Lut, known as Lot in the Old Testament, is a prophet of God in the Quran. According to Islamic tradition, Lot was born to Haran and spent his younger years in Ur, later migrating to Canaan with his uncle Abraham. He was sent to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as a prophet, and was commanded to preach to their inhabitants on monotheism and the sinfulness of their lustful and violent acts.
Though Lot was not born among the people he’d been sent to preach to, the people of Sodom are still regarded as his “brethren” in the Quran. Like the Biblical narrative, the Quran states that Lot’s messages were ignored by the inhabitants of the cities, and Sodom and Gomorrah were subsequently destroyed. The destruction of the cities is traditionally presented as a warning against rape and homosexual acts.
While the Quran does not elaborate upon Lot’s later life, Islam holds that all prophets were examples of moral and spiritual righteousness, which differs from the Biblical narrative of Lot’s drunkenness and incest after the destruction of Sodom.
Context in the Quran
Lut is referenced a relatively large number of times in the Quran. Many of these passages place the narrative of Lot in a line of successive prophets including Noah, Hud, Salih and Shuayb. Islamic scholars have stated that these particular prophets represent the early cycle of prophecy as described in the Quran. These narratives typically follow similar patterns: a prophet is sent to a community; the community pays no heed to his warnings instead threatens him with punishment; God asks the prophet to leave the community and its people are subsequently destroyed in a punishment. Elsewhere in the Quran, Lot is mentioned alongside Ismael, Elisha and Jonah as men whom God favored above the nations.
The Quran states that Lot was a nephew of Abraham who had been sent to the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as a prophet after migrating to Canaan, but he was rejected by the cities’ inhabitants. One day, a group of angels visited Abraham as guests in order to inform him of the fact that his wife Sarah was pregnant with Isaac. While there, they also told him that they had been sent by God to the “guilty people” of Lot to destroy them with “a shower of stones of clay”. Lot and those who believed in him, were to be spared, but his wife was to die in the destruction, with the angels stating that “she is of those who lag behind”. The Quran also draws upon Lot’s wife as an “example for the unbelievers” as she was married to a righteous man but refused to believe in his message and was thus condemned to Hell.
The people of the twin cities transgressed against the bounds of God. According to the Quran, their sins included inhospitality and robbery they hated strangers and robbed travellers, apart from other mistreatments and rape. It was their sin of sexual misconduct as well which was seen as particularly egregious, with Lot strongly chiding them for approaching men with sexual desire instead of women. Lot exhorted them to abandon their sinful ways, but they ridiculed him and threatened to evict him from the cities. by saying that this man wants to be ‘Pure’ . Lot prayed to God and begged to be saved from the consequences of their sinful acts.
Then two angels, disguised as handsome males, came to Lot. He became distressed due to his powerlessness to protect the visitors from the people of the cities. The cities’ residents demanded that Lot surrender his guests to them. He pointed to his daughters out of shame for his guests, but they were unrelenting and replied “we have no need of your daughters: indeed you know quite well what we want!” The Quran remarks “they moved blindly intoxicated in the frenzy of approaching death”. The exegetes Ibn Kathir, Qurtubi and Tabari do not read ‘daughters’ to mean Lot’s literal daughters. They argue that since a prophet is like a father to his nation, Lot was directing the evildoers to turn away from their sins and engage in healthy relationships with the daughters of the nation, i.e. women in general.
The angels then revealed their true identities to Lot, and told him that they had been sent by God to “bring down upon the folk of this township a fury from the sky because they are evil-doers”. They advised Lot to leave the place during the night and not look back, informing him that his wife would be left behind on account of her sinful nature. Keeping his faith in God, Lot left the cities during the night with his believing family members and others who believed in him. When morning came, God turned the cities upside down, and rained down on them stones hard as baked clay, putting an end to the lives of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
All major schools of Islamic jurisprudence state that male homosexual sex is a sin, based in part on the story of Lot. Because the Quran states that Lot berated his people for sexually pursuing men, in addition to attempting to assault strangers, the incident is traditionally seen as demonstrating Islam’s disapproval of both rape and homosexuality. Lot’s struggle with the people of the twin cities is seen as either concerning homosexuality in general or specifically homosexual anal penetration. These interpretations have sometimes widened to condemn homosexuality beyond the physical act, including psychological and social dispositions. However, some modern scholars dispute these interpretations, and state that the Quranic narrative is ambiguous as to whether the major sin that ultimately doomed the cities was faithlessness, greed, homosexuality, or some combination of all three.
Many Muslims believe that Bani Na’im in Palestine houses the tomb of Lot in the center of the town. The tomb is located within a rectangular mosque with an inner court and minaret. The lintel of the mosque’s northern gate is built from stones dating to the Byzantine era when a church had possibly stood at the site. Bani Na’im’s association with Lot predates Islam, as the works of the Catholic scholar Jerome in the 4th century CE state that the tomb is located in a town named Capharbaricha, which is likely the former name of Bani Na’im.
Tradition holds that the tomb of his daughters is located on a nearby hill. To the southeast of Bani Na’im is a shrine dedicated to Lot, known as Maqam an-Nabi Yatin (“Shrine of the Truthful Prophet”). Local legend claims Lot prayed at the site and that the imprints of his feet are still visible in a rock there. Similar alleged footprints of prophets and other holy men are found at Islamic shrines throughout the Middle East.