The ruling or fatwa has the force of law and appears to go beyond
the Islamic State's previous known utterances on the subject, a
leading Islamic State scholar said. It sheds new light on how the
group is trying to reinterpret centuries-old teachings to justify
the sexual slavery of women in the swaths of Syria and Iraq it
The fatwa was among a huge trove of documents captured by U.S.
Special Operations Forces during a raid targeting a top Islamic
State official in Syria in May. Reuters has reviewed some of the
documents, which have not been previously published.
Among the religious rulings are bans on a father and son having sex
with the same female slave; and the owner of a mother and daughter
having sex with both. Joint owners of a female captive are similarly
enjoined from intercourse because she is viewed as "part of a joint
The United Nations and human rights groups have accused the Islamic
State of the systematic abduction and rape of thousands of women and
girls as young as 12, especially members of the Yazidi minority in
northern Iraq. Many have been given to fighters as a reward or sold
as sex slaves.
Far from trying to conceal the practice, Islamic State has boasted
about it and established a department of "war spoils" to manage
slavery. Reuters reported on the existence of the department on
In an April report, Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 female
escapees who recounted how Islamic State fighters separated young
women and girls from men and boys and older women. They were moved
"in an organized and methodical fashion to various places in Iraq
and Syria." They were then sold or given as gifts and repeatedly
raped or subjected to sexual violence.
DOS AND DON'TS
Fatwa No. 64, dated Jan. 29, 2015, and issued by Islamic State's
Committee of Research and Fatwas, appears to codify sexual relations
between IS fighters and their female captives for the first time,
going further than a pamphlet issued by the group in 2014 on how to
The fatwa starts with a question: "Some of the brothers have
committed violations in the matter of the treatment of the female
slaves. These violations are not permitted by Sharia law because
these rules have not been dealt with in ages. Are there any warnings
pertaining to this matter?"
It then lists 15 injunctions, which in some instances go into
explicit detail. For example:
"If the owner of a female captive, who has a daughter suitable for
intercourse, has sexual relations with the latter, he is not
permitted to have intercourse with her mother and she is permanently
off limits to him. Should he have intercourse with her mother then
he is not permitted to have intercourse with her daughter and she is
to be off limits to him."
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Islamic State's sexual exploitation of female captives has been well
documented, but a leading IS expert at Princeton University, Cole
Bunzel, who has reviewed many of the group's writings, said the
fatwa went beyond what has previously been published by the
militants on how to treat female slaves.
"It reveals the actual concerns of IS slave owners," he said in an
Still, he cautioned that not "everything dealt with in the fatwa is
indicative of a relevant violation. It doesn't mean father and son
were necessarily sharing a girl. They're at least being 'warned' not
to. But I bet some of these violations were being committed."
The fatwa also instructs owners of female slaves to "show compassion
towards her, be kind to her, not humiliate her, and not assign her
work she is unable to perform." An owner should also not sell her to
an individual whom he knows will mistreat her.
Professor Abdel Fattah Alawari, dean of Islamic Theology at Al-Azhar
University, a 1,000-year-old Egyptian center for Islamic learning,
said Islamic State "has nothing to do with Islam" and was
deliberately misreading centuries-old verses and sayings that were
originally designed to end, rather than encourage, slavery.
"Islam preaches freedom to slaves, not slavery. Slavery was the
status quo when Islam came around," he said. "Judaism, Christianity,
Greek, Roman, and Persian civilizations all practiced it and took
the females of their enemies as sex slaves. So Islam found this
abhorrent practice and worked to gradually remove it.”
In September 2014 more than 120 Islamic scholars from around the
world issued an open letter to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
refuting the group's religious arguments to justify many of its
actions. The scholars noted that the "reintroduction of slavery is
forbidden in Islam."
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