Sunday, June 5, 2016

Reviving a Sunnah? How ISIS Justifies Slavery

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
04 June 2016
When Sinjar fell in 2014, the Islamic State captured many women and children, particularly from the Shia and the Yazidi communities. The world woke to horror stories, committed on these people by the ISIS. The western media, rather focusing on the humanitarian crises which erupted after the fall of Sinjar, was more interested in investigating how the Islamic State was taking on sex slaves, which included Yazidi women being bought and sold by groups of men.
 Stoking on an old prejudice built around Islam, which sees the religion as given to avarice and ‘pleasures of the flesh’, European Christian and post Christian commentators sought to paint Islam as a religion having an unholy obsession with sex. Muslims were equally horrified by these stories and they tried to understand the whole thing as an aberration and condemned the taking of slaves as un-Islamic.
This article tries to understand the rationale given by the Islamic State itself for taking the hostages as slaves with whom they could also have sex. The article is based on an article in Dabiq, the magazine of Islamic State.
Written by a Muslim woman, the article justifies the taking of slaves during the war. The piece starts with evidence from the Quran and Hadis substantiating the claim that taking of slaves and having sex with them permitted within Islam. Thus citing the Quran, the article quotes, ‘He also said, describing His believing slaves-And they who guard their private parts, except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed (al Muminun 5:6).’ The piece goes on to explain that by right hand possession the Quran means female slaves who were separated from their husbands because of enslavement. ‘They become lawful for the ones who end up possessing them even without pronouncement of divorce by their Harbi (enemy) husbands.’ Further quoting from Hadis, which is called authentic, the article states that ‘approaching any married woman is fornication, except for a woman who has been enslaved.’
For the ISIS therefore, Saby (taking slaves through war) ‘is a great Prophetic Sunnah containing many divine wisdoms and religious benefits, regardless of whether or not the people are aware of this’. It further states, ‘the Sirah is a witness to our Prophet’s raiding of the Kuffar. He would kill their men and enslave their children and women.’ After this the article goes on to narrate many Hadis from which it become clear that the Prophet took slaves during his various wars. The ISIS seems to be genuinely at a loss as to why people and especially Muslims are criticising them when all that they are doing is an exercise to revive the Sunnah of Islam. The article is a response not to the non-Muslims (who do not know the commands of Islam) but to fellow Muslims and especially to its Ulema (wicked scholars) who have joined the ranks of the Kafirs to denounce the ISIS and its taking of slaves.
 It is an attempt to ‘suppress their falsehood and restrain their tongues’, although it is not known who these wicked scholars are against whom the ISIS diatribe is directed. The revival of this Sunnah is a matter of immense pride for the ISIS and the writer says that they ‘prostrated before Allah in gratitude on the day the first slave girl entered our home’. Unapologetic and brazen, they further state that ‘we brought it (the Prophetic Sunnah) back by the edge of the sword, and we did not do so through pacifism, negotiations, democracy or elections. We established it according to the Prophetic way, with blood-red swords, not with fingers for voting or tweeting’.
Arguing that Yazidis were non-believers the ISIS reminds Muslims through various verses in the Quran which commands Muslims to fight till the time religion is for Allah alone. For ISIS, the taking of slaves is a reminder to those who bow before the ‘Taghut’ (idol) that Allah alone is worthy of worship. This is the lesson that is sent from Allah to those who do not follow His command and the Mujahidin (ISIS) are only the fulfilling the will of Allah.
Slaves therefore become a reminder to the community to which they belong, that they went astray in terms of religious practice. For the ISIS, it is also a way of humiliating these communities for leaving the path of Allah. Only through coming back to the fold of Islam can they redeem themselves. Thus taking of slaves also becomes another measure of bringing people to the fold of Islam. The ISIS therefore is entirely surprised that they are being criticised for following a divine, praiseworthy law.
One gets the impression that in terms of ideas, the ISIS is entirely convinced that they are following the path of true Islam. Moreover, they are also convinced that only a literalist reading of the Quran and Hadis is the way forward. The more important question though is that they are quoting scriptures which most Muslims would recognise as beyond debate. That being the case, one does not understand how Muslims opposing the ISIS and violent, extremist and anti-Islamic are going to win this war of ideas.
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A columnist, Arshad Alam is a Delhi based writer
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