Q. I read a verse about prostitution of slave girls and it said “..do not compel your maids in to prostitution if they desire chastity”. Does this verse sanction prostitution?
Ans. The full verse in question states:
وَلْيَسْتَعْفِفِ الَّذِينَ لَا يَجِدُونَ نِكَاحًا حَتَّىٰ يُغْنِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ ۗ وَالَّذِينَ يَبْتَغُونَ الْكِتَابَ مِمَّا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ فَكَاتِبُوهُمْ إِنْ عَلِمْتُمْ فِيهِمْ خَيْرًا ۖ وَآتُوهُم مِّن مَّالِ اللَّهِ الَّذِي آتَاكُمْ ۚ وَلَا تُكْرِهُوا فَتَيَاتِكُمْ عَلَى الْبِغَاءِ إِنْ أَرَدْنَ تَحَصُّنًا لِّتَبْتَغُوا عَرَضَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۚ وَمَن يُكْرِههُّنَّ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ مِن بَعْدِ إِكْرَاهِهِنَّ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
024:033 Yusuf Ali Translation
“Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste, until God gives them means out of His grace. And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing, give them such a deed if you know any good in them and give them from the wealth of God which He has given you. But force not your slave girls (Arabic: fatayatikum) to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life. But if anyone compels them, yet, after such compulsion, is God, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (to them)”
If we analyse this verse then it rules out sexual relations with slave girls because of the following:
(1) Those that cannot marry need to stay chaste.
(2) They are to free those that their right hands possess and certainly not force them to sex or prostitution.
(3) The word “Fatayatikum”, though translated commonly as slave girls, does not mean slave girl but a young girl. E.g. 21:60 the word “Fati” is used for Prophet Ibraheem in the sense of a young man.
(4) The verse also says that if young girls are forced then they are not blameworthy. The preceding clauses exhort against the compulsion and the remission to women in the last phrase in no way grants a right to compel young girls to sex outside of wedlock.
Thus if we read clearly then the verse is speaking against compelling girls to wrong conduct and not enjoining it.
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