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Conclusion: Islam & Concubinage

This blog post is the end of the series on Concubines in Islam. In the beginning of the series, the viewer asked, “How is it possible that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had a concubine or concubines?” “How is it moral?”

There are other questions that one could ask about the Quran too, which mentions concubines. “How was that moral in itself?”

The previous blog posts tried to answer some of those questions.

It is important for the readers to see the progression of this whole discussion and to recall that it began with this question.

This is a real problem that Muslims mention in the Quran the right-hand possession. This isn’t about pleasing non-Muslims. Rather, it’s about helping Muslims to understand their own faith.

Many Muslims mentioned that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had a concubine, which is widely mentioned in Islamic tradition. Consequently, Muslims may find it difficult to accept that claim because Muslims have been taught that there are certain activities that can only take place within marriage and outside of the marriage would be considered haram, prohibited. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was having intimate relations with a concubine, which Muslims find it difficult to accept. How does one deal with that claim? We looked at apologetic responses from Muslims. While Muslims respect the statements that apologists have mentioned that we agree with, one would say that too. However, the previous blog showed the inadequacy of one’s conclusion.

The reports in Islamic tradition showed that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had a concubine. It can't be bad because he was a moral example for all time. That's a very hardcore type of apologetic response. Likewise, a softer response may be, that was different historical circumstances. The Muslim community could not have done much differently at that time. If the enemies caught our people at the end of a battle, they would take our people as captives. They would use our women as their concubines. That was the harsh reality of the ancient world.

Muslims had the same privilege by making war not attractive to non-Muslims. It's not they come, attack, and steal their women. Yet, if one gets the victory, then one doesn’t have the right to take their women. It must be a deterrent that that's the harshness of war. However, it works for both sides. These were some of the circumstances, "This is why it continued." The apologetic response would say, "It had to be accepted at the time." “There's not much the Muslims could have done about that.”

Moreover, once a person has been taken captive of war and they were in one’s society, either one puts them in prison, like an ancient form of Guantanamo Bay. Since there wasn’t a prison at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in that Medina society of the first Muslim generation, the natural thing was to distribute the captives of war as domestic servants.

The domestic servants were present, and women were particularly vulnerable in that situation if they were left unmarried. While they could be married off to persons within the society if no one found them desirable enough to marry them. The lesser of the two evils would've been for them to be a concubine to their master rather than to be an unmarried woman in that society. If they remained unmarried women, then they might remain vulnerable to attacks. They might be seen to be easy targets for men whose hearts have a disease. Apparently, there are many men whose hearts have had a disease in the past and present.

How could God completely disregard these women who were being taken advantage of and not even being afforded any consent?

The inadequacy of that softer response, that softer apologetic defense of the whole system suffers from this lack of addressing this deeper question. Also, it suffers in another way that one trace that historical situation, that it had to be accepted. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is our example for all to come. It means that he did certain things in his time and place which were very relevant to that time and place. It would've been to be the best that could be done at that time. He's known to have risen above the situation by picking the best things that could be picked and chosen at that time.

His choices are that we must make today to the extent that someone might say, “This is a good system, it's better than every other system." Let's just implement it today exactly as was implemented by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). That was a mistaken conclusion that arises from even that softer apologetic response. How could God allow this? That was the historical situation in which God is steering that early Muslim community to bring out from that the best that could be brought out.

The result that a person can achieve is often linked to the type of materials that one is working with. For instance, curving soap, but the soap must be of a sort of density and texture for the person to be able to curve it and get the desired result. The individual wants to chisel ice and form nice ice sculptures. Yet, the ice must be of a certain thickness and strength. Otherwise, it will break under the chisel. A person can do with the materials that one’s working is limited depending on the materials.

Moreover, God wanted to reshape that community that came from Jahiliya or the period of ignorance, and to bring them into a time of light and revelation. Yet, there are limitations. People had to be hoaxed gradually. For example, banning alcohol in the Muslim community had to be done gradually in stages. In addition, concubinage had to be done gradually. Muslims tend to think the way is left at the end, that was the completion, and that's the final product. However, it could be that God intended that the Muslims would continue to be molded along the general lines, which are already chalked out in the Quran, and that they will see it fit to abolish slavery altogether. By extension an implication, the practice of concubinage would be abolished from Muslim society too.

Did God intend for this to happen? Would God be pleased that people see concubinage as immoral currently?

Yes, God will be pleased that the world has abolished slavery and concubinage. Also, God will be pleased that Muslims had progressed their stance on slavery and concubinage currently.

For instance, ISIS thinks circumstances are right and they’re doing what the earliest Muslims did and what the Quran seems to indicate. However, ISIS misunderstood the Quran. It's in our classical books of interpretation of the Quran and the law books. Many will say that they are misinterpreting it for our present time. It should not apply to our present time because the world has changed a lot. However, it’s slightly lacking that the theory of how this would not apply to the present time. The series explained that the Quran does not need to be interpreted in a way that justifies or legitimates a man sleeping with his slave woman just by virtue of owning her. Unless he marries her first, then she would be his wife.

According to the Islamic tradition regarding Maria, the Coptic woman, is a concubine of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It was shown that it is unnecessary to take those reports as though there were authentic reports about the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). However, it is more likely that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) married her. She was illegitimate and the wife of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

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