Pakistan TV Debate on Concubines and Slavery in Islam

Right Side Publications - 30 June 2010 - From Memri

Speaking on "Point Blank with Luqman," a television program hosted by Pakistani television presenter Mubasher Luqman, prominent Pakistani clerics said that Islam permits Muslims to keep concubines. Video footage of the program was posted on the Pakistani website pakistanherald.com.

The show, which airs at 11:00pm from Monday through Friday, is a talk show on which a variety of social and political issues in Pakistan are discussed. The particular edition of the program on which the clerics spoke was aired on Pakistani television channel Express News on May 31, 2010.

The participants included Allama Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer, the Secretary General of the puritanical religious organization Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith; Barelvi cleric Maulana Raghib Naeemi, the Nazim-e-Aala of the Jamia Naeemia madrassa; and Dr. Mohammed Aslam Siddiqui, a Jamaat-e-Islami politician and former head of the Department of Mosques at the Punjab University, who joined by telephone.

Following are excerpts from the program:[1]

"During Waging of Jihad the Women who Come with the Enemy Forces to Support Them are Captured, and the Emir of the Army Distributes Them"

Talk show host Mubasher Lucman [from 3:18 minutes onward]: "The question is whether or not Islam allows the keeping of concubines? In Islam, can you keep a woman without nikah [marriage]? Can you keep any type of [sexual] relations with her? Is there a mention whether or not the children so born from her will have some inheritance, an income from father or biological father's money? ... Let's start first by giving an answer in a word, yes or no. Is concubinage allowed?"

Allama Zaheer: "Yes, of course."

Maulana Naeemi: "There are no two opinions about it."

Mubasher Lucman: "Before moving ahead, let's make it clear: are there any conditions under which concubines can be kept?"

Allama Zaheer: "There are conditions; you cannot consider every woman a concubine. For example, women working as domestic help are not concubines or there is a tradition in the Chitral region as per which women are sold. We should not name the [specific] area, I think. Anyway, in tribal areas women are sold; I don't consider them concubines. They are not concubines. Concubinage is allowed with two conditions if you meet the conditions as they met in the eras of Prophet [Muhammad] or of pious caliphs after him or during the caliphates after them... If you meet the conditions today you can keep concubines.

"The first condition is that if during waging of jihad the women who come with the enemy forces to support them are captured and the emir of the army distributes them, it is his discretion, we can keep them as concubines. Second, if we explore and find some market where slaves and concubines are sold and the sale is established as a social institution there, the women you buy from there will be concubine. Abducting a free woman to take her as a concubine or to sell a free woman is, I think, wrong..." "Does Islam Allow Slave Trading?"

Mubasher Lucman: "I have a question. I will move to the details later. Does Islam allow slave trading?"

Allama Zaheer: "Islam allows to trade slaves where there are established markets for this purpose. Taking new [i.e. free] men as slaves is neither allowed in Islam nor does Islam encourage it."

Mubasher Lucman: "The offspring from a slave is a slave, isn't it?"

Allama Zaheer: "No. There are a number of conditions under which an offspring of a slave is free. If the owner wants to set him free, he is... If somebody marries a concubine and she gets pregnant, the offspring is not a slave. After marrying a concubine either the master can set her free or can marry her to another man, but cannot sell her again...It's not that slave of a child is always slave..."

Mubasher Lucman: "What are the conditions in your eyes?"

Maulana Naeemi: "...First it is important to note that slaves were sold and markets were established even before Islam... How were they enslaved? They were captured in conditions of wars; were abducted from roadsides; children were kidnapped by force and sold; slaves were leading a miserable life before Islam.

"The conception of slavery in Islam is not to continue its practice, but the concept of slavery was allowed because it existed at that time; ending it suddenly could have resulted in a host of problems. Therefore, the concept of slavery was adopted but a number of steps were stipulated so that it is not thought that slavery is permitted in Islam, that slavery will continue; rather, along with those steps, slavery began moving toward its end from society.

"Insofar as the question is how the people were enslaved... and how those slaves were treated is concerned; during the times of the prophet (peace be upon him) a battle was fought from where war booty was brought; among them was a beautiful lady. She was given to a companion of the prophet (peace be upon him). The prophet took her back from him, sent her to Mecca and a few Muslim prisoners there were gotten free in exchange for her. There are a number of similar examples where slaves brought from wars were used for prisoner exchange, or were set free against some payment, or most importantly were set free as a goodwill gesture."

Mubasher Lucman: "Dr. Mohammed Aslam Siddiqui, welcome to the Point Blank. Thank you for coming; you listened to the discussion today. I wanted to ask you the same question: Is concubinage allowed in Islam?

Mohammed Siddiqui (joining by telephone): "The point is that in slavery, a man is slave; a woman is a concubine. This is not Islam's order that you take someone as a slave or that slavery should continue. Islam neither started slavery nor ordered to keep this tradition alive. During wars waged in the times of the prophet (peace be upon him), there was a pre-existing practice that war prisoners were generally not exchanged; if there were exchanges, it was done so in lieu of a huge payment. Usually men were enslaved and women were made concubines.

"Even in [pre-British] India, this issue, especially regarding concubines, was very serious. I am not talking about pre-history. In the times of Tipu Sultan [Muslim king of Mysore, 1750-1799 AD], when he fought and defeated the Marathas completely in a battle, their forces fled and their women were left behind. A tent full of women was captured. They were the wives of their commanders. The Sultan was a gentleman; next morning he sent the women, guarded by his 20 men, to their forces who had camped miles away from after the defeat. When their wives reached there, they refused to take them back. The issue was that they had spent a night with Muslims, so they could not take them back.

"Across the East the concept was prevalent of not accepting the women back who were captured by enemies, even for a night... When Islam came and saw the situation that men are made slaves and women are forced to be kept as concubines, and they are not taken back by their people, then Islam introduced three or four ways. First was the exchange of prisoners if there are prisoners; the second was to set them free if no harm is feared as a good will gesture and if they could be useful in future...; if it could not be done, the third was to take ransom against them. At the Battle of Badr when prisoners were first taken, Muslims were very poor, every student of history knows it, Muslims did not have enough to eat; they did not have swords; you know that Badr was fought with only a few swords... So many companions of the prophet were of the opinion that Muslims should take ransom against prisoners. So, the prophet took ransom [to release captured soldiers], though Allah disliked it. Afterwards it was not only always allowed but was also permitted in the Koran. So these were the three ways in case of war prisoners.... As far as slavery is concerned, it was the last [fourth] option when there was no other way, as a compulsion."

Mubasher Lucman: "Are relations between a master and a concubine right, to have relations with a slave...?"

Mohammed Siddiqui: "Let me set the context. It is not what people commonly think that the Muslim army used to win over a lot of slaves, choose concubines, and keep a large number of slaves. It was not the case. Islam had a strict discipline. A man died in a war and people said that he is a martyr as he gave his life for Islam. The prophet said, 'I am seeing the fire of hell burning upon him as he stole a sheet of cloth from war booty.' After that no incident occurred; no one stole even a needle. Enslaving a man or taking a woman as a concubine was not so. The practice was that when the war booty was brought, war prisoners were also among them.

It was the responsibility of the Emir [of the Islamic Army] to decide, through his Shura [advisory council] to whom the men were to be distributed as slaves, or if these were women, as concubines if no other options were available. The way a Nikah-Khwan [a religious person who solemnizes a marriage] conducts marriage in the name of Allah, the same way the emir used to hand over the concubines in the name of Allah to the soldiers to resolve the war-created difficulty [of what to do with the captured women], though we should not call it Nikah [marriage]..."

Mubasher Lucman: 'So, this cannot be called nikah...?"

Mohammed Siddiqui: "You know for yourself that no one in the world likes to marry a prisoner... [inaudible]"

(Break) In the Bible, Arabs are the Offspring of a Slave/Concubine

Mubasher Lucman: "Allama Ibtisam Elahi, I am about to ask you a tricky question. I know you do not hesitate answering such questions. So, this means that there is a way a man and a woman are permitted to have [sexual] relations without nikah?"

Allama Zaheer: "Yes, based on conditions; I have no doubt about it. My personal view is that Dr. Aslam Siddiqui has agreed to this point that I had indicated earlier, that the emir of Islamic forces with consultation of his commanders delivers them [the captured women as concubines]. Now the question is if it is recommended? No, it is not. It is permitted, but not encouraged... The point we are discussing is not if it is recommended but whether or not it is permitted. I have no doubt that it is permitted. Now coming to the question you asked; Allah, describing the characteristics of Muslims in Surah Muminoon [a chapter of the Koran], said that the faithful safeguard their chastity but from their wives and concubines. In it Allah has clearly indicated that they can open their private parts in front of their wives, whose number cannot exceed four, or in front of their concubines who are permitted.

"Now, I present before you a historical evidence. In the Bible, when you read the letter of Saint Paul he is proud of his lineage; he says our lineage is superior as we are sons of a free woman Sarah, and the nations against us, i.e. he is criticizing Arabs, are the sons of a concubine. There is no doubt that Syeda Hajra was given to Syeda Sarah as a gift [as a slave woman], though her status later changed..."

Mubasher Lucman: "She was a concubine?"

Allama Zaheer: "Yes she was, though her status changed later as a wife..."

Mubasher Lucman: "Was she married to...?

Allama Zaheer: "Yes she was. She was a wife of Prophet Abraham. There is no doubt about it... There is a Hadith [sayings of Prophet Muhammad] that he, who sets a concubine free and marries her, will be rewarded doubly in the world hereafter... One of the wives of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was Syeda Maria Qibtia; some people says she was a concubine... In fact she was gifted as a concubine to the Holy Prophet but the Holy Prophet married her and her status changed as a wife... Though the Holy Prophet was permitted concubines, he kept himself content with his wives. So to say that concubines are not allowed in Islam is, I think, like cover up the teachings of the Koran and the Sunnah. Certainly, concubinage is allowed in Islam. But concubine is not a woman like a keep for everyone; she is owned by one man. Orders for her are different from wives as she is either purchased or owned."

Mubasher Lucman: "So, there are no rights for that woman?"

Allama Zaheer: "Why not? There are definitely rights for her." "If I Own a Property, am Owner of a Goat or Owner of a Horse or Owner of a Woman..."

Mubasher Lucman: "That means she is not being sold or given away to somebody as per her will...?"

Allama Zaheer: "Tell me a small something; if I own a property, am owner of a goat or owner of a horse or owner of a woman, and this way, the owner has a right [to sell her to anyone]. It is another matter that Hadith of the prophet encourages us to set her free or the Koran gives [reads in Arabic] the slaves the right to trade their freedom with their masters against some money or amount of work... The Koran encourages setting a slave free if he is good natured and can live like a useful citizen of the society... I think here he gets the chance to use his will. The same is the case of a concubine if she wants to trade her freedom with her master, she can."

Mubasher Lucman to Maulana Naeemi: "Sir, what do you say, is it allowed to have sexual affairs with a concubine without Nikah?"

Maulana Naeemi: "Look, here the matter is that for Nikah as per Shari'a, it is necessary for two witnesses to be present. It is not necessary for a Nikah Khwan [generally a cleric who ritualizes marriage] to be present there. If a boy and a girl accept each other [as wife and husband] in the presence of two witnesses, a marriage takes place and their sexual relations with each other are legitimated."

Mubasher Lucman [interrupting]: "Wait a minute sir, wait a minute. If today I say about a girl that she is my wife and [she agrees] in the mere presence of you two without the presence of a Nikah Khwan, has my nikah with her taken place?"

Maulana Naeemi: "The Nikah is about presenting oneself for marriage and acceptance by the other party. If a boy presents himself and the girl accepts and two people knowingly witness the event, a marriage takes place..."

Allama Zaheer: "There is a difference between the Hanafi sect and Ahl-e-Hadith sect on this matter. Ahl-e-Hadith believe that involvement of guardians is necessary..."

Maulana Naeemi: "It is possible that the two witnesses are their guardians."

Allama Zaheer: "The issue is if the girl has reached puberty [adulthood]. An adult woman can marry on her own..."

Mubasher Lucman: "...The issue is whether the Nikah is permitted without the presence of a Nikah Khwan. If one thinks about some girl that she is his wife and she also thinks so, is it a marriage...?"

Allama Naeemi [interrupting]: "Nikah has taken place."

Allama Zaheer: "We condition this to the acceptance of a Wali [guardian]; if the guardian is not present and does not accept it, it is not a marriage..."

Mubasher Lucman: "If I do not belong to Ahl-e-Hadith, is it [such a marriage] allowed for me?"

Allama Zaheer: "Ask those who believe it... [inaudible]"

Mubasher Lucman: "No, I am merely inquiring about it."

Allama Zaheer: "Ok, leave Ahl-e-Hadith and the Hanafi sect. Let's ask the Koran and the Sunnah. What does the Koran say? The Koran says marry them with the will of their families. The Prophet said there is no marriage but with the permission of guardians..."

Maulana Naeemi: "... What is Nikah? Nikah is like a contract. There are two parties and two witnesses; so a Nikah is a contract. Of the two parties, either a man or a woman offers himself or herself for marriage and the other accepts, and if there are two witnesses who know that the contract for nikah is being made, the contract comes into effect..."

"The second point is that there is a message from Allah, that if you cannot do justice among them [in having sexual relationship], one [wife] is enough [interruptions among participants]... After Nikah having been established, there are days when the two are not permitted to have sexual relations; this is under Allah's order. Allah stops us, and Allah allows us, and the women [concubines] one owns, are under one's ownership..., they are like as if they are in nikah; they too are permitted by Allah..."

Mubasher Lucman: "So, as per your jurisprudence, only two witnesses are needed for Nikah... But what about concubines, do we need witness for them?"

Maulana Naeemi: "When she is given to someone by an institution, I mean, an Islamic government; the institution is allowing them to have sexual relations."

Mubasher Lucman: "[Islamic] institutions were not there 1,400 years ago. There was an emir of an army..."

Maulana Naeemi: "The emir of the army was the institution."

(Break)

Mubasher Lucman: Dr. Mohammed Aslam Siddiqui, can you hear us?

Mohammed Siddiqui: "I have not been able to. It appeared that you were discussing marriage but I didn't get anything."

Mubasher Lucman: "Raghib Naeemi says that if adult man and adult woman declare Nikah..."

Mohammed Siddiqui: "From where did the discussion about Nikah came in? We were talking about concubines..."

Mubasher Lucman: "Let me explain... We were discussing sexual relations with a concubine, a slave woman, without marriage, and Raghib Naeemi was giving his perspective. Tell me if having sexual relations with a slave woman is allowed without marriage?"

Mohammed Siddiqui: "Let me ask you 2-3 questions and if you answer them, I will answer yours."

Mubasher Lucman: "I will try if I know..."

Mohammed Siddiqui: "If men and women are captured [in war] what should we do with them? They are prisoners, they cannot be exchanged; they cannot be returned; the other party is not ready to pay ransom for them; Muslims don't want to free them as a goodwill gesture... So what should they do in such a situation? In such a case, we have to keep them. How should we?

[Interruptions...]

"Suppose if a Muslim has already four wives, shall he be given a fifth wife by 'marrying' a slave woman? During the caliphate, jihad was continually waged and slaves were collected in a big number. Even if someone does not already have four wives... by giving a woman to him through marriage, do you want to create conflict in his home?"

Mubasher Lucman: "So should the concubine be kept by a man secretly? Won't it create the problem?"

[Interruptions...]

Mohammed Siddiqui: "And above all, Allah and Islam have allowed Nikah, devised its means... If these women [concubines] come as part of the war booty; the Koran is full [of discussions] about them. The Koran has permitted them. If you consider the Islamic government as a representative of Allah... if the government allows it, who you are to question it?

Mubasher Lucman: "I am trying to know about it, not entering an argument..."

Mohammed Siddiqui: "You know about it; I am sure. You asked, how can we keep a woman in our homes without Nikah? If we perform Nikah, she will be a wife. Concubines are kept without Nikah. But another important point is that a numberless ways of her freedom are provided by Islam."

Mubasher Lucman: "So, this clearly means that concubinage is allowed in Islam?"

Allama Zaheer: "Yes, it is."

Mohammed Siddiqui: "Yes, it is; but concubines were permitted when wars were fought [in those times]." Is Taking Women in Conflict Allowed Today?

Mubasher Lucman: "Suppose today, if we go to war against Kufr [infidel world] on the Kashmir issue, win it, and bring slave men and women..."

Mohammed Siddiqui: "You should consult religious scholars; they are of the opinion that the countries which have signed the Charter of the United Nations Organization are not permitted to take the citizens of other member countries as slaves."

Mubasher Lucman: "I am talking about the perspective of Islam, not of the UN as the UN is not following Islam."

Mohammad Siddiqui: "Why are you arguing about it?"

Mubasher Lucman: "I am not arguing about it. I am trying to understand it."

[Interruptions...]

Mubasher Lucman: "How are UN and Islam linked?"

Mohammed Siddiqui: "The link between the UN and Islam is that we have been ordered by the Koran to keep our accords. If an accord is not against Islam, we are bound by it."

Allama Zaheer: "Maulana Mohammed Siddiqui has rightly said that we cannot take the citizens of the countries as slaves who have diplomatic relations with us."

Mubasher Lucman: "What if we go to a war against Israel, can we take slaves and concubines as we don't have diplomatic relations with them...?" "It is Permitted to [Take in War] Concubines [from Israel]"

Allama Zaheer: "Yes, we can. It is permitted to have concubines [from Israel]."

Mubasher Lucman: "What do you say Maulana Aslam Siddiqui? Did you listen to Maulana Ibtisam Zaheer?"

Mohammed Siddiqui: "No, I could not."

(Mubasher Lucman repeats the statement by Ibtisam Elahi)

Mohammed Siddiqui: "We do not have any accord with the countries with which we have no diplomatic relations..."

[Interruptions...]

Mubasher Lucman: "So, we can take [slaves] from Israel, if we achieve victory over Israel and get manpower?"

Mohammed Siddiqui: "Imagine! I am surprised how far-fetched you think..."

[Interruptions and laughter...]

Maulana Naeemi: "Islamic laws are very old and true. The law from the times of the caliphs is that you have to keep your promises. If you have an accord of prisoner exchange with a country, you have to give the war captives back to them."

Allama Zaheer [interrupts]: "You gave the example of Israel very positively. They are Jews. We could have married with their women in case of a victory, but we don't need that as we don't have diplomatic relations; so if we win and get slave women, and if the emir of the army distributes concubines, we can keep them as concubines if we get some of our share of war booty. And we should be thankful to Allah for that. But we cannot steal a woman from war booty..."

(Break)

Mubasher Lucman: "I have an important question that demands a detailed answer... any of you can answer it... It appears that there is a grey area where we are no defining zina [rape/adultery] as zina, as it is."

Maulana Naeemi: "No, it's not so..."

Mubasher Lucman: "You said, it can be without nikah"

[Interruptions...]

Maulana Naeemi: "We have to follow Koran. We cannot question the Koran. If the Koran says it is black, we have to say it is black; we cannot think if it is black or not. If the Koran says it is white it is white. The Koran says when you have women in war booty, you are allowed to have sexual relations with them. This is what the Koran says, not you and I."

Allama Zaheer: "There is no grey area. What the Koran allows is allowed, what the Koran forbids us from is forbidden..." (...)

(...more)
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