Jalees Ahmad, Al Hakam
“And We did raise among every people a Messenger”
Prophet Lotas, commonly referred to as لوط (Lut) in the Holy Quran, was a noble prophet of God. He lived in the time of Abrahamas, believed in him, and migrated from Mesopotamia to Canaan with him. He was, as the book of Genesis states, the nephew of Abraham. (Genesis, 12:5)
According to the Bible, Lotas was sent to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. “Sodom and Gomorrah were situated on the highway from Arabia to Syria where the Arab caravans passed by day and night. At another place in the Quran these towns are mentioned as having been situated ‘on a road that still exists’ (15:77).” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2703)
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, in his tafsir, writes that there is a vast difference between the life of Lotas given in the Holy Quran and the Bible. The Holy Quran, being al-Furqan (the discriminator), clarifies certain aspects of Prophet Lot’sas life that the Bible does not. The Bible states that Lotas was a jealous man; whereas the Quran states he was a noble Prophet of Allah. The Bible states that Lotas offered his daughters to the men of the town for fornication, whereas the Holy Quran is completely against this. The Bible further says that Lot’sas wife turned into a pillar of salt, but the Quran rejects such ideas. (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 3, p. 232)
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, alluding to the Bible verse, about Lot’sas wife: “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26), explains:
“This seems like magic. Such an account is worthy of stories told to children about ghosts and fairies. They have no place in a Book of God. The account which the Quran has given of this incident steers clear of all superstition.” (Introduction to the Study of the Holy Quran, p. 32)
Thus, for us to understand the true import and life of Prophet Lotas – and Prophets in general – we must consult the Holy Quran, lest one fall astray with the fables mentioned in the Bible.
Sodom and Gomorrah
To understand the practicalities of that time, we must first familiarise ourselves with the place where Prophet Lotas preached his message. As mentioned above, Sodom and Gomorrah, to whom Prophet Lotas preached, were situated on the highway from Arabia to Syria.
“In ancient times, generally every town had a separate government of its own, which was carried on by the chiefs of the place by mutual consultation as a sort of republic: or by a king whose authority was confined to one village or a number of villages. The two towns, Sodom and Gomorrah, with which Lotas was connected had such a government. […]” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 3, p.1377)
The vices of the people of Lotas
The Holy Quran describes the people of Lotas as those who rejected the Messengers, as the rejection of one messenger is akin to the rejection of all messengers (Surah al-Qamar, Ch.54: V.34). Prophet Lotas preached to his people to become righteous and mend their ways, however, their rejection and immoral ways were more pleasing to them.
Alluding to the transgression and their ways, Lotas addressed his people to fear Allah and obey him. He said:
“‘Do you, of all peoples, approach males, And leave your wives whom your Lord has created for you? Nay, you are a people who transgress.’” (Surah Ash-Shu`ara’, Ch.26: V.166-167)
The people of Prophet Lotas indulged in three vices namely: unnatural vice, highway robbery and committing crimes openly and unashamedly in their assemblies. (Surah Al-‘Ankabut, Ch.29: V.30)
The Five-Volume Commentary states:
“The people of Lotas indulged in immoral practices. In the case of every Prophet, the vice to which his people were principally addicted has been specially singled out for condemnation.
“The verse may have two interpretations: (a) of the creatures of God, you go into males instead of females: (b) you are the first of all the peoples to indulge in this heinous vice. The former seems to be the preferable meaning, as a reference to it is made in the following verse.” (Five-Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2372)
In the Holy Quran, we read:
اِنَّكُمۡ لَتَاۡتُوۡنَ الرِّجَالَ شَهۡوَةً مِّنۡ دُوۡنِ النِّسَآءِ ؕ بَلۡ اَنۡتُمۡ قَوۡمٌ مُّسۡرِفُوۡنَ
“‘You approach men with lust instead of women. Nay, you are a people who exceed all bounds.’” (Surah al-A`raf, Ch.7: V.82)
The people to whom Lotas was sent, were people who disregarded the laws of nature. Under the above mentioned verse, the Five-Volume Commentary states:
“Lotas rebuked his people for having not only innovated the extremely foul practice of sodomy, but for having also excelled in other evil practices.” (Five-Volume Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 1005) In the Bible, chapter 19 of Genesis also mentions the acts the people of Prophet Lotas indulged in.
His people, who had been so engrossed in their ways, completely ignored Lot’sas call and threatened to exile him. Such was their behaviour. They even stooped so low and said: “‘Bring upon us the punishment of Allah if thou speakest the truth.’” (Surah al-‘Ankabut, Ch.29: V.30) The Quran hinted that these people doubted that punishment would even come down.
The Holy Quran records the people of Lotas saying:
“‘Drive out Lot’s family from your city. They are a people who would keep clean.’” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.57)
Prophet Lotas hated their practice and prayed to Allah to save him and his family from their bad deeds and wicked people.
The two messengers
The Holy Quran records the incident of the two messengers who visited Abraham [Ibrahimas]. These messengers, who also gave him the glad tidings of a son, said: “‘We are going to destroy people of this town; surely, its people are wrongdoers.’” (Surah al-‘Ankabut, Ch.29: V.32) The towns referred to in this verse were Sodom and Gomorrah.
Hearing this news, Prophet Abraham said Lotas was residing in that town. To this, the Messengers said, “‘We know full well who is there. We will surely save him and his family, except his wife, who is of those who remain behind.’” (Surah al-‘Ankabut, Ch.29: V.33)
Some commentators of the Quran have said that these messengers were angels, however, in the opinion of Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, these messengers were saintly men (awliya’) and not angels. (Tafsir-e Kabir, Vol. 7, p. 621)
The neighbouring areas around the town of the people of Lotas were in a state of war. Thus, the people of Lotas did not desire random wayfarers to enter the town lest they should plan a surprise attack. “Lotas, like all Prophets of God, being a hospitable man, naturally used to look after the comfort of strangers and entertain them (15:71). His people, apprehensive as they were, repeatedly warned him to give up that practice.” (Five-Volume Commentary, Vol.3, p.1377)
When the messengers visited, Lotas was perturbed and felt powerless. As stated earlier, Lot’sas people were infamous in the town for committing highway robbery. Lotas thought the messengers to be wayfarers whose coming was for a mere visit.
They told him not to fear and said that Allah had said He would save him, and his family, “‘except thy wife, who is of those who remain behind.’” (Surah al-‘Ankabut, Ch.29: V.34)
They said that they had “‘come to thee with that about which they doubted.’” (Surah al-Hijr, Ch.15: V.64) This verse shows that Lot’sas people very much doubted any punishment would befall them.
The messengers’ duty was to simply pass on this message and to inform Prophet Lotas to leave in the latter part of the night along with those who believed in him. “Lotas was distressed when the messengers arrived because his people, being robbers, were apprehensive of strangers visiting their city and therefore they had forbidden Lotas to receive outsiders.” (Five-Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2479) and for the fear of the enemy.
When his people learned about the two messengers, Prophet Lotas told them, “‘These are my guests, so put me not to shame.’” (Surah al-Hijr, Ch.15: V.69)
The people of Sodom and Gomorrah had told Prophet Lotas not to bring or invite strangers into their city as there was a state of war between nearby tribes. They feared outsiders who may take the opportunity to attack; fearing they should conspire against them.
As travelling on the nearby lands was difficult, Prophet Lotas would show hospitality to guests and lonely travellers.
Lot’sas people took this opportunity to disgrace him before the guests.
Already fed up with his preaching and message, they desired to exile him but could not do so without any reason as he was a member of the city, and his daughters were married to men of the town. Now, after finding that he had given refuge to two wayfarers, his people felt they had finally found an excuse they could use to expel him. This is why the Holy Quran describes them as saying, “the people of the city came rejoicing” (Surah al-Hijr, Ch.15: V.68)
Some say that Lot’sas people rejoiced as they felt an opportunity had arisen whereby they could satisfy their lust. “If Lot’sas people had come with the evil intention of satisfying their unnatural lust on this occasion, then, instead of being displeased with Lotas, they should have been pleased with him, because he had provided them with such an opportunity.” (Five-Volume Commentary, Vol. 3, p. 1619)
His people addressed Lotas saying:
“‘Did we not forbid thee [to entertain] all [sorts of] people?’” (Surah al-Hijr, Ch.15: V.71) It was as if the men saw hospitality as a bad trait.
Prophet Lotas responded, “‘These are my daughters if you must do something.’” (Surah al-Hijr, Ch.15: V.72) Many commentators have misinterpreted this verse. They have said that the people of Lotas desired to fulfil their unhealthy desires with the two messengers whom Lotas showed hospitality to, and in their attempt, Lotas told them that they can have his daughters for them to fulfil their lust. Some say that the two visitors had come in the form of handsome boys and thus the people of Lotas came running to them with evil intentions. However, there is nothing in the text to warrant such an interpretation. It is completely far from the truth and has no standing. No man, let alone a noble Prophet of God, would stop a people from sinning and call them to another sin.
The truth of the matter, as explained by Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, is that it was inconceivable for Prophet Lotas, being a member of the society and living in the town, to do anything that can cause any harm to the people whilst his daughters and family were among them. The people were infuriated as they feared outsiders due to the state of war with other tribes.
“As his daughters were married to townsmen, he [Lot], their father, could do nothing against the interests of the town; and if he did anything of that sort, they could easily wreak vengeance on him through his daughters.” (Five-Volume Commentary, Vol. 3, pp. 1619-1620) This is, in fact, the true meaning of the verse.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira, commenting on this matter, writes that it is known from the Torah that Hazrat Lotas had seven daughters. Five were married in the same village. Thus, Hazrat Lotas shamed them by saying and explaining to them that his daughters were married to the men of the village. In such a case, was he still suspicious to his people that he should admit people, as spies, into the village in which his own daughters resided? (Haqaiqul Furqan, Vol. 2, p. 371)
So, upon Lot’sas saying that his daughters were in their custody as they had been married to men of the city, he was in fact saying that they could be taken hostage if they deemed him to act against the city he was a part of.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih I further states that, at that time, women were not accepted as hostages, (ibid.) and so this is why Lot’sas people replied, “‘Thou surely knowest that we have no claim on thy daughters.’” (Surah Hud, Ch.11: V.80)
Lot’sas people truly desired that unknown people, wayfarers not be entertained in their town as they feared an attack from neighbouring towns due to the abrupt state of war at the time.
The promised destruction befalls his people
Lotas, seeing that he was helpless against the people of his town, said that if he had the power to deal with them himself, he would have, but he left the matter to Allah.
Hearing this, the messengers said that they had come to him with the message that God’s wrath would befall the town and that His destruction was nigh. They further told him that his followers would be saved.
فَاَسۡرِ بِاَهۡلِكَ بِقِطۡعٍ مِّنَ الَّيۡلِ وَاتَّبِعۡ اَدۡبَارَهُمۡ
“‘So go forth with thy family in the [latter] part of the night, and follow thou in their rear.” (Surah al-Hijr, Ch.15: V.66)
As the messengers informed Prophet Lotas of the destruction that was to befall upon his people, he was told to leave in the latter part of the night. As stated above, the Holy Quran uses the words اَدۡبَارَهُمۡ. This shows that the people who left along with Lotas were not just his daughters but also some of his male followers too, as the masculine plural pronoun has been used. Lotas was last to leave his party. The Holy Quran states that his wife remained behind and perished along with the people. His people were then destroyed, smothered under a rain of stones. “We are surely going to bring down on the people of this town a punishment from heaven, for they have been rebellious.’” (Surah al-‘Ankabut, Ch.29: V.35)
The Holy Quran says that disbelievers are like the wives of Noahas and Lotas. They disbelieved in the call of the time and ended up humiliated under God’s wrath.
The people of Sodom and Gomorrah, due to their abandonment of high morals and adoption of low morals, faced divine punishment in the form of a violent earthquake that turned their city upside down.