Why Are Women the Spoils of War in Nigeria?

The tragic story of hundreds of young girls captured by the Islamic terror group and Nigerian insurgency Boko Haram has caught much national attention, along with a twitter campaign Hashtag #BringOurWomenBack. But not much attention has been paid to Boko Haram’s stated ideology. In a ForeignPolicy.com column subtitled, “Why women are the ‘spoils of war’ in Nigeria and around the world — and nobody cares,” writer Lauren Wolfe generalizes,  “Girls are the low-hanging fruit of the biblically proportioned anger at Eve.”

Yet even while sermonizing regarding the lack of seriousness with which the world deals with sexual slavery and violence against women, Wolfe fails to give the situation the seriousness it deserves by examining why Boko Haram does what it does, the Sharia, Islamic law.

Wolfe points out that Boko Haram means “Western Education is Forbidden”, without ever enlightening Foreign Policy’s readers that they mean “forbidden by Islamic law”.  And despite claims by organizations like The Islamic Society of North America, and Egypt’s Al Azhar university, there’s ample evidence to suggest that Boko Haram’s understanding of what is and is not forbidden under Islamic law is accurate.

In ‘The Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law’ by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri (d. 1368) and published in English translation by Nuh Ha Mim Keller in 1994 under the section, “The Rules of Warfare”:

“O.913 When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s previous marriage is immediately annulled.”

The implication of the marriage annulment is that the women are now available as sexual slaves or wives.

Not that ISNA and Al-Azhar should be surprised by this.  The ISNA-affiliated Fiqh Council of North America approved Reliance with then President Taha Jabir al ‘Alwani calling it an “eminent work of Islamic jurisprudence.” The Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy certified that the manual, “conforms to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni school (ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama’a).”

Nor is Reliance’s interpretation alone in understanding Islamic law to permit sexual slavery. As Ibn Kathir (d.1373) in his highly regarded Tafsir (exegeses) of the Koran, explains, the source of this understanding is Quran Sura 4:25:

“Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess.) The Ayah means, you are prohibited from marrying women who are already married, (except those whom your right hands possess) except those whom you acquire through war, for you are allowed such women after making sure they are not pregnant.”

So to sadly, to answer Wolfe’s question, “Why are women spoils of war in Nigeria?”

Because Shariah law requires it.

About Kyle Shideler

Kyle Shideler is the Director of the Threat Information Office (TIO) at the Center for Security Policy. Kyle works to inject serious research and analysis on the subject of Islamic terrorism and Shariah law into the beltway policy discussion, by challenging false assumptions and providing fully documented resources, primary research and influential talking points to policymakers, journalists, and foreign relations professionals. Kyle has previously served as a Director of Research and Communications, Senior Researcher, and Public Information Officer for several organizations in the field of Middle East and terrorism policy since 2006. He is a contributing author to “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network: America and the West’s Fatal Embrace,” and has written for numerous publications as well as briefed legislative aides, intelligence and law enforcement officials, and the general public on the threat posed by Islamist influence and penetration operations.