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What is meant by ‘what the right hand possesses’?

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by DarulUloomTT.net
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Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu,

 I teach and counsel women and a topic has come up… right hand possessions. One woman’s husband is claiming to have in his words a “malakat”. His claim is that he has been told  that this is correct and permissible since the woman is destitute and has no one to care for her and her child. He had been married to her originally but they divorced and had opted for an “agreement” that that gives the man certain rights and her certain rights that they have decided on. They do not consider themselves married. My question is does anyone know of any scholars of any madhab that have the view that a right had possession is halal, or are you aware of any deviant groups that have this view?

Wa Alaikum Assalaam,

In the Holy Quran, an allowance has been given to have relations with those who are possessed by a man. The term used for this is ‘What the right hands possess (Ma Malakat Aimanukum).’

This term refers to a slave girl who is owned by her master. The master who is the sole owner/possessor of the slave girl is fully in charge of her and is at liberty to keep her as a slave girl or let her be free. As the word states, a slave girl must be a slave which is owned by her master. During the time of slavery, women would have become slaves and were sold and purchased just as men. Also, women who were captives of war during the days of slavery were also held as slaves. In this case, if a man was given a captive woman who was made a bondswoman (in those days), she became a slave girl of her master.

Slavery however, has now been abolished and people being slaves and in bondage has come to an end. The act of buying and selling or trading slaves no longer exists. Although wars are still fought until today, people are no longer taken/held as slaves or considered to be in the ownership/possession of anyone. Instead, they are known to be prisoners of war who are ‘free men’ and ‘free women’, not slaves.

This being the present situation, there is absolutely no allowance/permission for the Muslim man to consider this woman to be ‘what his right hand possess’ or ‘Malakat’. If the woman in question is destitute and has no one to care for her and her child, then she is still a ‘free woman’ and not a slave. Their relationship together without marriage is totally haram and sinful, and sexual activity with each other will be deemed as adultery.

As long as they are not married, they are strangers to each other and will have no rights upon each other. Therefore, the relationship that this man has with this woman is totally un-Islamic and the woman cannot be his ‘Malakat’.

Today, since slavery has been abolished no man can refer to a woman as what ‘his right hands possess’ and then have relations with her.

Regarding such a woman as identified above or any other similar female who is a house maid or servant (in the home) as a ‘Malakat’ (one whom the right hand possess or a slave girl) is totally wrong and against the true teachings of Islam. No one from among the sound Madhahib has given such an opinion, nor has any reliable Scholar of our times has issued such a verdict. Those who uphold this view are misguided in their understanding.

And Allah Knows Best.

Mufti Waseem Khan.

24/02/17.

This answer was collected from DarulUloomTT.net, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Waseem Khan from Darul Uloom Trinidad and Tobago.

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