This day all good things have been made lawful for you. … And lawful for you are chaste believing women and chaste women from among those who were given the Book before you, when you give them their dowries, contracting valid marriage and not committing fornication nor taking secret paramours. And whoever rejects the faith, his work has doubtless come to naught, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers. (Al Quran 5:6)
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
New York Times this week announced, “the Islamic State codifies sex slavery in conquered regions of Iraq and Syria and uses the practice as a recruiting tool,” I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of this claim, but, I want to vindicate the Holy Quran from any association with the crimes of ISIS.
The Bible was once used to justify slavery, but, I believe it had more to do with the rationalizations of the perpetrators than the book itself. I have previously written an article collecting the compassionate teachings in the Bible: A Message of Compassion and Love from the Holy Bible.
There are three fourth of a million registered sexual offenders in USA, living in the communities and posing a potential grave risk to the people in the neighborhood. There is very little public debate about the risk they pose, at least at the present time.
New York Times this week singled out one sexual offender from Iraq for a detailed mention and discussion, perhaps because that presented a chance to analyze Quranic prescriptions on the issue of marriage, sexuality and slavery.
The three hundred million US citizens are at risk from almost a million sexual offenders in their neighborhoods and crimes of ISIS, however heinous, do not pose any immediate potential risk or danger to the Americans.
Sexual offenders are not specific to US and Iraq alone. A recent publication suggested that 1 in every 35 persons in UK is potentially a pedophile; posing a grave danger to every child growing up in UK.
I start off with these facts not to apologize for the crimes of ISIS, but just to create a context for the reader, hoping to create a fair and balanced view of our global village.
The details of the ISIS sexual offender are horrific and very disturbing and viewer’s discretion is advised. Here I quote the first few paragraphs from the New York Times. The article is titled, ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape:
In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.
He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.
When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.
‘I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,’ said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. ‘He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,’ she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.
This sexual offender has his perverted rationalizations, just like the 750,000 in USA do and would have deserved no special mention except that the terrorist group ISIS is promoting this and now New York Times is trying to make it common knowledge.
Just like the terrorist group fails to understand the pro-life message of the Holy Quran, where in it equates the killing of one innocent life to triggering a genocide and instead in the disguise of Jihad is out there killing innocent men and women, ISIS is disregarding the Quranic pearls about chastity, marriage and family values and misrepresenting a teaching about slave women, applicable in primitive times, because of the circumstances prevalent then, to justify its crimes against humanity and sex slavery.
In the first century, at the time of Jesus, may peace be on him, only a quarter of the population of the Roman Empire were free and three fourth of them were slaves. Situation in the seventh century was not much different. When conquering armies defeated the enemies and took over lands they enslaved the populations and took women as concubines. It was in this context that some of the verses of the Holy Quran were revealed to create appropriate deterrence to those who would try to destroy Islam and the Muslims and make their women concubines. These verses, unfortunately have been hijacked, fourteen centuries later, by ISIS for their nefarious agenda.
In 2 Samuel 12:8, God, speaking through the prophet Nathan, said that if David’s wives and concubines were not enough, God would have given David even more. Solomon, son of king David, had 700 wives and 300 concubines, according to 1 Kings 11:3. Mind you Solomon is a great hero in the Bible and not a villain. Actually, a large group of Orthodox Jews would like to rebuild the temple built by him and many would even like to see someone from Davidic lineage on the throne. New Testament, at great length tries to link Jesus lineage to king David. Now, Prince Charles on his coronation, as king of England would also be the supreme leader of the church of England, with 80 million followers. If, he were to acquire 700 wives and 300 concubines, I can assure you that he will have a mutiny at his hand.
For times have changed. We all understand that.
All I am suggesting is that the Quranic verses about slave women, which are often translated in English by the translators, “as what your right hands possess,” be understood in the context of slavery and tribal warfare in the seventh century and beyond.
The extent and prevalence of slavery in the Roman Empire can be judged from a comment of Prof. Elaine Pagels, of Princeton University, in the PBS documentary, titled From Jesus to Christ: the First Christians. She says that at the time of Jesus, in the Roman Empire, three quarters of the population consisted of slaves.”
So, a large number of slave women were concubines and not married in primitive societies.
The Holy Quran aimed at regulating these relationships by changing them into marriages, albeit with some rights that were not fully enjoyed by the slave women, at least initially. But they were promised security of marriage and their children’s rights were fully acknowledged.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Concubinage is the state of cohabitation of a man and a woman without the full sanctions of legal marriage. … In Roman law concubinage was the permanent cohabitation of a man and a woman outside of their existing formal marriages. The partners in such relationships and the offspring of their union did not have the same legal rights accorded married persons and their legitimate children.”
The Holy Quran did not make any distinction between the children of those who married as slave women or free women. They were all equal when it came to inheritance.
If you read the following verse about slave women, a few times, you would fully appreciate that the Quran is trying to promote marriage and family values and not prostitution and promiscuity:
And whoso of you cannot afford to marry free, believing women, let him marry what your right hands possess, namely, your believing handmaids. And Allah knows your faith best; you are all one from another; so marry them with the leave of their masters and give them their dowries according to what is fair, they being chaste, not committing fornication, nor taking secret paramours. And if, after they are married, they are guilty of lewdness, they shall have half the punishment prescribed for free women. This is for him among you who fears lest he should commit sin. And that you restrain yourselves is better for you; and Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. (Al Quran 4:26)
The Quran is discouraging lewd behavior and trying to enroll everyone into the institution of marriage. Nevertheless, it is acknowledging the awkward circumstances of women, who are coming as slaves in the Muslim society after warfare. It is showing mercy to them in that if they are guilty of lewdness, their punishment is to be halved.
The Holy Quran prescribes believers to be kind and compassionate to the slaves in a verse, in which Allah recommends kindness to parents and near blood relatives:
And worship Allah and associate naught with Him, and show kindness to parents, and to kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and to the neighbor that is a kinsman and the neighbor that is a stranger, and the companion by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom your right hands possess. Surely, Allah loves not the proud and the boastful. (Al Quran 4:47)
Every reasonable person can see that raping a slave woman is no kindness, except for some Islamists and Islamomophobes. There is no holy rape in the Holy Quran, it only exists in the perverted minds of some. In ascribing wrong teachings to the Holy Quran Islamists and Islamomophobes seem to agree. Indeed, birds of a kind flock together.