Posted by: The Lettered Wayfarer | December 26, 2010

Did the Prophet Muhammad allow Muslim Soldiers to rape female Captives?

Did Muslim Warriors Rape Female Captives?

Anti-Islamists often raise -as a point of contention- that there are several ahadith [traditions from the life of the Prophet Muhammad ~sallill’ahu ‘aleyhi wa salaam~] and Qu’ran verses which seem to allow not only for men to take female captives in war, but also to have sexual relations with them, even against their will [i.e. rape]. They often point to Qu’ran verses such as the following:

“And all married women (are forbidden unto you -Muslims) save those whom your right hands possess.” [Holy Qu’ran 4:24]

The words that are translated into English in that verse as “those whom your right hands possess” is the Arabic phrase ma malakat aymanukum and in the classical Arabic it is a polite term for slaves captured in war. Thus the above verse is forbidding men to have an intimate relationship with married women, unless those women are war captives. The hot button issue here is that men are seemingly given the permission to have sex with slave-women, whether married or unmarried. It is easy to take this verse out of it’s context and say, “See! Islam doesn’t respect womens rights and allows men to take them as slaves and force themselves on them! Boo Islam!


A call to grasping the historical context of this Qu’ran verse is in order. We must understand that the first recipients of the Message of Islam, [which is the world as it was known in the 7th century] had a custom of taking women captives of war, and thus it should be noted that Islam did not invent this practice. This custom of having sexual relations with slave-girls was practiced by virtually every culture at the time. The wars in the Pre-Islamic Arabian Penninsula were on a tribal basis, and when the men were killed their women were taken and undoubtedly were treated quite inhumanely.

However, the Prophet Muhammad ~sallill’ahu ‘aleyhi wa salaam~ was sent to abolish (or start the process of abolishing) all of that which was inhumane and degrading to mankind. He [saas] has said in an authentic tradition that “I have been sent to make perfect the moral character [of man].” Having the task of eliminating this [and hundreds of other] evils, the Prophet [saas] could have taken one of two paths:

1-To abolish it at once.
2-To do the same gradually with wisdom.

Allah [swt] and His Messenger [saas] preferred the second path because if such a deeply ingrained practice had been abolished at once then thousands of women would have been left to provide for themselves, and the likelihood of Arab men taking “damaged goods” [as they are called] as their wives was unlikely. The first duty of the Prophet [saas], then was to establish a more humane and compassionate view of women in his society, and gradually teach people to respect and have mercy on the “lower class” as they are called, to forgive people for that which they may have had inflicted on them or for sins they may have committed in their past, etc. Once the hearts of his followers had reached this level of sublime morality, then steps were taken via Qu’ranic revelations and Prophetic instructions to discourage the practice of concubinage so much so that within 100 years of the death of the Prophet [saas], it had been wiped out of the Arab penninsula as a whole.

We have to consider what the condition of such women would have been had the institution of slavery not been in place. This was a time before homeless shelters, before womens rights movements, etc. Imagine a woman whose male family members had all been killed on the battlefield in a dessimated and war-torn city. After the intruding armies had left, what was she to do? How would she support herself? Islam first dealt with this problem by putting them under the guardianship of Muslim men and mandated that they should treat them kindly, provide them board and lodge and give them respect. Imagine what could have been their fate in that particular environment had things not been thus!


As stated, Islam laid down rules which would eventually lead to eradicating the practice. We cannot deny that Muslims were allowed to have intercourse with slave women taken as captives of just and legitimate wars. In so doing, however, the woman would automatically become free if she became pregnant. Furthermore, her child would also become free.

The intimate physical relation, if any, had to be consensual. For, forcing somebody into such a situation [i.e. rape] is against the very spirit of Islam. We see that the Prophet Muhammad [saas] ordered the Muslims to treat their war-captives fairly and to treat them how they themselves would wish to be treated:

Narrated Abu Dharr: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Feed those of your slaves who please you from what you eat and clothe them with what you clothe yourselves, but sell those who do not please you and do not punish Allah’s creatures.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Hadith 5161. Albani classified it as Sahih)

The Hadith clearly tells us that if a slave woman does not please her master i.e. refuse to work for him or allow him to lay down with her, the master is supposed to either bare patiently with her, or sell her. If he will not; he will indulge in something wrong i.e. he may force her into such an action and the Hadith terms such an act as ‘punishing Allah’s creatures.’


The following Hadith even more explicitly states that it is unlawful to force a slave woman into physical relations:

Narrated Salamah ibn al-Muhabbaq: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) made a decision about a man who had intercourse with his wife’s slave-girl as follows: If he forced her, she is free, and he shall give her mistress a slave-girl similar to her; if she asked him to have intercourse voluntarily, she will belong to him, and he shall give her mistress a slave-girl similar to her. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Hadith 4460. Ibn Taymiyya authenticated it in his Majmu’a al-Fatawa 4/360 saying ‘Some have doubted this Hadith for its chain but it is a Hasan Hadith.’)

This is the most categorical Hadith maintaining that forced relationship is forbidden and it makes her free. Also:

The Prophet (pbuh) was narrated to have said; “He who slaps his slave or beats him, the expiation for it is that he should set him free.” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 3130)

When slapping the slave is such a heinous crime in the House of Islam, how can one think that Islam would allow the raping of slave women?

There is also a hadith in Sunan Abu Dawud which mentions that a man forced his slave-girl into fornication [with other men], whereupon Allah [swt] sent down a special revelation of the Qu’ran which stated: “But force not your maids to fornication when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life. But if anyone compels them [upon him is wrath], yet, after such compulsion, is Allah, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (to them).” [Q 24:33].


Also, based on these teachings, the companions of Muhammad [saas], particularly his closest companions, considered the practice “makruh” -an Islamic ruling that means “hated by Allah” -and this is derived from the fact that the 2nd successor to Muhammad, the blessed Umar ibn al Khattab [raa], ordered the Muslims to send back female captives of war saying, “I would not like the taking of concubines to become a custom among the Arabs.” [Related in Al Khilafa wal Khulafa’ Rashidun p.160].

This authenticated statement of ‘Umar ibn Al Khattab [raa] -who Muslims revere and who the Prophet Muhammad [saas] said of him “If there were to be any Prophet after me, it would be ‘Umar” in fact, teaches us two things. First it shows that by the time of ‘Umars [raa] rule, which began within three years of the death of the Prophet [saas], it was already a custom which was non-existent in Arabia due to the stringent regulations and emphatic teachings of the Prophet Muhammad [saas]. -Otherwise why was ‘Umar saying that he would not like this to become a practice? It had already been a practice, after all! How could it become a practice again, except that before ‘Umars Caliphate, the practice had been erradicated?

The second thing we learn from this statement of ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab [raa], is that the immediate followers of the Prophet Muhammad [saas], understood the practice to be something which was heavily frowned upon in the Islamic religion, to such an extent that the Caliph has the right to forbid it outright.


Due to these Prophetic Hadiths and Qu’ran verses, as well as the understanding of the early Muslims, the early schools of Islamic Law actually stipulated punishments for men who raped female slaves. Imam Malik [raa] said, “In our view the man who rapes a woman, regardless of whether she is a virgin or not, if she is a free woman he must pay a “dowry” like that of her peers, and if she is a slave he must pay whatever has been detracted from her value. The punishment is to be carried out on the rapist and there is no punishment for the woman who has been raped, whatever the case.” (Imam Maalik, Al-Muwatta’, Volume 2, page 734) -Now, Imam Malik was an early Muslim scholar who learned from the students of the Sahabah [companions of the Prophet Muhammad], yet his fatwa clearly states that a restitution must be paid to a slave girl who is raped.

Imam Shafi’i [raa], another early scholar of Islamic law, wrote: “If a man acquires by force a slave-girl, then has sexual intercourse with her after he acquires her by force, and if he is not excused by ignorance, then the slave-girl will be taken from him, he is required to pay the fine, and he will receive the punishment for illegal sexual intercourse [which is public lashing].” (Imam Al Shaafi’i, Kitaabul Umm, Volume 3, page 253) -Imam Shafi’is [raa] view was much more strict than that of Imam Malik [raa], as he not only said that the slave girl must be paid a restitution, but she is removed from his guardianship, and the offender is to be publically lashed!


In conclusion the following key points are to be remembered: First, this is a practice Islam did not establish, but rather initially highly regulated, and later eradicated. Both the Qu’ran and Hadith explicitly as well as implicitly forbid the raping of female captives, not to mention the concept of “rape” is against clearly established principals of the Islamic religion. The companions of the Prophet Muhammad [saas] outlawed the practice of intimate relations with slave girls either toward the end of the life of the Prophet, or very soon after his death because of his teachings on the subject. ‘Umar ibn Khattab [raa], who the Prophet [saas] said of him “Were there to be a Prophet after me it would be ‘Umar” considered the practice “detestable” and forbade the Arabs from partaking in it. And, finally, the early scholars of Islamic law considered raping female slaves a crime that carried with it certain corporal punishments. From these facts and others we could mention but have refrained from due to lack of time and will, we see that the Prophet Muhammad [saas], far from being the reason for concubinage in the world, was in fact its main opponent and destroyer, for he is truly the mercy to all humankind.

I hope that this article has been of some benefit, and if there is any good in this then this from Allah [swt]. Only the mistakes have been mine.


Taken, with modification, from here.



  1. Masha’Allah- i love it.

    Jazak’Allah khair… N pls delete my previous comment.

  2. The only problem with your argument was that your prophet was not an example of treating captives humanely. He also had sex with his female captives without elevating them to the status of a wife. Compare that to what happened in the Bible, when female captive had to be elevated to the position of a wife with all its rights & privileges, before one can have intimate relations with them. As a wife, they could not be sold back into slavery, they were now free women & can’t be treated brutally. The god of Islam is not the same God that revealed himself to Moses in the Torah.

    • Well, since, as the article proves, it is impossible to force yourself upon a woman -free or not- according to Islam & The Prophet Muhammad [saas], then the female servant has the right to refuse the advances of her master. If this displeases the master he is to sell her. [All mentioned in the article]. You also have to consider that “slavery” in the time of Islam is not “slavery” as it is considered in modern times, where the servant/slave gets little to no say about their lives. It was more like a form of indentured servitude, where the servant would contract themselves for a certain amount of time. Also consider that if a woman did consent to relations, and became pregnant, she was automatically freed and given full status as any free wife. And last but not least, it is very clear in both Qu’ran and Hadith that Muslims must treat their servants humanely, give them the quality of food, clothing, and shelter that the master himself has, or else the master is in danger of being thrown into hell. -So, if this is what the Prophet [s] taught, and how he treated his servants, what is inhumane about his treatment of them? [And I’m just giving this answer for arguments sake, because actually the Prophet Muhammad died without having any slaves/servants under his care, to my knowledge. Any wife that started out as a servant, died as a free wife…]

      And, your points about someone having to be elevated from the position of slave to the position of wife according to the Bible is simply not true, I’m afraid.

      “They attacked Midian just as the LORD had commanded Moses, and they killed all the men… Then the Israelite army captured the Midianite women and children and seized their cattle and flocks and all their wealth as plunder… But Moses was furious with all the military commanders who had returned from the battle. “Why have you let all the women live?” he demanded. “These are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the LORD at Mount Peor… Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves…” [Numbers 31:7-18]

      We see here that female-virgin war-captives were “kept” for the men, supposedly under the order of Moses… Also consider:

      “As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor. But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you.” [Deuteronomy 20:10-14].

      And, the bizarre laws for rape in the first place in the Biblical text:

      “If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.” [Deuteronomy 22:28-29].

      And an interesting Prophecy, presumably from God according to Christians/Jews, in the book of Zechariah: “Lo, a day shall come for the Lord when the spoils shall be divided in your midst. And I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle: the city shall be taken, houses plundered, women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be removed from the city.” [Zechariah 14:1-2].


  3. Whoever wrote this blog,
    I have no idea he/she really knew the thing or he/she try to hide the truth with intention.

    For your information I give you some context from your holy books.
    Please accept the err. Muhammed is after all a human like us.

    “O Allah’s Apostle! We get female captives as our share of booty, and we are interested in their (selling) 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.” (Bukhari 34:432)

    Coitus interruptus, also known as withdrawal or the pull-out method, is a birth-control technique in which a man withdraws his penis from a woman prior to ejaculation during sexual intercourse, with the semen being ejaculated away from the vagina.

    “We went out with Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to the Bi’l-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing ‘azl (Withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid-conception) . But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah’s Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), and he said: It does not matter” (Sahih Muslim 3371)

    “Then the apostle sent Sa-d b. Zayd al-Ansari, brother of Abdu’l-Ashal with some of the captive women of Banu Qurayza to Najd and he sold them for horses and weapons.” (Ibn Ishaq 693)

    So, He and his warriors raped women and trade them, resale them.
    After all he was a Barbarian King, so it was not a sin on that period.

    Please don’t talk about holiness or godness.

    • It seems you didn’t read my article, nor have you made a very logical post here. All you have put forth in your comment is some references in Muslim texts about early Muslims having physical relations with female slaves. I never denied that this is something allowed in Islam on certain conditions. The point of the article is to show that RAPE of female slaves is not allowed.

      Since the word “rape” is nowhere in any of the quotes you’ve given us, the points in my article still stand.

      As to your reference about selling and/or trading of slaves, I would encourage you to read what I actually wrote in my article, namely the sections above titled “the historical context” and “The treatment of captives.”

      What I wrote there proves that any treatment of slaves was incredibly humane, that the type of slavery which was known to the Arabs at that time was not the concept of slavery that we think of in modern times [For example it was not in any way similar to what happened to Africans in early America], and that, in the context of the time, what the Prophet Muhammad [sallill’ahu ‘aleyhi wa salaam] did for slaves was extraordinary.

      Hope this clarifies the issue for you.


    • The only truth in this.. Is the comment made by ragunathan.. ‘Muhammad is after all a human like us’. There are only faults and sins that come from humans that is why he had made the Quran up with the help of other uneducated Muslims. If he were a true prophet why are there so many faults with the Quran? Allah the ‘all mighty’ LOL didn’t provide him with any correct information? Hmm makes me wonder..

      P.s if u refuse to make this post visible, you’re obviously afraid of the truth I am saying. :) keep that I’m mind pal! Ur article was a headache to read.

      • Normally, I wouldn’t have made your post visible, not out of fear, but because I don’t like to debate someone who isn’t willing to change his mind. It’s a waste of time.

        However, just to amuse myself, I’d like to ask you for one so-called error of the Qu’ran. And PLEASE don’t bother trying to swamp me with a cut and paste from some anti-Islam website of 100 nonsense Qu’ran errors. Give me just 1. Whatever error in the Qu’ran you think is the biggest error, and I’ll address it just to show you that perhaps you should look at things differently.


      • To be honest, i was shocked when i read this verses in quran, instead of justifying unjustifiable , i can come up with some possibilities .1)either quran is corrupted due to this and so many other verses 2)this is realy an authentic verse in quran and mohammad made a mistake to do this , i dont see any other rational behind raping slave girls?

      • There is a third option, which is that you’ve misunderstood the text. The Qu’ranic verses do not allow raping slave girls, rather they permit CONSENSUAL sexual relations with slave women, on very strict conditions, which is what the article has proven effectively. If you would like to rebut a specific point in the article, I will allow your comment. If you have nothing new to bring to the table, I will delete further comments.

        God Bless.

  4. ALHAMDULILLAH…dear brother you cleared my doubts.may ALLAH grant you more knowledge and shower His blessings upon you…

  5. jazakAllah my dear brother in islam.
    you clarified it very well. ‘t gives me ammo for the islambashers in defending the islam.

    ramadan karim!

  6. JazakAllah khair. I am a convert. After 20 years of practicing Islam I heard a talk by a learned man that used the right hand possessions permission to say a man could make an oath of protection with a woman and then proceed to have relations with her and it would be lawful. He added that a man could do this without his wives having any knowledge of it. This is the first time my faith in the Quran and our Beloved Prophet sas was even vaguely shaken. I tried to read online and mainly found writings from Christian detractors that further disturbed me since they use our own Hadith to try to destroy our faith. Yours is the first succinct clear article with attendant proofs that has made sense of this for me. May Allah reward you for helping me hold onto a faith that has done nothing but improve my life for 20 years.

  7. Thanks for a great article that saved me a long time!

  8. thank you my fellow Muslim brother people have been saying this alot and this article realty sums up the justice and reasoning of those certain actions. i was very confused untill now. do you have an email brother where i can ask you question when im in doubt as im a 14 year old boy with many doubts such as “was Muhammad (pbuh) really a rapist” but this article mashallahs sums up how these lie have come in to place

  9. This article has beneficial points on the topic:

  10. salam aleikoem i hope inscha allah everyone will see that islam is the true religion,whith the right learned people to explaine things like this ,iam a convert and i had some trouble whit this thing on slavery ,but when you think really good about it ,and know how other religios scriptures,dealed whit it ,we must say ,that islam is the right religion to follow,allah akhbar

  11. Ya Allah All praise be to you who rule the entire Universe.

    I was searching here and there in darkness for a good answer regarding this matter. Alhamdulillah Almighty Allah showed me the light through this precious piece of writing of the blessed author.
    Now that I got the correct sources I would In Sha Allah immediately start my da’wah to those who do not know these. May Allah guide me in the righteous path.

    May Allah guide the Author of this article and bestow him/her in times to come. May Allah enlighten this author to bring out more and more work to safeguard Islam and clear any misconceptions about Islam.


  12. Whatever done (written) is done. As a muslim, a request, to all muslims whoever is reading this and wishes to contribute to any such topics anywhere- Please interpret ayath’s ( of Al furqan) carefully and never in a isolated manner.

    And never forget there are tens of thousands of fake, distorted hadith’s out there just to complicate things most and lead astray.

    This request is because people even with little knowledge* read these.

    “May Allah isolate the truth from the false” for all of us – Amin

  13. If having consensual sex with a slave was to be eradicated over time, then why put its permission in the timeless Quran and not mention that it’s temporary?

    • Who said it consensual sex with a slave girl as a ruling (whether hypothetical or otherwise) has been eradicated over time? That is not what I wrote, nor is it the point of the article. I am saying, simply that it was not “rape” as the detractors claim, but rather the sexual relations were consensual, and that slavery in general at the time of the Prophet (s) was 1) not the oppressive slavery we are familiar with, such as in American history when the Africans were put in bondage, tortured, treated poorly, etc., and 2), while not being eradicated by an explicit text was nevertheless discouraged by the words of the Qu’ran and the Prophet, as well as his actions.

  14. well I like how you have rephrase the hadith and quranic verses and thanks for that you have cleared my misconception about the slavery concept may Allah blessed you great job do sent me your email address I want to solve some more queries

    • Thanks for the article. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) will always be the greatest, most beautiful person ever. In 23 years, he changed the world for the best. He abolished backward customs in the time where the people would allow them. If it wasn’t for him, the world definitely wouldn’t be where it is. Islam will always seem strange to the people til the end of time.
      The article was excellent and one thing I would like to mention. Wars are a terrible thing and even recent wars have shown mass rapes by ‘civilized’ countries. These were not only rapes but degradation at highest form since usually after they raped war captives, they would murder the victims and this is so called modern warfare. Amazing how people criticize Islam when islam forbade rape and treating captives wrong 14 centuries ago!

  15. I find it impossible to believe that a woman would be ready to sleep with the men who killed her father/brother/husband and destroyed her people.
    How can you explain that?
    How can you say it is not rape?
    I m eager to hear from you.

    • It’s a bit of an anathema to us now, but cultures evolve and change over time. I read a historical reference some time back (by a non-Muslim) who mentioned that women of antiquity used to go out to the battlefields dressed seductively and with perfume applied, ready to be “taken” (polite euphamism) by whoever was the victor. It was kinda like a barbaric form of “groupies” today… but instead of following around pop-stars and athletes, they followed around the best warriors. I’ve been unable to find the exact reference, but I did in fact read it years ago…

  16. So you’re saying that the Quran clearly states that Muslims are allowed to rape slaves, but it’s ok because Muhammad was trying to ease them off of it slowly? Like cutting back on cigarettes?

    • What did you do, read like, the first 2 paragraphs and then hurriedly scroll down to type this ignorant comment? The entire article proves that Muslims were never allowed to “rape” slaves.

  17. Your response is much appreciated. May God guide us to truth.

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