Ma malakat aymanukum
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Bernard Lewis translates ma malakat aymanukum as "those whom you own." Abdullah Yusuf Ali translates it as "those whom your right hands possess", as does M. H. Shakir. N. J. Dawood translates the phrase more idiomatically as "those whom you own as slaves."
The expression ma malakat aymanukum and its variants are found in 15 Quranic passages. It is the most common of the seven separate terms used in the Quran to refer to slaves. The Quranic vocabulary for slaves is significantly different from classical Arabic, where the most common terms for slave are ‘abd (used in the Quran mainly in the sense servant/worshipper of God) and raqiq (not found in the Quran). According to Jonathan E. Brockopp, the use of the phrase ma malakat aymanukum and the cognate term mamluk (possessed) makes it clear that slaves in the Quranic discourse are regarded as property.
In the 20th century, South Asian scholars Ghulam Ahmed Pervez and Amir Ali argued that the expression ma malakat aymanukum should be properly read in the past tense. When some called for reinstatement of slavery in Pakistan upon its independence from the British colonial rule, Pervez argued that the past tense of this expression means that the Quran had imposed "an unqualified ban" on slavery.
Islamic views on slavery
Mainstream view of slavery in the Quran
The Quran treats slavery and freedom not as part of the natural order but admits it is indeed a happening as was the nature of humans from days of yore, and states this distinction as an example of God's grace. It regards this discrimination between human beings as in accordance with the divinely established order of things and to undermine this order is to act against God.
Pious exhortations from jurists to free men to address their slaves by such euphemistic terms as "my boy" and "my girl" stemmed from the belief that God, not their masters, was responsible for the slave's status. The Quran does state that all humans are valued by God for their deeds and not their worldly status.
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well-acquainted.
The verses 2.178 and 4.176 of Quran explicitly states at least three distinct and unequal categories of human beings: free, slaves and women. The Quran also outlines verses wherein an infidel slave after converting to Islam may be manumitted by a Muslim and thereby gaining merit in the eyes of God.
Comparison to pre-Islamic cultures
There were many common features between the institution of slavery in the Quran and that of pre-Islamic culture. However, the Quranic institution had some unique new features. According to Brockopp, the idea of using alms for the manumission of slaves who had converted to Islam appears to be unique to the Quran. Islam also prohibits the use of female slaves for prostitution which was common in pre-Islamic history.
Brockopp states that the Qur'an was a progressive legislation on slavery in its time because it encouraged proper treatment. Others state that Islam's record with slavery has been mixed, progressive in Arabian lands, but it increased slavery and worsened abuse as Muslim armies attacked people in Africa, Europe and Asia. Murray notes that Quran sanctified the institution of slavery and abuses therein, but to its credit did not freeze the status of a slave and allowed a means to a slave's manumission in some cases when the slave converted to Islam.
When an individual erred such as missing a day of fasting, they were to free a slave. Sharia authorized the institution of slavery, and under Islamic law, Muslim men could have sexual relations with female captives and slaves without her consent. Sharia, in Islam's history, provided religious foundation for enslaving non-Muslim women (and men), as well as encouraged slave's manumission. However, manumission required that the non-Muslim slave first convert to Islam.
Muhammad's treatment of captives
Both the Quran and hadith make mention of the rights of slaves and how their masters must conduct themselves.
Narrated Al-Ma'rur: At Ar-Rabadha I met Abu Dhar who was wearing a cloak, and his slave, too, was wearing a similar one. I asked about the reason for it. He replied, "I abused a person by calling his mother with bad names." The Prophet said to me, 'O Abu Dhar! Did you abuse him by calling his mother with bad names You still have some characteristics of ignorance. Your slaves are your brothers and Allah has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity (power) and if you do so, then help them.'
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: "When the slave of anyone amongst you prepares food for him and he serves him after having sat close to (and undergoing the hardship of) heat and smoke, he should make him (the slave) sit along with him and make him eat (along with him), and if the food seems to run short, then he should spare some portion for him (from his own share) - (another narrator) Dawud said:" i. e. a morsel or two"
After the Muslims repelled the siege of Medinah, they order the execution of the male members (between 600 and 900) of the Banu Qurayza tribe for committing treason under the constitution of Medina, the women and children were taken as slaves. Muhammad himself took Rayhana as his slave. He presented three women from the conquered Banu Hawazin as slaves to his key supportive close marital relatives in early 630: Reeta, to Ali; Zeinab, to Uthman; and an unnamed third to Umar.
Surah Al-Muminun (23:6) and Surah Al-Maarij (70:30) both, in identical wording, draw a distinction between spouses and "those whom one's right hands possess" (female slaves), saying " أَزْوَاجِهِمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُمْ" (literally, "their spouses or what their right hands possess"), while clarifying that sexual intercourse with either is permissible. The purchase of female slaves for sex was lawful from the perspective of Islamic law, and this was the most common motive for the purchase of slaves throughout Islamic history.
"But let them who find not [the means for] marriage abstain [from sexual relations] until Allah enriches them from His bounty ... 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." (Surah An-Nur 24:33)
However the word used for chastity in this verse is also used to describe married women in Surah 4 verse 24. Ibn Kathir in this tasfir of this verse applied prostitution only to Zina and cited a haddith about "one who gets married seeking chastity"
One rationale given for recognition of concubinage in Islam is that "it satisfied the sexual desire of the female slaves and thereby prevented the spread of immorality in the Muslim community." Most schools restrict concubinage to a relationship where the female slave is required to be monogamous to her master (though the master's monogamy to her is not required), but according to Sikainga, "in reality, however, female slaves in many Muslim societies were prey for [male] members of their owners' household, their [owner's male] neighbors, and their [owner's male] guests."
The history of slavery in Islamic states and of sexual relations with slaves, was the "responsibility of Muslims, and not of the Quran", according to Parwez, as quoted by Clarence-Smith. Amir Ali blamed the history of Islamic slavery in racist terms, states Clarence-Smith, stating that slave servitude and sexual abuse of captive slaves may have been because of degeneration of the Arabs from their admixing over time with "lower races such as Ethiopians".
Limitations on Sex with Other Slaves
Regarding rules for having sexual intercourse with a slave, a man may not have sexual intercourse with a female slave belonging to his wife, but one he owns. Neither may he have relations with a female slave if she is co-owned without the permission of other owners. He may have sex with a female captive who was previously married prior to captivity, provided their Idda (waiting) period had come to an end.
Malik related to me from Nafi that a slave was in charge of the slaves in the khumus and he forced a slave-girl among those slaves against her will and had intercourse with her. Umar ibn al-Khattab had him flogged and banished him, and he did not flog the slave-girl because the slave had forced her.
If the female slave has a child by her master, she then receives the title of "Ummul Walad" (lit. Mother of the child), which is an improvement in her status as she can no longer be sold and is legally freed upon the death of her master. The child, by default, is born free due to the father (i.e., the master) being a free man. Although there is no limit on the number of concubines a master may possess, the general marital laws are to be observed, such as not having sexual relations with the sister of a female slave.
People are told that if they do not have the means to marry free-women, they can marry, with the permission of their masters, slave-women who are Muslims and are also kept chaste. In such marriages, they must pay their dowers so that this could bring them gradually equal in status to free-women.
In late 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant released a pamphlet on the treatment of female slaves, which used a Quranic quote containing the expression ma malakat aymanukum to argue that Islam permits having sex with female captives.
- "The term generally used in the Qur’ān for slaves is ما ملكت ايمانكم mā malakat aimānukum, “that which your right hands possess.”" Hughes, T. P. (1885). In A Dictionary of Islam: Being a Cyclopædia of the Doctrines, Rites, Ceremonies, and Customs, together with the Technical and Theological Terms, of the Muhammadan Religion. London: W. H. Allen & Co.
- Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East, page 146.
- Surah 4:24 "Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess: Thus hath Allah ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful, provided ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property—desiring chastity, not lust, seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed; but if, after a dower is prescribed, agree Mutually (to vary it), there is no blame on you, and Allah is All-knowing, All-wise." Ali, A. Y. (2004). The meaning of the Holy Qur’an.
- Surah 4:24 "And all married women except those whom your right hands possess (this is) Allah's ordinance to you, and lawful for you are (all women) besides those, provided that you seek (them) with your property, taking (them) in marriage not committing fornication. Then as to those whom you profit by, give them their dowries as appointed; and there is no blame on you about what you mutually agree after what is appointed; surely Allah is Knowing, Wise." Shakir, M. H. (Ed.). (n.d.). The Quran. Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library.
- Surah 4.24 "Also married women, except those whom you own as slaves. Such is the decree of God. All women other than these are lawful for you, provided you court them with your wealth in modest conduct, not in fornication. Give them their dowry for the enjoyment you have had of them as a duty; but it shall be no offense for you to make any other agreement among yourselves after you have fulfilled your duty. Surely God is all-knowing and wise." N. J. Dawood, "The Koran," Penguin Classics, Penguin Books, 1999 edition.
- Jonathan E. Brockopp (2006). "Slaves and slavery". In Jane Dammen McAuliffe. Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. 5. Brill. pp. 57–58. (Subscription required (. ))
- Jonathan E. Brockopp (2000), Early Mālikī Law: Ibn ʻAbd Al-Ḥakam and His Major Compendium of Jurisprudence, Brill, ISBN 978-9004116283, pp. 131
- Clarence-Smith, William. Islam and the Abolition of Slavery. Oxford University Press. pp. 198–200. ISBN 0195221516.
- [Quran 16:71]
- Jonathan E. Brockopp (2000), Early Mālikī Law: Ibn ʻAbd Al-Ḥakam and His Major Compendium of Jurisprudence, Brill Academic, ISBN 978-9004116283, pp. 130-133
- ([Quran 2:221], [Quran 4:25]), ([Quran 24:33])
- Marmon in Marmon (1999), page 2
- P.J. Bearman; Th. Bianquis; C.E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W.P. Heinrichs (eds.). "Abd". Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912.
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- W. G. Clarence-Smith (2006), Islam and the Abolition of Slavery, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195221510, pp. 23-35
- W. G. Clarence-Smith (2006), Islam and the Abolition of Slavery, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195221510, pp. 129-136
- Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, Slaves and Slavery
- Quran 2:177, Quran 9:60
- "Bernard Lewis on Slavery in Islam (An Analytical Study)" (PDF). Journal of Islamic Thought and Civilization.
- Gad Heuman and James Walvin (2003), The Slavery Reader, Volume 1, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415213042, pp. 31-32
- Murray Gordon (1989), Slavery in the Arab World, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 978-0941533300, pp. 18-39
- Lovejoy, Paul (2000). Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa. Cambridge University Press. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-0521784306.
Quote: The religious requirement that new slaves be pagans and need for continued imports to maintain slave population made Africa an important source of slaves for the Islamic world. (...) In Islamic tradition, slavery was perceived as a means of converting non-Muslims. One task of the master was religious instruction and theoretically Muslims could not be enslaved. Conversion (of a non-Muslim to Islam) did not automatically lead to emancipation, but assimilation into Muslim society was deemed a prerequisite for emancipation.
- Mazrui, A. A. (1997). Islamic and Western values. Foreign Affairs, pp 118-132.
- Ali, K. (2010). Marriage and slavery in early Islam. Harvard University Press.
- Jean Pierre Angenot; et al. (2008). Uncovering the History of Africans in Asia. Brill Academic. p. 60. ISBN 978-9004162914.
Quote: Islam imposed upon the Muslim master an obligation to convert non-Muslim slaves and become members of the greater Muslim society. Indeed, the daily observation of well defined Islamic religious rituals was the outward manifestation of conversion without which emancipation was impossible.
- Kecia Ali; (Editor: Bernadette J. Brooten). Slavery and Sexual Ethics in Islam, in Beyond Slavery: Overcoming Its Religious and Sexual Legacies. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 107–119. ISBN 978-0230100169.
Quote: The slave who bore her master's child became known in Arabic as an "umm walad"; she could not be sold, and she was automatically freed upon her master's death. (page 113)
- Bukhari, Sahih. "Sahih Bukhari : Book of "Belief"". www.sahih-bukhari.com. Retrieved 2017-02-11.
- "The Book of Oaths - Sahih Muslim - Sunnah.com - Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)". sunnah.com. Retrieved 2017-02-11.
- Guillaume, Alfred. The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah. pp. 461–464.
- Muir, William. "The Life of Mahomet". Smith, Elder, & Co., London, 1861; Vol.3, Ch.17, p.276 (citing Hishami, 436)
- Rodinson, Maxine. Muhammad: Prophet of Islam. p. 213.
- Muir, William. "The Life of Mahomet". Smith, Elder, & Co., London, 1861; Vol.4, Ch.25, pp.149–150
- Brunschvig. 'Abd; Encyclopedia of Islam, Brill, page 13.
- "Surah An-Nur [24:33]". Surah An-Nur [24:33]. Retrieved 2017-02-11.
- Tasfir Ibn Kathir http://www.qtafsir.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2428&Itemid=79, retrieved 2017-08-31 Missing or empty
- Sikainga, Ahmad A. (1996). Slaves Into Workers: Emancipation and Labor in Colonial Sudan. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-77694-2. p.22
- Bloom, Jonathan; Blair, Sheila (2002). Islam: A Thousand Years of Faith and Power. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-09422-1. p.48
- Clarence-Smith, William. Islam and the Abolition of Slavery. Oxford University Press. pp. 199–201. ISBN 0195221516.
- "USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts". Usc.edu. Archived from the original on 2008-11-28. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
- "They are allowed to take possession of married women if they are slaves. Sūrah iv. 28: “Unlawful for you are … married women, save such as your right hands possess.” (On this verse al-Jalālān the commentators say: “that is, it is lawful for them to cohabit with those women whom you have made captive, even though their husbands be alive in the Dāru ’l-Ḥarb.”" Hughes, T. P. (1885). In A Dictionary of Islam: Being a Cyclopædia of the Doctrines, Rites, Ceremonies, and Customs, together with the Technical and Theological Terms, of the Muhammadan Religion. London: W. H. Allen & Co.
- Abiad, Nisrine (2008). Sharia, Muslim States and International Human Rights Treaty Obligations: A Comparative Study. p. 136.
- "Bukhari , Book: 89 - Statements made under Coercion, Chapter 6: If a woman is compelled to commit illegal sexual intercourse against her will". sunnah.com. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- Lovejoy, Paul E. (2000). Transformations in Slavery. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-78430-1., p.2
- Quran 4:25
- Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. Mizan, The Social Law of Islam, Al-Mawrid
- Amelia Smith, "ISIS Publish Pamphlet On How to Treat Female Slaves," Newsweek, 12/9/2014
- Katharine Lackey, "Pamphlet provides Islamic State guidelines for sex slaves," USA Today, December 13, 2014
- J Alexander (2001), Islam, archaeology and slavery in Africa, World Archaeology, 33(1), 44-60.
Traditional Sunni viewpoints
Traditional Shi'a viewpoints