By Muhammad Yuns, New Age Islam
(co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009.)
June 26 2021
Scholars Quote The Identical Pair Of Verses From The Opening Passage Of The 23rd Sura And The 70th Sura To Accommodate Sex With Slave Girls, Female Captives Of War Etc. In The Ambit Of Qur’anic Message
1. The Qur’an uses a generic expression ‘Maa Malakat Aeman’ for a category of people who are under the lawful guardian ship or trust of a person.
2. ‘Those whom the right hand possesses,’ includes female captives of war, slave girls, bondmaid etc.
3. Verse 24:33 reinforces the requirement of marriage for any sexual relation by abolishing prostitution of slaves.
4. Qur’an abolishes the pre-Islamic practice of engaging in sexual relation with slave girls without first entering into marriage.
The Qur’an uses a generic expression ‘Maa Malakat Aeman’ for a category of people who are under the lawful guardian ship or trust of a person. Literally translated as ‘those whom the right hand possesses,’ this includes female captives of war, slave girls, bondmaid etc. Accordingly the Qur’an uses this expression in the following verses (Sahih International translation) concerning the handling and treatment of slave girls.
“And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice]” (4:3).
“And whoever among you cannot [find] the means to marry free, believing women, then [he may marry] from those whom your right hands possess of believing slave girls. And Allah is most knowing about your faith. You [believers] are of one another. So marry them with the permission of their people and give them their due compensation according to what is acceptable. [They should be] chaste, neither [of] those who commit unlawful intercourse randomly nor those who take [secret] lovers…And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (4:25)
“And marry the unmarried among you and the righteous among your male slaves and female slaves. If they should be poor, Allah will enrich them from His bounty, and Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” (24:32)
“But let them who find not [the means for] marriage abstain [from sexual relations] until Allah enriches them from His bounty. And those who seek a contract [for eventual emancipation] from among whom your right hands possess - then make a contract with them if you know there is within them goodness and give them from the wealth of Allah which He has given you. And do not compel your slave girls to prostitution, if they desire chastity, to seek [thereby] the temporary interests of worldly life. And if someone should compel them, then indeed, Allah is [to them], after their compulsion, Forgiving and Merciful.” (24:33).
The crux of these verses are:
4:3 permits marriage up to four women, but restricts the number to one or the one whom your right hand possesses ( a slave girl)
4:25 –states: “And whoever among you cannot [find] the means to marry free, believing women, then [he may marry] from those whom your right hands possess of believing slave girls…”.
24:32- states: “And marry the unmarried among you and the righteous among your male slaves and female slaves.
24:33- states –“ And do not compel your slave girls to prostitution, if they desire chastity, to seek [thereby] the temporary interests of worldly in y life.” (24:33).
Collective Interpretation Of These Verses
The verses 4:3, 4:25 and 24:32 are explicit in their recommendation to marry one whom your right hands possess (female captive of war, slave girl). This obviously rules out the option of having sex with one whom your right hands possess without marrying her – for the obvious reason that if a man can have sex with a slave woman without marrying her, why should he marry her.
Verse 24:33 reinforces the requirement of marriage for any sexual relation by abolishing prostitution of slaves.
Through these simple but compulsive pronouncements, the Qur’an abolishes the pre-Islamic practice of engaging in sexual relation with slave girls without first entering into marriage with them with the permission of their people and paying due compensations or dowry (4:25)
Traditionally scholars quote the following identical pair of underlined verses from the opening passage of the 23rd Sura and from the 70th Sura to accommodate sex with slave girls, female captives of war etc. in the ambit of Qur’anic message.
Rendition of the passages (Sahih International)
“Certainly will the believers have succeeded (23:1) They who are during their prayer humbly submissive (23:2) And they who turn away from ill speech (23:3) And they who are observant of Zakah (23:4) And they who guard their private parts (23:5) Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed” (23:6)
“Indeed, mankind was created anxious (70:19) When evil touches him, impatient (70:20), And when good touches him, withholding [of it] (70:21), Except the observers of prayer (70:22) Those who are constant in their prayer (70:23) And those within whose wealth is a known right (70:24) For the petitioner and the deprived (70:25) And those who believe in the Day of Recompense (70:26) And those who are fearful of the punishment of their Lord (70:27) Indeed, the punishment of their Lord is not that from which one is safe (70:28) And those who guard their private parts (70:29) Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they are not to be blamed.” (70:30)
But these passages:
• are gender neutral in their commandments,
• date from Early Meccan period (610-617 or thereabout),
• phrased in the form of simple piece meal narrations
• devoid of any legislative tone or compulsive character, and
• touch on diverse themes (including prayer, ill speech, right of the poor in the wealth of the rich, Day of Judgment and Zakah):
Conclusion: In light of the above clear arguments from the Qur’an, citing the generic verses 23:6/70:29 in isolation to justify unwedded sexual relation with slave girls, female captives etc. will amount to making halal what the Qur’an has compulsively and conclusively made haram – a preposterous distortion of Qur’anic message.
To wind up this article maintaining continuity and consistency of arguments with those made in previous related articles, the author will invoke the concluding remarks of those articles as follows:
Article dated April 2012
Concluding Remark: The Qur’an came to bring about all round reform of human society that included, among other things, phased abolition of slavery and empowerment of women through the institution of marriage and other family laws. Therefore any suggestion to accommodate slavery or sex with captives, maids, call girls etc. in the fold of Islam will stand in stark contradiction to its universal message.
Article dated Jan 2014
Concluding Remark: It will be therefore be a gross mistake to interpret the verses 23:5/6, 70:29/30 in a gendered manner to sanction unlimited sexual freedom to men-folk with female captives, slaves and their like. Moreover, the Qur’an fully clarifies itself with the progress of the revelation. Thus, as Muhammad Asad observes, quoting al-Razi and al-Tabari, the Qur’an prohibits sexual relation with any woman other than one’ lawful wife.
Muhammad Yuns, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Aznar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khalid about El Fad of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
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