Adultery is Permitted in Islam

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Adultery is a serious offense in Islam warranting death to offenders. However, what constitutes adultery in Islam differs from both the modern/secular and Biblical definitions of the word. This article seeks to explain how Islam allows adultery according to the most widely accepted definitions of the term.

Muslim men are not required to have a contract with their slave girls as they would with legal wives and concubine-wives. The man may sell his slave girl as long as she is not pregnant with his child.[1] Her freedom is not guaranteed unless she bears her master's child and out-lives him. He may not force her into prostitution[2]; however, he is not obligated to keep her in his household. He may sell her to another man who is then permitted to have sexual relations with her because she is his right hand possession. He may also give his female slave in marriage to another man, but at that point the original owner is no longer permitted to have sexual relations with the woman.[3]

Definition of adultery[edit]

Modern[edit]

n. pl. a·dul·ter·ies
Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse.
Definition - Adultery
TheFreeDictionary by Farlex
(n) adultery, criminal conversation, fornication (extramarital sex that willfully and maliciously interferes with marriage relations)
Definition - Adultery
Princeton University's WordNet

Biblical[edit]

  • Sexual intercourse between a betrothed or married woman and a man who is not her husband. [4] [5]
  • It should be noted that the sexual intercourse must be voluntary on the part of the woman for her to be found guilty of committing adultery.[6]

Adultery in the Bible is defined based on the marital status of the woman, not the man. If an unmarried man sleeps with a married woman, they are both guilty of adultery. A woman (virgin) who is not betrothed or married cannot be put to death for sleeping with a man even if he is married. She is guilty of fornication, as is the man; the man is required to pay a bride price to the woman's father and marry her, as long as her father agrees.[7] Once the man consummates the relationship he cannot sell her to another man, even if she was a purchased slave/servant. If the man denies her marital rights, he must allow her to go free.[8]

According to the Torah[edit]

You shall not commit adultery.
If a man commits adultery with another man's wife — with the wife of his neighbor — both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.

An Israelite could take a captive woman as his bride. However, the rules of warfare for the Israelites involved putting every adult male enemy to the sword.[9] Therefore, all the captive women were either widows or unmarried. If the man desired one of the captives, he was to take her home, shave her hair, trim her nails, put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured, and allow her to mourn her parents for a month. After that, the man could go to her and be her husband and she his wife. If the man was displeased with her, then he had to let her go wherever she wanted. He could not sell her and he could not treat her as a slave.[10]

In conclusion, men were forbidden from having sexual relations with married women, and they were required to marry any captives before having sexual relations with them. The women could not be sold once married.

Allah Sanctions Adultery[edit]

According to the Qur'an[edit]

Yusuf Ali: Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess: Thus hath Allah ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful...

Pickthal: And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess. It is a decree of Allah for you. Lawful unto you are all beyond those mentioned...

Shakir: And all married women except those whom your right hands possess (this is) Allah's ordinance to you, and lawful for you are (all women) besides those...

Hilali/Khan: Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those (captives and slaves) whom your right hands possess. Thus has Allâh ordained for you. All others are lawful...

According to the Tafsir[edit]

'Ibn Kathir[edit]

Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess. The Ayah means, you are prohibited from marrying women who are already married, except those whom your right hands possess, except those whom you acquire through war, for you are allowed such women after making sure they are not pregnant. Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri said, "We captured some women from the area of Awtas who were already married, and we disliked having sexual relations with them because they already had husbands. So, we asked the Prophet about this matter, and this Ayah was revealed, Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess. Consequently, we had sexual relations with these women." This is the wording collected by At-Tirmidhi An-Nasa'i, Ibn Jarir and Muslim in his Sahih.

Al-Jalalain[edit]

And, forbidden to you are, wedded women, those with spouses, that you should marry them before they have left their spouses, be they Muslim free women or not; save what your right hands own, of captured [slave] girls, whom you may have sexual intercourse with, even if they should have spouses among the enemy camp, but only after they have been absolved of the possibility of pregnancy [after the completion of one menstrual cycle]...
Qur'an 4:24
Tafsir al-Jalalayn

'Ibn Abbas[edit]

And all married women (are forbidden unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess of captives, even if they have husbands in the Abode of War, after ascertaining that they are not pregnant, by waiting for the lapse of one period of menstruation....
Qur'an 4:24
Tafsir 'Ibn Abbas

Wahidi[edit]

And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess… [4:24]. Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Bunani informed us through Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri who said: “We had captured female prisoners of war on the day of Awtas and because they were already married we disliked having any physical relationship with them. Then we asked the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, about them. And the verse, And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess, was then revealed, as a result of which we consider it lawful to have a physical relationship with them”. Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn al-Harith informed us through ‘Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Ja‘far through Abu Yahya through Sahl ibn ‘Uthman through ‘Abd al-Rahim through Ash‘ath ibn Sawwar through ‘Uthman al-Batti through Abu’l-Khalil through Abu Sa‘id who said: “When the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, captured the people of Awtas as prisoners of war we said: ‘O Prophet of Allah! How can we possibly have physical relationships with women whose lineage and husband we know very well?’ And so this verse was revealed: And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess”. Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Farisi informed us through Muhammad ibn ‘Isa ibn ‘Amrawayh through Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn Sufyan through Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj through ‘Ubayd Allah ibn ‘Umar al-Qawariri through Yazid ibn Zuray‘through Sa‘id ibn Abi ‘Arubah through Qatadah through Abu Salih Abu Khalil through Abu ‘Alqamah al-Hashimi through Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri who reported that on the day of Hunayn the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, sent an army to Awtas. This army met the enemy in a battle, defeated them and captured many female prisoners from them. But some of the Companions of the Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, were uncomfortable about having physical relations with these prisoners because they had husbands who were idolaters, and so Allah, exalted is He, revealed about this: And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.
Qur'an 4:24
Tafsir al-Wahidi

Pooya/M.A Ali[edit]

"Save those whom your right hands own" signifies "such married women as shall come in your possession as prisoners of war". Such women, when not taken back on payment of ransom or through negotiation, are lawful as wives, even though their previous marriage has not been formally dissolved, provided the infidel woman becomes a Muslim.
Qur'an 4:24
Pooya/M.A. Ali

Maududi[edit]

That is, those women who become prisoners of war, while their unbelieving husbands are left behind in the War Zone, are not unlawful because their marriage ties are broken by the fact that they have come from the War Zone into the Islamic Zone. It is lawful to marry such women, and it is also lawful for those, in whose possession they are, to have sexual relations with them. There is, however, a difference of opinion as to whether such a woman is lawful, if her husband is also taken a prisoner along with her. Imam Abu Hanifah and those of his way of thinking are of the opinion that the marriage tie of such a pair would remain intact but Imam Malik and Shafi 'i, are of the opinion that it would also break.
Qur'an 4:24
Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Tafhim al-Qur'an

According to the Hadith[edit]

Abu Sai’d al-Khudri said : The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) sent a military expedition to Awtas on the occasion of the battle of Hunain. They met their enemy and fought with them. They defeated them and took them captives. Some of the Companions of the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) were reluctant to have intercourse with the female captives in the presence of their husbands who were unbelievers. So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Qur’anic verse: (Sura 4:24) "And all married women (are forbidden) unto you except those captives whom your right hands possess." That is to say, captive women are lawful for them when they complete their menstrual period. (1479)
After the distribution of the spoils of war a man may have intercourse with the female slave after passing one menstrual period, if she is not pregnant. If she is pregnant one should wait till she delivers the child. This is the view held by Malik, al-Shafi’i and Abu Thawr. Abu Hanifah holds that if both the husband and wife are captivated together, their marriage tie still continues; they will not be separated. According to the majority of scholars, they will be separated. Al-Awza-i maintains that their marriage tie will continue till they remain part of the spoils of war. If a man buys them, he may separate them if he desires, and cohabit with the female slave after one menstrual period. (‘Awn al-Ma’bud II.213 [11]
The Abu Dawud Hadiths
MuslimHope
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: While he was sitting with Allah's Apostle he said, "O Allah's Apostle! We get female captives as our share of booty, and we are interested in their prices, what is your opinion about coitus interruptus?" The Prophet said, "Do you really do that? It is better for you not to do it. No soul that which Allah has destined to exist, but will surely come into existence.
Narrated Ibn Muhairiz: I saw Abu Said and asked him about coitus interruptus. Abu Said said, "We went with Allah's Apostle, in the Ghazwa of Barli Al-Mustaliq and we captured some of the 'Arabs as captives, and the long separation from our wives was pressing us hard and we wanted to practice coitus interruptus. We asked Allah's Apostle (whether it was permissible). He said, "It is better for you not to do so. No soul, (that which Allah has) destined to exist, up to the Day of Resurrection, but will definitely come, into existence."
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) reported: We took women captives, and we wanted to do 'azl with them. We then asked Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) about it, and he said to us: Verily you do it, verily you do it, verily you do it, but the soul which has to be born until the Day of judgment must be born.
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (Allah her pleased with him) reported that at the Battle of Hunain Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) sent an army to Autas and encountered the enemy and fought with them. Having overcome them and taken them captives, the Companions of Allah's Messenger (may peace te 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 hands possess (Quran 4:. 24)" (i. e. they were lawful for them when their 'Idda period came to an end).
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) sent a small army. The rest of the hadith is the same except this that he said: Except what your right hands possess; out of them are lawful for you; and he did not mention" when their 'idda period comes to an end". This hadith has been reported on the authority of AbuSa'id (al-Khudri) (Allah be pleased with him) through another chain of transmitters and the words are: They took captives (women) on the day of Autas who had their husbands. They were afraid (to have sexual intercourse with them) when this verse was revealed:" And women already married except those whom you right hands posses" (Quran 4: 24)
Yahya related to me from Malik that Abdullah ibn Dinar said, "A man came to Abdullah ibn Umar when I was with him at the place where judgments were given and asked him about the suckling of an older person. Abdullah ibn Umar replied, 'A man came to Umar ibn al-Khattab and said, 'I have a slave-girl and I used to have intercourse with her. My wife went to her and suckled her. When I went to the girl, my wife told me to watch out, because she had suckled her!' Umar told him to beat his wife and to go to his slave-girl because kinship by suckling was only by the suckling of the young.' "
Malik related to me from Rabia ibn Abi Abd ar-Rahman that Umar ibn al-Khattab spoke about a man who went out with his wife's slave-girl on a journey and had intercourse with her and then the wife became jealous and mentioned that to Umar ibn al-Khattab. Umar questioned him about it. He said, "She gave her to me." Umar said, "Bring me a clear proof or I will stone you." Rabia added, "The wife confessed that she had given her to him."
Yahya related to me from Malik from Damra ibn Said al-Mazini from al-Hajjaj ibn Amr ibn Ghaziya that he was sitting with Zayd ibn Thabit when Ibn Fahd came to him. He was from the Yemen . He said, "Abu Said! I have slave-girls. None of the wives in my keep are more pleasing to me than them, and not all of them please me so much that I want a child by them, shall I then practise coitus interruptus?" Zayd ibn Thabit said, "Give an opinion, Hajjaj!" "I said, 'May Allah forgive you! We sit with you in order to learn from you!' He said, 'Give an opinion! 'I said, She is your field, if you wish, water it, and if you wish, leave it thirsty. I heard that from Zayd.' Zayd said, 'He has spoken the truth.'"

According to Islamic Scholars[edit]

Islam allows a man to have intercourse with his slave woman, whether he has a wife or wives or he is not married...Whoever regards that as haraam is a sinner who is going against the consensus of the scholars.
Ruling on having intercourse with a slave woman when one has a wife
Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 10382, November 24, 2005
The wife has no right to object to her husband owning female slaves or to his having intercourse with them. And Allah knows best. - Islam Q&A (www.islam-qa.com)
Islam: Questions and Answers - Jurisprudence and Islamic Rulings, Part 1
Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman, MSA Publication LImited (November 25, 2007), pg 344
It may, superficially, appear distasteful to copulate with a woman who is not a man's legal wife, but once Shariat makes something lawful, we have to accept it as lawful, whether it appeals to our taste, or not; and whether we know its underlying wisdom or not. It is necessary for a Muslim to be acquainted with the laws of Shariat, but it is not necessary for him to delve into each law in order to find the underlying wisdom of these laws because knowledge of the wisdom of some of the laws may be beyond his puny comprehension. Allah Ta'ala has said in the Holy Quran: ?Wa maa ooteetum min al-ilm illaa qaleelan? which means, more or less, that, "You have been given a very small portion of knowledge?. Hence, if a person fails to comprehend the underlying wisdom of any law of Shariat, he cannot regard it as a fault of Shariat (Allah forbid), on the contrary, it is the fault of his own perception and lack of understanding, because no law of Shariat is contradictory to wisdom.

Nevertheless, the wisdom underlying the permission granted by Shariat to copulate with a slave woman is as follows: The LEGAL possession that a Muslim receives over a slave woman from the ?Ameerul-Mu'mineen? (the Islamic Head of State) gives him legal credence to have coition with the slave woman in his possession, just as the marriage ceremony gives him legal credence to have coition with his wife. In other words, this LEGAL POSSESSION is, in effect, a SUBSTITUTE of the MARRIAGE CEREMONY. A free woman cannot be 'possessed', bought or sold like other possessions; therefore Shariat instituted a 'marriage ceremony' in which affirmation and consent takes place, which gives a man the right to copulate with her. On the other hand, a slave girl can be possessed and even bought and sold, thus, this right of possession, substituting as a marriage ceremony, entitles the owner to copulate with her. A similar example can be found in the slaughtering of animals; that after a formal slaughtering process, in which the words, ?Bismillahi Allahu Akbar? are recited, goats, cows, etc.; become ?Halaal? and lawful for consumption, whereas fish becomes ?Halaal? merely through 'possession' which substitutes for the slaughtering.

In other words, just as legal possession of a fish that has been fished out of the water, makes it Halaal for human consumption without the initiation of a formal slaughtering process; similarly legal possession of a slave woman made her Halaal for the purpose of coition with her owner without the initiation of a formal marriage ceremony.
What is a slave girls in islam?
MI. Khalid Dhorat, Ask-Imam.com, Question 14421

Marriage and Ownership are Not the Same Thing[edit]

The Book of Allaah indicates that the sexual relationships that are permitted are only of two types, either marriage or those (women slaves) whom one's right hand possesses. - Al-Umm, 5/43
Islam: Questions and Answers - Jurisprudence and Islamic Rulings, Part 1
Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman, MSA Publication LImited (November 25, 2007), pg 344
...the rules of normal marriage do not apply to a slave girl
Slave girls
Dr. Liyakat Takim, 'Aalim Network QR, April 9, 1997
...seeking enjoyment with a bondmaid by having sex with her or by its introductory things (such as kissing, embracing, fondling, etc.) are all disallowable unless she is legally and completely owned by a free man...he may have sex with her by means of right-hand possessing, and not by way of marriage contract. A bondmaid taken by her master for sexual intercourse is called 'Suriyyah' (bondmaid taken as a makeshift for wife in terms of coitus).
" 'Azal can not prevent pregnancy"
Islam Web Fatwa No. 86251, September 17, 2003
Allaah has permitted intimacy with a slave woman if the man owns her. This is not regarded as adultery as suggested in the question. Allaah says, describing the believers (interpretation of the meaning):

“those who guard their chastity (i.e. private parts, from illegal sexual acts)

Except from their wives or (the slaves) that their right hands possess,__ for then, they are free from blame”

[al-Mu’minoon 23:5]

What is meant by “those whom their right hands possess” is slave women or concubines. See also question no. 10382, 12562.

Once this is understood, it should be noted that what is suggested in the question, that this was zina, never occurred to the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them). What they were asking about was the ruling on practicing ‘azl with the slave women whom they had acquired in the course of jihad.

Conclusion[edit]

Aside from the more stringent demands found in the New Testament regarding adultery and marital relationships [12], both the Bible and modern, secular definitions of adultery condemn actions that are in fact condoned in the Qur'an, Hadith, and Tafsir. Not only may a Muslim man have sex with a married woman, but he may also sell her as a slave to another man.

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See Also[edit]

External Links[edit]

References[edit]