The Justification for Enslaving Non-Muslim Captives in War

Recently, representatives of the Islamic State issued a statement justifying the enslavement and sale of infidel women captured in war such as the Yazidis. Their rationale for this is that such an action is lawful under Shari’a.

The following citations are the basis for the position they are taking in respect of taking captives or other spoils of war.

From the Qur’an

Al-Anfal 8:41:

And know that whatever of war-booty that you may gain, verily one-fifth (1/5th) of it is assigned to Allâh, and to the Messenger, and to the near relatives [of the Messenger (Muhammad SAW)], (and also) the orphans, Al-Masâkin (the poor) and the wayfarer, if you have believed in Allâh and in that which We sent down to Our slave (Muhammad SAW) on the Day of criterion (between right and wrong), the Day when the two forces met (the battle of Badr) – And Allâh is Able to do all things.

Al-Ahzab 33:27:

And He caused you to inherit their lands, and their houses, and their riches, and a land which you had not trodden (before). And Allâh is Able to do all things.

 From the hadith of Sahih Bukhari

Book #53, Hadith #351:

Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah: Allah’s Apostle said, “Booty has been made legal for me.”

Book #7, Hadith #331:

Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah: The Prophet said, “I have been given five things which were not given to any one else before me. 1. Allah made me victorious by awe, (by His frightening my enemies) for a distance of one month’s journey. 2. The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying and a thing to perform Tayammum, therefore anyone of my followers can pray wherever the time of a prayer is due. 3. The Booty has been made Halal (lawful) for me yet it was not lawful for anyone else before me. 4. I have been given the right of intercession (on the Day of Resurrection). 5. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only but I have been sent to all mankind.

Book #2, Hadith #35:

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “The person who participates in (Holy battles) in Allah’s cause and nothing compels him to do so except belief in Allah and His Apostles, will be recompensed by Allah either with a reward, or Booty (if he survives) or will be admitted to Paradise (if he is killed in the battle as a martyr). Had I not found it difficult for my followers, then I would not remain behind any sariya going for Jihad and I would have loved to be martyred in Allah’s cause and then made alive, and then martyred and then made alive, and then again martyred in His cause.”

Book #8, Hadith #367:

Narrated ‘Abdul ‘Aziz: Anas said, ‘When Allah’s Apostle invaded Khaibar, we offered the Fajr prayer there yearly in the morning) when it was still dark. The Prophet rode and Abu Talha rode too and I was riding behind Abu Talha. The Prophet passed through the lane of Khaibar quickly and my knee was touching the thigh of the Prophet. He uncovered his thigh and I saw the whiteness of the thigh of the Prophet. When he entered the town, he said, ‘Allahu Akbar! Khaibar is ruined. Whenever we approach near a (hostile) nation (to fight) then evil will be the morning of those who have been warned.’ He repeated this thrice. The people came out for their jobs and some of them said, ‘Muhammad (has come).’ (Some of our companions added, “With his army.”) We conquered Khaibar, took the captives, and the Booty was collected. Dihya came and said, ‘O Allah’s Prophet! Give me a slave girl from the captives.’ The Prophet said, ‘Go and take any slave girl.’ He took Safiya bint Huyai. A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostles! You gave Safiya bint Huyai to Dihya and she is the chief mistress of the tribes of Quraiza and An-Nadir and she befits none but you.’ So the Prophet said, ‘Bring him along with her.’ So Dihya came with her and when the Prophet saw her, he said to Dihya, ‘Take any slave girl other than her from the captives.’ Anas added: The Prophet then manumitted her and married her.” Thabit asked Anas, “O Abu Hamza! What did the Prophet pay her (as Mahr)?” He said, “Her self was her Mahr for he manumitted her and then married her.” Anas added, “While on the way, Um Sulaim dressed her for marriage (ceremony) and at night she sent her as a bride to the Prophet . So the Prophet was a bridegroom and he said, ‘Whoever has anything (food) should bring it.’ He spread out a leather sheet (for the food) and some brought dates and others cooking butter. (I think he (Anas) mentioned As-SawTq). So they prepared a dish of Hais (a kind of meal). And that was Walrma (the marriage banquet) of Allah’s Apostle.”

Book #34, Hadith #432:

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: that while he was sitting with Allah’s Apostle he said, “O Allah’s Apostle! We get female captives as our share of Booty, and we are interested in their prices, what is your opinion about coitus interruptus?” The Prophet said, “Do you really do that? It is better for you not to do it. No soul that which Allah has destined to exist, but will surely come into existence.

Book #38, Hadith #503:

Narrated Marwan bin Al-Hakam and Al-Miswar bin Makhrama: When the delegates of the tribe of Hawazin after embracing Islam, came to Allah’s Apostle, he got up. They appealed to him to return their properties and their captives. Allah’s Apostle said to them, “The most beloved statement to me is the true one. So, you have the option of restoring your properties or your captives, for I have delayed distributing them.” The narrator added, Allah’s Apostle c had been waiting for them for more than ten days on his return from Taif. When they realized that Allah’s Apostle would return to them only one of two things, they said, “We choose our captives.” So, Allah’s Apostle got up in the gathering of the Muslims, praised Allah as He deserved, and said, “Then after! These brethren of yours have come to you with repentance and I see it proper to return their captives to them. So, whoever amongst you likes to do that as a favor, then he can do it, and whoever of you wants to stick to his share till we pay him from the very first Booty which Allah will give us then he can do so.” The people replied, “We agree to give up our shares willingly as a favor for Allah’s Apostle.” Then Allah’s Apostle said, “We don’t know who amongst you has agreed and who hasn’t. Go back and your chiefs may tell us your opinion.” So, all of them returned and their chiefs discussed the matter with them and then they (i.e. their chiefs) came to Allah’s Apostle to tell him that they (i.e. the people) had given up their shares gladly and willingly.

Book #52, Hadith #46:

Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, “The example of a Mujahid in Allah’s Cause– and Allah knows better who really strives in His Cause—-is like a person who fasts and prays continuously. Allah guarantees that He will admit the Mujahid in His Cause into Paradise if he is killed, otherwise He will return him to his home safely with rewards and war Booty.”

Book #52, Hadith #104:

Narrated ‘Urwa Al-Bariqi: The Prophet said, “Good will remain (as a permanent quality) in the foreheads of horses (for Jihad) till the Day of Resurrection, for they bring about either a reward (in the Hereafter) or Booty (in this world.”

Book #52, Hadith #153:

Narrated ‘Umar: The properties of Bani An-Nadir which Allah had transferred to His Apostle as Fai Booty were not gained by the Muslims with their horses and camels. The properties therefore, belonged especially to Allah’s Apostle who used to give his family their yearly expenditure and spend what remained thereof on arms and horses to be used in Allah’s Cause.

Book #52, Hadith #286:

Narrated Salama bin Al-Akwa: “An infidel spy came to the Prophet while he was on a journey. The spy sat with the companions of the Prophet and started talking and then went away. The Prophet said (to his companions), ‘Chase and kill him.’ So, I killed him.” The Prophet then gave him the belongings of the killed spy (in addition to his share of the war Booty).

Book #52, Hadith #301:

Narrated Anas: The Prophet performed ‘Umra, setting out from Al-Jarana where he distributed the war Booty of Hunain.

Book #53, Hadith #325:

Narrated ‘Aisha: (mother of the believers) After the death of Allah ‘s Apostle Fatima the daughter of Allah’s Apostle asked Abu Bakr As-Siddiq to give her, her share of inheritance from what Allah’s Apostle had left of the Fai (i.e. Booty gained without fighting) which Allah had given him. Abu Bakr said to her, “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘Our property will not be inherited, whatever we (i.e. prophets) leave is Sadaqa (to be used for charity).” Fatima, the daughter of Allah’s Apostle got angry and stopped speaking to Abu Bakr, and continued assuming that attitude till she died. Fatima remained alive for six months after the death of Allah’s Apostle. She used to ask Abu Bakr for her share from the property of Allah’s Apostle which he left at Khaibar, and Fadak, and his property at Medina (devoted for charity). Abu Bakr refused to give her that property and said, “I will not leave anything Allah’s Apostle used to do, because I am afraid that if I left something from the Prophet’s tradition, then I would go astray.” (Later on) Umar gave the Prophet’s property (of Sadaqa) at Medina to ‘Ali and ‘Abbas, but he withheld the properties of Khaibar and Fadak in his custody and said, “These two properties are the Sadaqa which Allah’s Apostle used to use for his expenditures and urgent needs. Now their management is to be entrusted to the ruler.” (Az-Zuhrl said, “They have been managed in this way till today.”)

Book #53, Hadith #359:

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: ‘Uthman did not join the Badr battle because he was married to one of the daughters of Allah’s Apostle and she was ill. So, the Prophet said to him. “You will get a reward and a share (from the war Booty) similar to the reward and the share of one who has taken part in the Badr battle.”

Book #59, Hadith #53:

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: On the day of Khaibar, Allah’s Apostle divided (the war Bootyof Khaibar) with the ratio of two shares for the horse and one-share for the foot soldier. (The sub-narrator, Nafi’ explained this, saying, “If a man had a horse, he was given three shares and if he had no horse, then he was given one share.”)

Book #59, Hadith #625:

Narrated ‘Abdullah: When it was the day of Hunain, Prophet favored some people over some others (in the distribution of the booty). He gave Al-Aqra’ one-hundred camels and gave Uyaina the same, and also gave other people (of Quraish). A man said, “Allah’s Pleasure was not the aim, in this distribution.” I said, “I will inform the Prophet (about your statement).” The Prophet said, “May Allah bestow Mercy on Moses, for he was troubled more this but he remained patient.”

After the Battle of Hunain in 630 the Prophet gave ‘Ali a slave girl named Baytab. He gave ‘Uthman a slave girl named Zaynab and he gave ‘Umar one as well. They were part of the spoils of the battle.

In Islamic law (Shari’a), Ma malakat aymanukum is the term for slaves or captives of war. According to Muslim theologians, it is lawful for male masters to have sexual relations with female captives and slaves, regardless of whether or not the slave woman gave her consent. The purchase of female slaves for sex was lawful from the perspective of Islamic law, and this was the most common motive for the purchase of slaves throughout Islamic history.

In 2003 a high-level Saudi jurist, Shaykh Saleh Al-Fawzan, issued a fatwa claiming

“Slavery is a part of Islam. Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam.”

He attacked Muslim scholars, who said otherwise maintaining,

“They are ignorant, not scholars … They are merely writers. Whoever says such things is an infidel.”

At the time of the fatwa, al-Fawzan was a member of the Senior Council of Clerics, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, a member of the Council of Religious Edicts and Research, the Imam of Prince Mitaeb Mosque in Riyadh, and a professor at Imam Mohamed Bin Saud Islamic University, the main Wahhabi center of learning in the country.

Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri of Karbala expressed the view in 1993 that the enforcement of servitude can occur but is restricted to war captives and those born of slaves.

Abdul-Latif Mushtahari, the general supervisor and director of homiletics and guidance at the Azhar University, has said on the subject of justifications for Islamic permission of slavery.

“Islam does not prohibit slavery but retains it for two reasons. The first reason is war (whether it is a civil war or a foreign war in which the captive is either killed or enslaved) provided that the war is not between Muslims against each other – it is not acceptable to enslave the violators, or the offenders, if they are Muslims. Only non-Muslim captives may be enslaved or killed. The second reason is the sexual propagation of slaves which would generate more slaves for their owner.”

That it is lawful for Muslims to have sexual relations with females captured in war is based on the following:

 From the Qur’an

 “And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or (slaves) that your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice”

[al-Nisa’ 4:3]

What is meant by “or (slaves) that your right hands possess” is slave women whom are owned.

“O Prophet (Muhammad)! Verily, We have made lawful to you your wives, to whom you have paid their Mahr (bridal‑money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage), and those (slaves) whom your right hand possesses — whom Allaah has given to you, and the daughters of your ‘Amm (paternal uncles) and the daughters of your ‘Ammaat (paternal aunts) and the daughters of your Khaal (maternal uncles) and the daughters of your Khaalaat (maternal aunts) who migrated (from Makkah) with you, and a believing woman if she offers herself to the Prophet, and the Prophet wishes to marry her a privilege for you only, not for the (rest of) the believers. Indeed We know what We have enjoined upon them about their wives and those (slaves) whom their right hands possess, in order that there should be no difficulty on you. And Allaah is Ever Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful”

[al-Ahzaab 33:50]

“And those who guard their chastity (i.e. private parts from illegal sexual acts).Except from their wives or the (women slaves) whom their right hands possess for (then) they are not blameworthy.But whosoever seeks beyond that, then it is those who are trespassers”
[al-Ma’aarij 70:29-31]

The interpretations of these verses have been made by a number of leading scholars of Islamic jurisprudence such as  Al-Tabari who said:

Allah says, “And those who guard their chastity” i.e., protect their private parts from doing everything that Allah has forbidden, but they are not to blame if they do not guard their chastity from their wives or from the female slaves whom their rights hands possess. 

Tafseer al-Tabari, 29/84 

Ibn Katheer said:

Taking a concubine as well as a wife is permissible according to the law of Ibrahim (Abraham)(peace be upon him). Ibrahiem did that with Hajar, when he took her as a concubine when he was married to Sarah. 

Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 1/383

And Ibn Katheer also said:

The phrase “and those (slaves) whom your right hand possesses — whom Allah has given to you” [al-Ahzaab 33:50] means, it is permissible for you take concubines from among those whom you seized as war booty. He took possession of Safiyyah and Juwayriyah and he freed them and married them; he took possession of Rayhanah bint Sham’un al-Nadariyyah and Mariyah al-Qibtiyyah, the mother of his son Ibrahim (peace be upon them both), and they were among his concubines, may Allah be pleased with them both. 

Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 3/500

The scholars are unanimously agreed that it is permissible.

Ibn Qudaamah said:

There is no dispute (among the scholars) that it is permissible to take concubines and to have intercourse with one’s slave woman, because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):  

“And those who guard their chastity (i.e. private parts from illegal sexual acts).

Except from their wives or the (women slaves) whom their right hands possess for (then) they are not blameworthy.”

[al-Ma’aarij 70:29-30]

Mariyah al-Qibtiyyah was the umm walad (a slave woman who bore her master a child) of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and she was the mother of Ibrahim, the son of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), of whom he said, “Her son set her free.” Hajar, the mother of Isma’il (peace be upon him), was the concubine of Ibrahim the close friend (khaleel) of the Most Merciful (peace be upon him). ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allah be pleased with him) had a number of slave women who bore him children, to each of whom he left four hundred in his will. ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) had slave women who bore him children, as did many of the Sahabah. ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn, al-Qaasim ibn Muhammad and Saalim ibn ‘Abd-Allaah were all born from slave mothers

Al-Mughni, 10/441

Al-Shaafa’i (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And those who guard their chastity (i.e. private parts from illegal sexual acts).

Except from their wives or the (women slaves) whom their right hands possess for (then) they are not blameworthy.”

[al-Ma’aarij 70:29-30]

The Qur’an indicates that the sexual relationships that are permitted are only of two types, either marriage or those (women slaves) whom one’s right hand possesses.

Al-Umm, 5/43.

The wife has no right to object to her husband owning female slaves or to his having intercourse with them.