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Islamic Sharia Laws (01 May 2012 NewAgeIslam.Com)

A Fresh Insight into the Qur’anic Verses Quoted to Justify Unwedded Sexual Relation with Maids, Call Girls etc


By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam

Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009

Most commentators have translated the captioned verses in a literalist and gendered manner purporting to legitimize a man’s sexual intimacy with slave/ captive women in the historical context, and maids, call girls etc. in today’s context. This contradicts the broader Qur’anic message, making a mockery of its laws relating to marriage.

The captioned verses belong to the Suras (al-Mu‘minun, 23 and al-Ma‘arij, 70) that date from the Meccan period of the revelation (610-622 AD). Marriage laws and those abolishing slavery were yet to be introduced. These came down in phases about a decade later (after the Prophet moved to Medina in 622) and abolished the notions of slavery as well as sex with captives, slave women, call girl and the like outside the wedding bond. 

A recent focused exegetic (interpretational) work [1] that is approved by al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo and is endorsed and recommended by a leading American Islamic scholar and jurist Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, presents the following gender neutral universal translation of the captioned verses that negates the notions of slavery and all forms of extramarital relations:

“(Believers/Prayerful) preserve their private parts* (23:4/ 70:29) - except from their spouses (azwaj), that is (awe) those under their lawful trust (ma malakat ayman), and then (they are) not blame worthy (23:5/ 70:30).” *[Sexual impulses]

The traditional translation will typically read:

“(Believers/Prayerful) preserve their private parts* (23:4/ 70:29) - except from their wives (azwaj), or (awe) those that their right hands possess (ma malakat ayman) (such as captive/ slave women, bondmaids etc.)  and then (they are) not blame worthy (23:5/ 70:30).” *[Sexual impulses]

The universal rendition is based on the following irrefutable considerations:

1.  The gender neutral addressee – ‘believers’, ‘prayerful’ respectively of the passages 23:1-6 and 70:19-29 respectively that contain these verses. That is, both the passages are addressed to both men and women and not to men alone.      

 2. The word azwaj is rendered in a gender neutral manner (denoting both men and women) as consistently used in the Qur’an. Traditional translations are in the feminine form (as wives) which is gender-biased, misleading and untenable.

3.  The particle awe (23:5/ 70:30) is translated as ‘that is' instead of ‘or’ based on its versatile connotation in the Qur’anic usage.     

The tabled universal interpretation is further supported by the following Qur’anic illustrations and arguments to avoid any doubts and suspicions.

1. The Qur’an uses the word ‘right hand’ figuratively to denote a positive lawful status, such as the companions of the ‘right hand’ (56:8, 56:27) and God's ‘right hand’ (39:67). Therefore, the phrase ‘ma malakat ayman’ could be best rendered as “those under one’s lawful trust.”   

2.  Its following verses/ passages carry clear exhortations to freeing the salves:

•        90:13-16. The Qur’an combines its exhortation on “the freeing of a slave” (90:13), with “feeding during famine (14) an orphaned relative (15), or the needy (lying) in the dust” (90:16).

•        4:92 commands the freeing of a believing slave and paying compensation for any accidental killing of a believer.

•        5:89 lists the freeing of a slave as an option to expiate a false oath taken in the earnest.

•        2:177 includes the freeing of slaves among the virtues of the truly pious.

•        9:60 includes slaves regardless of faith in the category of people entitled to receive charity.

•        58:3 requires the freeing of a slave as expiation for breaking an oath called zihar, which absolved a man of all conjugal responsibilities to his wife, but did not give her the freedom of divorce

3. Since slavery and prostitution went hand in hand, the Qur’an aimed at eradicating slavery by rehabilitating the male and female slaves through the institution of marriage. Thus the Qur’an exhorts men to i) marry from among the bondmaids under their lawful trust (4:3, 4:25), ii) marry off the unmarried ones among their male and female slaves (24:32) and iii) free their slaves against reasonable contract, allowing them to pay later for their freedom (24:33).

“If you fear that you cannot do justice by the orphans, marry women who please your - two or three or four; but if you still fear that you cannot treat (them) equitably, then only one, or (marry) someone under your lawful trust. Then it is most likely that you will not act unjustly” (4:3).

“And any of you who cannot afford to marry chaste believing woman (should marry) from believing bondmaids under your lawful trust, and God knows best your faith. Some of you have (ties) with others of them. So marry them with the permission of their people and give them their dowers reasonably as (meriting) chaste women, and do not prostitute them nor take them as mistresses… (Remember,) God is Most Forgiving and Merciful” (4:25). 

“Marry off the unmarried ones among you and those among your slaves (‘abd) and bondmaids that are ready for marriage. If they are needy, God will enrich them of His bounty. (Remember,) God is Boundless (in mercy) and All-Knowing (24:32). Yet those who have no (financial) means to marry should wait until God enriches them of His bounty. And as for those under your lawful trust who seek a contract (for freedom), draw it up for them if you know any good in them, and give them out of the riches God has given you. And do not coerce your bondmaids into prostitution seeking the gains of this world, when they want to be chaste - seeking the pleasure of worldly life. But should anyone coerce them (sexually), God will be Merciful (to them) after they have been so coerced” (24:33).

4. In a different plane, unlike the legal codes that preceded it, and succeeded it for over a millennium, the Qur’an does not enact any separate civil law or code for the slaves or the ma malakat ayman class. The Qur’an does, however, refer to slavery in the context of the past or even prevalent traditions, but its civil, commercial, inheritance and family laws are for all believers, without any reference to their being freeborn or slaves.

Conclusion: The Qur’an came to bring about an 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.

It is conceivable that with time the gendered and historic-specific traditional translation of the Qur’an will be refreshed with the tabled universal rendition. But how long the predominantly male Muslim scholarship will cling to the gendered traditional interpretation remains a question mark. Those lusting after extramarital avenues will not be happy with the tabled universal rendition. It is for the Muslim intelligentsia to take up the issue through Face book, Twitter and other forums rest the highly patriarchic Ulama will support and perpetuate the traditional rendition that caters to the masculine sexual lust.           

Muhammad Yunus, 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-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.


1. Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, Maryland (USA) 2009, authored by Muhammad Yunus and Ashfaque Ullah Syed.

URL:  http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-sharia-laws/muhammad-yunus,-new-age-islam/a-fresh-insight-into-the-qur’anic-verses-quoted-to-justify-unwedded-sexual-relation-with-maids,-call-girls-etc/d/7198


  • @mohd yunus(1) sahib
    I am not mixing anything. My Muslims brothers are not ready to live without ahadith. I am not buying yours or traditional Islam. I keep good wherever it is coming from.
    I prefer rational freedom in place of religious confinement. I am good and bad too in my actions. I am trying to improve without religious motivations.

    By mohd yunus - 8/25/2012 3:53:35 AM

  • mohd yunus. You are free to mix the Qur'an with hadith. All Muslims are free to believe the way they wish. Divine Speech is for all humanity. Its ideals have indeed permeated the global society and the global human civilization barring the Muslim have greatly benefited from it. Believe in whatever you want to believe. You and all those who like a colourful version of Islam, conceivably to circumvent its demanding social, moral and ethical paradigms have their own freedom of choice. Enough is enough. Good bye.

    By muhammad yunus (1) - 8/25/2012 12:12:22 AM

  • Thank You Mohd Yunus(1) for great effort you have put to explian "ma malakat ayman".
    You said you remain away from secondary source because of its Authenticity. What do we know about prophet  if we take Quran only? Ahadith present both rosy picture and ugly picture. Now you take rosy picture because it can be verified by Quran and discard ugly one because it is not verifiable by Quran.
    Why your version of Islam is not bought by most of Muslims(you lamented somewhere that your serious articles don't attract a single comment. (It is true i verify)? Let me offer a reason. We Muslims are very fond of spicy foods. Spicy food covers many dishes under the sky. Your version is like the Pulao without lehsun, piyaz, zeera, tejpatta, kali mirch, salt, nimbu, green chilly, oil etc. What you left with is boiled rice. Who will take it in the name of Pulao? Islam is much more than that.
    Excuse me if I am painting a bad picture.
    How much essence of Quran was followed by early Muslims nobody can say. It can be speculated in good spirit. Prophet's dead body was lying uncared and sahabas were fighting over khilafat to keep away Ansar from their claim of khilafat. Quran is mute here. Division in Islam starts from here.
    Some Muslims say that Banu Umaiya is responsible for all this fasad. I doubt it not because I revere Banu Umaiya(I don't revere blindly anybody). It was Muhajir v Ansar. I cant forget exemplary sacrifice of Ansar.
    If they could not follow the essence on this serious occasion how can one think that they were following it in "ma malakat ayman"
    Meccan Arabs used to see Medinan Arabs with contempt because they were farmer and earning their bread with hard work(In Indian context they were kammi(Arzal not Ashraf)). They must be following individually, but collectively they were driven by their interest(not Islam). Islam was the tool.
    Muslims cant live without hadith, it provides comfort, pride, justification and much more.
    I am living this comment here with thanks to you.
    By mohd yunus - 8/24/2012 11:22:35 PM

  • mohd yunus. As a first premise , I keep totally out of the secondary Islamic sources, as it is simply impossible to verify their authenticity. My (joint publication) which has approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif and authentication by a leading jurist of Islam attempts to interpret the Qur'an from its internal vocabulary and sources.
    1. As far as the explanation of the term 'what the right hand possesses, the book offers the following insight.
    While the Qur’an uses the words fatat, riqab, ‘abd,  to denote a slave, bondmaid in the historical sense, it also employs a dignified phrase, ma malakat ayman to denote slaves, bondmaids, and for that matter, anyone who is under one’s lawful trust. Most scholars render this phrase literally as: ‘what the right hand possesses’, and connote it restrictively with slaves, bondmaids, captives, and prisoners of war in the masculine as well as feminine gender. Such an interpretation is misleading. The closest literal translation of this expression would be: ‘those possessed by (or under trust to) the right hand.’ However, the Qur'an uses the word ‘right hand’ figuratively to denote a positive lawful status, such as the companions of the ‘right hand’ and God's ‘right hand’. Therefore, the phrase could be best rendered as “those under one’s lawful trust.” Thus through its ingenious vocabulary, the Qur’an gives a new ennobling status to the slaves and bondmaids who were historically relegated to the lowest rung of the social hierarchy – hated, despised, brutalized and segmented from the freeborn by impervious boundaries.   
    The Qur’anic phrase malakat ayman (sing. milk al-yamin) is no camouflage or mere euphemism. In the Prophet's days, captives from armed conflicts were distributed among the Medinite Muslims for their safe custody. Those captives, whether male or female, were virtually ‘slaves’ but were regarded as malakat ayman; and accordingly their custodians treated them with sympathy and consideration. William Muir, one of the most hostile of the Prophet's biographers offers this quotation from a prisoner: “the men of Medina made us ride, while they themselves walked, they gave us wheaten bread to eat when there was a little of it, contenting themselves with dates.”
    In a different plane, unlike the legal codes that preceded it, and succeeded it for over a millennium, the Qur’an does not enact any separate civil law or code for the slaves or the ma malakat ayman class. The Qur’an does, however, refer to slavery in the context of the past or even prevalent traditions, but its civil, commercial, inheritance and family laws are for all believers, without any reference to their being freeborn or slaves.
    2. As regards, the Prophet's biography is concerned, the book deals with it in an essay in its enclosure, which concludes as follows"
    "In sum, there are many speculative and legendary reports in the classical biography of the Prophet that are no more than embellishments, parables and conjectures, and must be treated as such. The most accurate insight on the life of the Prophet and his mission can only be obtained from the Qur’an (Note 1/Ch.3) and this is what has been attempted in this work.
    Put this in a random page in your diary please for your grandson. You dont take me to be stupid of course (this follows a previous thread) 
    By muhammad yunus (1) - 8/24/2012 10:23:46 AM

  • Respected Muhammad Yunus (1) sahib, I just went through your article

     “A Fresh Insight into the Qur’anic Verses Quoted to Justify Unwedded Sexual Relation with Maids, Call Girls etc".

    I salute to your sincerity and hard work. Kindly elaborate the "under their lawful trust" You gave some examples from Quran. What was "lawful trust"? How was it implemented by prophet and companions? When Muslims stated to go against broader Qur’anic message? How prophet put it into practice in case of Safiya bint Huyai?

    By mohd yunus - 8/24/2012 2:57:28 AM


    Actually, the problem arises from somewhere else. And if at all there is a problem, I have found and stated my solution. I am content. So let us move forward and close the topic.

    By Manzoorul Haque - 7/2/2012 1:19:28 AM

  • I appreciate and agree with the views of Mr Mubashir.
    By Raihan Nezami - 7/1/2012 9:43:44 PM

  • [reply to a similar question by Joseph Islam of www.quransmessage.com]

     Salamun Alaikum,

    You say:

    "So what should be the proper meaning of this idiom in the context of 23:6 which gives the permission of sex with mates(azwajihim ) OR "those that your right hands possess". It does not mention explicitly that it required to marry these category of "those that your right hands possess"

    [Bold emphasis mine]

    With respect, any ‘perceived’ difficulty is removed if the following section of the article is considered:

    [Start of quote]


    "Women who are from the category of ‘right hands possess’ are not ‘free’ women in the same sense. They are either slaves or captures. When one takes them in marriage, all the rules of responsibility of wedlock on part of the male applies to the one he marries. However, this spouse still has reduced answerability such as her punishment in the case of ‘Fahisha’ (lewdness).

    There remains a crucial difference between a marriage based on complete freedom of choice exacted by a 'free believer' without circumstantial influence and one based on compromises, incentives such as freedom, status and financial stability gained through a compromise marriage. These differences in choices based on free and non-free parties are clearly recognized. Hence the noted difference in answerability as well"

    [End of quote]

    Therefore, the Quran classifies two separate categories. This does not mean they do not have to be married. All the verse 23:6 says is 'Except from their spouses or what their right hands possess'. It makes no mention of 'Nikaah'. It just addresses two separate categories and assumes ‘Nikaah’ (Lawful wedlock). The fact that both categories have to be married to make sex lawful is clear from verse 4:25.

    With respect, I see no difficulty here if one clearly acknowledges why the Quran addresses the two categories separately. If this is accepted, then any further attempts to ‘redefine’ ‘right hands possess' become mute.

    I hope that helps, God willing.

    By Mubashir - 7/1/2012 2:17:20 PM

  • Corrected post:

    The Quran is a beacon of equality, justice, fairness,  commonsense and compassion. Any message that we wish to adduce from the Quran must be subjected to those five tests. If it fails on any of those five tests, it should be re-examined, re-contextualized, re-interpreted and refined.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 7/1/2012 1:14:16 PM

  • @Manzoorul Huq.There is no dispute that sex with slave was in vogue in those days (as theQur’an ws under revelation.) Therefore, if you and I interpreted the notedverses in that era, we will render it in the traditional way.

    Thatinterpretation will be specific to the era. But if we want to adduce themessage of the Qur’an for all humanity for all time, we have to take account ofall the Qur’anic verses relating to man-woman relationship andrights/privileges as this article has attempted to do. We will then reach atthe tabled universal interprettaon of the noted verses. We have to appreciatethat the Qur’an could not ignore the prevalent realities at any given moment ofthe revelation.

    Therefore any revelation referring to a custom (sex with slavefor example) predating a set of laws that collectively abolish that custom mustbe necessarily regarded as context specific and reinterpreted post revelationas the article attempts to do.   

    By muhammad yunus (1) - 7/1/2012 8:49:45 AM

  • The Quran is a beacon of equality, justice, fairness and commonsense. Any message that we wish to adduce from the Quran must be subjected to those four tests. If it fails on any of those tests, it should be examined, re-interpreted and refined.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 6/26/2012 2:42:37 PM

  • If neutral universal translation is this: “(Believers/Prayerful) preserve their private parts (23:4/ 70:29) - except from their spouses (azwaj), that is (awe) those under their lawful trust (ma malakat ayman), and then (they are) not blame worthy (23:5/ 70:30).” , then all disputes on the issue are over.
    But suppose it turns out that sex with slave girl was possible in those days without wedding, then the following may be relevant. Nikah in the nature of a bilateral contract is neither needed not possible with a slave-girl and to take the slave into sexual relationship would be entirely unilateral decision of the man, but after she has been taken into sexual relationship by her master, she virtually becomes a wife.

    There is no question of prostitution as an option. It was never there and it can never be. This ambiguous state remained obviously for a limited period because; slavery was not abolished by Islam overnight, like stopping usury, or drinking etc. Slavery was abolished by encouraging abolition through several means perhaps because slaves were human beings and not merely objects like liquor, or money, and there was so much of economic insecurity those days; and more than abolition, rehabilitation of slaves in a slave-ridden society was an important issue.

    By Manzoorul Haque - 6/26/2012 1:24:45 PM

  • ?????? ?????As-Salaamu alaykum sharua,muslimfitforlife,guests! Perhaps the maintaing is the hardest but alhamdulillaah being half-way balanced in our goals is better than nothing and surely in striving is great reward inshaAllaah. -sharuaThanks for the wisdom sharua,and muslimfitforlife!I try to remember that goals in the life of this world are important,and that Islam is meant to be lived out there,in the REAL world and not just as theory in the masjid, or on the computer.However,it is our niyyah or intention that,I believe,should always remain priority number one.Our goals are always being challenged by external,and more importantly~internal,forces.A daily revision of our short and long term goals with Muslims close to us,and in our rememberence/supplication to Allah(subhana wa t''ala) not only keeps us in reality check about our goals,it allows us to prioritize our ever changing time-constraints and challenges in life with those very goals.In the U.S. we have a somewhat crude colloquialism that I''ll more politely refer to as: STUFF happens ,meaning(to me as a Muslim) life (via Qadr through the Majesty of Allah) CONSTANTLY challenges our intentions to test our love/fortitude for Him.This IS an act of love,and the ultimate purpose of our life as Muslims. Goals for the sake of goals MUST leave us drained and disappointed,even when we MEET THOSE goals .Sometimes the things/achievements that we think we want are the absolute worst things/achievements for us to obtain .I''m 39/40(solar/lunar,so I''m islamically 40 hahaha),and am at a very reflective time in my life,accompanied by a recent 35-40 pound weight loss(20 to go,insha''Allah) and a reflective rvision of where I want the rest of my half-over/half-left life to go.Allah knows best.Allah is The Knower and has ALREADY DECIDED which of my goals will be met,and which ones won''t.It is indeed in our striving for great reward that is the most imperative part of our lives.In retrospect,some of the greatest blessings that I''ve had in my early middle-aged life seemed like DEVASTATING hardships at the time.The self-doubt,guilt,delusion over sins or unmet goals can overwhelm us in the moment.We''ve all been there,even the youngest of the readers here have experienced this in their young lives. Allah remembers those who REMEMBER HIM in adversity and strength,sickness and health,poverty and wealth.However,I don''t want to take away anything from this post,or what muslimfitforlife is doing in general with this site:It'' DESPERATELY needed,especially for brothers(we don''t discuss excercise,diet,grooming,finance,and the like enough with each other).And it is guidance in those areas of life,in addition to the spiritual guidance that Islam provides,that brought many converts like myself to this wonderful way of life 13 years ago,al-hamdulillah!Jazak Allah Khayr(Thanks),~Musa( Marquis , Rooted On Clouds ,whatever ?)
    By Charlie - 6/26/2012 11:56:39 AM

  • Both Prophet Solomon as mentioned in Sahih Bukhari, book of Nikah 3:110 and the (Exalted Messenger) in Bukhari, Book of Nikah 3:52 had many wives and that led to them to have sex to many women. From the Quran's point of view is justifiable since at least they had all the women to be their wives as mentioned in Sahih Bukhari, Book #62, Hadith #4, "...Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him...(...from committing illegal sexual intercourse etc.)..."

    However, would this be justifiable to have so many wives to be in this modern days? Even so, it might not be justifiable or permitted by state and even the burden, such as, the cost of living and etc., that a person has to support many wives.

    Quran only restricts one wife is enough if that muslim could not do justly with many wives. Let's meditate carefully the verse below:

    An-Nisa, Chapter #4, Verse #3, "And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan-girls then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three, or four; but IF YOU FEAR THAT YOU SHALL NOT BE ABLE TO DEAL JUSTLY (WITH THEM), then ONLY ONE or or (the slaves) that your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice."

    As the phrase, if you fear that you shall not deal justly (with them -all his married women) is mentioned in An-Nisa, Chapter #4, Verse #3 with the phrase, then only one, Quran only restricts a muslim to have a wife if he fears that he could not deal justly with many wives. Nowadays all muslim women are educated. To have more than one wife, other wives would not be happy and would have jeolousy or unhappiness with you, how could you as a muslim have more than one wife to deal justly with them? In the ancient days, it could be possible to have many wife without jeolousy and unhappiness due to women were not educated in the past. In order to deal justly with women, you should ask your wife to find out whether she permits you to have many wives. If she or more women disallow, how could you deal justly with them? Thus, only one wife is permissible from the Quran's point of view.

    Take note of the phrase, if you fear that you shall not deal justly (with them -all his married women), as mentioned above.

    By ZUMA - 5/6/2012 7:21:27 AM

  • Mr. Zuma if Bukhari can be relied for what you have said then what about the references of Bukhari in the link mentioned below?


    By sadaf - 5/5/2012 12:46:20 PM

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