Injunctions of the Qur’an
Traditions of the Prophet of Islam
Kind Treatment to the Slaves
Steps for abolition of Slavery
Status of Bondwomen
We have already
mentioned that those captives of war who are not released gratis
or on ransom are distributed by the supreme commander among the
Muslims and thus they are made slaves. Although the institution of
slavery stands legally abolished and does not exist in the world
of today, yet it is being discussed as the institution is deeply
connected with Jihad and the failure of the Muslims to abolish
legally has brought very harsh criticism against Islam.
The institution of
slavery had been in existence since times immemorial. It was much
before the advent of Islam that the institution was well
established in the social system of every nation. However, the
treatment given to the slaves was inhuman and very cruel. They
were considered a mere commodity and not human beings. They were
marketable and heritable and like cattle or property they could be
disposed of by bequest or will. A slave had no rights whatsoever
although he was burdened with cumbersome duties and obligations.
They had no legal status and led a life of unmitigated drudgery in
the hands of the pitiless masters. They were never fed properly
but given provisions just sufficient to keep them alive and fit to
do their master’s work. While working in the fields they were
fettered in heavy chains so that they could not run away. They
were often beaten for small mistakes and sometimes even without
mistake just for the savage pleasure of their sadist masters.
Their masters had absolute right even to kill them or exploit them
in any way. They were mercilessly and brutally treated without any
right to complain even. Such was the miserable plight in which the
slaves were living in Roman Empire, Persia, Egypt, India and
everywhere when Islam arrived on the scene to deliver them from
this condition. Al-Islam the most benevolent and humanitarian
religion took many practical measures to improve the lot of this
down-trodden section of humanity. It wonderfully mitigated their
sufferings by encouraging its followers to emancipate the slaves,
helping the slaves to purchase their freedom, forbidding
enslavement of Muslims, putting and end to the sources which
perpetuate slavery, restoring the slaves their human status and
dignity, encouraging marriages of slaves and inter-marriages
between free Muslims and Muslim slaves, and above all by granting
them legal rights.
Today slavery is
abolished and the credit for its abolition has been taken by the
Western man who promulgated laws during nineteenth century to
remove this curse from humanity. The question arises : Why Islam –
despite being a champion of slaves emancipation—did not abolish
slavery by making a law as it did in case of usury, drinking and
gambling? There is no easy answer to this question. The
institution of slavery was well-rooted in the social system of
every nation of the world at that time. There were many social,
psychological and political problems involved with this
institution that no legal enactment or social reform could have
abolished it at once. It is perhaps due to this fact that Islam
did not abolish it by making a law. However, by taking effective
and practical measures Islam set a stage for its ultimate
abolition. The steps taken during the reign of the Prophet (PBUH)
and his immediate successors had brought slavery almost to an end
practically if not legally. But the later caliphs and Muslim
rulers stopped the process for obvious reasons. Inspite of that
the efforts made by Islam to eliminate the curse of slavery from
the yoke of humanity through voluntary and evolutionary process
did not go waste. The process had been set in motion and so
slavery was abolished legally in nineteenth century though it was
not the Muslim but the Western man who did this noble act.
Now let us discuss
in brief the rights granted by Islam to the slaves and the
measures taken by this great religion for ultimate abolition of
the institution of slavery through evolutionary process.
to the start of this chapter]
I. Injunctions of the Qur’an
Some of the verses
of the Holy Qur’an which directly refer to the rights of slaves
and the treatment which is to be given to them are reproduced as
It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to
the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in Allah
and the Last Day and the Angels and the Scripture and the
Prophets; and giveth his wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and
to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask,
and setteth slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth
the poor-due, and those who keep their treaty when they make one,
and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress,
such are they who are sincere. Such are the God-fearing.
Wed not idolatresses till they believe; for lo! a
believing bondwoman is better than an idolatress though she please
you; and give not your daughters in marriage to idolaters till
they believe, for lo! a believing slave is better than an idolater
though he please you……
–––(2:Al-Baqarah : 221)
And whoso is not able to afford to marry free,
believing women, let them marry from the believing maids whom your
right hands possess. Allah knoweth best (concerning) your faith.
Ye (proceed) one from another; so wed them by permission of their
folk, and give unto them their portions in kindness, ………
And serve Allah and ascribe nothing as partner unto
Him. (Show) kindness unto parents, and unto near kindred, and
orphans, and the needy, and unto the neighbour who is of kin (unto
you) and the fellow – traveller and the wayfarer and (the slaves)
whom your right hands possess.
It is not for a believer to kill a believer unless
(it be) by mistake. He who hath killed a believer by mistake must
set free a believing slave, and pay the blood-money to the family
of the slain, unless they remit it as a charity. If he (the
victim) be of a people hostile unto you, and he is a believer,
then (the penance is) to set free a believing slave. And if he
cometh of a folk between whom and you there is a covenant, then
the blood-money must be paid unto his folk and (also) a believing
slave must be set free. And whoso hath not the wherewithal must
fast two consecutive months. A penance from Allah. Allah is
Allah will not take you to task for that which is
unintentional in your oaths, but He will take you to task for the
oaths which ye swear in earnest. The expiation thereof is the
feeding of ten of the needy with the average of that wherewith ye
feed your own folk, or the clothing of them, or the liberation of
a slave, and for him who findeth not (the wherewithal to do so)
then a three day’s fast. This is the expiation of your oaths when
ye have sworn; and keep your oaths. Thus Allah expoundeth unto you
His revelations in order that ye may give thanks.
The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and
those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be
reconciled and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the
cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah.
Allah is knower, Wise.
And marry such of you as are solitary and the pious
of your slaves and maid-servants. If they be poor, Allah will
enrich them of His bounty. Allah is of ample means, Aware.
And such of your slaves as seek a writing (of
emancipation), write if for them if ye are aware of ought of good
in them, and bestow upon them of the wealth of Allah which He hath
bestowed upon you.
Force not your slave-girls to whoredom that ye may
seek enjoyment of the life of the world, if they would preserve
their chastity. And if one force them, then (unto them), after
their compulsion, Lo! Allah will be Forgiving, Merciful.
But he hath not attempted the Ascent-
Ah, what will
unto thee what the Ascent is! -
(It is) to free a
And to feed in
day of hunger,
An orphan near
Or some poor
to the start of this chapter]
II. Traditions of the Prophet of Islam
Rights of the
slaves and the duties of their masters towards them have been
stressed by the Prophet of Islam in his following traditions:-
Abdullah-b-Umar reported that a man came to the
Holy Prophet and said: O Messenger of Allah! How many times shall
we pardon a servant? He remained silent. Then he asked the
question to him again, but he remained silent. Then it was asked
for the third time, he replied: Pardon him 70 times every day.
–––(Abu Daud, Tirmizi)
Abu Zarr reported that the Messenger of Allah said:
Your brethren-Allah has placed them under your hands; whosoever’s
brother Allah has placed under his hand, let him feed him out of
what he himself eats, let him clothe him out of what he clothes
himself with; and let him not be entrusted with a work which will
overcome him. If he entrusts him with what will overcome him, let
him assist him therein.
–––(Bukhari and Muslim)
Abu Hurairah reported: I heard the father of Qasem
say: Whoever imputes foul accusation to his slave while he is
innocent of what he is charged with, will be whipped on the
Resurrection Day unless he commits what he imputed.
–––(Bukhari and Muslim)
Ibn Umar reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah
say: Whoso scourges his slave for an ordained crime which he did
not commit or slaps him, then his expiation is to emancipate him.
Abu Masud al-Ansari reported: I was assaulting my
slave when I heard a voice from behind me: Know, O Abu Masu’d!
Allah is powerful over you more than what you have got over him.
Then I looked when lo! he was the Messenger of Allah. I said: O
Messenger of Allah! He is free for the sake of Allah. He said:
Beware! Had you not done it, the Fire would surely have burnt you,
or the Fire would have touched you.
Rafe-b-Makis reported that the Messenger of Allah
said: Good treatment with persons under control brings fortunes,
and bad treatment with creation misfortunes.
Abu Zarr reported that the Messenger of Allah said:
Whosoever from your slaves obeys you, give him food out of what
you yourselves eat, clothe him out of what you yourselves clothe.
And whoso among them does not obey you, sell him and do not
inflict punishment on the creation of Allah.
–––(Bukhari and Muslim)
Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah
said: There are three (persons) whose help is a duty on Allah; a
covenanted slave who intends to pay, a married man who wishes to
pay dower and one who fights in the way of Allah.
9. Abu Hurairah
reported that the Holy Prophet said: Shall I not inform you of the
worst of you! - One who eats alone, scourges his servant and
refuses him help.
10. Abu Hurairah
reported that the messenger of Allah said: A slave shall get his
food and clothing and shall not be troubled with work but what he
is capable of.
11. Ali reported
that he had made separation between a slave-girl and her child.
The Holy Prophet prevented him from that. Then he cancelled the
12. Abu Bakr
siddiq reported that the messenger of Allah said: One who treats
badly with those under authority shall not enter Paradise. They enquired: O Messenger of Allah! Have you not
informed us that this people will certainly be the foremost of the
peoples in respect of slaves and orphans? ‘Yes, replied he, ‘so
honour them as you honour your children, and give them food out of
what you yourselves eat…..
13. Abu Musa al-Ash’ari
reported that the Messenger of Allah said: A man with whom there
is a slave-girl, who teaches her manners and then makes her
manners good; who gives her education and imparts it well, and who
then emancipates her and afterwards takes her in marriage-there
are double rewards for him.
14. Abu Hurairah
reported that messenger of Allah said: The Almighty Allah said:
There will be three persons whose opponent I shall become on the
Resurrection Day: A man who gave a promise in my name and then
broke trust, and a man who sold a free man and enjoyed his price,
and a man who engaged a labourer and enjoyed full labour from him
but did not pay him his wages.
15. Abu Hurairah
reported that the Apostle of Allah said: whoever sets free the
neck of a Muslim, Allah will redeem from the fire a limb in
exchange of every limb.
16. Abu Zarr
reported: I asked the Apostle of Allah: which action is best! He
said: Faith in Allah and Jihad in the way of Allah. I asked: which
neck is best (for emancipation). He said: That which is dearest of
them in price and most valuable of them near its master.
Samorah-b-Jundab reported that the Prophet said: The best charity
is an intercession wherewith a slave is set free.
Having glanced through the verses of the Holy Qur’an and Traditions of
the Prophet of Islam , we shall now discuss the
kind and humane treatment given to the slaves and the steps taken for their
emancipation by Islam.
to the start of this chapter]
III- Kind Treatment To the Slaves
1. First thing
which Islam did regarding the slaves was that their lost status
and dignity as human beings was restored to them. Common descent
of the human beings was emphasised by the Qur’an, the revealed
book of Islam, which declared: “Ye (proceed) one from another….”
(4:25). Common parentage of all humankind was mentioned by the
Qur’an when it said: “ O Mankind! Be careful of your duty to your
Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created its
mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and
women…..” (4:1). The Prophet of Islam, in his famous Sermon
delivered during the Farewell pilgrimage, announced: “You are all
children of Adam and Adam was created from dust….” Thus Islam
treats all the human beings as equal since they have common
parents and they come from the same human stock. There is no
distinction between Arab and non-Arab, between white and black,
between master and slave, and between rich and poor in Islam.
The Qur’an calls the believers as brothers of each other (49:10), while
the prophet of Islam declared that one Muslim is brother of
another Muslim. About the slaves, prophet Muhammad (PBUH) enjoined
upon his followers:
“Your brethren Allah has placed them under your hands….. So feed them out
of what you eat and clothe them with what you clothe yourselves."
Islam permitted marriages between masters and slaves and the prophet of
Islam, as a mark of respect for the feelings of the slaves,
commanded his companions: “Don't say: This is my slave and this
is my slave-girl: rather say: This is my man and this is my maiden.” Prophet (PBUH)
married his cousin Zainab to his freed slave Zaid and appointed
son of Zaid to command an army which included great companions
like Abu Bakr, Umar and Ali.
Thus Islam not only raised the status of the slaves to the level of
human beings but also exalted them to the position of leaders,
military commanders and nobles. A common bond of Islamic
was established between them and their masters. Umar the second caliph of
Islam declared: “Had Salim, the slave of Abi Huzaifa been alive,
I would have appointed him my successor.”
The Qur’an enjoins upon the believers to show
kindness to the slaves. The Prophet (PBUH) has given instructions
to his followers that they should treat the slaves like their own
children and should give them food out of what they eat. The
Muslims should consider the slaves like brothers. The slaves must
be provided food, clothes and residential place. They should not
be entrusted with a work which they are unable to do. If the
assignment is difficult, the master should assist the slave. The
Prophet declared that the worst of the men is he who beats his
slave and does not help him in performing a difficult task. If a
slave makes mistakes, he should be pardoned as many as seventhly
times a day. In case he disobeys, he may be sold but no punishment
should be inflicted on him. False allegations should not be made
against an innocent slave. One who treats a slave badly will not
enter paradise. The families of the slaves should not be separated
Marriages between free Muslims and believing slaves
have been permitted. The Qur’an has rather exhorted the Muslims to
prefer the believing slaves over the idolaters and non-believers
who are free and who may be wealthy and good looking. It says:
“Wed no idolatresses till they believe, for lo! a believing
bondwoman is better than an idolatress though she please you; and
give not your daughters in marriage to idolaters till they
believe, for lo! a believing slave is better than an idolater
though he please you…..” (2:221). Those Muslims who could not
afford to marry free believing women were encouraged to marry
believing maids. The Qur’an says: “And whoso is not able to afford
to marry free believing women, let them marry from the believing
maids whom your right hands possess……” (4:25)
Slaves were not
allowed to marry according to prevalent custom, as the owners
would be partly deprived of their service on account of the
preoccupation of the slaves with their families. However, Islam
abolished such restrictions. The Qur’an says: “And marry such of
you as are
solitary and the pious of your slaves and maid servants……”
(24:32). Thus the Qur’an has enjoined upon the believers not only
to permit those male and female slaves who are capable of assuming
the responsibilities of marriage to marry but also to make
arrangements for such marriages.
Besides granting them human status and ensuring
them benevolent treatment, Islam gave the slaves many legal
rights. In Islam the slaves enjoy the same rights to life, honour
and property as the free Muslims have. The Prophet of Islam
declared: “He who kills his slave, we shall kill him; who
multilates his nose, we shall cut his nose; and who gelds our
slave, we shall get him gelded in return”.
According to the
criminal law of Islam, anyone who kills a slave, steals his
property, dishonours him or inflicts any injury on him, will be
punished in the same way as the slave or any other free
man would be
punished for committing the same offences. Similarly civil law of
Islam recognises their right to own property and even their
masters have no right to use their property without their will.
The slaves in Islam enjoyed ranks and positions
unparalleled in the history of man. The first Muazzen in Islam was
Bilal, a Negro slave. He was a close companion of the Prophet (PBUH)
and was appointed commander of an army. Zaid, who was a freed
slave of the Prophet (PBUH) was married to Zainab, a cousin of the
Prophet. The prophet himself appointed Zaid as commander of an
army in the Muta expedition. The Prophet also appointed Usama, son
of Zaid, as commander of a Muslim army which included the great
companions of the Prophet (PBUH) like Abu Bakr, Umar, Ali and
Uthman. Salman Farsi was slave and Ali said about him that “he was
one of our household (family member)”.
of Ghaznavid dynasty of rulers and father of famous king and
conqueror of India Mahmood of
a slave. Qutb-ud-Din, Iltutmash and Balban were famous sultans of
slave dynasty of India. The Mamluks ruled over Egypt for centuries
and their name suggests that they were all slaves.
distinguishing themselves in politics, statecraft and military,
the slaves also distinguished in learning, knowledge and piety.
Zain-ul-Abidin was son of a slave-girl (though a former princess
Persia) whom Imam Hussain had married. Jurists and Muhaddith like
Salim-b-Abdullah, Qasim-b-Muhammad, Muhammad-b-Sairin, Nafiy,
Ikramah, Muhammad bin Ishaq, etc. were either slaves or
descendants of slaves.
to the start of this chapter]
IV- Steps for Abolition of Slavery
1. For freedom of
slaves, Islam adopted two measures: Voluntary emancipation by the
masters (called al-Itq) and writing of their freedom (called
Mukatabah). These are discussed in detail as under:-
motivated voluntary manumission of slaves by positive injunctions.
According to the Qur’an, to set a slave free is no doubt an uphill
task save for those who are the righteous. In the sight of the
Qur’an one of the virtues of the righteous and pious is that they
free the slaves. Freeing
of slaves has been made by the Qur’an an expiation for certain
sins and offences like murder, breaking of oath, divorce by Zihar,
etc. Some rules and regulations have been laid down by the Quran
and Hadith for atonement of certain sins and religious
irregularities through emancipation of slaves. Beating of a slave
is a great sin and it can only be atoned by setting that slave
free. Liberating of slaves is one of the eight heads of
expenditure on which Zakat funds can be spent by an Islamic state.
Slaves have been
encouraged by Islam to purchase their freedom from their masters.
If a slave shows interest to purchase his freedom and proposes to
execute deed of emancipation, the offer cannot be rejected by his
master according to the opinion of some leading Muslim jurists.
The master has to accept the offer though the amount of
consideration can be settled by mutual negotiations. Once the
amount is settled, the owner would not only provide the time to
the slave enabling him to earn the stipulated amount but he is
also expected to show magnanimity in reducing or remitting the
amount. Other Muslims and Islamic state are also expected
to help such
slaves who have entered into agreements of emancipation. According
to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), Allah considers it His duty to help a
covenanted slave who intends to pay for his freedom.
Islam considers it
a great act of piety to free a slave or help him in getting his
freedom. There are many verses in the Qur’an and Ahadith of the
Prophet (PBUH) which encourage the believers to free their slaves
for the pleasure of Allah. Manumission of slaves is an act which
takes its doer to Paradise. The more expensive and loved a slave is, the greater
would be the goodness and virtue in setting him free. Whoever
frees a Muslim slave,
it becomes his redemption in protecting him from Hell. One who has
a slave girl and who teaches her manners, frees her and then
marries her would receive double rewards from the Almighty. The
Prophet (PBUH) declared that nothing is more dearer to Allah than
manumission of slaves. The Prophet also said that even pleading
for manumission brings reward.
Inspired by the
teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet of Islam, Muslims vied
with each other in liberating as many slaves as they could.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself liberated as many as
63 slaves. His companion Abu Bakr liberated more than 100 slaves.
Prophet’s wife Ayesha
liberated 67, Abbas liberated 70, Abdullah bin Umar liberated one
thousand slaves. Slaves were purchased and liberated by the early
Muslims as an act of worship. The result was that by the end of
the period of pious caliphate, almost all the old slaves of Arabia
had been freed.
Islam tried to put an end to all those sources
whence slavery sprang up. Let us see to what extent it was
successful. There were two sources of perpetuating slavery,
namely: capture of free men, women and children in peace times and
their sale in markets; and prisoners who were taken in a war and
later on made slaves.
Islam brought an
end to both the sources. So far as the first source of giving
birth to slavery is concerned, Islam has strictly forbidden and
condemned catching free people and making them slaves. According
to a Hadith, the Prophet of Islam is reported to have said that
Allah would be an opponent
of three persons on the Day of Resurrection, one of them being a
person who sold a free man and enjoyed his price.
The Qur’an says: It
is not for any Prophet to have captives until he hath made
slaughter in the land……”(8:67). This means that no person may be
taken or for any time retained as captive unless he was taken
prisoner in a jihad. Thus acquisition of a slave by “peaceful”
the keeping of a slave thus acquired, is entirely
prohibited, which, as Muhammad Asad understands, amounts to
prohibition of slavery as a social institution.
second source i.e. the captives taken in a war, though Islam
permits to make them slaves, yet the most preferred and
recommended course of action about them is that they should be
freed either by grace or against a ransom. The Qur’an says: “Now
when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of
the necks until, when ye have routed them, then make fast of
bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down
its burden……” (47:4). This means that the Muslims, when they meet
the disbelievers in a battle, should first of all crush the enemy
and defeat them completely, and afterwards they may take
prisoners. But even such
prisoners of war may be freed either with
grace (without consideration) or with ransom (with consideration
such as money or exchange of prisoners with the enemy or for some
service from the prisoners). The verse reproduced above also lays
down that it is only in a battle with the disbelievers that the
captives can be taken and not in a battle with the Muslims. It
means that if there is a battle between the Muslims (God forbid),
the Muslims would not be taking the defeated Muslims as prisoners
and making them slaves. That is why the Prophet of Islam is
reported to have said that no Muslim can be made slave.
During the reign of
the Prophet (PBUH), seventy-eight expeditions were organised
against the enemies of Islam and only in
very few of
them prisoners were taken. In most of the cases the prisoners were
set free gracefully without any consideration and in very few
cases ransom was accepted. This example of the Prophet (PBUH) was
followed by his immediate successors known in history as the
rightly guided caliphs. During their reign many new countries were
conquered but no prisoners of war were taken.
The Prophet of
Islam is also reported to have said that no Arab can be made a
slave and this principle was later on
during the reign of caliph Umar to all the inhabitants of
One of the major factors which promoted slavery and
encouraged the trade in slave-girls was that the slave-girls were
used for prostitution. Even the rich persons enjoying high status
in society did not feel any shame in earning income through
prostitution. It is reported that rich man like Abdullah-bin-Ubbey
who was a tribal chief (and a hypocrite) had purchased some
slave-girls whom he forced to earn for him as prostitutes. Islam
abolished this evil custom. The Qur’an says: “Force not your
slave-girls to whoredom that ye may seek enjoyment of the life of
the world……” (24:33). In addition to that Islam prohibited
fornication and adultery in all forms. Adultery was declared a
major sin and punishable crime. The Qur’an says: “And come not
near unto adultery. Lo! it is an abomination and an evil way”
(17:32). Very severe punishment was prescribed for those who
indulge in this crime. Hudd or prescribed punishment for adultery
has been ordained by the revealed book of Islam in its verse No.2
of Chapter No.24 as follows: “The adulterer and the adulteress,
scourge, ye each one of them (with) a hundred stripes. And let not
pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah……” (Al-Qur’an
24:2). Thus by abolition of prostitution and banning adultery in
any form, Islam removed one of the prime reasons which encouraged
purchase and sale of slave-girls.
to the start of this chapter]
V- Status of Bondwomen
foregoing discussion made in this chapter relates both to the male
and female slaves equally, yet we feel inclined to dilate a little
more on the institution of bondwomen and slave-girls separately
because the existence of this institution in Islam has not only
instigated criticism from the enemies of Islam but also the
institution has been misused by the licentious and lustful Muslims
among the ruling and wealthy classes during the imperial era of
Bondwomen or slave
girls are those non-Muslim females who fall prisoners of war in
the hands of the Muslim troops. Their marriage ties, in case they
are married, are broken by the fact that they have come into the
Islamic Zone while their husbands have been left behind in war
zone (Dar-ul-Harb). It is lawful to marry such women and it is
also lawful for those, in whose possession they are, to have
sexual relations with them without entering into a formal marriage
Syed Abdul ‘Ala
Maududi, a great scholar and jurist of Islam, has explained the
Islamic law about the slave-girls as follows:
It is not lawful for a soldier to have conjugal
relations with a prisoner of war as soon as she falls into his
hands. The Islamic Law requires that all such women should be
handed over to the government, which has the right to set them
free or to exchange them with the Muslim prisoners in the hands of
the enemy or distribute them among the soldiers. It is lawful for
a soldier to cohabit only with that woman who has been formally
given to him by the government.
Even then, he shall have to wait for one monthly
course before he can cohabit with her in order to ensure whether
she is pregnant or not; otherwise it shall be unlawful to cohabit
with her before delivery.
It does not matter whether the female prisoner of
war belongs to the people of the Book or not. Whatever her
religion, she becomes lawful for the man to whom she has been
None but the one whom the slave girl is given has
the right to “touch her”. The offspring of such a woman from his
seed shall be his lawful children and shall have the same legal
rights as are given by the Divine Law to children from one’s
loins. After the birth of a child she cannot be sold as a slave
girl and shall automatically become free after her master’s death.
If the master marries his slave girl with another
man, he forfeits his conjugal rights over her, but retains other
rights such as service from her.
The maximum limit of four has not been prescribed
for slave girls as in the case of wives for the simple reason that
the number of female prisoners of war is unpredictable. The lack
of limit does by no means provide a license for the well-to-do
people to buy any number of slave girls for licentious purposes.
The proprietary rights over a slave male or female
as given to a person by the government are transferable like all
other legal proprietary rights.
The handing over of the proprietary rights over a
slave girl to a man formally by the government makes her as much
lawful for him as the giving of the hand of a free woman to a man
by her parents or guardian by means of nikah (marriage
ceremony). Therefore there is no reason why a man who does not
hold marriage in detestation should hold sexual intercourse with a
slave girl in detestation.
When once the government hands over the female
prisoner of war to some one, it has no right whatever to take her
back from him, just as the parent or guardian has no right after
the woman is handed over to a man through nikah.
It should also be noted well that if a military
commander temporarily distributes female prisoners of war among
the soldiers for sexual purposes, or permits them to have sexual
relations for the time being, such an act shall be unlawful and
there is absolutely no difference between this and fornication,
and fornication is a crime according to the Islamic code.
the above view, some scholars hold that cohabitation with bond
women and slave-girls without marriage is unlawful. Muhammajd Asad,
who is one of such thinkers, while commenting on verse 3 of Surah
4 in his book “The Message of the Qur’an” writes that condition of
having maximum four wives is applicable in the case of free women
as well as slave-girls. According to him. “Contrary to the popular
view and the practice of many Muslims in the past centuries,
neither the Qur’an nor the life-example of the Prophet provides
any sanction for sexual intercourse without marriage”. Yet at
another place, while commenting on verse 25 of surah 4, he says:
“This passage lays down in an unequivocal manner that sexual
relations with female slaves are permitted only on the basis of
marriage, and that in this respect there is no difference between
them and free women, consequently, concubinage is ruled out”.
to the start of this chapter]