performed by the
front or back the dowry becomes an established right and the same rule
applies if he tears her virginity by his finger and without her
Islamic Laws of Worship and Contracts, p. 626, CR #1350 Ayatullah
Al-'Uzma Al-Sayyid Muhammad Al-Husayni Shirazi


[Most of this is from Edward Carpenter's Iolaus, in which he hides
homosexual culture under the guise of "male friendship".]

The honor paid to male love in Persia, Arabia, Syria and other
Oriental lands has always been great, and the tradition of this
attachment there should be especially interesting to us, as having
arisen independently of classic or Christian ideals.

The Sufi poets of Persia, Saadi and Jalalu-ddin Rumi [100] (13th
cent.), Hafiz (14th cent.), Jami (15th cent.), and others, drew much
of their inspiration from homosexual love and male beauty. The
extraordinary way in which, following the method of the Sufis, and of
Plato, they identify the mortal and the divine love, and see in their
male beloved an image or revelation of God himself, makes their poems
difficult of comprehension to the Western mind. Apostrophes to Love,
Wine, and Beauty often, with them, bear a frankly twofold sense,
material and spiritual. To these poets of the mid-region of the earth,
the bitter antagonism between matter and spirit, which like an evil
dream has haunted so long both the extreme Western and the extreme
Eastern mind, scarcely exists; and even the body " which is a portion
of the dustpit " has become perfect and divine.

All the texts that follow address homosexual love:-

Jalalu-ddin Rumi

" Every form you see has its archetype in the placeless world....
From the moment you came into the world of being
A ladder was placed before you that you might escape ( ascend ) .
First you were mineral, later you turned to plant,
[101]Then you became an animal: how should this be a secret to you ?
Afterwards you were made man, with knowledge, reason, faith;
Behold the body, which is a portion of the dust pit, how perfect
it has growing
When you have travelled on from man, you will doubtless become an angel;
After that you are done with earth: your station is in heaven.
Pass again even from angelhood: enter that ocean,
That your drop may become a sea which is a hundred seas of ' Oman.' "
From the Divani Shamsi Tabriz of Jalalu-ddin Rumi, trans. by
R. H. Nicholson.

'Twere better that the spirit which wears not true love as a garment
Had not been: its being is but shame.
Be drunken in love, for love is all that exists.
Dismiss cares and be utterly clear of heart,
Like the face of a mirror, without image or picture.
When it becomes clear of images, all images are contained in it."

Happy the moment when we are seated in the palace, thou and I,
With two forms and with two figures, but with one soul, thou and I."


SOME short quotations here following are taken from Flowers culled
from Persian Gardens (Manchester, 1872):

"Everyone, whether he be abstemious or self indulgent is searching
after the Friend. Every place may be the abode of love, whether it be
a mosque or a synagogue.... On thy last day, though the cup be in thy
hand, thou may'st be borne away to Paradise evenfrom the corner of the

"I have heard a sweet word which was spoken by the old man of
Canaan (Jacob)-' No tongue can express what means the separation of

"Neither of my own free will cast I myself into the fire; for the
chain of affection was laid upon my neck. I was still at a distance
when the fire began to glow, nor is this the moment that it was
lighted up within me. Who shall impute it to me as a fault, that I am
enchanted by my friend, that I am content in casting myself at his
feet? "


"A youth there was of golden heart and nature,
Who loved a friend, his like in every feature;
[102] Once, as upon the ocean sailed the pair,
They chanced into a whirlpool unaware.
A fisherman made haste the first to save,
Ere his young life should meet a watery grave;
But crying from the raging surf, he said:
' Leave me, and seize my comrade's hand instead.'
E'en as he spoke the mortal swoon o'ertook him,
With that last utterance life and sense forsook him.

Learn not love's temper from that shallow pate
Who in the hour of fear forsakes his mate
True friends will ever act like him above
(Trust one who is experienced in love);
For Sadi knows full well the lover's part,
And Bagdad understands the Arab heart.
More than all else thy loved one shalt thou prize,
Else is the whole world hidden from thine eyes."
Lov'st thou a being formed of dust like thee
Peace and contentment from thy heart shall flee -
Waking, fair limbs and features shall torment thee;
Sleeping, thy love in dreams shall hold and haunt thee.
Under his feet thy head is bowed to earth;
Compared with him the world's a paltry crust;
If to thy loved one gold is nothing worth,
Why, then to thee is gold no more than dust
[105] Hardly a word for others canst thou find,
For no room's left for others in thy mind."

" Dear Friend, since thou hast passed the whole
Of one sweet night, till dawn, with me,
I were scarce mortal, could I spend
Another hour apart from thee.
The fear of death, for all of time
Hath left me since my soul partook
The water of true Life, that wells
In sweet abundance from thy brook."

Hahn in his Albanesische Studien, already quoted (p. 20), gives some
of the verses of Necin or Nesim Bey, a Turco-Albanian poet, of which
the following is an example:

"Whate'er, my friend, or false or true,
The world may tell thee, give no ear,
For to separate us, dear,
The world will say that one is two.
Who should seek to separate us
May he never cease to weep.
The rain at times may cease; but he
In Summer's warmth or Winter's sleep
May he never cease to weep."


The 19th century translator of the 1001 Nights, Richard Burton
commented on the Qu'ranic passages:

"These circumstantial unfacts are repeated at full length in the other
two chapters; but rather as an instance of Allah's power than as a
warning against pederasty, which Mohammed seems to have regarded with
philosophic indifference. The general opinion of his followers is that
it should be punished like fornication unless the offenders made a
public act of penitence. But here, as in adultery, the law is somewhat
too clement and will not convict unless four credible witnesses swear
to have seen rem in re. I have noticed (vol. i. 211) the vicious
opinion that the Ghilman or Wuldan, the beautiful boys of Paradise,
the counterparts of the Houris, will be lawful catamites to the True
Believers in a future state of happiness: the idea is nowhere
countenanced in Al-Islam; and, although I have often heard debauchees
refer to it, the learned look upon the assertion as scandalous. "

Burton later addressed the issue of homosexuality, which came up
repeatedly in the 1001 Nights.

"We must not forget that the love of boys has its noble sentimental
side. The Platonists and pupils of the Academy, followed by the Sufis
or Moslem Gnostics held such affection, pure as ardent, to be the beau
id al which united in man's soul the creature with the Creator.
Professing to regard youths as the most cleanly and beautiful objects
in this phenomenal world, they declared that by loving and extolling
the chef-d'^ uvre, corporeal and intellectual, of the Demiurgus,
disinterestedly and without any admixture of carnal sensuality, they
are paying the most fervent adoration to the Causa causans. They add
that such affection, passing as it does the love of women, is far less
selfish than fondness for and admiration of the other sex which,
however innocent, always suggest sexuality; and Easterns add that the
devotion of the moth to the taper is purer and more fervent than the
Bulbul's love for the Rose. "

[Burton also mentions the history of lesbianism in the Muslim world,
but does not pursue it - "The Arabic Sahh kah, the Tractatrix of
Subigitatrix, who has been noticed in vol. iv. 134. Hence to
Lesbianise (lesbizein) and tribassare (tr besthai) the former applied
to the love of woman for woman and the latter to its m canique: this
is either natural, as friction of the labia and insertion of the
clitoris when unusually developed; or artificial by means of the
fascinum, the artificial penis (the Persian 'May jang'); the patte de
chat, the banana-fruit and a multitude of other succedanea. As this
feminine perversion is only glanced at in The Nights I need hardly
enlarge upon the subject."]

Of his own period, Burton notes:

"In old Mauritania, now Morocco, the Moors proper are notable
sodomites; Moslems, even of saintly houses, are permitted openly to
keep catamites, nor do their disciples think worse of their sanctity
for such license: in one case the English wife failed to banish from
the home 'that horrid boy'."

"..when Sonnini travelled (A.D. 1717). The French officer, who is
thoroughly trustworthy, draws the darkest picture of the widely-spread
criminality especially of the bestiality and the sodomy (chapt. xv.)
which formed the 'delight of the Egyptians.' During the Napoleonic
conquest Jaubert in his letter to General Bruix (p. 19) says, 'Les
Arabes et les Mamelouks ont trait quelques-uns de nos prisonniers
comme Socrate traitait, dit-on, Alcibiade. Il fallait p rir ou y
passer.' Old Anglo-Egyptians still chuckle over the tale of Sa'id
Pasha and M. de Ruyssenaer, the highdried and highly respectable
Consul-General for the Netherlands, who was solemnly advised to make
the experiment, active and passive, before offering his opinion upon
the subject. In the present age extensive intercourse with Europeans
has produced not a reformation but a certain reticence amongst the
upper classes: they are as vicious as ever, but they do not care for
displaying their vices to the eyes of mocking strangers."

"Syria has not forgotten her old 'praxis.' At Damascus I found some
noteworthy cases amongst the religious of the great Amawi Mosque. As
for the Druses we have Burckhardt's authority (Travels in Syria, etc.,
p. 202) 'unnatural propensities are very common amongst them.'

The Sotadic Zone covers the whole of Asia Minor and Mesopotamia now
occupied by the 'unspeakable Turk,' a race of born pederasts; and in
the former region we first notice a peculiarity of the feminine
figure, the mammae inclinatae, jacentes et pannosae, which prevails
over all this part of the belt. Whilst the women to the North and
South have, with local exceptions, the mammae stantes of the European
virgin,[39] those of Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan and Kashmir lose all
the fine curves of the bosom, sometimes even before the first child;
and after it the hemispheres take the form of bags. This cannot result
from climate only; the women of Maratha-land, inhabiting a damper and
hotter region than Kashmir, are noted for fine firm breasts even after
parturition. Le Vice of course prevails more in the cities and towns
of Asiatic Turkey than in the villages; yet even these are infected;
while the nomad Turcomans contrast badly in this point with the
Gypsies, those- Badawin of India. The Kurd population is of Iranian
origin, which` means that the evil is deeply rooted: I have noted in
The Nights that the great and glorious Saladin was a habitual
pederast. The Armenians, as their national character is, will
prostitute themselves for gain but prefer women to boys: Georgia
supplied Turkey with catamites whilst Circassia sent concubines. In
Mesopotamia the barbarous invader has almost obliterated the ancient
civilization which is antedated only by the Nilotic: the mysteries of
old Babylon nowhere survive save in certain obscure tribes like the
Mandaeans, the Devil-worshippers and the Ali-ilahi. Entering Persia we
find the reverse of Armenia; and, despite Herodotus, I believe that
Iran borrowed her pathologic love from the peoples of the
Tigris-Euphrates Valley and not from the then insignificant Greeks.
But whatever may be its origin, the corruption is now bred in the
bone. It begins in boyhood and many Persians account for it by
paternal severity. Youths arrived at puberty find none of the
facilities with which Europe supplies fornication. Onanism [40] is to
a certain extent discouraged by circumcision, and meddling with the
father's slave-girls and concubines would be risking cruel punishment
if not death. Hence they use each other by turns, a 'puerile practice'
known as Alish-Takish, the Lat. facere vicibus or mutuum facere
Temperament, media, and atavism recommend the custom to the general;
and after marrying and begetting heirs, Paterfamilias returns to the
Ganymede. Hence all the odes of Hafiz are addressed to youths as
proved by such Arabic exclamations as 'Afaka 'llah = Allah assain thee
(masculine) [4l]: the object is often fanciful but it would be held
coarse and immodest to address an imaginary girl.[42] An illustration
of the penchant is told at Shiraz concerning a certain Mujtahid, the
head of the Shi'ah creed, corresponding with a prince-archbishop in
Europe. A friend once said to him, 'There is a question I would fain
address to your Eminence but I lack the daring to do so.' 'Ask and
fear not,' replied the Divine. 'It is this, O Mujtahid! Figure thee in
a garden of roses and hyacinths with the evening breeze waving the
cypress-heads, a fair youth of twenty sitting by thy side and the
assurance of perfect privacy. What, prithee, would be the result?' The
holy man bowed the chin of doubt upon the collar of meditation; and,
too honest to lie presently whispered, 'Allah defend me from such
temptation of Satan!' Yet even in Persia men have not been wanting who
have done their utmost to uproot the Vice: in the same Shiraz they
speak of a father who, finding his son in flagrant delict, put him to
death like Brutus or Lynch of Galway. Such isolated cases, however,
can effect nothing.

Chardin tells us that houses of male prostitution were common in
Persia whilst those of women were unknown: the same is the case in the
present day and the boys are prepared with extreme care by diet,
baths, depilation, unguents and a host of artists in cosmetics. [43]
Le Vice is looked upon at most as a peccadillo and its mention crops
up in every jest-book. When the Isfahan man mocked Shaykh Sa'adi, by
comparing the bald pates of Shirazian elders to the bottom of a lota,
a brass cup with a wide-necked opening used in the Hammam, the witty
poet turned its aperture upwards and thereto likened the well-abused
podex of an Isfahani youth. Another favourite piece of Shirazian
'chaff' is to declare that when an Isfahan father would set up his son
in business he provides him with a pound of rice, meaning that he can
sell the result as compost for the kitchen-garden, and with the price
buy another meal: hence the saying Khakh-i-pai kahu = the soil at the
lettuce-root. The Isfahanis retort with the name of a station or
halting-place between the two cities where, under pretence of making
travellers stow away their riding-gear, many a Shirazi had been raped:
hence 'Zin o takaltu tu bi-bar' = carry within saddle and
saddle-cloth! A favourite Persian punishment for strangers caught in
the Harem or Gynaeceum is to strip and throw them and expose them to
the embraces of the grooms and negro slaves. I once asked a Shirazi
how penetration was possible if the patient resisted with all the
force of the sphincter muscle: he smiled and said, 'Ah, we Persians
know a trick to get over that; we apply a sharpened tent-peg to the
crupper-bone (os coccygis) and knock till he opens.' A well-known
missionary to the East during the last generation was subjected to
this gross insult by one ofthe Persian Prince-governors, whom he had
infuriated by his conversion-mania: in his memoirs he alludes to it by
mentioning his 'dishonoured person;' but English readers cannot
comprehend the full significance of the confession. About the same
time Skaykh Nasr, Governor of Bushire, a man famed for facetious
blackguardism, used to invite European youngsters serving in the
Bombay Marine and ply them with liquor till they were insensible. Next
morning the middies mostly complained that the champagne had caused a
curious irritation and soreness in la parte-poste. The same Eastern
'Scrogin' would ask his guests if they had ever seen a mancannon
(Adami-top); and, on their replying in the negative, a greybeard slave
was dragged in blaspheming and struggling with all his strength. He
was presently placed on all fours and firmly held by the extremities;
his bag-trousers were let down and a dozen peppercorns were inserted
ano suo: the target was a sheet of paper held at a reasonable
distance; the match was applied by a pinch of cayenne in the nostrils;
the sneeze started the grapeshot and the number of hits on the butt
decided the bets. We can hardly wonder at the loose conduct of Persian
women perpetually mortified by marital pederasty. During the unhappy
campaign of 1856-7 in which, with the exception of a few brilliant
skirmishes, we gained no glory, Sir James Outram and the Bombay army
showing how badly they could work, there was a formal outburst of the
Harems; and even women of princely birth could not be kept out of the
officers' quarters.

The cities of Afghanistan and Sind are thoroughly saturated with
Persian vice, and the people sing

Kadr-i-kus Aughan danad, kadr-i-kunra Kabuli:
The worth of coynte the Afghan knows: Cabul prefers the other chose![44]

The Afghans are commercial travellers on a large scale and each
caravan is accompanied by a number of boys and lads almost in woman's
attire with kohl'd eyes and rouged cheeks, long tresses and henna'd
fingers and toes, riding luxuriously in Kajawas or camel-panniers:
they are called Kuch-i safari, or travelling wives, and the husbands
trudge patiently by their sides. In Afghanistan also a frantic
debauchery broke out amongst the women when they found incubi who were
not pederasts; and the scandal was not the most insignificant cause of
the general rising at Cabul (Nov. 1841), and the slaughter of
Macnaghten, Burnes and other British officers.

Resuming our way Eastward we find the Sikhs and the Moslems of the
Panjab much addicted to Le Vice, although the Himalayan tribes to the
north and those lying south, the Rajputs and Marathas, ignore it. The
same may be said of the Kashmirians who add another Kappa to the tria
Kakista, Kappadocians, Kretans, and Kilicians: the proverb says,

Agar kaht-i-mardum uftad, az in sih jins kam giri;
Eki Afghan, dowum Sindi,[45] siyyum badjins-i-Kashmiri:
Though of men there be famine yet shun these three
Afghan, Sindi and rascally Kashmiri.

M. Louis Daville describes the infamies of lajore and Lakhanu where he
found men dressed as women, with flowing locks under crowns of
flowers, imitating the feminine walk and gestures, voice and fashion
of speech, and ogling their admirers with all the coquetry of bayad
res. Victor Jacquemont's Journal de Voyage describes the pederasty of
Ranjit Singh, the 'Lion of the Panjab,' and his pathic Gulab Singh
whom the English inflicted upon Cashmir as ruler by way of paying for
his treason. Yet the Hindus, I repeat, hold pederasty in abhorrence
and are as much scandalized by being called Gand-mara (anus-beater) or
Gandu (anuser) as Englishmen would be. During the years 1843-4 my
regiment, almost all Hindu Sepoys of the Bombay Presidency, was
stationed at a purgatory called Bandar Gharra,[46] a sandy flat with a
scatter of verdigris-green milk-bush some forty miles north of Karachi
the headquarters. The dirty heap of mud-and-mat hovels, which
represented the adjacent native village, could not supply a single
woman; yet only one case of pederasty came to light and that after a
tragical fashion some years afterwards. A young Brahman had connection
with a soldier comrade of low caste and this had continued till, in an
unhappy hour, the Pariah patient ventured to become the agent. The
latter, in Arab Al-Fa'il = the 'doer,' is not an object of contempt
like Al-Maful = the 'done'; and the high-caste sepoy, stung by remorse
and revenge, loaded his musket and deliberately shot his paramour. He
was hanged by court martial at Hyderabad and, when his last wishes
were asked he begged in vain to be suspended by the feet; the idea
being that his soul, polluted by exiting 'below the waist,' would be
doomed to endless transmigrations through the lowest forms of life.


As well as poets and philosophers, a number of the the great heros of
Sunni Islam saw no great problem with homosexuality. Again adapted
from Carpenter, the following quotations may afford some glimpses of

Suleyman the Magnificent was the greatest leader of the Ottoman Empire
- by far the longest lasting of all Muslim states, and for centuries
the leading Bulwark of Sunni Islam. The Story of Suleyman's attachment
to his Vezir Ibrahim is told as follows by Stanley Lane-Poole:

"Suleyman, great as he was, shared his greatness with a second
mind, to which his reign owed much of its brilliance. The Grand Vezir
Ibrahim was the counterpart of the Grand Monarch Suleyman. He was the
son of a sailor at Parga, and had been captured by corsairs, by whom
he was sold to be the slave of a widow at Magnesia. Here he passed
into the hands of the young prince Suleyman, then Governor of
Magnesia, and soon his extraordinary talents and address brought him
promotion.... From being Grand Falconer on the accession of Suleyman,
he rose to be first minister and almost co-Sultan in 1523.

"He was the object of the Sultan's tender regard: an emperor knows
better than most men how solitary is life without friendship and love,
and Suleyman loved this man more than a brother. Ibrahim was not only
a friend, he was an entertaining and instructive companion. He read
Persian, Greek and Italian; he knew how to open unknown worlds to the
Sultan's mind, and Sulevman drank in his Vezir's wisdom with
assiduity. They lived together: their meals were shared in common;
even their beds were in the same room. The Sultan gave his sister in
marriage to the sailor's [107] son, and Ibrahim was at the summit of
Turkey, Story of Nations series, p. 174.

It was not only the emperors and religious leaders who were open to
homosexuality. T. S. BUCKINGHAM, in his "Travels in Assyria, Media
and Persia," speaking of his guide whom he had engaged at Bagdad, and
who was supposed to have left his heart behind him in that city, says
[The word "dervish" here refers to a member of a Sufi sect]:

" Amidst all this I was at a loss to conceive how the Dervish could
find much enjoyment [in the expedition] while laboring under the
strong passion which I supposed he must then be feeling for the object
of his affections at Bagdad, whom he had quitted with so much
reluctance. What was my surprise, however, on seeking an explanation
of this seeming inconsistency, to find it was the son, and not the
daughter, of his friend Elias who held so powerful a hold on his
heart. I shrank back from the confession as a man would recoil from a
serpent on which he had unexpectedly trodden . . . but in answer to
enquiries naturally suggested by the subject he declared he would
rather suffer death than do the slightest harm to so pure, so
innocent, so heavenly a creature as this....

" I took the greatest pains to ascertain by a severe and minute
investigation, how far it might be possible to doubt of the purity of
the passion by which this Affgan Dervish was possessed, and whether
it deserved ta be classed with that [108] described as prevailing
among the ancient Greeks; and the result fully satisfied me that both
were the same. Ismael was, however, surprised beyond measure when I
assured him that such a feeling was not known at all among the peoples
of Europe."
Travels, Etc., 2nd edition, vol. I, p 159.

" The Dervish added a striking instance of the force of these
attachments, and the sympathy which was felt in the sorrows to which
they led, by the following fact from his own history. The place of his
residence, and of his usual labor, was near the bridge of the Tigris,
at the gate of the Mosque of the Vizier. While he sat here, about five
or six years since, surrounded by several of his friends who came
often to enjoy his conversation and beguile the tedium of his work, he
observed, passing among the crowd, a young and beautiful Turkish boy,
whose eyes met his, as if by destiny, and they remained fixedly gazing
on each other for some time. The boy, after ' blushing like the first
hue of a summer morning,' passed on, frequently turning back to look
on the person who had regarded him so ardently. The Dervish felt his
heart ' revolve within him,' for such was his expression, and a cold
sweat came across his brow. He hung his head upon his graving-tool in
dejection, and excused himself to those about him by saying he felt
suddenly ill. Shortly afterwards the boy returned, and after walking
to and fro several times, drawing nearer and nearer, as if [109] under
the influence of some attracting charm, he came up to his observer and
said, ' Is it really true, then, that youlove me? ' ' This,' said
Ismael, ' was a dagger in my heart; I could make no reply.' The
friends who were near him, and now saw all explained, asked him if
there had been any previous acquaintance existing between them. He
assured them that they had never seen each other before. ' Then,' they
replied, ' such an event must be from God.'

" The boy continued to remain for a while with this party, told
with great frankness the name and rank of his parents, as well as the
place of his residence, and promised to repeat his visit on the
following day. He did this regularly for several months in succession,
sitting for hours by the Dervish, and either singing to him or asking
him interesting questions, to beguile his labors, until as Ismael
expressed himself, ' though they were still two bodies they became one
soul.' The youth at length fell sick, and was confined to his bed,
during which time his lover, Ismael, discontinued entirely his usual
occupations and abandoned himself completely to the care of his
beloved. He watched the changes of his disease with more than the
anxiety of a parent, and never quitted his bedside, night or day.
Death at length separated them; but even when the stroke came the
Dervish could not be prevailed on to quit the corpse. He constantly
visited the grave that contained the remains of all he held dear on
[110] earth, and planting myrtles and flowers there after the manner
of the East, bedewed them daily with his tears. His friends
sympathized powerfully in his distress, which he said ' continued to
feed his grief ' until he pined away to absolute illness, and was near
following the fate of him whom he deplored."
Ibid, p. 160.

"From all this, added to many other examples of a similar kind,
related as happening between persons who had often been pointed out to
me in Arabia and Persia, I could no longer doubt the existence in the
East of an affection for male youths, of as pure and honorable a kind
as that which is felt in Europe for those of the other sex . . . and
it would be as unjust to suppose that this necessarily implied
impurity of desire as to contend that no one could admire a lovely
countenance and a beautiful form in the other sex, and still be
inspired with sentiments of the most Dure and honorable nature towards
the object of his admiration."
Ibid, p. 163.

"One powerful reason why this passion may exist in the East,
while it is quite unknown in the West, is probably the seclusion of
women in the former, and the freedom of access to them in the
latter.... Had they [the Asiatics] the unrestrained intercourse which
we enjoy with such superior beings as the virtuous and accomplished
females of our own country they would find nothing in nature so
deserving of their love as these."
Ibid, p. 165.


Some modern Muslim leaders may be very anti-gay, but there is
particular no more reason to agree with these leaders that *they* are
the owners of Islam. Indeed, when one reads attacks on homosexuality
by some modern Mulisms [eg see] what is most striking
is how *little* they can rely on their own tradition, and how much
they have to rely on general anti-homosexual propaganda.

Paul Halsall

Bibliography, initially posted by

A starting-point for research into Arabic traditions of male-male
erotic/sensual/sexual relationships.
Version 1, May 1995.
@nticopyright - please freely distribute this text

This is just a compilation of information I've had lying around. I
put some of it together in a letter for a fellow scholar, then thought
it should be worked up into a short resource guide.

It reflects my interests in literature and poetry. I'm not an
Arabist, so this isn't comprehensive, and is just meant as a
'launch-pad' for those unfamiliar with the subject and who can't
read arabic... Contact:

**The work of NORMAN ROTH is well worth following...

Roth, Norman.
Deal Gently With The Young Man - love of boys in Medieval
Hebrew Poetry of Spain.
SPECULUM, 57, 1982. pp.20-51

Roth, Norman.
"My Beloved is Like a Gazelle" - imagery of the beloved boy
in Hebrew Religious Poetry.
HEBREW ANNUAL REVIEW, 8, 1984. pp.143-165

Roth, Norman. "The Care and Feeding of Gazelles" - medieval
Hebrew and Arabic Love Poetry. IN: Lazar, M. and Lacy, N.
Poetics of Love in the Middle Ages, Fairfax, VA, 1989.

Roth, Norman.
Fawn of My Delights - boy-love in Hebrew and Arabic Verse.
Sex in the Middle Ages, New York, 1991. pp.157-172.

Roth, Norman.
Boy-love in Medieval Arabic Verse
PAIDIKA - Journal of Paedophilia, Vol 3, No.3, Winter 1994.

'Paidika', even though it is a scholarly journal, may be hard to
obtain through normal academic library channels in the USA, what with
politically-correct library stock policies. The subscription address

Paidika - journal of paedophilia
Postbus 15463
1001 ML Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Single copies 17 dollars to the USA, subscription 68
for four issues. Well worth subscribing to.

**See also a recent article in 'perversions - the
journal of lesbian and gay studies...

Sikand, Yoginder.
A Martyr for Love - Hazrat Sayed Sarmad, a Sufi gay mystic.
PERVERSIONS, Spring 1995, Issue 4, pp. 149-157

perversions - international journal of lesbian and gay
BM perversions
United Kingdom

More material on sacred pederasty in the Sufi tradition can
found in:

Wilson, Peter Lamborn. Scandal : essays in Islamic
Brooklyn, New York, Autonomedia, c1988. 224 p. Biblio.

the address of the publisher is (was?)...

Box 568
Brooklyn, New York
NY 11211

Anarchist and similar radical mail-order booksellers usually
carry Autonomedia books - enquire at the Spunk Press WWW
page if you have trouble finding it. It is also in some
University libraries in the USA (eg Washington)

**Hakim Bey translated a selection of the poetry of Abu

Bey, Hakim (Ed and Trans.) Nuwas, Abu. O Tribe The
Boys - adaptations by Hakim Bey. Gay Men's Press,
London, 1993. (Also published in USA I think.)

Bey has also written many anarchist pamphlets, so he may
where to purchase 'Scandal', or know the new Autonomedia
if they've moved. He has his own Web-page (lucky him!)

**An ABU NUWAS SOCIETY has existed since 1990, to cover all
of sexual culture in the Middle East (inc. the Maghreb), and
concentrates on homosexuality.

Abu Nuwas Society - for the study of sexual culture in
Middle-East. (The Advisory Board looks pretty

Abu Nuwas Society
PO Box 85394
3508 AK Utrecht
The Netherlands

**Some anthologies...

Christman, Henry. M. (Ed.) Gay Tales and Verses from the
Arabian Nights. Edward-William Publishing Company/Banned
USA 1989. 104pp 0-934411-27-1 Trade Paper $7.95

Lacey, E. A. (Translator) The Delight of Hearts: Or,
What You Will Not Find in Any Book. Gay Sunshine Press,
240pp, illus. ISBN/Price: 0-940567-08-3 Library Binding
$25.00 0-940567-09-1 Trade Paper $14.95
[Al-Tifashi, Ahmad (Compiled by, Preface by); Lacey, E.
(Introduction by, ); Khawam, Rene R. (Introduction by).
An anthology of Arabic gay literature - is a translation
of a
translation of a translation, so has probably lost
in the process...]

Reid, Anthony. (Ed.) The Eternal Flame -
a world anthology of homosexual verse,
2000 B.C.- 2000 A.D. Volume 1 - Greece,
Italy, Islam, France. New York, Dyanthus Press, 1992.
[Available mail-order in the EC from Prinz
Eisenhart, Berlin - ask for the poetry list. In USA
try Ariel's Pages mail-order. New translations]

**Richard Burton's 1850's Arabian Nights can be had from
Project Gutenburg,
though in the copy I have, the Terminal Essay is missing.
As Burton
is hard to find in paper form, you can find lengthy sections
of 'Terminal
Essay' reprinted in:

Reade, Brian. (Ed.) Sexual Heretics; Male
Homosexuality in English literature from 1850-1900 -
an anthology. London, Routledge, Keegan and Paul, 1970.

A paper "Beyond the Sotadic Zone: Colonization and Sexuality
in Richard Burton's Terminal Essay" was presented Society
the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) meeting, Aug. 1993, by
John Hollister: e-mail
(John Hollister)

A couple of examples of Arabic poetry...

Anon (9th Century Arabic)

SURPRISE, SURPRISE (Trans. Derek Parker)

Nizam the pederast, whose delight in boys
Was known throughout Bagdad, one afternoon
In a secluded place saw in a clearing
The flash of limbs behind a nearby bush,
And looking closer came upon a youth
Who seemed more lovely than his dreams had promised,
Lying asleep in shade, his head pressed deep
Into crossed arms, his long slim body
Quite naked, the firm buttocks firmly offered.
Quick as a jackal pouncing, Nizam jumped
Upon the lad, his robe about his waist,
The startled boy pierced by his lusty cock
Before you could say knife. Not until later,
When boy lay panting on the flattened grass,
Did Nizam, pausing to embrace his love,
Discover him a her, surprised but pleased
At having been given such pleasure at a source
No previous lover seemed to know about.

Nizam converted ? Never. But the girl
Now gives her lovers strange instruction.

Abu Nuwas


I said as the narcissus-boy came ambling by,
a peach twirled in his hand:
'What a pity to wait until we offer cash!
Give love its proper due!'
'More pitiful still,' he replied, and chuckled,
'is a penniless flop at the door.'


Make many deletions, Jinan, when you write,
and delete the word, when you do, with your tongue
and, passing deletingly over a word,
draw it close to your beautiful lips;
for I hold, when running over the lines,
the cancelled somethings for a lick:
That - is a kiss from you from afar
which I steal while keeping here to my room.


A boy at blush of dawn
silver in the absolute
in whom the eye beholds
beauty in infinite
poised perfection, eclipsed
in re-creation launching -
so beauty moves in orbits
reborn and unregenerate.

Paul Halsall Internet History Sourcebooks Project

1 comment:

SpermBank said...

I put this on my phone so I can read it again. great work!
Stephen Eaglin