It is against Islam to rape Muslim women, but Muhammad actually encouraged the rape of others captured in battle. This hadith provides the context for the Qur’anic verse (4:24):
The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) sent a military expedition to Awtas on the occasion of the battle of Hunain. They met their enemy and fought with them. They defeated them and took them captives. Some of the Companions of the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) were reluctant to have intercourse with the female captives in the presence of their husbands who were unbelievers. So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Qur’anic verse: (Sura 4:24) “And all married women (are forbidden) unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.” (Abu Dawud 2150, also Muslim 3433)
Actually, as the hadith indicates, it wasn’t Muhammad, but “Allah the Exalted” who told the men to rape the women in front of their husbands – which is all the more reason to think of Islam differently from other religions.
Note also that the husbands of these unfortunate victims were obviously alive after battle. This is important because it flatly contradicts those apologists who like to argue that the women Muhammad enslaved were widowed and thus unable to fend for themselves. (Even if the apologists were right, what sort of a moral code is it that forces a widow to choose between being raped and starving?)
There are several other episodes in which Muhammad is offered the clear opportunity to disavow raping women – yet he instead offers advice on how to proceed. In one case, his men were reluctant to devalue their new slaves for later resale by getting them pregnant. Muhammad was asked about coitus interruptus in particular:
“O Allah’s Apostle! We get female captives as our share of booty, and we are interested in their prices, what is your opinion about coitus interruptus?” The Prophet said, “Do you really do that? It is better for you not to do it. No soul that which Allah has destined to exist, but will surely come into existence.” (Bukhari 34:432)
As indicated, the prophet of Islam did not mind his men raping the women, provided they ejaculated within the bodies of their victims.
As one might imagine, Muhammad’s obvious approval of raping women captured in battle and his own personal participation as recorded in many places is of intense inconvenience to the Muslim apologists of our time. For this reason, some of them attempt to explain away these many episodes and Qur’anic references to sex with captives by pretending that these are cases in which women have fled bad marriages and sought refuge with the Muslims. Some apologists even refer to them as “wives,” even though the Qur’an makes a clear distinction between “those whom thy right hand possesses” and true wives (see Sura 33:50).
Beyond the desperation of the 21st century apologist however, there is absolutely nothing in the historical text that supports this rosy revision of Muslim history. The women of the Banu Mustaliq were sold into slavery following their rape:
“We went out with Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to the Bi’l-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing ‘azl (Withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid-conception). But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah’s Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), and he said: It does not matter“ (Sahih Muslim 3371)
In fact, female slaves were traded like any other simple commodity by Muhammad and his band of devoted followers:
“Then the apostle sent Sa-d b. Zayd al-Ansari, brother of Abdu’l-Ashal with some of the captive women of Banu Qurayza to Najd and he sold them for horses and weapons.” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham/Hisham 693)
Is it Islamic to sell one’s wife for horses? Clearly these were not wives!
More importantly, by definition a “captured” woman is not one who is fleeing her husband. She is fleeing her captor (ie. the Muslim slave raider). This hadith describes a typical raid, in which the women and children are captured as they are attempting to flee the attacking Muslims:
“…and then we attacked from all sides and reached their watering-place where a battle was fought. Some of the enemies were killed and some were taken prisoners. I saw a group of persons that consisted of women and children [escaping in the distance]. I was afraid lest they should reach the mountain before me, so I shot an arrow between them and the mountain. When they saw the arrow, they stopped. So I brought them, driving them along” (Sahih Muslim 4345)
The Muslim narrator sees the women trying to escape (following the massacre of their men) and cuts off their route by shooting an arrow into their path. These aren’t women trying to seek refuge with the Muslims. They are trying to avoid capture by the Muslims.
The same hadith goes on to recount that Muhammad personally demanded one of the captured women for his own use:
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 4345)
The prophet of Islam and his companions used war to collect women for personal sexual use and for trading. Unless she was arbitrarily declared as someone’s wife, the woman became a sex slave. In no case was her fate tied to anything that she had personally done, nor was she given a choice about her future.