Ma malakat aymanukum

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Ma malakat aymanukum ("what your right hands possess", Arabic: ما ملكت أيمانکم‎) is a reference in the Qur'an to female sexual slaves.[1]

Translation and meaning[edit]

Bernard Lewis translates ma malakat aymanukum as "those whom you own."[2] Abdullah Yusuf Ali translates it as "those whom your right hands possess",[3] as does M. H. Shakir.[4] N. J. Dawood translates the phrase more idiomatically as "those whom you own as slaves."[5]

Scriptures[edit]

Quran[edit]

The following verses of the Quran use the phrase ma malakat aymanukum and its variations,[6][7]

If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.

And (also forbidden are) 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.

And whoever among you has not within his power ampleness of means to marry free believing women, then (he may marry) of those whom your right hands possess from among your believing maidens; and Allah knows best your faith: you are (sprung) the one from the other; so marry them with the permission of their masters, and give them their dowries justly, they being chaste, not fornicating, nor receiving paramours; and when they are taken in marriage, then if they are guilty of indecency, they shall suffer half the punishment which is (inflicted) upon free women. This is for him among you who fears falling into evil; and that you abstain is better for you, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

And Allah hath favoured some of you above others in provision. Now those who are more favoured will by no means hand over their provision to those (slaves) whom their right hands possess, so that they may be equal with them in respect thereof. Is it then the grace of Allah that they deny?

Who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame.

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.

And let those who do not find the means to marry keep chaste until Allah makes them free from want out of His grace. And (as for) those who ask for a writing from among those whom your right hands possess, give them the writing if you know any good in them, and give them of the wealth of Allah which He has given you; and do not compel your slave girls to prostitution, when they desire to keep chaste, in order to seek the frail good of this world's life; and whoever compels them, then surely after their compulsion Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

O ye who believe! let those whom your right hands possess, and the (children) among you who have not come of age ask your permission (before they come to your presence), on three occasions: before morning prayer; the while ye doff your clothes for the noonday heat; and after the late-night prayer: these are your three times of undress: outside those times it is not wrong for you or for them to move about attending to each other: Thus does Allah make clear the Signs to you: for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.

O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makka) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her;- this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large); We know what We have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess;- in order that there should be no difficulty for thee. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

There is no blame (on these ladies if they appear) before their fathers or their sons, their brothers, or their brother's sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the (slaves) whom their right hands possess. And, (ladies), fear Allah; for Allah is Witness to all things.

And those who guard their chastity, except with their wives and the (captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (then) they are not to be blamed,

Hadiths[edit]

The Hadiths (Sunnah, life example and sayings of Muhammad) have numerous mentions of ma malakat aymanukum. For example,

Narrated Anas: The Prophet stayed for three days at a place between Khaibar and Medina, and there he consummated his marriage with Safiyya bint Huyay. I invited the Muslims to a banquet which included neither meat nor bread. The Prophet ordered for the leather dining sheets to be spread, and then dates, dried yogurt and butter were provided over it, and that was the Walima (banquet) of the Prophet. The Muslims asked whether Safiyya would be considered as his wife or as a slave girl of what his right hands possessed. Then they said, "If the Prophet screens her from the people, then she Is the Prophet's wife but if he does not screen her, then she is a slave girl." So when the Prophet proceeded, he made a place for her (on the camel) behind him and screened her from people.

Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:62:89

Narrated Mu'awiyah ibn Haydah; I said: Apostle of Allah, from whom should we conceal our private parts and to whom can we show?

He replied: conceal your private parts except from your wife and from whom your right hands possess (slave-girls).

Sunan Abu Dawood, 31:4006

Narrated Ali ibn AbuTalib: A slave-girl belonging to the house of the Apostle of Allah committed fornication. He (the Prophet) said: Rush up, Ali, and inflict the prescribed punishment on her. I then hurried up, and saw that blood was flowing from her, and did not stop. So I came to him and he said: Have you finished inflicting (punishment on her)? I said: I went to her while her blood was flowing. He said: Leave her alone till her bleeding stops; then inflict the prescribed punishment on her. And inflict the prescribed punishment on those whom your right hands possess (i.e. slaves).

Sunan Abu Dawood, 38:4458

Gender in the scriptures[edit]

The general term ma malakat aymanukum (literally "what your right hands possess") appears fourteen times in the Qur'an, in the following Arabic variations:[citation needed]

Arabic Literal translation
ما ملكت أيمانكم what your (masculine plural) right hands possess *
ما ملكت أيمانهم what their (masculine plural) right hands possess *
ما ملكت أيمانهن what their (feminine plural) right hands possess
ما ملكت يمينك what your right hands possess
الذين ملكت أيمانكم Those whom your (masculine plural) right hands possess *
  • Note: Masculine plural may also refer to a group of males and females.

Discussion[edit]

Slaves are mentioned in at least twenty-nine verses of the Qur'an, most of these involving the legal status of slaves.[8] The exact number of verses referring to slaves is contested by scholars because the words and phrases have multiple possible meanings and translation is thus subjective.[8] The Quranic verses on slaves are expressed in variants of three phrases: 'Abd (male slave or servant, feminine: amah), ma malakat aymanukum (that which your right hand possesses, used to highlight right to force sex on female slaves), and raqabah (the neck, captive, used to highlight the process of manumission).[8]

Position of slaves in the Quran[edit]

The Quran treats slavery and free males as part of the natural order, and states this distinction as an example of God's grace.[9] 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.[10][11] The phrase ma malakat aymanukum - that which your right hand possesses - clarifies that, in Islamic law, slaves are possessions and property of a Muslim free man. Slaves could be bought or sold under Islamic law, according to the Quran and the Hadiths,[10]

The (Brethren) sold him for a miserable price, for a few dirhams counted out: in such low estimation did they hold him!

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.[12][13] The Quran does not explicitly state anywhere that a slave is a spiritual equal of a free Muslim.[10] The verses 2.178 and 4.176 of Quran explicitly states at least three distinct and unequal categories of human beings: free Muslim males, slaves and women.[10][14] The inequality is further emphasized in the Quranic verse 16.71 using the phrase ma malakat aymanukum.[10][15] 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.[16]

Comparison to pre-Islamic cultures[edit]

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.[17] 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.[18] Other scholars state that Quran does not condemn prostitution, and both male and female prostitution has been practiced throughout Islamic history.[19]

Brockopp states that the Qur'an was a progressive legislation on slavery in its time because it encouraged proper treatment.[17] 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.[20][21] 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.[21][22]

Manumission[edit]

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.[23][24] 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.[22][25]

Non-Muslim slave women who bore children to their Muslim masters became legally free upon her master's death, and her children were presumed to be Muslims as their father, in Africa,[22] and elsewhere.[26]

Muhammad's treatment of captives[edit]

After the Muslims executed the male members (between 600 and 900) of the Banu Qurayza tribe,[27] the women and children were taken as slaves.[28] Muhammad himself took Rayhana as his slave.[29] 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.[30]

Rape[edit]

Al-Muminun 6 and Al-Maarij 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 regardless of consent. The female slave may be punished if she doesn't consent. 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.[31]

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."[32] Most schools restrict concubinage to a monogamous relationship between the slave woman and her master,[33] but according to Sikainga, "in reality, however, female slaves in many Muslim societies were prey for members of their owners' household, their neighbors, and their guests."[32]

Limitations on forced sex under ma malakat aymanukum[edit]

Regarding rules for having sexual intercourse with Ma malakat aymanukum, a man may not have sexual intercourse with a female slave belonging to his wife, but one he owns.[13] 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.[34][35]

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.[13][36]

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.[37][38][better source needed]

Ma malakat aymanukum of Muhammad's companions[edit]

A list of people who were amongst Ma malakat aymanukum includes:

622 – 719 AD

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant[edit]

In late 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant released a pamphlet on the treatment of female slaves which allows sex with them. It includes a discussion of when sex is allowed with a slave who has not yet reached puberty ("It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn't reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse; however if she is not fit for intercourse, then it is enough to enjoy her without intercourse.").[39][40][41][42][43][44]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "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.
  2. ^ Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East, page 146.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Thomas Patrick Hughes (1996), Dictionary of Islam, ISBN 978-8120606722, p. 596
  7. ^ MH Shakir (2007), Concordance of the Quran, ISBN 978-1879402720, pp. 540-542
  8. ^ a b c Jonathan E. Brockopp (2000), Early Mālikī Law: Ibn ʻAbd Al-Ḥakam and His Major Compendium of Jurisprudence, Brill, ISBN 978-9004116283, pp. 128-132
  9. ^ [Quran 16:71]
  10. ^ a b c d e 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
  11. ^ ([Quran 2:221], [Quran 4:25]), ([Quran 24:33])
  12. ^ Marmon in Marmon (1999), page 2
  13. ^ a b c Brunschvig. 'Abd; Encyclopedia of Islam
  14. ^ W. G. Clarence-Smith (2006), Islam and the Abolition of Slavery, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195221510, pp. 23-35
  15. ^ Kidane Dawit Worku, The Ethics of Zär'a Ya'eqob, ISBN 978-8878392229, p. 135
  16. ^ W. G. Clarence-Smith (2006), Islam and the Abolition of Slavery, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195221510, pp. 129-136
  17. ^ a b Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, Slaves and Slavery
  18. ^ Quran 2:177, Quran 9:60
  19. ^ Melissa Hope Ditmore (2006), Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work, Volume 2, ISBN 978-0313329708, p. 392
  20. ^ Gad Heuman and James Walvin (2003), The Slavery Reader, Volume 1, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415213042, pp. 31-32
  21. ^ a b Murray Gordon (1989), Slavery in the Arab World, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 978-0941533300, pp. 18-39
  22. ^ a b c 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. 
  23. ^ Mazrui, A. A. (1997). Islamic and Western values. Foreign Affairs, pp 118-132.
  24. ^ Ali, K. (2010). Marriage and slavery in early Islam. Harvard University Press.
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ 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) 
  27. ^ Guillaume, Alfred. The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah. pp. 461–464. 
  28. ^ Muir, William. "The Life of Mahomet". Smith, Elder, & Co., London, 1861; Vol.3, Ch.17, p.276 (citing Hishami, 436)
  29. ^ Rodinson, Maxine. Muhammad: Prophet of Islam. p. 213. 
  30. ^ Muir, William. "The Life of Mahomet". Smith, Elder, & Co., London, 1861; Vol.4, Ch.25, pp.149–150
  31. ^ Brunschvig. 'Abd; Encyclopedia of Islam, Brill, page 13.
  32. ^ a b Sikainga, Ahmad A. (1996). Slaves Into Workers: Emancipation and Labor in Colonial Sudan. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-77694-2.  p.22
  33. ^ Bloom, Jonathan; Blair, Sheila (2002). Islam: A Thousand Years of Faith and Power. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-09422-1.  p.48
  34. ^ "USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts". Usc.edu. Retrieved 2014-04-06. 
  35. ^ "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.
  36. ^ Lovejoy, Paul E. (2000). Transformations in Slavery. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-78430-1. , p.2
  37. ^ Quran 4:25
  38. ^ Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. Mizan, The Social Law of Islam, Al-Mawrid
  39. ^ Amelia Smith, "ISIS Publish Pamphlet On How to Treat Female Slaves," Newsweek, 12/9/2014
  40. ^ Abul Taher, "Our faith condones raping underage slaves: ISIS publishes shocking guidebook telling fighters how to buy, sell and abuse captured women," Daily Mail, 13 December 2014
  41. ^ Greg Botelho, "ISIS: Enslaving, having sex with 'unbelieving' women, girls is OK," CNN, December 13, 2014
  42. ^ Katharine Lackey, "Pamphlet provides Islamic State guidelines for sex slaves," USA Today, December 13, 2014
  43. ^ Carey Lodge, "Islamic State issues abhorrent sex slavery guidelines about how to treat women,",Christianity Today, 15 December 2014
  44. ^ Adam Withnall, "Isis releases 'abhorrent' sex slaves pamphlet with 27 tips for militants on taking, punishing and raping female captives," The Independent, 10 December 2014

External links[edit]

Traditional Sunni viewpoints[edit]

Traditional Shi'a viewpoints[edit]