Does Islam Allow Slavery ? Part-1

Question: I am a Captain in the Pakistan army and would like to know if can we have sexual relations with the women we are able to capture in wars? I have heard that in one of the wars during the time of the Prophet (sws), the whole Muslim army raped slave women offered to them provided that they practiced ‘Azal (coitus interruptus).

Answer: Well I am afraid you cannot do so. Since the question you have raised is an important one. I’ll give you a detailed answer:

In my opinion, among many other misconceptions about Islam is the notion that it gives sanction to slavery and permits its followers to enslave prisoners of war, particularly women and establish extra-marital relations with them. Islam, I must strongly affirm, has not the slightest link with slavery and concubinage. On the contrary, it completely forbids these practices. It is quite outrageous to associate such barbarities with a religion revealed to upgrade humanity.

The point which needs to be appreciated and which, perhaps, is the real cause of the misconception is that Islam had adopted a gradual process to abolish the institution of slavery because of the social conditions prevalent in Arabia at that time. It must be kept in mind that slavery was an integral part of the pre-Islamic Arab society. There were scores of slave men and women in almost every house. This was largely due to two reasons: First, during those times, the standard practice of dispensing with prisoners of war was to distribute them among the army who captured them. Second, there were extensive slave markets in Arabia in that period where men and women of all ages were sold like animals.

In these circumstances, in which slavery had become an essential constituent of the Arab society, Islam adopted a gradual way to eliminate it. An immediate order of prohibition would have created immense social and economic problems. It would have become impossible for the society to cater for the needs of a large army of slaves, who were, otherwise, dependent on various families. Also, the national treasury was in no position to provide them all on a permanent basis. A large number among them were old and incapable of supporting themselves. The only alternative left for them, if they were instantly freed, would have been to turn to beggary and become an economic burden for the society. The question of slave girls and women was even more critical, keeping in view their own low moral standards. Freeing them, all of a sudden, would have only resulted in a tremendous increase in brothels.

Perhaps, the reason behind this gradual eradication can be understood better if one considers the position which interest occupies in the economy of Pakistan today. No one can refute Pakistan’s national economic structure is interest oriented. How the parasite of interest has crippled the national economy is apparent to every keen eye. However, there is no denying the fact that without it our present economic system cannot sustain itself. Every reasonable person will acknowledge that today if a government wishes to rid the economy from this menace then, in spite of its utter prohibition in Islam, it will have to adopt a gradual methodology. During this interim period interest oriented deals will have to be tolerated and temporary laws will have to be enacted to handle them, just as the Qur’an had given certain provisional directives about slaves during the interim period of their gradual eradication. An alternative economic framework will have to be steadily incorporated in place of the existing one. A sudden abolition, without another parallel base, will only hasten the total collapse of the economic system, which, of course, will be disastrous for the country.

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