Sexual Slavery, the context and the law

Sexual slavery is permitted in Islam and is detailed in Qur’an and ahadith as right hand possession.
The rules in Jihad state that if captured in war, a woman can be taken as a sex slave as that is a reward for the fighters of Allah.

Muhammad allowed men to have sex with women who were captured in battle, this is also in the Qur’an, which in Islamic belief is the true word of god and a direct connection with Allah.
Within Islamic law the rules are laid out for women who are captured in battle.

In one instance some women were captured and Muslim men asked if it was permissible to have sex with them. They were confused, because in Islam if married then it is viewed as fornication, which is unlawful and can hold the punishments from lashings to stoning.

The following hadith explains what was decreed on this matter.

It is within “The Book of Suckling” and the chapter of “It is permissible to have intercourse with a female captive after it is established that she is not pregnant, and if she has a husband, then her marriage is annulled when she is captured”.

“Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (Allah her pleased with him) reported that at the Battle of Hanain Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) sent an army to Autas and encountered the enemy and fought with them. Having overcome them and taken them captives, the Companions of Allah’s Messenger (may peace te upon him) seemed to refrain from having intercourse with captive women because of their husbands being polytheists. Then Allah, Most High, sent down regarding that;

“And women already married, except those whom your right hands possess (iv. 24)” (i. e. they were lawful for them when their ‘Idda period came to an end)”.(Sahih Muslim, 1456 a)

  • Idda is a period where a woman must wait to have sex with a man after divorce or death of her husband, to ensure she is not pregnant with another man’s child.

Also detailed in :
Sahih Muslim 1456 d
Sunan Abu Dawud 2155
Jami at tirmidhi 1132

“And [also prohibited to you are all] married women except those your right hands possess. [This is] the decree of Allah upon you. And lawful to you are [all others] beyond these, [provided] that you seek them [in marriage] with [gifts from] your property, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse. So for whatever you enjoy [of marriage] from them, give them their due compensation as an obligation. And there is no blame upon you for what you mutually agree to beyond the obligation. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.”

(Qur’an 4/24)

“When a child or woman is taken captive, they become slaves by fact of capture, and women’s previous marriage is annulled.”

(The classic manual of Islamic sacred law, Umdat al salik , o9.13)

There is no disagreement amongst scholars on this matter.

Right hand possession is also mentioned in Qur’an:

33/50, 33/52, 70/30, 4/3, 16/71, 30/28, 33/55.

Tafsir are the explanation by scholars of what the verses in the Qur’an mean, tafsir is also known as the unveiling of the Qur’an.

Ibn Kathir Tafsir

Al Jalalayn Tafsir

Ibn Abbas Tafsir

As detailed in the media, Islamic State fighters were “lured” to fight in Syria and Iraq by the promise of sex slaves and rape. Within the media it was expressed that this was exclusive to ISIS or “extremist” views of Islam.

However the Sunnah of Muhammad, plus the Qur’an decreed sex slaves and forced sex of non-Muslim captives permissible and is now detailed in Islamic law.

The Islamic view is that it is not forced sex, as Allah made it permissible, but if the woman resists or says no the Muslim man can still go ahead and have sex with her.

As detailed below you will see a reference to Muhammad’s slaves.

Narrated `Aisha:

” The Prophet (ﷺ) used to take the Pledge of allegiance from the women by words only after reciting this Holy Verse:–(60.12) “..that they will not associate anything in worship with Allah.” (60.12) And the hand of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) did not touch any woman’s hand except the hand of that woman his right hand possessed. (i.e. his captives or his lady slaves).”
(Sahih Bukhari 7214)

As detailed in this hadith, selling slaves is also permissible in Islam.

Within “The Chapters on Manumission (of Slaves)”

Jabir bin `Abdullah was heard to say:
“We used to sell our slave women and the mothers of our children (Umahat Awaldina) when the Prophet (ﷺ) was still living among us, and we did not see anything wrong with that.”
(Sunan Ibn Majah, Sahih)

The Islamic State also sold slaves when they followed these laws in regards to the Yazidi girls.

The opposition argument to this would be that Muhammad always treated his slaves well.
Many sex slaves were taken after Muhammad and his companions had killed the females relatives, the woman had no choice but to become a sex slave, or as one of Muhammad’s did in the hadith below, became his wife.

Within the chapter “Tribute, Spoils, and Rulership (Kitab Al-Kharaj, Wal-Fai’ Wal-Imarah) The Special Portion (As-Safi) Of The Prophet (saws) That Was taken From The Spoils Of War.”

Anas said
“Captives were gathered at Khaibar. Dihyah came out and said “Apostle of Allaah(ﷺ) give me a slave girl from the captives.” He said “Go and take a slave girl. He took Safiyyah daughter of Huyayy. A man then came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and said “You gave Safiyyah daughter of Huyayy, chief lady of Quraizah and Al Nadir to Dihyah? This is according to the version of Ya’qub. Then the agreed version goes “she is worthy of you.” He said “call him along with her. When the Prophet (ﷺ) looked at her, he said to him “take another slave girl from the captives. The Prophet (ﷺ) then set her free and married her.”(Sunan Abi Dawud, Sahih, 2998)

Within the book, “Military Expeditions led by the Prophet (pbuh) (Al-Maghaazi)” and the chapter of
“Ghazwa of Khaibar”

Anas bin Malik said,
“The Prophet (ﷺ) took Safiya as a captive. He manumitted her and married her.” Thabit asked Anas, “What did he give her as Mahr (i.e. marriage gift)?” Anas replied. “Her Mahr was herself, for he manumitted her.”(Sahih Bukhari, 4201)

Also detailed in:

Sahih Bukhari 5086/5169

A more detailed account is here.

As shown above, captives were taken, sex slaves were chosen, but Muhammad decided his companion couldn’t have Safiyya as a slave girl and Muhammad wanted her for himself.

Safiyya was the daughter of the chief of Jewish Banu Nadir tribe, Huyayy ibn Akhtar, her mother was, Barra bint Samawal. Her mother was a prominent member of the Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe and settled at the Fort of Khaybar with her husband.
Banu Nadir tribe were earlier expelled from their homes by Muhammad, some retreated to the Fort of Khaibar.

Muhammad married Safiyya after asking her to convert to Islam. She was taken captive at the Fort of Khaybar – her male family were killed, some tortured, including her husband for hiding his wealth to start a new life in the hope they were expelled and not killed by Muhammad and companions.
Muhammad gave Safiyya the Mahr as manumission from slavery.

The Islamic view of this is that Muhammad honoured Safiyya by doing this, Safiyya was 17 years of age at the time, Muhammad was 60 years of age.

  • The Mahr is a payment to the woman of an individual article, financial obligation or the user or benefit of something (umdat al salik), or in this case manumission. It is a contract to make it permissible to have sex with the woman which seals the Nikkah contract.

Once the woman is given the Mahr she had no right to refuse sex (unless very ill or on a period), the deal is sealed.
(Umdat al salik m8.5)

The condition for that is detailed at the end of this hadith, if the husband has “entered into his wife” the Mahr cannot be taken back.

Also detailed in :
Sahih Bukhari 5311/5312.

In addition to this Zakat distributions can be used to free slaves and to contribute to Mahr payments, as detailed in Qur’an 9/60.

After expelling the Banu Nadir, and capturing Khaybar, Muhammad went onto besiege the Banu Qurayza tribe, behead the men, take the women and children as slaves and sell the surplus “booty” at a market.
Muhammad and companions converted, expelled, killed or enslaved all Jewish Tribes in the Arabian Peninsula after the migration from Mecca to Medina. With the man power he amassed, plus booty, this then gave him the military strength and force to be reckoned with to enable him to capture Mecca.

I think a point that can be very easily missed within these laws is that womanhood is determined at the onset of puberty in females, Muhammad married child bride Aishah at six and “consummated” the marriage at nine, as described in Sahih ahadith which scholars agree on.
Also, because the age for onset of puberty cannot be defined, this means in Islam the age a girl is ready for marriage/sex is not defined either, so this leaves it open to personal speculation.

So if someone was to live by example of Muhammad it would mean a child as young as six could be taken for a wife and full sexual intercourse would be permissible with these children (including slaves) at the onset of puberty, which is not defined in Islamic law.

In the same chapter of the Qur’an where two verses decree sex slavery permissible, is this verse below to remind people that Muhammad has shown people the path to paradise with his actions.

“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.”
(Qur’an 33/21)

In addition to this in the same chapter it says Muhammad is more worthy than any Muslim, and Muslims have no free will to decide on matters already decreed.

“It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error.”
(Qur’an 33/36)

Many people would say this is an “extreme version” of Islam, but scholars are clear on the meanings and people would have to ask themselves:

  • Is the Qur’an extreme?
  • Was Muhammad extreme?
  • Was Muhammad a good example?

The reply to that, would depend on who is answering.

© Islamic Blueprint-JA Statham 2018


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