WARNING: Some may find the following article offensive because it discusses sexual relations between adults and children. Some find this topic distasteful. Proceed at your own risk.
The Islamic State released a pamphlet entitled “Questions and Answers on Taking Captives and Slaves” dated around October/November 2014. The pamphlet was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute and contains a series of questions followed by an answer for each question pertaining to the proper treatment of those captured by ISIS during its expansion into new territories. ISIS also recently offered sex slaves as a reward for memorizing the Quran.
The bulk of the questions concern what is and is not allowed with female captives, particularly in the area of sexual relations with captive women. Question #13 is particularly troubling because it addresses what ISIS soldiers can do sexually with young girls who have not yet reached puberty. It is bad enough that Islam sanctions the possession of sex slaves for Muslim men. But few know that Islam also sanctions sexual relations with pre-pubescent girls, even those being used as a sex slave.
Question #13 asks, “Is it permissible to have intercourse with a female slave who has not reached puberty?” The answer given is, “It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn't reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse; however if she is not fit for intercourse, then it is enough to enjoy her without intercourse." I will unpack several ideas here and show where each is supported by Islam, in the Quran and hadith.
Sex with Pre-Pubescent Girls
Muhammad is said to be the example of conduct which devout Muslims must follow if they hope to achieve paradise. Specifically, Sura 33:21 tells Muslims, “Ye have indeed in the Messenger of God a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in God and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of God.”
It is abundantly clear from the hadith that Muhammad married his favorite wife Aisha when she was six years of age and had sex with her to consummate the marriage when she was age nine. Muslim apologists attempt all sorts of shenanigans to explain away this difficulty, with excuses ranging from disputing her age to 14 or greater, to assert it was common practice among all cultures of the time to marry young girls. All these are unconvincing and without merit. The hadith clearly state the age of Aisha when she married Muhammad:
Bukhari, Book 5, Volume 58, Hadith 236
Narrated Hisham's father:
Khadija died three years before the Prophet departed to Medina. He stayed there for two years or so and then he married 'Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consumed that marriage when she was nine years old.
Bukhari, Book 7, Volume 62, Hadith 88
The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with 'Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).
Muslim, Book 8, Hadith 3310
'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married me when I was six years old, and I was admitted to his house when I was nine years old.
Muslim, Book 8, Hadith 3309
'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) married me when I was six years old, and I was admitted to his house at the age of nine. She further said: We went to Medina and I had an attack of fever for a month, and my hair had come down to the earlobes. Umm Ruman (my mother) came to me and I was at that time on a swing along with my playmates. She called me loudly and I went to her and I did not know what she had wanted of me. She took hold of my hand and took me to the door, and I was saying: Ha, ha (as if I was gasping), until the agitation of my heart was over. She took me to a house, where had gathered the women of the Ansar. They all blessed me and wished me good luck and said: May you have share in good. She (my mother) entrusted me to them. They washed my head and embellished me and nothing frightened me. Allah's Messenger (, may peace be upon him) came there in the morning, and I was entrusted to him.
The evidence is overwhelming that Muhammad married a young girl and had sex with her at a very early age of nine years old. Muslim apologists will argue Aisha developed faster physically than many girls do and was well into puberty at age nine. There is no tradition to reflect this; it is mere speculation. She could have been well into puberty or not; we do not know.
What we do know is this. It appeared to be common practice for older men to have sexual relations with their ‘wives’ who had not yet entered puberty. Sura 65:4 provides instruction for women who have been divorced and stipulates a waiting period after divorce before they are eligible for remarriage, to ensure they are not pregnant.
Sura 65:4 says, “And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the 'Iddah (prescribed period), if you have doubts (about their periods), is three months, and for those who have no courses [(i.e. they are still immature) their 'Iddah (prescribed period) is three months likewise.” In other words, women who have entered menopause and no longer have regular menstrual cycles must wait three months to ensure no pregnancy. The same applies to girls who have not yet begun regular menstrual cycles. To unpack this a bit, young girls who marry, have sex with their husbands, and are subsequently divorced must wait three months if they have not yet begun puberty and established a regular cycle, to ensure no pregnancy. This verse can ONLY make sense if young, pre-pubescent girls were having sex with their older husbands. Thus, the Quran allows for sex with pre-pubescent girls and includes regulations (sharia) regarding their status upon divorce.
Sex with Slaves
The Quran endorses and permits taking of slaves from among conquered people. A quick search of the phrase “those whom the right hand possesses” or its derivative (incorrect grammatically), “those whom the right hands possess” is a euphemism for slaves. Women were taken by Muhammad himself as sex slaves and the remainder of women divided up among his followers for the same, so once again with Muhammad as the model of behavior for Muslims to follow, they may also take slaves, even for physical relations.
Sura 4:23-24 describes those whom Muslim men are forbidden to marry, and by implication forbidden from sexual relations, since marriage includes the husband’s right to carnally enjoy the body of his wife or wives. Verse 23 is lengthy and won’t be repeated here, but prohibits marrying anyone who is related in any way. Verse 24 continues:
“Also (prohibited are) Women already married, except those whom your right hands possess …” (Yusuf Ali translation).
The context for this verse is found in several hadith. I will quote two, so that any Muslim wishing to accuse me of taking a verse out of context will have no argument.
Sahih Muslim, Book 8, Hadith 3432
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (Allah her pleased with him) reported that at the Battle of Hanain 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 be 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 (iv. 24)" (i. e. they were lawful for them when their 'Idda period came to an end).
Abu Dawud, Volume 2, Book 5, Chapter 711, Hadith 2150
Abu Sa’id 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 Quranic verse: “And all married women (are forbidden) unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.” That is to say, they are lawful for them when they complete their waiting period.
Ahmad Hasan, professor at the Islamic Research Institute of Islamia University in Islamabad, offers an explanatory footnote to Abu Dawud:
“After the distribution of the spoils of war a man may have intercourse with the female slaves after passing one menstrual period, if she is not pregnant. If she is pregnant one should wait until she delivers the child. This is the view held by Malik, al-Shafi’I, and Abu Thawr.”
The Quran also says in Sura 23:5-6, "Those who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or the captives whom their right hands possess, for in their case they are free from blame."
After defeating the Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza in Medina at the Battle of the Trench in 627, Ibn Ishaq records Muhammad choosing for himself from among the women of the Banu Qurayza the most beautiful woman for himself as a slave. “Then the apostle divided the property, the wives and children of B. Qurayza among the Muslims … The apostle had chosen one of their women for himself, Rayhana d. ‘Amr b. Khunafa … and she remained with him until she died in his power. (Ibn Ishaq, p. 466).
Muhammad also addressed a question put to him by his followers who were having sex with captured female slaves:
Sahih Muslim, Book 8, Hadith 3371
Abu Sirma said to Abu Sa'id al Khadri (Allah he pleased with him): 0 Abu Sa'id, did you hear Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) mentioning al-'azl? He said: Yes, and added: We went out with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to the Bi'l-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing 'azl (Withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid-conception). But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah's Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him), and he said: It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born.
Muhammad’s men asked if they should be practicing birth control with their female sex slaves. Muhammad replied, in essence, “It’s none of your concern because Allah has already pre-ordained what will be born.” Notice he said nothing about such relations being prohibited. How could he, when he as also engaging in the same behavior?
Muhammad and the Quran permit and endorse sex with female captives, sex slaves. The Quran also permits relations with “those whom the right hand possesses” – a euphemism for sex slaves. And the Quran permits sex with wives and slaves even though they may not have reached the age of puberty yet.
So is ISIS violating Islam and Muhammad’s decrees by forcing young girls into sex slavery? The answer is clear. ISIS is following true Islam and their prophet.