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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.

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 - 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, 2012 at 19:04
  • @Ershad: I'm questioning the validity of the apparently outrageous claim by that web site. If it's true that Islam allows Muslim men to rape slave girls, then I suppose that might be where they found that claim, and that would make a good answer.
    – Flimzy
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:05
  • Related What does “right hand possess” mean?. Jan 22, 2019 at 5:13

5 Answers 5

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+100

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!

Note:

It is worth pointing out that you do not find any text in the Qur’aan or Sunnah which enjoins taking others as slaves, whereas there are dozens of texts in the Qur’aan and the ahaadeeth of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) which call for manumitting slaves and freeing them. (taken from my reference islamqa)

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 (note even in this case there are details: for example instead of enslavement the ruler could ask for ransom, or free them if this would be a benefit for Muslims and yes also killing could be an option) 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 a Muslim to enslave a Muslim: 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 a 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 expiation for sins where one could choose or has to free a slave.
  • Islam encouraged to free slaves:

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)]

see also in sahih al-Bukahri and Muslim.

  • 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 a more detailed Version in Sunan abi Dawod]

  • We also have rules about relationships (intercourse/marriage) to female slaves (See for example: Shouldn't a slave woman guard her private parts except from her spouse?):
  • 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 for this purpose, but there are opinions allowing it, for example ibn 'Abd al-Barr said that the hadiths (like this one) which show that Muslims had intercourse with pagan captives have been made void by verse 2:221

And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. ...

so this is the prevalent opinion according this fatwa (in Arabic), while this fatwa (in Arabic) uses one of the given ahadith as a proof to allow it.

  • No Muslim man could have intercourse with a female slave if the property (of the slave) is joint (see for example here in Arabic). A slave falls into the property of it's new owner more or less the same way as for marriage it needs: two witnesses and the approval of the former owner or the authority (for example in case of a war the "General" who has distributed the war booty).
  • 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! Of course he couldn't have intercourse with a slave which is one of the haram relatives of his own.
  • Some scholars say that a Muslim master has no sexual rights over a married slave (this is generally based on 4:24, as a captive could have been at least before her captivity somebody's legal wife)!
  • If a female slave which was a concubine of her master give birth to a child from him (that means if this child at least cries once, it doesn't need to stay alive) she is automatically free if her owner dies, the owner is prohibited to sell her and she would have less duties than any other slave!
  • Islam encourages Muslims to free their slaves if they convert to Islam!
  • Muslims are also allowed and encouraged to marry their former slave woman by Quran (for the case of a man who can't afford the conditions to marry a free woman) and sunnah.

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

Some useful links (mostly 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
    – Shafeek
    Sep 1, 2015 at 9:03
  • You said polytheist slaves are haram, did that mean master can have relationship with her only if she converts to Islam ?
    – Shafeek
    Sep 1, 2015 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 fatwa.islamweb.net/fatwa/…
    – Medi1Saif
    Sep 1, 2015 at 9:58
  • 1
    So to avoid giving her master the right to sex over her she can just refuse to convert to Islam !!
    – Shafeek
    Sep 1, 2015 at 10:04
  • @Medi1Saif why is it that, Muslim females can't have sex with male slaves. Another question, for Muslim males to have intercourse with female slaves, do just get to randomly propose the female slave to have sex or do they go through a contract like a marriage contract but for concubines? Apr 2, 2020 at 17:26
12

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 dependent on their owners.

In the following verse, it even asks the owners to give the slaves a 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 slavery with the final edict to marry them off or write a contract of their freedom. Once slavery ended, the question of having sexual relationship with slaves don't 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) of 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, 2014 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?
    – user13203
    Aug 29, 2015 at 15:00
  • 7
    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?
    – user12537
    Sep 1, 2015 at 3:51
1

Yes. Islam permits slavery. It also permits enslaving captives of war as one of the sources of slavery. It also allows for men to have sexual intimacy with female slaves via either marriage or concubinage.


Evidence for Concubinage:

Quran

The evidence for it in the Quran includes:

  • والذين هم لفروجهم حافظون إلا على أزواجهم أو ما ملكت أيمانهم فإنهم غير ملومين فمن ابتغى وراء ذلك فأولئك هم العادون

    And who guard their private parts. Except from their wives or from those (bondwomen who are) owned by their hands, as they are not to be blamed. However, those who seek (sexual pleasure) beyond that are the transgressors.

    Quran 23:5-7

    Exegesis:

    يعني يحفظ فرجه إلا من امرأته أو أمته فإنه لا يلام على ذلك، وإنما لا يلام فيهما

    Meaning protect your private part except from your wife or your slave girl for there is no blame on satisfying one's desires with them

    Tafsir al-Baghawy

    This verse allows men to have sexual relations with two types of women:

    • wives
    • owned slaves

    Hence it permits sex with concubines and also establishes that concubines are distinct from wives.

  • فانكحوا ما طاب لكم من النساء مثنى وثلاث ورباع فإن خفتم ألا تعدلوا فواحدة أو ما ملكت أيمانكم ذلك أدنى ألا تعولوا

    Marry the women you like, in twos, in threes and in fours. But, if you fear that you will not maintain equity, then (keep to) one woman, or bondwomen you own. It will be closer to abstaining from injustice.

    Quran 4:3

    Exegesis:

    أو ما ملكت أيمانكم يريد الإماء . وهو عطف على " فواحدة " أي إن خاف ألا يعدل في واحدة فما ملكت يمينه . وفي هذا دليل على ألا حق لملك اليمين في الوطء ولا القسم

    "or bondwomen you own" - meaning slave girls. It is linked to "then (keep to) one woman" meaning that if you fear that you won't be able to administer justice with even one then keep concubines. In it is evidence that a concubine does not have a right to intercourse nor to division of nights

    Tafsir al-Qurtubi

    أو على الجواري السراري ، فإنه لا يجب قسم بينهن ، ولكن يستحب ، فمن فعل فحسن ، ومن لا فلا حرج

    Or satisfy yourself with only slave concubines, for it is not obligatory to treat them equally, rather it is only recommended. So if one does so, that is good, and if not, there is no harm in it.

    Tafsir Ibn Kathir

    This verse allows for having concubines. And it indicates that concubinage is distinct from marriage as concubines have less rights than wives, since it instructs Muslims to only have concubines if they fear being unjust to their wives.

  • يا أيها النبي إنا أحللنا لك أزواجك اللاتي آتيت أجورهن وما ملكت يمينك مما أفاء الله عليك

    O Prophet, We have made lawful for you all your wives whom you have given their dowers, and those (bondwomen) whom you own, out of the captives Allah has given to you as spoils of war

    Quran 33:50

    Exegesis:

    وما ملكت يمينك أحل الله تعالى السراري لنبيه صلى الله عليه وسلم ولأمته مطلقا ، وأحل الأزواج لنبيه عليه الصلاة والسلام مطلقا ، وأحله للخلق بعدد . وقوله مما أفاء الله عليك أي رده عليك من الكفار . والغنيمة قد تسمى فيئا ، أي مما أفاء الله عليك من النساء بالمأخوذ على وجه القهر والغلبة

    "and those (bondwomen) whom you own" - Allah made lawful concubines for the Prophet ﷺ and his followers categorically. And he made lawful wives for him categorically and for the rest of his followers he made them lawful as long as they are a specific number (maximum of four simultaneously). "out of the captives Allah has given to you as spoils of war" - Given to you from the disbelievers. Spoils of war are called Fay i.e. what Allah has given you of women who are captured by force and domination

    Tafsir al-Qurtubi

    أي : وأباح لك التسري مما أخذت من المغانم ، وقد ملك صفية وجويرية فأعتقهما وتزوجهما . وملك ريحانة بنت شمعون النضرية ، ومارية القبطية أم ابنه إبراهيم ، عليه السلام ، وكانتا من السراري ، رضي الله عنهما

    Means the slave-girls whom you took from the war booty are also permitted to you. He owned Safiyyah and Juwayriyah, then he manumitted them and married them, and he owned Rayhanah bint Shamun An-Nadariyyah and Mariyah Al-Qibtiyyah, the mother of his son Ibrahim, upon him be peace; they were both among the concubines, may Allah be pleased with them.

    Tafsir Ibn Kathir

    This verse allows for having concubines. And it proves that women captured as spoils of war can be enslaved and made into concubines.

  • والمحصنات من النساء إلا ما ملكت أيمانكم

    (Also prohibited are) the women already bound in marriage, except the bondwomen you come to own.

    Quran 4:24

    This verse allows for having sexual relations with slaves. According to the vast majority this means from the prisoners of war specifically - since it is only the prisoners of war whose previous marriage is voided by their capture which then makes it lawful to have relations with them. A minority also holds that selling slaves also voids their marriage.

Sunnah

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ himself had four concubines:

فصل في سراريه - صلى الله عليه وسلم -قال أبو عبيدة : كان له أربع: مارية وهي أم ولده إبراهيم، وريحانة، وجارية أخرى جميلة أصابها في بعض السبي، وجارية وهبتها له زينب بنت جحش

Section on the concubiness of the Prophet ﷺ - Abu ‘Ubaydah said: He had four: Mariyah who was the mother of his son Ibraheem; Rayhanah; another beautiful slave women who he got among some of the prisoners of war; and a slave woman who was given to him by Zaynab bint Jahsh.

Zaad al-Ma’aad also see Al-Bidaya wa'l-Nihaya

What the Prophet ﷺ did is by default evidence of its legality, as we are told to follow his example (Quran 7:158, Quran 33:21).

Further there are numerous ahadith which permit concubinage. It is not practical to list them all but some examples include:

  • عن أبي سعيد الخدري، ورفعه، أنه قال في سبايا أوطاس لا توطأ حامل حتى تضع ولا غير ذات حمل حتى تحيض حيضة

    Abu Sa’id Al Khudri traced to Prophet (ﷺ) regarding the captives taken at Awtas:

    There must be no intercourse with pregnant woman till she gives birth to her child or with the one who is not pregnant till she has had one menstrual period.

    Abu Dawud

    This hadith shows that sexual intercourse with slaves captured in war is permissible, with the condition being that a waiting period is observed.

  • فقال أبو سعيد خرجنا مع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم في غزوة بني المصطلق فأصبنا سبيا من سبى العرب فاشتهينا النساء واشتدت علينا العزبة وأحببنا الفداء فأردنا أن نعزل ثم قلنا نعزل ورسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بين أظهرنا قبل أن نسأله عن ذلك فسألناه عن ذلك فقال ‏ "‏ ما عليكم أن لا تفعلوا ما من نسمة كائنة إلى يوم القيامة إلا وهي كائنة

    Abu Sa’id said We went out with the Apostle of Allah(ﷺ) on the expedition to Banu Al Mustaliq and took some Arab women captive and we desired the women for we were suffering from the absence of our wives and we wanted ransom, so we intended to withdraw the penis (while having intercourse with the slave women). But we asked ourselves “can we draw the penis when the Apostle of Allah(ﷺ) is among us before asking him about it? So we asked him about it. He said “it does not matter if you do not do it, for very soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born.”

    Muslim

    This hadith shows that enslaving the women captured in war is permissible, and that intercourse with concubines is permissible. It also shows that concubines are distinct from wives as a wife is not sold or ransomed.

  • أن رجلا، أتى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال إن لي جارية هي خادمنا وسانيتنا وأنا أطوف عليها وأنا أكره أن تحمل ‏.‏ فقال ‏"‏ اعزل عنها إن شئت فإنه سيأتيها ما قدر لها

    A man came to Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) and said: I have a slave-girl who is our servant and she carries water for us and I have intercourse with her, but I do not want her to conceive.

    He said: Practise 'azl, if you so like, but what is decreed for her will come to her.

    Muslim

    Here a man confessed to having sexual relations with his slave-girl. The Prophet ﷺ did not stop or rebuke him for that, which is evidence that it is permissible.

  • وفيهم امرأة من بني فزارة عليها قشع من أدم - قال القشع النطع - معها ابنة لها من أحسن العرب فسقتهم حتى أتيت بهم أبا بكر فنفلني أبو بكر ابنتها فقدمنا المدينة وما كشفت لها ثوبا فلقيني رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم في السوق فقال ‏"‏ يا سلمة هب لي المرأة ‏"‏ ‏.‏ فقلت يا رسول الله والله لقد أعجبتني وما كشفت لها ثوبا ... فبعث بها رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم إلى أهل مكة ففدى بها ناسا من المسلمين كانوا أسروا بمكة

    Among them was a woman from Banu Fazara. She was wearing a leather coat. With her was her daughter who was one of the prettiest girls in Arabia. I drove them along until I brought them to Abu Bakr who bestowed that girl upon me as a prize. So we arrived in Medina. I had not yet disrobed her when the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) met me in the street and said: Give me that girl, O Salama. I said: Messenger of Allah, she has fascinated me. I had not yet disrobed her ...The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) sent her to the people of Mecca, and surrendered her as ransom for a number of Muslims who had been kept as prisoners at Mecca.

    Muslim

    This hadith proves that captives of war can be enslaved, as the captives were distributed among the soldiers and one of them was surrendered as ransom - both of which can only be done with slaves. The hadith also proves that having sexual relations with such a slave is permissible, as the Prophet ﷺ did not stop or rebuke Salama bin Akwa when he expressed his intention to disrobe the woman (which means he intended to have intercourse with her).

  • ورجل كانت عنده أمة يطأها، فأدبها فأحسن تأديبها، وعلمها فأحسن تعليمها، ثم أعتقها فتزوجها، فله أجران

    A man who has a slavegirl with whom he has intercourse and teaches her well and instructs her well and then sets her free and marries her. He has two rewards.

    Adab Al-Mufrad

    This hadith also shows that it is permitted to have intercourse with a slave-girl i.e. a concubine. And it indicates that this is distinct from marriage as it says that the person also has intercourse with her before freeing and marrying her.

  • إذا زوج أحدكم خادمه عبده أو أجيره فلا ينظر إلى ما دون السرة وفوق الركبة

    When one of you marries his female servant to his slave or to his employee, he should not look at her private part below the navel and above the knees.

    Abu Dawud

    This hadith implies that as long as one's slave girl is not married off to someone, it is permitted for her owner to look at her private parts. Which means it is permissible to have intimacy with her.

  • وقال الناس لا ندري أتزوجها أم اتخذها أم ولد ‏.‏ قالوا إن حجبها فهى امرأته وإن لم يحجبها فهى أم ولد فلما أراد أن يركب حجبها فقعدت على عجز البعير فعرفوا أنه قد تزوجها

    The Muslims wondered, "Is she (Saffiyya) considered as his wife or his slave girl?" Then they said, "If he orders her to veil herself, she will be one of the mothers of the Believers; but if he does not order her to veil herself, she will be a slave girl. So when the Prophet (ﷺ) proceeded from there, he spared her a space behind him (on his shecamel) and put a screening veil between her and the people.

    Bukhari and Muslim

    This hadith proves that the sahaba understood that concubinage is distinct from marriage, and that they understood that concubinage was permissible otherwise they would not presume it possible for the Prophet ﷺ. Saffiyya was from the prisoners of war of Khaibar so it also proves that prisoners can be enslaved.

There are also several ahadith which show that it is permitted to enslave captives of war:

حاربت النضير وقريظة، فأجلى بني النضير، وأقر قريظة ومن عليهم، حتى حاربت قريظة فقتل رجالهم وقسم نساءهم وأولادهم وأموالهم بين المسلمين

Bani An-Nadir and Bani Quraiza fought so the Prophet ﷺ exiled Bani An-Nadir and allowed Bani Quraiza to remain at their places taking nothing from them till they fought again. He then killed their men and distributed their women, children and property among the Muslims

Bukhari

فخرجوا يسعون في السكك، فقتل النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم المقاتلة، وسبى الذرية، وكان في السبى صفية، فصارت إلى دحية الكلبي، ثم صارت إلى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، فجعل عتقها صداقها

Then the inhabitants of Khaibar came out running on the roads. The Prophet (ﷺ) had their warriors killed, their offspring and woman taken as captives. Safiya was amongst the captives, She first came in the share of Dahya Al-kalbi but later on she belonged to the Prophet . The Prophet (ﷺ) made her manumission as her 'Mahr

Bukhari

من قتل منا صار إلى الجنة في نعيم لم ير مثلها قط، ومن بقي منا ملك رقابكم

Whoever amongst us is killed (i.e. martyred), shall go to Paradise to lead such a luxurious life as he has never seen, and whoever amongst us remain alive, shall become your master.

Bukhari

Ijma'

The legality of concubinage with slaves is agreed upon. Such consensus is evidence by itself in Islamic law.

ولا خلاف في إباحة التسري، ووطء الإماء

There is no disagreement about the permissibility of concubinage and intercourse with female slaves

al-Mughni

قد انعقد الإجماع على أن له أن يطأ جاريته ويحبلها

Consensus has taken place on the point that he has the right to have intercourse with his slave girl and to make her pregnant

Bidaayat al-Mujtahid

The legality of enslaving prisoners of war is also agreed upon:

الأسرى من الذين أخذوا في الحرب ممن لا يجوز قتلهم، كالنساء والذراري وغيرهم وهؤلاء يجوز استرقاقهم بالاتفاق

Those prisoners who are taken in war from those whom it is not permitted to kill, such as women and children, it is permitted to enslave them by agreement.

Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah

Previous Shariahs

Concubinage was permissible in the previous shariahs. There are traditions that Abraham عليه السلام had a concubine named Hagar (Bukhari 2217). Solomon عليه السلام had several hundred concubines (Mustadrak al-Hakim). The principle adopted by many schools of thought is that what is permissible in the previous laws is also permissible in our law - unless there is evidence for abrogation.

Actions of the Sahaba

The sahaba practiced concubinage during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ, as already evident from the ahadith mentioned above.

And they continued practicing it after his death in the Rashhidun caliphate. Umar ibn al-Khatab and Ali ibn Abi Talib had concubines. Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr had a concubine from whom he had a son named Qasim, who is a well recognized scholar from the Tabieen (generation after the Sahaba). Similarly Abdullah ibn Umar had a concubine from whom he had a son named Salim ibn Abdullah, who was also a well recognized scholar from the Tabieen. Hussain ibn Ali had a concubine from whom was born his son Zayn al-Abidin, who too is a well recognized scholar from the Tabieen. This is evidence that concubinage always remained permissible in Islam.


Concubinage or Marriage:

Concubinage is distinct from marriage. Concubinage is having intimacy with a slave that one owns himself. Whereas marriage is done with a woman who is either not a slave or is a slave belonging to someone else.

It is permitted to 'marry' a slave in the following ways:

  • Marrying a slave after freeing them. For example the Prophet ﷺ emancipated then married Juwayriyah bint al-Harith and Safiyyah bint Huyayy. In this case the woman is no longer a slave so marriage is permitted with them.

  • Marrying a slave belonging to someone else, with the permission of their owners. It is permitted for slave men to be married off to slave women, as mentioned in the verse:

    وأنكحوا ... الصالحين من عبادكم وإمائكم

    Arrange the marriage of ... the capable from among your bondmen and bondwomen

    Quran 24:32

    It is also permitted for free men to marry slave women if they can not afford marriage to a free woman and if they fear committing fornication without it. This is what is meant by the verse:

    ومن لم يستطع منكم طولا أن ينكح المحصنات المؤمنات فمن ما ملكت أيمانكم من فتياتكم المؤمنات ... فانكحوهن بإذن أهلهن ... ذلك لمن خشي العنت منكم وأن تصبروا خير لكم

    But if any of you cannot afford to marry a free believing woman, then (marry) a believing bondwoman possessed by one of you ... So marry them with the permission of their owners ... This is for those of you who fear falling into sin. But if you are patient, it is better for you.

    Quran 4:25

  • A free woman marrying a slave belonging to someone else. This is permitted if they and their guardians agree to it.

However for having intimacy with a slave owned by a person himself only concubinage is done.

Marriage is not required for having sexual relations in concubinage, that is because ownership is inclusive of and stronger than the rights granted by a marriage contract: for example if you purchase a house then you no longer need to have a lease agreement to live in it, in the same way if you purchase a slave then you no longer require a marriage contract to have relations with her. Not only is marriage not required for concubinage, rather it is invalid.

لا يحتاج وطء السيد لأمته إلى إنشاء عقد زواج، ولو عقد النكاح لنفسه على مملوكته لم يصح النكاح

A marriage contract is not required if a master wishes to have sexual relations with his own female slave. And if he makes a marriage contract between himself and his female slave it is not valid.

Encyclopedia of Islamic Jurisprudence

وليس للسيد أن يتزوج أمته؛ لأن ملك الرقبة يفيد ملك المنفعة، وإباحة البضع، فلا يجتمع معه عقد أضعف منه. ولو ملك زوجته وهى أمة، انفسخ نكاحها. وكذلك لو ملكت المرأة زوجها، انفسخ نكاحها. ولا نعلم فى هذا خلافا

A master can not marry his slave woman to himself because ownership of her makes him entitled to benefit from her and makes it lawful for him to have intimacy with her. So it cannot be combined with a contract that is weaker than it. If he is married to a slave woman and then becomes her owner then the marriage contract is annulled (on gaining ownership); the same applies if a woman becomes the owner of her husband, her marriage contract is annulled. We do not know of any difference of opinion concerning this.

al-Mughni

Concubinage has some laws similar to marriage:

  • A woman can only have one sexual partner at a time. This means that concubinage is only permitted with a slave who is completely owned by her sexual partner - not with one who has multiple owners. It is also forbidden to have concubinage with a slave owned by someone else (although marriage with the slave is permitted in this case). It is also forbidden to make a concubine of a slave who is married to someone else (i.e. married-off after her enslavement).

  • When changing partners, such as when her owner dies or sells her, or when he marries her off to someone, she must observe a waiting period to ensure that her womb is empty. See Do slaves have to undergo iddat?

  • A concubine must be either Muslim, Jewess or Christian - according to the majority. However a minority view also allows for her to be the follower of any other religion. See Can a Muslim man take a concubine who's neither a Christian nor a Jew?

  • A concubine must not be a mahram of her master. This includes mahrams due to lineage so for example one can not make a concubine out of his sister or daughter. The prohibition of concubinage also includes mahrams due to suckling, so for example a slave who was breastfed by the same wet-nurse as yourself can not become your concubine. It also includes mahrams due to marriage or concubinage, so for example it is not permitted to make a concubine of a slave who was previously the sexual partner of your father.

    The majority also says that the prohibition of combining women applies so that it is not permitted to for example have two sisters as concubines simultaneously, although a minority disagrees.

  • Children born from concubinage are considered legitimate children of their father, and the father is responsible for providing them with the same rights as children born from marriage to a free woman.

  • A concubine has right to food and clothing from her master. This stems from the rights of slaves in general:

    للمملوك طعامه وكسوته ولا يكلف من العمل إلا ما يطيق

    A slave is entitled to food and clothing, and he should have imposed on him only such work as he is capable of doing.

    Muslim also see Bukhari

Concubinage also has some differences from marriage:

  • There is no contract other than the original contract of purchase if the slave was bought. Concubinage itself is not a contract, and it does not have offer and acceptance between the man and the guardian or family of the woman, rather it is a unilateral decision of the owner of a slave to have relations with her if he wishes.
  • Concubines do not get paid a bride-price (mahr). Slaves cannot own property, rather even whatever they earn is in reality owned by and can be taken by their masters.
  • A concubine does not have the right to equitable division of nights.
  • A concubine does not have the right to deny the use of contraception. See Was the consent of female slave required to perform 'azl?.
  • There is no limit on the number of concubines that a person can have simultaneously. See Did scholars define a limitation of concubines a man could have?
  • A concubine can be commanded to serve the master such as by cooking, cleaning or doing chores etc. since she is also his slave.
  • A concubine, being a slave, can be made to earn income for the master if she has a skill by which she can earn lawfully. See Sunan Abu Dawud 3426.
  • Concubines can not be divorced but they can be sold, gifted or inherited (as long as she does not become pregnant). And the new owner can make her his own concubine as long as there is no other prohibition such as being his mahram or having multiple owners.
  • A concubine who gives birth to a child of her master (even if a stillborn) becomes an Umm walad, and then she her ownership can not be transferred to anyone else rather she becomes free after the death of her master. This is the view of the majority, see Is selling an Umm Walad allowed?
  • A child born through concubinage gets the status of the master, i.e. is a free person. A child born through marriage gets the status of the mother, i.e. it is free if the mother is free and it is a slave if the mother is a slave.
  • A concubine does not get inheritance from her master after his death.
  • A concubine does not observe iddah, although she does observe a different waiting period as mentioned above. Their waiting period is shorter, and it does not carry some of the prohibitions of iddah such as refraining from adornment, or going out of her house etc. See Do slaves have to undergo iddat?.

Sources of slavery in Islam:

The sources of slavery in Islam and the choices regarding prisoners are discussed under the question: What are the sources of slavery in Islam?

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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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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.
    – user940
    Jan 31, 2015 at 12:29
  • Also see: islam.stackexchange.com/a/21675/940 its a fact that Prophet Muhammad pbuh did not marry Marie Qibtia, a christian slave.
    – user940
    Jan 31, 2015 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. sunnah.com/bukhari/55/2 Of course, Marie Qibtia died after prophet(s.a)
    – Shafeek
    Mar 18, 2015 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, 2015 at 5:01
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    @Islam It's insulting to Islam to call the interpretation of its holy book (tafseer) as "playing gymnastics with [its] verses". Nov 24, 2018 at 17:08

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