Faheem Younus, an Ahmadi Muslim leader in Baltimore and a senior fellow at the Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics at the University of Baltimore, has published a reassuring piece in the Huffington Post (starting off with a petty and gratuitous slap at Pamela Geller and me), claiming that Boko Haram, that is, the Congregation of the People of the Sunnah for Dawah and Jihad, is misunderstanding Islam and misinterpreting the Qur’an. The only problem with it is that he doesn’t mention the passages that are used to justify abducting girls and pressing them into sex slavery.
Younus says categorically that “nothing in Islam, today or 1,400 years ago, justifies the abduction of any human being, let alone innocent girls rejects “kidnapping young girls and threatening to sell them into sexual slavery.” He offers one verse to support this idea: “And when the girl-child buried alive is questioned about, for what crime was she killed?” (81:9-10). To this he adds a hadith that depicts Muhammad saying: “If a daughter is born to a person and he brings her up, gives her a good education and trains her in the arts of life, I shall myself stand between him and hell-fire.”
Neither of these passages, unfortunately, are precisely on point. Boko Haram is not burying these girls alive. And the statement attributed to Muhammad only insists that girls be educated. Boko Haram, however, is not against all education, but only Western education that is not Qur’an-based.
Younus decries “the common thread of ignorance and hatred between Boko Haram and Islamophobes. Both know zilch about the true Islamic teachings.” Yet there are some core Islamic teachings that he doesn’t mention. He doesn’t discuss the verses that Muslims like Abubakar Shekau point to in order to justify kidnapping young girls and selling them into sexual slavery — even to offer a mitigating explanation of them:
If you fear that you will not act justly towards the orphans, marry such women as seem good to you, two, three, four; but if you fear you will not be equitable, then only one, or what your right hands own; so it is likelier you will not be partial. (Qur’an 4:3)
And also prohibited to you are all married women except those your right hands possess. (Qur’an 4:24)
(See also 33:50-52 and 70:29-30.) The mainstream Muslim commentary Tafsir al-Jalalayn explains that 4:3 tells Muslims to “marry only one, or, restrict yourself to what your right hands own, of slavegirls, since these do not have the same rights as wives.” The twentieth-century Qur’an commentator Maulana Bulandshahri explains the wisdom of this practice, and longs for the good old days:
During Jihad (religion war), many men and women become war captives. The Amirul Mu’minin [leader of the believers, or caliph -- an office now vacant] has the choice of distributing them amongst the Mujahidin [warriors of jihad], in which event they will become the property of these Mujahidin. This enslavement is the penalty for disbelief (kufr).
He goes on to explain that this is not ancient history:
None of the injunctions pertaining to slavery have been abrogated in the Shari’ah. The reason that the Muslims of today do not have slaves is because they do not engage in Jihad (religion war). Their wars are fought by the instruction of the disbelievers (kuffar) and are halted by the same felons. The Muslim [sic] have been shackled by such treaties of the disbelievers (kuffar) whereby they cannot enslave anyone in the event of a war. Muslims have been denied a great boon whereby every home could have had a slave. May Allah grant the Muslims the ability to escape the tentacles of the enemy, remain steadfast upon the Din (religion) and engage in Jihad (religion war) according to the injunctions of Shari’ah. Amen!
This is by no means an eccentric or unorthodox view in Islam. The Egyptian Sheikh Abu-Ishaq al-Huwayni declared in May 2011 that “we are in the era of jihad,” and that as they waged jihad warfare against infidels, Muslims would take slaves. He clarified what he meant in a subsequent interview:
…Jihad is only between Muslims and infidels. Spoils, slaves, and prisoners are only to be taken in war between Muslims and infidels. Muslims in the past conquered, invaded, and took over countries. This is agreed to by all scholars–there is no disagreement on this from any of them, from the smallest to the largest, on the issue of taking spoils and prisoners. The prisoners and spoils are distributed among the fighters, which includes men, women, children, wealth, and so on.
When a slave market is erected, which is a market in which are sold slaves and sex-slaves, which are called in the Qur’an by the name milk al-yamin, “that which your right hands possess” [Qur’an 4:24]. This is a verse from the Qur’an which is still in force, and has not been abrogated. The milk al-yamin are the sex-slaves. You go to the market, look at the sex-slave, and buy her. She becomes like your wife, (but) she doesn’t need a (marriage) contract or a divorce like a free woman, nor does she need a wali. All scholars agree on this point–there is no disagreement from any of them. [...] When I want a sex slave, I just go to the market and choose the woman I like and purchase her.
Right around the same time, on May 25, 2011, a female Kuwaiti activist and politician, Salwa al-Mutairi, also spoke out in favor of the Islamic practice of sexual slavery of non-Muslim women, emphasizing that the practice accorded with Islamic law and the parameters of Islamic morality.
…A merchant told me that he would like to have a sex slave. He said he would not be negligent with her, and that Islam permitted this sort of thing. He was speaking the truth. I brought up (this man’s) situation to the muftis in Mecca. I told them that I had a question, since they were men who specialized in what was halal, and what was good, and who loved women. I said, “What is the law of sex slaves?”
The mufti said, “With the law of sex slaves, there must be a Muslim nation at war with a Christian nation, or a nation which is not of the religion, not of the religion of Islam. And there must be prisoners of war.”
“Is this forbidden by Islam?,” I asked.
“Absolutely not. Sex slaves are not forbidden by Islam. On the contrary, sex slaves are under a different law than the free woman. The free woman must be completely covered except for her face and hands. But the sex slave can be naked from the waist up. She differs a lot from the free woman. While the free woman requires a marriage contract, the sex slave does not–she only needs to be purchased by her husband, and that’s it. Therefore the sex slave is different than the free woman.”
Not only does Faheem Younus not mention the Qur’an verses used to justify this practice, even to offer an alternative understanding of them, but also he doesn’t acknowledge of the existence of Muslims like these authorities who believe that sex slavery is justified, even to explain how they’re wrong. Consequently, it must be concluded that, like so many other Muslim spokesman, he wants to give the appearance of moderation without the substance of reform. If Abubakar Shekau read his piece, he would immediately see the glaring omission, and realize that Younus is writing not to offer a genuine Islamic alternative to Shekau’s view, much less to refute that view, but to lull Infidels into continuing complacency regarding jihad and Sharia.
Don’t give me the “Boko Haram associate themselves with Islam, so what’s wrong with us doing the same?” argument. Can’t we see the wrong in legitimizing the words of a few hundred thugs over the beliefs of a billion-plus Muslims? Why didn’t we malign the faith of over a billion Christians because of Joseph Kony calling himself a “devout Christian”? Remember that Kony, the leader of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army, also abducted thousands of children in Africa?
What Biblical verses does Kony invoke to justify violence? Why, none. In fact, the Lord’s Resistance Army, as beloved as it is of Leftists and Islamic apologists, is a client of the Islamic jihadists in Sudan, and has no support from churches of any kind, no basis in Christian tradition, and no international presence.
Anyway, Boko Haram does associate itself with Islam, and so what’s wrong with us doing the same? Nothing. To do so is simply accurate reporting. If Muslims who abhor Boko Haram’s actions believe that doing so maligns their faith, their best response would be to work for Islamic reform — for a new understanding of the Islamic texts and teachings that Boko Haram uses to justify their actions, not to whine about “Islamophobia” and pretend those teachings don’t exist.
By Robert Spencer
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Arab Winter Comes to America: The Truth About the War We’re In.