Is it true that in the past slaves could have been forced into having sex by there masters as some people say?
Wa `alaykum salam,
The law allowed a master to have sexual relations with his female slave without a marriage contract, just as it allowed a man to have sexual relations with a free woman only with a marriage contract, but in neither case was the man allowed to rape the woman. A master was no more allowed by the law to rape his slave than a husband his wife. In the context of slavery, the Prophet’s (s) very last words was “al-Salat wa-mulk al-yamin” which means “Beware of neglecting prayer and beware how you treat your slaves.” The Prophet (s) treated even a slap in the face of a female slave as an offense of which the required expiation was to free her on the spot.
The dignity of the human person is affirmed in the Qur’an in the verse:
وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ
wa la-qad karramna bani Adam.
We have indeed honored human beings. (Surat al-Israa,17:70)
This is regardless of gender and social condition. Slavery under Christianity was immeasurably harsher because post-Gospel slavery operated under ethics inherited from the Greek and Roman worlds — which were bestial in comparison to Islamic ethics and civilization — and continued to do so until the late 18th century in Europe and the late 19th in the United States. Medieval European serfdom and slavery under the trans-Atlantic slave trade were the stuff of horror. Thus the statement by Reuben Levy in his 1931 book “The Social Structure of Islam” that “neither from the Quran nor from the ‘Traditions’ [Hadith] is it possible to infer that the abolition of slavery was intended” drips with deception and hypocrisy, but nevertheless strikes the note of all Orientalist references to the issue.
[See “Sex with slaves and women’s rights” as well for further reading]
Hajj Gibril Haddad