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Apology without Apologetics | Jonathan Brown

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

So I’ve learned a few things over the last couple of days. First, I want to apologize to those hurt by how I addressed the topic of slavery in Islam. I should listen to my wife more.  She always tells me that I talk about things too much like a scholar and not enough like a normal person. Topics like slavery are felt with the heart; I shouldn’t talk about them like a disembodied brain (especially when my body and experiences don’t reflect the subject). Second, when Alt-Right folk bombard you and your family with death threats and rape threats, it takes a toll on the body and spirit. Third, the support I’ve received has been incredible. The calls I got, the messages, the support offered to my family, the advice, they came from all over. In particular, the support I’ve received from academics around the world has literally brought tears to my eyes. Fourth, it’s been amazing to see the Muslim community stepping up to the plate in these tough times. We as a community are really shaping up to meet the challenges ahead. We know our enemy, we know our allies, and we have each other’s backs. We can disagree, sometimes bitterly, amongst ourselves, but we close ranks when one of us is attacked. I would go to the mat for any of you, even those I’ve fought with. No one benefits when the forces of bigotry, Islamophobia or unchecked state power win.

A few important points I’ve been asked about:

1) The many, many articles written by various shades of the Alt-Right about me have one thing in common: a clear agenda.  They take quotes out of context, chop sentences in half, and even flat out make up things that I “said.” I haven’t seen editing this creative since the last Guy Ritchie movie. My favorite is when they assume my description of some event a thousand years ago is me calling for it today. How are academics supposed to teach history if any discussion is assumed to be advocacy? The most complicated issues are also often the ones that we need to discuss the most. How can this happen if people are intimidated into silence?

2) People have been passing around a screenshot of a Facebook post I made in 2015, when ISIS and their sex slavery were dominating the news: Another post taken totally out of context.  Let me explain why I wrote that post: articles about Yazidi women being reduced to sex slaves by ISIS justifiably disgusted people. Many Muslims didn’t know how to handle the fact that ISIS was claiming this was allowed in Islam. What I was trying to do in this post was to say that ISIS’s sex slavery was a revolting symptom of a bigger problem: they had restarted slavery in the first place. And this was the result of a BIGGER problem: they didn’t consider the Muslim governments of Iraq to be real Muslims. That means they didn’t honor the protected status of religious minorities in Iraq, like the Yazidis. One of those protections is that they cannot be enslaved. But even this was just a symptom of a STILL BIGGER problem: ISIS doesn’t consider anyone who is not ISIS to be Muslim. This means they don’t care about the authority of Muslim scholars [of the past], who came to the consensus that slavery is prohibited.

I should have made my point more clearly. In the future, I’ll listen to my wife more and be more sensitive in the tone I take.

3) Rape in Islam: Rape in Islam is haram (prohibited).  It’s a violation of the rights of a human and the rights of God. Even if there are not the four witnesses required to convict a rapist of the Hudud crime of forced zina (adultery, fornication), the act is still punished in the Shariah as an assault and physical injury, provable by two witnesses or, when appropriate, by circumstantial evidence. Rape as a violation of a woman’s security and autonomy is among the most reprehensible of crimes. It is disgraceful to take my words on this out of context and project them as a justification for violence against women.

4) Consent for Sex: Here the Shariah historically worked differently from modern laws on marital rape, which originated in the 1970s. But the effect is similar: protection. Within marriage, wrongs regarding sex were not conceived of as violations of consent. They were conceived of as harm inflicted on the wife. And in Islamic history wives could and did go to courts to complain and get judges to order husbands to desist and pay damages.  So yes, non-consensual sex is wrong and forbidden in Islam. But the operating element to punish marital rape fell under the concept of harm, not non-consent.

5) Slavery in Islam: Muslims began curtailing slavery early on.  In the 1000s, the great Persian scholar Juwayni gave a fatwa that slave girls captured in Central Asia should not be sold as concubines. In the 1780s, the scholar-king of Senegal Abd al-Qadir Kan abolished slavery in his realm and banned the French from slave trading there (note: this preceded the beginning of organized abolition in Britain. In fact, the first abolitionists cited Kan as a model ruler). In 1846 (before Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation), Ahmad Bey, the governor of Tunis, banned the slave trade there and emancipated all slaves in his realm. By 1900, many leading Muslim scholars had agreed that slavery should be prohibited. As Muslim states signed treaties banning slavery in the early twentieth century, the practice all but disappeared (if you’re thinking, hey, what about bonded laborers today or convicts in America… I agree! That’s the whole point I was making in my paper: don’t get fooled by labels that make slavery invisible, look at the realities behind them. Watch the documentary 13th (link)).

A crucial point is that slavery isn’t one thing.  It has varied dramatically across time and space, from the horrors of racist, inhuman chattel slavery on the plantations of the American South to mukataba in the Ottoman Empire. Mukataba was an emancipation contract for a fixed time and with rights to own property and marry; it was closer to being a wageworker in a 19th-century British factory than what we think of as American slavery. In the Islamic world, slaves actually ruled entire states. The ruling dynasty of one empire, the Mamluks, was all slaves. The administrative and military elite of the Ottoman Empire, the most powerful and richest people in the realm, were technically slaves of the Sultan.

In the Quran and Sunnah, the only avenue left for slavery was dealing with people who had been captured in war. All other forms were outright abolished. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) guaranteed them appropriate food, clothing, shelter and no overly taxing labor. They could be disciplined no more harshly than one’s own kids. The Quran instructed owners to make mukataba agreements with slaves if they were fit and able to make it on their own, and Muslim scholars understood that it was better to keep those who were otherwise too old or unable to fend for themselves as slaves rather than setting them free to starve. The Quran and Sunnah made clear over and over that freeing slaves was one of the best deeds a Muslim could do. The Shariah saw freedom as the natural state (asl) of all humans. And, as the legal maxim stated, the Shariah “aimed towards freedom.”

As Muslims spread out across the globe and new peoples and cultures entered the faith, existing traditions of slavery took on an Islamic veneer. Sometimes the humane values of the Shariah prevailed. Sometimes local customs and systems of exploitation continued, moderated only a little by God’s law. Slavery in Islam was never tied to one race, but in certain times and places it could become racialized, as happened with the prevalence of black African slaves in Egypt in the 1700s-1800s.

Slavery of some sort has existed in almost every human society since the dawn of time. Moses, Jesus, the Buddha, Aristotle and Plato all considered the slavery in their times to be accepted features of life. Islam considered slavery, even in its restricted form, to be an ‘incapacity,’ an injustice (zulm), as the Muslim jurist Shaybani called it around the year 800 CE.  But it was an economic and social condition, and it was usually temporary. As economic life changed in the 1800s, Muslim societies saw that this institution could be gotten rid of completely. The great Egyptian scholar Muhammad Abu Zahra summed it up: Islam would welcome a day when slavery was banned.

The deep disgust we feel at slavery is precisely why we need to talk about it. Slavery in Islam raises the critical question of how we as Muslims deal with elements of our tradition that clash with values we feel deeply today. It forces us to think about whether right and wrong change over time. If they do, can we make universal claims about morality? Can we judge people in the past by present-day values, and can the past make moral demands on us today? If, on the other hand, right and wrong are fixed and don’t change over time, then who in history defines them? Jesus or modern human rights? Aristotle or Lincoln? The Quran clearly sought to restrict and regulate slavery in Arabia at the time, and there’s a strong argument that it aimed to end slavery altogether.  The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) freed every slave given to him. But how do I as a Muslim deal with the fact that God and the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did not abolish slavery altogether? Would it have been too economically disruptive, so that gradual abolition would be better? This was the answer offered by the famous scholar Rashid Rida, who pointed to the challenges America faced in integrating former slaves after the Civil War.

As a Muslim today, I can say emphatically that slavery is wrong and that Islam prohibits it. This has been the consensus of the ulama, and it’s well within the power of states to prohibit what was previously allowed if doing so serves some public interest (maslaha) (this is known as taqyid al-mubah, restricting the permitted). It’s easy for me to say this looking back on slavery in American history, because our American slavery was a manifestation of the absolute domination of one human being by another that is, in my opinion, a universal wrong across time and space.

You can download my first paper on the issue here (download), and follow along for the next two on the subject.

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Jonathan Brown is the Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and he is the Director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding.He received his BA in History from Georgetown University in 2000 and his doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 2006. Dr. Brown has studied and conducted research in countries such as Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, South Africa, India, Indonesia and Iran.His book publications include The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunni Hadith Canon (Brill, 2007), Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World (Oneworld, 2009) and Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2011), which was selected for the National Endowment for the Humanities' Bridging Cultures Muslim Journeys Bookshelf.His most recent book, Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenges and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy (Oneworld, 2014), was named one of the top books on religion in 2014 by the Independent. He has published articles in the fields of Hadith, Islamic law, Salafism, Sufism, Arabic lexical theory and Pre-Islamic poetry and is the editor in chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Law. Dr. Brown’s current research interests include Islamic legal reform and a translation of Sahih al-Bukhari.



  1. Avatar

    J Smith

    February 16, 2017 at 12:06 PM

    “Since God’s Emissary permitted nighttime and surprise attacks against dwellings, and attacked the alMustalaq tribe by surprise—and one knows with certainty that nighttime and surprise attacks against dwellings are lawful because God’s Emissary made them lawful—then no one who attacks or invades the home is prohibited from striking down women and children; and sin, expiation, blood-price, and retaliation do not apply for those who strike them down. This is because one is permitted to attack dwellings at night and by surprise; the occupants do not enjoy the protection afforded by adherence to Islam. However, no one has the right to kill them intentionally when they are clearly identifiable and recognizable as such. The Prophet prohibited the killing of children because they have not reached the age when they can be held responsible for practicing unbelief, and women because they are insignificant in battle. And, moreover, they and the children may be enslaved and thus become a source of strength for God’s religion.” –Imam Shaffii

    Al-Shāfiʿī, Muḥammad Ibn Idrīs, Joseph E. Lowry, and Kecia Ali. The Epistle on Legal Theory: A Translation of Al-Shafii’s Risalah. Edited by Stewart Devin J. (NYU Press, 2015), 129-130.

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      Jean J. Stuart

      February 16, 2017 at 2:46 PM


      It is important to highlight to readers the fact that the Banu Mustaliq just before this tried to attack the Prophet and the Muslims. This is mentioned in many early sources, i.e., Sirah and Maghazi literature. See this for the sources:

      Aso highlight the part of being IDENTIFIABLE in your quote. Imam Shaffi’i is NOT advocating for what you’re trying to claim.

      • Avatar

        J Smith

        February 16, 2017 at 3:20 PM

        Imam Shaffii explains in very clear language whether or not women and children may be killed in battle. It’s obvious that his position is that any woman or child that is clearly and unequivocally a woman or child may not be killed. Any women or children that are killed during night and surprise attacks are fair game. Imam Shaffii also quotes the narration “It is narrated by Sa’b b. Jaththama that he said (to the Holy Prophet): Messenger of Allah, we kill the children of the polytheists during the night raids. He said: They are from them.”

        Lastly, Imam Shaffii gives the wisdom for such a ruling. Children should not be held accountable for kufr, women are insignificant in battle, and most importantly, ‘Why kill them when they are valuable to strengthening the religion of Islam by enslaving them?’ These are the wisdoms of why you shouldn’t kill them according to Imam Shaffii, one being their inherent values of slaves. Dead bodies of women and children do not bring any wealth or pleasure.

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          Jean J Stuart

          February 16, 2017 at 5:10 PM

          You sound like a right extremist. The Prophet’s statement was in regards ACCIDENTAL incident. This was the understanding of the Hadith you misquoted from its historical context:

          This is what scholars of the past have stated – from Bulugh Al-Maram footnote 383, classical scholar states:

          “383 – It is not meant that women and children are killed intentionally, but if they were killed by ACCIDENT then the Messenger of Allah means they are not to be blamed.” (Bulugh Al-Maram, compiled and referenced by Imam Ibn Hajr, page 476)


          The Prophet NEVER endorsed what you’re trying to claim. Go ahead read any of the Ghazwah, you will NOT find a single instance of what you’re claiming:

          Stop peddling misinformation.

          • Avatar

            J Smith

            February 16, 2017 at 5:37 PM

            It’s not misinformation, it’s straight from primary sources of the most respected Muslim scholars. You ask me to read books I have already read. You say I’m a right extremist when I hate Trump and the Alt-right. I only care about being as academically honest as possible, something Jonathan Brown used to be until this past week.

            You keep claiming these are my words, they’re not. They are Imam Shaffii’s. It’s your job to claim that the scholar that Muslims owe so much to is actually just going around and speaking without knowledge.

            The hadith of Ibn Ka’b is reconciled by Shaffii. “The meaning of his prohibition against killing women and children in our view, though God knows best, is that one may not intentionally seek to kill them when it is possible to distinguish them from those whom he did not order to be killed. The point of his saying “they are pagans too” is that the women and children and the combatants share two traits: they have neither the legal protection of faith, which would otherwise prevent the shedding of their blood, nor the legal protection of being in an area inhabited primarily by believers, which would prevent an invasion of that area. Since God’s Emissary permitted nighttime…”

            The fact is that Jonathan Brown is playing a game by quoting later scholars so he can get away from THE scholars of Islam. I feel sorry that he feels it necessary to play games and lose his credibility. He used to be honest about these subjects, and now he knows that that honesty is going to destroy him. If he didn’t start going to conferences he probably could have remained in obscurity exploring honestly. Now that he is with Yaqeen he is forced to become a regular old apologist. It’s a real shame because he is very intelligent and well-versed.

            “…they and the children may be enslaved and thus become a source of strength for God’s religion.”

            He knows Shaffii said this and why he said this, and there is nothing he can do about it. I wish him all the best.

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    Jean J. Stuart

    February 16, 2017 at 2:51 PM

    Dr. Jonathan Brown, are you aware that the Prophet Muhammed made it compulsory to free a slave wherein if they asked for it (See commentaries for Surah 24:33). This was also part of the Zahiri school of jurisprudence. And there is also the case of Ibn Sirin and Umar al-Khattab.

    It was obligatory for the master to enter into an agreement if the slave sought for his freedom. The incident of Huwaytib, Ibn Sirin with Umar, Ata and Amr Ibn Dinar all say it is obligatory to enter into an agreement in order for the slave to buy his freedom. This was one of the reasons the Zahiri school also made it obligatory (wajib) to enter into an agreement (Kitaba) in order for the slave to be freed once the payment was paid:

    “Among the well-known issues in this category is their disagreement about the contract of Kitaba, whether it is obligatory (wajib) or recommended (mandub). The Jurists of various regions said it is recommended, while the Zahirites said it is obligatory. They argued on the basis of the words of the Exalted, ‘And such of your slaves as seek a writing (of emancipation), write it out for them if ye are aware of aught of good in them’, saying that the command (amr) here implies an obligation. When the majority considered the principle that no one is to be forced to emancipate his slaves, they interpreted the verse to indicate a recommendation, so that it would not conflict with this principle.” (Bidayat al-Mujtahid wa Nihayat al-Muqtasid, Ibn Rushd, volume 2, page 453)


  3. Avatar

    J Smith

    February 16, 2017 at 3:26 PM

    Great article, thank you! JAK

    You are still likely to get trolled for life. Luckily means you are getting popular enough to catch their attention.

  4. Avatar

    Deborah Elaine DeWitt

    February 16, 2017 at 10:58 PM


    As John Lennon famously observed:
    “Woman is the nigger of the world.”

    Brother Professor Jonathan Brown writes that “The Quran and Sunnah made clear over and over that freeing slaves was one of the best deeds a Muslim could do. The Shariah saw freedom as the natural state (asl) of all humans. And, as the legal maxim stated, the Shariah ‘aimed towards freedom.’ ”

    I hope that Prof. Brown will include a chapter in his forthcoming book on slavery addressing the historical women’s struggle toward freedom, touching topics such as, modern sex trafficking, FGM, right to marry/divorce, right of adult single women to live without a wali, a woman’s rights as a parent, lapidation & pornography, equal right to education and access to masjids …

    Shukr in advance.

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    February 17, 2017 at 3:40 AM

    I tried to learn more about Abd ul Qadir Kan, who Dr Brown says abolished slavery in Senegal. I found several books saying he banned the French from trading and trafficking Muslim slaves through his kingdom, but not that he banned slavery of non-Muslims too. This book says he ousted the incumbent Denyanke dynasty after the Torodbe group complained that Muslims were not being protected from the slave trade. It also says that Muslim slaves were seen as wrong in another part of the region (the Sokoro Caliphate), but slavery of non-Muslims was accepted.

    The History of Africa: The Quest for Eternal Harmony, pp. 151-152

    Does anyone know where Dr Brown’s claim that he completely abolished slavery in general comes from?

  6. Avatar


    February 17, 2017 at 4:52 AM

    Here is the recording of Dr Brown’s lecture.

    At 66mins 30 seconds and 77 minutes he talks about the moral question of owning another human and sexual consent of concubines respectively.

  7. Avatar


    February 17, 2017 at 7:28 AM

    I am just going to copy and paste my several comments on this issue in response to your article:
    Well, he has his work cut out for him on this issue. At the end of the day….sometimes it is worth pointing out the condition of slaves (prisoners) in US prisons. Truth sometimes is the great equalizer. To believe that slavery (imprisonment/denied freedom) has been abolished….well. It is nonsensical when we know that people can be ‘bonded’ in a type of slavery to the financial system regardless of the fact that they are free to ‘move about’. I think it is an issue that I totally lack knowledge about to be clear and I am glad there are a few scholars out there who can take it up to explain the meaning of ‘those whom your right hand possess’ versus your left. Went down a few posts in the feed and saw one about migrant labor in the US….slaves. In reality. When you think about it….the issues involved in migrant labor/illegal alienship….it’s about people without equality in our society and our society is getting huffy about providing what is provided to ‘captives’ or ‘slaves’ in the Quran as a ‘human rights’ issue. You must take care of your servants. I think our immigration system would truly benefit by expanding the discussion about ‘migrant/slave labor’ to include the word “slave”. A rose by any other name you know. Migrant/illegal laborers: don’t have freedom to move about, can be captured at will, are often sold by their captors (even as prostitutes, cleaners, etc). It’s happening right under our noses. Slavery as a condition (as well as alot of other phenomenon mentioned in the Quran) is …how to explain this…regulated in the Quran, not mandated to occur. It is a condition of humanity that must be addressed by any society and Allah would be negligent if he left out such regulations. Same goes for hitting one’s wife…it sets a limitation on physical contact, it does not order or condone it.
    Sorry for so many posts but your article stimulated by thoughts on the issue. smile emoticon:) Might as well finish my thoughts and get to my real work…the Quran is silent on a few things…like homosexuality…very silent on marital relationships between same sex partners…silent on female circumcision (and male for that matter). One must use ijtihad then and other sources to discover exact or close to it..rulings on those types of things. I hope though my point is helpful and I feel I must restate it because it is SO important: if Islam failed to mention the human condition known as ‘slavery’ (we can say it is abolished but it never truly is abolished in real life)….it would be woefully negligent and leave the destiny of folks who are ‘possessed’ by owners/controllers/traffickers in the hands of men. And that’s why the US is having such a convulsion over immigration issues now on the border with Mexico.

    Meg Swaid BTW, National Geo has a great series going on about human trafficking….you should catch an episode or two if you have time…it’s pretty horrific what happens to these people carted over the border and sold to the highest bidder when their families cannot come up with the cash to bail them out of their situation.

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      February 17, 2017 at 8:53 AM

      Dear Meg,

      Thank you for your comment, which is very well reasoned. You lost me, however, when you mentioned that the Qur’an was silent about “homosexuality.” Regardless of what one might understand from that term, Allah is certainly NOT silent about same-sex behavior, which He condemns strongly (particularly penetrative intercourse between men). If the Qur’an is “silent on marital relationships between same-sex partners,” it is only because there is and there can be no such thing as a so-called “same-sex marriage” in Islam. Not only is marriage a necessarily male-female affair, but same-sex sexual relations are forbidden in and of themselves– i.e., forbidden essentially, regardless of circumstances, intent, consent, etc.–and so it’s a moot point altogether. Not sure what you’re getting at when you mention ijtihad in this context. There is no ijtihad on issues that are stipulated by unambiguous Qur’anic texts and backed up by full consensus of the umma. Otherwise, a very good comment on slavery. Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. Avatar

    Yousef al-Khattab

    February 17, 2017 at 4:34 PM

    Asalam 3leikoum wr wb

    Dr.Brown barek Allah feek. Please keep up the great work.

  9. Avatar


    February 18, 2017 at 8:21 AM

    This was a very well written article supported with evidence and valid arguments. May Allah protect you from all the enemies out there. My duas are with you. Your knowledge will always outshine their propaganda.

  10. Avatar


    February 18, 2017 at 10:57 AM

    “The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) freed every slave given to him.”

    Mohammed did not free these two slaves:
    “And he bought him for two black slaves, and he did not afterwards take allegiance from anyone until he had asked him whether he was a slave (or a free man) (Sahih Muslim 3901).”

    Mohammed did not free these slave women:
    “The apostle gave Ali a girl called Rayta; and he gave Uthman a girl called Zaynab; and he gave Umar a girl whom Umar gave to his son Abdullah. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 878)”

  11. Avatar


    February 18, 2017 at 8:34 PM

    This response is to Ahmed B
    Of-course her reasoning is all well until it comes to a point where you seem to disagree.

    While I will not comment on the hypocrisy that you seem to comfortably accept, the Quran CERTAINLY does not talk about consensual homosexual behavior. There is no doubt how men of Lot were rowdy, but neither did they “refuse” to marry women. They were married and obviously the society had many many members. The whole story is nothing short of degrading strangers and it is absolutely plausible that that the heterosexual members themselves were the cause of these atrocities.

    And if you are so hell bent on thinking Lot story about homosexuals, then you might as well destroy EVERY tall building that is there on planet earth because People of Ad were the ones who created those. Now dont tell me one need to take the whole story in context?

    Focusing on the two verses many make you feel “warm and cushy” and think as if you know the absolute truth. But do justice and read the whole story.

    Of at least there are quite few books which are well written with the law codes are out there. Take your time to read them.

    P.S homosexual behavior was not invented by people of Lot. The evidence of their existence was dated WAYYYY before them in history.

    And there are MANY MANY ways one can argue strongly with good reasoning, against the position of “homosexual behavior is a sin”.

    I am going to ignore lesbian behavior. Now I wonder why God never talked about them so directly. Neither remains no reliable Hadith regarding this matter.

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      February 19, 2017 at 9:47 AM


      I’m not sure what you mean by “the hypocrisy that you seem comfortable to accept,” but the Qur’an certainly DOES talk about consensual homosexual behavior. The idea that what is being prohibited is coercion and homosexual rape, rather than voluntary anal sex, is fanciful at best. Allah never once uses a single word that even remotely implies force or coercion when describing the behavior of the people of Lut (as). In contrast, He constantly mentions “you come sexually to men,” “you come to men in lust instead of women,” etc., making it as clear as can be that it is the same-sex nature–and the same-sex nature alone–of their conduct that is being so heavily criticized. This is backed up by the consensus understanding of the Companions and all generations of Muslims from then until our day. When they speak, from the very earliest days of Islam, of the “act of qawm Lut (‘amal qawm Lut),” there is no doubt that they are referring to the act of (voluntary) male-male penetration itself. It would be ridiculous and entirely fanciful to imagine that they were only concerned about rape or some men forcing themselves upon others, and that as long as the gay sex was consensual they would have been fine with it.

      This notion of consent as the ultimate criterion by which the morality of a sexual act is judged has nothing to do with Islam (nor Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion). Rather, it is the mantra of the secular, post-Christian Sexual Revolution in the West that began in the 1960s: as long as there is consent, the behavior is permitted. As Dr. Jonathan Brown makes clear, a man forcing himself on a woman who is in principle lawful to him (i.e., a wife or, formerly, also a concubine) has done something wrong, but the operative consideration here is that he has “caused harm” to her, not that the sexual act in and of itself was haram due to her lack of consent. In any case, there is no sense in Islam in which consent alone is sufficient to render an otherwise prohibited sexual act permissible. Is anyone going to argue that when Allah prohibits zina, He really only means to prohibit rape and that *consensual* sex between two unmarried persons is somehow okay? The dominant view also, based on various adilla, holds masturbation to be haram. Clearly there’s no issue of consent involved there either.

      The prohibition of same-sex behavior in Islam is not “my opinion”; it is ma’lum min al-din bi’l-darura, meaning that it is known by necessity to be part and parcel of the Islamic religion. It is in the same category as the obligatory nature of the five prayers and fasting Ramadan, and the prohibited nature of gambling, drinking wine, male-female zina, etc. All of these items are based on the same kinds of evidence and reach the same level of certitude. Reject one of them and you undermine them all.

      It seems you may have had the misfortune of happening upon the works of someone like Scott Kugle. Kugle is a dishonest and underhanded “scholar” with an agenda. The manner in which he twists texts, plays with language, misrepresents traditional Islamic sources, and pretends to be operating within the established disciplines of tafsir, fiqh, usul al-fiqh, etc. in order to come up with a “gay sex friendly Islam” is nothing short of shocking. It’s even more repugnant on his part because he knows he is writing to a lay Muslim audience that doesn’t know better and he’s taking advantage of their lack of knowledge of the tradition and the sources to pull one over on them. It goes without saying that no serious scholar would give such slipshod work the time of day, but here you have some Muslims going around thinking that there’s actually an argument to be had here.

      Kugle’s work has been thoroughly investigated and critiqued here:

      A very powerful piece from a Muslim with same-sex desires who nevertheless seeks to follow Islam rather than distort it can be found here:

      Being dishonest about what our religion teaches and what Allah demands of us is not in anyone’s interest, Muslim or non-Muslim, in this life or the akhira. It’s not worth staking one’s Afterlife on lies and distortions of the universally recognized teachings of Islam. Wallahu l-musta’an.

      Ahmad B.

  12. Avatar


    February 20, 2017 at 4:23 PM

    Extraordinary how many intelligent and articulate people are spending so much time discussing whether something is allowed or not based on the ramblings of a normal man in 700. I say normal but he was no doubt a charismatic leader who was able to persuade some to follow him and kill for him and loot for him. And like many a cult leader he enjoyed the spoils including the ladies. But why are you all wasting your time debating when the chances that a) there is a god, and b) if there is one he would have sent Mohammed are too ridiculous to waste time on. You are not alone, mores the pity for the rest of us.

    • Avatar


      February 23, 2017 at 1:43 AM

      Then why are you here?

      This site is about clarifying misconceptions of the Muslim faith. These scholars have studied and trained in Islamic studies for years in order to keep the Muslim community informed on its on faith. So yes, of course these intelligent people are spending so much time researching the Quran and the Holy Prophet’s (Pbuh) actions, it’s their job.

      “follow him and kill for him and loot for him”

      Could you provide any evidence for the ‘kill for him and loot for him’ statement?
      The early Muslims who followed him, fought under his leadership to prevent the destruction of their (at the time, small and weak) community by the Quraish and other enemies.

  13. Avatar

    gruz fruz

    March 9, 2017 at 7:48 PM

    the article, in my humble opinion, constitutes very weak apologetics. Fact is, Islam allows slavery, and sex with slaves.

    Personally, I consider this as unacceptable, and that is it.

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Civil Rights

Podcast: The Unfinished Business of Martin Luther King | Imam Zaid Shakir

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Our Muslim community is one whose existence, contrary to popular misconception, is predicated on the establishment of peace.

I believe that we have been divinely prepared to take up the torch held aloft so courageously by Dr. King and dedicate ourselves to the completion of his work.Click To Tweet

– Imam Zaid Shakir

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The New Scramble For Africa

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Africa is a blessed continent with resources and biodiversity that would impress anyone. Africa’s history in Islam (while neglected) played a major role, it was home to the first country to welcome the Muslims and allow them to practice freely. After the spread of Islam trough traders, regions across Africa became hubs for knowledge and trade. The richest man in history hailed from Africa and was Muslim, and his name was Mansa Musa. The riches of Africa have always sought after. People from all over the world have aimed to to do business or exploit the blessed continent. Unfortunately, the history of Africa is filled with strife, bloodshed, slavery, and holocausts. This rings true till today. The purpose of this article is not to dwell on the past, be it Arab influence or colonization. The events going on today needs out attention, we have ignored the struggles of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Africa long enough. 

The first major scramble for Africa was in the 19th century, when Europe carved it up like it was their property. The second was during the cold war, when East and West seek allegiances of newly independent African states. We are witnessing a third scramble that is less obvious, and more behind the scenes with “investments” and “wars”. It can be described as a cold war between China and America. 

African mines

Some see the resources they have like oil, chocolate, rare earth minerals, diamonds, etc. as a blessing (investors mostly), but to the people living through this every day it is a curse. Oil or mineral dependent countries in Africa suffer from enclave industrialization, limited diversity in their economy, and vulnerability to price shock. While this is happening, they see decay in their agriculture, manufacturing, and other trades. The continent is still traumatized by five centuries of exploitation. It is no easy obstacle to overcome. What we are seeing will only get worse as oil production is expected to peak in 2025, world scarcity will increase, and we will see more wars around oil. For the last decade, China has been using “soft power,” basically using money for leverage. This comes in the form of aid, trade, infrastructure projects, and loans. This is a plot to make them a superpower in the region. America, on the other hand, is doing what it has been doing since 1776, it is confronting Africa as a “battlefield,” basically running operations or anti-terrorism projects in dozens of countries that the American public is unaware of. 

One example is South Sudan, and the American campaign to split the Muslim country of Sudan to two. Before the split, China reportedly had invested $20 billion in Sudan. With American interventions occurring, China watched the events unfold. After the split the newly inaugurated president of South Sudan flew to China to secure an $8 billion investment. By 2013, China controlled 40% of their largest crude oil producers and was importing 77% of the country’s output. After unrest and bloodshed occurring in Libya, Mali, Sudan, etc, China has established a stronger effort with peacekeeping officers to protect their oil interest. As one superpower implements one tactic, another superpower follows its traditional method. Last year in Niger, American soldiers, including two commandos, were killed. This was surprising to me as I was unaware of American military operation in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world with Muslims making 98% of its population.

We have seen a dangerous rise of commandos in Africa. In 2006, under Bush, 1% of deployed commandos were in Africa, by 2011 under Obama it had risen to 3%. It does not stop there, before stepping down from office, in 2016, 16.5% of American commandos deployed were deployed in Africa.

In 2006, only 70 special ops were deployed across the continent, in 2014 we have 700 deployed special ops in Africa. “None of these special operations forces are intended to be engaged in direct combat operations,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem. Despite this declaration, despite the deaths of soldiers in Niger, U.S. commandos keep finding themselves in situations that are indistinguishable from combat. 

In March of 2018, the New York Times released an article of 10 unreported attacks of American troops between 2015 and 2017. Despite these attacks and distrust towards the region, the Pentagon built a $100 million drone base in Agadez, Niger, regardless of the people’s concerns towards a base being built near their home. Our worldly desires is fueling this new scramble for Africa. Our need for resources, technology, and fuel comes at a cost. This cost manifests itself as the development of the rentier state (eventually developing into a kleptocracy across Africa, professional soldiers ruling the resource-rich lands or an expansion of the “war on terror”. 

Here are a few theoretical solutions, some are to be initiated by the government and some rely on people-power movements. The government needs to reduce corruption and that can be done through a menu of policies created to control and maintain corruption. Controlling corruption can be done through; changing the selections of national agents, modifying the rewards and punishments systems, and restructuring the relations between national agents and users to reduce monopolies. Another venue the government can explore is directly distributing resource revenues to the people. This is practiced in Alaska, and has been wildly successful. Finally, the government can invest the resource revenues in social development. Harnessing the revenues for human development to include education, healthcare, job training, and housing will lift up the urban and rural poor. 

The people can pressure the government to pursue any of those ideas mentioned. A power-people movement can look different depending on the need. One idea is that consumers in the West to boycott African minerals due to corruption and/or exploitation. This can develop into “smart boycotts” where we use internet hedge funds to attack corporations that exploit and feed into corruption. Developing campaigns like “blood diamonds” in the past have been proven effective to generate awareness and bring vital change. The same was done with the ivory, and now even China has laws making the product illegal.

People-power movements work and have helped locals rid of unwanted corporations in their region. Ken Saro-Wiwa, was a leader of the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta, he rallied against the abuses of the Nigerian military regime and the oil pollution created by multi-national companies, which resulted in a change of consciousness for the better. 

In his words: “Whether I live or die is immaterial. It is enough to know that there are people who commit time, money and energy to fight this one evil among so many others predominating worldwide. If they do not succeed today, they will succeed tomorrow.”

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CAA – NRC Row: Why There Is More To It Than An Attack On Secular Ethos

indian economy caa
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‘Indian Muslims have nothing to fear. No one knows what CAA/NRC is all about. They are simply protesting because they are misled’, thus proclaimed a former classmate of mine who himself left India for brighter prospects during PM Narendra Modi’s regime but continues to believe in his promise of ‘acche din’ (good days).

Today the whole of India is divided over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which is to be followed by the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Thousands of students from India’s premier institutions like Jamia Milia Islamia, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, IITs and IIMs are thronging the streets to protest against the bigoted law.

The ripple effect has even reached top educational institutions across the world including Harvard, Oxford, Yale and MIT. From lawyers to celebrities to academicians, people across the world, belonging to different religions are raising their dissent against the law which is deemed to be against the secular fabric of the Indian Constitution.

What is this law all about?

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) provides an accelerated path to Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities from three countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is an official record of all those who are legal Indian citizens. So far, such a database has only been created for the northeastern state of Assam which has been struggling with the issue of illegal immigration for a long time. In Assam 1.9 million people were effectively rendered stateless after NRC and were put into detention centers. Out of these 1.9 million, around 0.6 million are Muslim.

On November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah declared during a parliamentary session that the register would be extended to the entire country.

Why the uproar?

At first glance the CAA seems to be a harmless law, which the government claims was made to help those who are facing religious persecution. However, the question arises why only those suffering religious persecution? Millions of people are suffering persecution in the name of race, region or language in India’s neighboring countries.

Even if we talk about just religious persecution, why does the law only accommodate those from three neighboring countries? Rohingyas are suffering brutal persecution in Myanmar. Christians are suffering in Sri Lanka. Tibetans have been persecuted because of their beliefs.

Many people opine that the CAA is not problematic in itself. It becomes problematic when it’s seen in conjunction with NRC. When NRC is implemented, millions of people will be declared illegal due to lack of documents in a country where the masses live in villages and documentation is a complicated bureaucratic process with a high error rate. According Professor Shruti Rajagopalan, the State Of Aadhaar Report 2017-18 by IDinsight, covering 2,947 households, found that 8.8% of Aadhaar holders reported errors in their name, age, address or other information in their Aadhaar letter (Aadhaar is the identity number issued to Indian residents). In the NRC, a spelling mistake can deprive one of citizenship and 8.8% affects over 120 million people.

They will be rendered stateless and sent to detention centers with inhumane conditions. Out of these ‘illegals’, everyone but Muslims can seek accelerated citizenship under CAA.

The fact is that even if we view CAA alone, the very act of offering citizenship on the basis of religion goes against the fundamentals of secularism and equality as mentioned in the Indian constitution.

UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet has termed the CAA as “fundamentally discriminatory”.

In this context, it’s also relevant to understand the revolt that is happening in the north eastern state of Assam. While the rest of India is against CAA and NRC for exclusion of Muslims, the people of Assam are protesting against the inclusion of 1.3 million undocumented Non-Muslims, as identified in the NCR. According to them, if these foreigners are granted citizenship under CAA, they pose a threat to the language and culture of Assam.

Police brutality against protesters

Student fraternity across the world was shocked when students of Jamia Milia Islamia who were peacefully protesting against the CAA were brutally attacked by police forces. Police accused students of destroying public property and fired tear gas shells, beat them up mercilessly and even open fired at them. They barged into the library, mosque and even the women’s hostels without authorization.

Video footage shot by students and reviewed by Reuters show students, including women, hiding beneath desks in the library, cowering in restrooms, jumping over broken furniture in an attempt to flee. It was later verified that none of the students had anything to do with some of the buses that were set ablaze outside the campus.

Reports of even more horrific police brutality surfaced from Aligarh Muslim University. A student’s hand had to be amputated after a tear gas shell hit him and exploded. Hundreds of students were severely injured.

Section 144 of the Criminal Code which prohibits any gathering of 5 or more people has been imposed across the entire state of UP. Internet has been shut down in several parts.

Videos showing police destroying properties of innocent Muslims in UP have surfaced which the ‘Godi media’, a term coined for PM Modi’s lapdog media, refuses to acknowledge. Innocent youth are being dragged out of their homes and their properties are being seized on the accusation of destruction of public property. Death toll has crossed 22. Thousands are in custody.

It’s not surprising that Narendra Modi is being compared to Adolf Hitler.

India’s secular ethos

Religion based politics is nothing new in India, the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue and Gujarat riots being two of the most glaring examples.

However, in day to day life ‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, Aapas mein sab bhai bhai’ (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians are all brothers) has not just been a slogan but a way of life.

Muslims in India have held prominent positions in every sphere of life, be it arts, literature, sports or leadership and have been admired by Hindus and Muslims alike.

The current BJP government aims to change all of that with its RSS-inspired fascist ideology of Hindutva – Hindu nationalism andHindu rashtra’ (nation).

India’s faltering economy and dejected youth

One of the heartening aspects of the CAA/NRC uprising is that it is not being seen as just a Muslim struggle. It is rightly being seen as a struggle to uphold the secular ethos of the Constitution of India. However, there is more to this struggle which is being led by the youth of the country.

Underlying the CAA-NRC struggles is the country’s deep disappointment with PM Modi’s lofty promises of ‘acche din’ (good days) which gave the country a new hope . Among other things he promised to make India an economic superpower. Today the nation’s economy is in doldrums which has led to frustration and dejection in the youth.

IMF’s last forecast for India was 6.1% growth in 2019. This has slumped to 4.9%. Unemployment is at a 45-year high and industrial growth rate is negative.

One of the major reasons for the economic slowdown has been the government’s radical decision of demonetization in 2016 which sent the entire country in a turmoil and failed to achieve any of its stated objectives. Small businesses took a further hit with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

At a time when the government’s primary concern should have been the faltering economy, the government diverted the country’s attention to the Babri Masjid -Ram Janmabhoomi issue. As soon as that ended it announced the CAA and NRC, continuing its propaganda of Hindu nationalism as opposed to real issues faced by the nation.

At this critical junction the economy can be expected to take a further hit by the cost of the implementation of the CAA and NRC exercise.By conservative estimates, nationwide NRC will cost Indians a whopping 500 billion rupees in admin expenses alone. Add to it the massive cost of building and maintaining detention centers across the country and the nation looks set for an economic and logistical nightmare.

Today the educated youth of the country is voicing its frustration at the price the country has been paying due to the government’s fascist ideologies. They no longer want the world to know India for its age old mandir-masjid disputes, mob lynchings, communal riots, human rights violations, poverty or illiteracy.

The current uprising is not just against one particular law.The people, especially the youth of India are protesting for their rights to work together as one nation to take the country towards being an exemplary democracy and an economic superpower.

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