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Concept of slaves

Mu' meneen Brothers and Sisters,

As Salaam Aleikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.  (May Allah's Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon all of you)


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As slam alykum.
Dear brother Burhan,
Lately several queries have come up regarding the Deen, They are as follows;
4. Why does Islaam allow people to have sex with their slaves? -Is this not a form of Adulatory?


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Concept of slaves

In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His  forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is no one (no idol, no person, no grave, no prophet, no imam, no dai, nobody!) worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad(saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers.


May Allah bless you and reward you for asking this question. It is true that a lot of people push this subject under the rug and do not understand it or are sometimes ashamed of this concept. That is because, todays society and behavior is absolutely different from the conditions prevalent 1400 years ago at the time of Revelation of the Quran. There is no place on earth where this concept is practiced today, thus to really understand the concept in its entirety, we must try to imagine the times of the Revelation of the Glorious Quran.


Since time immemorial, slavery was an accepted practice; thus it was not Islam that started this practice, but rather Islam was the first system to inculcate the freedom of slaves and take steps to make them equal citizens of society. Slavery was abolished in modern society only a couple of centuries ago, and was openly practiced in almost all parts of the civilized world even until the early 1900s. But Islam made it a virtue to free slaves, and inculcate them into society as equal citizens, almost 1400 years ago!


So, how did people (men and women) become slaves?

There were several ways in earlier times how a free person would become a slave.

The already existent slaves and their offspring were also considered slaves.

People used to steal children and then sell them as slaves in another place.

One tribe would attack another tribe, kill the men, and take the women and children as slaves and then sell them as war-booty.

This practice was prevalent all over the world at the times, thus we must remember that Islam neither started it, nor encouraged it. Islam, in fact closed almost all the doors on how a free man becomes a slave, and in reality opened all the doors to free these slaves and make them responsible members in society. Islam was instrumental in eradicating slavery and made it a virtue and a means of reward from Allah to free slaves and inculcate them into society.


The Messenger of Allah (saws) declared it a sin to kidnap any free man, woman or child and make them slaves. After the wars, the Prophet (saws) used to exchange the Prisoners of War if both the warring parties agreed to it. If not, the captives were set free by taking a ransom for them. If the slaves or their families could not afford the ransom, most times the Prophet (saws) showed generosity and released them without any ransom. Only if none of the above were possible, and the captives had no place to return to, then these captives were made slaves and all efforts were taken to inculcate them into the existing Islamic Society.


In some instances, when the enemy was still at war, there was always a fear that if the Prisoners of War were released, they would go back and join their armies and attack the muslims again. During these times, the Messenger of Allah (saws) allowed the prisoners to be taken as slaves as was the prevalent system of the times. Rather than put them in jail, the slaves were distributed to each household and they were responsible for the welfare of the slaves. The Messenger of Allah (saws) exhorted the believers to feed them what they ate themselves, and dress them in the clothes that they themselves dressed.


Thus, there arose a issue with the women who were captured as Prisoners of War, and were not exchanged, nor ransomed, nor had any place to return to. Most times the wars were with tribes, and whoever won these wars, the losing tribes were completely annihilated. Thus there was no place to send the Prisoners of War back to, and it became imperative that these people were inculcated within the society. Thus there were two choices left with the slave girls:

Leave them alone in society with no family and no protection.

Give them under the guardianship and protection of an existing family.


Option-1. Leave them alone in society with no family and no protection.

This would not have been a good option. There was obviously a fear that these women, who had absolutely no family and tribe to protect or feed them, would start immoral practices if left to fend for themselves. And because no one could determine their lineage, no honorable person at that time would marry them outright. And also it would not be right to just leave these women, who had absolutely no means, no family, and no protection in a foreign land.


Option-2. Give them under the guardianship of an existing family.

The state would determine which slave girl goes to which household. Neither the people who received the slave girl, nor the slave girl had a choice. Whatever was allotted by the state was received by them. This was considered the best and novel system to eradicate slavery and accept the slaves as members of society. We must not try to imagine this system of distribution and acceptance in todays society, but rather 1400 years at the time of the Prophet (saws). The training and discipline of the noble companions of the Prophet (saws), and the true Islamic society which was created in light of the Holy Quran and the guidance of the Messenger of Allah (saws) must be kept in view to get a full picture of the condition of the times.


Q-1: What is a concubine?

The slave girl that was allotted by the state to the respective household, thus became the consort of one member of the household. Only this person was allowed to have a sexual relationship with this slave girl. The difference between this persons wife and the slave girl was that his wife came into his house through the proper marriage contract (Nikaah), and the slave girl was allotted by the state.


Q-2: What is their status in a mans life, esp a married persons life?

The status was like his wife. Only the person who was allotted the slave girl was allowed to have a sexual relationship with her. If the slave girl was allotted to the father, then the brothers or the sons had absolutely no right towards this girl. The other difference was that the Islamic law of equality of time and sustenance did not apply between the wives and the slave girl.


Q-3: What is the status of the offsprings of this relationship-- to the man, in their lives, wealth and will etc?

The children were exactly like the other children from the persons legally wedded wife. They were to be given exactly the same rights as his other children. The children of the slave girl would inherit the property exactly as the other children. There was absolutely no difference amongst the children. And once any slave girl bore a child, she could not be sold to anybody else and thus became a permanent member of the household.


Q-4: Does she have to be a muslima, or the religion in this relationship is not of concern?

No, this slave girl did not have to be a muslima. In fact, all the wars fought were between the muslims and the non-believers, thus most of these slave girls were non-muslims. But through this system of allocation, this woman was encompassed into Islamic society, and because of the behavior and character of the muslims of the times, the woman, more often than not, would accept Islam.


Q-5: How is this any different from the modern days concept of mistress/prostitution/adultery?

There is a huge difference between the slave girls of those times and the system of prostitution which is so prevalent as a disease in todays society.

The slave girl was a social issue of the times, which if not solved by Islam would give rise to adultery and prostitution.

In prostitution, the woman sells here services for a fee to anyone who is willing to pay! The slave girl was taken into a household as a full member.

In prostitution, the woman has sexual relationships with many men! The slave girl would have sexual relations only with the person she was given to; very similar to the husband-wife relationship, the only difference being that the wife came into the house through a marriage contract, and the slave girl was allotted to the person by the state.

Prostitution is a result of illegal lust, and is a huge sin in the eyes of Allah. The allocation of slave girls was a issue of the times to envelope the woman taken as slaves in a war into the Islamic society.

Prostitution and adultery do not have any responsibility attached to it! The man-woman have a one-off relationship and depart. The slave girls were a responsibility of the person, who spent on them, gave them a place to live, fed them, clothed them, and raised their children as his children.

The children from adultery and prostitution are regarded as born out of wedlock and grow up without the name and without the shadow of a father. The children of the slave girls were known as the children of the person, grew up with his other children, and had exactly the same rights and inheritance as the other offspring.

The system of slave girls was accepted and respected by the Islamic society of the times. The slave girl was treated like his wife, and the children from these slave girls were treated like their children by society.

No religion, no state, no moral society accepts and respects the institutions of prostitution and adultery. This is a disease of society and every moral society has tried to eradicate this disease with little success.


Again, I reiterate that this system of slaves was not started by Islam, but was prevalent in the society in those times. Islam tried to encompass the slaves into Islamic society and gave them the respect and honor of being equal members and citizens of society. Almost all the doors and ways of creating new slaves were closed, and several options were created to free these slaves and entwine them into the Islamic society. It was considered a virtue in Islam to free slaves and a means of great reward from Allah Subhanah. Islam created a society whereby the compensation for repentance for many sins like murder, breaking of promises, missing of fasts, etc. was the freeing of slaves. In this way, Islam created an environment whereby slaves were made free and allowed to inculcate themselves into the normal Islamic society. We must be careful not to look into this slave-girls issue in isolation, but rather look at the whole picture of the Islamic society at the time of the Messenger of Allah (saws). The training, the discipline, the character, and the morals of the noble companions was a direct result of their association and teachings and guidance of the Prophet (saws) himself. The values and degree of Taqwa (God consciousness) and the love for the promised Paradise was so great amongst the noble companions of the Messenger of Allah (saws), that the system of justice and morality of the times just cannot be compared to todays un-Godly times! One must not compare the slaves in Islam to the slaves taken by the modern colonists, who captured any free man in sight in the occupied territories like Africa, chained them and shipped them to their countries and treated them worse than animals! Among the slaves of Islam were people of stature like Hadrat Bilaal (r.a.), Hadrat Ammar bin Yasser (r.a.), Hadrat Salman al Faarsi (r.a.) and Hadrat Zaid bin Haritha(r.a.), the freed slave and adopted son of the Messenger of Allah (saws) himself. The status of Hadrat Zaid bin Haritha (r.a.) is such that he is the only companion of the Prophet (saws) who is mentioned by name by Allah in the Holy Quran. Thus the concept and picture of the slavery as practiced by the west, is absolutely different from the concept of slaves in Islam!


Q-6: But then time and time again I come to read the fact that Rasool Allah (saws) used to have one or two concubines too, aside from his 13 wives?

The Messenger of Allah (saws) had 11 wives in total during his lifetime, and the most wives he had at any one time were nine. Some of the allotted captives of war and slave-girls, became his noble wives and received the title and honor of being called the mother of the believers by Allah Himself in the Holy Quran. Amongst them was Hadrat Saffiyyah, who was a Jew. She was allotted to the Prophet (saws) as a slave girl, converted to Islam and was married to the Messenger of Allah (saws). Another of his wives who came as a slave and was allotted to the Prophet (saws) was Hadrat Jawarriyah (r.a.) from the tribe of Banu Haris. She too converted to Islam and was married to the Messenger of Allah (saws). He also had a couple of slaves girls whom he did not marry, like Hadrat Maria Kibtia and Hadrat Rehaana, for reasons best known to Allah and His Messenger (saws). But the scholars are unanimous in their opinion that the Messenger of Allah (saws) treated them with love and respect exactly like his other wives. And even after the death of the Prophet (saws), these slave girls of the Prophet (saws) did not marry anybody else like his wives, and they were respected by the muslims in the same honor as the other wives of the Prophet (saws).


And Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.


Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allahs Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.


Your Brother in Islam,





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