Is it true that Muslims are permitted to have conjugal relations with female war captives? The Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community gives an insightful explanation.
JANUARY 17, 2021
An Ahmadi brother wrote to the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that he was quite sceptical that Islam allows enslaving women of enemy groups and establishing sexual relationship with them. After entering into the fold of Ahmadiyyat, he said, he was confident that he would find some clarity on this topic in the writings of the Promised Messiahas and that Islam would be absolved of these charges.
His Holinessaba, in his letter dated 3rd March, 2018, provided a very beautiful and insightful answer to the question.
The fact of the matter is that since a proper explanation is not commonly available, there is a lot of misunderstandings pertaining to this subject. The Promised Messiahas, through his writings, has cleared all misconceptions in this regard and his Caliphs also have, from time to time, clarified any misgivings on the topic and presented the true teachings of Islam.
Firstly, it should be remembered that Islam does not allow Muslims to take women of enemy groups as captives and convert them into bondwomen. Rather, as per Islamic teachings, no person can be held captive except after a regular battle. Allah states in the Holy Quran:
It does not behove a Prophet that he should have captives until he engages in regular fighting in the land. You desire the goods of the world, while Allah desires for you the Hereafter. And Allah is Mighty, Wise.
Hence, with the condition of regular warfare, it was only those women who participated in war against Islam by physically joining the battle, that were rightfully taken as captives. Therefore, these women were not normal women, but were armed enemies who were present on the battlefields.
Moreover, it must be understood that as per the rules of war prevalent at that time, the fighting parties used to take men, women and children from the enemy side as captives. Hence, as per the Quranic injunction,
and the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof
it is not at all reprehensible that Muslims resorted to the prevalent practice which was generally agreed upon in that age and society. It was in accordance with those prevalent customs that groups engaged in battles. Since those customs were agreeable to both parties, there was no question of any criticism from either side. It would be a bone of contention only if Muslims exclusively initiated such practices.
However, despite all this, the Holy Quran added a fundamental principle to the prevalent rules of the time stating:
So, whoso transgresses against you, punish him for his transgression to the extent to which he has transgressed against you.
It is further stated:
Whoso, therefore, will transgress after this shall have a grievous punishment.(Al-Ma”idah 95)
This is a fundamental teaching that supersedes the teachings of previous faiths. If we examine the teachings of other religions including the Bible with respect to war, we find that they teach to completely destroy or annihilate the enemy. They not only command killing of men and women, but also permits causing damage to children, animals and plundering and burning of houses. On the contrary, the Holy Quran puts forth such teachings that Muslims are enjoined to act upon them even during war when usually emotions run high and both parties try to kill each other mercilessly, and even go to the extent of mutilating dead bodies. The Holy Quran’s principles act as if a horse is bridled and is prevented from getting out of control. The companions of the Holy Prophetsa of Islam acted upon these teachings in such a way that history is replete with their faith-inspiring incidents.
In those times, the disbelievers took Muslim women as captives and demonstrated extremely horrifying conduct with them. Moreover, they mutilated the dead bodies of Muslim martyrs by cutting off their noses and ears. Can anyone forget how Hinda, in an extreme act of fury, tore apart and chewed the liver of Hazrat Hamzara? In contrast to this, Muslims were exhorted to abstain from harming women and children even under such hostile circumstances, and were categorically forbidden from mutilating and disrespecting the dead bodies of enemies.
As far as the question about bondwomen is concerned, it should not be forgotten that the enemies of Islam resorted to all sorts of stratagems to oppress Muslims in the early days of Islam. If any poor and helpless Muslim woman fell in their hands, the enemies enslaved her and kept her as a bondwoman. Hence, as per the Islamic teaching that “the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof”, those women who participated in battles against Muslims were taken captives. And if these women do not attain freedom by paying ransom or by entering into a contract of freedom, Muslims were permitted to marry them and form conjugal relations with them. However, such marriage did not require to take permission from these women, nor did it violate the limitation of four marriages, which men had to abide by. That is, a man was allowed to marry such a woman even if he already had four wives. Afterwards, if a child was born from her, she would become free as the mother of that child.
Apart from this, Islam promises great rewards for those who maintain good conduct with bondwomen, arrange for their training and education, and set them free. Hence, Hazrat Abu Musa Ash’arira narrates:
The Holy Prophetsa of Islam said: Any person who has a bondwoman and he imparts good manners and values to her and sets her free would have a double reward.
Ruwayfi’ ibn Thabitra narrates:
I heard the Messengersa of Allah say on the day of Hunayn: It is not lawful for a man who believes in Allah and the last day to water what another has sown with his water (meaning intercourse with women who are pregnant); it is not lawful for a man who believes in Allah and the Last Day to have intercourse with a captive woman till she is free from a menstrual course; and it is not lawful for a man who believes in Allah and the Last Day to sell spoil till it is divided.
Hence, the fundamental point is that Islam does not support enslaving men and women. A temporary permission was granted for this practice in the initial days of Islam due to the special circumstances prevalent at that time. Yet, Islam and the Holy Prophetsa, in a very sagacious manner, advocated for the emancipation of such people. However, until the time they were emancipated or attained freedom themselves, Islam enjoined kindness towards them.
As those circumstances ended and the state laws changed to what we see today, this permission was revoked. Therefore, in today’s circumstances, there is no justification whatsoever according to Islamic teachings to keep men and women under bondage. Hence, the Promised Messiahas, who had been sent as the Just Arbiter of this era has declared it impermissible.