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According to

The Quran also gives devout Muslim men license to capture women and use them as sex slaves, lest four wives prove insufficient.

The same site also makes the following claim:

The Qur'an actually devotes more verses to making sure that Muslim men know they can keep women as sex slaves than it does to telling them to pray five times a day.

As evidence, it provides the following verses (among others):

Qur'an (33:50) - "O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those (slaves) whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee" This is one of several personal-sounding verses "from Allah" narrated by Muhammad - in this case allowing himself a virtually unlimited supply of sex partners. Others are restrained to four wives, but may also have sex with any number of slaves, as the following verse make clear:

Qur'an (23:5-6) - "..who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess..." This verse permits the slave-owner to have sex with his slaves. See also Qur'an (70:29-30).

Qur'an (4:24) - "And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess." Even sex with married slaves is permissible.

Bukhari (62:137) - An account of women taken as slaves in battle by Muhammad's men after their husbands and fathers were killed. The woman were raped with Muhammad's approval.

(Many other verses referenced at the links above).

Is this an accurate understanding of these verses? If so, is this behavior still practiced and/or permitted? And if not, why the change?

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I have a doubt. Just to make it more precise. The only time Islam permits to take slaves during the war i.e. the war prisoners and this is for their protection. Refer -… . Can I assume your question means Does Islam permit Muslim men to rape their slave girls? Or is it something else? – Abdullah Jun 25 '12 at 19:04
@refhat: The only source I have is the link I provided in the question. – Flimzy Jun 25 '12 at 19:07
@refhat: I found some "references" on that site, and added a few to the question. Some of them still look rather dubious to me... – Flimzy Jun 25 '12 at 19:20
why do you use the word "rape" before you get the answer ?!, i think it's impolite word against islam according to the information given in the best answer. – MhdSyrwan Jul 4 '12 at 2:14
about this : "An account of women taken as slaves in battle by Muhammad's men after their husbands and fathers were killed. The woman were raped with Muhammad's approval." these words are not mentioned in your source – MhdSyrwan Jul 4 '12 at 5:13

6 Answers 6

The Quran was written in a certain socio-cultural environment. In that environment and era, slavery was not only common but quite the norm. See Slavery article in Wikipedia for history.

In Arabia, before Islam, non-criminal sexual relationships between sexes comprised of three forms:

  1. Between husband and wife
  2. With slaves
  3. Out of wedlock and outside of slavery

When the Quran was being written, it "initially" rooted out sexual relationships that were not between spouses or with slaves. That's where one finds verses such as those quoted in the question:

Qur'an (23:5-6) - "...who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess..." This verse permits the slave-owner to have sex with his slaves. See also Qur'an (70:29-30).

At the same time, the Quran exhorted, either as expiation of sins or as an act of piety, for Muslims to start freeing slaves. Thus, for example, act of piety:

"And what could make thee conceive what it is, that steep uphill road? [It is] the freeing of a slave" (The Quran 90:12-13)

and expiation of sin:

"Hence, as for those who would separate themselves from their wives by saying, "Thou art as unlawful to me as my mother," and thereafter would go back on what they have said, [their atonement] shall be the freeing of a slave before the couple may touch one another again: this you are [hereby] exhorted to do - for God is fully aware of all that you do." (The Quran 58:3)

Keep in mind that these are all Meccan surahs, i.e. an Islamic state had not yet been established.

We find that in the Medinan surah Al-Nur, the Quran asks Muslims to marry away (and free) their slaves:

AND [you ought to] marry the single from among you as well as such of your male and female slaves as are fit [for marriage]. If they are poor, [let this not deter you;] God will grant them sufficiency out of His bounty – for God is infinite [in His mercy], all-knowing. (The Quran 24:32)

The clause "if they are poor" indicates that one of the issues in freeing all the slaves in one go was also related to their being able to support themselves, since they were dependents of their owners.

In the following verse, it even asks owner to give the slaves part of their wealth.

... And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if ye know any good in them: and give them [their share] of the wealth of God which He has given you. And do not, in order to gain some of the fleeting pleasures of this worldly life, coerce your [slave] maidens into whoredom if they happen to be desirous of marriage;...! (The Quran 24:33)

Thus, we may conclude that the Quran was gradually ending the slavery with the final edict to marry them off or write a contract of their freedom. Once the slavery ended, the question of having sexual relationships with slaves does not remain.

The fact that the Quran commands in the verse above that the slave ought to be free may also be taken as an indication that slavery is not tolerable in Islam anymore. Thus Abdullah Yusuf Ali writes in his commentary (note #2992) for this verse:

Where slavery was legal, what is now called the "white slave traffic" was carried on by wicked people like 'Abd Allah ibn Ubayy, the Hypocrite leader at Madinah. This is absolutely condemned. While modern nations have abolished ordinary slavery, the "White Slave Traffic" is still a big social problem in individual States. Here it is absolutely condemned. No more despicable trade can be imagined.

I can likewise provide opinions of other commentators but many are in non-English languages (usually Arabic and some in Urdu).

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Your conclusion is unclear. You stated "slavery is not tolerable in Islam anymore" which seems to mean "muslim men are not allowed to take slaves", yet, the Quran quotes you made only suggests "should not", and not "cannot". The only thing mentioning "cannot" is the commentary you provided from Abdullah Yusuf Ali. – Pacerier Jul 30 '14 at 16:48
Good answer but why not directly say no? If slaves can have their own wealth and property why wouldn't they have rights over their own sexuality? – Jason Aug 29 at 15:00
Can you back this statement slavery is not tolerable in Islam anymore with Quran or Sunnah? Are you saying that the companions and the followers were wrong in buying and using slaves? – American Muslim Sep 1 at 3:51

This topic of sex with slaves is again in focus after recent events in Middle east where ISIS or Islamic state is reported to have taken Yazidi women as slaves and allowed sex with them.

It is a misconception that Islam allows sex with slaves without marriage. Most people who say that it is allowed quote 23:5-7

And they who guard their private parts Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors Quran 23:5-7

The same people who quote these verses as evidence for having sex without marriage with slave are forced to put some restrictions like sex is not allowed if slave is married to someone else (which Quran permits) and also that female master is not allowed to have sex with male slave etc. So in effect they are agreeing that this verse is not a full licence for master to have sex with slave.

As we know Quran verses explains one another, the verse in question [23:5-7] is explained in detail in [4:23-24]. In this verse all prohibited women for marriage are mentioned and says all other women including slaves are allowed with this clause

[provided] that you seek them [in marriage] with [gifts from] your property, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse. Quran 4:24

here the words used for seek is ibthaghu (بْتَغُوا ) same word used in 23:5-7 but explains how the seeking is. It is by giving mahr or dower to the bride, desiring chastity and not unlawful sexual intercourse. This mahr which is given by groom to bride should be accepted by bride in the presence of witness, so this makes her consent important. If she disagree on the mahr, marriage will not take place. Here the Arabic word used for "desiring chasity" is Muhsineena (مُّحْصِنِينَ ) which also mean "in marriage", like muhsnaath (مُحْصَنَاتُ) means married women.

One point raised by those who say 23:5-7 is proof for sex with slaves without marriage is why Quran separates wives and "right hand possession" in this verse ? The reason why wives and captives are mentioned separately is to show that if one is not able to marry free believing women, then seek believing slaves women (in marriage ) than going for illegal relations, as mentioned in 4:25. That is why Quran used "OR" and not "AND" when mentioning wives and those their right hand possess in 23:6. In Quran verse 33:50 also we can see wives and those who can be married separated,

O Prophet, indeed We have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have given their due compensation and those your right hand possesses from what Allah has returned to you [of captives] and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts and the daughters of your maternal uncles and... Quran 33:50

Of course the above verse is not justification for having sex without marriage with daughters of your paternal uncles, paternal aunts etc.

There are other proofs in Quran that forbids relationship with slave without marriage like

  • Quran says to not have conjugal relationship with polytheists 2:221,24:26 . So if captured women are polytheists then they cannot be even married because Quran says to marry believing captives.
  • If the captives who were captured become believers, then they cannot reveal themselves to their masters because Quran list the group of people to whom a believing woman can reveal herself in 24:31 . Her master is not in that list. See my related question here
  • Just like mentioned in 23:5-7 , a believer has to protect his/her private parts except with spouse, this applies to believing slave woman also. How can she have relationship with someone who is not her spouse ? related question here
  • Zina means sexual relationship outside marriage. Quran says to not come near Zina, then how can it allow a sexual relationship outside marriage ? How can Quran allow using woman as sexual commodity, people buying and selling women just for sex ?

This concept of having sex without marriage with slave is so problematic and against Quran, those who support this are left wandering without answers for many questions.

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Without playing gymnastics with Quranic verses can you also substantiate the answer with scholarly views and Hadith. – Islam Jan 31 at 12:29
Also see: its a fact that Prophet Muhammad pbuh did not marry Marie Qibtia, a christian slave. – Islam Jan 31 at 12:55
if marie Qibtia was a slave only, why this hadith says prophet (s.a) didn't leave any slaves when he died. Of course, Marie Qibtia died after prophet(s.a) – Abu Ziyad Mar 18 at 8:28
@Ziyad Maria al-Qibtia was a slave which have been given as a gift to our Prophet (peace be upon him) and as she had born Ibrahim the son of the Messenger (peace be upon him) she became mother of a child: This status automatically set her free! Therefore she was no slave when our Prophet (peace be upon him) died. – Medi1Saif Sep 1 at 5:01
@AbuZiyad because she died before the death of the Porphet (peace be upon him) after hajjat al-wada' and Allah knows best. This link… say she was um-almu'minyn. – Medi1Saif Nov 22 at 4:45

Taking slaves and/or concubines, generally, looks illogical practice at first. It is, but not, always. Let us revisit this matter, from a different angle. Can we take a free person as a slave? No, it is forbidden. Can we take prisoners of war as slaves? Yes. What is difference between a free man and a slave? You can only have dealings with the former with mutual agreement but you cannot own him or make him do whatever you wish for. In contrast, a slave is your property, you can do whatever you like to do with them, make them work in whatever way you desire. But since, they are also humans, Islam gives it a due consideration, and makes you responsible for their human needs, rather it raised their status even higher degree. It requires you to feed them from what you eat, wear them from what like for yourself, share their workload etc.

Now, drawing on the same lines, the case of women prisoners of war follows, but given to the sensitiveness of their nature and delicacy of handling their matter, Islam proposes what is best for them in after-war conditions. Again, comparing it with a legal practice called nikah, we may ask what is a 'nikah'? What makes it legitimate? It is nothing but an agreement between two parties to live together and fulfill each other's predetermined recorded rights. In case of war, just as the state reserves the right of distributing male war captives, it acts as a 'wali', guardian for the female captives, while as free will of the captives is seized due to their engagement in the war against Muslims. Just as Islam teaches its followers to be good with the male captives and issues guidelines for the same, it assigns female captives to individual men to make 'relationship' with, and gives them due rights, and gives them the status of 'umm walad', mother of the one's children, and makes her children heirs, just like other children from one's wife. This status is totally different from what opponents feel about 'sex slaves'. We can also consider war situations to support our views. How safe will be a captive woman, her chastity, a believer men's faith in avoiding falling into sin like 'zina', if one-to-one policy of relationship is not devised. The list can be stretched, after all, war has engulfed the globe now, and everybody can imagine, if not observe keenly, the war-like and after-war situations.

And of course, to free one's slave is always an option, desirable in some situations.

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You would also like to answer Is forced slavery(cause of rapes) allowed in Islam? – servant-of-Wiser Mar 18 at 19:16

Before answering your Questions, i'd like to explain my point of view by answering other questions.

Does islam allow slavery?

The short answer is:Yes islam allows slavery!

The Details: In the Time of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) slavery was something ordinary. Islam considered it as a temporal necessity which vanishes when its reasons/circumstances disappear. Therefore islam gave laws and rules for muslims about slavery including the following matters:

  • Which kind of slaves are allowed: we know that only prisoners of war can be taken as slaves and here we also know if they declare "islam" they won't be taken as slaves. And the Muslims at least could choose to free their prisoners of war etc.! An other possibility is to be born as a child of slaves in a muslims household.
  • Islam doesn't allow that a muslim could have muslim salves, muslims can't in any case make a muslim or (at least) one of the people of the book who live beside them a slave! But in medieval Europe an defaulter or debtor etc. could be made slave for his obligee/creditor! And prisoners of war no matter if they where Christians or Jews or anything else could be made slaves!
  • Rules how to treat a slave!
  • The rights of a slave: For example one can't force a slave to do something bad or a sin:

But let them who find not [the means for] marriage abstain [from sexual relations] until Allah enriches them from His bounty. And those who seek a contract [for eventual emancipation] from among whom your right hands possess - then make a contract with them if you know there is within them goodness and give them from the wealth of Allah which He has given you. And do not compel your slave girls to prostitution, if they desire chastity, to seek [thereby] the temporary interests of worldly life. And if someone should compel them, then indeed, Allah is [to them], after their compulsion, Forgiving and Merciful.

[Surat an-Nur (24:33)]

This Verse also shows that one could (is encouraged to) write a contract to free a slave or make contracts with slaves.

About the revealing of the last part of the verse It's narrated that a slave-girl (which according some narration has converted to islam) was forced to do zina (after her conversion) and before coming to medina she was used to do so.

Jabir reported that 'Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Salul used to say to his slave-girl: Go and fetch something for us by committing prostitution. It was in this connection that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, revealed this verse:" And compel not your slave-girls to prostitution when they desire to keep chaste in order to seek the frail goods of this world's life, and whoever compels them, then surely after their compulsion Allah is Forgiving, Merciful"

[Sahih Muslim and in a Version in Sunan abi Dawod the slave girl was named Musaykah]

  • Many expiations for sins where one could choose or has to free a slave.
  • Islam encouraged to free slave

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler - an obligation [imposed] by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise.

[Surat at-Tawba(9:60)]

  • If a man harm his slave the slave becomes free

'Amr bin Shu'aib narrated from his father that his grandfather said: “A man came to the Prophet (ﷺ) screaming. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to him: 'What is the matter with you?' He said: 'My master saw me kissing a slave woman of his, so he cut off my penis.' The Prophet (ﷺ) said: 'Take me to the man.' He was sought but could not be found, so the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: 'Go, for you are free.' He said: 'Who will protect me, O Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)? What if my master enslaves me again?' The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: 'Your protection will be (incumbent upon) every believer or Muslim.'”

[Sunan ibn Majah and an more detailed Version in Sunan abi Dawod]

  • We also have rules about relationships (intercourse/marriage) to female slaves (some of them see her):
    • a muslim master could have intercourse with a female slave (he owns) under some conditions (For example a slave woman could reject her master for reasons like illness etc.!), but a muslim woman is prohibited to have intercourse with a male slave.
    • A Muslim man could marry a female slave owned by an other Muslim man.
    • Apparently female slaves which are kufar, worship idols or polytheists are haram
    • No Muslim man could have intercourse with a female slave if the property (of the slave) is joint.
    • A Muslim man if having a relationship with one of his slaves, has to take in account that her sisters/mother etc. are automatically mahram for him as it would be with a free wife!
    • Some scholars say that a muslim master has no sexual rights over a married slave!
    • If a female slave which was a concubine of her master give birth to a child from him she is automatically free!
  • Islam encourages Muslims to free their slaves if they convert to islam!

From this we can conclude that it's not a goal of Islam to maintain slavery!

Some useful links (in Arabic):

How about today?

Most scholars today when being asked about slavery or mulk al yamyn and the rights of woman slaves etc. react by saying that they think that slavery nowadays doesn't exist (even in the form of a prisoner of war because of international agreements) and that the one who pretends having a slave should check well if the country his slave comes from is still allowing slavery as most muslim countries reject slavery officially.

This means most of them consider these questions as a theoretical/hypothetical question and if the questions includes information that a man nowadays has a kind of slave they would ask him to do repentance/expiation etc.

Now to your question:

Are muslim men allowed to take sex slaves?

If sex slaves means that the female slave would be harmed or raped or asked to do zina (having intercourse with different men) the answer will clearly be no as you can conclude from above!

In any other case it is allowed to have a concubine but with conditions as we can conclude from above (is the slave married/is she a polytheist...), that means if the conditions are fulfilled and the muslim man theoretically could have intercourse with the female slave he has the right to do so!

But as i mentioned nowadays this isn't possible as we have international contracts and therefore muslims can't make prisoners of war and therefore not have any kind of slaves!

And Allah knows best!

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you said "muslims can't make prisoners of war", prisoners of war are taken whenever war take place – Abu Ziyad Sep 1 at 9:03
@Ziyad but no more as slaves – Medi1Saif Sep 1 at 9:05
You said polytheist slaves are haram, did that mean master can have relationship with her only if she converts to Islam ? – Abu Ziyad Sep 1 at 9:31
@Ziyad according that what was quoted yes. It's considered as an interpretation of the Verse 221 from Surat al-Baqara (2) see also this Fatwa in Arabic… – Medi1Saif Sep 1 at 9:58
So to avoid giving her master the right to sex over her she can just refuse to convert to Islam !! – Abu Ziyad Sep 1 at 10:04

Is this an accurate understanding of these verses?

It yes. I don't understand how many Muslims would try to argue something the Prophet, Companions and followers of the companions did. Opposed to what many people think, Islam was never meant to stop slavery, only regulate it. If it was meant to stop it, it would ordain it like it did to stop drinking or wear Hijab.

If so, is this behavior still practiced and/or permitted?

I don't think it is still practiced except with ISIS (from what I hear Note: I am against ISIS btw as an America). It is still permitted and anyone who says is not, is making Haram of Something that Allah made Halal. However, since the consensus around the world (made via UN resolutions) outlaw slavery, it can not be practiced unless a leader changes that for their country, then it is only allowed in such countries.

And if not, why the change?

For those who say it is not allowed, it is more of trying to make themselves look good, which IMO is the opposite. Slavery is not a bad thing for humanity. Think about the millions of people who die during wars (it is not like countries take POW's, instead they kill them). It would have been much better for those people to become slave with a very good chance of being freed by their country/families instead.

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I think you need to decide whether your authority lies with the religion that you claim to practice or the UN and most of the rest of humanity – amphibient Aug 14 at 4:53
Because if you claim that this rule is out of date, how do you decide which ones (if any) are still compatible – amphibient Aug 14 at 4:55
Its not an accurate understanding since "sex slave" implies that rape is ok which it is not. If you think so then quote the quran because the questioner did not, and if you dont think this then please update your answer. – Jason Aug 21 at 23:20
@Jason The OP did indeed post the Ayah (Multiple) where it allows a man to have sex with their slaves, thus the term "sex slaves". – American Muslim Aug 22 at 0:01
@AmericanMuslim That term means to have a non-consentual sexual relationship which is different than what the Quran is talking about (slaves as a group of people/property). – Jason Aug 22 at 1:18

Firstly one should not sensationalize this issue by using the term "Sex Slave", rather they are just slaves who are either bought from places where human slaves were (or are?) sold or war booty. They don't have the single purpose of sex but can also be used as helpers. The Quran did not prohibit slavery although it did prohibit the Alcoholism which was also prevalent in those times.

There is an overwhelming consensus among the scholars that sex with slaves is permissible and that even Prophet Abraham had slave Hajara who he did not marry but had son from her.

Once you marry the slave they are no longer slave but your spouse hence this distinction should not be confused with.

Ibn Katheer said:

Taking a concubine as well as a wife is permissible according to the law of Ibraaheem (peace be upon him). Ibraaheem did that with Haajar, when he took her as a concubine when he was married to Saarah. Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 1/383

And Ibn Katheer also said regarding Prophet Muhammad pbuh himself took concubines Rayhaanah bint Sham’oon al-Nadariyyah and Maariyah al-Qibtiyyah without marrying them and had a son from the latter which could not survive:

The phrase “and those (slaves) whom your right hand possesses — whom Allaah has given to you” [al-Ahzaab 33:50] means, it is permissible for you take concubines from among those whom you seized as war booty. He took possession of Safiyyah and Juwayriyah and he freed them and married them; he took possession of Rayhaanah bint Sham’oon al-Nadariyyah and Maariyah al-Qibtiyyah, the mother of his son Ibraaheem (peace be upon them both), and they were among his concubines, may Allaah be pleased with them both.

Scholarly works:

The Book of Allaah indicates that the sexual relationships that are permitted are only of two types, either marriage or those (women slaves) whom one’s right hand possesses. Al-Umm, 5/43.

If so, is this behavior still practiced and/or permitted? And if not, why the change?

Yes this is still practised at least in Saudi Arabia but due to the various UN resolutions and geneva conventions such countries hide them(Which consider Shariah to superseede all these conventions) .

To conclude with what the IslamQA opines:

Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also did that, as did the Sahaabah, the righteous and the scholars. The scholars are unanimously agreed on that and it is not permissible for anyone to regard it as haraam or to forbid it. Whoever regards that as haraam is a sinner who is going against the consensus of the scholars.

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Firstly you should not sensationalize this issue by using the term "Sex Slave" As already discussed to death, I am not sensationalizing at all. I am quoting someone else (who may be sensationalizing). But that makes it still a valid question. – Flimzy Feb 2 at 16:11
@Flimzy Ok updating the answer. – Islam Feb 5 at 14:55

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