Ma malakat aymanukum ("what your right hands possess" ما ملكت أيمانکم) is a reference in the Qur'an to slaves.
|ما ملكت أيمانكم||what your (masculine plural) right hands possess *|
|ما ملكت أيمانهم||what their (masculine plural) right hands possess *|
|ما ملكت أيمانهن||what their (feminine plural) right hands possess|
|ما ملكت يمينك||what your right hands possess|
|الذين ملكت أيمانكم||Those whom your (masculine plural) right hands possess *|
Although slavery was not outright condemned Muslims argue that this is because slavery was a vital part of the world during the time of the revelation and it would be difficult for society to end it immediately. Muslims argue that God sought to incrementally push for the abolishment of slavery through personal humanitarian initiatives. For example, "The Prophet said, "Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom)." . Also when an individual erred such as missing a day of fasting they were to free a slave. Slavery was not encouraged, i.e there was no command to take slaves. On the contrary, there were commands that freeing slaves is a righteous act. Therefore this set the emancipation of slaves in motion. While this emancipation was occurring the Qur'an and the prophet established rights for slaves that were not before enjoyed as well as limiting the source of slavery to only prisoners of war.
Therefore most Muslims argue the verses for "what your right hands possess" no longer apply. There are however a minority of Muslims who still believe that owning prisoners of war/slaves as legitimate.
The Qur'an states:
Al-Bukhari said: "Rawh narrated from Ibn Jurayj: `I said to `Ata', "If I know that my servant has money, is it obligatory for me to write him a contract of emancipation." He said, "I do not think it can be anything but obligatory." `Amr bin Dinar said: "I said to `Ata', `Are you narrating this from anybody' He said, `No,' then he told me that Musa bin Anas told him that Sirin, who had a lot of money, asked Anas for a contract of emancipation and he refused. So he went to `Umar (bin Al-Khattab), may Allah be pleased with him, and he said, `Write it for him.' He refused, so `Umar hit him with his whip and recited,(give them such writing, if you find that there is good and honesty in them.)Then he wrote the contract." This was mentioned by Al-Bukhari with a disconnected chain of narration. It was also narrated by `Abdur-Razzaq who said Ibn Jurayj told them: I said to `Ata', "If I know that my servant has some money, is it obligatory for me to write him a contract of emancipation" He said, `I do not think it can be anything but obligatory.'" [It was also said by `Amr bin Dinar who said, "I said to `Ata', `Are you narrating this from anybody' He said, `No.'] Ibn Jarir recorded that Sirin wanted Anas bin Malik to write a contract of emancipation and he delayed, then `Umar said to him, "You should certainly write him a contract of emancipation." Ibn Kathir comments that the chain of narrators in the latter is Sahih (Authentic).
(And give them something out of the wealth of Allah which He has bestowed upon you.) This is the share of the wealth of Zakah that Allah stated to be their right. This is the opinion of Al-Hasan, `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam and his father and Muqatil bin Hayyan. It was also the opinion favored by Ibn Jarir.
(And give them something out of the wealth of Allah which He has bestowed upon you.) Ibrahim An-Nakha`i said, "This is urging the people, their masters and others." This was also the view of Buraydah bin Al-Husayb Al-Aslami and Qatadah. Ibn `Abbas said: "Allah commanded the believers to help in freeing slaves."
Ibn Kathir supports donation of money for this cause by quoting a hadith from Al-Bara' bin `Azib, in which Muhammad is supposed to have said that an action that draws closer to paradise and away from the fire is emancipating the person by freeing him on your own or by helping in the price to gain his freedom.
Muhamad Asad notes that for the expression ma malakat aymanukum ("those whom your right hands possess", i.e., "those whom you rightfully possess"), it is often taken to mean female captives can be taken in marriage irrespective of whether they have husbands in the country of their origin or not. Despite the differences of opinion, even among the Companions of the Prophet, regarding the legality of such a marriage, Razi in his commentary on this verse, and Tabari in one of his alternative explanations (going back to ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid, and others) hold the view that ma malakat aymanukum denotes here "women whom you rightfully possess through wedlock".
Ibn Kathir notes that "(This is for him among you who is afraid of being harmed in his religion or in his body;) indicates that marrying slave girls, providing one satisfies the required conditions, is for those who fear for their chastity and find it hard to be patient and refrain from sex."
Ibn Kathir comments "(not fornicators) referring to dishonorable women, who do not refrain from illicit sexual relations with those who ask. Ibn `Abbas said that the fornicating women are the whores, who do not object to having relations with whomever seeks it"
Ibn Kathir comments "(nor promiscuous) refers to taking boyfriends. Similar was said by Abu Hurayrah, Mujahid, Ash-Sha`bi, Ad-Dahhak, `Ata' Al-Khurasani, Yahya bin Abi Kathir, Muqatil bin Hayyan and As-Suddi."
Imam Bukhari relates that Muhammad said that one of the three who would have a double reward is "a master of a woman-slave who teaches her good manners and educates her in the best possible way (the religion) and manumits her and then marries her."
Ibn Kathir comments on verse 36 in Chapter An-Nisa [Women (4)] in the Qur'an that people must behave kindly to the one held as captive by others since they are weak by quoting an authentic hadith, in his opinion, in which Muhammad during an illness before his death recommended people to care of the captives. He also supports good treatment of captives by quoting hadiths from Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim that the slave has the right to have food, clothing and to only be required to perform what he can bear of work.
Some however like Ibn Kathir claims for verse 25 in Chapter An-Nisa [Women (4)] in the Qur'an that the interpretation of it is that it is not allowed for "that your right hand possess" to commit fornication, and quotes Ibn Abbas interpretation to be not refraining from illicit sexual intercourse with whoever asks for it. In the same verse Ibn Kathir continues his interpretation by commenting that is not either allowed for "that your right hand possess" to take boyfriends according to Abu Hurayrah, Mujahid, Ash-Sha`bi, Ad-Dahhak, `Ata' Al-Khurasani, Yahya bin Abi Kathir, Muqatil bin Hayyan and As-Suddi.
Ibn Abi Talhah narrated that Ibn `Abbas said, "If you do that, then Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful, and their sin will be on the one who forced them to do that." This was also the view of Mujahid, `Ata' Al-Khurasani, Al-A`mash and Qatadah.