ISLAM AND HOMOSEXUALITY
Before the emergence of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula, all kinds of sexuality was being experienced. Although we don't have many documents related to the age, it is understood from the references in the Kur'an that sexuality was not a taboo. Actually Islam didn't mention any strict sexual rules either. If we just take Kur'an as the reference, it may even be called a sex positive religion.The only reference to homosexuality is in the sections about Sodom and Gomorrah. But even in those sections homosexuality is not very clearly condemned. People are punished because of having done everything excessively. They don't only sleep with men, they sleep with women too, they drink too much, they got involved in pleasure too much. "Much" is the keyword here.
And the punishment for almost all crimes are mentioned in the Kur'an but there's no specific punishment for homosexuality. But these sections in Kur'an have always been the defending point of homophobic Islamic people.What brings condemnation to homosexuals is not the Kur'an but the Islamic societies. Cultures also shape the religion as well as the society itself.
During the first years of Islam, homosexuality was never mentioned as a crime. There are even rumors that Ali, one of the members of Mohammed's family had an affair with Mohammed. And in the famous 1001 Arabian Nights, there are some stories which are openly about homosexual relationships. But this did not mean that there was a conscious homosexual community. If those people knew the word "homosexual" they wouldn't call themselves so. It was just sleeping with men as well as with women.
In Islamic cultures homosexual relationships were not very open. But they were not in complete secrecy either. Everything was all right as long as it was done behind closed gates and was not talked about. But with modernization, this changed in the Islamic societies. AS it is easy to comment Kur'an in the negative way, homosexuality started to be accepted as a crime and it is punished.
Homosexuality is a legal crime and forbidden in most of Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.Whatever is forbidden is more attractive and homosexuality is not a habit that can be banned. So in all of these countries people are engaged in homosexual activity. As there are punishments for the act, everything is done in secret. Turkey is one of these countries where there is no problem when everything is done secretly.
Ottomans ruled between 1299 and 1923 till the foundation of Turkish Republic. They had been Moslems long before and they didn't have much from their pre-Islamic period. Things were organized according to Islamic system, from state system to social services. So the rules about sex were from Islam too. Men could marry four women and even the way he should treat them were mentioned in the Kur'an. But as there are only vague references to homosexuality in Kur'an, it has never been an issue.Sleeping with men who are usually referred as "boys" was very common.It was not something looked upon.
The reputation of hamams (baths) in Turkey comes from this age. The "tellaks" (young boys who helped men to have a bath) did not only work for washing the men. They also served as male prostitutes. There is a book in the Ottoman archives called "Dellakname-i Dilkusa" (The Record of Tellaks). It tells about the most famous "tellaks" of Istanbul. The way they serve their customers, their price, how many times they can make you reach orgasm, the rate of their beauty and many more details are mentioned in this book.
Literature is one of the areas where there is eternal freedom of homosexuality. ottoman Literature is called "Divan Literature". In Divan Literature there are many poems written by male poets about their male lovers. These poems were about how beautiful these boy lovers were. None of these the poet talks about his boy lover and he complains that his beard is starting to grow and because of this his beauty is going away. Boys were maybe kind of substitutes for women who had smooth skin with no hairs. Those poems are in a very old fashioned, hard to understand Turkish which is called Ottoman and are in literature books for high school students.There was no pressure from the authorities on the poets for writing such poems about boys. Actually sex with boys were not legally forbidden and even the sultans were engaged in sex with male boys.
Some of the sultans had famous affairs with boys. There was even a palace for boys in Bursa. In this palace sultan kept many young boys who served the men in the army. In the Ottoman Times the army was at war away from home for months and sometimes years. It was not something logical to take women with them.SO they took those boys from the palace. They could fight soldiers during day time and at night they visited the soldiers` tents for their special service.This tradition just like in other Islamic cultures was not conscious homosexuality. These men were engaged in sex with women too and sex with boys were just something pleasant for them and they thought they really needed women. Because one of the main orders of Islam is to breed.That's why they needed women.
This tolerance for homosexuality disappeared in the early 19th century with the adoption of western culture. The sultans went on some renovations and the source was France. With the changes in the governmental and social system, the ideas were adopted too. Because of Christianity, male to male sex was strongly refused in the European culture. This effected ottoman society too and those kind of relationships were started to be looked upon.But of course a tradition that had been going on for such a long time didn't disappear. There is still a hamam culture which is still going on but not as common as it used to be. And extreme nationalists who take great pride in ottoman culture still deny this side of Ottomans.