Ma Malakat Aimanukum - Female slaves? Think again

Discussion in 'Misconceptions About Islam' started by IbnAlAawam, Apr 3, 2007.

  1. IbnAlAawam

    IbnAlAawam Junior Member

    Mar 23, 2007
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    Lo! We have revealed it, a Lecture in Arabic, that ye may understand.


    Questions we should be asking ourselves:
    How good is my understanding of the arabic language?
    Have I ever thought of the limit of translation?

    "And do not follow (blindly) any information of which you have no direct knowledge. (Using your faculties of perception and conception, you must verify it for yourself). In the Court of your Lord, you will be held accountable for your hearing, sight, and the faculty of reasoning."

    Ma Malakat Aimanukum - Female slaves? Think again

    “Ma Malakat Aimanukum” is one of the most misunderstood, misused and abused term of the Quran. It is usually taken as to mean “female slave”. Before we discuss the correct meaning of this term, it must be borne in mind that there is a specific word in Arabic language for female slaves and this word has been used at least twice in the Quran, once as a singular [“amatun” which is used in 2:221] and secondly as a plural [“imaaun”, which is used in 24:32].

    “Ma Malakat Aimanukum” literally has the following meanings:

    -What your right hands possess

    -What you rightfully have

    -What you [already] have

    -What is rightfully yours

    Now “what your right hands possess”, or “what you rightfully have” or “what is rightfully yours” or “what your [already] have” could be any of the following:

    -Your wife

    -Your spouse

    -Your servant

    -Your possession, or property

    -Your slave [both male or female] because “Ma Malakat Aimanukum” refers to a neutral gender which is applicable to both male or female.

    -Your prisoner of war

    Now let us explore each key word in the term “Ma Malakat Aimanukum”, a little further.

    The word “Malakat” has the root meem-laam-kaaf [M-L-K]. It primary signification is:

    -To possess or own [something or someone], particularly with ability to have it to oneself exclusively

    Other meanings include:

    -To have power to command or exercise authority

    -To acquire

    -To take over

    -To Marry

    As can be seen that one of the meanings is “to marry”. This is according to one of the most authentic dictionaries of Arabic language [Lisan-ul-Arab by Ibn-Manzoor Vol. 13, page 184]. Another authentic dictionary of Modern Arabic also describes this meaning [The Hans Wehrs Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, page 1081].

    According to Lisan-ul-Arab, al-milaak means


    -The bond of holy matrimony

    According to the same dictionary, milaakun also means


    The word “milkun” which has plural “amlaak” means:





    -Real estate


    The word “mulkun” means:




    -Right of possession [what is rightfully yours]

    In the term “Ma Malakat Aimanukum”, the word MALAKAT is in the PAST tense, which signifies “What you ALREADY have”, or “what you ALREADY possess” or “what CAME in your possession”. The word, grammatically, cannot be taken as to mean “what you WILL possess” or “what you WILL have”. The future or present tense form of this word is altogether different and has been used in various verses of Quran [5:17, 5:76, 10:31, 13:16, 16:76, 17:56, 19:87, 20:89, 25:3, 29:7, 34:22, 34:42, 35:13, 39:43, 43:86, 82:19]

    Now let us see the word “Aimanukum”.

    The word “Aimanun” is the plural of “Yaminun” and means “Right hands”. The root of this word is ya-meem-noon [Y-M-N].

    The word “Yaminun” also means:

    -A covenant

    -An oath

    The word “Yumnun”, has the same root Y-M-N and means:


    -Good luck

    -Good fortune

    -Good omen


    Now think of “Marriage” which is also a covenant [as described in Quran] and an event of auspiciousness, then see the suitability of the use of word “Aimanun” in context of marriage, as well.

    From the above it can be seen that “Ma Malakat Aimanukum”, may not only refer to “slave” [which could be both male or female] but also to:




    -Prisoners of war


    -What is rightfully yours

    Before we move further, another important word [which is used as conjunction] must also be explained. The word is “AW”, used in the phrase “aw ma malakat aymanukum”. “AW” is usually translated as “OR”. There is no doubt that “OR” is one of the meanings of “AW” but as a matter of fact, this word is used in no less than 12 different ways [also explained in Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon]. One of the uses of this word is TAFSEEL, [i.e. elaborative or explanatory]. In other words, “aw” is also used to add some meaning to the previous word or to explain a previous word or to give some attribute or characteristics of the previous word.

    Please refer to 17:110. In this verse, there is a phrase “odAAoo Allaha awi odAAoo alrrahmana”. Note carefully how “Allah” and “Rahman” are separated by the word “aw”. Now here “aw” does not imply that “Allah” and “Rahman” are two different Beings. Without doubt, “Allah” and “Rahman” is one and the same Being. “Rahman” is an attribute of “Allah”.

    Now refer to verses 23:6 and 70:30.

    23:6 Illa AAala azwajihim aw ma malakat aymanuhum fainnahum ghayru maloomeena

    70:30 Illa AAala azwajihim aw ma malakat aymanuhum fainnahum ghayru maloomeena

    In both the above verses, “azwajihim” and “ma malakat aymanuhum” are separated by “aw”. Here it does not mean that “azwajihim” and “ma malakat aymanuhum” are two different objects. Actually, they refer to one and the same object. “azwajihim” ARE “ma malakat aymanuhum” i.e. “their spouses” are “what they rightfully possess”.

    In 4:24, the term “ma malakat aymanukum” refers to those married women which are wives of the disbelievers [as explained in 60:10]. The verse 4:24 makes unlawful to marry all married women except those married women that have come to the believers as prisoners of wars or emigrants but their husbands are non-believers. [After becoming of these women believers, Quran renders their previous marriage to the unbelievers, null]

    In 4:3, the term “ma malakat aymanukum” means “what you rightfully possess” or “what you [already] have”.

    In 33:52, the Prophet is forbidden to marry any more women in spite of their beauty except to MARRY only the slave girls or prisoners of war referred in 60:10, to make them part of the family and give them status.

    As for slavery, Islam is unique among the `religions' in its close attention to the peaceful removal of this practice. Before the advent of Islam, slavery was widespread all over the world. The Messenger of Islam taught us that freeing slaves was a great deed in the sight of Allah. From the Sunnah, specifically in the study of the Sunnah called Sahih Bukhari, we find:

    [3:46:693] Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "Whoever frees a Muslim slave, Allah will save all the parts of his body from the (Hell) Fire as he has freed the body-parts of the slave." Said bin Marjana said that he narrated that Hadith to `Ali bin Al-Husain and he freed his slave for whom `Abdullah bin Ja'far had offered him ten thousand Dirhams or one-thousand Dinars.

    Also from the Sunnah, specifically in the study of the Sunnah called Malik's Muwatta, we find:

    [38:9:15] Narrated Aisha Ummul Mu'minin: The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was asked what was the most excellent kind of slave to free. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, answered, "The most expensive and the most valuable to his master."

    The Creator has also made it easy for slaves to gain their freedom. From the Sunnah, specifically in the study of the Sunnah called Sahih Bukhari, we find:

    [3:46:704] Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "Whoever frees his portion of a common slave should free the slave completely by paying the rest of his price from his money if he has enough money; otherwise the price of the slave is to be estimated and the slave is to be helped to work without hardship till he pays the rest of his price."

    The condition of slavery is very different in Islam than the harsh conditions imposed by non-Muslims or disobedient Muslims. From the Sunnah, specifically in the study of the Sunnah called Sunan Abu-Dawud, we find:

    [41:4957] Narrated AbuHurayrah: The Prophet (saw) said: None of you must say: "My slave" (abdi) and "My slave-woman" (amati), and a slave must not say: "My lord" (rabbi or rabbati). The master (of a slave) should say: "My young man" (fataya) and "My young woman" (fatati), and a slave should say "My master" (sayyidi) and "My mistress" (sayyidati), for you are all (Allah's) slave and the Lord is Allah, Most High.

    Also from the Sunnah, specifically in the study of the Sunnah called Sahih Bukhari, we find:

    [3:46:721] Narrated Al-Ma'rur bin Suwaid: I saw Abu Dhar Al-Ghifari wearing a cloak, and his slave, too, was wearing a cloak. We asked him about that (i.e. how both were wearing similar cloaks). He replied, "Once I abused a man and he complained of me to the Prophet. The Prophet asked me, `Did you abuse him by slighting his mother?' He added, `Your slaves are your brethren upon whom Allah has given you authority. So, if one has one's brethren under one's control, one should feed them with the like of what one eats and clothe them with the like of what one wears. You should not overburden them with what they cannot bear, and if you do so, help them (in their hard job)."

    As a result of the teachings of Islam, slavery was almost completely eradicated from many areas of the Muslim world, peacefully and without bloodshed.


  2. eemaan1

    eemaan1 Junior Member

    Mar 5, 2007
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    jazakallah for sharing.. n this is why we need arabic lessons people!:blackhijab:

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