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’ 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.

Age of marriage and Sura 65:4

Age of marriage and Sura 65:4

The team have a heated discussion about whether or not it was right for Muhammad (54) to marry Aisha when she was 6 and consummate the relationship when she was 9. The discussion then turns to Sura 65:4:

“And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women – if you doubt, then their period is three months, and [also for] those who have not menstruated. And for those who are pregnant, their term is until they give birth. And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him of his matter ease.”

The most authoritative early tafsirs – Ibn Kathir, Ibn Abbas, Al Jalalyn, plus numerous others ALL agree this is referring to girls who have not yet started their periods. For more information, please see this article: https://www.answering-islam.org/Quran…

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‘Your wife is a tilth’ – Sura 2:223

‘Your wife is a tilth’ – Sura 2:223

Hatun discusses this verse with a Muslim and asks why Allah is so concerned for men to have their sexual desires satisfied whenever they wish and in whatever position? Allah seems very preoccupied with sex.

“Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves. And fear Allah and know that you will meet Him. And give good tidings to the believers.” Sura 2:223, Sahih International.

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas:

Ibn Umar misunderstood (the Qur’anic verse, “So come to your tilth however you will”)—MAY ALLAH FORGIVE HIM. The fact is that this clan of the Ansar, who were idolaters, lived in the company of the Jews who were the people of the Book. They (the Ansar) accepted their superiority over themselves in respect of knowledge, and they followed most of their actions. The people of the Book (i.e. the Jews) used to have intercourse with their women on one side alone (i.e. lying on their backs). This was the most concealing position for (the vagina of) the women. This clan of the Ansar adopted this practice from them. But this tribe of the Quraysh used to uncover their women completely, and seek pleasure with them from in front and behind and laying them on their backs.

When the muhajirun (the immigrants) came to Medina, a man married a woman of the Ansar. He began to do the same kind of action with her, but she disliked it, and said to him: We were approached on one side (i.e. lying on the back); do it so, otherwise keep away from me. This matter of theirs spread widely, and it reached the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him).

So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Qur’anic verse: “Your wives are a tilth to you, so come to your tilth however you will,” i.e. from in front, from behind or lying on the back. But this verse meant the place of the delivery of the child, i.e. the vagina. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 11, Number 2159)

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Is rape allowed in Islamic marriage?

 

Hatun and Godwin question Qur’anic teaching on surah 2:223 sex within marriage . Your women are a tillage for you; so come unto your tillage as you wish, and forward for your souls; and fear God, and know that you shall meet Him. Give thou good tidings to the believers. (s2:223) Narrated Jabir: Jews used to say: “If one has sexual intercourse with his wife from the back, then she will deliver a squint-eyed child.” So this Verse was revealed: “Your wives are a tilth unto you; so go to your tilth when or how you will.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 6:60:51) Ibn Abbas said: Ibn Umar misunderstood (the Qur’anic verse, “so come to your tilth however you will”)—may Allah forgive him. The fact is that this clan of the Ansar who were idolaters lived in the company of the Jews who were the people of the Book. They (the Ansar) accepted their superiority over themselves in respect of knowledge, and they followed most of their actions. The people of the Book (i.e. the Jews) used to have intercourse with their women on one side alone (i.e. lying on their backs). This was the most concealing for (the vagina of) women. This clan of the Ansar adopted this practice from them. But this tribe of the Quraish used to uncover their women intensely, and seek pleasure with them from in front and behind and laying them on their backs. When the Muhajirun (the Immigrants) came to Medina, a man married a woman of the Ansar. He began to do the same kind of action with her, but she disliked it, and said to him: We were approached on one side (i.e. lying on back); do it so, otherwise keep away from me. This matter of theirs spread widely, and it reached the Apostle of Allah. So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Qur’anic verse: “Your wives are a tilth to you, so come to your tilth however you will,” i.e. from in front, from behind or lying on the back. By this the verse meant the place of the delivery of the child, i.e. vagina. (Sunan Abu Dawud 2159)

Rape in marriage

Rape in marriage.

Does the Qur’an sanction marital rape?

Hatun discusses Sura 2:223 with Muslims.

“Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves. And fear Allah and know that you will meet Him. And give good tidings to the believers.”

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Did Muhammad have good moral standards?

Did Muhammad have good moral standards?

Godwin questions Islamic Dawah Team about whether Muhammad had good moral standards. Fondling virgins? Tongue sucking during fasting? Looking at a baby girl and promising to marry her when she grows up? Marrying pre-pubescent girls?

It was narrated that Jaabir ibn ‘Abd-Allaah (may Allaah be pleased with them both) said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asked me, ‘Have you got married?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘A virgin or a previously-married woman?’ I said, ‘A previously-married woman.’ He said, ‘Why not a young girl, whom you could play with and she could play with you?’ I said, ‘I have sisters and I wanted to marry a woman who could gather them together and comb their hair and take care of them.’ He said: ‘You will reach, so when you have arrived (at home), I advise you to associate with your wife (that you may have an intelligent son).’” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1991; Muslim, 715)

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin: The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to kiss her and suck her tongue when he was fasting. Sunan Abu Dawud 13:2380

(Suhayli, ii.79: In the riwaya of Yunus I.I recorded that the apostle saw her (Ummu’l-Fadl) when she was baby crawling before him and said, ‘If she grows up and I am still alive I will marry her.’ But he died before she grew up and Sufyan b. al-Aswad b. Abdu’l-Asad al-Makhzumi married her and she bore him Rizq and Lubaba….(ref.10, p. 311)

And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women – if you doubt, then their period is three months, and [also for] those who have not menstruated. And for those who are pregnant, their term is until they give birth. And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him of his matter ease. (Sura 65:4)

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Was Muhammad a good father?

Was Muhammad a good father?

It’s Father’s Day in the UK; Hatun and Godwin are asking if Muhammad was a good father. What kind of father lusts after his adopted son’s wife and then marries her?

And [remember, O Muhammad], when you said to the one on whom Allah bestowed favor and you bestowed favor, “Keep your wife and fear Allah,” while you concealed within yourself that which Allah is to disclose. And you feared the people, while Allah has more right that you fear Him. So when Zayd had no longer any need for her, We married her to you in order that there not be upon the believers any discomfort concerning the wives of their adopted sons when they no longer have need of them. And ever is the command of Allah accomplished.” Sura 33:37

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Polygamy in the Qur’an

Man with four wives
Photo courtesy of lifeinsaudiarabia.net

In our last post, we discussed polygamy in the Bible. In summary, polygamy was permitted under God’s sovereignty during Old Testament times, but even then it contravened His blueprint for marriage given in Genesis 2:24. Jesus re-instates monogamous, heterosexual marriage in Matthew 19:4-6, even using the analogy of the Bridegroom (Christ) being united with his Bride (the church) in an exclusive, faithful, lasting covenant in the new creation. Nor was polygamy taught or practised by the early church, although there was debate about divorce and re-marriage (1 Corinthians7.)

Jesus summarises the Christian view of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

One man and one woman are joined together spiritually by God, just as they become one through sexual intimacy. It’s a holy union, which is why dissolving it is such a serious matter. Compare this with Sura 4:1

“O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer.” (Sahih International)

Adam and Eve come from one (genderless?) soul for the purpose of procreation rather than relationship. Allah is distant, to be feared. Always watching, he creates them, but doesn’t celebrate their gender distinction or their coming together as ‘one flesh.’ The ‘wombs’ in this verse, according to the tafsirs, aren’t referring to the wife’s unique reproductive function, but more loosely to ‘ties of kinship’, meaning something like ‘remember your family ties’. Verses 2 and 3 continue:

“And give to the orphans their properties and do not substitute the defective [of your own] for the good [of theirs]. And do not consume their properties into your own. Indeed, that is ever a great sin.” (Sahih International)

“And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].” (Sahih International)

It’s not clear from the text who the man is to marry in verse 3 – whether the orphans themselves or more wives to act as additional guardians for the orphans. Influential twentieth century scholar Maududi takes the latter view, that these verses were sent down as a corrective to the pre-Islamic practices of marrying orphans and plundering their inheritance (verse 2) to support an unlimited number of wives – hence Allah limits the number of wives to four. And if you can’t do justice to four, then better stick to one wife. But this doesn’t include “those your right hand possesses” i.e. your slave girls. So even if you decide to stick with one official wife, you can have an unlimited number of sex slaves. A far cry from the exclusive sexual intimacy between man and wife Jesus teaches about. Notice also the lack of mutuality – it’s all about the man’s requirements, not what’s best for the man and the woman.

Not only that, the Qur’an actually contradicts itself on this issue within the same Sura. Sura 4:3 tells believers to only marry one wife if they are afraid they won’t be able to treat their wives equally. But Sura 4:129 tells men they will never be able to treat their wives equally!

“Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire: But turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air). If ye come to a friendly understanding, and practise self- restraint, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. – 4:129″(Yusuf Ali)

Maududi summarises the classical tafsir writers’ interpretation of this verse, that while the husband is bound to provide equally for his wives, he will never hold them in equal affection:

“Allah made it clear that the husband cannot literally keep equality between two or more wives because they themselves cannot be equal in all respects. It is too much to demand from a husband that he should mete out equal treatment to a beautiful wife and to an ugly wife, to a young wife and to an old wife, to a healthy wife and to an invalid wife, and to a good natured wife and to an ill-natured wife. These and like things naturally make a husband more inclined towards one wife than towards the other….

In such cases, the Islamic law does not demand equal treatment between them in affection and love. What it does demand is that a wife should not be neglected as to be practically reduced to the position of the woman who has no husband at all. If the husband does not divorce her for any reason or at her own request, she should at least be treated as a wife. It is true that under such circumstances the husband is naturally inclined towards a favorite wife, but he should not, so to say, keep the other in such a state of suspense as if she were not his wife.”

Allah is clearly not that bothered by the wives’ emotional needs. Not only that, but Muhammad, the best example to mankind (Sura 33:21) flagrantly disregarded Allah’s injunction to show “self-restraint” and come to “a friendly understanding” with his wives, for example in this hadith. (More on Muhammad’s special privileges in another post.)

Are we just taking these verses out of their historical context? Don’t they only apply to 7th century Arabia? Have they been abrogated? No. Polygamy is acceptable in both Sunni and Shi’a schools of Islamic law. Polygamy matchmaking service Second Wife , quotes Sura 4:3 on its website. “We believed this is a Sunnah we needed to revive,” it says. Apparently it has 100,000 users.

The reason polygamy persists in Islam, apart from the fact that it is sanctioned forever by Allah’s eternal speech, the Qur’an, is because Allah is not a personal, covenantal god. Allah doesn’t make men and women in his image or interact with them personally, let alone make or keep his promises to them. The Qur’an’s teaching on marriage is confused, over-sexualising men and diminishing women. And there is no great wedding feast to look forward to in a new creation. Just as Allah prioritises men’s sexual needs on earth, Islamic paradise is more of the same – lots of sex for men (Sura 55:70-6). How different to the God who kept His covenant with us, died to rescue us and waits as a faithful Bridegroom for all who love Him.

“Hallelujah!
    For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7)

With grateful thanks to James M. Arlandson for his article, from which all the Maududi quotes come.

Polygamy in the Bible

Elkanah, Peninah and Hannah

Last week we had some lively discussions at Speaker’s Corner about whether Muhammad treated his wives fairly. The response was: there is polygamy all over the Old Testament, and God didn’t have a problem with it. How do we answer that objection?

God approves?

“For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” (1 Kings 15:5)

This was the verse that one of our Muslim friends gave us to justify polygamy as an acceptable Biblical practice. His argument went: if God praises David for doing everything right in the sight of the Lord, that means He must have approved, tacitly if not explicitly, of the fact David had multiple wives and concubines.

Not necessarily. Firstly, are we to infer from the phrase “David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord,” that David only, ever, exclusively did what was right in God’s sight, apart from the Uriah episode? The phrase doesn’t make that claim, nor is it borne out in David’s life. Take his census of the fighting men (1 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21), which brings God’s judgement against him. “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, LORD, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing” he says (1 Samuel 24:10). Obviously, this was not right in the eyes of the Lord. So is the Scripture contradicting itself? No, just making a valid generalisation rather than an exhaustive claim about all David’s actions. In fact, if we look at verse 3, and is confirmed in other verses, e.g., 1 Kings 9:4, we see that David is being praised for his integrity of heart, rather than his actions:

“He [Abijah] committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been.” (1 Kings 15:3)

God himself makes this same generalisation to Solomon about David: “as for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did..” (1 Kings 9:4)

Nor did he fail to keep any of the LORD’s commands, according to 1 Kings 15:5. Was David commanded to marry multiple wives? No, this a straw man argument. Having said that, it’s still a fact that David took multiple wives and concubines, as did others before him – men of God like Moses, Abraham and Jacob. Polygamy was the rule rather than the exception. And while God doesn’t explicitly approve it, he doesn’t condemn it either. So where did Christians get this idea of monogamous marriage from?  Let’s go back to the beginning.

Marriage – the template

In Genesis 2:21-24, we’re told “no suitable helper was found” for Adam:

“So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Note the singular form: man (not men), woman (not women), ONE flesh. And this is before the Fall, when everything was as God intended. Hence we can conclude that monogamy was God’s original plan.

The Law

One of the many consequences of Fall was human beings rejection of God’s pattern for marriage; in the 13th-century BC Near East, polygamy was its replacement. But the Mosaic law gave the practice some measure of regulation. Deuteronomy 21:15-17 (ESV):

“If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn, but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.

This passage enshrines the rights of the offspring of an unloved wife. It doesn’t mean God approves of the practice of polygamy. If anything, the implication is that it’s preferable to have one wife and therefore no conflict of interest. God also gives specific instructions to Israel’s King, that he should not

acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold” (Deuteronomy 17:17, ESV.)

God’s warning, that polygamy is a step on the road to idolatry, violating the first commandment of God, should have been salutary enough to make people avoid the practice. But they didn’t listen.

Polygamy in the Old Testament

Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. Jacob, Leah and Rachel. Elkanah, Hannah and Peninnah. David, Abigail, Michal, Bathsheba, plus concubines. Solomon and his seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. In short – it never works out. Each scenario has its own pain and misery: Sarah’s mistreatment of Hagar, Jacob’s lack of love for Leah, Peninah’s provocation of Hannah for her inability to conceive; Michal’s husband’s tears as she is given to David. And of course, Solomon, whose heart was indeed led astray from true worship of YHWH by his wives:

For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.

Loving multiple wives – loving multiple gods. Loving one wife – faithfulness to one God. This link between marriage and faithfulness to the one true God is developed in the New Testament.

Marriage in the New Testament

Muslims tell us prophets were sinless. But this is not what the Bible teaches. So we don’t take Abraham or David or Solomon as out moral examples. We go to Jesus, the only sinless man that ever lived – something which Islam also affirms. What did He teach about marriage? Matthew 19:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Although the context of the discussion is divorce, Jesus’ answer is also applicable to polygamy. Jesus quotes Genesis again – one male, one female, the TWO shall become ONE flesh. Note the sexual analogy – a man and women joined together in sexual union, makes one. The physical analogy doesn’t work with three or four women at the same time. And it’s a spiritual union, not just physical- “what therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Paul also uses the sexual analogy to illustrate the believers’ relationship with Christ himself – united to Him, to the exclusion of others. Paul’s response to sexual immorality in the Corinthian church was:

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh” But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:15-17)

In other words, if you sleep with “prostitutes” (used figuaratively here for sexual activity with anyone who is not your one and only spouse), you are making a mockery of the marriage union where two become one: if you say you love Jesus while continuing to follow other gods at the same time, you are making a mockery of your exclusive union with Christ.

Marriage between Christ and His Church

Jesus is the Bridegroom and the church is His bride. This analogy is used by Jesus himself (Mark 2:19, Matthew 25:1-13), the Apostle Paul and John in Revelation. In fact, notice how closely Paul uses the analogy of Christ and his Church in his teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5: 21-32:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church30 for we are members of his body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

The Bridegroom, the bride. Jesus was faithful to His bride by coming to earth and laying down His life for her. He will never share his love for us with another. His church is made acceptable to Him through His blood shed for her on the Cross. His church is to love Him with the same exclusive faithfulness that He loves us, not dividing our affection between Him and other gods – just as we wouldn’t divide our affection between multiple spouses.

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Revelation 21:2. Come, Lord Jesus.

Next up: Polygamy in the Qur’an.