The Truth Message – Part – 2.4: Stories of the past Major prophets from Bible & Qur’an – Part 3
Prophet Lot (as)
The people of Prophet Lot (as) who lived in Sodom are described notoriously for their sins, especially, homosexuality, in both the Holy Bible and the Holy Qur’an. The incidents related to the people of Lot (as) are the most graphic reminder of the fate of a people that failed to observe Divine Warnings and continued with their ‘abominations’. The religious texts are unequivocal about the disaster that befell them being a punishment for their sins rather than a natural event.
Scholars from the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions are all interested in this story as it is part of their joint heritage, so we have a lot of information to sift through. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it short.
Lot (as) and Abraham (as) – The Relationship
Prophet Lot (as) was a nephew of Prophet Abraham (as) and they knew each other well. Abraham (as) had left the idol-worship of his father and tribe and migrated towards Arabia. Lot (as) must have been one of the earliest followers of Abraham (as), and migrated with Abraham (as) to Canaan but then settled in the fertile plain next to the Dead Sea at the town of Sodom. The Qur’an specifically mentions Lot (as) as being an early companion of Abraham (as) when it says:
And Lot believed in him (Abraham). (Ch.29: V.27)
Abraham (as) was not connected with Sodom, but must have been in the same region as both the Bible and the Qur’an describe the angels visiting him on their way to Lot (as). The Bible also describes him looking at the scene of destruction the next morning which again suggests that there was a very close link between the two Prophets and that they were in regular communication and lived near to each other.
Very Important: While Abraham’s progeny, Isaac and Ishmael, were the ancestors of the Israelites and Arabs, Lot (as) became the ancestor of the Ammonites and the Moabites.
People of Lot (as)
At that time, around 4000 years ago, there were many settlements around the Dead Sea (Sea of Lot) which is now between Israel and Jordan. The Bible describes five cities which were linked in the area of Canaan, and these cities were Sodom, Gomorrah (‘Amora in Hebrew), Admah, Zeboiim and Belar/ Zoar as described and mentioned in the Biblical books of Genesis and Deuteronomy. Collectively they are referred to as the Cities of the Plain.
The Plain near the Dead Sea also stood on the major trading route between Syria and Arabia. This stands on the modern Kings Highway that runs north to south through Jordan.
The Sinful People Of Sodom
Idol-worship alone was not the crime associated with the towns of the Plain. The people of Sodom are repeatedly described as performing abominations and immoral acts, hence the modern term ‘sodomy’ that takes its name from that town. The Qur’an is categorical about the crimes of the Sodomites as being homosexuality as it states in Surah Al-’Ankabut:
And We sent lot; he said to his people, ‘You commit an abomination which none among mankind has ever committed before you. Do you indeed come lustfully to men …? And you indulge in your meetings in all that is loathsome!’ But the only answer of his people was that they said, ‘Bring upon us the punishment of Allah if thou speakest the truth’ (Ch.29: Vs.29-30)
The retort to the practice of homosexuality is expressed by Lot (as) as: [Lot said] ‘Do you, of all peoples, approach males… Nay, you are a people who transgress. (Ch.26:Vs.166-167)
The abomination is even clearer in the following verse:
… ‘Do you commit abomination while you see the evil thereof? What! Do you approach men lustfully…? Nay, you are indeed a people unmindful of consequences’. (Ch.27:Vs.55-56)
The verse above, mentions the crimes committed openly and unashamedly in public meetings and assemblies. The focus is the immoral behavior (Homosexuality) which Lot (as) describes as ‘an abomination which none among mankind has ever committed before’. Clearly, his anger was at the indecency of his people.
[My comment: Indecency has reached or may I say exceeded all limits in today’s world. What can we expect next?]
The Bible on the crimes of the Sodomites:
‘How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin!’ (Genesis 18:20/21)
And later, Jeremiah compares the later people to the sinful Sodomites:
‘But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a more shocking thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hand of the evildoers, so that no one turns from wickedness; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.’ (Jeremiah 23:14)
Ezekiel also describes the crimes of the Sodomites: This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me. (Ezekiel 16:49-50)
There is a reference in the New Testament of the Bible in the Letter of Jude:
Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust… (Jude 7)
We know that there are many cities throughout history that could have been described as greedy and arrogant, but they did not face such an epic punishment. For them to be punished so severely, the Qur’anic account provides the clearest picture i.e. that they committed indecent acts that had not been witnessed in history before. The fact that the acts have taken on the name of that town speaks for itself.
God never punishes people without warning. If they had erred then they are sent a Warner. In this way, they are first told of their misdeeds, and given a chance to rectify them and follow the Prophet of their time. If they failed to do that and rejected the Prophet, then they would suffer their fate.
In the case of Sodom, they were sent Lot (as) as their Warner. But the people were rebellious. Their response was:
… Drive out the followers of Lot from our township. They are indeed a people who would keep clean’. (Ch.27: V.57)
However (we see in the Bible how) Abraham (as) asks to God if he would destroy the righteous in the city with the rebellious, and His response was:
‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.’ (Genesis 18:26)
Abraham (as) continues to question God and learns that even if there were ten righteous men in the town, God would not destroy it. Angels were dispatched to warn Lot (as) to leave Sodom and that proved that he was among a very few righteous people in the town and were all evacuated. It also indicates the gravity of the sins being committed in the town that such a fate awaited them.
Lot (as) was distressed at the state of the people of the town and even said:
‘Is there not among you any right-minded man?’ (Ch.11:V.79)
Fate of Sodom (Scary Scene)
The Qur’an mentions the fate of the towns as follows:
So when Our command came, We turned that town upside down and We rained upon it stones of clay, layer upon layer, marked for them in the decree of thy Lord. And such punishment is not far from the wrongdoers of the ‘present age’. (Ch.11: Vs.83-84)
‘… present age’???
Did you read that?
How clearly are WE warned!
Can we not then understand? Nay, we are people unmindful of the consequences. History is bound to repeat itself now again.
And again we read:
Then the punishment seized them at sunrise. We turned their town upside down and We rained upon them stones of clay. Surely in this are many Signs for those who can read signs. And it (that town) lies on a road that still exists. (Ch.15: Vs.74-77)
The Bible describes the fate of the town in the first book, Genesis:
Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. (Genesis 19:25-25)
The Bible goes on to describe the scene of destruction that Abraham (as) saw the next morning:
‘… and he (Abraham) looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the Plain and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace’ (Genesis 19:28) I think Abraham (as) might have lived near Hebron from where he could see smoke plumes from the destruction rising in the distance.
In both the Bible and the Qur’an, it mentions that the followers of Lot (as) were saved from the destruction except for his wife. In the case of the Bible, it suggests that he looked back and she was turned into a pillar of salt. So why was his wife specifically chosen to be punished, and how was she punished?
The Qur’an mentions the reason in a wider context as follows:
Allah sets forth for those who disbelieve, the example, of the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. They were under two righteous servants of Ours, but they acted unfaithfully toward them. So they availed them naught against Allah, and it was said to them, ‘Enter the Fire, ye twain, along with those who enter it’. (Ch. 66: Vs. 11)
The verse is followed by the very positive examples of the wife of Pharaoh and Mary (as) Mother of Jesus who both acted righteously and set positive examples.
And Allah sets forth for those who believe the example of the wife of Pharaoh when she said, ‘My Lord! Build for me a house with thee in the garden; and deliver me from Pharaoh and his work, and deliver me from the wrong doing people. (Ch. 66: Vs. 12)
And the example of Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity – … and she fulfilled in her person the words of her Lord and His Books and was one of the obedient. (Ch. 66: Vs. 13)
Coming back to Lot’s wife: The Pillar of Salt?
The idea that she was turned into a pillar of salt is a little far-fetched and against the reality of nature. However, she would have been punished along with the other people of the town for her treachery against her husband. It is however interesting that on the southern shores of the Dead Sea just south of the settlement of Neve Zohar, there is a Mount Sodom (Jebel Usdum) which is a mount of salt. Perhaps the Bible is referring to that feature to illustrate the fate of the wife of Lot (as).
It would be so good if archaeology and geological research uncover the remains of this cataclysmic event and prove the punishment of lord to the disbelievers.
Well, let’s see then:
Josephus, the famous Jewish historian of the 1st century CE writes about these towns in his Jewish War:
Now this country is then so sadly burnt up, that nobody cares to come at it; … It was of old a most happy land, both for the fruits it bore and the riches of its cities, although it be now all burnt up. It is related how for the impiety of its inhabitants, it was burnt by lightning; in consequence of which there are still the remainders of that Divine fire; and the traces of the five cities are still to be seen ..(Jewish War, Book IV, Ch. VIII)
On the strength of these verses, Jews, Christians and Muslims were in no doubt as to the punishment of the people of Sodom, and that it was a warning for future generations that reverberated throughout history. If the events are from around 1900 BCE, then even two thousand years later in 205 CE, the early Christian scholar Terullian wrote:
‘Its neighbours Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed by fire from heaven. The country still smells of that conflagration. And if there are apples there upon the trees, it is only a mirage. For when you touch them, they turn to ashes’. (Tertullian 4:48)
The texts are quite unequivocal about the sinful nature of the people and the disaster that befell them. If we could find traces of these places, it would confirm the historical context of the accounts covered in the texts.
Hey! Look here:
Present Evidence: Most scholars agree that these events unfolded around the Dead Sea. Modern archaeological work has unearthed a lot of evidence related to the catastrophe that afflicted Sodom. More exciting is the news that at several locations around the banks of the Dead Sea, scientists have discovered balls of Sulphur!
Amongst the earliest to find these were William Albright and Melvin Kyle in 1924 while they were searching for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Dr. Kyle is quoted about his finds from his book on the expedition:
‘…we picked up pure sulfur, in pieces as big as the end of my thumb. It is mixed with the mark of the mountains of the west side of the sea, and now is to be found scattered along the shore of the sea even on the east side, some four or five miles distant from the ledge that contains the stratum’ (Explorations at Sodom, p.52-53)
This matches the accounts of the final destruction from the Qur’an and the Bible which refer to a rain of brimstones, and also matches the evidence to be found at these sites. While technically this kind of phenomenon is also possible, it would not account for the rain of stones so clearly reported in these accounts.
The events of the towns of Lot (as) are a reminder that God can use natural phenomenon to destroy a race if they do not heed warnings.
Finally, the destruction of Sodom and the other towns was meant as a reminder for all time, as the Qur’an declares:
Surely in this are many Signs for those who can read signs. And it (that town) lies on a road that still exists. (Ch.15: Vs.77)
The road that still exists is the Kings Highway in Jordan, the one connecting Arabia with Syria, the way passes along the Dead Sea which is locally known as ‘the Sea of Lot’. The remains of the ashen towns are a reminder to us all of the fate of those retched people who shunned God’s Law. Although the exact locations of the towns have not as yet been pinpointed (or maybe I’m not aware), I am convinced that since they have been preserved as a warning for mankind, at the right time, further evidence will be made available to us.
Join me to praise the lord and His Messenger: God is the Greatest. Long-live the name of Prophet Lot (pbuh) / Lut (as): Zindabaad
Today we see great countries legalizing these immoral acts and deviant sexual behavior is becoming both more prevalent and accepted around the world legally, although religious communities condemn it; such behaviors are contrary to nature and the norms of decent behavior described in religious texts and traditions. Laws of the Lord do not approve it and the people who do it shall suffer grievously, as suggested by the Holy Books & best example are the People of Lot (as).
History is about to repeat itself again, People! The time of Lot (as) will be bought again before our eyes!
My earnest request to all:
Repent now O wrong doers, lest it might be very late…!
Signs of God’s wrath are already showing… Can you not see? Or Are we already late?
And I pray to the Lord for you:
[40:8] …‘Our Lord, Thou dost comprehend all things in Thy mercy and knowledge. So forgive those who repent and follow Thy way; and protect them from the punishment of Hell.
[40:9] ‘And make them, our Lord, enter the Gardens of Eternity which Thou hast promised them, as well as such of their fathers and their wives and their children as are virtuous. Surely Thou art the Mighty, the Wise.
May peace, mercy and blessings of God be with you, always.