Rape in Islamic Law

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Islam allows a man to have intercourse with his slave woman, whether he has a wife or wives or he is not married...Whoever regards that as haraam is a sinner who is going against the consensus of the scholars.

Rape, known in Islam as zina bil-ikrah or zina bil-jabr, is generally defined by Muslim jurists as forced intercourse by a man with a woman who is not his wife and without her consent. It is a crime punishable against the rapist with a hadd penalty - stoning (if he is a married person) or lashings (if he is unmarried) - just as he would receive for ordinary Zina (unlawful intercourse). There is no punishment for the rape victim if she is able to prove that she was raped. Four witnesses are required to prove the offense.[1] Jurists disagree on whether the rapist must also pay a dowry as compensation to the victim. A controversial position of some modern jurists is that the hadd penalty for outlaws should apply to rapists (hadd Hirabah), described in Quran 5:33. Others say that rape can be treated by the judge as an offence that receives Tazir (discretionary) punishment (as in Pakistan, for example). These approaches avoid the impractical four witnesses requirement for applying a zina hadd penalty when there is no confession. In some other modern courts a woman risks being accused of zina if she cannot prove to this standard that she has been raped. [2]

A small number of hadiths are cited to support the Islamic punishments for rape, discussed below. These narrations relate to the rape of free women and of female slaves who are not owned by the perpetrator. However, we will see that the Qur'an permits Muslim men to have sexual relations with their own female slaves. Kecia Ali, Associate professor of religion, Boston University says regarding sex with slaves:

For premodern Muslim jurists, as well as for those marginal figures who believe that the permission [for slavery] still holds, the category “rape” doesn’t apply: ownership makes sex lawful; consent is irrelevant.

Dr. Jonathan Brown, Associate Professor and Chair of Islamic Civilization at Georgetown University (who is a Muslim convert) has made similar comments.[4][5] Furthermore, there are narrations in which female captives were raped prior to being ransomed back to their tribe.

As with enslaved females, according to Islamic law, married women are required to oblige their husbands sexual advances - raping one's wife is not punishable.[6] . The category of "rape" is thus deemed to be equally non-existent in the contexts of both marriage and slavery.



rape [reyp] noun, verb, raped, rap·ing.


  1. the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.


In jurisprudence, duress or coercion refers to a situation whereby a person performs an act as a result of violence, threat or other pressure against the person. Black's Law Dictionary (6th ed.) defines duress as "any unlawful threat or coercion used... to induce another to act [or not act] in a manner [they] otherwise would not [or would]". Duress is pressure exerted upon a person to coerce that person to perform an act that he or she ordinarily would not perform. The notion of duress must be distinguished both from undue influence in the civil law and from necessity.

Duress has two aspects. One is that it negates the person's consent to an act, such as sexual activity or the entering into a contract; or, secondly, as a possible legal defense or justification to an otherwise unlawful act.[7] A defendant utilizing the duress defense admits to breaking the law, but claims that he/she is not liable because, even though the act broke the law, it was only performed because of extreme unlawful pressure.[8] In criminal law, a duress defense is similar to a plea of guilty, admitting partial culpability, so that if the defense is not accepted then the criminal act is admitted.

Duress or coercion can also be raised in an allegation of rape or sexual assault to negate a defense of consent on the part of the person making the allegation.


There is no equivalent term for ‘rape’ in the Qur'an. Likewise, there is not a single verse in the Qur'an which even remotely discourages forced sex. In contrast, there are several verses in the Qur'an which give the green light to rape and other sexual crimes against captured and enslaved women.

Surah an-Nisa discusses lawful and forbidden women for pious Muslims. It should be noted that it is not easy to understand what is being suggested using the verse alone. Authoritative Tafsirs (Qur'an interpretations) and Sahih (authentic) Hadiths associated with these verses are necessary to understand these verses as they have been understood in the Islamic tradition. Interpretations without tafsir or hadith precedent are generally not accepted, especially when they result in a divergent meaning.

Verse 4:24

Prohibited to you (For marriage) are:- Your mothers, daughters, sisters; father's sisters, Mother's sisters; brother's daughters, sister's daughters; foster-mothers (Who gave you suck), foster-sisters; your wives' mothers; your step-daughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom ye have gone in,- no prohibition if ye have not gone in;- (Those who have been) wives of your sons proceeding from your loins; and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time, except for what is past; for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful;-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.

The Qur'an dictates in this verse that women already married are forbidden for Muslims to marry except those whom their right hands possess (sex slaves). Other verses allow sexual intercourse with female slaves without marrying them first (see below).

Context in Hadiths - Rape of Married Female Captives

It is important to know the context of this verse, as it sheds light onto the nature of allowance. A Sahih Hadith in Sunan Abu Dawud:

Abu Said al-Khudri said: "The apostle of Allah sent a military expedition to Awtas on the occasion of the battle of Hunain. They met their enemy and fought with them. They defeated them and took them captives. Some of the Companions of the apostle of Allah were reluctant to have intercourse with the female captives because of their pagan husbands. So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Quranic verse, "And all married women (are forbidden) unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess". That is to say, they are lawful for them when they complete their waiting period." [The Quran verse is 4:24]

This hadith explains why verse 4:24 was revealed to Muhammad. It was to encourage his fighters, who were reluctant, to have sexual contact with female captives even while their husbands were alive. This is made clear in the following quote:

"Some of the Companions of the apostle of Allah were reluctant to have intercourse with the female captives because of their pagan husbands"

The Abu Dawud hadith is confirmed in Sahih Muslim:

Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported that at the Battle of Hunain Allah's Messenger sent an army to Autas and encountered the enemy and fought with them. Having overcome them and taken them captives, the Companions of Allah's Messenger seemed to refrain from having intercourse with captive women because of their husbands being polytheists. Then Allah, Most High, sent down regarding that:" And women already married, except those whom your right hands possess (Quran 4:. 24)" (i. e. they were lawful for them when their 'Idda period came to an end).

There is an entire chapter devoted to this in the Sahih Muslim collection. The title of the chapter is:

Sahih Muslim - The Book of Suckling - Chapter: It is permissible to have intercourse with a female captive after it is established that she is not pregnant, and if she has a husband, then her marriage is annulled when she is captured[9]


Ibn Kathir, the most prominent of all Qur'an interpreters, had this to say in regards to verse 4:24:

The Ayah (verses) means Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess.), you are prohibited from marrying women who are already married, except those whom your right hands possess) except those whom you acquire through war, for you are allowed such women after making sure they are not pregnant. Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri said, "We captured some women from the area of Awtas who were already married, and we disliked having sexual relations with them because they already had husbands. So, we asked the Prophet about this matter, and this Ayah (verse) was revealed, Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess). Accordingly, we had sexual relations with these women." (Alternate translation can be: as a result of these verses, their (Infidels) wives have become lawful for us) This is the wording collected by At-Tirmidhi An-Nasa'i, Ibn Jarir and Muslim in his Sahih.

Similarly in Tafsir al-Jalalayn (Qur'an interpretation by two Jalals namely: Jalaluddin Mahalli and Jalaluddin Suyuti, both authorities):

And, forbidden to you are, wedded women, those with spouses, that you should marry them before they have left their spouses, be they Muslim free women or not; save what your right hands own, of captured [slave] girls, whom you may have sexual intercourse with, even if they should have spouses among the enemy camp, but only after they have been absolved of the possibility of pregnancy [after the completion of one menstrual cycle]; this is what God has prescribed for you.
Qur'an 4:24
Tafsir al-Jalalayn

The tafsir attributed to (though likely not directly from) Ibn Abbas, Muhammad's paternal cousin, further confirms:

And all married women (are forbidden unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess) of captives, even if they have husbands in the Abode of War, after ascertaining that they are not pregnant, by waiting for the lapse of one period of menstruation. (It is a decree of Allah for you) that which I have mentioned to you is unlawful in Allah's Book.
Qur'an 4:24
Tafsir 'Ibn Abbas

Verses 23:1-6

There are other verses in the Qur'an similar to verse 4:24, but which mention sexual relations with slaves as a category distinct from wives, so it is clear that this is permitted without marrying the slave first. For example, Surah al-Mumenoon makes mention of successful Muslims and their characteristics:

Certainly will the believers have succeeded: They who are during their prayer humbly submissive And they who turn away from ill speech And they who are observant of zakah And they who guard their private parts Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed

Guarding private parts is denotative of abstaining from sexual activities. The Qur'an points out that successful believers are those who are indulging in sexual activities only with their wives and sex-slaves.

Verses 70:29-30

This is confirmed again in Surah al-Maarij:

And those who guard their private parts, Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they are not to be blamed

Related Hadiths

Rape of Female Captives Before Ransoming Them

On another occasion the only issue of concern for Muhammad's companions was whether the practice of coitus interruptus ('azl) was permissible while raping captive women.

Narrated Ibn Muhairiz: I entered the Mosque and saw Abu Said Al-Khudri and sat beside him and asked him about Al-Azl (i.e. coitus interruptus). Abu Said said, "We went out with Allah's Apostle for the Ghazwa of Banu Al-Mustaliq and we received captives from among the Arab captives and we desired women and celibacy became hard on us and we loved to do coitus interruptus. So when we intended to do coitus interrupt us, we said, 'How can we do coitus interruptus before asking Allah's Apostle who is present among us?" We asked (him) about it and he said, 'It is better for you not to do so, for if any soul (till the Day of Resurrection) is predestined to exist, it will exist."

A significant additional detail is found in the same hadith in Sahih Muslim. The raped women were planned to be ransomed back to their tribes. Some modern apologists have suggested that theses Muslims, by enslaving women whose husbands, fathers and brothers they had killed, were being saved from destitution; this apologetic line is falsified by the following hadith:

Abu Sirma said to Abu Sa'id al Khadri (Allah he pleased with him): O Abu Sa'id, did you hear Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) mentioning al-'azl? He said: Yes, and added: We went out with Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) on the expedition to the Bi'l-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing 'azl (Withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid-conception). But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah's Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked Allah's Messenger (ﷺ), and he said: It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born.

The same hadith including the ransom comment appears also in Al-Muwatta 29:95 and Sunan Abu Dawud 2167 (Ahmad Hasan Ref) (graded sahih).

The story also appears in Sahih Bukhari, where it is even clearer that Muhammad understood exactly the intentions of his companions and his only concern was the method of intercourse:

Narrated Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri: that while he was sitting with Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) he said, "O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)! We get female captives as our share of booty, and we are interested in their prices, what is your opinion about coitus interruptus?" The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Do you really do that? It is better for you not to do it. No soul that which Allah has destined to exist, but will surely come into existence.

Muhammad Approves of 'Ali Raping a Slave-Girl

This hadith concerns an incident which led up to the famous event of Ghadir Khumm, which is much disputed between Sunnis and Shias. Both agree that Muhammad received complaints about 'Ali taking a slave-girl from the Khums share of the booty (because the complainers believed he was not entitled to anything from that share). The Arabic of the Sunni hadith below mentions 'Ali taking a Ghusl bath, which implies sexual activity. Later, at a place called Ghabir Khumm, Muhammad tried to pacify those who hated 'Ali by declaring him to be his Mawla, which Shias interpret to mean the leader to succeed Muhammad after his death.

Narrated Buraida: The Prophet (ﷺ) sent `Ali to Khalid to bring the Khumus (of the booty) and I hated `Ali, and `Ali had taken a bath (after a sexual act with a slave-girl from the Khumus). I said to Khalid, "Don't you see this (i.e. `Ali)?" When we reached the Prophet (ﷺ) I mentioned that to him. He said, "O Buraida! Do you hate `Ali?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Do you hate him, for he deserves more than that from the Khumus."

Muhammad Did not Consider Intercourse Between a Master and his Slave to be Zina (Adultery)

As noted in a later section below, punishments for rape applied only to a man who rapes a free women or a slave he does not own. Similarly, zina (fornication or adultery) only applied to intercourse with women in those two groups, but not to intercourse with a man's own slave women, according to Muhammad in this hadith graded Hasan by al-Albani:

'Amr b. Shu'aib on his father's authority said that his grandfather reported:

The Prophet (ﷺ) decided regarding one who was treated as a member of a family after the death of his father, to whom he was attributed when the heirs said he was one of them, that if he was the child of a slave-woman whom the father owned when he had intercourse with her, he was included among those who sought his inclusion, but received none of the inheritance which was previously divided; he, however, received his portion of the inheritance which had not already been divided; but if the father to whom he was attributed had disowned him, he was not joined to the heirs.

If he was a child of a slave-woman whom the father did not possess or of a free woman with whom he had illicit intercourse, he was not joined to the heirs and did not inherit even if the one to whom he was attributed is the one who claimed paternity, since he was a child of fornication whether his mother was free or a slave.

Muhammad had Intercourse with his Slave

The following hadith refers a slave of Muhammad (Maria the Copt) who bore him a child. The phrase translated "slavegirl" is umm walad (أُمِّ وَلَدِ), literally meaning mother of the child and was the title given to a slave concubine who bore her master a child.

Anas reported that a person was charged with fornication with the slavegirl of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ). Thereupon Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said to 'Ali: Go and strike his neck. 'Ali came to him and he found him in a well making his body cool. 'Ali said to him: Come out, and as he took hold of his hand and brought him out, he found that his sexual organ had been cut. Hadrat 'Ali refrained from striking his neck. He came to Allah's Apostle (ﷺ) and said: Allah's Messenger, he has not even the sexual organ with him.

The following hadith is graded Sahih by Dar-us-Salam:

It was narrated from Anas, that the Messenger of Allah had a female slave with whom he had intercourse, but 'Aishah and Hafsah would not leave him alone until he said that she was forbidden for him. Then Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, revealed: "O Prophet! Why do you forbid (for yourself) that which Allah has allowed to you.' until the end of the Verse.

Tafsir al-Jalalayn says of the verse referred to in this hadith:

O Prophet! Why do you prohibit what God has made lawful for you in terms of your Coptic handmaiden Māriya — when he lay with her in the house of Hafsa who had been away but who upon returning and finding out became upset by the fact that this had taken place in her own house and on her own bed — by saying ‘She is unlawful for me!’ seeking by making her unlawful for you to please your wives? And God is Forgiving Merciful having forgiven you this prohibition.
Commentary on verse 66:1
Tafsir al\Jalalayn

An alternate, or additional circumstance for this verse has also been narrated in sahih hadiths:

'Aishah said that the Messenger of Allah used to stay with Zainab bint Jahsh and drink honey at her house. Hafsah and I agreed that if the Prophet entered upon either of us, she would say: "I perceive the smell of Maghafir (a nasty-smelling gum) on you; have you eaten Maghafir?" He came in to one of them, and she said that to him. He said: "No, rather I drank honey at the house of Zainab bint Jahsh, but I will never do it again." Then the following was revealed: 'O Prophet! Why do you forbid (for yourself) that which Allah has allowed to you.' 'If you two turn in repentance to Allah, (it will be better for you)' about 'Aishah and Hafsah, 'And (remember) when the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his wives' refers to him saying: "No, rather I drank honey".

The honey story sounds rather less plausible as an explanation for these verses than the slave sex version. Perhaps it is no coincidence that "honey" was a euphemism for sexual intercourse. See for example the following hadith:

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was asked about a man who divorced his wife three times, and she married another who entered upon her, but divorced her before having intercourse with her, whether she was lawful for the former husband. She said: The Prophet (ﷺ) replied: She is not lawful for the first (husband) until she tastes the honey of the other husband and he tastes her honey.

Punishments for Rape

Rape of Free Women

The following hadith (graded Hasan by Dar-us-Salam) narrates Muhammad ordering the punishment by stoning of a confessed rapist who attacked a free woman. See also the Malik Muwatta hadith in the next section.

Narrated 'Alqamah bin Wa'il Al-Kindi:

From his father: "A women went out during the time of the Prophet (ﷺ) to go to Salat, but she was caught by a man and he had relations with her, so she screamed and he left. Then a man came across her and she said: 'That man has done this and that to me', then she came across a group of Emigrants (Muhajirin) and she said: 'That man did this and that to me.' They went to get the man she thought had relations with her, and they brought him to her. She said: 'Yes, that's him.' So they brought him to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), and when he ordered that he be stoned, the man who had relations with her, said: 'O Messenger of Allah, I am the one who had relations with her.' So he said to her: 'Go, for Allah has forgiven you.' Then he said some nice words to the man (who was brought). And he said to the man who had relations with her: 'Stone him.' Then he said: 'He has repented a repentance that, if the inhabitants of Al-Madinah had repented with, it would have been accepted from them.'"

Rape of Slaves (Owned by Another Person)

The following hadiths concern slaves owned by someone other than the rapist, and reparations are due to the owner in the form of a replacement slave or the amount by which the slave's value has been depreciated. The authenticity of hadiths concerning this incident are graded da'if (weak) by al-Albani, while Dar-us-Salam grade them hasan (good).

It was narrated that Salamah bin Al-Muhabbaq said: "The Prophet passed judgment concerning a man who had intercourse with his wife's slave woman: 'If he forced her, then she is free, and he has to give her mistress a similar slave as a replacement; if she obeyed him in that, then she belongs to him, and he has to give her mistress a similar slave as a replacement.'"

The same hadith is found in Sunan Abu Dawud 38:4445.

In another version of the incident, the rapist of his wife's slave is to be punished by stoning.

It was narrated from An-Nu'man bin Bashir that the Prophet said, concerning a man who had intercourse with his wife's slave woman: "If she let him do that, I will flog him with one hundred stripes , and if she did not let him, I will stone him (to death)."

The same hadith in found in Sunan Abu Dawud 38:4444.

Additionally, Malik in his Muwatta is reported as commenting:

Malik related to me from Ibn Shihab that Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan gave a judgment that the rapist had to pay the raped woman her bride- price. Yahya said that he heard Malik say, "What is done in our community about the man who rapes a woman, virgin or non-virgin, if she is free, is that he must pay the bride-price of the like of her. If she is a slave, he must pay what he has diminished of her worth. The hadd-punishment in such cases is applied to the rapist, and there is no punishment applied to the raped woman. If the rapist is a slave, that is against his master unless he wishes to surrender him.

The mention of paying the depreciation in her value implies that as with the other hadiths, this concerns only slaves owned by someone else rather than by the rapist.

Limitations on Rape of Slaves by their Masters

Muhammad Forbids Intercourse with Female Captives Until they have Completed their Iddah or Given Birth if Pregnant

The following hadith is graded Hasan by Dar-us-Salam:

Narrated Umm Habibah bint 'Irbad bin Sariyah: From her father who told her that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) prohibited intercourse with female prisoners, until they deliver what is in their wombs."

Similarly in Sunan Abu Dawud, which in addition mentions the Iddah waiting period (to avoid doubts over paternity if the slave woman gives birth later). This hadith is graded Sahih by Dar-us-Salam:

Abu Sa’id Al Khudri traced to Prophet (ﷺ) the following statement regarding the captives taken at Atwas. There must be no intercourse with pregnant woman till she gives birth to her child or with the one who is not pregnant till she has had one menstrual period.

Intercourse with Polytheist Slaves Forbidden by Scholars (Coercing Them to Islam Permitted)

While Muhammad's men seem to have had intercourse with captive polytheist women whom they had captured during the expedition to Awtas/Autas (see hadiths quoted above), most scholars ruled that this was later forbidden by Quran 2:221 (which forbids marriage to polytheist women, but scholars inferred that this also applied to intercourse with slaves). Intercourse with Muslim, Christian or Jewish slaves was not affected by this restriction.[10]

Early scholars of fiqh devised a workaround for this restriction, including to allow the rape of minors who were polytheist:

According to a report included in the Jāmi‘ of al-Khallāl (d. 311 A.H. / 923 A.D.), Ibn Hanbal maintained that
if Zoroastrian and idolatrous women are taken prisoner, they are coerced into Islam; if they embrace it, sexual relations with them are permissible and they can (also) be used as maidservants. If they do not embrace Islam, they are used as maidservants but not for sexual relations (wa idhā subhīna (sic) al-majūsiyyāt wa ‘abadat al awthān ujbirna 'alā al-Islām fa-in asl ama wutiʼna ma 'stukhdimna wa in lam yuslimna 'stukhdimna wa lam yūtaʼna).

The contradiction inherent in this passage is evident: despite the unspecified coercive measures, some of the women in question refused conversion and, consequently, the masters could not take full advantage of their services. If the only way to embrace Islam is pronouncing the declaration of faith, the conversion of a defiant woman may not be possible: it is not always feasible to force someone to utter the shahāda. According to a tradition transmitted on the authority of Hasan al-Basri, the Muslims used various devices to attain their objective: they turned the Zorastrian slave-girl toward the Ka‘ba, ordered her to pronounce the shahāda and to perform ablution. Her master then engaged in sexual relations after she had one menstruating period while in his house. Others hold that the master must teach the slave-girl to pray, to purify herself and to shave her private parts before any intercourse. The participation of the girl in this procedure is minimal, and this wording may be interpreted us a considerable lowering of the conversion requirements so that the girl becomes eligible for sexual intercourse as expeditiously as possible. Among the early traditionists, only a few were willing to go beyond this and allow sexual relations with a Zoroastrian slave-girl without insisting on at least a semblance of conversion.

Shafi‘i's treatment of the issue is slightly different. Speaking of grown-up Zoroastrian or polytheist women taken into captivity, he maintains that no sexual relations with them are allowed before they embrace Islam without bringing up the question of converting them forcibly. If the female captives are minor but were taken captive with at least one of their parents, the ruling is the same. If, however, the girl was captured without her parents, or one of her parents embraced Islam, she is considered a Muslim and is coerced into embracing it (nahkumu lahā bihukm al-Islām wa nujbiruhā ‘alayhi). Once this happens, sexual relations with her are lawful.
Yohanan Friedmann, "Tolerance and Coercion in Islam: Interfaith Relations in the Muslim Tradition (Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization)"[11]

Muhammad's Slave Women and Qur'an 33:50

This practice of raping war captives was practiced by Muhammad, according to Islamic scriptures. On two occasions, he married and raped war captives Safiyah and Juwairiyah.

In Qur'an verse 33:50, Muhammad has the green light to have sexual relations with those captive women who Allah has given him (as war booty, according to the tafsirs):

O Prophet! Lo! We have made lawful unto thee thy wives unto whom thou hast paid their dowries, and those whom thy right hand possesseth of those whom Allah hath given thee as spoils of war, and the daughters of thine uncle on the father's side and the daughters of thine aunts on the father's side, and the daughters of thine uncle on the mother's side and the daughters of thine aunts on the mother's side who emigrated with thee, and a believing woman if she give herself unto the Prophet and the Prophet desire to ask her in marriage - a privilege for thee only, not for the (rest of) believers - We are Aware of that which We enjoined upon them concerning their wives and those whom their right hands possess - that thou mayst be free from blame, for Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.

A few verses later, Muhammad's remaining wives are told that he will not marry again. However, sleeping with more slave women will carry on:

It is not allowed thee to take (other) women henceforth, nor that thou shouldst change them for other wives even though their beauty pleased thee, save those whom thy right hand possesseth. And Allah is ever Watcher over all things.


Safiyah the daughter of Huayy was the wife of a Jewish Rabbi named Kinana. When Muhammad conquered the Jewish village of Khaibar, he had the Rabbi tortured and then killed, he then took captive the Rabbi's wife. Sahih Hadith in Bukhari say:

Narrated 'Abdul 'Aziz: Anas said, 'When Allah's Apostle invaded Khaibar, we offered the Fajr prayer there yearly in the morning) when it was still dark. The Prophet rode and Abu Talha rode too and I was riding behind Abu Talha. The Prophet passed through the lane of Khaibar quickly and my knee was touching the thigh of the Prophet . He uncovered his thigh and I saw the whiteness of the thigh of the Prophet. When he entered the town, he said, 'Allahu Akbar! Khaibar is ruined. Whenever we approach near a (hostile) nation (to fight) then evil will be the morning of those who have been warned.' He repeated this thrice. The people came out for their jobs and some of them said, 'Muhammad (has come).' (Some of our companions added, "With his army.") We conquered Khaibar, took the captives, and the booty was collected. Dihya came and said, 'O Allah's Prophet! Give me a slave girl from the captives.' The Prophet said, 'Go and take any slave girl.' He took Safiya bint Huyai. A man came to the Prophet and said, 'O Allah's Apostles! You gave Safiya bint Huyai to Dihya and she is the chief mistress of the tribes of Quraiza and An-Nadir and she befits none but you.' So the Prophet said, 'Bring him along with her.' So Dihya came with her and when the Prophet saw her, he said to Dihya, 'Take any slave girl other than her from the captives.' Anas added: The Prophet then manumitted her and married her." Thabit asked Anas, "O Abu Hamza! What did the Prophet pay her (as Mahr)?" He said, "Her self was her Mahr for he manumitted her and then married her." Anas added, "While on the way, Um Sulaim dressed her for marriage (ceremony) and at night she sent her as a bride to the Prophet . So the Prophet was a bridegroom and he said, 'Whoever has anything (food) should bring it.' He spread out a leather sheet (for the food) and some brought dates and others cooking butter. (I think he (Anas) mentioned As-SawTq). So they prepared a dish of Hais (a kind of meal). And that was Walima (the marriage banquet) of Allah's Apostle ."


The following hadith from Sunan Abu Dawud bears out how Muhammad obtained Juwairiyah, a beautiful woman of a tribe called Banu Mustaliq. Muhammad was attacking the tribe without warning and conquering them:

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: Juwayriyyah, daughter of al-Harith ibn al-Mustaliq, fell to the lot of Thabit ibn Qays ibn Shammas, or to her cousin. She entered into an agreement to purchase her freedom. She was a very beautiful woman, most attractive to the eye. Aisha said: She then came to the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) asking him for the purchase of her freedom. When she was standing at the door, I looked at her with disapproval. I realised that the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) would look at her in the same way that I had looked. She said: Apostle of Allah, I am Juwayriyyah, daughter of al-Harith, and something has happened to me, which is not hidden from you. I have fallen to the lot of Thabit ibn Qays ibn Shammas, and I have entered into an agreement to purchase of my freedom. I have come to you to seek assistance for the purchase of my freedom. The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Are you inclined to that which is better? She asked: What is that, Apostle of Allah? He replied: I shall pay the price of your freedom on your behalf, and I shall marry you. She said: I shall do this. She (Aisha) said: The people then heard that the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) had married Juwayriyyah. They released the captives in their possession and set them free, and said: They are the relatives of the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) by marriage. We did not see any woman greater than Juwayriyyah who brought blessings to her people. One hundred families of Banu al-Mustaliq were set free on account of her.

The following hadith from Sahih Bukhari is evidentiary to the above:

Narrated Ibn Aun: I wrote a letter to Nafi and Nafi wrote in reply to my letter that the Prophet had suddenly attacked Bani Mustaliq without warning while they were heedless and their cattle were being watered at the places of water. Their fighting men were killed and their women and children were taken as captives; the Prophet got Juwairiya on that day. Nafi said that Ibn 'Umar had told him the above narration and that Ibn 'Umar was in that army.

Muslim Apologetics

Quotes from Shafi'i and Malik

The following quote from al-Umm of Imam al Shafi'i, the founder of the Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence is forwarded by some Islamic apologists to forbid slave owners from raping their female slaves:

"If a man acquires by force a slave-girl, then has sexual intercourse with her after he acquires her by force, and if he is not excused by ignorance, then the slave-girl will be taken from him, he is required to pay the fine, and he will receive the punishment for illegal sexual intercourse."
Imam Al Shaafi'i, Kitaabul Umm, Volume 3, page 253[12]

"Acquires by force" here refers to the manner in which the man gained possession of the slave girl, not a description of the sexual act later. There is a defined process in Islam called Khums for distributing booty (including captives) from wars and raids. Slaves could also later be bought and sold. So whether the man cheated on the Khums system, or simply took by force a slave from another Muslim, this did not make her lawful for him. The massive legal work al-Umm refers to sexual slavery in numerous places elsewhere in a clearly legal context.

Imam Malik, who founded the Maliki school of jurisprudence is also quoted regarding punishments for raping slaves.

In our view the man who rapes a woman, regardless of whether she is a virgin or not, if she is a free woman he must pay a "dowry" like that of her peers, and if she is a slave he must pay whatever has been detracted from her value. The punishment is to be carried out on the rapist and there is no punishment for the woman who has been raped, whatever the case.
Imam Maalik, Al-Muwatta', Volume 2, page 734[12]

However, as stated in the section above about punishments for raping slaves owned by someone else, the comment about payment shows that Malik is not refering to slaves owned by the perpetrator.

Hadith in which Umar punishes Dharah

The following hadith (whose authenticity is in question due to the status of the narrator Harun bin al-Asam[12]) is also claimed to show the Caliph Umar punishing Dharar for raping a captive woman.

Abu al-Hussain bin al-Fadhl al-Qatan narrated from Abdullah bin Jaffar bin Darestweh from Yaqub bin Sufyan from al-Hassab bin Rabee from Abdullah bin al-Mubarak from Kahmas from Harun bin Al-Asam who said: Umar bin al-Khatab may Allah be pleased with him sent Khalid bin al-Walid in an army, hence Khalid sent Dharar bin al-Auwzwar in a squadron and they invaded a district belonging to the tribe of Bani Asad. They then captured a pretty bride, Dharar liked her hence he asked his companions to grant her to him and they did so. He then had sexual intercourse with her, when he completed his mission he felt guilty, and went to Khalid and told him about what he did. Khalid said: 'I permit you and made it lawful to you.' He said: 'No not until you write a message to Umar'. (Then they sent a message to Umar) and Umar answered that he (Dharar) should be stoned. By the time Umar's message was delivered, Dharar was dead. (Khalid) said: 'Allah didn't want to disgrace Dharar'
Sunan Al Bayhaqi, Volume 2, page 363, Hadith no. 18685[12]

As above, this is almost certainly referring to violation of the Khums system for distributing war booty, which is for the Imam or commander to distribute, including a fifth share for the Prophet (and after his death, for the Caliph). The verses and hadiths in the rest of this article make it amply clear that captives owned in lawful ways were (and are) permissible for Muslim slave owners to sleep with.

Claims that Men had to Marry their Slaves Before Intercourse was Permitted

Sometimes it is claimed using verses 4:23-24 (quoted above) that men could not have sex with their female slaves unless they first married them. If true, a man would still have to free his slave in order to marry her, but if she knows that she will remain a slave if she declines, it is hardly a free choice.

In any case, the claim is false. Verses 23:1-6 and 70:29-30 (quoted above) unambiguously distinguish slaves from wives, and make clear that sexual relations are permitted with both. Verses 4:23-24 merely permit men to marry their slaves, but do not say that marriage is a necessary condition for intercourse with them. The hadith evidence quoted above also shows that captives were sometimes raped before being ransomed.

It is well established that a slave who is impregnated by her master to whom she is not married becomes an Umm Walad and remains a slave during his lifetime unless he frees her.

In the following hadith, Muhammad has no objections to a man who has intercourse with his slave-girl to whom he is not married:

Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) reported that mention was made of 'azl in the presence of Allah's Apostle (ﷺ) whereupon he said: Why do you practise it? They said: There is a man whose wife has to suckle the child, and if that person has a sexual intercourse with her (she may conceive) which he does not like, and there is another person who has a slave-girl and he has a sexual intercourse with her, but he does not like her to have conception so that she may not become Umm Walad, whereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: There is no harm if you do not do that, for that (the birth of the child) is something pre- ordained. Ibn 'Aun said: I made a mention of this hadith to Hasan, and he said: By Allah, (it seems) as if there is upbraiding in it (for 'azl).

Claims about verse 24:33

Muslims apologists frequently quote the following when confronted with the passages provided in this article and others like it:

Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste, until Allah gives them means out of His grace. And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if ye know any good in them: yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which Allah has given to you. But force not your maids to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life. But if anyone compels them, yet, after such compulsion, is Allah, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (to them),

The first part of the verse is telling unmarried people to keep themselves chaste. Now, the important thing to remember is that the Islamic definition of chaste is different than the commonly agreed upon definitions of the word. According to Quran 23:6, Quran 33:50, Quran 33:52, and Quran 70:30 a Muslim man is considered "chaste" so long as he only has sex with his wives (of whom he may have up to four) and his right-hand possessions (female captives/slaves). An unmarried Muslim man who has sex with his slave girl is still considered to be "chaste" by Islamic standards.[13]

The second sentence speaks about slaves who ask for a way to pay for their freedom (like indentured servants) as long as the master knows of "any good in them". It would be interesting to discover how female slaves could earn any money at all if kidnapped from their families and forced into slavery while not having money-making skills. And if a female slave was to earn her freedom, where then could she go if her family had been massacred? How could she support herself and keep herself safe? Practicalities aside, this verse only tells Muslims to let their slaves purchase their freedom (with the requirement of "if ye know any good in them").

The third sentence is what pertains to the Muslim claim that rape of slaves is forbidden. However, the word used is not simply sexual intercourse but is more specifically "prostitution" or "whoredom". Prostitution is not simply about sex, but sex for a price. This is why it is often referred to as one of the oldest professions. What this verse speaks of is a master forcing his maid to be a prostitute thereby making money by allowing other men to have sex with her. This verse says nothing about a master forcing himself upon his slave-girl who is considered "halal" for him according to Islamic law. The fourth sentence says that if a girl is indeed forced into prostitution, then Allah will forgive her for committing zina. What this verse does not say is what the punishment should be for a man who forces his maid into prostitution. All it says is that he should not do it, and it certainly does not say that a Muslim man cannot force himself on his own slave-girl.

This page is featured in the core article, Islam and Women which serves as a starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about this topic
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See Also

  • Rape - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Rape

External Links


  1. Peters, R.. P. Bearman. ed,. Zinā or Zināʾ (2nd ed.). Brill. Error: Bad DOI specified, 2012. 
  2. Dr Azman Mohd Noor, Punishment for rape in Islamic Law, Malayan Law Journal Articles [2009] 5 MLJ cxiv
  3. Kecia Ali, The Truth About Islam and Sex Slavery History Is More Complicated Than You Think, Huffington Post, 2015 Archive
  4. "In the case of a slave-concubine, consent was irrelevant because of the master's ownership of the woman in question" Brown, J.A.C. "Slavery & Islam", Chapter 7, London: Oneworld Publications, 2019
  5. "'slave rape' is a tough term to decipher from a Shariah perspective. A male owner of a female slave has the right to sexual access to her. Though he could not physically harm her without potentially being held legally accountable if she complained, her 'consent' would be meaningless since she is his slave." Comment by Dr. Jonathan AC Brown on his Reddit AMA session, 2016 Archive
  6. Susila, Muh Endriyo (2013). "Islamic Perspective on Marital Rape" 20 (2). Jurnal Media Hukum, p.328. 
  7. Gaines, Larry; Miller, LeRoy (2006). Criminal Justice In Action: The Core. Thomson/Wadsworth. ISBN 0-495-00305-0.
  8. 1st Class Investigations Glossary
  9. https://sunnah.com/muslim/17
  10. Ruling on sexual intercourse with one's polytheistic slave-woman - IslamWeb.net Fawah 272452
  11. Friedmann, Y. "Tolerance and Coercion in Islam: Interfaith Relations in the Muslim Tradition (Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization)" Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. 107-108
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 As quoted and translated on www.call_to_monotheism.com
  13. Ruling on having intercourse with a slave woman when one has a wife - Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 10382, November 24, 2005