The ‘Prophet’ of Islam on Rape (Muhammad’s Example Article #6)

With this series we are continuing our look at the conduct of Muhammad. The person who is supposed to be the ‘excellent example’ (Qur’an 33:21) for all Muslims to follow. In the previous article I focussed on the way in which Muhammad treated some of his captives. This article continues along the same line by shining a light on how Muhammad responded to the sexual abuse of women captured by his forces. What follows should perhaps be avoided by sensitive readers. 

In one of the most disturbing hadiths of the Sahih Muslim collection, some of Muhammad’s followers came to him with a question about the treatment of captive women. His answer was staggering in its callousness and its implications for later Muslim conduct during war. Here is the relevant hadith in full: “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 [Muhammad] [may peace be upon him], and he said: ‘It does not matter if you do not do it [withdraw before climaxing], for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born’” (Sahih Muslim Book 8 Hadith 3371; see also Sahih Bukhari Volume 3 Book 34 Hadith 432). 

In case it needs to be spelled out, what we have here is a group of Muslim men raping captive women while taking care to withdraw before they reach the point of climax. Instead of furiously commanding them to stop such vile conduct and taking the women into his protection, Muhammad cheerfully instructs his followers to do to the women whatever they desired. To make matters even worse, Muslim tradition states that the following verse of the Qur’an was revealed precisely to ease the qualms of Muslim warriors about having sex with enslaved captives: “Also [prohibited are] women already married, except those whom your right hands possess” (Qur’an 4:24). 

So, according to the word of Allah, if “your right hand possesses” a woman, sex with her is totally lawful even if she is married. It does not take much imagination to work out that untold miseries were visited upon women who were unfortunate enough to be captured by Muslim forces as a direct consequence of Muhammad’s actions and the Qur’anic approval of rape that followed on from it. 

In the next article in the series we will turn our focus to one of the most infamous incidents in Muhammad’s life as related by Ibn Ishaq, the massacre of the men of the Jewish tribe known as the Banu Qurayza. 

For much more on the links between Islamic teaching and violence, please see my book ‘Nothing to do with Islam? Investigating the West’s Most Dangerous Blind Spot’

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