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Debating Islam (13 Jan 2014 NewAgeIslam.Com)

The Art and Science of Interpreting the Quran: How the Verses Relating To Sex with Female Slaves Must Be Interpreted?

By Naseer Ahmad (Observer) for New Age Islam

13 January, 2014

In this article, I have discussed how the verses relating to sex with female slaves must be correctly interpreted.

Attributes of Quran that help in interpreting the Book

(27:1) These are verses of the Qur´an,-a book that makes (things) clear;

(18:28) (It is) a Qur´an in Arabic, without any crookedness (therein): in order that they may guard against Evil.

(4:82) Do they not consider the Qur´an (with care)? Had it been from other Than Allah, they would surely have found therein Much discrepancy.

(18:69) We have not instructed the (Prophet) in Poetry, nor is it meet for him: this is no less than a Message and a Qur´an making things clear:

(39:23) Allah has revealed (from time to time) the most beautiful Message in the form of a Book, consistent with itself, (yet) repeating (its teaching in manifold forms): the skins of those who fear their Lord tremble thereat; then their skins and their hearts do soften to the celebration of Allah´s praises. Such is the guidance of Allah: He guides therewith whom He pleases, but such as Allah leaves to stray, can have none to guide.

(10:82) "And Allah by His words doth prove and establish His truth, however much the sinners may hate it!"

(9:125) But those in whose hearts is a disease,- it will add doubt to their doubt, and they will die in a state of Unbelief.

The important points to note are:

a)       That the Quran is not a book of poetry. Poets use key words in such a fashion that the word can take all or several of its many meanings and yet the verse remains intelligible or the same word is used in a single verse with different meanings. This is a characteristic of poetry. The Quran makes it clear that it is not a book of poetry and therefore it uses words to make the meaning clear and not to confuse or allow different interpretations. The key takeaway here is that one should not interpret the Quran as one would interpret poetry and debate about the different meanings that its verse can take but should take the simple and straightforward meaning communicated by it and as consistent with the rest of the Book. This is especially so when it concerns the ‘Muhkamat’ verses that instruct a Muslim in the right practice or conduct. As it concerns the allegorical verses, these are capable of being taken either literally or allegorically without affecting the manner in which a Muslim is required to conduct his affairs.

b)       The message is repeated taking manifold forms that assist a correct interpretation. Any mistake in understanding a verse therefore gets easily corrected.

c)       Any doubt regarding the interpretation of any verse of the Quran can be settled with reference to other verses of the Quran itself. The Quran is its best and most comprehensive commentary.

d)       The consistency, clarity and lack of discrepancy that the Quran shows is phenomenal. It is a book of over 6000 verses and yet one would be hard pressed to find any word that takes two or more meanings across these 6000+ verses. The consistency is therefore not within a verse or Sûrah alone but across the Book. With such consistency, only someone who is careless can go wrong or someone “in whose heart is a disease” can go astray.

The meaning of `Ma Malakataimanukum’ and its variations

With the above in mind, let us look into the meaning of ma Malakataimanukum and its grammatical variations. Let us first start with the literal meaning.

Ma – what (relative pronoun)

Malakat – own (as used in the Quran, it means ownership in the legal sense and not just physical possession) (3rd person feminine singular perfect verb)

Aymanukum – rightfully, they rightfully possess, their right hands (N – nominative masculine plural noun or PRON – 3rd person masculine plural possessive pronoun)

Aymanukum – your right hands (2nd person masculine plural)

Aymānuhunna – they rightfully possess (third person feminine plural)

The Variations used in the Quran

Ma Malakataimanukum - What your  right hands possess  (2nd person masculine plural)  *

(4:3; 4:24; 4:25; 4:36; 24:33, 30:28)

Ma Malakatyaminuka - What your right hands possess (2nd person masculine single)(33:50; 33:52)

Alazeenamalakatayymanukum - Those whom your right hands possess *  (2nd person masculine plural)(24:58)

Ma Malakataimanuhum - What their right hands possess *  (3rd person masculine plural) (16:71; 23:6; 70:30)

Ma Malakataymanuhunna - What their right hands possess (3rd person feminine plural) (24:31; 33:55)

The expression “ma Malakataiman” is one of the most beautiful expressions used in the Quran. Malakat has been used in the sense of legal ownership and not just physical possession. Ayman also means trust. The expression has been used in the Quran exclusively to mean ‘slave’ and this is how every authority has interpreted it with a few exceptions which will be discussed separately. The expression therefore also implies that your wife, children, orphans and relatives who may be living with you under your care and trust are not your ‘Malakat’ that is ‘owned by you’. They are free people although dependent. A man’s wife as per the Quran is therefore clearly a free woman, with all the rights and privileges that go with it on par with her husband. It also subtly communicates that while you own the slave, it is in trust from God to Whom you are fully accountable for humane and kind treatment of the slave.

While interpreting it as `slave’ in 11 of the fourteen occurrences of the expression in the Quran, Muhammad Asad has interpreted it differently following Tabari and Razi in three occurrences of the expression. If the Quran were to show inconsistency in the usage of an expression irrespective of the number of meanings the expression may have in its usage outside the Book, it would not qualify as a Book that makes things clear and is without any crookedness. The inconsistency is never on the part of the Quran. It is on account of the interpreter. The very fact that someone has shown such inconsistency renders all his work of doubtful scholarship. If a person interprets the Quran not as the word of God but as poetry, giving different meanings to the same expression in their various occurrences, then he lacks the qualities essential in an exegete of the Quran.

Let us examine the three cases:

a)       Verse 4:3 Walmohsinato Min Nisaiillama Malakataimanukum

Asad: And [forbidden to you are] all married women other than those whom you rightfully possess [through wedlock]:

Yusuf Ali: Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess:

Asad is saying that forbidden to you are all married women except the ones who are already married to you which is meaningless! Apart from that, he is treating `Mohsinat’ which means both a married woman and free woman in this context as ‘owned’ by you. Wedlock does not give Malakat or ownership and is clearly antithetical to the usage of the expression elsewhere in the Quran and also to the status of wife as a free woman. The verse is correctly interpreted by Yusuf Ali as granting rights over slaves who may have been married women before becoming slave.

b)       Verse (23:5 - 7) as translated by Asad:

(23:5) and who are mindful of their chastity, (23:6) [not giving way to their desires] with any but their spouses - that is, those whom they rightfully possess [through wedlock] -:3 for then, behold, they are free of all blame, (23:7) whereas such as seek to go beyond that [limit) are truly transgressors; (

As translated by Yusuf Ali

23:5) Who abstain from sex,(6) 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, (7) But those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors;-

In this case, Asad interprets ‘aw’ meaning ‘or’ as ‘that is’. He does not therefore treat `spouse’ and `ma Malakataimanuhum’ as separate categories but spouse as ‘ma Malakataimanuhum’ subverting the status of spouse once again to ‘slave’ or a person owned by the husband. Also, if the intention was to say only wife as Asad implies, where was the need to use the expression `Ma Malakataimanuhum’? In verse 4:33, `Aqadataimanukum’ translated as ‘those to whom your right hand was pledged’ and implies spouse (husband or wife) has been used to denote spouse. Clearly, therefore usage of ‘Ma Malakataiman’ for spouse is improper and only means ‘slave’ wherever it has been used in the Quran.

c)       Verses 70:30 which is similar/identical to 23:6 and therefore the discussion under (b) above would repeat.

In his translation of the complete Quran, Asad has translated ‘aw’ as ‘that is’ only in verses 24:3 (twice), 25:62, and 50:37 besides the two cases under b) and c) above. Therefore, as against hundreds of occurrences of the conjunction ‘aw’, Asad has translated it as `that is’ only in 5 verses. Yusuf Ali has consistently translated ‘aw’ as ‘or’. The Quranic consistency in usage of words is therefore not just for complete expressions such ‘ma malakataiman’ but for even conjunction such as ‘aw’!

The ‘mistranslation’ in the three verses does not have the same drastic consequences as in 23:6 and 70:30

I reproduce those three verses below:

24:3 Translated by Asad:

[Both are equally guilty:] the adulterer couples with none other than an adulteress - that is, a woman who accords [to her own lust] a place side by side with God; and with the adulteress couples none other than an adulterer - that is, a man who accords (to his own lust] a place side by side with God: and this is forbidden unto the believers.

Translated by Yusuf Ali:

(3) Let no man guilty of adultery or fornication marry and but a woman similarly guilty, or an Unbeliever: nor let any but such a man or an Unbeliever marry such a woman: to the Believers such a thing is forbidden.

Clearly, Yusuf Ali’s translation is the more correct one since adultery was commonplace among pagan Arabs and not a social taboo or crime. An adulterer was therefore allowed to marry only another adulterer or a disbeliever.

(25:62) as translated by Asad:

And He it is who causes the night and the day to succeed one another, [revealing Himself in His works] unto him who has the will to take thought - that is, has the will to be grateful.

(25:62) as translated by Yusuf Ali:

 And it is He Who made the Night and the Day to follow each other: for such as have the will to celebrate His praises or to show their gratitude.

Here the difference is less significant but clearly, Yusuf Ali’s translation is the more correct because reflection of the phenomena described can result in a person praising God or showing gratitude or both which what is meant when ‘or’ is used.

50:37 as translated by Asad:

In this, behold, there is indeed a reminder for everyone whose heart is wide-awake - that is, [everyone who] lends ear with a conscious mind

(50:37) as translated by Yusuf Ali:

Verily in this is a Message for any that has a heart and understanding or who gives ear and earnestly witnesses (the truth).

Once again the difference is less significant but clearly Yusuf Ali’s translation is the more correct.


If a translator or an exegete follows the discipline outlined in the article and ensures consistency in his work, he can never go wrong, as the Quran is remarkably consistent in the manner and the meanings of words and expressions that it uses. The Quran itself provides a check on the accuracy of one’s understanding and interpretation. It is truly a Book that makes everything manifestly clear beyond doubt and is without crookedness.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/debating-islam/the-art-and-science-of-interpreting-the-quran--how-the-verses-relating-to-sex-with-female-slaves-must-be-interpreted?/d/35260



  • dear observer. i may not agree with all you said but certainly your arguments are more logical compared to Mr Yunus and Ghulam Ghauss.

    By rational mohammed yunus - 1/18/2014 12:10:26 PM

  • Dear Truth and Rational,

    The truth is hidden from Mr Yunus in several layers of darkness.

    Layer 1:

    The first layer is his belief that the laws allowing sex with female slaves were immoral. I therefore first attempted to remove this layer of darkness by establishing that these laws effectively prevented the abandonment of women after gang raping them which continues till today in every war.  Islamic wars were the only wars in history in which no woman was publicly humiliated by stripping and gang raping and abandoning her thereafter. The woman slave was never shared between men and although her owner had sexual rights, he could not ill-treat her and had to take good care of her, feeding her the same food that he ate. Children born to the women were born free and if the woman who had borne her master’s children was not given freedom by her master, she automatically became a free woman on his death.

    I expected that once this layer  of darkness was removed, Mr Yunus would realize his error and back off but he did not.

    Layer 2 :

    The layer 2 of darkness was the misinterpretation of the verses of the Quran on account of cognitive bias that can be attributed to layer 1 of darkness.  I wrote the article which leaves no room for doubt as to the correct interpretation. I definitely expected Mr Yunus at this stage to accept that he had erred.

    Layer 3 :

    Sometimes people convince themselves through their own false arguments. I did not rebut his article until I had removed the first two layers of darkness giving him ample opportunity to back off rather than subject his article to a point by point rebuttal. Anybody can see how feeble his arguments are. His article which stood on the foundation of loose sand, crumbled. Since it took me sometime to clear the first two layers of darkness, Yunus sb assumed that his arguments in the article were unassailable and I had no answer. This is what he said “Why don't you take the trouble to read the article and the dlaael (arguments) it furnishes rather than dismissing it as one bent on denying the truth that is presented in a clear and irrefutable manner, for which the Qur'an uses the word kafir”. Now that I have demolished all his arguments, he has fallen back on ‘his duly authenticated book’ refrain.

    Layer 4:

    Since Mr Yunus still persists with his errors, this layer is his own ego which Allah alone can remove and I am helpless beyond a point. May Allah grant him the wisdom to realize his errors and correct himself. Islam, the Prophet (pbuh) and the Quran should not be shown disrespect by misrepresenting the truth.

    Morality is not what the majority think is moral or immoral. Our concepts of morality change with the times just like fashions do. Morality is what promotes maximum good and who can know this better than God? If rape was not a feature of every war (including wars for liberation and wars to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people), I would have had no hesitation in accepting that allowing sex with female captives was immoral. However, facts only confirm that the word of God cannot be found fault with even today.

    The Quran encourages freeing of slaves, warns against burdening them with work that exceeds their capacity, and asks the Muslims to share the work with them. It also mandates allowing them to buy their own freedom and helping them with charity to purchase their freedom. As far as slavery other than sex slavery as a consequence of war is concerned, it is made irrelevant today. Slavery represented muscle power. Power from fossil fuel and other sources is a thousand times cheaper than muscle power which makes slavery an uneconomic proposition besides being morally untenable and unconscionable and permissible only as a lesser of two evils.

    Mr Yunus has been dishonest in his arguments. Let him point out where I have relied on Sharia Laws for interpretation.  I have not even relied on any authority or hadith but simply on a rigorous analysis of the plain text of the message. Read my article once again Mr Yunus and learn how to systematically go about establishing the meaning of any verse beyond doubt.

    Mr Yunus however dragged in Zakir Naik, fatwas, Sharia Laws, Imrana case, Ahle Hadeesis and what not in his bid to malign.

    The reason why Mr Yunus is uanble to see the truth is because he worships modern western values and is engaged in a project to reinterpret the Quran in the light of these values. Religion for him has passed the 'theological phase' and obeisance must be paid to the modern western values. If he thinks he is serving the cause of Islam by doing so, who am I to stop him. My own conviction is that once our focus shifts from Allah as the source of all wisdom, we are on the path that leads us astray. The truth then gets covered in multiple layers of darkness and we can no longer see it. I pray that Mr Yunus will find his way back again to the straight path. 

    By Observer - 1/18/2014 10:34:24 AM

  • dear observer
    why don't you give some weight to authenticity from al-azhar for yunus saheb's work. it seems approval of al-azhar is equivalent to approval of God.

    By rational mohammed yunus - 1/18/2014 9:34:15 AM

  • Dear Observer,

    All the arguments tabled in my article re Abolition of slavery in Islam are extracted from my duly authenticated work. If you think I have cooked up in interpretation and that the Qur'anic message does appropriate sex-slavery which means God does not give women co-equal right as men, then kindly read my following article, the caption of which speaks for itself.

    My work (Abolition of slavery/ sex-slavery) attempts to explain and interpret the Qur'anic message from its its own vocabulary and illustrations and a gender neutral, historic.critical reading and yours is traditional based on a patriarchic and literalist reading and therefore there is bound to be divergence. Leave the matter here please and do not trouble yourself to write long discourses for even if you wrote a hundred times as much as you have written, you cannot convince me that God almighty, having bestowed upon women a glorious package of rights (my article below) will strip her of all her rights if she fell in the hands of an attacking army. I am feeling so ashamed of Islamic scholarship of this day, to say the same thing again and again and again, but failing to convince a supposedly scholar that the Qur'an will falsify itself it it were to allow sex-slavery or slavery as an element of its universal message and as such those who are bent on appropriating slavery in Islam are the deniers of the Qur'anic message.   

    The Qur’an offers protection and coequal personal rights to women and those who deny them such rights today are the deniers of the message of the Qur’an – though God knows best.

    Thank you. God knows best your and my intentions/ motives for you are bent on projecting Islam in a negative light this day by clinging to misogynic Sharia Law rulings.

    By muhammad yunus - 1/18/2014 8:12:44 AM

  • Both Mr Yunus and Gouse Sb are trapped in their own arguments. Bravo Observer,you are dong a great job (not to trap Yunus Sba and Ghousb Sb) but to show the correct picture of Islam.
    By Truth - 1/17/2014 9:48:30 PM

  • Mr Yunus,

     You clutched at the straws that Ghaus Sb flung at you and tried to run away. Ghaus Sb is unable to defend what he said. Please respond to my point by point rebuttal of your article:


    Point 1:

     Yunus says in his article :

    “If the Prophet or the Qur'an were to give any extra institutional sexual license to men, the pagan Arabs would have unquestionably charged him for this. …..But not one single word did they utter that pointed, even remotely, to his sanctioning of any form of sexual license.”

     And in his comment Yunus says:

    “The verse 23:5/6 and 70:29/30 you are repeatedly quoting date from an early Meccan period when sex slavery was normative and one would read the particle 'awe' (if you understand Arabic) in its normal usage as an option. So the verses and their traditional translations were context specific.”


    My Response: Isn’t Mr Yunus contradicting himself? And if yes, then he has lied deliberately in his article.

    If sex slavery was normative (which I agree that it was) why the “pagan Arabs would have unquestionably charged the Prophet (pbuh) with giving extra institutional sexual license to men”?
    And if 23:5/6 and 70:29/30 are early Meccan verses granting the option of sex with slaves then what does Yunus consider to be the “extra institutional sexual license to men” which is not there in the verses because of which “the pagan Arabs did not utter a single word that pointed even remotely, to his sanctioning of any form of sexual license” ? Yes of course sex with slave is an option and not a religious duty so why wouldn’t `aw’ be used?


    Point 2: Yunus has also said in his article that the verse 23:5/6 and 70:29/30 are gender neutral. The verses are not gender neutral. Anyone can check the same using the following link which provides for a word by word translation giving all grammatical details of each word used. 

    http://corpus.quran.com/wordbyword.jsp?chapter=70&verse=29Neither does Yusuf Ali whom Mr Yunus has quoted in the article use gender neutral language. Is Mr Yunus suggesting that the ladies had the option of not guarding their chastity from their male slaves? Specifically, Muminiun is masculine and Muminat is feminine and the verse addresses the Muminun. From context, it is possible that Muminun may refer to both males and females but that is not the case here. Moreover, look up 24:3 which is about adultery and applies to both male and female but there is no implied gender neutral language. Male adulterer and Female adulteress have been addressed separately.


    Point 3:

    Further, Mr Yunus argues that the rendition of ‘awe’ in 23:6/ 70:30 which equates spouse with Ma Malakat Ayman, by mistranslating ‘awe’ as `that is’ instead of correctly ‘or’  is consistent with the usage of the particle ‘awe’ in the verse 25:62.


    My response:

    Asad has mistranslated in 25:62 as well and equated zikr with shukr which everyone knows is incorrect. Mr Yunus is trying to support one error with another obvious error!


    Point 4:

    Yunus says: “The traditional interpretation of Ma Malakat Ae’man invoking an institution of slavery in the biblical or historical sense is totally misleading as expounded in the main body of this article”.


    My response: There are 14 occurrences of the expression and in each occurrence it is unmistakably referring to slave. I give one instance as an example. Every verse that contains the expression is cited in my article:

    (4:36) Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good- to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near, neighbours who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet), and what your right hands possess: (ma malakat aimanukum ) For Allah loveth not the arrogant, the vainglorious;-

     Please note the order in which the command to do good is given:

    1.    Parents 2. Kinsfolk 3. Orphans 4. Those in need 5 near neighbours 6 far neighbours 7 companions or friends 8. The wayfarer and 9. ma malakat aimanukum or your slaves

     The wife is clearly included in kinsfolk and cannot be part of ma malakat aimanukum. The slaves are listed last after ‘the wayfarer’.


    Point No 5:

     Yunus says:  “The passages date from the early Meccan period when Muslims were ‘just a few in number, weak and helpless in the land, and were afraid that their enemies might oppress and kidnap them’ (8:26). Accordingly, the Meccan Suras are full of exhortations for patience and self-restraint and it is least likely that the Qur’an would grant a sexual license at this stage except to mandate what was prevalent at that point in time – when marriage laws were a decade away”.


    My Response: Yunus could be right. However slavery preexisted Islam and the verses clarified that a person should guard his chastity from all except from his wives or from his female slaves. I hope that Yunus is not implying that slavery was an Islamic invention and there were no slaves in the early Meccan period and they came only through the wars. Although I have justified sex with female war captives on the basis that this effectively prevented the abandoning of women to their fate after gang raping them,  God does not have to wait until wars to make the law.


    Point no 6: Yunus says:


    In a different plane, unlike the legal codes that preceded it, and succeeded it for over a millennium, the Qur’an does not enact any separate civil law or code for the slaves or the ma Malakat Ayman class. The Qur’an does, however, refer to slavery in the context of the past or even prevalent traditions, but its civil, commercial, inheritance and family laws are for all believers, without any reference to their being freeborn or slaves.


    My Response:

    The punishment to a female slave for the sin/crime of adultery is half of that of a free person. As far as inheritance laws go, if the slave woman bears children, the children are born free and inherit the property of their father like his other children. If the slave woman is freed and married, she inherits as a wife; else she gains her freedom on the death of her master.


    By Observer - 1/17/2014 8:46:47 PM

  • For Ghulam Ghaus to respond to the Tafsir by Ala Hazrat Raza Ahmed Khan.

    The Quranic expression is 'ma malakat aimanukum' which simply means a "slave whom one legally owns and possesses". The Quranic expression does not express anything like 'believing or disbelieving slave'. That is something Ala Hazzrat has added on his own and is included in his urdu tafseer also. Please keep in mind that a Muslim is allowed to marry only a believing woman. So if Ala Hazrat says that the ‘wives of disbelievers who come into your possession as bondwomen’ are permissible, he does not even remotely mean allowed through marriage!


    http://www.alahazrat.net/alquran/Quran/004/004_024_026.html [

    Nisa 4:24] And all married women are forbidden for you except the wives of disbelievers who come into your possession as bondwomen; this is Allah’s decree for you; and other than these, all women are lawful for you so that you seek them in exchange of your wealth in proper wedlock, not adultery; therefore give the women you wish to marry, their appointed bridal money; and after the appointment (of bridal money) there is no sin on you if you come to a mutual agreement; indeed Allah is All Knowing, Wise.

    [Mominun 23:05] And who guard their private organs.

    [Mominun 23:06] Except from their wives or the legal (sharia) bondwomen that they possess, for then there is no blame upon them.

    Mominun 23:07] So whoever desires more than these two - they are crossing the limits.

    [Maa`rij 70:29] And those who protect their private organs (from adultery).

    [Maa`rij 70:30] Except with their wives and the bondwomen in their possession, for there is no reproach on them.

    [Maa`rij 70:31] So those who desire more than this – it is they who are the transgressors.


    [Ahzab 33:50] O Herald of the Hidden! We have indeed made lawful for you the wives to whom you have paid their bridal money, and the bondwomen you possess whom Allah gave you as war booty, and the daughters of your paternal uncles, and the daughters of your paternal aunts, and the daughters of your maternal uncles, and the daughters of your maternal aunts, those who migrated with you; and the believing woman if she gifts her life to the Prophet, if the Prophet desires to take her in marriage; this is exclusively for you, not for your followers; We indeed know what We have enjoined upon the Muslims concerning their wives and the bondwomen they possess – this exclusivity for you is so that you may not have constraints; and Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful.

    [Ahzab 33:52] Other women are not permitted for you after these, nor that you change them for other wives even if their beauty pleases you except the bondwomen whom you possess; and Allah is the Guardian over all things.


    By Observer - 1/17/2014 12:27:20 AM

  • Reposting comment on 4:25 for your convenience.

    Now let us look at 4:25 on which Asad, Tabari and Razi  and now Gahus Sbmostly base their interpretation. The verse talks about marriage. It says:

    Marry a free woman if you can afford the dower 

    If you cannot afford the dower for a free woman, marry a believing slave you own

    If you are so poor that you can neither marry a free woman nor own a female slave, then marry someone else’s believing slave woman with the permission of the owner. Marrying of the slave of another person must however be for honorable purpose and not for satisfying lust.

    The verse anticipates that this permission to allow the marriage of one’s slave to another person could be misused and therefore the stress is on chastity and seeking an honorable and open relationship without secrecy and not amounting to taking a paramour. Without this caution, the permission could be turned into license/prostitution. The slave woman continues to be the ‘malakat’ or property of her master while married to a third person who gets only conjugal rights and enjoys the same with the permission of the master of the slave woman. Also presumably, the master can keep the dower. We can therefore easily see that this permission could be easily into prostitution with a series of marriages and divorces. The person is therefore advised that restraint is better than seeking the last option of marrying someone else’s slave which may be resorted to only when there is fear of otherwise falling into sin. Clearly this verse is discouraging marriage to a female who is someone else slave.

    This verse is clearly advising Muslims to marry since marriage saves them from the sin of engaging in illicit sex and the various options are listed out. It is not about slaves who are only incidental to the advice on marriage as the less preferred option when a person cannot marry a free woman. This verse cannot by any stretch of imagination be construed as saying that sexual relationship with slaves is permissible only under contract of marriage and overrides 23:5/6 etc which is what Asad and others have done. Even if we accept the argument of Asad etc for a moment, the question that begs itself is ‘if marriage with non-believers is impermissible, was sex with such slaves permissible?” The clear answer is yes since 4:25 talks about marrying a believing slave only. Nowhere in this verse or in any other verse is there a prohibition on sex with own slave without marriage. 

    By Observer - 1/16/2014 10:21:34 AM

  • Mr Yunus and Ghulam Ghouse,

    You will find my detailed comment on 4:25 under Yunus article. Click view all comments and search for 4:25.

    When sex is allowed with slave women, what is illegal about it? It is allowed in the early Meccan Suras 26:5 to 7 and 70:30 and the very last verses on the subject in 33:50 and 33:52 and nothing in between that bans it. You are making inferences that are not only not supported but clearly in contradiction with very clear verses - the earliest as well as the last.

    By Observer - 1/16/2014 9:48:04 AM

  • can anybody  cast the light over how Safiyah bint Huyayy became the wife of hz mohammed from the Quran and hadith? when did they get married?

    By rational mohammed yunus - 1/16/2014 8:27:16 AM

  • Dear Observer, I have just posted the following comment in response to Gholam Ghous Sb's comprehensive interpretation of the passage which should remove any doubt from your mind that the Qur'anic message as completed after the introduction of marriage laws does not admit of sex with slaves or any category of woman without marriage:

     Thanks Gholam Ghouse Sb for your comprehensive interpretation of the passage 4:22-4:25 leading to your following conclusion

    "The long and short of this is that the women who come under the category of ‘Wa malakat aimanukum’ are lawful for marriage and not for illegal sex."

    Thanks and let us move forward.

    By muhammad yunus - 1/16/2014 6:22:59 AM

  • Ghaus Sb,

    Your comment on 4:24 is helpful.
    Can you please comment on 23:5 also and on my article?

    By Observer - 1/15/2014 7:11:21 PM

  • Mr Yunus,

    You do not have appeared to read the point to point response.

    I reproduce the following:

     Yunus says:

     “The passages date from the early Meccan period when Muslims were ‘just a few in number, weak and helpless in the land, and were afraid that their enemies might oppress and kidnap them’ (8:26). Accordingly, the Meccan Suras are full of exhortations for patience and self-restraint and it is least likely that the Qur’an would grant a sexual license at this stage except to mandate what was prevalent at that point in time – when marriage laws were a decade away”.

     My Response:

    Yunus could be right. However slavery preexisted Islam and the verses clarified that a person should guard his chastity from all except from his wives or from his female slaves. I hope that Yunus is not implying that slavery was an Islamic invention and there were no slaves in the early Meccan period and they came only through the wars. 

    By Observer - 1/15/2014 12:47:14 PM

  • Mr Yunus,

    Were there no slaves pr slavery before Hijra and Islamic wars? What has war got to do with it? 

    By Observer - 1/15/2014 12:42:18 PM

  • Dear Observer,
    If you want to refute my article re Abolition of Slavery in Islam, then you have to clearly point out which of its statement is flawed.
    You have written this article (above) to present an interpretation of two identical verses 23:5/6 and 70:29/30. They date from an early Meccan period. That was a time when the Muslims were oppressed and persecuted and there was no question at all of their taking any war captives. In fact you ought to know that there is no report of any armed encounter, let alone war in the Meccan period. Besides, the major wars of the Medinite period were fought in battlefields and the Qur'anic glimpses on these wars as covered in my article referenced below give no indication whatsoever of the capture of any female captive. Therefore, it appears, by insisting that the verses 23:5/6 and & 70:29/30 allow sex with female captives, slaves even after the abolition of sex without marriage about a decade later, you are bent on establishing the classical sharia law ruling on slavery. My take on the passages that contain these verse is spelled out in my comment to Gholam Muhiuddin Sahab, below that reads as follows (copy pasted):
    "But once the marriage laws were introduced, the notion of maa malakat aeman will overlap with that of spouse. This is how at least three of the most distinguished exegetes al-Tabari, al-Razi and Muhammad Asad have done.
    It is important to bear in mind the timing and the context of the revelation and the nuances of the  Arabic. Thus, its second person masculine plural form in Assalam u alaikum for example represents the feminine form as well. We do not say to a Muslim woman, Assalam u alihunna (technically a feminine form) We use common masculine form for both the genders. So the expression 'azwajkum' is gender neutral as rendered in my rendition tabled in my article re Abolition of Slavery in Islam. Thus, the passages 23:5/6 and 70:29/30 are addressed to common humanity and believers as indicated in the opening address of the passages in which they appear that are rendered as follows in my jt. work:
    “Believers will indeed succeed (23:1): those who are humble in their prayer (2), who avoid foul talk (3), who are active in charity (zakah) (4), and who preserve their private parts (furujah)* (5) - except from their spouses, that is, those under their lawful trust - and then (they are) not blame worthy" (23:6) 
    “Man (insan) has been created restless (70:19). He is panicky when evil befalls him (20) and ungrateful when something good happens to him (21), except the prayerful (22): those who are regular in prayer (23), and in whose wealth, there is a definite right for (24) the beggar and the destitute (25); and who affirm the (truth of) the Day of Judgment (26); and who fear the punishment of their Lord (27) - for indeed none should feel secure from their Lord’s punishment (28); and who preserve their private parts (furujah)*  (29) - except from their spouses (azwaj), that is (awe) those under their lawful trust (ma malakat ayman), and then (they are) not blame worthy" (70:30). Re, Ch. 19.1
    The truth is, any restrictive interpretation of these verses (23:5/6; 70:29/30) for battlefield or realities of war detracts from the universal, expansive and holistic message of the Qur'an, and is patently untenable - a stark denial of truth - a kufr - though God knows best.
    Re:  The Radical Intelligentsia of Islam and Its Orthodox Ulema Are the ‘Hypocrites’ and ‘Nomadic Arabs Intense In Kufr’ Of This Era: They Are Its Twin Internal Enemies, and Must Be Resisted


    By muhammad yunus - 1/15/2014 9:24:56 AM

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