Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian jihad group named the Congregation of the People of the Sunnah for Dawah and Jihad and better known as Boko Haram (“Western Education Is Sinful,” or “Books Bad”), has horrified the world by abducting over three hundred schoolgirls and selling them into sex slavery. Shekau has even published a video in which he gloats about the abduction, telling the girls’ grieving families: “I abducted your girls. I will sell them on the market, by Allah….There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell.”
Does Allah really say that? The mainstream media is, true to form, steadfastly ignoring Shekau’s references to the acceptability in Islam of sexual slavery, and it’s easy to understand why, given its anxiety always to portray Islam in a favorable light – for the Qur’an really does allow for the owning of sex slaves:
If you fear that you will not act justly towards the orphans, marry such women as seem good to you, two, three, four; but if you fear you will not be equitable, then only one, or what your right hands own; so it is likelier you will not be partial. (Qur’an 4:3)
This verse is the basis for Islamic polygamy, allowing a man to take as many as four wives, as long as he believes he is able to “deal justly” with all of them. But justice in these circumstances is in the eye of the beholder. The renowned Qur’an commentator Ibn Kathir says this the requirement to deal justly with one’s wives is no big deal, since treating them justly isn’t the same as treating them equally: “it is not obligatory to treat them equally, rather it is recommended. So if one does so, that is good, and if not, there is no harm on him.”
The verse goes on to say that if a man cannot deal justly with multiple wives, then he should marry only one, or resort to “what your right hands own” — that is, slave girls.
The twentieth-century Qur’an commentator Maulana Bulandshahri explains the wisdom of this practice, and longs for the good old days:
During Jihad (religion war), many men and women become war captives. The Amirul Mu’minin [leader of the believers, or caliph -- an office now vacant] has the choice of distributing them amongst the Mujahidin [warriors of jihad], in which event they will become the property of these Mujahidin. This enslavement is the penalty for disbelief (kufr).
He goes on to explain that this is not ancient history:
None of the injunctions pertaining to slavery have been abrogated in the Shari’ah. The reason that the Muslims of today do not have slaves is because they do not engage in Jihad (religion war). Their wars are fought by the instruction of the disbelievers (kuffar) and are halted by the same felons. The Muslim [sic] have been shackled by such treaties of the disbelievers (kuffar) whereby they cannot enslave anyone in the event of a war. Muslims have been denied a great boon whereby every home could have had a slave. May Allah grant the Muslims the ability to escape the tentacles of the enemy, remain steadfast upon the Din (religion) and engage in Jihad (religion war) according to the injunctions of Shari’ah. Amen!
This is by no means an eccentric or unorthodox view in Islam. The Egyptian Sheikh Abu-Ishaq al-Huwayni declared in May 2011 that “we are in the era of jihad,” and that as they waged jihad warfare against infidels, Muslims would take slaves. He clarified what he meant in a subsequent interview:
…Jihad is only between Muslims and infidels. Spoils, slaves, and prisoners are only to be taken in war between Muslims and infidels. Muslims in the past conquered, invaded, and took over countries. This is agreed to by all scholars–there is no disagreement on this from any of them, from the smallest to the largest, on the issue of taking spoils and prisoners. The prisoners and spoils are distributed among the fighters, which includes men, women, children, wealth, and so on.
When a slave market is erected, which is a market in which are sold slaves and sex-slaves, which are called in the Qur’an by the name milk al-yamin, “that which your right hands possess” [Qur’an 4:24]. This is a verse from the Qur’an which is still in force, and has not been abrogated. The milk al-yamin are the sex-slaves. You go to the market, look at the sex-slave, and buy her. She becomes like your wife, (but) she doesn’t need a (marriage) contract or a divorce like a free woman, nor does she need a wali. All scholars agree on this point–there is no disagreement from any of them. [...] When I want a sex slave, I just go to the market and choose the woman I like and purchase her.
Right around the same time, on May 25, 2011, a female Kuwaiti activist and politician, Salwa al-Mutairi, also spoke out in favor of the Islamic practice of sexual slavery of non-Muslim women, emphasizing that the practice accorded with Islamic law and the parameters of Islamic morality.
…A merchant told me that he would like to have a sex slave. He said he would not be negligent with her, and that Islam permitted this sort of thing. He was speaking the truth. I brought up (this man’s) situation to the muftis in Mecca. I told them that I had a question, since they were men who specialized in what was halal, and what was good, and who loved women. I said, “What is the law of sex slaves?”
The mufti said, “With the law of sex slaves, there must be a Muslim nation at war with a Christian nation, or a nation which is not of the religion, not of the religion of Islam. And there must be prisoners of war.”
“Is this forbidden by Islam?,” I asked.
“Absolutely not. Sex slaves are not forbidden by Islam. On the contrary, sex slaves are under a different law than the free woman. The free woman must be completely covered except for her face and hands. But the sex slave can be naked from the waist up. She differs a lot from the free woman. While the free woman requires a marriage contract, the sex slave does not–she only needs to be purchased by her husband, and that’s it. Therefore the sex slave is different than the free woman.”
While the savage exploitation of girls and young women is an unfortunately cross-cultural phenomenon, only in Islamic law does it carry anything approaching divine sanction. Here is yet another human rights scandal occasioned by Islamic law that the international human rights community and the mainstream media cravenly ignore. The abduction of the Nigerian schoolgirls could have been an opportunity to call upon Muslim leaders to work for genuine reform, so that the justifications for this savagery are definitively removed. Instead, Western leaders and the mainstream media are doing what they always do: pretend that this is an isolated incident and there is no problem.
And that only ensures that there will be more such incidents.
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