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According to TheReligionofPeace.com:

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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Apparently the site you mentioned has been there to defame Islam. It is not an authentic source of Islamic teachings. –  refhat Jun 25 '12 at 19:03
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@refhat: Yes, it is clearly intended to defame Islam. That doesn't make it an inappropriate question, though... :) I suspect it should be easy to refute the claim made by the site. –  Flimzy Jun 25 '12 at 19:04
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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 - islam.stackexchange.com/questions/270/… . 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
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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
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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

1 Answer 1

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 at 16:48

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