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Last Updated: 2011/01/02
Summary of question
Why is it permissible in Islam to marry female captives?
question
Why is it permissible in Islam to marry female captives?
Concise answer

Given that we have already dealt with the political and social aspects of slaveholding in our previous answers, here we will study two more issues concerning the subject matter: 1. The reason and philosophy behind the legality of conjugal relations with female captives 2. Why doesn’t this relationship require a formula like marriage and other contracts?

The reason and philosophy behind Islam permitting marriage with female captives can be explained as follows: While the capture of women as prisoners is an unfortunate and bitter outcome of battles between warring nations, it is also a reality that is common to both the past and the present. Undeniably, the women that were captured and taken captive in wars were a part of the enemy’s army, and to release them would only assist the enemy in recuperating their lost numbers and strengthening their army. As a result, it would be completely illogical to release these captives unconditionally. In addition, keeping them in custody was also not a proper solution.

A feasible solution would be to employ these captives in positions of work such as mines, agricultural fields, etc., but this would mean denying them the fulfillment of their sexual drives which could give rise to very undesirable complications, moral and ethical degradation of the women. If these prisoners have their emotional and physical needs met within reasonable limits, these adverse effects can be avoided.

Furthermore, if a big number of people are excluded from the society, the consequences would be graver because it would give rise to an impure generation in the society, a generation that will end up taking a position against moral and ideological values. In other words, they would represent the enemy’s thought and ideology and if this stance is not adopted, then there would come into a population which is practically incompatible with the moral values of the society. Therefore, Islam officially recognized the permissibility of conjugal relations with them under specific circumstances. Such relations are thus considered within the realms of Islamic Shari’ah and intended to improve the social well-being of the parties concerned and society at large.

As for why the permissibility of conjugal relations with female captives does not require recitation of a formula and her consent, we must say that:

The words are indicative of one’s will and intention. In other words, they are subject to men’s consideration because the words shall have no import or meaning unless some people decide to consider meanings for them. Thus, the meanings of the words are subject to men’s considerations. For example, in order for a free woman to become halal for a man, a special sermon and formula is recited which is undoubtedly conventional and subject to human-made rules and human considerations. Thus, the principal criterion in this respect is the social and conventional considerations and the words simply signify those social considerations. It does not indicate anything more than that. Hence, the words do not create meanings rather they indicate the meanings which men themselves have considered for them in the outside world. The fact that conjugal relations with the female captives in those times did not require a formula or conclusion of a marriage contract was based on the social conventions that were prevalent in those times. Islam has accepted those considerations together with some conditions, albeit under specific circumstances.

Detailed Answer

Given that we have already dealt with the political and social aspects of slaveholding in our previous answers[1], here we aim to study two more issues concerning the subject matter: 1. The reason and philosophy behind the legality of conjugal relations with female captives 2. Why doesn’t this relationship require a formula like marriage and other contracts?

The reason and philosophy behind Islam permitting marriage with female captives can be explained as follows: If a wrong system is set up in a society, it would then be difficult to remove it, and any uncalculated move in this respect would be counter-productive just as a person who is suffering from a dangerous disease and whose disease is at an advanced stage or a person who is addicted to drugs for more than a dozen years, in such cases, it is necessary to work out and use programs that would serve the needs within a special time and circumstance.

While the capture of women as prisoners is an unfortunate and bitter outcome of battles between warring nations, it is also a reality that is common to both the past and the present. Undeniably, the women that were captured and taken captive in wars were a part of the enemy’s army, and to release them would only assist the enemy in recuperating their lost numbers and strengthening their army. As a result, it would be completely illogical to release these captives unconditionally. In addition, keeping them in custody was also not a proper solution.

A feasible solution would be to employ these captives in positions of work such as mines, agricultural fields, etc., but this would mean denying them the fulfillment of their sexual drives which could give rise to very undesirable complications, moral and ethical degradation of the women. If these prisoners have their emotional and physical needs met within reasonable limits, these adverse effects can be avoided.

Furthermore, if a big number of people are excluded from the society, the consequences would be graver because it would give rise to an impure generation in the society, a generation that will end up taking a position against moral and ideological values. In other words, they would represent the enemy’s thought and ideology and if this stance is not adopted, then there would come into a population which is practically incompatible with the moral values of the society.

Islam has made female captives halal under specific conditions because satisfying the sexual instinct which is one of the instincts gifted to man by God, the Exalted, is a natural and essential feature. Unlike those individuals or the schools which promulgate monasticism, we believe that suppressing these instincts will result in psychological complications. Indeed, Islam does not endorse sexual anarchy and sexual communism which are against the purpose of creation nor does it approve of the illegal relations, adultery and promiscuity which most of the human communities are entangled with. Islam opposes prostitution and sexual exploitation of girls and women. These phenomena being prevalent in some societies are an insult to the woman. They are abusive and against woman’s dignity. Not only are they against morality and social chastity but they will result in destruction of the family.

Therefore, Islam officially recognized the permissibility of conjugal relations with female prisoners under specific circumstances. Such relations are thus considered within the realms of Islamic Shari’ah and intended to improve the social well-being of the parties concerned and society at large.

Islam adopted a rational approach towards a segment of the population of the human society which was left aside unused. Thus, it made it useful and active by legalizing conjugal relations in various ways with female captives so as to prevent sexual communism, sexual exploitation and promiscuity.

Not only Islam gave female captives the right to marry (with the permission of their owners or a Hakim-e Shar’) but such marriages would in turn fundamentally improve the lives of these women, raise their social status, and allow them to establish families of their own. Therefore, this movement was provoked not out of disrespect towards these women, but rather in hopes of uplifting their personality and dignity.

The most important issue in those times was to present a comprehensive plan to meet the real needs of female captives and it would not have been possible except through uplifting the female captives’ personalities. The central point lay in a very simple but crucial plan and it was nothing but legitimization of marriage with the female captives. Indeed, it was difficult to implement such a plan because everyone looked at his captives as booty and a tool suitable for work in difficult mines or in homes. As a matter of fact, such marriages were viewed as social and cultural taboos. Meaning, one who engaged in such a marriage would most certainly lower his social status and that of his family in the eyes of others. Islam’s introduction of this concept resulted in groundbreaking cultural revolution. Such marriages would in turn fundamentally improve the lives of these women, raise their social status, and allow them to establish families of their own. Therefore, this movement was provoked not out of disrespect towards these women, but rather in hopes of uplifting their personality and dignity. If, keeping in mind that at that time, keeping captives as slaves was widespread, and brutal and unethical treatment towards them, especially the women, was also quite common, we correctly assess Islam’s systematic approach to this problem in those circumstances and considering the social norms then, we will reach and understand its true worth.[2]

In any case, the law concerning the female prisoners was that conjugal relations would become halal for those who took them captives.[3] In addition, they could take those women to the bazaar and sell them and those who bought them would become the new owners. Thus, no sooner they bought those women than they became halal for the buyer without having to recite the formula of marriage contract. The new owners could either set those women free or marry them out or sell them to other individuals.[4]

As for why the permissibility of conjugal relations with female captives does not require recitation of a formula and consent, we must say that:

The words are indicative of one’s will and intention. In other words, they are subject to men’s consideration because the words shall have no import or meaning unless some people decide to consider meanings for them. Thus, the meanings and implications of words are subject to men’s considerations in a society.[5] For example, in order for a free woman to become halal for a man, a special sermon and formula is recited which is undoubtedly conventional and subject to human-made rules and human considerations. Thus, the principal criterion in this respect is the social and conventional considerations and the words are simply indicative of those social considerations. It does not signify anything more than that. Hence, the words do not create meanings rather they indicate the meanings which men themselves have considered for them in the concrete external world.[6]

Therefore, the fact that conjugal relations with the female captives in those times did not require a formula or conclusion of a marriage contract was based on the social conventions that were present in those times. Islam has accepted those considerations together with some conditions, albeit under specific circumstances.



[1] - Question 513 (site:558)

[2] - Allamah Tabatabai, Farazhayi az Islam, pp. 171 and 221.

[3] - Sahib al-Madaresk, (Al-Ameli, Al-Sayed Al-Sanad), Muhammad bin Ali al-Musavi, Nehayat al-Muram fi Sharh Mukhtasar Sharaye’ al-Islam, vol.1, pg.312; Shahid Thani, Sharh Lum’ah, vol.2, pp.109 and 113.

[4] - Najafi, Muhammad Hasan, Jawaherul Kalam, vol.30, pg.204.

[5] - Sadr, Sayed Muhammad Baqir , Bohus fi Ilm al-Usul, vol.1, pp.81-83; Sadr, Sayed Muhammad Baqir, Al-Ma’alem al-Jadidah Lil-Usul, pp.142-146.

[6] -Hadavi Tehrani, Mahdi, pamphlets containing lectures on Legal Theories at the postgraduate level, topic of wadh’ (coining of words).

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