Human Sexuality and the Gay Debate: Islamic Perspectives from the Qur’an and its commentaries


While Western countries have experienced dramatic shifts in attitudes to homosexuality in recent decades, the Muslim world appears on face value to be a bastion of traditional opposition to more liberal attitudes on the gay question. Nevertheless, this topic is much discussed and debated in certain Muslim circles.

This paper will consider the textual ingredients drawn on by such Muslims in shaping their views. Particular attention will fall upon the Qur’an, Islam’s primary sacred text, and the vast body of exegetical literature that has emerged over the centuries. We will consider the extent to which the Qur’an and its commentaries provide ingredients for Muslim attitudes and debates in today’s world. The paper will conclude with a number of Christian reflections on the Islamic material discussed.


Prof. Dr. Peter Riddell
MST Vice Principal (Academic)
Melbourne School of Theology

Peter completed his PhD at the Australian National University, focusing on Islam in Southeast Asia. He studied Qur’anic Exegesis at L’Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes/Sorbonne (Paris) and held a post-doctoral fellowship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has previously taught at the Australian National University, the Institut Pertanian Bogor (Indonesia), the London School of Oriental and African Studies, and was appointed as Professor of Islamic Studies at the London School of Theology, where he served from 1996-2007 as the founding Director of the Centre for Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian Relations. In addition to his present MST appointment as Vice-Principal (Academic), Peter is also a Professorial Research Associate in the Department of History, SOAS, University of London. Peter has published widely on Southeast Asia, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. His books include Transferring a Tradition (Berkeley, Centers for South and Southeast Asian Studies, Univ. California, 1990); Islam and the Malay-Indonesian World: Transmission and Responses (London, Hurst, 2001); Islam in Context (with Peter Cotterell, Grand Rapids, Baker, 2003); and Christians and Muslims: pressures and potential in a post-9/11 world (Leicester, IVP, 2004). His next book will be a historical study of the Qur’an in Southeast Asia, to be published by Brill Publishers in 2017.