Ma malakat aymanukum
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Ma malakat aymanukum ("what your rights possess" ما ملكت أيمانکم) is a reference in the Qur'an to slaves.
The term itself is normally considered to refer to prisoners of war, or more broadly to slaves in general, according to the classic tafsirs. Bernard Lewis proposes the translation "those whom you own,"
A common misconception is to translate yameen as "right hand", the correct translation would be just "right". While right hand would be "yad alyumna", يد اليمنى.
|ما ملكت أيمانكم||what your (masculine plural) rights possess *|
|ما ملكت أيمانهم||what their (masculine plural) rights possess *|
|ما ملكت أيمانهن||what their (feminine plural) rights possess|
|ما ملكت يمينك||what your rights possess|
|الذين ملكت أيمانكم||Those whom your (masculine plural) rights possess *|
- Note: Masculine plural may also refer to a group of males and females.
The Quranic verses 90:12-13 may be translated as below, though these verses do not use "what your rights possess", and the word used in the verse means "neck" and not a slave:
- Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Ascent is! - It is the freeing of a slave.
Although slavery was not outright condemned, Muslims[who?] argue that this is because slavery was a vital part of the world during the time of the revelation and it would be difficult for society to end it immediately. Muslims (apologetics) argue that God sought to incrementally push for the abolishment of slavery through personal humanitarian initiatives. For example, "The Prophet said, "Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom)." Also when an individual erred such as missing a day of fasting they were to free a slave. Slavery was not encouraged, i.e. there was no command to take slaves. On the contrary, there were commands that freeing slaves is a righteous act. Therefore this set the emancipation of slaves in motion. While this emancipation was occurring, the Qur'an and the Prophet established rights for slaves which were not previously enjoyed, as well as limiting the source of slaves to only prisoners of war.
During the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, the tribe of Tayy that lived to the North East of the city of Madina, engaged in banditry and highway robbery, and came in conflict with the Muslims of Madina, which led to battles in between them that led to Tayy's defeat, and the subsequent captivity of some of their tribes folk.
Abu Hamid al Ghazali narrated in his Ihya Uloom ad deen, that when the daughter of the Hatim at-Tayy was taken as a captive, she came to the Prophet Muhammad asking for her release, and not to be made a subject of humiliation amongst the various Arab quarters, as her father, Hatim at-Tayy, was a person who used to aid the needy, feed the hungry, spread greetings, free slaves, and never refused an assisting request; to which the Prophet Muhammad replied that these described qualities of her father are those of the believers, and if her father was a Muslim then indeed he would have asked for (Divine)mercy on him. He then asked his companions to release her stating that her father loved the noble-character, and God loves the noble-character.
"Ma malakat aymanukum" in the Qur'an
The main points about "those whom one's rights possess" in the Qur'an are:
The right to request freedom
The Qur'an states:
- Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste, until Allah gives them means out of His grace. 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: yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which Allah has given to you. But force not your maids to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life. But if anyone compels them, yet, after such compulsion, Allah is, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (to them).
Al-Bukhari said: "Rawh narrated from Ibn Jurayj: `I said to `Ata', "If I know that my servant has money, is it obligatory for me to write him a contract of emancipation." He said, "I do not think it can be anything but obligatory." `Amr bin Dinar said: "I said to `Ata', `Are you narrating this from anybody' He said, `No,' then he told me that Musa bin Anas told him that Sirin, who had a lot of money, asked Anas for a contract of emancipation and he refused. So he went to `Umar (bin Al-Khattab), may Allah be pleased with him, and he said, `Write it for him.' He refused, so `Umar hit him with his whip and recited, (give them such writing, if you find that there is good and honesty in them.) Then he wrote the contract." This was mentioned by Al-Bukhari with a disconnected chain of narration. It was also narrated by `Abdur-Razzaq who said Ibn Jurayj told them: I said to `Ata', "If I know that my servant has some money, is it obligatory for me to write him a contract of emancipation" He said, `I do not think it can be anything but obligatory.'" (It was also said by `Amr bin Dinar who said, "I said to `Ata', `Are you narrating this from anybody' He said, `No.') Ibn Jarir recorded that Sirin wanted Anas bin Malik to write a contract of emancipation and he delayed, then `Umar said to him, "You should certainly write him a contract of emancipation." Ibn Kathir comments that the chain of narrators in the latter is Sahih (Authentic).
Collecting donation money for freedom
(And give them something out of the wealth of Allah which He has bestowed upon you.) This is the share of the wealth of Zakah that Allah stated to be their right. This is the opinion of Al-Hasan, `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam and his father and Muqatil bin Hayyan. It was also the opinion favored by Ibn Jarir.
(And give them something out of the wealth of Allah which He has bestowed upon you.) Ibrahim An-Nakha`i said, "This is urging the people, their masters and others." This was also the view of Buraydah bin Al-Husayb Al-Aslami and Qatadah. Ibn `Abbas said: "Allah commanded the believers to help in freeing slaves."
Ibn Kathir supports donation of money for this cause by quoting a hadith from Al-Bara' bin `Azib, in which Muhammad is supposed to have said that an action that draws closer to paradise and away from the fire is emancipating the person by freeing him on your own or by helping in the price to gain his freedom.
- And [also prohibited to you are all] married women except those your rights possess. [This is] the decree of Allah upon you. And lawful to you are [all others] beyond these, [provided] that you seek them [in marriage] with [gifts from] your property, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse. So for whatever you enjoy [of marriage] from them, give them their due compensation as an obligation. And there is no blame upon you for what you mutually agree to beyond the obligation. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.
Muhammad Asad notes that for the expression ma malakat aymanukum ("those whom your rights possess", i.e., "those whom you rightfully possess") Sura 23:6 would be translated as follow:[not giving way to their desires] with any but their spouses - that is, those whom they rightfully possess [through wedlock]' for then, behold, they are free of all blame 3 Lit., "or those whom their rights possess" (aw ma malakat aymanuhum). Most of the commentators assume unquestioningly that this relates to female slaves, and that the particle aw ("or") denotes a permissible alternative. This conventional interpretation is, in my opinion, inadmissible inasmuch as it is based on the assumption that sexual intercourse with one's female slave is permitted - without marriage: an assumption which is contradicted by the Qur'an itself (see 4:3, 24, 25 and 24:32, with the corresponding notes). Nor is this the only objection to the above-mentioned interpretation. Since the Qur'an applies the term "believers" to men and women alike, and since the term azwaj ("spouses"), too, denotes both the male and the female partners in marriage, there is no reason for attributing to the phrase ma malakat aymanuhum the meaning of "their female slaves"; and since, on the other hand, it is out of the question that female and male slaves could have been referred to here, it is obvious that this phrase does not relate to slaves at all, but has the same meaning as in 4:24 - namely, "those whom they rightfully possess through wedlock" (see note 26 on 4:24) - with the significant difference that in the present context this expression relates to both husbands and wives, who "rightfully possess" one another by virtue of marriage. On the basis of this interpretation, the particle aw which precedes this clause does not denote an alternative ("or") but is, rather, in the nature of an explanatory amplification, more or less analogous to the phrase "in other words" or "that is", thus giving to the whole sentence the meaning,..... save with their spouses - that is, those whom they rightfully possess [through wedlock)..", etc. (Cf. a similar construction 25:62 - "for him who has the will to take thought - that is [lit., "or"], has the will to be grateful".).
Ibn Kathir comments:
- "(This is for him among you who is afraid of being harmed in his religion or in his body;) indicates that marrying slave girls, providing one satisfies the required conditions, is for those who fear for their chastity and find it hard to be patient and refrain from sex."
- "(not fornicators) referring to dishonorable women, who do not refrain from illicit sexual relations with those who ask. Ibn `Abbas said that the fornicating women are the whores, who do not object to having relations with whomever seeks it"
- "(nor promiscuous) refers to taking boyfriends. Similar was said by Abu Hurayrah, Mujahid, Ash-Sha`bi, Ad-Dahhak, `Ata' Al-Khurasani, Yahya bin Abi Kathir, Muqatil bin Hayyan and As-Suddi."
Imam Bukhari relates that Muhammad said that one of the three who would have a double reward is "a master of a woman-slave who teaches her good manners and educates her in the best possible way (the religion) and manumits her and then marries her."
Treatment of slaves
Ibn Kathir comments on verse 36 in Chapter An-Nisa [Women (4)] in the Qur'an that people must behave kindly to the one held as captive by others since they are weak by quoting an authentic hadith, in his opinion, in which Muhammad during an illness before his death recommended people to care of the captives. He also supports good treatment of captives by quoting hadiths from Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim that the slave has the right to have food, clothing and to only be required to perform what he can bear of work.
According to some Muslim theologians, it is lawful for male masters to have sexual relations with female captives. This is problematic because believers are taught that righteousness is to free the slave. "Quran 2:177 Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous."
Some however like Ibn Kathir claims for verse 25 in Chapter An-Nisa [Women (4)] in the Qur'an that the interpretation of it is that it is not allowed for "that your right hand possess" to commit fornication, and quotes Ibn Abbas interpretation to be not refraining from illicit sexual intercourse with whoever asks for it. In the same verse Ibn Kathir continues his interpretation by commenting that is not either allowed for "that your right hand possess" to take boyfriends according to Abu Hurayrah, Mujahid, Ash-Sha`bi, Ad-Dahhak, `Ata' Al-Khurasani, Yahya bin Abi Kathir, Muqatil bin Hayyan and As-Suddi.
An-Nur 30–33, in the course of laying down the familiar dress code of Islam, explains that women "should draw their headscarves over their bosoms and not display their beauty" except to various familiar people, including those "whom their rights possess". Al-Ahzab 55 makes it explicit that the same liberty is given to the Prophet's wives.
An-Nur 58 says that "those whom your rights possess" and underage children should ask a believer's permission (before they come to their presence) at the three times of day when one is likely to be undressed.
They should not be forced into prostitution when they desire chastity
An-Nur 24:33 states, ... But force not your maids to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life. But if anyone compels them, yet, after such compulsion, is Allah, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (to the one being forced).
Ibn Abi Talhah narrated that Ibn `Abbas said, "If you do that, then Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful, and their sin will be on the one who forced them to do that." This was also the view of Mujahid, `Ata' Al-Khurasani, Al-A`mash and Qatadah.
Being good to them
An-Nisa 36 reminds readers that a believer should do good to a variety of people, including "what your rights possess".
an-Nahl 71 and ar-Rum 28 both use the same metaphor: just as the fortunate among people do not share their wealth with "those whom their rights possess" to the point of making them equals, nor fear them as they fear each other, so does God with people, bestowing more on some than others, but never making them equals, let alone fearing them..(.)
A list of people who were amongst Ma malakat aymanukum includes:
- 622 – 719 AD
- Rayhana bint Zayd
- Salim Mawla Abu Hudhayfah
- Safiyya bint Huyayy
- Maria al-Qibtiyya
- Abu Suhail an-Nafi
- Pirouz, the father of Hasan al-Basri
- Islamic views on slavery
- Nikah Mut'ah ("temporary marriage" in Shia Islam)
- Nikah Misyar
- Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East, page 146.
- Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Food, Meals, Volume 7, Book 65, Number 286
- Guillaume, Alfred. The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah. pp. 461–464.
- Rodinson, Maxine. Muhammad: Prophet of Islam. p. 213.
- [Qur'an, Chapter (Surah) An-Nur (The Light)(24):33]
- Ibn Kathir,Tafsir ibn Kathir (Koranic Commentary),"The Command to grant Slaves a Contract of Emancipation", [Qur'an, Chapter (Surah) An-Nur (The Light)(24):33], Dar-us-Salam Publications,2000, ISBN 1-59144-020-3, ISBN 978-1-59144-020-8
- Ibn Kathir,Tafsir ibn Kathir (Koranic Commentary),"Virtue of freeing Slaves", [Chapter (Surah) Al-Tawba (Repentance)(9):60], Dar-us-Salam Publications,2000, ISBN 1-59144-020-3, ISBN 978-1-59144-020-8
- [Qur'an, Chapter (Surah) An-Nisa (Women)(4):24]
- Muhammad Asad. "Free PDF Muhammad Asad translation of the Quran".
- Ibn Kathir,Tafsir ibn Kathir (Koranic Commentary),"The Slave Girl's Punishment for Adultery is Half that of a Free Unmarried Woman", [Chapter (Surah) An-Nisa (The Light)(4):25], Dar-us-Salam Publications,2000, ISBN 1-59144-020-3, ISBN 978-1-59144-020-8
- Ibn Kathir,Tafsir ibn Kathir (Koranic Commentary),"Marrying a Female Slave, if One Cannot Marry a Free Woman", [Chapter (Surah) An-Nisa (The Light)(4):25], Dar-us-Salam Publications,2000, ISBN 1-59144-020-3, ISBN 978-1-59144-020-8
- (Sahih Bukhari, Book 3 "Knowledge", Hadith 97)
- Ibn Kathir,Tafsir ibn Kathir (Koranic Commentary),"Being Kind to Slaves and Servants", [Chapter (Surah) An-Nisa (The Women)(4):36], Dar-us-Salam Publications,2000, ISBN 1-59144-020-3, ISBN 978-1-59144-020-8
- Ibn Kathir,Tafsir ibn Kathir (Koranic Commentary),"The Prohibition of forcing One's Slave-Girls to commit Zina", [Chapter (Surah) An-Nur (The Light)(24):33], Dar-us-Salam Publications,2000, ISBN 1-59144-020-3, ISBN 978-1-59144-020-8
- Ibn Kathir,Tafsir ibn Kathir (Koranic Commentary), "The Prohibition of forcing One's Slave-Girls to commit Zina", [Chapter (Surah) An-Nur (The Light)(24):33], Dar-us-Salam Publications,2000, ISBN 1-59144-020-3, ISBN 978-1-59144-020-8