Islamic Law On Heresy, Apostasy And Dhimmis In Relation To Spain

INTRODUCTION

It is a favorite tactic of dawah team to reference the Inquisition, especially the Spanish variant thereof, as a stick with which to assault Christianity. In fact, the Inquisition began as an attack on heresy – the Cathars in Provence, the Waldensians in north Italy, then the Lollards in England, and Hussites in Bohemia. There were particular political circumstances that led to the Inquisition in Spain addressing Jews and Muslims who were suspected of feigning conversion, and it should be noted that the Spanish Inquisition effectively eradicated Protestants, who posed no potential subversive threat to the Spanish Crown, but were simply persecuted for heresy.

The problem with the dawah teams criticism is that it is so hypocritical. Muslim Andalusia persecuted heretics and apostates, as well as imposing dhimmi status on non-Muslims. Neither can this be presented as an exceptional quirk of Iberian Muslims. Rather, it was based on Islamic Law – Shari’ah – itself founded on the Qur’an and Sunnah. In this paper, we will examine what Islamic Law says about heretics, apostates and dhimmis.

  1. Heretics and Apostates

Islamic law has problems with the court testimony of heretics:

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[The evidence of the sect of Hawa, and other heretics, admissible, but not that of the tribe of Khetabia.]

THE evidence of the sect of Hawa* (that is, such as are not Soonis) is admissible; excepting, however, the tribe of Khetabia, whose evidence is inadmissible, for reasons that will be hereafter explained. – Shafe’i maintains that the evidence of no tribe whatever of the sect of hawa is admissible, because the heterodox tenets they profess argue the highest degree of depravity. – Our doctors, on the other hand, argue that although their tenets be in reality wrong, yet their adherence to them implies probity, since they have been led to embrace them from an opinion of their being right; and there is, moreover, reason to think that they will abstain from falsehood, because it is prohibited in every religion. Hence the case is the same as if a person should eat of an animal which had not been slain according to the prescribed form of Zabbab, because of its being lawful amongst his sect. It is otherwise where the baseness proceeds from the actions, not from the belief. – With respect to the sect of Khetabia, it is to be observed that they are in a high degree heretics; and amongst them it is lawful to ear positive testimony to a circumstance on the grounds of another having sworn it to them. Some have said that it is an incumbent duty upon that sect to give evidence in favour of each other, whence their testimony is not free from suspicion.

* Anglice, the air; a derisive appellation given by the Soonis to the Shiyas.— Hawa, also, is used to express the sensual passions, whence the term Ail Hawa signifies sensualists, or Epictureans.

However, there were worse practices. The Catholic Inquisition punished – often by execution – false Catholics, whether Jews or Muslims who feigned conversion, but it also persecuted Protestants, who were heretics and had left the Catholic Church (i.e. they had apostatized). As for Islamic law, conversion from Islam – apostasy – is usually seen as a crime to be punished by the State:

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CHAP. IX Of the Laws concerning Apostates.

[An exposition of the faith is to be laid before an apostate]

When a Muslim apostatises from the faith, an exposition thereof is to be laid before him, in such a manner that if his apostasy should have arisen from any religious doubts or scruples, those may be removed. The reason for laying an exposition of the faith before him is that it is possible some doubts or errors may have arisen in his mind, which may be removed by such exposition; and as there are only two modes of repelling the sin of apostasy, namely, destruction or Islam, and Islam is preferable to destruction, the evil is rather to be removed by means of an exposition of the faith; – but yet this exposition of the faith is not incumbent*, (according to what the learned have remarked upon his head,) since a call to the faith has already reached the apostate.

* That is, it is lawful to kill an apostate without making any attempt to recover him from his apostasy.

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[A female apostate is imprisoned until she return to the faith.

If a Muslim woman become an apostate, she is not put to death, but is imprisoned, until she return to the faith.Shafe’i maintains that she is to be put to death; because of the tradition before cited; – and also, because, as men are put to death for apostasy solely for this reason, that it is a crime of great magnitude, and therefore requires that its punishment be proportionally serve, (namely, death,) so the apostasy of a woman being likewise (like that of man) a crime of great magnitude, it follows that her punishment should be the same as that of a man…  

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37.19 CRIMES AGAINST ISLAM

A freethinker (zindiq) must be put to death and his repentance is rejected. A freethinker is one who conceals his unbelief and pretends to follow Islam. A magician also is to be put to death, and his repentance also is to be rejected. A apostate is also killed unless he repents. He is allowed three days grace; if he fails to utilise the chance to repent, the execution takes place. This same also applies to women apostates.

If a person who is not an apostate admits that prayer is obligatory but will not perform it, then such a person is given an opportunity to recant by the time of the next prayer; if he does not utilise the opportunity to repent and resume worship, he is then executed. If a Muslim refuses to perform the pilgrimage, he should be left alone and God himself shall decide this case. If a Muslim should abandon the performance of prayer because he disputes its being obligatory, then such a person shall be treated as an apostate – he should be given three days within which to repent. If the three days lapse without his repenting, he is then executed.

Whoever abuses the Messenger of God – peace and blessing of God be upon him – is to be executed, and his repentance is not accepted…

The property of an apostate after his execution is to be shared by the Muslim community.

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40.18 TAKING A MUSLIM’S LIFE OR PROPERTY

God, Glorified be He, has prohibited the shedding of the blood of Muslims; so also has he prohibited assault on their property except for a lawful cause.

It is not lawful to shed the blood of a Muslim except when he commits apostasy, or when he commits adultery, or when he kills a person and this is not in retaliation, or when he becomes an outlaw, or when he renounces the faith.

Sahih Al-Bukhari 5.632 Narrated by Abu Burdah, The Prophet (peace be upon him) sent AbuMusa and Mu’adh to Yemen and said to both of them “Facilitate things for the people (be kind and lenient) and do not make things difficult (for them). Give them good tidings, and do not repulse them; and both of you should obey each other.” …

Once Mu’adh paid a visit to AbuMusa and saw a chained man. Mu’adh asked, “What is this?” AbuMusa said, “(He was) a Jew who embraced Islam and has now turned apostate.” Mu’adh said, “I will surely chop off his neck.!”

Sahih Al-Bukhari 9.17 Narrated by Abdullah, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Messenger, cannot be shed except in three cases: in Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who abandons Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”

Sahih Al-Bukhari 9.37 Narrated by AbuQilabah, Once Umar ibn AbdulAziz sat on his throne in the courtyard of his house so that the people might gather before him. Then he admitted them and (when they came in) he said, ‘What do you think of al-Qasamah?” They said, “We say that it is lawful to depend on al-Qasamah in Qisas, as the previous Muslim caliphs carried out Qisas depending on it.” Then he said to me, “O AbuQilabah! What do you say about it?”  

He let me appear before the people and I said…“By Allah, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations: a person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed (in Qisas); a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse; and a man who fought against Allah and His Messenger, deserted Islam and became an apostate.”  Then the people said, “Didn’t Anas ibn Malik narrate that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) cut off the hands of the thieves, branded their eyes and then threw them out into the sun?” 

I said, “I shall tell you the narration of Anas. Anas said: “Eight people from the tribe of Ukl came to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and took the pledge of allegiance to Islam (became Muslim). The climate of the place (Medina) did not suit them, so they became sick and complained about that to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). He said (to them), ‘Why don’t you go out with the herdsman of our camels and drink, the camels’ milk and urine (as medicine)?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ So they went out and drank the camels’ milk and urine. After they had recovered, they killed the herdsman of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and took away all the camels.  

This news reached Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) , so he sent (men) to follow their traces and they were captured and brought (to the Prophet (peace be upon him). He then ordered their hands and feet to be cut off, their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron, and then he threw them out into the sun until they died.” I said, “What can be worse than that which those people did? They deserted Islam, committed murder and theft.”… 

  • Dhimmis

A feature of life for non-Muslims in Al-Andalus is that they were reduced to dhimmi status, which allowed them to endure a second-class existence with severe restrictions on religious liberty in return for paying the Jizyah (Darío Fernández-Morera, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain [Wilmington: ISI Books, 2016], pp. 113-114): 

Even in 1100, centuries after the Muslim conquest of Spain, the Andalusian clerics’ obsessive preoccupation with the contaminating potential of the infidels was echoed in the regulations issued in Seville by the faqih Ibn Abdun:

A Muslim must not massage a Jew or a Christian nor throw away his refuse nor clean his latrines. The Jew and the Christian are better fitted for such trades, since they are the trades of those who are vile. A Muslim should not attend to the animal of a Jew or of a Christian, nor serve him as a muleteer [neither Catholics nor Jews could ride horses; only Muslims could], nor hold his stirrup. If any Muslim is known to do this, he should be denounced.… No … [unconverted] Jew or Christian must be allowed to dress in the costume of people of position, of a jurist, or of a worthy man… They must on the contrary be abhorred and shunned and should not be greeted with the formula, “Peace be with you,” for the devil has gained mastery over them and has made them forget the name of God. They are the devil’s party, “and indeed the devil’s party are the losers” (Qur’an 57:22). They must have a distinguishing sign by which they are recognized to their shame [emphasis added].

Non-Muslims in Al-Andalus were to be distinguished from Muslims and avoided if possible (pp. 111-112):

In Umayyad al-Andalus, the ninth-century Maliki cleric Ibn Habib warned against performing ablutions with whatever a Christian had touched or used. Safran cautiously observes that this warning could have “implied” that Muslims should also, for example, keep away from bathhouses used or owned by Christians. In fact, all Maliki manuals of jurisprudence contain many injunctions regarding the problems posed by water, garments, and food touched by Christians.

Maliki scholar Yahya ibn Umar al-Kinani (d. 901), who grew up in Umayyad Córdoba before traveling to pursue his divine studies in Egypt, Baghdad, and Hejaz, warned Muslims against Jews or Christians who in the marketplace might try to blend with Muslims by not wearing the distinguishing piece of cloth or belt that was required of both…

The Utbiyya confirms that Malik taught that Christians should not be allowed to build new churches, and that if the churches had been built, they should be destroyed. Muslims were forbidden to help even in the renovation of existing churches.

Other restirctions were ritually abusive (p. 115): “In Muslim-controlled cities, Christians were forbidden to celebrate their religion in public, even in their own neighborhoods (crosses could not be displayed even on the outside of church walls or on top, and bells could not be wrung)…” This was not mere theoretical jurisprudence. Kenneth Baxter Wolf, ‘Convivencia as Persecution in Ninth-Century Córdoba’ relates the experience of Eulogius (Mark T. Abate [Ed.] Convivencia and Medieval Spain: Essays in Honor of Thomas F. Glick, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, p. 145): “One challenge faced by Christian dhimmis living under Muslim rule was how to participate in a pluralistic society dominated by Islam without compromising their own religious identity… Thanks to the writings of the priest Eulogius, we are in an unusually good position to appreciate it in all its complexity.” This is addressed in detail (p. 151):

Eulogius’ response is one of the most revealing passages in the Memoriale sanctorum.

Clearly [the ones who say this] do not think of the destruction of churches, the taunts directed at priests, and the fact that we pay a monthly tribute with such hardship as constituting “troubles.” … Who among all the persecutors of the faithful has attacked the church as cruelly as this abominable one? Who has heaped up so much in subversion of Catholics as this ill-omened one? No one of us [clergy] may walk secure in their midst, no one may pass by in peace, no one may penetrate their enclosures without being dishonored.

Indeed whenever the need for any ordinary thing compels us to go forth in public, or some pressing domestic necessity forces us to head out into the forum from the recesses of our huts, the moment they notice the symbols of our sacred order, with a shout of derision they attack, as if madmen or fools. This is not to mention the daily mockery on the part of the children, for whom it is not enough to inflict verbal abuse and heap up shameful [examples] of scurrility; they do not cease from pelting us with rocks from behind. Why should I mention what they do as an insult to the venerable sign? For when the appropriate time for singling psalms compels us to give a signal to the faithful, and the hour demands that we make the accustomed indication of prayer to the people, the crowds of people, enticed as they are by lying superstition, try to detect the clang of reverberating metal and do not hesitate to exercise their tongues in every curse and obscenity. Therefore not unfairly are they cursed, who inform their followers with so much hate aimed at God’s portion. We are often—indeed incessantly— slandered by them and everywhere we endure their ferocity on account of religion. Many of them judge us unworthy to touch their garments and abhor our coming close to them. They deem it pollution if we mix in any of their affairs.

Here Eulogius identifies three particular “troubles” faced by dhimmi Christians—“the destruction of churches, the taunts directed at priests, and the fact that we pay a monthly tribute”—adding a fourth—curses directed at the sound of bells—in medias res. It turns out that each of these “troubles” can be traced to a legal restriction imposed on the Christians by virtue of their status as dhimmis, that is, as members of a “People of the Book” residing within the Dar al-Islam and subject to the terms of a capitulation agreement or dhimma.

How far did such restriction reflect Islamic law? Very closely, as we shall see (Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: Revised Edition [Beltsville: Amana publications, 1988] p. 602):

o9.R The caliph (025) makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians (N: provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya, def: 01 L4)-which is the significance of their paying it, not the money itself – while remaining in their ancestral religions) (0: and the war continues) until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax (0: in accordance with the word of Allah Most High,

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden-who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book-until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled” (Koran 9:29)

The second-class status of dhimmis becomes clear when we look at the provisions of the Dhimmi “contract”:

011.0 NON·MUSLIM SUBJECTS OF THE ISLAMIC STATE (AHL AL-DHIMMA)

011.1 A formal agreement of protection is made

with citizens who are:

(1) Jews;

(2) Christians;

(3) Zoroastrians;

(4) Samarians and Sabians, if their religions do not respectively contradict the fundamental bases of Judaism and Christianity;

(5) and those who adhere to the religion of Abraham or one of the other prophets (upon whom be blessings and peace)…

011.3 Such an agreement is only valid when the subject peoples:

(a) follow the rules of Islam (A: those mentioned below (011.5) and those involving public behavior and dress, though in acts of worship and their private lives, the subject communities have their own laws, judges, and courts, enforcing the rules of their own religion among themselves);

(b) and pay the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya).

011.4 The minimum non-Muslim poll tax is one dinar (n: 4.235 grams of gold) per person (A: per year). The maximum is whatever both sides agree upon. It is collected with leniency and politeness, as are all debts, and is not levied on women, children,

or the insane.

011.5 Such non-Muslim subjects are obliged to comply with Islamic rules that pertain to the safety and indemnity of life, reputation, and property. In addition, they:

(1) are penalized for committing adultery or theft, though not for drunkenness;

(2) are distinguished from Muslims in dress, wearing a wide cloth belt (zunna:r);

(3) are not greeted with “as-Salamu ‘alaykum” 

(4) must keep to the side of the street;

(5) may not build higher than or as high as the Muslims’ buildings, though if they acquire a tall house, it is not razed;

(6) are forbidden to openly display wine or pork, (A: to ring church bells or display crosses,) recite the Torah or Evangel aloud, or make public display of their funerals and feastdays;

(7) and are forbidden to build new churches.

We have seen that this was the case in Al-Andalus – the essential features of religious discrimination as outlined here were normative in Islamic Iberia. The Dhimmis were under Muslim authority, and never the reverse:

4018 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual) [The protection granted by a Zimmee.]

If a Zimmee grant protection to an alien infidel, his protection is not valid, because the acts of a Zimmee are liable to suspicion, with respect to granting protection, on account of his infidelity; besides, a Zimmee has no authority with respect to Muslims.

We noted that Islamic law requires non-Muslims to walk separately from Muslims on the road, and also in relation to transport and this religious Apartheid was true of Al-Andalusia:

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[Their wives must not associate with the wives of Muslims.]

It is requisite that the wives of Zimmees be kept separate from the wives of Muslims, both in the public roads, and also in the baths: and it is also requisite that a mark be set upon their dwellings, in order that beggars who come to their doors may not pray for them.  The learned have also remarked that it is fit that Zimmees be not permitted to ride at all, except in cases of absolute necessity; and if a Zimmee be thus, of necessity, allowed to ride, he must alight wherever he sees any Muslims assembled; and if there be a necessity for him to use a saddle, it must be made in the manner of the panniers of an ass. Zimmees of the higher orders must also be prohibited from wearing rich garments.

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[and, if they refuse the faith, to pay tribute.

If they do not accept the call to the faith, they must then be called upon to pay Jizyat, or capitation-tax*; because the prophet directed the commander of this armies so to do; and also, because by submitting to this tax, war is forbidden and terminated, upon the authority of the Koran. (This call to pay capitation tax, however, respects only those from whom the capitation-tax is acceptable; for as to apostates and the idolaters of Arabia, to call upon them to pay the tax is useless, since nothing is accepted from them but embracing the faith, as it is thus commanded in the Koran.) – If those who are called upon to pay capitation-tax consent to do so, they then become entitled to the same protection, and subject to the same rules as Muslims, because Alle has declared “Infidels agree to a capitation-tax only in order to render their blood the same as Muslim blood, and their property the same as Muslim property.”

*    Tribute from the person, in the same manner as Khiraj is tribute from lands.

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[when he becomes liable to the same penalties with an apostate.

A Zimmee, upon breaking his contract of subjection, stands in the same predicament with an apostate, – that is, he is condemned to death upon absconding to the territory of the infidels, in the same manner as holds in the rule with respect to apostates. The rule also with respect to such property as he may carry off along with him into the said territory, is the same as with respect to the property of an apostate; – that is, if the Muslims afterwards conquer that territory, the property aforesaid is forfeited to the state, in the same manner as the property of an apostate: – but if the Zimmee be made captive, he is a slave : contrary to the case of an apostate, who, if he repent not, is put to death.

It follows that if a Spanish Catholic had left Al-Andalus to the Catholic Kingdom of Asturias in north-eastern Spain, or to Francia (the kingdom of the Franks) to escape his dhimmi status (e.g. paying the Jizya), he was to be killed. 

7512 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) 37.19 CRIMES AGAINST ISLAM

…If any dhimmi (by ‘dhimmi’ is meant a non-Muslim subject living in a Muslim country) curses the Prophet – peace be upon him – or abuses him by saying something other than what already makes him an unbeliever, or abuses God Most High by saying something other than what already makes him an unbeliever, he is to be executed unless at that juncture he accepts Islam.

Part of the dhimmi status was that non-Muslims had to pay Jizyah as a sort of “protection money”, and this was practice in Al-Andalus: 

7351 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) 25.10 LEVIES ON NON-MUSLIMS

Jizyah tribute is taken from non-Muslim citizens in an Islamic state, who are freeborn male adults. It is not taken from their women, children and slaves. Similarly, jizyah tribute is taken from Magians, that is Zoroastrians, as well as Christian Arabs.

The amount of jizyah taken from people whose currency is gold is four pieces of gold from each man. And for the people whose currency is silver, forty dirhams. The poor from amongst them are allowed some concession.

Customs duties are taken from their merchants who conduct international commerce. The rate is a tenth of the value of their wares. This is taken from them each time they come, even if they enter the Muslim state many times in a year.

If they carried foodstuffs specially to Mecca and Medina only, one half of one tenth of the value of that is taken from them.

Customs duties taken from the citizens of those nations which are at war with the Muslims states shall be one tenth of the value of their wares except where they agreed to pay more.

In the case of a Rikaz treasure buried by the pre-Islamic people, the finder shall pay a fifth of it to the state.

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[In a case of arrear for two years, one year’s tax only is levied.

… capitation-tax is a sort of punishment inflicted upon infidels for their obstinacy in infidelity, (as was before stated;) whence it is that it cannot be accepted of the infidel if he send it by the hands of a messenger, but must be exacted in a mortifying and humiliating manner, by the collector sitting and receiving it from him in a standing posture: (according to one tradition, the collector is to seize him by the throat, and shake him, saying, “Pay your tax, Zimee!”)… SECONDLY, capitation-tax is a substitute for destruction in respect to the infidels…  

7389 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) CHAPTER 30: A Chapter on Jihad or Holy War

30.01 HOW AND WHEN OBLIGATORY

Jihad is a duty upon Muslims from which, however, a section of the community can relieve other sections. What is preferable in the Maliki view is that the enemy should not be fought until they are called upon to accept the religion of God, that is, the Islamic faith. But this caution can be ignored when the enemy attacks first.

The choice given by the Muslims to the enemy is for the enemy to either accept the Islamic faith or undertake to pay the periodic tribute known as jizyah. If they decline to accept either of these, they are then fought.

Jizyah tribute can only be accepted from them if they are located in a place where the Muslim government can have authority over them. But if they are very far away, jizyah tribute shall not be accepted from them until they migrate into the Muslim territory, and if they refuse to do that they are to be fought.

Flight from the enemy in battle is one of the mortal sins in Islam when the enemy are twice the number of Muslims or less. But if they are more than twice the number of Muslims, there shall be no harm in that.

A Muslim is under an obligation to fight the enemy, under the command of the Muslim ruler, whether such a ruler is a devout Muslim or a sinner.

There is no harm in killing the infidels taken captive. But nobody shall be killed after they have been given an assurance of their safety. Nor must there be a violation of a covenant once entered into with them. Women and children are not to be killed. Muslims must avoid the killing of monks and learned men except where these fight them. Similarly, if a woman fights she can be killed.

It is lawful for a Muslim of humble status to conclude a peace treaty on behalf of the rest of the Muslims. Similarly a woman and a child have permission to do that, but in the case of the child, he has to be able to appreciate the implications of the peace he concludes on behalf of fellow Muslims. However, according to another view, such a peace treaty, that is, one by a Muslim of humble status, a woman and a child, is subject to the ratification of the Muslim ruler.

Sahih Muslim 4294 Narrated by Burayd, When the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment… He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the cause of Allah. Fight against those who do not believe in Allah. Wage a holy war…  

When you meet enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and restrain yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them… If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizyah. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold your hand. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.  

Sahih Al-Bukhari 4.404A Narrated by AbuHurayrah, Sa’id narrated that AbuHurayrah once said (to the people), “What will your state be when you can get no Dinar or Dirham (i.e. taxes from the Dhimmis)?” On that someone asked him, “What makes you know that this state will take place, O AbuHurayrah?” He said, “By Him in Whose Hands AbuHurayrah’s life is, I know it through the statement of the true and truly inspired one (i.e. the Prophet (peace be upon him).” The people asked, “What does the statement say?” He replied, “Allah and His Messenger asylum (granted to Dhimmis, i.e. Non-Muslims living in a Muslim territory) will be outraged, and so Allah will make the hearts of these Dhimmis so daring that they will refuse to pay the Jizyah they will be supposed to pay.”

CONCLUSION

It is true that the Catholic Inquisition in Spain persecuted non-Catholics – Jews, Muslims and Protestants, to the extent of executing false Catholics and those who had apostatized to Protestantism. However, dawah team are in no position to criticize the Spanish Inquisition, both from a historical perspective, given the treatment of non-Muslims in Al-Andalus, but even more importantly, from a theological standpoint, when we consider the attitude of Islamic law to heretics, blasphemers, apostates and dhimmis. Dhimmis were always under threat of execution unless the paid the humiliating Jizyah, and were always humiliated and the victims of discrimination. The complaints of dawah team about the Catholic Spanish Inquisition ring hollow; people in glass houses should not throw stones.

The Destruction Of The Amalekites – Part 2/6

The Identity And Culture Of Amalek

As to origins, Genesis 36 displays the Amalekites as descendants of Esau:

2 Esau took his wives from the Canaanites: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite… 10 These are the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau…11 The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz.12 (Timna was a concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s son; she bore Amalek to Eliphaz.) These are the sons of Adah, Esau’s wife.

So the Amalekites were descendants of Eliphaz, son of Esau through his Canaanite-Hittite wife Adah, through not the wife of Eliphaz, but rather his concubine Timna. Possibly for the latter reason, the Amalekites were not counted as among the Edomites.

Outside the Bible, there seems to be no record of the Amalekites. This has led some to be sceptical of their very existence, but the absence of extra-Biblical historical account can be explained by three related points: Amalek’s lack of any cultural impact, their lack of any historical impact, and their relatively small size in contrast to peoples such as the Egyptians.

Before examining these points, we shall look at their origins. The first Biblical reference to the Amalekites is in Genesis 14:7, referring to the alliance of northern kings who attacked the southern Levant: ‘Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh) and defeated all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who were dwelling in Hazazon-tamar.’ This is probably a deliberate anachronism by Moses, referring to territory that in his time was occupied by the Amalekites, e.g., if one were to refer to a Roman visiting Carthage in Tunisia, although Tunisia as a name and political entity did not exist in Roman times.

In Numbers 13:29, we read: ‘The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb.’ This indicates that they lived outside the Land of Promise, so had nothing to fear from the Israelite conquest, and that they were a desert people, probably living by oases. In 14:25 we read ‘…the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valleys…’, and Judges 12:15 refers to ‘the hill country of the Amalekites.’ In Judges 6:33 we read: ‘Now all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East came together, and they crossed the Jordan and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel…’ This puts them in Transjordan. The likelihood, therefore, is that they were a nomadic or semi-nomadic people, which the OT as a whole would seem to suggest, and that they were more a tribal confederacy than a nation, with encampments rather than normal cities. 

The latter would partly explain their lack of cultural and historical impact. Let us compare and contrast them with the Canaanites. It should be noted that the people normally known as ‘Phoenicians’ never called themselves by that name. Rather, they referred to themselves as ‘Canaanites’ (Garbini, Giovanni, ‘The Question of the Alpahbet’, in Moscati, Sabatino (ed.), The Phoenicians, London: I. B. Tauris, 2001, p. 107). There was no cultural or conceptual distinction between the people of Tyre and Sidon and those to the south of them.

The Phoenicians explored and traded as far as Britain (for Cornish tin), and established colonies across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, as far as what is now Morocco. Carthage was a Phoenician colony (founded 814 BC), and they conquered Sicily and Sardinia, as well as parts of Spain – the city of Cartagena was originally New Carthage. Cadiz was originally a Phoenician colony (founded 1104 BC).

The Phoenician alphabet influenced others, including even the Romans. We know from 1 Kings 5 and 6 how Phoenician builders from King Hiram of Tyre helped to build the Temple of Solomon. Previously, Tyrian builders constructed David’s house – 2 Samuel 5:11.

At the Canaanite city of Ugarit in northern Syria, discovered in 1929, extensive elements of the people’s culture and religion were discovered. One text discovered at Ugarit, concerning ‘Keret’, refers to ‘a [sacri]ficial lamb [in] your right hand’ as well as a young goat and ‘a bird for sacrifice’ (Bernhardt, Karl-Heinz, ‘Ugaritic Texts: Keret’, in Beyerlin, Walter (ed.), Near Eastern Religious Texts Relating to the Old Testament, London: SCM, 1975, 1978, p. 224). This demonstrates that the Canaanites had a literary heritage. Hence, the Canaanites, especially the Phoenicians, had a major historical and cultural impact, even outside their homeland.

By contrast, we read nothing of the Amalekites being great builders, agriculturalists, horticulturalists or traders. All we read of them is that they were robbers, raiders and enslavers. Their whole economy was built on the principle of raiding to satisfy their needs.

Since they were economically parasitic, this would explain their lack of coinage or constructions, whether buildings or goods. Again, it would follow that this would mean that they did not engage in normal trade, especially with their neighbours. As an inland, largely desert people, they obviously were not sailors, which would undermine their contact with other peoples. Their relatively small size would have limited their impact, in the absence of extensive trading relations. This being the case, it is hardly surprising they the Amalekites left no cultural or historical footprint. 

We know nothing about their language, but given their proximity to the Canaanites, it was probably the same or a related dialect. Similarly, we know nothing about their religion – a point to which we will return. This is somewhat surprising, since the OT usually does say something about the religion of the surrounding nations, albeit in a hostile and denunciatory fashion, e.g., 1 Kings 11: ‘For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites…Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abominationof Moab, and for Molech the abominationof the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.’Again, the lack of reference to them in the annals of surrounding nations testifies to their lack of cultural impact. They would only be known as plunderers.

Part 3 of 6 will discuss The Malicious And Incorrigible Nature Of The Amalekites

The Destruction Of The Amalekites – Part 1/6

Introduction

It is a frequent practice of dawah team, especially when Christians mention the Muslim massacre of non-Muslims such as at Banu Qurayzah, or orders allowing the killing of civilians as recorded in the Hadith and Seerah, to refer to God’s order to extirpate the Amalekites. The Muslim texts to which Christians often refer include these:

Sahih Al-Bukhari 5.448 Narrated by Aisha; …When the Prophet returned from the (battle) of Al-Khandaq [Trench] and laid down his arms and took a bath Gabriel came to him while he [Gabriel] was shaking the dust off his head, and said, “You have laid down the arms?” By Allah, I have not laid them down. Go out to them (to attack them).” The Prophet said, “Where?” Gabriel pointed towards Bani Quraiza. So Allah’s Apostle went to them (i.e., Banu Quraiza) (i.e., besieged them). They then surrendered to the Prophet’s judgment but he directed them to Sad to give his verdict concerning them. Sad said, “I give my judgment that their warriors should be killed, their women and children should be taken as captives, and their properties distributed.”….

Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.256 Narrated by As Sab bin Jaththama: The Prophet passed by me at a place called Al-Abwa or Waddan, and was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, ‘They (women and children) are from them (pagans).’

Al-Misri, The Reliance of the Traveller, Book O: Justice, Chapter O-9.0: Jihad; O-9.10: ‘The Rules of Warfare’, p. 603. It is not permissible (A: in jihad) to kill women or children unless they are fighting against the Muslims. Nor is it permissible to kill animals, unless they are being ridden into battle against the Muslims, or if killing them will help defeat the enemy. It is permissible to kill old men (O: old man, shaykh, meaning someone more than forty years of age) and monks.

7389 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) CHAPTER 30: A Chapter on Jihad or Holy War … Women and children are not to be killed. Muslims must avoid the killing of monks and learned men except where these fight them. Similarly, if a woman fights she can be killed

What particularly excites dawah team is 1 Samuel 15: 1-3: And Samuel said to Saul, “YHWH sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of YHWH.Thus says YHWH of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt.Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

The accusation of dawah team is that this is a command to commit genocide, and they particularly emphasise the order to kill even minors. Obviously, to understand this command, we need to examine the context, and to comprehend why the command was given in the first place. This is vital, because dawah team always ignore what precedes the order – the historical recollection of Amalek’s aggression against the Israelites immediately after the Exodus.

That is, the command is responsive, and should be compared to America dropping the atomic bomb on Japan in 1945 to end the war and spare the lives of tens of thousands of Allied servicemen (American, British, Australian, New Zealand and other Allies), and as a responsive act to Japanese aggression at Pearl Harbor in 1941, and especially, in light of Japanese massacres in China in 1937 such as the Rape of Nanking, the invasion of Indo-China, Malaya, Burma and other British-ruled territories, the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, and attacks on India and Australia, as well as the well-founded reports of the torture of Allied POWs and violations of the Geneva Convention. In short: no Pearl Harbor, no atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Similarly, no Amalekite aggression, no divine punishment.

Part 2 of 6 will discuss the identity and culture of Amalek.

The Bible and Islam on ‘Slave Women’ p3/3

part 3/3

We continue where we left off in Part 2.

3.Islamic teaching on sex-slaves/captives

Muhammad arrived in Yathrib (Medina) in 622 at the invitation of the two main tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj, who had previously been enemies. His role was to reconcile them and provide a constitutional reference for the city. Two Jewish tribes, the Banu Nadir and Banu Qurayzah were confederate with the Aws, whilst the Banu Qaynuqah were confederate the Khazraj.[1]In regard to the actual destruction of the Qurayzah, Watt provides us with this information:

After the unconditional surrender of Qurayzah, Muhammad b. Maslamah was in charge of the men and ‘Abdallah b. Sallam of the women and children… Muhammad …appointed as judge Sa’d b. Mu’adh, the leading man of the Aws, who had been gravely wounded during the siege and died soon after his sentence on Qurayzah. When he was brought to where Muhammad was, all the Aws and the others present swore to abide by his decision. He decreed that all the men of Qurayzah should be put to death and the women and children sold as slaves. This sentence was duly carried out, apparently on the following day[2]

Watt gives a figure of six hundred Qurayzah slaughtered (although others put the figure as high as nine hundred).[3]It is in the Hadith that we meet the most extensive treatment:

Narrated by Aisha

Sahih Al-Bukhari 5.448

…When the Prophet returned from the (battle) of Al-Khandaq (i.e. Trench) and laid down his arms and took a bath Gabriel came to him while he (i.e. Gabriel) was shaking the dust off his head, and said, “You have laid down the arms?” By Allah, I have not laid them down. Go out to them (to attack them).” The Prophet said, “Where?” Gabriel pointed towards Bani Quraiza. So Allah’s Apostle went to them (i.e. Banu Quraiza) (i.e. besieged them). They then surrendered to the Prophet’s judgment but he directed them to Sad to give his verdict concerning them. Sad said, “I give my judgment that their warriors should be killed, their women and children should be taken as captives, and their properties distributed.”….

Whether the actual event is mentioned in fiqh, the treatment handed out to the Qurayzah has continued. For example in Shafi fiqh, non-Muslim subjects of the Islamic state face severe sanctions if break their covenant with the regime:

o11.9 If non-Muslim subjects of the Islamic state refuse to conform to the rules of Islam, or to pay the non-Muslim poll tax, then their agreement with the state has been violated (dis: o11.11) (A: though if only one of them disobeys, it concerns him alone).

o11.10 The agreement is also violated (A: with respect to the offender alone) if the state has stipulated that any of the following things break it, and one of the subjects does so anyway, though if the state has not stipulated that these break the agreement, then they do not; namely, if one of the subject people:

(1) commits adultery with a Muslim woman or marries her;

(2) conceals spies of hostile forces;

(3) leads a Muslim away from Islam;

(4) kills a Muslim;

(5) or mentions something impermissible about Allah, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), or Islam.

o11.11 When a subject’s agreement with the state has been violated, the caliph chooses between the four alternatives mentioned above in connection with prisoners of war (o9.14).[4]

Obviously, the accusation against the Banu Qurayzah is that by their treachery, they were seeking to overthrow the Islamic State, and thus they refused ‘to conform to the rules of Islam’. As for ‘the four alternatives mentioned above in connection with prisoners of war’, these involve the following:

o9.14 When an adult male is taken captive, the caliph (def: o25) considers the interests (O: of Islam and the Muslims) and decides between the prisoner’s death, slavery, release without paying anything, or ransoming himself in exchange for money or for a Muslim captive held by the enemy. If the prisoner becomes a Muslim (O: before the caliph chooses any of the four alternatives) then he may not be killed, and one of the other three alternatives is chosen.[5]

Often in the history of jihad, prisoners of war have been enslaved, sometimes ransomed (both options were employed by the Barbary Corsairs of North Africa), but an option to slay them remained. This is what happened to the Qurayzah male adults. The option for women and children is clear: ‘o9.13 When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s previous marriage is immediately annulled.’[6]Similar opinions are found in the Hanafi madhab:

4026 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[Captives may either he stain, or enslaved, or admitted to become Zimmee]

The Imam, with respect to captives, has it in his choice to flay them, because the prophet put captives to death, – and also, because fslaying them terminates wickedness: – or, if he chose, he may make them slaves, because by enslaving them the evil of them is remedied, at the same time that the Muslims reap an advantage: – or, if he please, he may release them so as to make them freemen and Zimmees, according to what is recorded of Omar: – but it is not lawful so to release the idolaters of Arabia, or apostates, for reasons which shall be hereafter explained.

The implication of this ruling is that it is permissible either to slay or enslave captives. Note the basis of this: the Sunnahof the Prophet – ‘the prophet put captives to death’. Whilst the Qur’an limits the number of wives a man may marry, this does not prevent him enjoying the pleasure of sex-slaves, which in effect was what those women whom ‘your right hand possesses’ were:

Surah Al-Ahzab 33:52

It is not allowed thee to take (other) women henceforth, nor that thou shouldst change them for other wives even though their beauty pleased thee, save those whom thy right hand possesseth.

Islamic law is quite open about the different functions of the male and female slaves. With the former, their role was labour, but with the latter, the primary function was sexual gratification:

4427 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[Defects which operate in the sale of female slaves, but not of males].

A bad smell, from the breath or armpits, is a defect in regard to female slaves, because in many instances the object is to sleep with them(emphasis ours);and the existence of such defects in a bar to the accomplishment of that object. – These, however, are not defects with regard to male slaves; because the object, in purchasing them, is merely to use their services; and to this these defects are not obstacles, since it is possible for a slave to serve his master without the necessary of the master’s fitting down with him, so as to receive annoyance from these defects. – If, however, they proceed from disease, they are considered as defects with regard to male slaves also.

Whoredom and bastardy are defects with regard to a female slave, but not with regard to a male; because the object, in the purchaser of a female slave, is cohabitation and the generation of children, which must be affected by either of the above circumstances; whereas, the object in the purchase of a male slave is the use of his services, the value of which is not depreciated by his committing whoredom. – If, however, a male slave be much addicted to whoredom, our lawyers are of opinion that it is a defect, because in the pursuit of women he neglects the service of his master.

The married condition of the women captives was ignored, it was it considered annulled by virtue of the command of God. This has been emphasised in Islamic law:

AbuSa’id al-KhudriSAHIH MUSLIM3432At the Battle of Hunayn Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) sent an army to Awtas and encountered the enemy and fought with them. Having overcome them and taken them captives, the Companions of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) seemed to refrain from having intercourse with captive women because of their husbands being polytheists. Then Allah, Most High, sent down regarding that: ‘And women already married, except those whom your right hand possess (iv.24)’ (i.e. they were lawful for them when their Iddah period came to an end). 6904 AL-MUWATTA of Imam Malik29.34.95AbuSa’id al-KhudriWe went out with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, on the expedition to the Banu al-Mustaliq. We took some Arabs prisoner, and we desired the women as celibacy was hard for us. We wanted the ransom, so we wanted to practise coitus interruptus.  We said, ‘Shall we practise coitus interruptus while the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, is among us before we ask him?  We asked him about that and he said, ‘You don’t have to not do it. There is no self which is to come into existence up to the Day of rising but that it will come into existence.’ Surah An-Nisa 4:24And all married women (are forbidden unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess. It is a decree of Allah for you. Reliance of the Travellero9.13 When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s previous marriage is immediately annulled. 7405 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual)32.06 INTERCOURSE WITH NON-MUSLIM WOMENGod – Glorified be He – has prohibited sexual intercourse with unbelieving women who do not happen to belong to People of the Book, that is, Christians and Jews, whether this is to take place on account of ownership or marriage. But Muslims can have relations with women belonging to People of the Book through ownership (that is, as concubines). It is also lawful to have relations through marriage with their freeborn women. But relations with their slave women through marriage is forbidden both to a freeborn Muslim and a Muslim slave.  

Note also the difference between the Biblical model of effectively emancipating a captive woman by marriage and the Islamic practice, whereby aslave wife is inferior to a free wife; the husband has a lesser obligation to the former than he does to the latter:

3346 AL-HEDAYA Vol. I (Hanafi Manual)

[Partition, where the wives are of different rank or degree, must be adjusted accordingly]

If a man be married to two wives, one of them a free woman, and the other a slave, he must divide his time into three portions, cohabiting two portions with the former and one with the latter, because the same is recorded of Ali; and also, because, as it is lawful to marry a free woman upon a slave, but not a slave upon a free woman*, it hence appears that the rights of the former in marriage are short of those of the latter. – And a Mokatiba, Modabbira, or Um-Walid, are, with respect to their right of partition, the same as slaves.

*  By marrying one woman upon another is to be understood a man marrying a woman when he is already possessed of a wife; the expression is merely idiomatical.

CONCLUSION

There is a vast difference between the Biblical treatment of captive women and that of Islam. In the latter, they can become sex-slaves, concubines for the gratification of their masters. In the former, they must be honourably married and treated with respect. Essentially, they join the People of YHWH. The two models are diametrically opposed, rather than being equivalent.


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[1]Guillaume, Alfred, Islam, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, Second Edition 1956, 1978 printing), p. 38.

[2]Watt, W. Montgomery, Muhammad at Medina, (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1956, 1988), p. 214.

[3]Ibid., p. 216.

[4]al-Misri, Ahmad, Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, (Delhi: Aamna Publishers, 1991, 1994, ed. Nuh Ha Mim Keller), p. 609.

[5]Ibid., p. 604.

[6]Ibid.

The Bible and Islam on ‘Slave Women’ p2/3

Part 2/3

We continue where we left off in Part 1.

2. Marriage to prisoners of war

There was a difference between the wars of Biblical Israel against the Canaanites of Palestine and the peoples elsewhere – Deuteronomy 20:

10 “When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it.11 And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labour for you and shall serve you.12 But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.13 And when YHWH your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword,14 but the women and the little ones, the livestock, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourselves. And you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which YHWH your God has given you.15 Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations here.16 But in the cities of these peoples that YHWH your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes,17 but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as YHWH your God has commanded,18 that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against YHWH your God.

It does not say about the recalcitrant cities that were far off that the women could be raped, any more than could be the children. The implication is that after the execution of the combatants (adult males), the women and children would do forced labour, as in v11. Note that women and children perform the same duties, and these are laid out – labour, not sex! The reference to captive women in the subsequent chapter must be seen in this context (Deuteronomy 21.10ff):

10 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and YHWH your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you desire to take her to be your wife, 12 and you bring her home to your house, she shall shave her head and pare her nails. 13 And she shall take off the clothes in which she was captured and shall remain in your house and lament her father and her mother a full month. After that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 But if you no longer delight in her, you shall let her go where she wants. But you shall not sell her for money, nor shall you treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her.

Observe the reaction of the Israelite man: ‘According to Deut. 21.11, though the soldier has apparently only seen the woman among the captives, he ‘loves’ her, קשח. This term is used elsewhere in Deuteronomy of YHWH’s love for Israel (7.7; 10.15)…’[1]Notice what then text doesnotsay: it does not say that a beautiful woman can be enslaved as a concubine, i.e. a sex slave. Rather, it indicates that a woman – who is now without adult male support, having no father, elder brothers, etc. (and if she is a widow, no husband) – can be married to a Hebrew man. Note that she has to be treated with respect – she is given time to mourn her family, and thereafter she cannot be sold or treated as a slave, but rather, honourably, as a wife. Neither does it refer to a man taking multiple captive women as wives. Essentially, the captive woman is thereby emancipated (freed) from captivity and forced labour to enjoy the honoured status of a free Israelite woman – a wife.

The other relevant text is Numbers 31, which begins with the command of YHWH to slay the Midianites involved in the Baal-Peor incident:

YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,“Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.”So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute YHWH’s vengeance on Midian…They warred against Midian, as YHWH commanded Moses, and killed every male.They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. And they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.And the people of Israel took captive the women of Midian and their little ones, and they took as plunder all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods.10 All their cities in the places where they lived, and all their encampments, they burned with fire,11 and took all the spoil and all the plunder, both of man and of beast.12 Then they brought the captives and the plunder and the spoil to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the people of Israel, at the camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.

Note the plurality of kings mentioned, and the destruction of the Midianite cities, which bears some resemblance to what happened later in Canaan. However, observe Moses’ reaction to the fact that the Israelite commanders handled the offending Midianites the way a later ‘far off’ people were to be treated:

14 And Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war.15 Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live?16 Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against YHWH in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of YHWH.17 Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him.18 But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.

(“And all the youngsters among the women, who have not known lying (with a) male [cf. v. 17], you shall cause to live for yourselves.” (Literal translation) )

We must remember that Israel was commanded to slay the Canaanites because of their evil ways, which included sexual perversion/immorality, and not to intermarry with them, since they would draw Israel away from YHWH. This is what happened at Shittim, where, apparently on the advice of the prophet Balaam, whom king Balak hired to curse Israel, the women seduced the Israelite men sexually and religiously to engage in pagan worship. This suggests that the action of the women was planned and contrived as a kind of ‘honey-trap’ manoeuvre similar to that employed by modern espionage services – in this case, to get the Israelites to betray YHWH. That action made the women combatants, who had therefore to be executed.

An exception is made for virgins – v18, since obviously they were of a better character than the women who prostituted themselves, and were also innocent of the ‘honey-trap’ seduction of the Israelite men. Such virgins could be honourably married. There is nothing to suggest that they could be made concubines/sex slaves. The same conditions as held for the women in Deuteronomy 21.10ff prevailed in this instance as well. Remember, the Decalogue forbade illicit sexual activity – i.e. extra-marital sex, so no woman of any background could be raped. So, Biblical teaching on beautiful female captives is that they must be married and essentially converted to the faith of YHWH. They were not objects of sexual molestation. 

This was a radical departure from conditions that prevailed in the region:

The female slave, like her brother, the male slave, was treated as a commodity. She was leased for work, given as a pledge, handed over as a part of a dowry, or presented as a gift to the temple. In addition to her routine duties as a maid servant, she was subject also to burdens peculiar to her sex. Ownership of a female slave meant not only the right to employ her physical strength, but also, and in many cases primarily, the exploitation of her charms by the male members of her master’s household and the utilization of her body for the breeding of slave children. The highest position a female slave could achieve was to become a child-bearing concubine to her master, and the lowest, to be used as a professional prostitute.

According to the Hammurabi Code a slave-concubine and her children were to be set free after the death of the owner. Children born of a union between a female slave and her master, however, did not share in the inheritance of their father, unless they had been adopted by him during his lifetime.[2]

Such a slave could be molested even by other slaves under her master’s direction: ‘Within the household the female slave, in addition to her regular duties as a maid, was also used as a means to increase the number of slaves, and was therefore promiscuously mated with the male slaves.’[3]Hence, even under the famous Code of Hammurabi, a female slave could be sexually molested. Apart, from being bought at sale, slaves were often the result of war booty, so the Biblical record stands apart. 

We will continue with our discussion in part 3.


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[1]Reeder, Caryn A., ‘Deuteronomy 21.10-14 and/as Wartime Rape’, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament41(3), March 16, 2017, p. 320.

[2]Mendelsohn, Isaac, Slavery in the Ancient Near East, (West Port: Greenwood Press, 1978), p. 50.

[3]Ibid., P. 52.

The Bible and Islam on ‘Slave Women’ p1/3

Part 1/3

INTRODUCTION

  1. The Biblical accusation against Canaanite religion and ban on inter-marriage

The overarching Biblical accusation against the Canaanites is that they were guilty of ‘abominations’. Amongst those abominations was that of human sacrifice – specifically child sacrifice, Deuteronomy 12:.32: ‘…for every abominable act which YHWH hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.’ Again, in chapter 18:9ff, we read of the practices of the Canaanites in relation to infant sacrifice:

When you enter the land which YHWH your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. 10.There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11.or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12.For whoever does these things is detestable to YHWH; and because of these detestable things YHWH your God will drive them out before you. 

It is clear from these texts that the Canaanite religion was occultic in nature, and involved child sacrifice. From what is stated in Leviticus 18.21ff, it is appears that alongside child sacrifice, the Canaanites also practised homosexuality and bestiality:

You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am YHWH. 22.You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. 23.Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion. 24.Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. 25.For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. 

It also appears that that the Canaanites practised temple prostitution (of both sexes), Deuteronomy 23.17-18, cf. Genesis 38:21, 1 Kings 14.24: ‘There were also male cultprostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which YHWH dispossessed before the sons of Israel.’ There is a further implication in Leviticus 18 that the Canaanites practised incest, with the possible implication of paedophilia:

6.None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness… 7. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, that is, the nakedness of your mother. She is your mother; you are not to uncover her nakedness… 9.The nakedness of your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether born at home or born outside, their nakedness you shall not uncover. 10.The nakedness of your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter, their nakedness you shall not uncover; for their nakedness is yours.

The very fact that the Israelites are commanded not to have sexual relations with their grandchildren may point to a ban on paedophile activity. What is significant is that v3 begins the passage with this injunction: ‘nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes.’ Furthermore, v24, warns that the Canaanites practised these abominations: ‘Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled.’ Essentially, Leviticus 18 bans Israelites from performing sexual activities common to the Canaanites – and these included adultery, incest and probably child molestation. After all, if the Canaanites thought it right to sacrifice children, they probably would not have balked at sexually abusing them.

Thus, according to the Bible, Canaanite religion was devoid of ethical content. Harrison describes it as a ‘crude and debased form of ritual polytheism. It was associated with sensuous fertility-cult worship of a particularly lewd and orgiastic kind…’[1]This, as we have seen, involved the use of sacred prostitutes.[2]Wenham quotes G. E. Wright on this issue: ‘The amazing thing about the gods … in Canaan, is that they had no moral character whatsoever… Worship of these gods carried with it some of the most demoralizing practices then in existence. Among them were child sacrifice…’[3]

Such was the depravity of Canaanite religion, they were to be destroyed and no inter-marriage with them was permissible (save for people like Rahab who had already gone over to the side of YHWH): 

When YHWH your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you,and when YHWH your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons,for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of YHWH would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.

Given that Rahab and her family were taken into Israel, it is clear that the ban on inter-marriage was not ethnic, but religious. Canaanite religion and culture was not simply polytheist – it was sexually abusive, not least to children, and also abusive in that it practised child-sacrifice. Remember that it was no new cult but centuries old – an entire civilisation was committed to its values. It was irreformable, as were its people. Even its children were infected with its values – they were like ‘the Cubs of the Caliphate’ under the Islamic State group (IS) who actually participated in executions and boasted of their murderous intent. Again, unlike IS, the Canaanite culture and religion was centuries old, and the children thereof would have been infected with their religious, sexual and murderous depravity, and been a continual threat to both the spiritual and physical well-being of Israelite children.

To some extent, albeit perhaps not so great, such depravity also affected certain peoples neighbouring Palestine, e.g. 2 Kings 3: ‘26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him 700 swordsmen to break through, opposite the king of Edom, but they could not.27 Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.’ From the Moabite Stone of King Mesha, which is dated c. 840 B.C., we know that their vernacular was very similar to the Canaanite language. It confirms that their god (or chief god) was Chemosh. Judges 11.23-24 indicates that Chemosh was also a god of Ammon. In 1 Kings 11.7 we read: ‘Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites…’ The same terminology ‘abomination’ is used for these two gods as for the religion and practises of the Canaanites, indicating the nature of their religion. In Numbers 25 it is implied that the Moabites also worshipped Baal – unless they identified Chemosh with him, perhaps. Deuteronomy 23 is clear about relations with Moabites and Ammonites, which affected marital relations – unless, of course, individuals from those nations forsooktheir religion for YHWH (e.g. Ruth):

“No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of YHWH. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of YHWH forever,because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. But YHWH your God would not listen to Balaam; instead YHWH your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because YHWH your God loved you. You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.

The Phoenicians, of course, were exactly the same people as the Canaanites in Palestine, and worshipped the same gods, principally Baal. The Aramaeans worshipped Rimmon, who was identified with Baal. The Midianites were not a single people but were at most, a tribal league dwelling in the region called Midian: …‘they are also related to or associated with the Edomites, Kenites, Ishmaelites, Hagarites and Kenizzites while there are at least connections with Amalekites and Moabites, and perhaps with Ammonites. All in all, they are an amorphous and complex grouping.’[4]Along with ethnic diversity, there was also religious distinction. Jethro seemed to have worshipped YHWH in some way. The reference to Baal-Peor in Numbers 25 suggests that some Midianites at least worshipped Baal. The context suggests that such worship involved sexual immorality:

While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab.These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of YHWH was kindled against Israel.And YHWH said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hangthem in the sun before YHWH, that the fierce anger of YHWH may turn away from Israel.”And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.”

And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting… 16 And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Harass the Midianites and strike them down, 18 for they have harassed you with their wiles, with which they beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of the chief of Midian, their sister, who was killed on the day of the plague on account of Peor.”

Note that Israelites who committed whoredom with the Midianites were executed. The words of v18 imply that the Midianite women seduced the Israelites into both immorality and idolatry: the two were inter-connected – the idolatrous worship of Baal involved sexual immorality. 

We will continue this discussion in part 2.

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[1]Harrison, Old Testament Times, p. 167.

[2]Ibid., p. 168.

[3]Wenham, John, The Goodness of God, (Leicester: IVP), p. 126, quoting Wright, G. E., and Filson, F. V., The Westminster Historical Atlas to the Bible, (London: 1945), p. 36.

[4]Dumbrell, William J., ‘Midian: A Land or a League?’, Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 25, Fasc. 2, No. 2a. Jubilee Number (May, 1975), p. 323.

Why did you become a Muslim? Muslims can’t answer!

Why did you become a Muslim? Muslims can’t answer!

A new Muslim is unable to answer any questions about Islam’s teaching on women. And is also unable to give any reasons  why he became a Muslim!

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Women in Christianity and Islam

Women in Christianity and Islam

Daniel discusses the position of women in Islam and Christianity with the Islamic Dawah team.

“…and call upon two of your men to act as witnesses; and if two men are not available, then a man and two women from among such as are acceptable to you as witnesses, so that if one of them should make a mistake, the other could remind her. [273]..” from Sura 2:282

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Once Allah’s Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o ‘Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women).” They asked, “Why is it so, O Allah’s Apostle ?” He replied, “You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.” The women asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?” He said, “Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?” They replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?” The women replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her religion.” Sahih Bukhari 1:6:301 Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand. Sura 4:34

Muslim Book 4, Number 2127: narrated Aisha “..He said: Was it the darkness (of your shadow) that I saw in front of me? I said: Yes. He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you? ….

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