Sex with Slaves and Women’s Rights

Wa `alaykum as-Salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh:

The following is a response on the issues of female slaves in Islam in reply to two sets of questions.

The First Set of Questions

Is it permissible for a man to have sexual intercourse with his female slaves?

I came across tafseer of the beginning verses of Surat-Al-Mu’minoon (Al-Mawdudi), [The Yusuf Ali translation reads, "who abstain from sex, except with those joined in the marriage bond [spouses], or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,-for (in their case) they are free of blame.”] and I was kind of shocked and surprised that he states it is permissable for a man to have sexual intercourse with female slaves in his possession, in addition to his legal wives (v.5-6).


Slavery is unlawful (1) in the absence of the Caliph of the Muslims AND (2) unless it results from captives following a lawful war. Even so, there was always the alternative to {let the captives go free, either with or without any ransom} (47:4). Furthermore, the Ottoman Caliphate had declared – long before the US Abolition – that it prohibited slavery in its realm. Further preliminary remarks before addressing the questions: It should be clear that Islam raised the status of slaves higher than that of free men in un-Islamic societies even by modern standards. The author of The House of Saud, an American journalist, recounts how the staff and management of the New York Waldorf-Astoria hotel were horrified that King Faysal in an early US visit had not only allowed his black servant into the state dining room but had seated him at his very table – a “white-only” table in a “white-only” room! They had no idea that even slaves in Islam had to be FED and CLOTHED with the same food and clothing as their owner as the Prophet upon him peace, had stipulated in his “last pilgrimage” speech: “And your slaves! see that you feed them such food as you eat yourselves and dress them with what you yourself wear. And if they commit a mistake which you are not inclined to forgive then sell them, for they are the servants of Allah and are not to be tormented!” In another hadith he said, upon him blessings and peace: “Be kind to slaves as to your own children…and those that say their prayers are your brethren.” A contemporary commentator said:

“The masters were obliged not to put slaves under hardship; slaves were not to be tortured, abused or treated unjustly. They could marry among themselves – with their master’s permission – or with free men or women! They could appear as witnesses and participate with free men in all affairs. Many of them were appointed as governors, commanders of army and administrators. In the eyes of Islam, a pious slave has precedence over an impious free man.” Al-Tabataba’i, Tafsir (16:338-358).

What ignorant times we live in, in which a nation that used a legally-enforceable concept of “white-only” since its inception and then went on to use it for two centuries, now crusades against Islam and the rest of the world over self-proclaimed civilizational values. Islam restored dignity to slaves and enhanced their social status both by ancient and modern standards. Islam made no distinction between a slave or a free man, all were treated with equality. It was this fact that attracted non-Muslim slaves to Islam in droves. As someone said, it is sad to see that those who never cease to be vociferous in their unjust criticism of Islam remain blind to this principle of equality when even in this age there are countries where laws are made that discriminate against the vast majority of population to keep them in practical servitude.

As for the allegations of slavery made by the US and UK against Islamic Sudan they are part of a joint missionary and government rogue propaganda campaign against an Islamic government which has always condemned and actively repressed instances of abuse in inter-tribal warfare, while there has never been anything remotely near a full-fledged slave trade, cf. the Sudan Foundation papers by David Hoile posted in full:

Fiqhi rulings pertaining to the slave period

What follows concerns the Fiqhi rulings pertaining to the slave period even if the present tense is used. I’m far too ignorant to make judgments about the verse and that hukum taken from it, so I wanted to ask if you could explain the verse, if that opinion is generally accepted and why. Do these verses refer solely to men, or women Believers also?

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