I was looking at islam online and came across a Q&A section and was interested in a question about slave women as this is something often featured on FFI. I have copied it below and would be intrigued to read your take on it.
Title About Concubines & Slavery
Question As-salamu `alaykum!
Why is a man permitted to have concubines in addition to having a wife? And, in a case that a man has 4 wives (surely his needs are being met) why would it still be allowable to have a concubine? Why are concubines and harems allowed at all, especially if it doesn’t seem to be very fair for women? Does the wife have a say in it? What rights does a concubine have?
I understand how Islam permits polygamy with conditions that provide fairness and protection for women, but I just don’t understand the issue of concubines. Prophet Sulayman (Solomon) is said to have had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Obviously, this was in a time before Islam regulated polygamy, but how can concubines be considered fair or respectable?
Jazakum Allahu Khayran.
Topic Culture & Society
Name of Counselor Amani Aboul Fadl Farag
Salam, dear Safina.
Thank you for raising this point which is a matter of confusion to many non-Muslims and Muslims as well!
First, it is important to define the term “concubine” as it is usually misunderstood. Some think that “concubine” refers to the mistress or the woman who lives a non-marital relationship with a man, and who is inferior in rank to the legal wife. This might be due to the fact that people see famous men like kings and princes having concubines in their courts. Of course, such a relationship is outlawed in Islam.
As for Islam, the term “concubine” refers to a woman slave who is owned by a certain man either through serfdom, or by being a war captive. According to this definition, it becomes obvious that taking concubines, as well as slaves, is out of date. It is a system that existed early in the history of humanity but has ceased to exist any more under the law of abolishing servitude, not only in the Muslim communities, but also all over the world. No one now is allowed to take a slave or a concubine in our modern times; it is criminal to do so.
This image of one man buying tens of women to meet his endless desires is but a far memory of an old history. This is not only for the legal considerations of abolishing servitude, but also for the economic and health problems befalling the modern man disabling him from following the model of Shahrayar, the king in The Arabian Nights, even if he aspires to!
The only form of relationship between men and women among Muslims now is that of marriage, and anything outside it is not accepted.
Having a look at the history of this phenomenon, one finds that it was not confined to the Muslim world, though it is sometimes portrayed as if it is a Muslim-made tradition, coming from the East.
The Arabian Nights represents Muslim society as highly sensual, living in an erotic atmosphere with every single man having an army of concubines playing around in his bed to satisfy his surfeit needs! If this was the real picture of Muslim society in its early and middle ages, then who was behind the great scientific and military achievements that happened at that time?
When Islam was revealed, taking male and female slaves —either through buying or being taken as war captives— was a widespread phenomenon. This was not only in the
Because Islam existed in various historical epochs, it has been its inevitable role to cope with the norms and to regulate the legal systems of those epochs. So, for the tradition of taking slaves and concubines, that already existed then, Islam interfered by regulating it in an attempt to abolish it gradually. It couldn’t have been abolished abruptly, since it was such a deep rooted tradition.
Islam has always adopted the strategy of gradual reformation rather than rapid radical solutions, especially in aspects that are vital to people’s lives such as religion, economy or politics. The issue of idol worshipping, for example, took 13 years of persuasion till the Prophet decided to pull idols down. This has always been Islam’s malleable nature, which made its spirit — and not only script — survive for almost 15 centuries and not perish or extinct by time.
Back to the historical survey of the issue of concubines, Islam worked gradually in two directions to free slaves and concubines. The first was by encouraging the believers to buy and free slaves. Almighty Allah offered
The second was by making the act of freeing slaves a form of kaffarah (punishment or penalty) as a make-up “penalty”, if a person commits some forbidden deeds. And in this way, punishment became pleasing to both the slave and the punished one, who would have wanted to receive God’s forgiveness, for the forbidden deed, by doing the good deed of freeing a slave.
Parallel to that process of gradual freeing — and until all slaves were freed — Allah granted slaves and concubines — who had not yet gained their liberty — many human rights that had never been given to them before.
For example, when a concubine begot a child by her master, the child would immediately be recognized as legal and free. The child would carry the father’s name and inherit the same like any brothers and sisters begotten by wives. As for the concubine herself, she is directly elevated to a higher status, that is of om-el-walad (legal mother of a legal child). Her owner can no longer sell her as a slave and in case he dies, she is automatically free.
No wonder that up to the 17th century, Mamluks — who were slaves owned by the Islamic state — were allowed high education and job opportunities exactly like their masters. They were trained in chivalry and were upgraded in the social rank until they reached the positions of sultans and kings of the whole Islamic state. This was termed in history as the
Nobody ever looked with sensitivity or with dissatisfaction at the experience of being ruled by a “slave” who owned by the state. This
I only wanted to clear the idea of concubines as an interesting fact of the past, which has no mention in Islamic life any more in today’s world. Thank you and I am looking forward to receiving more of your interesting questions. Please keep in touch
Response by Ali Sina
Slavery or “right hand possession” is recognized and accepted in the Quran. Muslims are allowed and encouraged to raid non-Muslims and after killing the men take their women and children as slaves. Older women can be killed or left to die.
Based on his response it appears that Mr. Amani Aboul Fadl Farag says that Islamic law that comes from God and according to Muhammad is valid until the Day of Resurrection has become outdated. Is this not bid’a? (innovation). Isn’t bid’a prohibited in the Quran and punishable by death? Is Mr. Amani Aboul Fadl Farag saying that parts of the Quran are outdated? Doesn’t the Quran strictly prohibit taking parts of it and leaving other parts?
If slavery and right hand possessions are outdated, can we also conclude that other injections of the Quran may also be outdated?
For example, the Quran allows a man to marry four wives. This law seems outdated too. It causes psychological distress for the wives who have to compete with each other for their husband’s attention, and it causes rivalry among their children. Polygamy is very unhealthy from the psychological point of view for everyone involved. Can Muslims decide to ban polygamy and override the Quran?
What about the law of fasting? Fasting in places close to the Earth’s poles is impossible during the summer. Can Muslims pick and choose and make rulings that differ from the Quran and hadith? They actually do it, whenever they get stuck. But is it allowed?
What about the testimony of women? Today the modern secular law does not accept anything but equality between men and women. Can Muslims abrogate the laws of the Quran and adopt the secular laws of the kafirs because they are more up to date?
What about chopping the right hand of the thief? It is rarely practiced, but isn’t abolishing it a contravention from divine guidance?
How about beating one’s wife? Can an Islamic country prohibit it when the Quran prescribes it? Would that country be regarded Islamic?
Mr. Farag, by preferring the secular law over the laws of God is opening a Pandora box and allowing men to abrogate any law of God that they deem outdated. Is this allowed and if so where one has to draw the line? Is man’s understanding superior to the understanding of God? Can a man question the authority and the wisdom of the Quran?
Mr. Farag says that “Islam interfered by regulating it in an attempt to abolish it gradually. It couldn’t have been abolished abruptly, since it was such a deep rooted tradition.”
Why slavery could not be abolished abruptly? Didn’t Islam abolish adopting children abruptly? Allah told his prophet to marry his own daughter in law to set an example and show to Arabs that the old rules are changed and an adopted son is not a son and his wife is halal. Wasn’t this far more shocking to the believers than abolishing slavery?
Muhammad even encouraged Muslims to fight against their own brothers and fathers if they like disbelief to Islam. Wasn’t this a much harsher teaching than abolishing slavery?
If Muhammad wanted to abolish slavery why did he reduce tens of thousands of free people into slaves? After their prophet, Muslims raided other countries killing millions of men and enslaving their wives and children. The actions of Muhammad and his early followers belie the claim of Mr. Farag that he wanted to abolish slavery gradually. Do we have a verse in the Quran or hadith saying that slavery should be abolished eventually?
Mr. Farag says,“Islam has always adopted the strategy of gradual reformation rather than rapid radical solutions” and to prove Islam’s “malleable” nature he brings the example of Muhammad’s desecration of Ka’ba and demolition of Pagan’s idols, which he says was gradual and took 13 years. Mr. Farag is twisting the facts. Muhammad demolished the idols of the Arabs in the very day he conquered
Mr. Farag says Islam encouraged the believers to buy and free slaves. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Muhammad made slaves from free people and sold them. He started doing this since his very first successful raid at a small Meccan caravan at Nakhlah where the two surviving captives were kept for ransom and released after their relatives paid a hefty sum. Muslims started as a bunch of impoverished people but through raids they amassed huge wealth and countless slaves. The claims made by this Muslim scholar are not substantiated by facts. They contradict the history of Islam written by the early Muslims. Muslims did not have slaves when they migrated to
He also talks about the reward promised to Muslims for freeing slaves. Yes that is true. But his actions were belied by his words. Only fools judge a man’s character by his words. Wiser people look at the actions of the person. Look how many brain dead people have fallen for the empty words of a buffoon like Obama. Wiser people look at his actions and at his past.
Furthermore, Muslims did not manumit their able bodied and young slaves. They freed them when they became old and a burden to their masters. In this way, not only they did not have to maintain them, but also their sins were forgiven. The old slaves ended up as beggars in the streets and died alone and in poverty. What a mockery of justice! How many of the slaves that Muhammad during his raids did he set free and restored to them their wealth?
Mr. Farag says that slaves in Islam were granted rights that prior to that they did not have, “for example, when a concubine begot a child by her master, the child would immediately be recognized as legal and free.”
This tradition existed in that desert society long before Muhammad was born. A good example is Abraham’s son Ismael, who was born to a slave woman and was recognized by Abraham as his son and not as a slave. After Ismael’s birth, his mother Agar also gained her freedom. It is just commonsense that a man would not sell his own children as slaves. Now we have to even give credit to Muhammad for something that is not only commonsense but existed for ever. In no society the child of a free man born to a slave was considered to be a slave. Remember that women were thought to be only incubators for mans’ progeny. The children belonged to the father. If the father was a free man, so were his children.
Like any good Muslim Mr. Farag could not resist pouring his venom on
He conveniently ignored the fact that those slaves were bought from Arab slave merchants who systematically raided the villages in
In his attempt to deny historic facts Mr. Farag wrote: “The Arabian Nights represents Muslim society as highly sensual, living in an erotic atmosphere with every single man having an army of concubines playing around in his bed to satisfy his surfeit needs! If this was the real picture of Muslim society in its early and middle ages, then who was behind the great scientific and military achievements that happened at that time?”
Military achievements were made to reduce people into slaves and fill the harem of Muslim fighters with “right hand possessions” and sexual trophies. Taking sex slaves was the main incentive for jihad.
Muslim scholars try their best to mask the ugly truth about Islam, but their own books of history testify against them. With the advent of the Internet and the free spread of knowledge, truth can no longer be concealed. With the spread of truth Islam’s days are numbered.
Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Does Islam Discourage Slavery?