Why does Islam advocate Kanizes (Slave girls)? Is it not prostitution?
Islam does not advocate Kanizes (Slave girls).
Islam has always been against the very existence of the institution of slavery. Nevertheless, like most of the other social phenomena, slavery too, because of its deep roots in the society, could not have been abolished by a single stroke of the ruler’s pen. It needed not only the provision of settlement opportunities for these slaves but also altering the social attitudes towards them. Islam, from the very beginning aimed at altering the social attitudes of the people towards slaves and slave girls. However, we see that the roots of this institution were so deep that even after twenty-three years of education, it was still not possible to completely abolish the institution. The maximum that could have been done was to give the slaves the choice of freedom, and that is exactly what Islam did.
During this process, it was necessary not only to better the social status of the slaves in the society but also to recognize the relationship between the slaves and their masters. It is in this context, that Islam has recognized the existing sexual relationship between a master and his slave girls. It must, however, be remembered that Islam has not promoted a new relationship but has accepted and recognized an existing one. In other words, Islam did not, for the first time allow sexual relations with slave girls but only recognized an already existing relationship between a slave girl and her master to be legal, for as long as the institution of slavery existed.
You have asked whether such a relationship between a slave girl and his master could be termed as ‘Prostitution’ or not. I believe that this question can only be asked if a person either does not know what prostitution is or is unaware of the relationship that existed between a master and his slave girl.
Prostitution has been defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica in the following words:
the practice of engaging in relatively indiscriminate sexual activity, in general with individuals other than a spouse or friend, in exchange for immediate payment in money or other valuables.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Encyclopedic Dictionary has defined a ‘Prostitute’ as:
a person who offers herself/himself for sexual intercourse for money.
Keeping these definitions in mind, nobody can term the recognition of the existing relationship between a master and his slave girls as ‘Prostitution’. The Qur’an has condemned those people who used to enforce prostitution upon their slave girls. We, therefore, cannot say that the Qur’an has encouraged or opened the doors for prostitution.
However, on the other hand, one may feel that the Qur’an has opened the door for extra-marital sexual relationships (fornication/ adultery) by recognizing sexual relations between a master and his slave girl. I believe that this opinion would again evidence a person’s lack of true understanding about the concept of the allowed and the disallowed sexual relationships in the eyes of Islam.
The only permanent relationship that Islam has allowed is the one, which is preceded by Nikah. The relationship between a master and his slave girl was recognized and accepted in the specific conditions of the Arab society at the time of the advent of Islam. As soon as the prevalent conditions of the society changed and the institution of slavery was completely abolished, the provision of this relationship also became redundant. However, till such time as this institution existed, the relationship, which it entailed was not considered as fornication or adultery by the society. A person could have sexual relations with his slave girl, as long as she remained his slave girl. This was not a hidden relationship. It was fully recognized and supported by the society. Because of this recognition and support, it was not and cannot be considered fornication or adultery. This relationship was given a status, which, in its roots, was not very different from the relationship between a husband and a wife. For example, both these relationships were legally and, to a great extent, morally recognized by the society; and both were declared, rather than hidden, relationships.
25th August 1998