Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mainstream Islam

In the comments to this post, below, Ismaeel from the Muslim Action Committee said the following:

The closing of the doors of ijtihad was a recognition of the ulema of the day that the process of developing METHODOLOGIES to discover ISLAMIC RULINGS on any given subject had been completed and all the four METHODOLOGIES would now be used to derive rulings from the texts on LEGAL issues.
So, Islamic Law was fixed in the twelfth century and has been perfect ever since. This is absolutely mainstream for unreformed Muslims, which is to say the overwhelming majority of Muslims, including those in Europe, Australasia and the Americas. Here's an example (from America) of the sort of revolting conclusion this can lead to:
Finally, in late Spring of 2005, the day came which turned out to be the last day I ever went to this fiqh class. I happened to meet one of the other students shortly before class, and I asked him how he thought we should respond to the need for revision, especially considering that our textbook was based on a work more than six hundred years old. The other student replied, there was not much need to revise the traditional thought, but maybe only add something in those places where the traditional scholars were silent. No need at all to change anything substantial. I asked him about slavery and sex with slaves, and he suggested I ask the shaikh. And so I did.

And so it came as it had to come. When the class reached the five minute break, I asked the Shaikh, whether it was permitted for a male master to sleep with slave women against their will. He immediately said yes, and he added this was agreed upon by all four Sunni schools - Shafi'i, Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali. I asked to clarify, so if there was a slave market today, I could go and buy a fourteen year old girl just in order to sleep with her? He said yes, and he added, not only was it permitted, it was also common practice among early Muslims. Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the shaikh said, had children from his slaves. The class was shocked, especially the female students. One female student asked, what if the slave woman did not want to? The sheikh affirmed that this was not relevant. Another female student asked, whether this was still applicable today? The shaikh did not address this question - he did not seem to understand what the student meant by "applicable" - but he added that when agreements against slavery came up the Muslim countries "were the first ones to sign". The shaikh said sex slavery was perfectly according to the Qur'an. I later checked with a more reform-oriented scholar who assured me that the Qur'an does not permit this kind of abuse of human beings.

Now let me be absolutely clear that this was more than just the words of a crazy fiqh teacher. What our shaikh told us is perfectly in line with the consensus of more than thousand years of Islamic scholarship. Let me spell it out:

It is permitted (halal) according to all traditional schools (madhabs) to have sexual intercourse with slave girls of the age of nine years or above against their will and without marrying them. And when I say according to the traditional schools, I mean it was consensus among the scholars of all classic schools of Islamic law be it Sunni or Shia. It is all over the classic sources of Islamic law where this issue is elaborated to great detail.

Now what the past scholars said is one thing, how modern Muslim scholars deal with it is another. Unfortunately, the question is rarely asked, because most Muslims are unaware of the problems, but if it is asked, traditionally oriented scholars fail to condemn sex slavery. Even some of the most influential contemporary scholars are defending and justifying sex slavery
And just to show I'm not being unfair against Ismaeel by associating him with this sort of thing, here he is, on the old March for Free Expression website, in the comments:
In many cultures women are intellectually, emotionally and physically mature by this age [9] to be married and have sex. Please stop trying to impose your liberal values and laws on everyone.
If you go to some arab countries even now amongst the bedouin and also in sub-sahara africa, girls of nine are physically, mentally and emotionally ready for marriage.

The Prophet (PBUH) first got married to a woman who was twice divorced, Lady Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her, he was 25 and she was 40, he didn't remarry again until after she had died some 25 years later. Lady Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her was the only virgin girl he married after that.
Aisha was seven years old when Mohammed married her, and nine when he "consumated" their marriage. It's perfectly true that sexual relations with children were not unusual in the distant past, but sex between a fifty year old man and a nine year old girl must be considered to be rape today, in any country under any circumstances.

For about a decade, from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s, a campaigning group that eventually became known as the Paedophile Information Exchange tried to legitimise the idea of sexual relations between adults and children. It failed, unsurprisingly, and in large part as a result of a media led public outcry. Eventually, legal action in 1984 led to ther conviction of several members and the flight of the group's leader.

Any tradition that advocates slavery, the rape of slaves and the rape of under age girls in "marriage" is abhorrent, and the fact that it is a religious tradition is irrelevant. Why is there no outcry against these revolting teachings from Islamic law?


Ismaeel said...

Peter, i am shocked by your article because to the best of my knowledge the view given by the Shaykh is factually incorrect. It is not allowed for a man to have intercourse either with his wife or his slave girl against her will according to Islamic Law.

Slavery has been abolished amongst Muslims. It was originally allowed as being part of the social and economic structure of the day, people from all cultures enslaved captives of war, however unlike in the western system many legal rights were given to slaves and there were religious incentives and rules to encourage the freeing of slaves. Also their master had duties of educating their slaves and providing them with food and clothing similar to that which he had with his family.

As for having intercourse with his slave girl this was also practiced by the biblical Prophets and most ancient people.

When there was widespread abolition of slavery in the west, the Ottomon Empire made agreements to do the same as per the doctrine of reciprocity outlined in the works of the great Hanafi Imam of international Law: Imam Sarakhsi.

Thus the question of slavery re-emerging amongst Muslims could only reoccur if the West were to reinstitutionalise it.

Also as i made clear in my postings but which you willfully ignore- the methodologies of deriving law were confined to four not the rules that were derived. Rules have been revised and updated since then and will continue to be in the light of differing times and places- hence the current laws about slavery.

Peter Risdon said...

When I was born in 1960, slavery was still fully legal in two countries. Can you guess which religion they practised? Saudi Arabia outlawed slavery in the early 1970s, and Mauritania most recently passed a law prohibiting it in 1984.

It has been estimated that while some 28 million Africans were transported as slaves to the Middle East, more than 100 million may have died as a result of the trade. This was not least because of the practice of radical castration for men - the complete removal of penis as well as testicles - considered necessary before a slave could undertake harem duty. Mortality rates from this operation were between 80% and 90%, so it was performed in Africa to avoid the expense of transporting a slave, only to kill him on arrival.

Trading details about the past is not to the benefit of Islamic peoples.

But the main point is this: there is no question whatsoever of any civilised person in the world reintroducing slavery. The fact that you hold open the possibility (as a reciprocal action) is revealing. From my perspective, although I know that slavery is still practised, this makes me want to see a revival of the splendid British tradition of stamping out this terrible custom wherever it might be found (Britain spent more money in abolishing slavery than she ever made from it).

But you hold it open because slavery is explicitly endorsed in the Koran.

Thus you make my point for me. Any tradition that can entertain the notion of slavery under any circumstances whatsoever is abhorrent, and the fact that such a tradition might be religious is no excuse.

Ismaeel said...

There is a distinction between Islam and Muslims- the latter may have allowed castration but Islam certainly does not.

Slavery isn't endorsed, it's restricted, in the Qur'aan, by the same token slavery is explicitly endorsed in the Bible of the Jews and Christians are you going to do a long post about that being abhorent as well?

No didn't think so

Peter Risdon said...

Yes, it is restricted - and some of the rules laid down were in the context of the time enlightened. But restriction is an endorsement of the restricted version, and many Muslims are well aware of this. I've had converts argue on this blog, in the sections I deleted when I revived it, that slavery is permitted to them.

Slavery is not, to my knowledge, endorsed in the Bible but if you can show me the references I'd be happy to condemn them utterly.

The point remains this: any tradition that can today accept slavery under any circumstances, that accepts the rape of slave women, however that might be phrased, and advocates or accepts sex with under age girls - which is always rape - is abhorrent.

Will you condemn these things unconditionally?

Ismaeel said...

It seems so suprising to me that you seem so well versed in the history of the middle east but are oblivious to the blatant Christian justifications for slavery in your own european history.

Ismaeel said...

The point remains this: any tradition that can today accept slavery under any circumstances, that accepts the rape of slave women, however that might be phrased, and advocates or accepts sex with under age girls - which is always rape - is abhorrent.

Will you condemn these things unconditionally?

I don't agree with the premise(s) you have asserted this question on, so how can you accept me to sign up to it?

Peter Risdon said...

Ah, the disgusting Leviticus. I might have guessed. That's one I'd condemn on more grounds than just this - the verses about homosexuality have caused all sorts of horrors too.

I had scripture lessons at school, and compulsory chapel, but along with most of the other kids took as little notice as possible. You need to remember that this is just a load of stone age, bronze age and iron age myth. There's some snthropological interest, a small amount of historical interest, though these are deeply unreliable sources they are often the only ones, and that's about it.

Religious teachings are relics from the infancy of man. We've grown up a lot since they were written, discovered a lot of things that are actually true, as the stifling grasp of religion has been prised from our throats, and I actually resent having had to learn as much of them as I have - forced by the murderous and oppressive attentions of religious fanatics.

Can you really not grasp the fact that I don't contextualise, or say "yes but"? I condemn utterly barbarity wherever it is found, in western tradition and history just like any other.

And no, I don't base my other question on any premises. When I say "The point remains this: any tradition that can today accept slavery under any circumstances, that accepts the rape of slave women, however that might be phrased, and advocates or accepts sex with under age girls - which is always rape - is abhorrent." it stands alone. There are no premises, it speaks for itself. Can you not do that?

It seems you can't.

Ismaeel said...

Peter, sadly i mistook you for someone far more rational, educated and grown up than you actually are. Unlike you i have not demanded that you justify your every viewpoint, if i did then we would soon find that you yourself belief in some very barbaric things. However as i said the value of continuing to debate with you seems to be little, i therefore bid you goodnight and good luck

Peter Risdon said...

Crikey. I can only read that as an admission that you believe in barbaric things, qualified by the assertion (accompanied by a few rather inconsequential insults) that you think you'd be able to find barbarity in me if you dug deeply enough. That also suggests you haven't yet found such barbarity.

That seems to settle that, in a rather sad way. You'll stick with your barbarity, it seems. I'll stick with the point I made in my original post: barbarity is repugnant, and religion is no excuse.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

I'm not sure why you are engaging with Izzy, have a look on the Pickled Politics page to see how he is recieved there.

Meanwhile the issue that you raise is a function of asking the rightly phased question. For instance if you look at the Dispatches programme this week, the presentor asks the MCB chap about the apothesay laws and the death sentence. His specific questions is "can you state now on camera the validity of these laws?" and he says "blah blah blah its not appicable in England."

In my opinon this is utter moral cowerdis. The correct question should be "is this correct Islamic theology for British Islam to teach the apothesay should lead to the death sentence in Islamic countries?" i.e. can you reject this "ruling" completely as being part of a liberal society.

As it stood he was given the oppotunity to appear as if he where moderate when in fact he was far from it.

Sorry for the spelting I cannot be bothered to push this through word.


Peter Risdon said...


How do you think Radio 4 presenters will respond when they are told that the whining professional victim doing the special pleading about Muslims being offended is an advocate of child rape and slavery, and is on record as such?

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

What I hope they would do, and what I suspect that they would do are two entirely different things. It is after all, a "religious" matter.

Is he going on Radio 4? I missed that completely ...


Anonymous said...

I'm sure if you look through the Cafe site you will find him advocating a "loving stoning" to help bond stronger family units as well.

But again ... its a religious issue so these despicable, hateful, vicious ideas he has are given a free hand.


James G. said...

Hi Peter,

Re: Slavery and the Bible

Leviticus does outline the rules regarding slavery, however there are a few places where the slave trade itself is attacked in both the Old and New Testaments. Exodus 21:6 and Timothy 1:10. (from some of the same parts of the Bible pointed to in that link provided above.)

It can also be argued that the Pauline concept of slave and master being equal in front of God inspired the abolitionist movement.

Anonymous said...

It is not allowed for a man to have intercourse either with his wife or his slave girl against her will according to Islamic Law.

It is however, my understanding that there are interpretations of Islamic law which require that a woman always, at all times, be willing. Under this interpretation a woman may not, at any time, say no.

Re Old Testament/New Testament/Sharia exhortations to violence/slavery/other barbarities -

In all religions based on revelation earlier revelations are overridden by later revelation. Any exhortations to violence, or other distasteful actions, in the Old Testament not only have a different context to those in the Koran, but are rendered void by the message in the New Testament in Christianity and by the Talmud in Judaism. Just as the message of peace and tolerance in the earlier Meccan verses of the Koran are rendered void where they conflict with the message of violence and intolerance in the later Medinan verses.

To equate the exhortations to violence and barbarity in the Koran with those in the Bible is disingenuous at best.