Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
My cousin asked me this:
“What is stopping a Muslim guy from finding a consenting lady, both of them agreeing that she be his “slave” for a period of time (she gives him her freedom), fornicating together, him setting her free, and repeating this cycle with others?
Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. I pray you are well insha’Allah. Thank you for forwarding this question, as it really does need answering.
One cannot ‘take a slave’ or ‘volunteer as a slave’ at will. Such practices as described would not only be unlawful in the religion but totally against the high ethical standards of Islam. It is wrong for many reasons. Nor is time-specific marriage contracts permissible either.
Slavery was once a part of many societies (It should be noted that this form of slavery had nothing to do with race). While Islam did not abolish the general system of slavery, it did lay down strict laws regarding the taking of slaves as well as their treatment and establishing their rights, and this was unprecedented.
Ultimately, the only way a person, male or female could become a slave in Islam, male or female, is as a prisoner of a just, legitimate, war, led by a legitimate Muslim leader. There is no other way a person can become a slave in Islam. Furthermore, there is no such things as taking a Muslim as a slave. [Fathul Mu’in, Ya’qout al Nafis]
We should also note that Islam explicitly promoted the freeing of slaves, making it the first recourse for legal expiations and urging believers to emancipate slaves by frequently mentioning it as a direct way to enter into Paradise. Also, one of the reasons why Islam permits the option of taking slaves is also to encourage the slaves to see an Islamic environment and desire it. This is because, despite the disparity of a person’s social standing in this life, Islam recognises that in reality all men and women are the same and will stand in front of Allah one day. Therefore, God wishes the best for slaves just as He wishes for free men, and that is fro them to know Islam, accept it, (hopefully attain to freedom in life for the slave, and the master attaining reward for freeing the slave), but all resulting in success in the next life, where all will be equal in a life everlasting.
We should also mention, that a slave’s inclination to Islam would not happen if slave masters were aggressive and careless brutes, interested only in their own sexual gratification. In fact, the slave would be utterly repulsed by the religion.
Slavery in Modern Times
Although Islam did not abolish slavery in its entirety, most countries, Muslim and non-Muslims, signed the Geneva Slavery Convention of 1926 (and subsequent years), agreeing that a prisoner from the captives of war will not be put into slavery. Shaykh Taqi Usman states,
‘Most of the nations of the world have today formed a pact between them, and have agreed that a prisoner from the captives of war will not be put into slavery, and most of the Islamic lands today are participants of this agreement, particularly the members of the United Nations, so it is not permissible for an Islamic country today to put a captive into slavery as long as this pact remains. As for the question of whether this pact is allowed, I have not seen its ruling explicitly in [the writings of] the early scholars, and it is apparent that it is permissible because taking slaves is not something obligatory, rather it is an option from four options, and the option therein is for the Imam. And it is apparent from the texts on the virtue of emancipation and other [texts] that freedom is more desirable in the Islamic Shari‘ah [than slavery], so there is no harm in making such a pact, so long as other nations conform to it and do not violate it.’ [Takmilah Fath al Mulhim]
Any sound minded Muslim will agree that such a pact is a good thing, and in the best interest of the Muslims, for were it not so, every war between Muslims and non-Muslims would not only end in the Muslims taking non-Muslims as slaves, but also Muslim men, women and children taken as slaves as well.
We should also remember that everything that happens only happens with the permission of Allah. Though slavery was not eradicated during the time of the Prophet ﷺ, agreements such as the Geneva one, may turn out to be, with the Will and Permission of Allah and according to His Plan, an indication of the final abolition of slavery. And Allah knows best.
A marriage contracts for a specific time frame is called a Mu’tah marriage and is prohibited in all four schools of law. The Prophet ﷺ said,
‘O people, I used to allow you to engage in mut’ah marriages, but now Allah has forbidden that until the Day of Resurrection, so whoever has any wives in a mut’ah marriage, he should let her go and not take anything of the [money] you have given them.’ [Sahih Muslim]
Even during the short period of time that Mu’tah marriages were permitted, before being abrogated, it was for a reason and the Salaf did not use the rule as a legal loophole to sleep around with each other. God forbid!
All the above applies to such arrangements with non-Muslims, even if they have ‘no scruples about such an arrangement’ as mentioned in the question. Moreover, if a person truly believes that Islam offers true guidance, a higher ethical standard, and eternal salvation, then a Muslim should not be satisfied that a non-Muslim remains without guidance, and even worse, exploit this. Rather, a Muslim should wish for the same guidance and moral standards for the non-Muslim also, so they too may attain to eternal facility.
Other than the fact that time-conditioned marriages are impermissible, there are other serious factors to take into account in the situation described:
– The man has limited responsibility, financially and emotionally, while the woman is usually the one who must bear any consequences, such as pregnancy, or other issues that may come about from promiscuous affairs.
– Any child born from such a marriage is illegitimate, and not attributed to the father.
– It erodes the institute and sanctity of marriage and the family, the very purpose of which is to guard chastity, as well as lineage.
– It leads to moral decay of the person and society.
I once asked my teacher about a man who marries women legitimately, sleeps with them, and divorces them, and continues to do this with different women. He answered that Imam Malik, was asked the same question once, to which he replied, ‘Such a person would be a fasiq’ (a morally corrupt person) [not referenced].
Even if done ‘just within the boundaries of the law’, not to mention outside the law, a person who goes about their affairs in such a way should ask themselves if they would like the woman or husband they finally marry, and with whom they may have a family with, to have done such things beforehand? or whether they would be fine for their daughters and sons to do such things?
The truth is that a person who is serious about the religion uses the law to draw closer to Allah, not for the gratification of mere lust and desire, thereby bordering on the just-about-permissible or falling into the impermissible. The practices described are not only against the law, but also against the spirit of the law. These are serious issues that Muslims must take seriously.
As you can see from the very brief discussion on slavery above the issue is vast and detailed, and far beyond the simple ‘fantasy’ and dangerous notion that one can have a slave girl and do as they please, nor enter into time-conditioned marriages, which are not only impermissible, but greatly irresponsible.
I pray the above clarifies things for your cousin. May Allah guide you both to everything that is good in this life and the next.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.