One of the most abused verses of the Quran are the following identical verses (23:5-6 and 70:29-30), and the understanding of the expression “malkat aymānuhum” ( مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُهُمْ ).

[23:5 & 70:29] And they guard their chastity.
[23:6 & 70:30] Only with their spouses, or “malkat aymānuhum (do they have sexual relations); they are not to be blamed.

 وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَـٰفِظُونَ

 إِلَّا عَلَىٰٓ أَزْوَٰجِهِمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ غَيْرُ مَلُومِينَ

3azwājihimأَزْوَٰجِهِمْtheir spouses
8fa-innahumفَإِنَّهُمْThen indeed they (are)
10malūmīnaمَلُومِينَ[ones] blameworthy.

Warning Regarding Multi-meaning Verses

The term “malkat aymānuhum” is a multi-meaning expression. The Quran warns the believers that people with perversity in their hearts will pursue these kinds of multi-meaning verses to extricate a certain meaning which goes against the foundation of the Quran in order to cause chaos and division.

[3:7] He sent down to you this scripture, containing straightforward verses—which constitute the foundation of the scripture—as well as multiple-meaning or allegorical verses. Those who harbor perversity in their hearts will pursue the multiple-meaning verses to create chaos and to extricate a certain meaning. None knows the true meaning thereof except GOD and those well founded in knowledge. They say, “We believe in this—all of it comes from our Lord.” Only those who possess intelligence will take heed.

هُوَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبَ مِنْهُ ءَايَـٰتٌ مُّحْكَمَـٰتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ ٱلْكِتَـٰبِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَـٰبِهَـٰتٌ فَأَمَّا ٱلَّذِينَ فِى قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَـٰبَهَ مِنْهُ ٱبْتِغَآءَ ٱلْفِتْنَةِ وَٱبْتِغَآءَ تَأْوِيلِهِۦ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُۥٓ إِلَّا ٱللَّهُ وَٱلرَّٰسِخُونَ فِى ٱلْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ ءَامَنَّا بِهِۦ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّآ أُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلْأَلْبَـٰبِ

14fa-ammāفَأَمَّاThen as for
15alladhīnaٱلَّذِينَthose who
17qulūbihimقُلُوبِهِمْtheir hearts (is)
18zayghunزَيْغٌdeviation / perversity / doubt
19fayattabiʿūnaفَيَتَّبِعُونَ[so] they follow
21tashābahaتَشَـٰبَهَit is ambiguous / multiple meaning
22min’huمِنْهُof it,
24l-fit’natiٱلْفِتْنَةِ[the] dissension / division / disputes
25wa-ib’tighāaوَٱبْتِغَآءَand seeking
26tawīlihiتَأْوِيلِهِۦits interpretation / determination.

A simple test in determining if someone is misusing these multi-meaning verses is to determine if their understanding goes against the core of the message of the Quran. This is because the Quran informs us that it has no contradictions. Therefore, if we have an understanding that creates a contradiction, then we must reevaluate our understanding so we view the verses of the Quran in the correct light.

[4:82] Why do they not study the Quran carefully? If it were from other than GOD, they would have found in it numerous contradictions.

 أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ ٱلْقُرْءَانَ وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ غَيْرِ ٱللَّهِ لَوَجَدُوا۟ فِيهِ ٱخْتِلَـٰفًا كَثِيرًا

malkat aymānuhum as “Sex” Slaves

That said, many translate “malkat aymānuhum” as what “their right hand possesses,” and infer this to mean slaves and servants in verses 23:6 & 70:30. Because of this understanding, they are permitted to have sex slaves. As if that isn’t bad enough, individuals also believe that if someone conquers a people, they are allowed to take their women as slaves and rape them. The simple question to ask regarding such interpretations is, does this create contradictions to the moral guidelines of the Quran? The simple answer is absolutely yes!

[23:5 & 70:29] And they guard their chastity.
[23:6 & 70:30] Only with their spouses, or their slaves (do they have sexual relations); they are not to be blamed.

 وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَـٰفِظُونَ

 إِلَّا عَلَىٰٓ أَزْوَٰجِهِمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ غَيْرُ مَلُومِينَ

Why Sex Slaves are immoral

It is a sad state of affairs when the masses need to be convinced that having sex slaves is an immoral act. This not only goes against the basic concept of human moral sensibility, as the Quran describes as “maruf” ( مَعْرُوف ), it also contradicts many of the core themes of the Quran.

The Quran condemns aggression and never permits believers to be aggressors.

[2:190] You may fight in the cause of GOD against those who attack you, but do not aggress. GOD does not love the aggressors.

 وَقَـٰتِلُوا۟ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّذِينَ يُقَـٰتِلُونَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوٓا۟ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُعْتَدِينَ

The Quran condemns oppression, calling it worst than murder.

[2:191] You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict them whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder. Do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque (Masjid), unless they attack you therein. If they attack you, you may kill them. This is the just retribution for those disbelievers.

 وَٱقْتُلُوهُمْ حَيْثُ ثَقِفْتُمُوهُمْ وَأَخْرِجُوهُم مِّنْ حَيْثُ أَخْرَجُوكُمْ وَٱلْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ ٱلْقَتْلِ وَلَا تُقَـٰتِلُوهُمْ عِندَ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ حَتَّىٰ يُقَـٰتِلُوكُمْ فِيهِ فَإِن قَـٰتَلُوكُمْ فَٱقْتُلُوهُمْ كَذَٰلِكَ جَزَآءُ ٱلْكَـٰفِرِينَ

The Quran condemns force and compulsion.

[2:256] There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.

 لَآ إِكْرَاهَ فِى ٱلدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ ٱلرُّشْدُ مِنَ ٱلْغَىِّ فَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِٱلطَّـٰغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱسْتَمْسَكَ بِٱلْعُرْوَةِ ٱلْوُثْقَىٰ لَا ٱنفِصَامَ لَهَا وَٱللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

The Quran condemns injustice.

[5:8] O you who believe, you shall be absolutely equitable, and observe GOD, when you serve as witnesses. Do not be provoked by your conflicts with some people into committing injustice. You shall be absolutely equitable, for it is more righteous. You shall observe GOD. GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do.

 يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ كُونُوا۟ قَوَّٰمِينَ لِلَّهِ شُهَدَآءَ بِٱلْقِسْطِ وَلَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَـَٔانُ قَوْمٍ عَلَىٰٓ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا۟ ٱعْدِلُوا۟ هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ خَبِيرٌۢ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ

The Quran permits only equitable transactions. The following verse discusses property and one of the most important properties a person has is their right for no one to violate their bodies.

[4:29] O you who believe, do not consume each others’ properties illicitly— only mutually acceptable transactions are permitted. You shall not kill yourselves. GOD is Merciful towards you.

 يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَا تَأْكُلُوٓا۟ أَمْوَٰلَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِٱلْبَـٰطِلِ إِلَّآ أَن تَكُونَ تِجَـٰرَةً عَن تَرَاضٍ مِّنكُمْ وَلَا تَقْتُلُوٓا۟ أَنفُسَكُمْ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُمْ رَحِيمًا

If a person is forced into a marriage or raped against their will, the Quran stands on the side of the victim and permits them to fight back against such atrocities. This is because the Quran permits fighting to eliminate oppression and to correct an injustice.

[2:193] You may also fight them to eliminate oppression, and to worship GOD freely. If they refrain, you shall not aggress; aggression is permitted only against the aggressors.

 وَقَـٰتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّىٰ لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ ٱلدِّينُ لِلَّهِ فَإِنِ ٱنتَهَوْا۟ فَلَا عُدْوَٰنَ إِلَّا عَلَى ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ

[22:60] It is decreed that if one avenges an injustice that was inflicted upon him, equitably, then is persecuted because of this, GOD will surely support him. GOD is Pardoner, Forgiving.

ذَٰلِكَ وَمَنْ عَاقَبَ بِمِثْلِ مَا عُوقِبَ بِهِۦ ثُمَّ بُغِىَ عَلَيْهِ لَيَنصُرَنَّهُ ٱللَّهُ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَعَفُوٌّ غَفُورٌ

[42:39] When gross injustice befalls them, they stand up for their rights.

 وَٱلَّذِينَ إِذَآ أَصَابَهُمُ ٱلْبَغْىُ هُمْ يَنتَصِرُونَ

Even for the sake of the argument if we assume that “malkat aymānuhum” is in refernce to slaves in 23:6 and 70:30, the Quran commands believers to be kind to the malakat aymānukum , and needless to say, raping someone is not an act of kindness.

[4:36] You shall worship GOD alone—do not associate anything with Him. You shall be kind to the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the poor, the related neighbor, the unrelated neighbor, the close associate, the traveling alien, and your servants. GOD does not like the arrogant show-offs.

وَٱعْبُدُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا۟ بِهِۦ شَيْـًٔا وَبِٱلْوَٰلِدَيْنِ إِحْسَـٰنًا وَبِذِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْيَتَـٰمَىٰ وَٱلْمَسَـٰكِينِ وَٱلْجَارِ ذِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْجَارِ ٱلْجُنُبِ وَٱلصَّاحِبِ بِٱلْجَنۢبِ وَٱبْنِ ٱلسَّبِيلِ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُكُمْ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ مَن كَانَ مُخْتَالًا فَخُورًا

Female Masters and Male Servants

If someone wants to argue that 23:6 and 70:30 permits a master to have sexual relations with their slave, then this would apply to both male and female masters equally. This is because “malkat aymānuhunna” ( مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُهُنَّ ) is used in the following verse for women masters over male servants.

[24:31] And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary. They shall cover their chests, and shall not relax this code in the presence of other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, other women, the male servants ( مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُهُنَّ ) or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified, or the children who have not reached puberty. They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal certain details of their bodies. All of you shall repent to GOD, O you believers, that you may succeed.

وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَـٰتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَـٰرِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ ءَابَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ ءَابَآءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَآءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَٰنِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِىٓ إِخْوَٰنِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِىٓ أَخَوَٰتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُهُنَّ أَوِ ٱلتَّـٰبِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُو۟لِى ٱلْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ ٱلرِّجَالِ أَوِ ٱلطِّفْلِ ٱلَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا۟ عَلَىٰ عَوْرَٰتِ ٱلنِّسَآءِ وَلَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ وَتُوبُوٓا۟ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

malkat aymānuhum As Slave

Besides the reasons listed above, there is another major contradiction if we interpret “malkat aymānuhum” to refer to slaves. Again for the sake of argument, let’s say that the owner of the slave does not force themselves onto their slave, and the sexual advancement is mutually desirable. Even under these circumstances, such an interpretation still creates a major contradiction in the verse.

If we translate “malkat aymānuhum” as what “their right hand possesses” then this possession is a one-way relationship between the master and the slave. This would mean that the slave would be committing a sin as their right-hand does not possess their master. This again shows that this interpretation is unacceptable even in the most favorable light.

[23:5 & 70:29] And they guard their chastity.
[23:6 & 70:30] Only with their spouses, or what their right hand posses (do they have sexual relations); they are not to be blamed.

 وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَـٰفِظُونَ

 إِلَّا عَلَىٰٓ أَزْوَٰجِهِمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ غَيْرُ مَلُومِينَ

Now if we look at the other category that is specified in verses 23:6 and 70:30, “azwājihim” ( أَزْوَٰجِهِمْ ), which means spouses, this term applies to both the husband (58:1, 2:232) and wife (2:234). This shows a mutual relationship, but if we interpret “malkat aymānuhum” as what “their right hand possesses,” then this is only a one-way relationship and means that the owner is not what the slave or servant possesses. Therefore, even with such an interpretation, this would be a major sin upon the slave, even if they were willfully receptive to such advances.

Also, it is worth noting that for those who may be getting upset because “malkat aymānuhum” is also used in the Quran in reference to servants and slaves, consider that “azwāj” ( أَزْوَٰجِ ) also means one’s counterparts (15:88, 20:131). So if we are going to take the broadest definition of these terms, then technically, people should be free to have sexual relations with anyone who is their counterpart.

malkat aymānuhum as common law marriage

A common law marriage is a type of marriage in which a couple lives together and presents themselves to the community as spouses, even though they have not obtained a marriage license or participated in a formal ceremony. In common law marriage, the couple is considered legally married without the need for a marriage license or formal ceremony because they have demonstrated their intention to be married through their actions and behavior.

The Quran specifies certain rules and steps for a lawful marriage, such as mutual attraction, the setting of the dowry, the making of a solemn pledge, and the forming of a covenant. The question is what about people who are clearly married, but did not go through this formal process. 23:6 & 70:30 makes it clear that these form of common law marriages are still recognized by God. Even if we look at the meanings of these words in Classical Arabic sources, we see that this is a way that this expression was used.

The term “malakat” ( مَلَكَتْ ) comes from the root ( م ل ك ), which has the meaning to possess or have power over but also means to support or to give, as well as to marry. While the term “aymānuhum” ( أَيْمَـٰنُهُمْ ) can be either understood as “their right hand” or “their oaths” (16:92). Therefore, this expression can be understood as “it gave their right hands” or “it has taken their oaths.” In either case, this implies someone who is taken in marriage, just like it is stated in the traditional American marriage ceremonies when each spouse is asked, “do you take their hand in marriage.”

Not only does this understanding not create a contradiction in other verses of the Quran, but it also is aligned with the main concepts of the Quran regarding justice, decency, and striving to maintain the highest level of morality. Also, such understanding is mutual as both the husband and wife take the hand and oath of the other in marriage.

One thought on “Malakat Aymanuhum & Sex Slaves

  1. Finally we get to hear a reasonable understanding of these verses ,which have perturbed me for a long time, as to why Allah would promote, in the Quran, men taking advantage of what their right hand possess. This explanation makes more sense to me and is in line with the ethics and morality promoted in the Qu’ran.
    Jazak Allah. Continue your good work. May Allah bless you with more wisdom, Ameen.


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