Verses from Surah al-Mu’minun (5 -11)

In the Name of Allah, the Kind, the Compassionate

[5] And those who guard their private parts.

[6] Except with their wives, or what their right hands own,7 for they are the unblameworthy.8


7. That is, (legal) slave-girls (Ibn Jarir), who can only be taken in battle-fields, it being part of an institution discouraged by Islam, and now abolished by consensus of mankind (Au.).

Sayyid writes: “Islam came at a time when slavery was an institution that was prevalent all over the world. Enslavement of the prisoners of war was common and universally recognized. It was not possible for Islam, which was engaged in a death struggle against powers that stood in its way, to abolish the system unilaterally. Had it attempted that, Muslim prisoners would have remained slaves in enemy lands while the enemy prisoners would have had to be set free. Therefore, (as an immediate remedy) Islam dried all the sources of slavery – except those taken in war – hoping that one day or the other the institution would be abolished by international consensus. But in those days prisoners of war came as slaves … and Islam allowed sexual relationship between female slaves and their masters – and masters alone, to the exclusion of all – until the time they could win their freedom for which Islam had opened several ways.

“Perhaps, one of the factors in allowing such relationship was a need of the slave girls themselves. They could, in its absence, find other ways of gratification of natural instincts creating a moral chaos as it happens in our times, when, slave taking is disallowed (but sexual exploitation is ignored). But Islam cannot approve of unclean practices. So, the situation remained, until freedom was gained. And a woman gained her freedom by several means; e.g., if she gave birth to a child through her master, and he died. Or he freed her either as an act of piety, or in redemption of a wrong he committed, or if she entered into an agreement by which she paid a sum and freed herself, or if the master struck her on the face and she gained her freedom thereby.”


8. Most commentators have pointed out that while all the verses of this passage address both men and women, this particular verse addresses only men. That is because it is not allowable for women to have sex with their slaves. (The story of a free woman who had sex with her slave during the time of `Umar, is weak). Similarly, Alusi points out, a woman cannot allow her husband to have sex with one of her own slave-girls. If she so wishes, she might first sell the slave-girl to her husband after which alone she is lawful to him. It is reported that Ibn `Abbas allowed it, and hence the Shi`ah use the ruling, but it appears the attribution to Ibn `Abbas is incorrect.

Some contemporary writers have used another verse to prove that a Muslim cannot have sex with a slave girl he owns. The verse of their reference is (4: 25): “And he of you who cannot afford to marry free believing women may marry such believing women as whom your right hands posses.”

That is, if sex was allowed, there was no need to marry the slave girls. Mawdudi points out that the reference is to the slave-girls owned by others. This is stated further in the same verse as quoted above, but which, somehow, the modern writers fail to quote in full. And the missing part of the above verse (4: 25) is, “Marry them, then, with the leave of their guardians and give them their bridal due in fair manner.”

(This part makes it clear that the slave-girls in question belong to other than him: Au.).

Majid comments on legality of sex in Islam: “Regular exercise of sexual function on the part of men, like all other natural functions, within lawful bounds and in relation to women whose rights and dues they duly observe, is in Islam absolutely above reproach and wanton abstinence is viewed not as a sign of spirituality but as an aberration. In fact it is the primary purpose of marriage, biologically viewed. Compare and contrast with this the attitude of Christianity which holds that sexual intercourse, even in wedlock, is something of a handicap in the scheme of salvation, and implies that even the permitted sex behaviour is not altogether approved. See Mt. 22: 30, 1 Co. 7: 32-34. ‘Christianity,’ writes an English student of sociology, ‘being an advocate of eternal life, very logically preaches that sex is to be deplored, to be avoided, and, if possible, negatived. And the Puritan, who may be regarded as the extreme Christian, is notorious for his implacable loathing of sex.’”

[7] But whoever sought beyond that, they indeed are the transgressors.9


9. The allusion is to fornicators and adulterers (Ibn Jarir).

Majid comments: “Thus every form of gratifying sexual passions (out of wedlock) is criminal, and the law of Islam categorically interdicts all forms of extramarital sexual relations, whether of normal or abnormal variety, that have been so rampant both in ancient and modern nations, often even under the cloak of respectability and approval.. In ancient Rome and Greece homosexualism was rampant… Sodomy, pederasty, and tribalism were all practiced extensively and openly. Similarly in ancient Egypt, Persia, India and China… The rise of civilization and great extension in the practice and development of sexual vice; … and likewise the appearance of new forms … and old vices elaborated and given new names … These abnormalities have been restricted to no one country and class.’ (Forbate, Love, Marriage and Jealousy, p. 110).

“Note the effects of this teaching on the general conduct of the Muslim society as observed by a much-traveled learned Christian in the eightees of the nineteenth century: ‘The Muhammadans have no towers, gaming-houses, or brothels, nor have they any idea of legalizing prostitution; and as regards their general conversation it is infinitely more decent, as a rule, than that of most Europeans. I have seen young Muhammadan fellows at school and college, and their conduct and talk are far better than is the case among English young men; indeed the talk of the latter is often such as would incur punishment in Muhammadan land.’(Dr. G. W. Leitner, ex-Director of Public Instruction, Punjab).”

As regards the absolute sexual chaos now prevalent in the West, it is beyond words and belief to describe. Reports that come in at regular pace, each confirming the credibility of the previous, stretch one’s credulity to the limits (Au.).

Imam Shafe`i has used this verse to argue that masturbation is unlawful. A hadith is also cited in this connection in which the Prophet declared that Allah will not look at seven (men) on the Day of Judgment, nor purify them, nor let them into the company of the workers (of good deeds). One of the seven counted in this hadith is he who masturbates. However, this hadith is weak (Ibn Kathir). According to the majority, writes Alusi, it is prohibited. But Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal allowed it saying that the excessive amount of semen is similar to body waste which could be removed at need, like excess blood. (While to the Malikiyyah it is prohibited, some of the Hanafiyyah have allowed it to purge a strong urge. Fat-h andTuhfah – Au.). Ibn al-Humam has said that ordinarily it is prohibited, but in situations when one is overcome by sexual desires, it is hoped that the affair will be overlooked.

Another question, can the verse be used as evidence of, or against the practice of Muta`ah? The answer is, neither can be used for such purposes. Mutu`ah has been disallowed by hadith in unequivocal terms. And, stray opinion of a Companion or two does not outweigh the opinion of the great majority of the Salaf and later scholars. For detailed discussions, one might see Alusi at this point (Au.).

[8] And those who are mindful of their trusts and covenant.10


10. Note that while “amaanaat” is in plural, “`ahd” is in the singular (Ibn Jarir); perhaps, because the allusion is to the primordial covenant that each of us has made with Allah to the effect that we shall believe in Him (Au.).

Yusuf Ali remarks: “Trusts may be express or implied. Express trusts are those where property is entrusted or duties are assigned by someone to some other whom he trusts, to carry out either immediately or in specified contingencies. Implied trusts arise out of power, or position, or opportunity; e.g., a king holds his kingdom on trust from Allah for his subjects.. Covenants create obligations, and express implied trusts and covenants taken together cover the whole field of obligations.”

Sayyid adds: “There are several covenants to which mankind is bound, individually and collectively. The first and foremost covenant binding upon every individual is to the effect that they will believe in God as one God and obey Him. This is implanted in man’s very nature. All other covenants follow this principal covenant. Every other promise that a man enters into, has this first covenant as the overarching principle. Similarly, a Muslim social group is bound by its various covenants, once again with the main covenant between itself and Allah as the guiding principle and which gives rise to several other covenants, bindings and responsibilities.

“Further, fulfilling the covenants is a way of life of a believer who is always conscious of his various bindings. A successful, peaceful, collective life cannot be generated and organized but by those who are mindful of their promises and covenants.”

[9] And those who (diligently) guard their Prayers.11 


11. According to Masruq it means to do the Prayers on time. But Ibrahim thought it meant doing them regularly (Ibn Jarir). Ibn Mas`ud, Abu al-Duha, `Alqamah b. Qays, Sa`id b. Jubayr and `Ikrimah also explained the verse as doing the Prayers on time (Ibn Kathir).

But Zamakhshari, taking note of the plural form here (“salawaat”) points out that in addition to the above, it could imply doing all the Prayers, obligatory and non-obligatory, such as, the five daily Prayers, Friday Prayers, `Eid Prayers, Rain Prayers, Eclipse Prayers, etc.

[10] They indeed, they are the inheritors.12


12. This verse is explained by a hadith that is reported by Abu Hurayrah. The Prophet said, “There is none among you but he has two abodes (reserved for him): an abode in Paradise and an abode in the Fire. When he dies and enters the Fire, the inhabitants of Paradise become heirs of his abode in Paradise. Hence Allah said, ‘They indeed are the inheritors.’” (The report is Sahih: Qurtubi).

Abu Hurayrah further explained that those who entered Paradise will inherit their own abodes as well as the abodes of those in the Fire; to which Mujahid added that the believer builds his abode in Paradise and destroys the one in Hellfire, while the unbeliever destroys his abode in Paradise and builds his in Hellfire (Ibn Jarir).

The report about two abodes is in Ibn Abi Hatim and the verse then can be seen in the same vein as another (19: 63), “That is the Paradise that We shall let those of Our slaves inherit who were god-conscious.”

And a hadith in Muslim says, “Some of the Muslims will come on the Day of Judgment burdened with sins the size of mountains. Allah will forgive them and place their load of sins on Jews and Christians.”

The words of another report, also in Muslim are, “Allah will, on the Day of Judgment, ransom a Muslim with a Christian or a Jew. It will be said, ‘This is your ransom from the Fire.’”

`Umar b. `Abdul `Aziz made Abu Bardah swear thrice in the name of Allah that his father narrated it in these words from the Prophet himself (Ibn Kathir).

[11] Who will inherit Firdaws,13 abiding therein forever.


13. Some of the Salaf  have thought that Firdaws is a Roman word for a garden. However, it is a special kind of Garden within the Garden, i.e., Paradise. Qatadah reports that Haritha was killed in the battle of Badr. His mother said (to the Prophet), “If my son is of the people of Paradise, I shall observe patience. But if it is otherwise, I will weep my heart out.” He answered, “O Haritha’s mother. There are two Gardens in Paradise. Your son has obtained Al-Firdaws, the top most (portion) of Paradise” (Ibn Jarir).

The report is in Tirmidhi who gave it the status of Hasan Sahih Gharib (Alusi).

Firdaws in any case is the best part of Paradise. This is confirmed by another hadith. The Prophet said (Bukhari), “When you ask, ask for Firdaws, for it is the best part of Paradise, the top-most part of Paradise and, as I was shown, above it is Al-Rahman’s `Arsh.

It has also been said, Ibn Kathir adds, that a garden is not referred to as Firdaws without grapevine in it.

Mawdudi lists words for Paradise in other languages: In Sanskrit Pardisha, in ancient ChaldianPardisa, in ancient Persian Pairidaisa, in Hebrew Pardis, in Armenian Pardiz, in SyriacFardisw, in Greek Paradaisus and in Latin Paradisus.

(To be continued)

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