This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 40, number 5 (2017). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal please click here.
Make no mistake. When it comes to sex and slaves, Muhammad had few peers. He lusted after all the wealth and women of the Arabian Peninsula. He coveted not only their wives but their male and female slaves, their oxen, donkeys, and anything else that he could get his hands on. But then so did the Old Testament Jewish king David who not only lusted after Bathsheba but had Uriah, her husband, murdered to cover up her pregnancy and then take her as his wife.
Thus, the question: Aren’t Jews and Christians who laud David and condemn Muhammad speaking out of both sides of their mouths? And what about the God of the Old Testament? If Islam’s God is a moral monster, what about the God of Israel?
In sober response, we should first note that when Israel’s quintessential king coveted Uriah’s wife and took her for his own, the God of Israel sent His prophet Nathan to pronounce judgment upon him (2 Sam. 12). Conversely, when Muhammad, prophet of Allah, coveted his neighbor’s wife —as in Zaynab, wife of his adopted son Zayd — Allah sent the prophet a message saying, “There is no blame on the Prophet (SAW) in that which Allah has made legal for him” (Qur’an 33:38, Hilali-Khan).
Moreover, according to one of the most trusted Muslim sources, the depravity of Allah is seen in that he permitted Muslim men to have sexual relations with any “(captives) whom their right hands possess” (Qur’an 23:5, 6 Ali). Thus, as a direct result of Allah’s many Qur’anic assertions, sexual slavery was widely practiced and considered perfectly normal by Muhammad and his men.
More appalling still is that, according to sharia, women (and little girls) who are captives of war can be raped by their Muslim captors. Incredible but true, the sanction for raping captives comes directly from Allah. Again and again, he commands Muslim men to “guard their chastity, except with their wives and the (captives) whom their right hands possess — for (then) they are not to be blamed” (Qur’an 70:29–30 Ali; see also 4:3, 24, emphasis added). And, as noted in the classic manual of Islamic sacred law, Reliance of the Traveller, “When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s previous marriage is immediately annulled.”1
This is precisely what happened to a beautiful young Jewish woman named Bara who was captured during Muhammad’s massacre in Mustaliq. Bara’s marriage to Musab Safwan was annulled, her name was changed to Juwayrah, and she was added to Muhammad’s stable of wives and concubines.2
But what about the biblical God? Does He not also sanctify sexual sin and slavery? That is precisely the contention of Muslim apologists. To justify the precepts of Allah and the behavior of his prophet, they invariably point to the Jewish treatment of female captives within the context of Old Testament theocratic law. Differences, however, are palpable.
If, as was the case with Muhammad, an Israelite saw among the captives a beautiful woman and desired her, he must first allow her a month’s time to lament the loss of land and loved ones. Furthermore, unlike Muhammad and his men, the Israelite was not permitted to have sex with a captive apart from marriage. Finally, under no circumstance was he permitted to sell her for ransom (see Deut. 21:10–14).
Moreover, Mosaic law was time-bound, not timeless, and in contrast to the expansionism of sharia, it was geographically bounded and ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Unlike Muhammad, Jesus never commanded beheading infidels and oppressing women. Rather, He rightly elevated women3 and taught His disciples that the meek would inherit the Earth (Matt. 5:5).
While sharia applies to all people, in all places, at all times, Mosaic law has long since been abrogated. More to the point, can anyone imagine Jesus saying or doing what Muhammad said or did? In a first-century culture in which women were relegated to the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder, Jesus elevated women to complete ontological equality with men. And far from treating captives as chattel, the apostle Paul made plain that in Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female” (Gal. 3:28 NIV).
When we compare the personal morality of Muhammad with that of Jesus, the difference is remarkable. The Qur’an exhorts Muhammad to ask “forgiveness for thy fault” (40:55 Ali). Conversely, Jesus’ ethics regarding every aspect of life — including His treatment of women — was so unimpeachable that He could rightly ask, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46 NIV).
Indeed, the distance between the God of the Bible and the qur’anic Allah is infinite.4 — Hank Hanegraaff
- Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, rev. ed., Nuh Ha Mim Keller, ed. and trans. (Beltsville, Maryland: Amana Publications, 1991, 1994), 604 [o9.13].
- See Sahih al-Bukhari 46.717; Sahih Muslim Book 19.4292; Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah (The Life of Muhammad), A. Guillaume, trans. (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1955, 2001), 490–93.
- Within the first-century Jewish context, women were not allowed to serve as legal witnesses. But after He had risen from the dead, Jesus appeared first to women and entrusted them to announce His resurrection to the disciples (Matt. 28; John 20). Furthermore, during His ministry, Christ had “invited women to accompany Him and His disciples on their journeys (Luke 8:1–3). He talked with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well and led her to a conversion experience (John 4). Jesus did not think it strange that Mary sat at His feet, assuming the role of a disciple; in fact, He suggested to Martha that she should do likewise (Luke 10:38–42). Although the Jews segregated the women in both temple and synagogue, the early church did not separate the congregation by sex (Acts 12:1–17; 1 Cor. 11:2–16). The apostle Paul wrote, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Jesus Christ’ (Gal. 3:28)” (Ronald F. Youngblood, ed., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary [Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995], 1318). Moreover, the preeminent Christian venerated by the historic church is a woman, not a man: Mary, called the Mother of God (theotokos).
- Article adapted from Hank Hanegraaff, Muslim: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion (W Publishing Group, 2017).