A Statement Against Using Sexual Violence in Wars & the Arab Revolutions
In today’s armed conflicts, the number of victims among civilians is far higher than soldiers. According to UN reports, the recent conflicts have caused 70% of casualties, mostly women and children. ‘Women have become part of the battlefield for those who use terror as a tactic of war’. Rape, abduction, humiliation, forced pregnancy, sexual abuse and slavery have been common practices during the conflicts in Chechnya, Bosnia, and many countries in Africa and South America.
Reports are coming from Libya and Syria of massive sexual abuses against women. Time’s reporters, Rania Abouzeid and Khirbet al-Jouz, write:
“Soldiers had abducted several beautiful young women from the town, they said, enslaved them in the sugar refinery, raped them and forced them to remain naked and serve them tea and coffee. There were other, uglier stories of several women reportedly mutilated after being gang-raped by soldiers, their breasts sliced off in a final sadistic act.”(1)
Another article in Time reports:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi are using rape as a weapon of war. In a statement released Thursday, she says the United States is “deeply concerned” about reports of “wide-scale” rape in the Libyan conflict. Citing the International Criminal Court’s findings and the case of Eman al Obeidi, she called for an impartial investigation.’ (2)
Such crimes, especially using sexual violence in armed conflicts, are a violation of both Islamic laws of warfare as well as International law. The 1998 Treaty of Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) expressly recognizes these as gravest breaches of international law.
Some 1400 years ago, words from the Most High came through His last prophet condemning such barbaric acts as rapes and enjoin believers to maintain chastity. Several verses ordain Muslims to keep themselves chaste and pure and to have sex only within the lawful bounds,
“…….. You shall maintain chastity, not committing adultery, nor taking secret lovers. Anyone who rejects faith, all his work will be in vain, and in the Hereafter he will be with the losers. (3)
Tell the believing men that they shall subdue their eyes (and not stare at the women), and to maintain their chastity. This is purer for them. God is fully Cognizant of everything they do.” (4)
“And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity.” (5)
“And they maintain their chastity.” (6)
“They keep their chastity.” (7)
The word rape itself is not mentioned in the Quran. I consider it was not necessary because defining what is lawful already excludes all that is unlawful. Otherwise it would be necessary to enumerate all sexual deviances, acts and crimes of men and women. For true believers the injunction of chastity is enough. Moreover, all the elements that constitute a rape are defined and forbidden in the Holy Book.
Sex, violence and persecution (or oppression) are the elements of the loathsome act of rape. Sex is allowed only in marriage (nikah). As already said, chastity is a major component of faith. Violence is forbidden in Islam and is allowed only as self-defense. Persecution and oppression are what is called ‘zulm’, that is, cruelty and abuse. Zulm can be physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.“Oppression is worse than murder.” [2:191]. [See also 2:217].
In the case of a rape the victim is physically overpowered by the perpetrator and abused. This is considered as zulm. The religion of Submission teaches us to protect the weak, not to abuse them.
“Abandon all harm (ithm), whether committed openly or in secret.”
Surah al An’am 6.120. (See also Surah al A`raf 7:33)
Raping an innocent and powerless girl or woman is certainly a horrible act of persecution and oppression. Such an abominable and heinous act can only be perpetrated by men with already a tendency towards oppression. No soft-hearted believer would ever think of it even on his lawful wife. It is giving way to the most bestial instinct in man. Rape is the violation of the person and has deep psychological effects. Victims of rape often say they feel impure the whole of their life.
In Eastern and Mediterranean countries, mostly Muslim ones like Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Syria to name a few, rape has deep social impacts on the victim. Instead of receiving the sympathy and help they require, they are branded and ostracized. Nobody will ever marry them. They become a shame and the perpetrator nearly always goes scot-free. This is really shameful. The Muslims in these communities should follow the lesson in the following hadith:
“During the time of the Prophet (saw) punishment was inflicted on the rapist on the solitary evidence of the woman who was raped by him. Wa’il ibn Hujr reports of an incident when a woman was raped. Later, when some people came by, she identified and accused the man of raping her. They seized him and brought him to Allah’s messenger, who said to the woman, “Go away, for Allah has forgiven you,” but of the man who had raped her, he said, “Stone him to death.” (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud)”
Muslim look down in disgrace that some ‘scholars’ have erroneously applied the rule of four witnesses to rape so that poor victims who seek justice in front of the hudood or ‘shariah’ law of the land are punished instead of the rapists. In many cases where the victim becomes pregnant as a result of a rape she is simply stoned to death on account of adultery. I am personally revolted and outraged at such injustices and lack of humanity in supposed believers of the religion of truth and compassion. It is said that in Pakistan thousands and thousands of victims prefer to remain silent rather than to seek justice. All true Muslims around the world should expressly and loudly condemn such practices because we have to defend the honor of our religion at least with our words.
Some ‘scholars’ even claim that it is lawful to have sex with captives and slaves, basing their argument on verse 24 of Surah 4.: “what your right hands possess”, “Ma Malakat Aymanukum“ , or (MMA) for short, fuelling at the same time the venom of anti-Islamists. They support their claim on the basis of a supposed hadith of Abu Dawud. They, whether intentionally or by ignorance, do not mention that the greatest Muslim jurists Al-Dasuqi, the Maliki judge Ibn ‘Arabi and others considered rape as ‘hiraba’. The famous jurist, Ibn Hazm defined a hiraba offender as: ‘One who puts people in fear … making people fear that they’ll be killed, or have money taken, or be raped (hatk al ‘arad)… whether the attackers are one or many.”
To conclude I shall recall the words of the Prophet (SAW) in his last sermon which seem most appropriate regarding the protection of a woman’s body and dignity:
“Your lives and properties are forbidden to one another till you meet your Lord on the Day of Resurrection. Regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity.”
He thus not only prohibited the unlawful encroachment of one another’s life and property, but also one’s respect and honor.
 Stories of Mass Rape: Sifting Through Rumor and Taboo in Syria, by Rania Abouzeid / Khirbet al-Jouz, Syria Monday, June 20, 2011 (Time)  Clinton Condemns Use of Rape, Sexual Violence in Libya Conflict, Posted by Emily Rauhala Friday, June 17, 2011 ( Time)  The Holy Quran, [5:5]  The Holy Quran, [24:30]  The Holy Quran, [24:31]
 The Holy Quran, [23:5]
 The Holy Quran, [70:29]
 See Women and Men in your Care-Ma Malakat Aymanukum, the Quranic Perspective.
Further reading: Rape in Islam – Quranic perception and its misconceptions :
Abdool Rahman Dauharry
Abdool Rahman Dauharry is Rector of Victoria College, Mauritius. Formerly, language and literature teacher, he also taught Islamic Studies at secondary level.