By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
25 September 2019
The issue of the status and position of slave girls in Islam is widely debated. Most of the Islamic scholars are of the view that Muslim masters of slave girls are permitted to have sex with them without marriage. They cite the following verse in support of their view:
“Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame,” (Al Muminun: 5-6)
One of the scholars who supports this view is Dr Israr Ahmad who was known for his radical and conservative views on Purdah (veil) and slave girls. Replying to a question on the topic in a YouTube video, he expressed that slave girls did not have social or human rights as they were considered property or possession of their masters. Here is an excerpt from his speech:
"First you should correct your misconception. There is no provision for the marriage of slave girls. They were considered property or possession. The wife is not considered property. She comes as a result of a social contract to you to spend life.
Her Nikah cannot be solemnised without her consent. Your wife has the right to get separation from you whenever she wishes. But in the case of possession or property, these provisions do not exist. There is neither Nikah nor share in the inheritance for the 'property' or 'possession'. On the contrary, they will be transferred as a property. For example, if a man has slave girls, they will be transferred to his son after his death in the same way as his property. So you should understand that this was the case whether you like it or not. We should not try to bring changes to this concept to make it palatable. The status of the slave girls is what I told you. Now, the question whether they (slave girls) exist today or not, they do not exist. And the slave girls who were present during the life of the prophet pbuh were only those who had been captured in the battle field as prisoners of war (PoW) and were considered war booty."
Let's see what the Quran says on the issue. The Surah Nisa verse 25 says:
"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."
In Arab society, it was the custom that the groom should pay the dower to the bride. For this reason poor men often did not find a suitable match The Quran advises such Muslim men to marry believing (Muslim) slave girls.
Furthermore, in the same Surah, the Quran asks Muslim to seek permission of their masters before marrying slave girls:
"So marry them with the permission of their people and give them the due compensation according to what is acceptable."
Moreover, the Quran mandates the payment of Mehr to them.
In the verse 23 of Al Nisa, the Quran says:
"And (also prohibited to you are all) married women except those your right hands possess (slave girls)."
Here the Quran prohibits marriage with married women except slave girls. If the marriage with slave girls had been out of the question, the Quran would not have mentioned it in the first place.
In the same Surah, Muslim men are advised to marry only chaste and pious Muslim slave women.
"They should be chaste, neither of those who commit unlawful intercourse randomly nor those who take secret lovers. But once they are sheltered in marriage, if they commit adultery, then for them is half the punishment for free women. (Al Nisa: 25)
In Arab, some slave girls were trained to sing and dance and they were employed as entertainers. These slave girls were Qayn. The Quran asks not to marry such adulterous women.
In another verse, slave girls have been said to be better than beautiful polytheist women in terms of marriage.
"And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. And a believing slave woman is better than a polytheist woman, even though she might please you " (Al Baqarah: 221).
The Quran also advised Muslims their young sons and daughters and their male and female slaves off.
“And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves. “(Al Nur: 32)
The holy wife of the prophet pbuh Hadhrat Maria Al Qibtiya was a slave girl and was gifted to the prophet pbuh by the governor of Alexandria Muqauqis along with her sister Sirin. They had converted to Islam and the holy Prophet p uh had married her (Hadhrat Maria). She gave birth to Hadhrat Ibrahim who died in infancy
Thus, Dr Israr Ahmad's opinion that there was no Nikah for slave women stands repudiated.
He also says that slave women were only those who were prisoners of war. This is not correct. Since pre-Isla Arabia till the beginning of 20th century, slave trade flourished in Arab, Africa and Europe under the patronage of rulers and governments. Poor and hapless men and women from poor countries would be captured and sent to work as soldiers in the army, mines and plantations and domestic help of the rich and powerful. Women would be pushed into flesh trade. Indeed, prisoners of war were also made slaves but they were only a small section of slaves.
The famous companion of the holy prophet pbuh Hadhrat Bilal Habshi was a slave of Umaiya bin Khalaf. His father Rabah bin Habashi was also a slave.
A famous incident narrated in Sunan Baihaqi also reiterates Quran's position that Muslims should not force slave girls to commit adultery.
"Do not force your slave girls to commit adultery if they want to live with peity."(Al Nur:24)
The incident according to Sunan Baihaqi is that during a military campaign against Bani Asad under Hadhrat Khalid bin Waleed, one commander named Dharrar captured a woman and had sex with her. Later when Caliph Hadhrat Umar was informed about the incident, he ordered Dharrar's stoning. However, Dharrar died before caliph’s order reached Hadhrat Khalid bin Waleed. This also repudiates the position of scholars as well as militant and terrorist organisations that during war, women of enemies can be taken slave and raped.
From this discussion, it becomes clear that the injustice and inhuman treatment meted out to slaves and slave girls was gradually done away with after the Advent of Islam.The Quran urged Muslims go treat slaves (male and female) with respect and try to bring them in social mainstream. Muslims were encouraged to marry slave girls. Muslims were prohibited to force pious believing slave girls to commit adultery or other immoral acts.
Unfortunately, despite clear injunctions of the Quran on Nikah, Mehr and good treatment of slave girls, a section of scholars like Dr Israr Ahmad spread their ill founded views on slave girls only on the basis of misinterpretation of the term 'Ma Malakat Ayma Ukum'.They ignored clear verses on the Quran because those verses refuted their much 'palatable' views on slave girls.
The institution of slavery does not exist in Islam today though it does exist in Sahel region in Africa and Libya despite ban. Moreover, the terrorist organisations like the ISIS and Boko Haram capture Muslim women and girls and treat them as slaves, raping and selling them. They do this on the basis of the wrong interpretations of the verses of the Quran. These interpretations present a wrong image of Islam and Muslims.
Therefore, it is necessary to remove the misconceptions about slave girls and prisoners of war by explaining the verses of the Quran in the right context.
S. Arshad is a regular columnist for NewAgeIslam.com
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