Slave-girls as sexual property in the Quran

James M. Arlandson

Would you join a religion that permitted men to have sex with their slave-girls throughout their enslavement—if this religion codified this act in its holy book?

Many persons in the West (and elsewhere) who convert to Islam are women. I just got an email from a Muslim woman who said she converted to Islam two years ago. Would women do this if they knew about ALL of this religion? Reasonable women should stop and think a second time before taking this serious step (but a reversible one, albeit punishable by death in many Islamic countries).

Islam goes more deeply than just the benign Five Pillars. It has many unpleasant truths lurking in its sacred texts. The goal of this article is to bring out yet another of these truths, so people can make fully informed decisions from all of the facts.

Would the true God inspire the following verses six hundred years after Jesus showed us a better way?

Sex with slave-girls in times of peace

Sura (Chapter) 23 was revealed during Muhammad’s life in Mecca before his Hijrah or Emigration from his home city to Medina in AD 622. During the early years of his ministry, he never waged war on anyone, so these were times of peace, although he suffered from a measure of persecution. For more information on the historical and the literary topical contexts of Sura 23, click here.

The Quran in Sura 23:5-6 says:

5 [Most certainly true believers] . . . guard their private parts scrupulously, 6 except with regard to their wives and those who are legally in their possession, for in that case they shall not be blameworthy. (Sayyid Abul A’La Maududi, The Meaning of the Quran, vol. 3, p. 237)

The key words are "those who are legally in their possession." Maududi (d. 1979) is a highly respected commentator on the Quran, and he interprets the plain meaning of the clause, saying that sex with slave-girls is lawful.

Maududi writes:

Two categories of women have been excluded from the general command of guarding the private parts: (a) wives, (b) women who are legally in one’s possession, i.e. slave-girls. Thus the verse clearly lays down the law that one is allowed to have sexual relation with one’s slave-girl as with one’s wife, the basis being possession and not marriage. If marriage had been the condition, the slave-girl also would have been included among the wives, and there was no need to mention them separately. (Ibid. p. 241, note 7)

The main point in this section, which Maududi overlooks or refuses to criticize, is that Muhammad himself endorses not only the entire institution of slavery, but also sex between male owners and their female slaves within this institution. But how can he and devout Muslims criticize their prophet without seriously damaging Islam? But Muslims must do this, if they think clearly and critically, and for the good of humanity.

It should be noted that Sura 70:29-30, also revealed in Mecca, uses nearly the identical words as Sura 23:5-6. Men must guard their private parts from everyone but their wives and slave-girls, meaning that men may have sex with both "categories" (Maududi’s word).

If readers would like to see these verses in multiple translations, they should go to this website. This one has three translations, and this one is funded by the Saudi royal family.

Sex with slave-girls in times of war

Now Muhammad has emigrated from Mecca to Medina. By the time Sura 4 is revealed, where our next Quranic verse is found, he has fought many wars and skirmishes. For example, he fights the Meccans in the Battle of Badr in AD 624 and again the Meccans at the Battle of Uhud in AD 625. He also exiles the Jewish tribes of Qaynuqa in AD 624 and Nadir in AD 625. He carries forward this policy of sex between male owners and their female slaves to his new city of Medina, with the added twist of enslaving women prisoners of war and permitting his soldiers to have sex with them. For more information on the historical and literary topical contexts of this next sura, please click here.

The Quran in Sura 4:24 says:

And forbidden to you are wedded wives of other people except those who have fallen in your hands (as prisoners of war) . . . (Maududi, vol. 1, p. 319). (See also Suras 4:3 and 33:50)

Thus, women captives are sometimes forced to marry their Muslim masters, regardless of the marital status of the women. That is, the masters are allowed to have sex with the enslaved human property.

Maududi says in his comment on the verse that it is lawful for Muslim holy warriors to marry women prisoners of war even when their husbands are still alive. But what happens if the husbands are captured with their wives? Maududi cites a school of law that says Muslims may not marry them, but two other schools say that the marriage between the captive husbands and wives is broken (note 44).

But why would a debate over this cruelty emerge? The answer is obvious for those who understand simple justice. No sex should take place between married female prisoners of war and their captors. In fact, no sex should take place between women captives and their Muslim overlords under any circumstance.

This sexual injustice is reprehensible, but Allah wills it nonetheless—the Quran says so.

Predictably, the hadith perpetuate this Quran-inspired immorality.

The hadith are the reports of Muhammad’s actions and words outside of the Quran. The most reliable collector and editor is Bukhari (d. 870).

The hadith demonstrate that Muslims jihadists actually have sex with the captured women, whether or not they are married. In the following passage, Khumus is one-fifth of the spoils of war.

Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, just finished a relaxing bath. Why?

The Prophet sent Ali to Khalid to bring the Khumus (of the booty) and . . . Ali had taken a bath (after a sexual act with a slave-girl from the Khumus).

What was Muhammad’s response to the person who hated Ali for this sexual act?

Do you hate Ali for this? . . . Don’t hate him, for he deserves more than that from [the] Khumus. (Bukhari)

Thus, Muhammad casually believes that slave women who are part of the one-fifth of the spoils of war can be treated like sexual property. Ali is a Muslim hero. He was the husband of Fatima, Muhammad’s daughter by his first wife Khadija. So why would the model prophet for the world scold his son-in-law for having sex with a slave-girl? After all, slaves are fair sexual game. The Quran says so.

Moreover, holy jihadists may not practice coitus interruptus with the women they capture, but not for the reason one expects: simple justice.

While on a military campaign and away from their wives, Muslim jihadists "received captives from among the Arab captives and we desired women and celibacy became hard on us and we loved to do coitus interruptus." They asked the holy prophet about this, and it is important to note what he did not say.

He did not scold them or prohibit any kind of sex whatsoever, declaring it haram (forbidden). Rather, he gets lost in theology and the quirky doctrine of fate:

It is better for you not to do so [practice coitus interruptus]. There is no person that is destined to exist, but will come to existence, till the Day of Resurrection. (Bukhari; for parallel hadiths go here and here)

That is, these enquiring Muslims should stop doing coitus interruptus, but instead go all the way with the enslaved sex objects. Fate controls who should be born. Muhammad does not prohibit this extremely immoral practice just when the time was right to forbid it.

It is one thing for some soldiers in any army to strike out on their own and rape women. All armies have criminal soldiers who commit this wrong act. But it is quite another to codify rape in a sacred text.

Islam codifies and legalizes rape.

It is disappointing that the Quran does not abolish this sexual crime in the clearest terms: Thou shalt not have sex with slave-girls under any circumstance!


It may be argued that American slave-owners committed sexual crimes against their slaves before the Civil War (1861-1865), so who are Christians or Americans (the two are not identical) to complain about Islam?

In reply, however, the two situations are different. First, it is wrong to compare the US with the Muslim community founded by Muhammad, who claimed divine inspiration. Instead, it is best to compare the founder of a religion (Jesus) with another founder (Muhammad). Second, in no place in the New Testament does God give permission to men—Christian or secular—to have sex with slave-girls. This would violate the spirit of Jesus’ ministry and the entire writings of the New Testament authors, who understood Jesus as fulfilling the Old Testament. If Americans in a bygone era did this, then they were not following God’s law. The Quran, however, codifies and legalizes this sexual crime, and allegedly this book came down from Allah through Gabriel to Muhammad. Any clear-thinking individual can see that having sex with women in their most desperate condition (slavery) is wrong.

But the real issue is much larger than questions about American history.

The following question must be asked and answered: Is Muhammad, the Quran, and Islam the best prophet, book, and religion to lead humanity into the new millennium?

For those of us on the outside of Islam who examine the evidence with as much objectivity as we can and who have not been blinded by a lifetime of devotion to Islam, the answer to this rhetorical question is obvious: no, they are not the best to lead all of humanity into the new millennium.

Therefore, all clear-thinking Muslims who live under hyper-religious oppressors must throw them off and ignite secular revolutions, such as the one that happened in Turkey after World War I. Maybe this will happen in Iran, and maybe Iraq will steer clear of sharia (Islamic law), as Iraqis take their first baby steps towards democracy. They must get away from the Quran and Muhammad’s example.

Until these revolutions happen and until religious leaders renounce many verses in the Quran and the hadith, we on the outside of this religion are allowed to distrust Muhammad’s religion.

And women who are tempted to convert to this religion must stop and think a second time.

Supplemental Material

This article quotes the Quran and many hadith passages on sex with women prisoners of war. It also analyzes modern Muslim scholars on the topic. They support this practice. In Appendix One, the author answers a Muslim charge that the Old Testament allows this practice.

This article analyzes Islam’s permission for men to have sex with slave-girls (scroll down only a few paragraphs). It also cites two Old Testament scholars who explain an Old Testament passage on marriage after a war.

This article provides further details on Muhammad’s encouragement to his soldiers to "do it" with women prisoners of war.

For information on Muhammad’s "convenient" and "special" marriage privileges, see this short article.

This article demonstrates that Muhammad owned slaves.

This online booklet cites many passages in the Quran and hadith, surveying women’s place in Islam. The facts lead to one conclusion: Islam does not honor women.

As for slavery generally, this article demonstrates that Muslims practiced the slave trade. The article tracks this dirty business up to today in the Islamic world.

This short article contrasts Islam and Christianity on slavery.

This is an overview article on slavery in Islam.

This webpage has many links to articles and online booklets on women in Islam and Christianity.

This page in an online index refers to many articles and Quranic passages on slavery.

Copyright by James Malcolm Arlandson.

Articles by James Arlandson
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