Prophet Muhammad and Slavery

In one of the most important topics related to Islam and Prophet Muhammad Ehteshaam Gulam discusses Did Prophet Muhammad have slaves? Does Islam encourage Slavery? What about Sex with Captives and Slaves? Does Islam allow that? Did Prophet Muhamamd have sex with his female captives as some Anti-Islamic writers say? Ehteshaam examines and debunks all these false claims.

Ehteshaam Gulam

It is constnatly said by Anti-Islamic writers that Prophet Muhammad ordered sex with Captives of war and promoted slavery. It is even alleged that Prophet Muhamamd had many female slaves whom he had sexual intercourse with. But are thse claims true? Absoutlely not, if we were to look all the evidence.

The Quran tells to free slaves in several places:

It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing.  (Quran 2:177)

Allah will not call you to account for what is futile in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom. If that is beyond your means, fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths ye have sworn. But keep to your oaths. Thus doth Allah make clear to you His signs, that ye may be grateful.  (Quran 5:89)

Prophet Muhammad ordered that slaves be free several places in the canonical hadith. Here are some examples:

Narrated Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari:  "The Prophet said, "Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom)."  (Bukhari,Volume 7, Book 65, Number 286)"

Narrated Abu Musa: The Prophet said, "Set free the captives and accept invitations." (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 89, Number 285)

Narrated Asma: "No doubt the Prophet ordered people to manumit slaves during the solar eclipse.  (Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 18, Number 163)"

Narrated Abu Huraira: I have loved the people of the tribe of Bani Tamim ever since I heard, three things, Allah's Apostle said about them. I heard him saying, These people (of the tribe of Bani Tamim) would stand firm against Ad-Dajjal." When the Sadaqat (gifts of charity) from that tribe came, Allah's Apostle said, "These are the Sadaqat (i.e. charitable gifts) of our folk." 'Aisha had a slave-girl from that tribe, and the Prophet said to 'Aisha, "Manumit her as she is a descendant of Ishmael (the Prophet)."
(Bukhari Volume 3, Book 46, Number 719)

As for Prophet Muhammad having slave girls or female slaves and having sexual intercourse with them, thats simply not true. Prophet Muhammad only had wives, not conubines. Nowhere in the hadith literature of any of the reliable biogrpahies of Prophet Muhammad have I ever read such a thing (and no Ibn Ishaq is NOT a reliable biography of the prophet). All the hadith say The Prophet had wives. And Muslims only accept Hadith to be authentic.  Rather what happened was Prophet Muhammad had 4 women slaves, however he freed and married three of them (they became his wives) and the other he gave away. Here is a list:

Safiyyah bint Huyayy: Safiyya was captured during the seize of Bani Nadir Safiyya was a Jew who later converted to Islam [1] She had been previously divorced and widowed a the time of her conversion to Islam. The Prophet later set her free and married her as this hadith says:

Narrated Anas bin Malik: We arrived at Khaibar, and when Allah helped His Apostle to open the fort, the beauty of Safiya bint Huyai bin Akhtaq whose husband had been killed while she was a bride, was mentioned to Allah's Apostle. The Prophet selected her for himself, and set out with her, and when we reached a place called Sidd-as-Sahba,' Safiya became clean from her menses then Allah's Apostle married her. Hais (i.e. an 'Arabian dish) was prepared on a small leather mat. Then the Prophet said to me, "I invite the people around you." So that was the marriage banquet of the Prophet and Safiya. Then we proceeded towards Medina, and I saw the Prophet, making for her a kind of cushion with his cloak behind him (on his camel). He then sat beside his camel and put his knee for Safiya to put her foot on, in order to ride (on the camel).  (Bukhari Volume 5, Book 59, Number 522)

Narrated Anas: The Prophet stayed for three rights between Khaibar and Medina and was married to Safiya. .. (Bukhari Volume 5, Book 59, Number 524)

It is said in the Sira literature that Prophet Muhammad gave away 7 female slaves in exchange for Safiyyah.

Maria-al-Qibtiyya: Was a Coptic slave sent to Prophet Muhamamd by the patriarch of Alexandria. Prophet Muhammad freed and married her around 629-630 C.E. She later converted to Islam. [2]

Sirin: Was Maria's sister.  Sirin was also sent by the Patriarch of Alexandria to the Prophet as a gift. Prophet Muhammad gave her to the poet Hassan Ibn Thabit , and she was later freed and married by Hassan. [3]

Rayhana: Was a captive from the Banu Qurayza. She was later freed and married by Prophet Muhammad. [4]

So Prophet Muhammad freed and married his women slaves, they immediately became his wives. Prophet Muhamamd died a poor man and died without any men or women slaves. This can be proven by the following hadith:

Narrated 'Amir bin Al-Harith: Allah's Apostle (Prophet Muhammad) did not leave a Dinar or a Dirham (Arab form of currency or money)  or a male or a female slave. He left only his white mule on which he used to ride, and his weapons, and a piece of land which he gave in charity for the needy travelers. (Bukhari Volume 5, Book 59, Number 738)

Narrated Amr bin Al-Harith: (The brother of the wife of Allah's Apostle. Juwaira bint Al-Harith) When Allah's Apostle (Prophet Muhammad) died, he did not leave any Dirham or Dinar (i.e. money), a slave or a slave woman or anything else except his white mule, his arms and a piece of land which he had given in charity .(Bukhari Volume 4, Book 51, Number 2)

So Prophet Muhammad didn't have any female slaves or slave women when he died. Prophet Muhammad only had WIVES [5] not Woman slaves or captives as the above hadith demonstrate. He lived a simple and modest life and died as a poor man without any slaves. This to me is very good evidence that he was a true messenger from God, The same God of Abraham and Jesus.

Before getting into the “sex” with captives accusation, it is important that the Old Testament has similar laws. Deuteronomy 20:13-14 says to kill men and take women and children captive. Same with Leviticus 25:44-46, except Leviticus adovates taking men captive as well. Jesus himself had no problem with these laws, nowhere doe Jesus codemn slavery anywhere in the New Testament.  Getting into the sex with captives part, It is true that Islam allows men to have intercourse with “what their right hand posseses” in other words “slave-women” however it is important to note that Islam recommends that if a man has a woman in his right hand or a woman captive from war, he is required to free her and marry her as this verse from the Quran and a saying of Prophet Muhammad say:

If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice. (Quran 4:3)

Narrated Abu Musa: Allah's Apostle said, "He who has a slave-girl (or a woman of captivity) and educates and treats her nicely and then manumits and marries her, will get a double reward." (Bukahri Volume 3, Book 46, Number 720)

Before Islam in Pre-Islamic Arabia sex with captives or "temporary marriage" was allowed. Islam and the Quran had put an end to them. Anti-Islamic writers have accused Prophet Muhammad as allowing rape of the women of Bani Mustaliq (a tribe in Arabia). Not a single collection of Hadith contains testimony establishing the charge of rape. The only thing this is met within the collections of Hadith is a report from Abu Said Khudri that some people in the Muslim army intended contracting temporary marriage relations with some women who were prisioners of war and making use of a birth control device, but there is not the least evidence that they ever did it. Abu Said report in fact relates to the legality of azl (Arabic for a birth control device) and it does not say at all how the women of Bani Mustaliq were treated. Here is the hadith:

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."
(Bukhari Volume 5, Book 59, Number 459)

So where is the evidence that the Muslim army "raped" the slave girls? None.The narration doesn't show:

- How many Muslim captors decided to go through with having sex with the slave girls?

- How many women actually ended up having sex with their Muslim captors?

- Most importantly, whether any slave girls were raped

The Prophet (peace be upon him) made it clear that we shouldn't harm slaves:

Narrated Al-Ma'rur: At Ar-Rabadha I met Abu Dhar who was wearing a cloak, and his slave, too, was wearing a similar one. I asked about the reason for it. He replied, "I abused a person by calling his mother with bad names."  The Prophet said to me, 'O Abu Dhar! Did you abuse him by calling his mother with bad names You still have some characteristics of ignorance. Your slaves are your brothers and Allah has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity (power) and if you do so, then help them. (Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 29)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that our slaves are like our family. Who would rape his own sister?

Hilal b. Yasaf reported that a person got angry and slapped his slave-girl. Thereupon Suwaid b. Muqarrin said to him: You could find no other part (to slap) but the prominent part of her face. See I was one of the seven sons of Muqarrin, and we had but only one slave-girl. The youngest of us slapped her, and Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) commanded us to set her free.  (Muslim Book 015, Number 4082)

Rape is NOT allowed in Islam. In Islam a raped woman is always seen as the victim, not the criminal.  If a woman is raped, then the rapist faces severe penatlities, and is even sentenced to death:

Wa'el ibn Hujur narrated that when a  woman was forced aganist her will in the time of Allah's messenger, he avoided punishing her, but inflicted it on the one who had
molested her. (Al-Tirmidihi Hadith #3571)

Narrated Wa'il ibn Hujr: When a woman went out in the time of the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) for prayer, a man attacked her and overpowered (raped) her.
She shouted and he went off, and when a man came by, she said: That (man) did such and such to me. And when a company of the Emigrants came by, she said: That man did such and such to me. They went and seized the man whom they thought had had intercourse with her and brought him to her.She said: Yes, this is he. Then they brought him to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him).When he (the Prophet) was about to pass sentence, the man who (actually) had assaulted her stood up and said: Apostle of Allah, I am the man who did it to her.He (the Prophet) said to her: Go away, for Allah has forgiven you. But he told the man some good words (AbuDawud said: meaning the man who was seized), and of the man who had had intercourse with her, he said: Stone him to death.He also said: He has repented to such an extent that if the people of Medina had repented similarly, it would have been accepted from them. (Abu Dawud Book 38, Number 4366)

A Muslim also CANNOT force his slave women into prositution. This is found in the hadith:

Jabir reported that 'Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Salul used to say to his slave-girl: Go and fetch something for us by committing prostitution. It was in this connection that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, revealed this verse:" And compel not your slave-girls to prostitution when they desire to keep chaste in order to seek the frail goods of this world's life, and whoever compels them, then surely after their compulsion Allah is Forgiving, Merciful" (xxiv. 33).  (Muslim Book 043, Number 7180)

Jabir reported that 'Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Salul had two slave-girls; one was called Musaika and the other one was called Umaima and he compelled them to prostitution (for which'Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Salul compelled them). They made a complaint about this to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and it was upon this that this verse was revealed:" And compel not your slave-girls to prostitute" up to the words:" Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (Muslim Book 043, Number 7181)

The Quran is clear that a Muslim man must free and marry his slave woman. Prophet Muhammad himself strongly encouraged that a slave woman should be freed and married (see the above hadith).

The Quran is explict on marriage with prisioners of war:

If any of you have not the means wherewith to wed free believing women, they may wed believing girls from among those whom your right hands possess: And Allah hath full knowledge about your faith. Ye are one from another: Wed them with the leave of their owners, and give them their dowers, according to what is reasonable: They should be chaste, not lustful, nor taking paramours: when they are taken in wedlock, if they fall into shame, their punishment is half that for free women. This (permission) is for those among you who fear sin; but it is better for you that ye practise self-restraint. And Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (Quran 4:25)

As for the treatment for the women of Bani Mustaliq, there is the clearest historical evidence in all the Hadith books that they were all set free without randsom. The reason why is because Juwairiyah was set free and married by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

So it's clear there is no such thing as raping or having sex with captives. A Muslim man must free and marry his slave woman, according to the teachings  of the Quran and the hadith. However a Muslim man can have consensual sexual intercourse with a slave woman (although it's allowed, its not encouraged in Islam). According to both the Quran and the hadith a Muslim man has to free and marry his slave woman (regardless of whether she was married before or not).


So the Both the Teachings of the Quran and Prophet Muhammad highly encourage freeing and marrying Slave women instead of just keeping them as concubines. Moreover a woman must be asked before a man is to marry her according to Islam (Quran 4:19) which will be explained in another article in the future, inshallah. Finally the Quran ordered the freeing of slaves in various places such as the Quran 24:33, 58:3, 90:13, etc. 

Notes and Bibliography:

[1] Peters, F. E., Muhammad and the Origins of Islam, State University of New York Press, 1994, pp.179.

[2] Aslan, Reza: No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam Random House Publishers, 2006 pg. 64.

[3] Tabari, p. 131.

[4] Ibn Sa'd. Tabaqat. vol VIII, pg. 92–3.

[5] It is said the Prophet had 9 wives as these hadith states: Narrated Qatada: Anas went to the Prophet with barley bread having some dissolved fat on it. The Prophet had mortgaged his armor to a Jew in Medina and took from him some barley for his family. Anas heard him saying, "The household of Muhammad did not possess even a single Sa of wheat or food grains for the evening meal, although he has nine wives to look after." (See Hadith No. 685) (Bukhari Volume 3, Book 34, Number 283)

Also: Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet used to visit all his wives in one night and he had nine wives at that time. (Bukhari Volume 1, Book 5, Number 282). It doesn't mention anything about slavewomen or conucubines. So according to the hadith The Prophet had nine wives when he died. And remember we Muslims believe only in the Quran and the Hadith, not the sira literature. Further Hadith only saying the Prophet had wives:

Narrated Anas bin Malik: Once Allah's Apostle fell off a horse and his leg or shoulder got injured. He swore that he would not go to his wives for one month and he stayed in a Mashruba (attic room) having stairs made of date palm trunks. So his companions came to visit him, and he led them in prayer sitting, whereas his companions were standing. When he finished the prayer, he said, "Imam is meant to be followed, so when he says 'Allahu Akbar,' say 'Allahu Akbar' and when he bows, bow and when he prostrates, prostrate and if he prays standing pray, standing. After the 29th day the Prophet came down (from the attic room) and the people asked him, "O Allah's Apostle! You swore that you will not go to your wives for one month." He said, "The month is 29 days." (Bukhari Volume 1, Book 8, Number 375)

Narrated 'Aisha: Whenever Allah's Apostle intended to go on a journey, he used to draw lots amongst his wives, and Allah's Apostle used to take with him the one on whom lot fell. (Bukhari Volume 5, Book 59, Number 462)

Narrated 'Aisha: "When the Prophet became seriously ill and his disease became aggravated he asked for permission from his wives to be nursed in my house and he was allowed. (Bukhari Volume 1, Book 11, Number 634)

Narrated 'Amra: ....Somebody said, 'The Prophet has slaughtered (cows) on behalf of his wives.' "  (Bukhari Volume 2, Book 26, Number 778)

Narrated Um Salama: The Prophet vowed to keep aloof from his wives for a period of one month, and after the completion of 29 days he went either in the morning or in the afternoon to his wives. Someone said to him "You vowed that you would not go to your wives for one month." He replied, "The month is of 29 days." (Bukhari Volume 3, Book 31, Number 134)

Again notice how these authentic hadith say wives, not slave women or concubines. According to Al Azhar scholar Sheikh Abdul Majid Subh's writings it is clear
that Prophet Muhammad only had wives, the most being 12 and when he died he had 9 wives. So the claim that Prophet Muhammad had concubines or slave women
is false and comes from rejected sources (such as Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya-- which is very late anyways).

Further Reading: