Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Qur'an's Sex-Slave Problem: Are slave-girls in Islam equivalent to animals?

Either concubines are on the same level with dogs and donkeys, or Allah's "perfect" book has a serious flaw.

Many are now aware that the Koran—that is, Allah’s word—permits, not just polygamy, but forced concubinage (sex with captive women), according to Koran 4:3: “Marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice, then only one, or what your right hands possess [captive women taken in war].” There is, however, an interesting, and very telling, linguistic aspect to this verse that is often overlooked—or intentionally obscured. The Arabic states: “Ankahu [marry]…ma [what] malakat [possess] aymankum [your right hands].”

Oddly enough, the Arabic relative pronoun used to indicate these captive women is "ma": ma malakat aymankum, literally, “what your right hands possess” (see Shakir’s acclaimed English translation which most literally translates this). In Arabic, when one refers to a rational being (i.e., a human), the word used is min, which means “who(ever)”; ma, on the other hand, refers only to things or animals—trees, rocks, dogs and cats—very much similar to the English “it.” Thus, in proper Arabic the phrase might have been min malakat aymankum: “who(ever) your rights hands possess.”

For long I assumed this was but a stylistic matter. However, the highly revered Islamic scholar al-Qurtubi (d.1273) also makes this observation in vol. 5, p.12 of his authoritative 20-volume Tafsir Al Koran (Exegesis of the Koran). He points out that members of the human race should be referred to with min (who), whereas only “inanimate objects” or “brute beasts” should be referred to with ma (what).

Does this suggest that the Koran’s Arabic—touted as the most perfect Arabic—is flawed? Of course, no Muslim would allow for that. Nor need they, as this phenomenon (portraying concubines as non-human) accords well with a number of hadiths that place females and animals in the same category. Musnad Ibn Hanbal (vol. 2, p. 2992), for example, records Muhammad saying “Women, dogs, and donkeys annul a man’s prayer.” Indeed, in Qurtubi’s same Tafsir (vol.15, p.172), after examining such hadiths, he writes, "A Woman may be likened to a sheep—even a cow or a camel—for all are ridden.”

From Jihad Watch


  1. Attempt the Ascent, Free a Slave, Qur'an: Surah 90 Al-Balad (The City): Nay, I swear by this city... We verily have created man in an atmosphere... But he hath not attempted the Ascent, Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Ascent is! It is to free a slave, And to feed in the day of hunger, An orphan near of kin, Or some poor wretch in misery. And to be of those who believe and exhort one another to perseverance and exhort one another to pity.

    Marry: Slaves and Maid Servants; Emancipation, Qur'an 24:27-34 Surah An-Nur (Light): Tell the believing men... And tell the believing women... 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 let those who cannot find a match keep chaste till Allah give them independence by His grace. And such of your slaves as seek a writing of emancipation, write it for them if ye are aware of aught 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...

    Free Slaves, Qur'an 2:177 Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow): 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 to set 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.

    Prefer Marriage to a Believing Slave, Qur'an 2:221 Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow): 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. These invite unto the Fire, and Allah inviteth unto the Garden, and unto forgiveness by His grace, and expoundeth thus His revelations to mankind that haply they may remember.

    Expiation of Breaking Sworn Oath, Qur'an 5:89 Surah Al Ma'idah (The Table Spread): 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 fast. This is the expiation of your oaths when ye have sworn; and keep your oaths...

    Set Free a Believing Slave, Qur'an 4:92 Surah An-Nisa (Women): 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 Knower, Wise.

    Free a Slave, Qur'an 58:3-4 Surah Al-Mujadilah (She That Disputeth): Those who put away their wives by saying they are as their mothers and afterward would go back on that which they have said; the penalty in that case is the freeing of a slave before they touch one another. Unto this ye are exhorted; and Allah is informed of what ye do. And he who findeth not the wherewithal, let him fast for two successive months before they touch one another; and for him who is unable to do so the penance is the feeding of sixty needy ones. This, that ye may put trust in Allah and His messenger. Such are the limits imposed by Allah; and for disbelievers is a painful doom.

    Those who wish to understand the specific and broader meaning of the verses of the Qur'an, it is recommended that they should also read commentary on these subjects and verses. The English readers will find either Yusuf Ali's or Maududi's commentaries a good source. Allama Yususf Ali presents the meaning Ayah (verse) by Ayah with detailed footnotes for relevant words in each verse and includes a detailed index of the topics mentioned in the Qur'an. Maulana Maududi's work covers commentary for each Surah (chapter) of the Holy Qur'an.

    Pickthall writes in his foreward of 1930: "... The Qur'an cannot be translated. ... The book is here rendered almost literally and every effort has been made to choose befitting language. But the result is not the Glorious Qur'an, that inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy. It is only an attempt to present the meaning of the Qur'an-and peradventure something of the charm in English. It can never take the place of the Qur'an in Arabic, nor is it meant to do so. ..."

  2. And to quote from Jihad Watch? You're just as bad as the Nazis.