The Origin of Rape as a Weapon in Islam

Last week I read an article depicting the horrible and barbaric practices of ISIS militants who use rape as a weapon against their enemies. Through human trafficking, sexual abuse, and violence, ISIS seeks to intimidate their opponents and strike fear in the hearts of anyone who would stand up to them. This is the essence of terrorism. The media’s perspective on these atrocities is that this practice is unique to ISIS and other terrorist organizations who do not represent true Islam which is peaceful and respects women.

But what if this practice of kidnapping and raping women is rooted in the life of Muhammad rather than being some aberration of Islamic theology? What if the terrorists are right that the Qur’an does permit them to carry out these heinous acts? What if the “peaceful Muslims” are actually bad Muslims who do not follow all the teachings of the Qur’an and the “terrorists” are good Muslims who represent historical Islam? Consider these examples from the life of Muhammad:

“I drove them along until I brought them to Abu Bakr who bestowed that girl upon me as a prize. So we arrived in Medina. I had not yet disrobed her when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) met me in the street and said: ‘Give me that girl'” (Sahih Muslim book 19, chapter 14, section 4345).

“Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) sent a small army. The rest of the hadith is the same except this that he said: Except what your right hands possess out of them are lawful for you; and he did not mention when their ‘idda period comes to an end.’ This hadith has been reported on the authority of AbuSa’id (al-Khudri) (Allah be pleased with him) through another chain of transmitters and the words are: They took captives (women) on the day of Autas who had their husbands. They were afraid (to have sexual intercourse with them) when this verse was revealed: And women already married except those whom you right hands posses” (Sahih Muslim book 8, chapter 29, section 3433).

In addition to the historical examples of both Muhammad himself taking female prisoners of war and his permission for others to do the same, the Qur’an gives Allah’s approval of the practice:

“O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makka) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her; – this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large); We know what We have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess; – in order that there should be no difficulty for thee. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Surah 33:50).

“Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those (captives and slaves) whom your right hands possess. Thus has Allah ordained for you. All others are lawful, provided you seek (them in marriage) with Mahr (bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) from your property, desiring chastity, not committing illegal sexual intercourse, so with those of whom you have enjoyed sexual relations, give them their Mahr as prescribed; but if after a Mahr is prescribed, you agree mutually (to give more), there is no sin on you. Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise” (Surah 4:24).

The depiction of the murder of Umm Qirfa by Zayd (Muhammad’s adoptive son) demonstrates the cruelty of ISIS is not unique to them, but began with Muhammad and his family:

“Allah’s Messenger sent Zayd to Wadi Qura, where he encountered the Banu Fazarah. Some of his Companions were killed, and Zayd was carried away wounded. Ward was slain by the Banu Badr. When Zayd returned, he vowed that no washing should touch his head until he had raided the Fazarah. After he recovered, Muhammad sent him with an army against the Fazarah settlement. He met them in Qura and inflicted casualties on them and took Umm Qirfah prisoner. He also took one of Umm’s daughters and Abdallah bin Mas’adah prisoner. Zyad bin Harithah ordered Qays to kill Umm, and he killed her cruelly. He tied each of her legs with a rope and tied the ropes to two camels, and they split her in two” (Tabari Vol. 8: page 96).

Muslim apologists will object to our rejection of Islam based on these passages by citing Deuteronomy 21:10-14 which describes God’s permission for the people of Israel to marry foreign widows whose husbands had been killed in battle. But Jesus in Matthew 19:8 says concerning the Mosaic laws of divorce, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” The laws permitting divorce in the Old Testament do not reflect God’s original design for marriage. Deuteronomy 21:14 mentions God permitting divorce and therefore I would include verses 10-13 in with the permission to divorce as an accommodation to the sinful desires of fallen man rather than reflecting God’s original will for his people. God only allowed this because of the hardness of the people’s hearts and it has been abrogated through the New Covenant ministry of Christ. Another difference between Deuteronomy 21:10-14 and the Quran is that in the Quran many of the husbands were still alive. The passage in Deuteronomy is describing marriage while the Quran is permitting sexual relations outside of marriage. It must also be kept in mind that the military conquests of the Old Testament were limited in scope and duration. They were designed for a specific period of time to bring God’s judgment upon wicked civilizations and to drive out foreigners to make room for the people of God (Deut 18:10-12). This is in contrast to the open-ended nature of the calls for Jihad in Islam.

May these tragic stories cause us to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing persecution in the Middle East. May we speak for those who have no voice but suffer in silence. May God break the teeth of the wicked and speed the day of Christ’s return. Whatever suffering we face as Christians in America for our faith does not compare with this.

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