Muslim View of the Laws of Leviticus

Question and answer details
As-salamu `alaykum. I am a Web developer and a member of the Programmers and Developers Forum. Those in the forum know that I am a Muslim and everyone respects me as I always help others. In that forum, there was a thread about homosexuality and everyone's opinion on it. I was surprised that almost all members agreed with it and didn't see anything wrong with it. They wanted homosexuals to be allowed to get married! I told them that in all religions homosexuality is a big sin, and I asked them on what criteria do they judge actions. They refused to accept religion as a standard of judgment and gave the following examples from the Bible to support their claim. They asked ten questions. 1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians? 2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her? 3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness (Leviticus 15:19-24). The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense. 4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Leviticus 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them? 5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states the neighbor should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it? 6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Leviticus 11:10) it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there “degrees” of abomination? 7. Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20 or is there some wiggle room here? 8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die? 9. I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves? 10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Leviticus 24:10-16)? Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Leviticus 20:14)? They meant that Christianity has failed to answer those questions. So, they can't judge by it on things like homosexuality. I need to know how I can respond to these questions from the Islamic point of view. They asked me to give the Islamic position on the above questions. I hope you can help me with this situation, as in this forum there are thousands of people and almost all of them are interested in the topic of homosexuality. A large number of them are interested to know more about Islam as they are feeling lost (as they said) in Christianity and other religions. Thank you.
Shahul Hameed
Salam Bakr,

Thank you for your question.

The questions raised by your fellow computer programmers in the discussion group clearly indicate the absurdity of the laws prescribed in some of the books of the Bible, particularly Leviticus. The Jewish Law (
halakhah in Hebrew) consists of the commandments given in the Torah (enshrined in the first five books of the Bible) as well as the laws instituted by the rabbis (Jewish religious teachers), besides long-standing customs. All of these have the status of Jewish Law and all are equally binding. At the heart of the law are the unchangeable 613 mitzvoth (commandments) God gave to the Jews in the Torah.

The Jewish scholars acknowledge that most of these laws were meant for the old times; and today, they say, a good number of them can be practiced in Israel, if it becomes a full-fledged Jewish state. Dr. Elliot N. Dorff (provost and professor of philosophy at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles) has this to say on the subject.
    Jewish Law has developed over time, and the law that has come down to us is not necessarily what the law should be today. Deciding matters in Jewish Law, then, requires a honed sense of judgment about when to retain the law as is and when and how to change it—always with a much greater respect for what is already on the books than is common among secular lawmakers. The Jewish tradition emerges from the interaction between what the Rabbis say and what the people do. In Jewish terms, the halakhah—the way we should go—is the product of law and custom. You can read more through: Contemporary Issues in Halakhah (Jewish Law).
This is the scholarly view of the matter from the Jewish point of view. The Christians, however, believe that YHWH (Jehovah/ God), Who gave those laws, eventually came down to the earth in the form of a son of God called Jesus and saved humanity from sin by dying on the cross. And they claim that by the death of Jesus on the cross, the Mosaic Law lost its validity.

The Muslims believe that from the beginning of mankind on earth, God had been sending His messengers (prophets) to lead mankind along the right path. The essential message of all these prophets was the same: people should live by the divine guidance brought by the prophets. And all the prophets brought laws suitable for their times only, except the last prophet, Muhammad, (peace and blessings be upon him) through whom the earlier laws were amended or confirmed to finalize them for the whole of mankind, for all time.

It is particularly important to note that the message of the earlier prophets had been distorted in the course of time and even the Books of God had been corrupted. Thus, it was necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff and reaffirm the truths contained in the older scriptures brought by the earlier prophets. Muhammad’s mission was unique in this respect; in other respects he was like the rest of the prophets.

From the foregoing, it is evident that those laws quoted by your friends must be the corrupted versions of the original Mosaic Law. And whatever remained intact and was suitable for all time was confirmed by the last prophet, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

As for homosexuality, Islam prohibits it as an abominable perversion. The eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states the following in
The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam:
    Almighty Allah has prohibited illegal sexual intercourse and homosexuality and all means that lead to either of them. This perverted act is a reversal of the natural order, a corruption of man's sexuality, and a crime against the rights of females.

And Allah knows best.

Thank you and please keep in touch.


Useful Links:

Islam's Stance on Homosexual Organizations

Comparative Religion

Muhammad in The Bible

Quran: Dead or Alive?