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Debating Islam ( 21 Jul 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Why Do Modern Islamic Scholars Shy Away From The Clear Verses about Milkal Yameen: Does Quran Allow Sexual Relationship With Bondwomen?

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

21 July 2021

Modern Islamic Scholars Strongly Argue That The Holy Quran Does Not Allow Sexual Relationship With Bondwomen

Main Points:

1.                            1. Milkal Yameen in some verses may mean married slave girls.

2. During early years of Islam, sex with PoWs was allowed.

3. The holy companions practised coitus interruptus on women captured in a war.

4. Gradually the practise of having sex with PoWs was made illegal.

5. Islam prescribed punishment to slave girls for adultery.


The issue of slave girls or bondwomen is widely debated in the academic circles of the Islamic society. The traditional Islamic scholars are unanimously of the view that the Quran allows sexual relationship with slave girls. They quote the following verses to prove their point.

"O prophet, We have made lawful for you your wives to whom you have paid full dowries as well as those bondwomen in your possession whom Allah has granted to you."(Al Ahzab:50)

In the same verse, God further says:

"Also allowed for marriage is a believing woman who offers herself to the prophet without dowry if he is interested in marrying her -- this excluding for you not for the believers to their wives and those bondwomen in their possession. As such there would be no blame on you."(Ahzab:50)

Another verse in the Quran reiterates the point:

"They guard their chastity except for their wives and those their right hands possess, for indeed they will not be blamed. But whoever seeks beyond that then those are the transgressors."(Al Muminun:5-7)

But modern Islamic scholars strongly disagree with them and argue that the holy Quran does not allow sexual relationship with bondwomen and they quote the following verses of the Quran in favour of their argument.

"And marry off the free singles among you and the righteous among your bondmen and bondwomen."(Nur:32)

""But if you cannot afford to marry a free believing woman then let him marry a believing bondwoman possessed by one of you. Allah knows best the state of your faith and theirs. You are from one another. So marry them with the permission of their owners, giving them their dowry in fairness, if they are chaste and neither promiscuous nor having secret affairs. If they commit adultery after marriage, they receive half the punishment of free women."(Al Nisa:25)

"And do not marry a polytheist woman until she proclaims faith and albeit a believing bondwoman is better if you like her."(Al Baqarah:221)

There is a hadith in Sahih Bukhari which proves that during the life of the prophet pbuh, Muslims would have sex with women prisoners of war:

Abu Sayeed Khudri narrated, "We held many women of Bani Mustaliq captives in a war. We would perform Azl ( coitus interruptus) on them. Finally, we asked the holy prophet pbuh, "How is the practice of Azl?". The holy prophet asked thrice, "Do you do so?". Then he said," It's no use. The soul that has been ordained to be born will anyhow be born till the day of judgment."(Kitabun Nikah, Sahih Bukhari, 191)

This hadith corroborates the verse of the Quran which allows sex with the bondwoman:

"O prophet, We have made lawful for you your wives to whom you have paid full dowries as well as those bondwomen in your possession whom Allah has granted to you."(Al Ahzab:50)

The verse of surah Al Muminoon also conveys the same meaning:

"They guard their chastity except for their wives and those their right hands possess for indeed they will not be blamed. But whoever seeks beyond that then those are the transgressors."(Al Muminun:5-7)

Seeking physical relations beyond the wife and Milkal Yameen is transgression, not with Milkal Yameen or bondwomen.

But in other verses, marriage with slave girls and bondwomen is encouraged. There is even a hadith that prescribes physical punishment to a slave girl for committing adultery. This means that the Quran and hadiths do not encourage sex with slave girls without marriage.

Hadhrat Abu Hurairah narrated that the holy prophet pbuh said, "When the adultery of a slave girl comes to light, she should be lashed but she should not be verbally abused. When she commits adultery again, she should be lashed again but she should not be verbally abused. If she commits adultery a third time, she should be sold out even at the price of a hair."(Sahih Bukhari, Kitabun Nikah, 1738)

Another hadith enjoins on Muslims to treat slave girls with respect and provide them with good education and etiquettes and then free them and marry them.

Abu Musa narrated that the holy prophet pbuh said, “If a person possesses a bondwoman and takes care of her and gives her proper education and frees her and then marries her, he will get rewards twofold. Similarly, the slave who obeys Allah and his masters will also be rewarded twofold."(Sahih Bukhari, Kitabur Rahan, 2373)

Another hadith shows that slave girls were married off with slaves by their masters.

A bondwoman named Barirah came to Hadhrat Aysha r.a. and requested her to pay her ransom money to get her manumitted. She was married to a slave named Mugith against her wish. She hated him. Hadhrat Aysha r.a. paid her ransom money to her masters and she became free. After getting freedom, she got divorce from Mugith.

In one hadith, slave girls and slaves have been called brothers and sisters of their masters:

Marur bin Suwaid narrated that he saw Abuzar Ghaffari r.a. in a pair of clothes similar to those of his slave. He asked him (Abuzar Ghaffari) the reason for that. He replied that once he abused his servant. He complained about this to the holy prophet pbuh. The holy Prophet pbuh asked him, “Did you abuse him?". He then said, “See, your slaves and slave girls are your brothers and sisters who serve you. Allah has made them your subordinates. Therefore, one should feed his brother what he eats and clothe him as he himself clothes and should not give him a task he cant do and in case you do, you should help him."(Sahih Bukhari; Kitabur Rahan; 2371)

Another incident about Hadhrat Juwairiyyah r.a. shows that the holy prophet pbuh encouraged marriage with war captives after their manumission to give them a dignified life and remove the stigma of being slaves.

According to a hadith in Sahih Bukhari, Hadhrat Juwairiyyah was held captive after a war with the Muslims. She was the daughter of the chieftain of the tribe of Bani Mustaliq. After the war, many women of Bani Mustaliq were held captive and Hadhrat Juwaiyriyyah was gifted to a Muslim. Hadhrat Juwaiyriyyah r.a. came to the holy Prophet pbuh and requested him to pay her ransom money to get her freed as she was the daughter of a chieftain and did not like the life of a slave girl. The holy prophet pbuh paid her Mukatabat (ransom money) and freed her. After her manumission, the holy prophet pbuh married her with her consent.

Then the question arises: Why do the verses in surah Al Muminoon and surah Al Ahzab allow sex with Milkal Yameen? The confusion is removed when we ponder on the verse in Surah Nisa:

If they (the bondwomen) commit adultery after marriage, they receive half the punishment of free women."(Al Nisa:25)

The verse says that the bondwomen will get half the punishment of free women if they commit adultery. The verse makes it clear that even after marriage, a woman will be distinguished from other wives of a person in terms of punishment. If we take this meaning of the word Milkal Yameen in surah Muminoon and Ahzab, the confusion is removed. Though all the wives of a person will have equal conjugal rights, a bondwoman will still be considered a bondwoman for legal purposes. So a bondwoman will be identified as a bondwoman even after marriage because of the contemporary social and legal norms of the era. Therefore when the Quran says "wives and Milkal Yameen", it means wives and married bondwomen. If this meaning of "Ma Malakat Aymanukum (your Milkal Yameen) is taken, the confusion is removed and the argument of the Islamic scholars who oppose the idea of sexual relation with slave girls without marriage is strengthened. Ma Malakat Aymanukum may mean "married slave girls".

According to Islamic jurists, the relation between the prisoner of war and her master was of Aqd Milik (contract of possession) during the era of Jahiliyyah and the host would have sexual relation with the slave girl as is evident from the hadith about Bani Mustaliq. After giving birth to a child, such women were called Umm ul Walad and the child was considered a free person. The woman remained with the master for life and after her masters death, she would be automatically free. But the Quran and hadith did not encourage this tradition. Marriage with slave girls was encouraged and the holy prophet himself married Hadhrat Maria Qubtiya r.a. and Hadhrat Safiyya r.a. In later period, particularly during the caliphate of Hadhrat Umar r.a., having sex with female prisoners of war was totally banned and was considered Zina. A commander of the Islamic army was ordered by Hadhrat Umar r.a. to be punished for Zina for having sex with a female POW. However, the commander died a natural death before the order reached him.

Therefore, if we understand the meaning of the word Milkal Yameen in Surah Ahzab and Surah Muminoon in the light of verse 25 of surah Al Nisa, all the verses about slave girls will appear consistent.


S. Arshad is a columnist with


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