In ancient and modern times there always exist a category of woman that was labelled a concubine. In different cultures they had different words for it, but it essentially amounted to the same thing: a lesser wife. In the various studies done in the field of cultural anthropology it is documented that people throughout Africa, Arabia, China, Japan and even in the Americas had similar constructs. Why should it be any different today? Or is it any different today? Well, the answer is yes and no. Yes, it is different today because we have enforced monogamy in the Western world which assumes that any extra-marital relations men engage in is evil. That, however, hasn’t stopped men from having mistresses, side chicks or friends with benefits. In a sense, men do have modern day concubines minus the regulations that went with it in most of the pre-modern world where concubinage was acknowledged as a bona fide practice. The Abrahamic religions have tended to outlaw concubinage when slavery was outlawed in the 1800’s because it saw concubinage as a plugin to slavery. In other words, for the Arabs and Hebrew people, only a slave woman could become a concubine. Where there are no slave women and no conquests of other nations, there can be no concubines. I posit, however, that concubinage proper has nothing to do with slavery. It is an entirely separate category. Yes, sometimes a slave can become a concubine, but a concubine doesn’t have to be a slave. In this chapter I will discuss in detail what a concubine was historically and how it still applies today.


As you might’ve noticed, social trends will sometimes make it impossible to call a woman your wife. A wife, especially in Biblical and Quranic law is a very specific type of woman. From the checklist and content, you hopefully read above, you’d notice that a lot of women are not wife material. What is supposed to happen with those women? Here is where religious scholars have fallen short in trying to confine all lawful sexual relations to marriage when in fact scripture does not do so. The Qur’an for example states that those who have believed amongst men should guard their private parts except for when it comes to their wives and those that their right hands possess.14 In other words, there was always non married sexual relations throughout the days of Islam, except for in this modern era. Similarly, the Bible repeatedly talks about concubinage as a bona-fide practice. So why have we essentially delegitimized concubinage as a practice?

Marriage is an important institution for the functioning of the ancient State. Basically, the State was able to hold people collectively accountable based on a hierarchy that marriage helped facilitate. The tribal chief could be held liable for his tribe in the same way the husband could be held liable for the behavior of his wives and children. In other words, State regulators needed to know exactly who was responsible for whom so they could apply their laws. Since concubinage, in principle proceeded from slavery, it was clear that the master was responsible for the slave. No one essentially cared if the master slept with his slaves. They belonged to him, and he was

14 Qur’an 23:6

1 for

Except from their wives or those their right hands possess,

indeed, they will not be blamed


responsible for them. Without the institution of slavery, there was little to no recourse to regulate concubinage under patriarchal laws and so the priests did the logical thing: scrap it. God is not absent from the State. The idea that you will be punished for sexual violations before God, is no less than the punishment of the State for said violations because civilization cannot be built on hedonism and licentiousness. If you can regulate sexuality, as a State, you can flourish. If you cannot, you will collapse. That’ s why the W est is essentially collapsing. They have failed to regulate sex and now they have a social welfare system where women profit off of having children with random men. Those children in turn become a burden to society at best, or down right criminals at worse. The way society or the State regulates sexual behavior was by controlling women through giving men the agency to do so.

The crux of the matter is control. A concubine could not do as she pleased. She had to remain sexually loyal to her master in the case of slavery. Where concubinage took place outside of slavery, it referred to a lower caste or class of women who weren’t essentially eligible to marry men of higher status. In the Abbasid Caliphate, the Arabs took Persian women as concubines because they viewed them as a lesser class. In the far east, a maid servant could be the concubine of the man of the house. It happened in 21s century America also when Arnold Swarzenegger (b. 1947)- the famous body builder and actor- had a child with his housekeeper. The fact is that human nature doesn’t change. The difference is that we have outlawed the nature of men and in fact loss control over regulating sex. In ancient times, the maid servant would have just been accepted as his lesser wife or concubine and the children would


be seen as legitimate. His wife would also not have left him for doing something so normal as sleeping with the housekeeper.

A concubine is essentially a woman who has sex with a man and then belongs to him as a result thereof having never formally married him. Since there is no safeguard of formal marriage and because she doesn’t attribute her name to his name, she has less rights than a wife but also less responsibilities. Her actions are not fully attributed to that of the man and his family to the same extend as his wife. There is a stigma against being a concubine because it meant that the woman was from a low status, and or she gave herself to a man without negotiating marriage and so hence the man is not obligated to marry her, but he may keep her nevertheless as his woman. He can marry her later, of course, after educating her in the ways of patriarchy and when she can comply with the rules of marriage. Again, any woman you sleep with must be sexually loyal to you. When I say, comply with the rules of marriage, I mean all other rules besides that one.

What is sexual loyalty exactly? The only condition for concubinage is that you own her sexuality. She is not allowed to negotiate or initiate another sexual relationship for as long as she is with you. When the relationship has ended, she must wait three menstrual cycles or if her cycles are irregular then three months after it has ended before she can negotiate another sexual relationship. But if after deciding the relationship has ended, you still sleep with her then the relationship hasn’t ended. It can only end by waiting for those three menstrual cycles after you decided to end it. Sexual loyalty is not that today you decided you will not be together, and tomorrow she


is in bed with another man. Remember, concubines aren’t high class women. They cannot be expected to hold to civilized rules to the extent that women under patriarchy can. A patriarchal woman isn’t going to engage with another man. She is also not going to negotiate her own marriage; she is going to involve her father or male guardian. A concubine is a moderately chaste woman, who while she may choose to negotiate her own sexual relationship and sees no problem with having sex outside of marriage, is still going to be sexually loyal. In other words, a lot of women do not even meet the criteria for concubinage. A woman who sleeps around isn’t to ever be taken seriously and must not be engaged with at all. She has no place within the patriarchy. She should be left alone and is only meant to be played around with by guys who play around.

Lastly, I have a word of caution. I do not recommend concubinage in this modern era because women who easily go to bed with a man, can easily go to bed with another man. In other words, unless you can control her and she is obedient to you, she can’t even be a concubine. That excludes most women already from concubinage and marriage. However, if for some reason marriage is not accessible to you and you could not find a wife in the fuller sense, you can have one concubine as a last resort while you continue to find a wife. In order of priority a man should aspire to polygyny, and if he is unable to afford that, then monogamy, and if he is unable to afford that then a concubine as a last resort. There are also laws in some countries where a woman you cohabit with for six months or more will be considered your common law wife. If you do not want a woman to have legal rights over you in front of the law of your country, you could try charging her rent and call her a tenant.


Create a lease agreement, even if it is just for a nominal amount. If you live in the West, it is probably best to try to keep the State out of your bedroom. Alternately, you could have a religious marriage by an unlicensed priest so you can feel as though you are married before God. Remember, that even if you have ‘married’ a concubine, she’s still a concubine. Don’t get it wrong. Until she hasn’t been educated on how to be a wife, she’s not a wife. Later, you can upgrade her status if she deserves it.

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