“Dangerous Liaisons: Marriage, Slave-Concubinage and Confessional Boundaries in Early Islamic Law” by Dr. Omar Anchassi Research Seminar

Dr Omar Anachassi’s research considers the early juristic position within the various schools of jurisprudence regarding marriage to non-Muslim women who are either pagans or from the Abrahamic religions. He compares the rulings of marriage to the position with regards to taking non-Muslim slaves as concubines. As the practice of concubinage was prevalent in the early period of Islam, the question of which women could be kept as concubines arose.

Whilst there was early disagreement between scholars, over time sectarian legal positions developed on the issue. The general rule seems to be that when marriage is prohibited to a woman, concubinage is also prohibited. For the later Twelver Jurists, marriage to a non-Muslim woman, whether she is a pagan or not, was disallowed and thus taking such a woman as a concubine was also not permitted. This is derived from Qur’anic injunctions and supporting hadith literature, including the verse “And do not marry the unbelieving women until they come to believe.” (2.222) Despite this general understanding, there are attempts to exclude temporary marriage from the ambit of the prohibition of marrying disbelieving women. Amongst contemporary Sunni jurists there is no prohibition on marrying Muslims from the Abrahamic religions. As always, the formal presentation was followed by a lively question and answer session.


Dr Omar Anachassi is an Islamicist with interests in Islamic law and legal theory, aspects of Islamic theology, Qur’an commentary and the history of science. He joined Edinburgh Divinity in September 2018 having spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at Exeter, where he researched various discrete issues in Islamic Law from the formative to the modern periods, always with an emphasis on the ‘uses of the past’ (the project rubric). These included such areas as gender and sexuality, inter-confessional relations, and public violence. The project was a collaborative one, involving colleagues in three other European institutions (Bergen, Gottingen and Leiden), directed by the indefatigable Rob Gleave.