I looked at the responses on this site regarding the subject matter of slavery and especially the concept that Islam allows the Muslim male to have sexual relations with the what his “…right hand possesses”, even though they are not married. Initially I thought that this was adultery and sought to clear up my confusion. In a translation of the Meaning of Qur’an, in the notes section of the New edition of Yusuf Ali, one of the commentators not Ali, wrote that this whole matter (right hand possesses) was in regard to a Muslim male is allowed to marry a slave girl as well as a free girl. This interpretation was made because at the time of the Prophet (saws), the idea of marrying a slave girl was seen as abominable. But now, with the ayahs referring to “right hand possesses” a slave girl has the same status as a free girl in regards to the issue of eligibility for marriage. As a result, once the Muslim male MARRIES the slave girl, the verses saying that sexual relations is allowed with the slave girl, seem plausible in the sense that adultery is not being committed. This view of the issue seemed to reconcile my mind. Then I wanted to affirm this line of thought and went to the site www.islam-qa.com and found out that this view that I had in mind was not being confirmed by the responses of this site. The response was that Muslim males are allowed to have sexual relations with what his right hand possesses, even though they are not married. So, now I am in confusion again.
I came across this site1 and I now understand the principle that Islam wanted to systematically abolish slavery, and that it would have been disastrous in terms of the Revelation to flourish if slavery were to be eliminated at once since it was deeply rooted (the people had to be cultured with the right mentality). I understand that the Prophet (saws) emphasized the tremendous virtues of freeing slaves, and the idea of slowly discouraging the masses to stop enslaving the people who were prisoners of war, sort of similar to the gradual annulment of drinking alcohol. BUT in the case of alcohol, there is command recognized by Shari`ah to ban alcohol. Is there any similar hukm to ban slavery? I have read the question regarding slavery in today’s time, where the supposed ban on slavery comes from International treaties that “Muslim countries” agreed to, not specifically from the legislative sources that is Qur’an and Sunnah, therefore Shari`ah. What I mean is that there is no place where Islam is fully implemented, meaning the whole aspect of Islam’s rulings of economics, society, law, and so on as your site has stated in the question of “What is the Shari`ah?” In Islam, Allah (swt) is sovereign and the way to establish this attribute is for the Muslim people to obey the Hukm of the Creator. BUT there is no place on Earth as of now whether Muslim dominated (in terms of population) or non-Muslim dominated where Allah (swt) is the sovereign, meaning all the principles of Islam is functioning such that there is a Khalifah as part of the political system that is based on the aqeedah of Islam (not a theocracy or secular or a mixture of man-made systems) where this political aspect is in integration with social, economical, and judicial aspects of Islam to form a State that is not separated by the ideas of nationalism but is based on the divine bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood that makes up the Ummah. Just to clarify, the state is for non-Muslims and Muslims where all rules and regulations of Allah (swt) must be administered except for the spiritual aspects in regards to the non-Muslims, because there is “No compulsion in these matters”.
I made this point to show that on what basis do you say that slavery is banned? If it is a result of treaties based on secular/man-made laws from Muslim lands where Allah (swt) is NOT sovereign meaning where man becomes the standard for what is lawful and unlawful such as in a democracy or any other system where mankind is given the power to make laws. I can say for example by international agreement it is allowable to sell alcohol throughout the world. As Muslims do we silently accept it? No. We know that we cannot facilitate the haram because we know that from Shari`ah that alcohol is forbidden. So, in a similar line of thought we cannot say slavery is abolished and now the verses of the “right hand possesses” do not apply because did this ruling come from the processes in Usul-ul-Fiqh/Shari`ah, or from non-Islamic resources, such as governments not based on Islam. Again with the question if there was a war, and Muslims got prisoners of war, where some were women. Is it allowed under Islamic principles first of all to have them as slaves as the Qur’an allows it and then to engage in sexual relations without marriage, as the Qur’an allows it? I understand that slavery is discouraged in Islam. BUT is it haram like alcohol? I guess my ultimate question is that is slavery mubah and if it is then is having sexual relations with what “the right hand possesses” without marriage mubah? We need to go to the tools of Usul-ul-Fiqh to clarify this very disturbing matter of having sexual relations without marriage.
We cannot simply rationalize our way out of this problem because we know that the human intellect in Islam is not the source of legislation but only the divine texts, which are the Qur’an and Hadeeth. The intellect is a gift from Allah (swt) to differentiate us from the rest of creation so that we may obey Him. It should be used to help us function physically in terms of seeing, moving, as well as a tool for us that we have to develop, so that it attains the status of a prerequisite in order to examine what Allah (swt) decreed, not as a standard of judgment, this power is reserved for Allah (swt).
Jazak Allahu Khayrun for your time and effort in reading this e-mail.
Congratulations to you and your contributors for a resourceful, user-friendly website. A response will be greatly appreciated. Please send the response to my e-mail account.
May Allah (swt) keep us on the Straight Path.
Answers to your questions follow:
Your first question is:
… on what basis do you say that slavery is banned?
As an answer to your question, I would like you to consider the following points:
Slavery was an established and socially accepted institution at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) – the time of the revelation of the Qur’an.
In this environment, which accepted slavery as an established institution of the society, the Qur’an as well as the Prophet (pbuh) took a number of steps, aimed toward:
Improving the social and socio-moral status of the slaves;
Creating and promoting awareness of the socio-moral vice involved in enslaving a person;
Promoting the freeing of slaves as one of the most aspired and virtuous deeds;
Closing the doors of making slaves of prisoners of wars;
Giving the slaves the legal right to buy their freedom from their masters in the shape of a contract between the slave and the master; and
Prescribing ‘freeing of slaves’ as one of the permanent heads of the funds generated through the collection of Zaka’h.
After a long struggle (throughout the world) against the institution of slavery, the world has finally been relieved of the great socio-moral vice of this institution2.
It is quite clear that even during the times when the whole world was drowned in the moral vice involved in the acceptance of the institution of slavery, Islam took all the possible steps to discourage its promotion and promote its abolition. Keeping this obvious corollary in perspective, I really do not see any option but to submit that after the world has been completely relieved of the great vice of slavery, Islam would be strictly against its reinstatement in the world. All efforts of reinstatement of this institution would obviously be in clear contradiction of all the steps taken by Islam for the social and socio-moral reformation of the society, especially with respect to the institution of slavery.
If it is a result of treaties based on secular/man-made laws from Muslim lands where Allah (swt) is NOT sovereign – meaning where man becomes the standard for what is lawful and unlawful such as in a democracy or any other system where mankind is given the power to make laws.
I suppose you imply that if the Shari`ah has not clearly prohibited enslaving others, then no international treaties – especially with secular nations – should hinder us in making slaves of our enemies.
I completely disagree with you. Firstly, as I have explained earlier, the whole spirit of the directives of the Shari`ah entail a clear spirit of reforming the society and ultimately reaching a stage where the complete abolition of the institution of slavery becomes possible. Thus, after the abolition of the institution of slavery from the world, it would be clearly against the directives of the Shari`ah to make any efforts of reinstating the institution.
Secondly, the Qur’an clearly wants a Muslim state to enter and abide by any international agreements – even agreements with not only secular, but also polytheistic and clearly rejecting nations – which are based on moral principles and are not against any clear directives of the Shari`ah. The Qur’an says:
Let not your hatred for a nation – because it stopped you from the Masjid-e-Haraam – incite you to transgress against them. Cooperate with them in matters of obedience and piety but do not cooperate with them in matters of sin and transgression. (Al-Maaidah 5:2)
Furthermore, the Qur’an has clearly mentioned abiding by our contracted agreements as a religious obligation. The Qur’an says:
They [i.e. the obedient] are most abiding in their agreements, when they enter into it. (Al-Baqarah 2:177)
At another instance, the Qur’an says:
Abide by your agreements; Indeed, every agreement shall be enquired into [on the Day of Judgment]. (Al-Israa 17:34)
At another instance, it says:
And [the true believers are] those, who dearly guard their trusts and their agreements. (Al-Mu’minoon 23:8, Al-Ma`aarij 70:32)
The Qur’an also directs us to abide by these contracts under all circumstances. Two such instances are specifically mentioned in the Qur’an. At one instance, the Qur’an says that if a person – even if he has committed a crime, which subjects him to be killed by the Muslim state – takes refuge with a nation with whom the Muslim state has entered a no-war pact, then no action should be taken against the absconder. The no-war pact should still be abided by the Muslim state3. At another instance, the Qur’an says that it is an obligation on a Muslim state to help other Muslims, if they are subjected to religious persecution by another (non-Muslim) state; However, if the Muslim state has entered a no-war pact with that non-Muslim state, then even such a help cannot be extended to the oppressed Muslims4.
Keeping these two points in perspective, I consider abiding by the said international agreement regarding the prisoners of wars as religiously binding upon all Muslim states of the world.
My dear brother, we must also keep in mind that the present international agreements against slavery do not only stop us from making slaves of other nations, they also secure us – and our own mothers, sisters and daughters – from becoming slaves and concubines of other nations. Would it really be advisable to disregard such morally and socially sound agreements?
I can say for example by international agreement it is allowable to sell alcohol throughout the world. As Muslims, do we silently accept it?
No Muslim state is under any obligation, through any international agreement to allow the imports of alcoholic drinks. Why should the Muslims object to any agreement, which does not force them into disobedience toward the Almighty?
Again with the question if there was a war, and Muslims got prisoners of war, where some were women. Is it allowed under Islamic principles first of all to have them as slaves as the Qur’an allows it…
No. Muslims are bound by the Shari`ah to abide by their agreements with other states. Furthermore, it should remain clear that the Qur’an does not ‘allow’ making slaves; on the contrary, it has only ‘accepted’ the institution of slavery, till the time that it is completely abolished. In fact, the Qur’an has clearly discouraged making slaves of prisoners of wars and has directed the Muslims to either set them free, as a show of graciousness or by taking money in return of their freedom (Muhammad 47: 4).
You further ask:
… and then to engage in sexual relations without marriage, as the Qur’an allows it?
Establishing sexual relations with a slave girl was a part of the slave-societies. With the abolition of the slave-societies, the provision of sexual relations with slave girls has clearly become redundant.
I understand that slavery is discouraged in Islam. BUT is it haram like alcohol?
Till the time that slavery existed in the world, the Qur’an accepted its existence, while paving the path of its abolition. Now that the said institution is completely abolished, the Qur’an would obviously want it to remain abolished. Does this not mean that the reinstatement of the institution should be considered as prohibited?
I guess my ultimate question is that is slavery mubah and if it is then is having sexual relations with what “the right hand possesses” without marriage mubah?
I believe that these questions have been adequately answered in the preceding paragraphs.
We cannot simply rationalize our way out of this problem because we know that the human intellect in Islam is not the source of legislation but only the divine texts, which are the Qur’an and Hadeeth.
I really do not understand what you imply by ‘rationalization’. My opinion regarding the said topic is derived from the Qur’an. Though I do not claim to be absolutely correct in deriving the stated opinion, however, as long as my derivation is not challenged on the basis of the Qur’an, I would remain satisfied ascribing to it. I would, therefore, suggest that you take a close look at all the bases of my derivation and let me know the mistakes, which, in your opinion, I have committed in making the said derivations.
I hope this helps.
January 31, 2001