Lot and His Offer 2016 IQSA Presidential Address

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Farid Esack



The Lot narrative has received significant attention in qur’anic scholarship and tafsir literature, both as part of the genre of qisas al-anbiya’ (stories of the prophets) and as the foundational narrative informing Muslim ethics on homoeroticism, sodomy, and, more recently, homosexuality. However, Lot’s offer of his daughters to a mob of would-be rapists (Q Hud 11:78; Jijr 15:71) has received precious little attention in early and—more surprisingly—contemporary qur’anic scholarship. While a large number of characters feature in the Qur’an as emissaries of God, the narrative about Lot is regarded as paradigmatic for proper Muslim behavior. Lot’s offer of his daughters thus has serious implications for questions about the Qur’an’s endorsement or recognition of sexual violence, women’s agency, and the premise that women are the property of men. The moral ambiguity of Lot’s offer is complicated by the Qur’an’s affirmation of his status as a “trustworthy messenger of God” (Q Nur 24:162) and, for many Muslims, by the later emergence of a largely unchallenged doctrine of the infallibility (‘ismah) of all God’s messengers. In this presentation, I consider the Lot narrative, and particularly the offer of his daughters, as someone who grapples with the Qur’an as both a scholar and a lover of the text. As an engaged scholar-lover of the Qur’an, I am embedded in a multiplicity of identities and discourses, lodged between a refusal to ignore the contemporary ethical challenges that a linguistic and historical reading of the text presents on the one hand and a simultaneous abiding love for the text on the other, and deeply skeptical of hegemonic games masquerading as disinterested scholarship.

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.31441/jiqsa.2.2017.a002


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