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Ma malakat aymanukum

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mā malakat aymānukum ("what your right hands possess", Arabic: ما ملكت أيمانکم‎) is a Quranic expression referring to slaves.[1]


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]

Quranic usage

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.[6] 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).[6] 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.[7]

The Quran treats slavery and freedom not as part of the natural order saying that this distinction as an example of God's grace.[8] 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.[9][10][11][12]

Islamic views on slavery

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.[13] 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.[14] Islam also prohibits the use of female slaves for prostitution which was common in pre-Islamic history.[15]

Brockopp states that the Qur'an was a progressive legislation on slavery in its time because it encouraged proper treatment.[13] 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.[16][17] 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.[17][18]

Freeing slaves

When an individual erred such as missing a day of fasting, they were to free a slave (Manumission). Sharia authorized the institution of slavery, and under Islamic law, Muslim men could have sexual relations with female captives and slaves.[19][20] 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.[18][21]

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,[18] and elsewhere.[22]

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.'[23]

Abu Huraira reported Muhammad 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"[24]

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,[25] the women and children were taken as slaves.[26] Muhammad himself took Rayhana as his slave.[27] 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.[28]

Sexual intercourse

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. However both these surahs literal wording do not specifically use the term wife but instead the more general & both-gender including term spouse in the grammatically masculine plural (azwajihim),[29][30] thus Mohammad Asad in his commentary to both these Surahs rules out concubinage due to the fact that "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 aw 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" 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."[31] Following this approach, Mohammad Asads translation of the mentioned verses denotes a different picture, which is as follows: "with any but their spouses - that is, those whom they rightfully possess [through wedlock]".[32] According to Maududi purchase of female slaves for sex was lawful from the perspective of Islamic law, But this was the most common motive for the purchase of slaves throughout Islamic history.[33] Rabb Intisar claims that Islamic sources treat non-consensual sex with slaves as zina or rape. However, Kecia Ali does not find the idea of consent explicitly stated in the per-modern Muslim legal tradition between the 8th and 10th century [34]

According to the Quran, slaves could not be forced into being prostituted, without breaking the law of God.[35]

"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)[35]

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" [36]

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."[37] 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),[38] but according to Sikainga, "in reality, however,female slaves in some Muslim societies were prey for [male] members of their owners' household, their [owner's male] neighbors, and their [owner's male] guests."[37]

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.[39] 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".[40]

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.[12] 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.[41][42]

There have been historical exceptions where forced sex of slave girl by other than the owner have been treated as an offense in Muslim state.[43] The incident was,

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.[12][45]

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.[46][47][better source needed]

Contemporary usage

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.[48][49]

Abolition argument

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.[39]

See also


  1. ^ "The term generally used in the Qur’ān for maids 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. ^ a b Jonathan E. Brockopp (2006). "Slaves and slavery". In Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. 5. Brill. pp. 57–58.
  7. ^ Jonathan E. Brockopp (2000), Early Mālikī Law: Ibn ʻAbd Al-Ḥakam and His Major Compendium of Jurisprudence, Brill, ISBN 978-9004116283, pp. 131
  8. ^
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ ([Quran 2:221], [Quran 4:25]), ([Quran 24:33])
  11. ^ Marmon in Marmon (1999), page 2
  12. ^ a b c 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.
  13. ^ a b Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, Slaves and Slavery
  14. ^ Quran 2:177, Quran 9:60
  15. ^ "Bernard Lewis on Slavery in Islam (An Analytical Study)" (PDF). Journal of Islamic Thought and Civilization. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-03-30. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  16. ^ Gad Heuman and James Walvin (2003), The Slavery Reader, Volume 1, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415213042, pp. 31-32
  17. ^ a b Murray Gordon (1989), Slavery in the Arab World, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 978-0941533300, pp. 18-39
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Mazrui, A. A. (1997). Islamic and Western values. Foreign Affairs, pp 118-132.
  20. ^ Ali, K. (2010). Marriage and slavery in early Islam. Harvard University Press.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Kecia Ali; (Editor: Bernadette J. Brooten) (2010-10-15). 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)CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  23. ^ Bukhari, Sahih. "Sahih Bukhari : Book of "Belief"". Archived from the original on 2016-12-19. Retrieved 2017-02-11.
  24. ^ "The Book of Oaths - Sahih Muslim - - Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)". Archived from the original on 2017-02-12. Retrieved 2017-02-11.
  25. ^ Guillaume, Alfred. The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah. pp. 461–464.
  26. ^ Muir, William. "The Life of Mahomet". Smith, Elder, & Co., London, 1861; Vol.3, Ch.17, p.276 (citing Hishami, 436)
  27. ^ Rodinson, Maxine. Muhammad: Prophet of Islam. p. 213.
  28. ^ Muir, William. "The Life of Mahomet". Smith, Elder, & Co., London, 1861; Vol.4, Ch.25, pp.149–150
  29. ^ "Surah 70:30".
  30. ^ "Surah 23:6".
  31. ^ Asad, Muhammad. The Message of the Quran. pp. Surah 23:6 (Note 3).
  32. ^ Ibid. pp. Surah 23:6.
  33. ^ Brunschvig. 'Abd; Encyclopedia of Islam, Brill, page 13.
  34. ^ Ali, Kecia (February 2017). "Concubinage and Consent". International Journal of Middle East Studies. 49 (1): 148–152. doi:10.1017/S0020743816001203. ISSN 0020-7438.
  35. ^ a b "Surah An-Nur [24:33]". Surah An-Nur [24:33]. Archived from the original on 2017-02-11. Retrieved 2017-02-11.
  36. ^ "Quran Tafsir Ibn Kathir - the Command to marry", Tasfir Ibn Kathir, archived from the original on 2017-09-01, retrieved 2017-08-31
  37. ^ a b Sikainga, Ahmad A. (1996). Slaves Into Workers: Emancipation and Labor in Colonial Sudan. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-77694-4. p.22
  38. ^ Bloom, Jonathan; Blair, Sheila (2002). Islam: A Thousand Years of Faith and Power. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-09422-0. p.48
  39. ^ a b Clarence-Smith, William (2006). Islam and the Abolition of Slavery. Oxford University Press. pp. 198–200. ISBN 978-0195221510. translation.
  40. ^ Clarence-Smith, William (2006). Islam and the Abolition of Slavery. Oxford University Press. pp. 199–201. ISBN 978-0195221510.
  41. ^ "USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts". Archived from the original on 2008-11-28. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  42. ^ "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.
  43. ^ Abiad, Nisrine (2008). Sharia, Muslim States and International Human Rights Treaty Obligations: A Comparative Study. p. 136.
  44. ^ "Bukhari , Book: 89 - Statements made under Coercion, Chapter 6: If a woman is compelled to commit illegal sexual intercourse against her will". Archived from the original on 2015-05-11. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  45. ^ Lovejoy, Paul E. (2000). Transformations in Slavery. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-78430-6., p.2
  46. ^ Quran 4:25
  47. ^ Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. Mizan, The Social Law of Islam, Al-Mawrid
  48. ^ Amelia Smith, "ISIS Publish Pamphlet On How to Treat Female Slaves," Archived 2014-12-16 at the Wayback Machine Newsweek, 12/9/2014
  49. ^ Katharine Lackey, "Pamphlet provides Islamic State guidelines for sex slaves," Archived 2017-09-21 at the Wayback Machine USA Today, December 13, 2014

External links

Traditional Sunni viewpoints

Traditional Shi'a viewpoints

This page was last edited on 28 September 2020, at 18:08
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