Children and The Koran

Slave Girls, Oh Boy!

30:29 Yet, the wrongdoers have followed their fancies without knowledge. Who, then, will guide those whom Allah has led astray and who have no supporters?

30:30 So, set you face towards religion uprightly. It is the original nature according to which Allah fashioned mankind. There is no altering Allah’s Creation. That is the true religion; but most men do not know.

In 2002, the United Nations reported that the number of people forced into slavery around the world had risen to an estimated twenty-seven million. Irshad Manji, the author of The Trouble with Islam, A Wake-up Call For Honesty and Change mentions the resurgence of the slave trade in African countries that have adopted the Koran as the equivalent of their constitution.

Slavery, slave-girls in particular, are part of the true religion and there is no getting around it; that would be altering Allah’s Creation and you would not want to do that. Slave-girls were very much in the news in the territory conquered by the Koran-abiding Islamic State. They were the main attraction for many of the young men who answered the call of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to come and fight under its Black Banner. 

The Koran explicitly sanctions slavery, and what the Koran allows no one can deny; that would be like contradicting God. When Allah reveals the sex of a slave in a revelation, she is always female. She is “what your right hands possess.” Slave girls are usually captives of war (the wives and daughters of an enemy killed in battle) or females given as settlement of a debt or other obligations such as compensation to resolve a blood-feud. 

In verses where the sex of the slave is not mentioned, you have to assume it is a male slave that God is suggesting should be freed, as in the following revelation where He recommends a husband free a slave as penance for ignoring his wife’s sexual needs, after claiming she reminded him of his mother, and then wanting to get back together to indulge in more than social intercourse.

58:3 And those who say of their wives: “You are like our mother’s back”, then retract what they said, have to free a slave before touching each other. That is what you are admonished, and Allah is Fully Aware of what you do.

For a female slave to gain her freedom is not that simple. Her only choice may be exchanging one type of servitude for another. Under normal circumstances, slaves were only freed when they had the means to look after themselves. The seclusion of women and their property-like status meant that a female slave could never be expected to be able to look after herself. Her slave status was more or less a lifetime thing. That is, unless she was a believer and her proprietor decided to make her one of his four permanent wives, or gave her in marriage to another believer in return for some benefit or to settle an obligation.

2:221 Do not marry unbelieving women (polytheists) until they believe. A believing slave-girl is certainly better than an unbelieving woman, even if the latter pleases you. And do not give your women (believing women) in marriage to polytheists until they believe. A believing slave is certainly better than a polytheist, even if the latter pleases you. Those (the polytheists) call to the Fire and Allah calls to Paradise and Forgiveness by His Leave; and He makes clear His Revelations to mankind so that they may be mindful.

Don’t give your slave girls so much that they might be mistaken for women who are entitled to slightly more, e.g., spouses. 

16:71 Allah has favoured some of you over others in provision; but those favoured will not give their provision to those whom their right hands possess so as to be equal therein. Will they then deny Allah’s blessings?

Explaining the sanctity of slavery, to a daughter in particular who may ask why there is nothing in Allah’s Book about slave boys for her, must be difficult, if it is even attempted—which I doubt. That is the beauty of rote learning. No explanation required.

The Koran’s explicit condoning of slavery, females preferred, and the increase in the number of slaves around the world, especially in countries where traditional Islam finds acceptance, has to be particularly worrisome for non-traditional believers and unbelievers alike. To condition children to accept slavery as “normal” because it has Allah’s Seal of Approval is as abhorrent as the practice itself and can only make a bad situation worse.

The question remains: why did God, in revelations that were meant to guide mankind for thousands of years, not simply abolish slavery? Believers would say it is because Allah sees nothing wrong in enslaving your fellow men, women and children as long as it is done in accordance with the standard slavery practices prescribed in the Koran. They are probably right. Also, in the brutal, inescapable logic of Islam, how could a believer make amends for a transgression where a slave is part of the penance if he was not allowed to own slaves in the first place?

There may be another reason. Allah was very fond of Muhammad. His abolition of slavery would not only have made his mission to get people to submit to His Will that much more difficult but would have severely impacted His spokesman’s net worth. Reason enough perhaps?

Muhammad would not part with his slave girls even to help out the daughter who gave him two grandsons.

Narrated Ali:

Fatima complained of what she suffered from the hand mill and from grinding, when she got the news that some slave girls of the booty had been brought to Allah's Apostle. She went to him to ask for a maid-servant, but she could not find him, and told Aisha of her need. When the Prophet came, Aisha informed him of that.

The Prophet came to our house when we had gone to our beds. (On seeing the Prophet) we were going to get up, but he said, 'Keep at your places.'

I felt the coolness of the Prophet's feet on my chest. Then he said, "Shall I tell you a thing which is better than what you asked me for? When you go to your beds, say: Allahu Akbar (i.e. Allah is Greater)' for 34 times, and Alhamdu Lillah (i.e. all the praises are for Allah)' for 33 times, and Subhan Allah (i.e. Glorified be Allah) for 33 times. This is better for you than what you have requested."

Bukhari 53.344