Fatwa: # 45473
Category: Jurisprudence and Rulings...
Date: 22nd September 2020


Slavery and Islam


Assalamu Alaykum,

I have some questions about slavery of females at the time of the Prophet SAW. I desperately need these questions answered because i cannot sleep properly with these questions floating in my head.

1.     Were women who were prisoners of war forced into slavery?

The first question is with regards to the female captives of war who were civilians and were non-combatants i.e not involved in the war but were family of the combatants. Were they made into slaves, or was there an alternative option they could accept e.g imprisonment? If there were no alternatives, could they choose who would enslave them? I presume that many of these women were not happy to have owners who could’ve potentially killed their relatives, have sexual relations with them. Would that then be classified as what we know as rape? Rape is defined by Cambridge dictionary “to force someone to have sex when he or she is unwilling”.

  2.     Were women who not Captives, but were born slaves, given any rights of enslavement?

The second question is with regards to women who were born from slaves, or were existing slaves. Did they have any rights with who their owners were, and if they could have sexual relations with them? E.g if I didn’t want to be a slave, but was born one. I was then bought by a 70 year old man, who I didn’t want to own me, could I object Islamically? If I didn’t want him to have sexual relations with me, could I refuse? In other words, if I didn’t want him to rape me, could I refuse?

  3.     Was there a limit to how many slave girls a man could have?

The third question comes as there are many hadiths about people freeing hundreds of slaves. Does this mean that a man could have sexual relations with hundreds of women, regardless of whether they were all in his possession at the same time? I am not asking if this was recommended, I’m asking if this was Islamically LEGAL.

  4.     Could a slave girl have 2 masters?

The fourth question comes as there are a few hadiths (correct me if I am wrong) that state that a slave may have 2 owners. If so, does this mean that both owners could have sexual relations with her? 

  5.     Was there a limit to how often women could be sold?

The fifth question comes as I have never seen a limit on this. I have seen hadith with regards to how the master should not have intercourse with her before she gets one menstruation, but other than this, is there a limit to how often a woman could be sold? For example, could a woman be sold over 50 times during her lifetime, and then effectively have relations with over 50 men? 

  6.     Was there a limit to how long a man can own a slave girl before selling her?

For example, could a man have a slave girl for one week plus the one menstruation period, before selling her, or was there a minimum amount of time such as 2 years?

Please i really hope you can clear all my questions, so that i can finally rest without a doubt in my head. I have debates with people about Islam, but when they ask me about slavery, i don't feel confidant enough to reply, because I've never seen a reply to these questions, nor have i been able to reply to these.


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.


We appreciate your query.

It should be pointed out that the issue of slavery should not be viewed from a feminist point of view as understood today.

The issue of slavery should be understood according to the norm of the time. We cannot use the practice and norm of one era to measure the practice and norm of another era. Furthermore, slavery was prevalent in the pre-Islamic era with its various forms of oppression, some of which you refer to.

Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) corrected many forms of oppression in slavery and in fact encouraged the freeing of slaves.

See the following Ahadith:

قَالَ لِي أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ أَيُّمَا رَجُلٍ أَعْتَقَ امْرَأً مُسْلِمًا اسْتَنْقَذَ اللَّهُ بِكُلِّ عُضْوٍ مِنْهُ عُضْوًا مِنْهُ مِنَ النَّارِ ‏"‏‏.‏ قَالَ سَعِيدٌ ابْنُ مَرْجَانَةَ فَانْطَلَقْتُ إِلَى عَلِيِّ بْنِ حُسَيْنٍ فَعَمَدَ عَلِيُّ بْنُ حُسَيْنٍ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ إِلَى عَبْدٍ لَهُ قَدْ أَعْطَاهُ بِهِ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ جَعْفَرٍ عَشَرَةَ آلاَفِ دِرْهَمٍ ـ أَوْ أَلْفَ دِينَارٍ ـ فَأَعْتَقَهُ‏.‏ ‏.(بخاري)

Translation: Abu Huraira said to me: Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam)said: "Whoever frees a Muslim slave, Allah will save all the parts of his body from the (Hell) Fire as he has freed the body-parts of the slave." Sa`id bin Marjana said that he narrated that Hadith to `Ali bin Al-Husain and he freed his slave for whom `Abdullah bin Ja`far had offered him ten thousand Dirhams or one-thousand Dinars.

( Sahih al-Bukhari 2517)

عَنْ أَبِي مُوسَى ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ مَنْ كَانَتْ لَهُ جَارِيَةٌ فَعَالَهَا، فَأَحْسَنَ إِلَيْهَا ثُمَّ أَعْتَقَهَا وَتَزَوَّجَهَا، كَانَ لَهُ أَجْرَانِ ‏"‏‏.‏‏.(بخاري)

Translation: Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: "He who has a slave-girl and educates and treats her nicely and then frees her and marries her, will get a double reward."( Sahih al-Bukhari 2544)


عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ سَأَلْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَىُّ الْعَمَلِ أَفْضَلُ، قَالَ ‏"‏ إِيمَانٌ بِاللَّهِ، وَجِهَادٌ فِي سَبِيلِهِ ‏"‏‏.‏ قُلْتُ فَأَىُّ الرِّقَابِ أَفْضَلُ قَالَ ‏"‏ أَغْلاَهَا ثَمَنًا، وَأَنْفَسُهَا عِنْدَ أَهْلِهَا ‏"‏‏.‏ قُلْتُ فَإِنْ لَمْ أَفْعَلْ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏"‏ تُعِينُ صَانِعًا أَوْ تَصْنَعُ لأَخْرَقَ ‏"‏‏.‏ قَالَ فَإِنْ لَمْ أَفْعَلْ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏"‏ تَدَعُ النَّاسَ مِنَ الشَّرِّ، فَإِنَّهَا صَدَقَةٌ تَصَدَّقُ بِهَا عَلَى نَفْسِكَ ‏"‏‏.‏ (بخاري)

Translation: Abu Dhar (Radiyallahu Anhu) says: I asked Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam), "What is the best deed?" He replied, "To believe in Allah and to fight for His Cause." I then asked, "What is the best kind of freeing (of slaves)?" He replied, "The manumission of the most expensive slave and the most beloved by his master." I said, "If I cannot afford to do that?" He said, "Help the weak or do good for a person who cannot work for himself." I said, "If I cannot do that?" He said, "Refrain from harming others for this will be regarded as a charitable deed for your own good." ( Sahih al-Bukhari 2518)


قَالَ سَمِعْتُ الْمَعْرُورَ بْنَ سُوَيْدٍ، قَالَ رَأَيْتُ أَبَا ذَرٍّ الْغِفَارِيَّ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ وَعَلَيْهِ حُلَّةٌ وَعَلَى غُلاَمِهِ حُلَّةٌ فَسَأَلْنَاهُ عَنْ ذَلِكَ فَقَالَ إِنِّي سَابَبْتُ رَجُلاً فَشَكَانِي إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم، فَقَالَ لِيَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏"‏ أَعَيَّرْتَهُ بِأُمِّهِ ‏"‏‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏"‏ إِنَّ إِخْوَانَكُمْ خَوَلُكُمْ جَعَلَهُمُ اللَّهُ تَحْتَ أَيْدِيكُمْ، فَمَنْ كَانَ أَخُوهُ تَحْتَ يَدِهِ فَلْيُطْعِمْهُ مِمَّا يَأْكُلُ، وَلْيُلْبِسْهُ مِمَّا يَلْبَسُ، وَلاَ تُكَلِّفُوهُمْ مَا يَغْلِبُهُمْ، فَإِنْ كَلَّفْتُمُوهُمْ مَا يَغْلِبُهُمْ فَأَعِينُوهُمْ ‏"‏‏.‏‏‏.(بخاري)

Translation: Al-Ma'rur bin Suwaid (Rahimahullah) says: I saw Abu Dhar Al-Ghifari(Radiyallahu Anhu) wearing a cloak, and his slave, too, was wearing a cloak. We asked him about that (i.e. how both were wearing similar cloaks). He replied, "Once I abused a man and he complained of me to the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) . The Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) asked me, 'Did you abuse him by slighting his mother?' He added, 'Your slaves are your brethren upon whom Allah has given you authority. So, if one has one's brethren under one's control, one should feed them with the like of what one eats and clothe them with the like of what one wears. You should not overburden them with what they cannot bear, and if you do so, help them (in their hard job).( Sahih al-Bukhari 2545)


Furthermore, slavery should not be regarded as a tool of sexual gratification. Males were also slaves and subjected to being sold many times, like the great illustrious Sahabi, Hazrat Salmaan Farsi (Radiyallahu Anhu). See the following narration:


حَدَّثَنِي الْحَسَنُ بْنُ عُمَرَ بْنِ شَقِيقٍ، حَدَّثَنَا مُعْتَمِرٌ، قَالَ أَبِي وَحَدَّثَنَا أَبُو عُثْمَانَ، عَنْ سَلْمَانَ الْفَارِسِيِّ، أَنَّهُ تَدَاوَلَهُ بِضْعَةَ عَشَرَ مِنْ رَبٍّ إِلَى رَبٍّ‏.(بخاري)

Translation: Salman Al-Farisi is reported to have said: “That he was sold (as a slave) by one master to another for more than ten times (i.e between 13 and 19)”. ( Sahih al-Bukhari 3946)


He was a victim of the norm of slavery in the time of Jahiliyyah and had to endure emotional adjustments of more than ten masters after being unjustly sold as a slave. Islam came and freed him from slavery and its oppressions.  

Brother, the Darul Iftaa has also written many detailed answers regarding the issue of slavery. By reading the articles below all your queries will be answered. InshaAllah.






If the above answers are not sufficient then you may resend your questions to Admin@daruliftaa.net.

Note: For future reference only 2 questions should be asked per query, as we have to attend to many other queries. 

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Ahmad Patel

Student Darul Iftaa

South Africa

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.


DISCLAIMER - AskImam.org questions
AskImam.org answers issues pertaining to Shar'ah. Thereafter, these questions and answers are placed for public view on www.askimam.org for educational purposes. However, many of these answers are unique to a particular scenario and cannot be taken as a basis to establish a ruling in another situation or another environment. Askimam.org bears no responsibility with regards to these questions being used out of their intended context.
  • The Shar's ruling herein given is based specifically on the question posed and should be read in conjunction with the question.
  • AskImam.org bears no responsibility to any party who may or may not act on this answer and is being hereby exempted from loss or damage howsoever caused.
  • This answer may not be used as evidence in any Court of Law without prior written consent of AskImam.org.
  • Any or all links provided in our emails, answers and articles are restricted to the specific material being cited. Such referencing should not be taken as an endorsement of other contents of that website.
The Messenger of Allah said, "When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of Deen."
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]