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Sexual life of prophet muhammad (saw)

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Fatwaa.com

May peace be on you all.
I’m from hindu background. I converted to islam 4 years ago.
After much exploring and study into islam I decided to delve into where islam reintroduced through muhammad pbuh. Namely through a biography.

I am quite disturbed by the behaviour of having a concubine. Our prophet had many wives and Mariya a coptic slavegirl was gifted to him pbuh and he lodged her with hafsah until her apartment was made. He would spend more time with her (coptic) than any of his other wives and the concept of gifting and accepting humans as gifts even if they were slaves really disturbs me. How could a prophet of god accept humans as gifts. Shouldn’t he have ended that concept?
My question is how is having a sexual relationship with a slave girl any different to having the same with a person whom you are not married to. This could be considered as adultry. How was this allowed to be practiced when he had wifes, many of them and he could visit her for sex – as she bore him a child. She was not married to him so for her it is sinful, just because she was non-muslim, then used. It is sex outside of marriage! What’s more is he is the prophet and these acts have made me question islam teaching. When I view the life of the wives then at that time they openly rebuked there feelings towards this and the prophet went to his personal apartment and then these poor women were frightened of being divorced. This aspect of islam does not make me proud of my prophet and islam itself. I have tried to seek knowledge in this as much as I can, I hope you can forgive me if I have angered any of you I was not intending to disrespect muhammad pbuh.
I’m anxiously waiting for your reply.


Wa’alaykum as Salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,

Allah Ta’ala mentioned in the Quran,

وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَافِظُونَ (5) إِلَّا عَلَى أَزْوَاجِهِمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ غَيْرُ مَلُومِينَ (6)

“And those who guard their private parts except from their wives and those (slave-girls) which their right-hands own – so there is no blame upon them.’’ (Surah Al-Muminuun, Ayah 5/ 6-Al-Ma’arij 29/30.)

From this verse we find that there are two instances which legitimise coition between a male and female:

  • Marriage,
  • Slavery

It may, superficially, appear distasteful to copulate with a slave girl, but sexual intimacy with them has been established from other scriptures as well. The bible too demonstrates that having intimate relationship with ones slave girl is permissible. For example, the bible says about Abraham (peace and blessings be upon him) that he had a slave woman from whom he had a son. In the words of the bible: “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman.” (Galatians 4:22).

Likewise, in Hindu scriptures we find that is was common for Hindus to own female slavegirls. “…And Krishna gave unto each of the illustrious sons of Pandu numerous female slaves, and gems and robes” (Mahabharata 4:72 (p.127) 

“If she should not grant him his desire, he should bribe her. If she still does not grant him his desire, he should hit her with a stick or with his hand, and overcome her, saying: ‘With power, with glory I take away your glory!’ Thus she becomes inglorious.” (Brihadâranyaka Upanishad VI: 4:6. 7)

Furthermore, there is enough evidence in ancient Hindu scriptures where proves that royal sages made relationship with slave-girls. One example may be the birth of Kaksmibaan as depicted in Rig-Veda (1|116) who was born because of the relationship between Dirghotomaa and a slave-girl of Angamhishi. Kobosh-Oilush was also a child of a slave girl.

The aforementioned illustrates that Slavery existed long before Islam. Islam’s approach to slavery was to regulate it from within and control the abuses slavery.  (pre-600s) that needed to be voluntarily and gradually weeded out of society through manumission, which was highly encouraged.

At the advent of Islam, slavery had virtually become an international custom. It was also rife among the Arabs from the days of darkness and ignorance.

Slaves were mostly captured from wars. If the Muslims would set all their enemy-prisoners free and tolerate their fellow Muslims being captured and enslaved by the enemies, it would have lead to a sharp decrease in the Muslim military force and given a great advantage to the enemy forces which was something that the Muslims could not afford. Furthermore, it is a well known fact that warfare tactics used by one side are often countered by the opposing side in order to maintain a balance of power. Hence, wartime diplomacy necessitated the enslaving of prisoners.

In short, permission to have intercourse with a slave woman was not something barbaric or uncivilised; on the contrary, it was almost as good as a marriage ceremony. In fact, possession of a slave woman resembles a marriage ceremony in many ways and both have a lot in common with each other. One similarity is this that just as a free woman cannot have two husbands simultaneously, a slave woman cannot be used for intercourse by two owners. Another similarity is that a free woman whose marriage is on the rocks, cannot marry another man until her previous marriage is nullified through divorce, etc. Due to the discrepancies between husband and wife, the marriage sometimes reaches a stage where it becomes virtually impossible for the couple to live as man and wife with the result that divorce is brought into force to nullify marriage ties. Similarly, if a slave woman was married previously in enemy territory to a non-Muslim, and is then captured alone, i.e. without her husband, it is not permissible for any Muslim to have relations with her until her previous marriage is nullified, and that is done by bringing her to an Islamic country and making her the legal possession of a Muslim. Bringing her into Islamic territory necessitates the rendering of her previous marriage as null and void by Islamic law because with her husband in enemy territory and she in Islamic territory, it becomes virtually impossible for them to meet and live as man and wife. That is why it is not permissible to have intercourse with a woman whose husband is also taken into captivity and put into slavery with her. Another resemblance between the two is that, just as a divorcee has to spend a period called “Iddah” before another man is allowed to marry her, similarly, a slave woman has to spend a period called “Istibraa” before her owner can have coition with her.

Another similarity between marriage and possession of a slave woman is that just as the wife becomes a dependant of the husband and he has to provide a home, food and clothing for her, a slave woman also becomes a dependant of her owner and he has to provide a home, food and clothing for her. Yet another similarity is this that just as marriage makes the close relatives of the wife Haraam upon the husband; i.e. he cannot get married to his wife’s mother, grandmother, sister, etc., similarly if a man has copulated with a slave woman the slave woman’s close relatives also become Haraam upon the owner. With all these similarities it does not make sense to regard copulation with a slave woman distasteful whilst copulation with one’s wife is not regarded as distasteful.

This concession of copulating with a slave girl created an atmosphere of love and harmony between the slave girl and her master. Islam thereby raised the status of the war captive-maidens close to that of wives. It was a psychological cure to her grief-stricken heart, being deprived of her family and thrown into the hands of a strange society.

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) enjoined his followers to treat the slaves kindly, gently, and, above all, to regard them as members of the family. In this way, they were made to feel wanted; which was far better than treating them as outcasts and leaving them to wander the streets of a strange society in a peniless, destitute condition. Such treatment would have ultimately forced them to take up evil occupations such as prostitution in the case of slave woman in order to fill their hungry stomachs. The First World War in 1914 was a clear reflection of the evils involved in setting captive women free to roars about in a strange society with strange surroundings. During that war, German and English women prisoners on either side were set free to roam the streets with no-one to feed them. The result was obvious that they resorted to other unrefined and uncivilised methods of income on the streets. Thus, it is evident that the Islamic treatment of women prisoners of war was conducive towards better social relations and led to the refinement of their overall social lives.

Over and above all this, History will show that Islam did not encourage slavery but rather encouraged moves towards the extirpation of slavery.   Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) said,

قال لي رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – :  “من أعتق رقبة مسلمة أعتق الله بكل عضو منه ، عضوا منه في النار ، حتى فرجه بفرجه” ( متفق عليه) .

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said to me, “”Whosoever freed a Muslim slave, the Lord would redeem all his limbs – in compensation for each limb of the slave, so much so that the private parts for the private parts – from the Fire of Hell.” (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim)

This clearly shows that, ideally in Islam, we should free slaves. However, if we do not liberate our slaves, we should treat them with dignity, love and honour. Yes, the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) did have slave girls. The reason fr that was to teach the Muslims who came later how to treat their slave girls. There is also no proof to show that He (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) spent more time with his slave girls than with his own wives.

And Allaah Ta’aala knows best


Ismail Moosa (Mufti)

This answer was collected from Fatwaa.com which is an excellent Q&A site managed by Mufti Ismail Moosa from South Africa. .

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