Does Islamic Law Sanction Hamas’ Rape of Captives?
One of the leftist establishment’s flagship propaganda outfits made a remarkable admission on Thursday: Hamas’ mass rapes of captive Israeli women abducted on Oct. 7 could have been in accord with Islamic law. This is the first time, as far as I know, that any establishment outlet has acknowledged this fact, as important and full of implications as it is, and it’s all the more extraordinary that the acknowledgment would come in a far-left rag such as the UK’s Guardian.
The Guardian reported that “mounting evidence of rapes and genital mutilation” on Oct. 7 “pointed to possible crimes against humanity.” Then came the big admission, although it was hedged around in various ways: “Israeli intelligence officials, experts and sources with direct knowledge of interrogation reports of captured Hamas fighters believe units that attacked were beforehand given a text that drew on a controversial and contested interpretation of traditional Islamic military jurisprudence, claiming that captives were ‘the spoils of war.’ This potentially legitimised the abduction of civilians and other abuses, without being an explicit instruction to do so.” It also noted that “in at least two unsourced videos of interrogations of alleged Hamas members,” the jihadis “are heard talking about instructions given to rape women.”
Is this plausible? Could one of the world’s great religions actually approve of this barbarity? The Guardian attributes this suggestion to “Israeli intelligence officials,” which for the publication’s leftist audience undercuts it immediately. Then they call this idea a “controversial and contested interpretation.” In reality, I would love to see any Islamic source contest this, but it would be hard to find one, as it’s all straight from the Qur’an.
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The Qur’an first raises the possibility of taking infidel women for sexual use in the context of the permission for polygamy: “And if you fear that you will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry the women who seem good to you, two or three or four, and if you fear that you cannot do justice, then one, or those that your right hands possess. In this way it is more likely that you will not do injustice” (4:3).
Who are “those that your right hands possess”? The Tafsir Anwarul Bayan, a modern Islamic commentary on the Qur’an, explains: “During Jihad (religion war), many men and women become war captives. The Amirul Mu’minin [leader of the believers, or caliph—an office now vacant] has the choice of distributing them amongst the Mujahidin [warriors of jihad], in which event they will become the property of these Mujahidin. This enslavement is the penalty for disbelief (kufr)” (I, 501).
The same commentary insists that this is not a temporary provision only for ancient people: “None of the injunctions pertaining to slavery have been abrogated in the Shari’ah. The reason that the Muslims of today do not have slaves is because they do not engage in Jihad (religion war)” (I, 502). So if one does engage in jihad, one can take sex slaves.
Another Qur’an passage forbids men to have sexual intercourse with “all married women except those whom your right hands possess” (4:24). The renowned medieval Islamic scholar Ibn Kathir, whose works are still read and studied today, explains that Muslim men “are prohibited from marrying women who are already married,” with one notable exception: “those whom you acquire through war, for you are allowed such women after making sure they are not pregnant” (II, 422).
The next mention of “those that your right hands possess” is in Qur’an 23:1-6: “The believers are successful indeed, who are humble in their prayers, and who shun vain conversation, and who give alms, and who guard their private parts, except from their wives or those that their right hands possess, for then they are not blameworthy.”
The exemption from the obligation of chastity with one’s slave girls makes clear for what purpose they are intended. The Tafsir al-Jalalayn explains that one must guard one’s chastity “except from their wives or those they own as slaves, in which case they are not blameworthy in approaching them” (730). Writing in the twentieth century, the Pakistani Islamic scholar Maulana Maududi says that “it is made clear that one need not guard one’s private parts from two kinds of women – one’s wives and slave-girls” (Towards Understanding the Qur’an, VI, 81).
Then Qur’an 33:50 says: “O prophet, indeed, we have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have paid their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses of those whom Allah has given you as spoils of war…” This verse makes it clear that “those whom your right hand possesses” are women taken as “spoils of war,” and are “lawful” for sexual intercourse, as are wives.
This is reinforced by the last passage that mentions these women: “Indeed, the torment of their Lord is before which no one can feel secure and those who preserve their chastity except with their wives and those whom their right hands possess, for thus they are not blameworthy” (70:30). This is somewhat garbled but clear enough: the chaste will escape the Lord’s punishment, and chastity means one has sexual relations only with his wives and those whom his right hand possesses.
So there is the Qur’an, Muhammad, and renowned Islamic scholars such as Ibn Kathir endorsing this practice. In what way, then, is it “controversial and contested,” as the Guardian says? It would be wonderful if the Guardian, or anyone, would deign to explain. But they won’t. They want readers to think this is some marginal, eccentric interpretation of Islam so that no one begins to think ill of the left’s favorite religion.
Even that is a significant improvement over previous practice; for years the establishment media saw Boko Haram, ISIS, and other jihad groups take sex slaves and always insisted that the practice had nothing to do with Islam. The Guardian, of all publications, has moved a slight bit closer to being honest about this. I suppose we should be grateful for small favors.
Article posted with permission from Robert Spencer