The West is familiar with the history of slavery in the new world. It was sinful and terrible, and it lasted for several hundred years. And it was abolished mainly through the efforts of Christians in England (Wilberforce, Clarkson) and America (the Abolitionists, primarily Protestant).
However, few people in the west know about Islam and slavery. Most would be surprised that Islam authorizes the taking of slaves as spoils of war. From the days that Muhammad drew his sword to rob and conquer non-Muslims to this very day, Muslims have been taking non-Muslims, and even other black Muslims, as slaves.
Muslims were enslaving black Africans long before any slave ships sailed for the New World. Muslims were taking and making slaves all over the lands they had conquered. Later, when slave ships were loaded with black slaves, often, a Muslim slave broker had the human cargo all ready to go. American slavers rarely had to go into inland to capture slaves, they were already waiting there, courtesy of some Muslim ruler, and/or slave broker! In many cases, if the black slaves were not sent to the New World, they were sent to the Mideast to be enslaved by Arabs, or kept by other black Muslims as slaves.
MUHAMMAD, MUSLIMS, THE QURAN, AND SLAVERY
To begin with, the Quran justifies slavery, and often mentions slaves. Here are some relevant verses:
33:50 – “Prophet, We have made lawful to you the wives to whom you have granted dowries and the slave girls whom God has given you as booty.”
This verse clearly shows that Muslims believe that taking slaves in war was a God-given right. These slaves were considered ‘booty’ or the spoils of war. As the saying goes: to the victors go the spoils.
23:5 – “… except with their wives and slave girls, for these are lawful to them:…”
The passage’s context here (not quoted in full) details how Muslim males are allowed to have sexual relations with their wives and slave girls. Implicit in this is that Muslim males had slave-concubines. 70:30 is basically a repeat of 23:5.
Ibn Sa’d’s “Tabaqat”, gives a clear description of Muhammad having “relations” with at least one of his slave girls. Muhammad had sexual relations with Mariyah, his Coptic slave. Mariyah and her sister, Sirin were slaves given as gifts to Muhammad. Muhammad gave Sirin to Hasan Thabit, the poet. Ibn Sa’d says that Muhammad “liked Mariyah, who was of white complexion, with curly hair and pretty.” [Taken from Ibn Sa’d’s “Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir” (Book of the Major Classes), p151].
Ibn Sa’d also writes that Mariyah bore Muhammad a son named Ibrahim. He died 18 months later. Sa’d writes: “If he had lived, no maternal uncle of his would have remained in bondage”, p164. This shows that there were other Coptic slaves owned by the Muslims.
The Quran also instructs Muslims NOT to force their female slaves into prostitution (24:34), and even allows Muslims to marry slaves if they so desire (4:24), and to free them at times as a penalty for crime or sin (4:92, 5:89, 58:3) and even allows slaves to buy their liberty, if they meet certain of their master’s conditions (24:33). [90:10 ‘freeing of a bondsman’ refers to Muslims ransoming other Muslims who were slaves of non-Muslims.]
While I think it’s nice to allow a slave to obtain his freedom, (at his master’s discretion) it is tragic that Islam allows them to be enslaved in the first place. That’s like robbing a bank and giving some of the money back to the bank, and thinking you did the right thing!
The above verses show that taking slaves was ordained by Allah, and that it was permissible for Muslim males to have sex with their female slaves. It also shows that slaves were a valuable commodity to the Muslims, otherwise, Allah would not have imposed the penalty of freeing a slave to make up for a crime.
BUKHARI’S HADITH AND SLAVERY
There are hundreds of Hadith that deal with slavery. Whole chapters of Hadith are dedicated to dealing with the taxation, treatment, sale, and jurisprudence of slaves. In addition to this, numerous Hadith mention slaves, and their relation to their Muslim masters. Here is a selection of Hadith on slaves: [all Hadith are from Sahih Bukhari, unless noted.]
Vol. 7-#137 Narrated Abu al-Khudri: “We got female captives in the war booty and we used to do coitus interruptus with them. So we asked Allah’s messenger about it and he said, “Do you really do that?” repeating the question thrice, “There is no soul that is destined to exist but will come into existence, till the Day of Resurrection.””
Here, Muslims had taken female slaves, and had sex with them. Muhammad approved of this. He only admonished them not to practice coitus interruptus.
Vol. 5-#459 [This Hadith is similar to the above. However, additional details are added]. Narrated Ibn Muhairiz: “I entered the mosque and saw Abu Khudri and sat beside him and asked him about coitus interruptus. Abu said, “We went out with Allah’s messenger for the Ghazwa (attack upon) Banu Mustaliq and we received captives from among the Arab captives and we desired women and celibacy became hard on us and we loved to do coitus interruptus. So when we intended to do coitus interruptus we said “How can we do coitus interruptus without asking Allah’s messenger while he is present among us?” We asked (him) about it and he said “It is better for you not to do so, for if any soul (till the Day of Resurrection) is predestined to exist, it will exist.””
Here, the Muslims attacked the Banu Mustaliq, and took slaves. The female slaves were distributed as booty to the Muslim soldiers. Being away from home, the soldiers became horny, and want to have sexual relations with the newly captured female slaves. They went to Muhammad and asked about coitus interruptus. He told them not to practice that, but to complete the sexual act with the slaves. Related Hadith show that they didn’t want to get the women pregnant because they wanted to be able to sell them later on. Under Islamic law they were not allowed to sell pregnant female slaves.
In effect, Muhammad okayed the rape of female prisoners.
Narrated Kuraib: the freed slave of Ibn ‘Abbas, that Maimuna bint Al-Harith told him that she manumitted a slave-girl without taking the permission of the Prophet. On the day when it was her turn to be with the Prophet, she said, “Do you know, O Allah’s Apostle, that I have manumitted my slave-girl?” He said, “Have you really?” She replied in the affirmative. He said, “You would have got more reward if you had given her (i.e. the slave-girl) to one of your maternal uncles.”
Here a woman frees a slave girl, but Muhammad says that she would have gotten more (heavenly) reward if she had given the slave one of her uncles, thus keeping the slave in slavery.
Vol. 7-#734 “….At the door of the [Muhammad’s] room there was a slave to whom I went and said, “Ask the permission for me to enter”…..
This is a long Hadith, and the quote reveals that Muhammad has slaves working in his house.
Vol. 7-#344 Narrated Anas: “Allah’s messenger went to the house of his slave tailor, and he was offered a dish of gourd of which he started eating. I have loved to eat gourd since I saw Allah’s messenger eating it.”
This Hadith shows that another one of Muhammad’s slaves was a tailor. #346 gives additional details.
Vol. 5-#541 Narrated Abu Huraira: When we conquered Khaibar, we gained neither gold nor silver as booty, but we gained cows, camels, goods and gardens. Then we departed with Allah’s apostle to the valley of Al-Qira, and at that time Allah’s messenger had a slave called Midam who had been presented to him by one of Banu Ad-Dibbab. While the slave was dismounting the saddle of Allah’s messenger an arrow the thrower of which was unknown, came and hit him…..
This Hadith shows that Muhammad held a slave, who was struck with an arrow.
Vol. 5-#637 Narrated Buraida: The prophet sent Ali to Khalid to bring the Khumus ([one fifth] of the booty) and I hated Ali, and Ali had taken a bath (after a sexual act with a slave girl from the Khumus). I said to Khalid, “Don’t you see this (i.e. Ali)?” When we reached the prophet I mentioned that to him. He said, “O Buraida! Do you hate Ali?” I said, “Yes” He said, “Do you hate him, for he deserves more than that from the Khumus.”
The note for this Hadith says “Buraida hated Ali because he had taken a slave girl form the booty and considered that as something not good.”
Here Ali took a newly captured slave girl, and had sex with her. When Muhammad was told about it, he approved of it. Note that slaves were considered as booty, and as a man’s property, they can use the female slave for sex, i.e., rape them.
Vol. 5-#512 Narrated Anas: “…..The prophet had their warriors killed, their offspring and woman taken as captives….”
This Hadith details the attack on the Jews of Khaibar. Again, many of the women and children were taken and made into slaves.
Vol. 5-Chapter 67 Narrated Ibn Ishaq: The Ghazwa (attack upon) Uyaina bin Hisn waged against Banu Al-Anbar, a branch of Banu Tamim. The prophet sent Uyaina to raid them. He raided them and killed some of them and took some others as captives.
Here, Muhammad sent out his men to attack another tribe. The killed some of them and took others as captives. Once again, the Muslims attacked a neighboring tribe.
Vol. 5-#182 Narrated Aisha: “Abu Bakr had a slave who used to give him some of his earnings.
Vol. 5-#50 Narrated Amr Maimun: “….The slave of Al-Mughira…”
[another Muslim who owned the slave that killed Umar.]
….Al-Abbas had the greatest number of slaves….
[Al-Abbas, the future Muslim leader had many slaves].
Vol. 9-#462 Narrated Aisha: “…Furthermore you may ask the slave girl who will tell you the truth”. So the prophet asked Barira (my slave girl)…
Aisha had her own slave.
Also, volume 7-#s 845, 341, 352, 371, 410, 413, 654, ch. 22, ch. 23, and volume 1-#s 29, 439, 661, volume 9-#s ch. 23, ch. 32, #293, 296, 277, 100, 80.
All these Hadith detail that many other Muslims owned slaves.
MUHAMMAD, ABU DAWUD’S HADITH, AND SLAVERY
Abu Dawud, vol. 2, chapter 597 – “On a Man who Beats His Slave While he is in the Sacred State (wearing Ihram).”
#1814- “(Abu Bakr) began to beat him (Bakr’s slave) while the apostle of Allah was smiling and saying: “Look at this man who is in the sacred state, what is he doing?” [The note for this Hadith says “Abu Bakr beat his slave to teach him sense of responsibility.”]
Abu Dawud, vol. 2, chapter 683 – “On the Marriage of a Slave without the Permission of His Masters”
#2074- “Ibn Umar reported the prophet as saying: “If a slave marries without the permission of his master, his marriage is null and void.”
Abu Dawud, vol. 2, chapter 1317 – “Contractual Obligation of a Slave.”
#3499, 3500- “The contractual obligation of a slave is three days. If he finds defect in the slave within three days, he may return it without any evidence; if he finds a defect after three days, he will be required to produce evidence that the slave had the defect when he brought it.”
MUHAMMAD, THE MUWATTA OF IMAM MALIK, AND SLAVERY
The chapters mentioned below show just how intrinsic slavery was during Muhammad’s life, and the lives of the Caliphs. The Muwatta is a book of Islamic jurisprudence. It is full of regulations on dealing with slaves. Slaves were used throughout the Islamic world. Judging from the amount of Hadith here, it is safe to assume that many Muslims owned slaves.
Chapter 368 – “Who takes the Property of a Slave When He is Freed”
Chapter 371 – “Slaves who cannot be set Free in the Obligatory Freeing of a Slave”
Chapter 383 – “Cohabitation with a Slave Girl after Declaring Her ‘Mudabbir'” (free after the master’s death).
Chapter 387 – “Who is Entitled to the Property of a Slave or Slave Girl at the time of Sale.”
Chapter 388 – “The Limit of Responsibility of the Seller in the Sale of a Slave or Slave Girl.”
Chapter 390 – “On the Conditional Sale of a Slave Girl.”
There are additional chapters dealing with slaves. This list is enough to show that dealing with slaves during and after Muhammad’s time was extensive.
OTHER ISLAMIC WRITINGS ON MUSLIMS OWNING SLAVES
There are additional Islamic writings that document how Muhammad took purchased, sold, and gave away slaves. The following quotes are from “Behind the Veil”.
Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, a great scholar and Islamic historian says in his book “Zad al-Ma’ad”, part 1, p160:
“Muhammad had many male and female slaves. He used to buy and sell them, but he purchased more slaves then he sold. He once sold one black slave for two. His purchases of slaves were more than he sold.”
“Muhammad had a number of black slaves. One of them was named ‘Mahran’. Muhammad forced him to do more labor than the average man. Whenever Muhammad went on a trip and he, or his people, got tired of carrying their stuff, he made Mahran carry it. Mahran said “Even if I were already carrying the load of 6 or 7 donkeys while we were on a journey, anyone who felt weak would throw his clothes or his shield or his sword on me so I would carry that, a heavy load”. Tabari and Jawziyya both record this, so Islam accepts this as true.”
Ali, who was Muhammad’s son-in-law, whipped Aisha’s slave in front of Muhammad to make her talk about the adultery charges against Aisha. Muhammad did not say a word to Ali about beating the female slave. [From the Sirat Rasulallah, p496.]
In the Sirat Rasulallah, Muhammad massacred 800 males and took their women and children as slaves. He kept at least one Jewish female named Rayhana as his concubine, and gave the rest away to the Muslims. The Sirat says (p466) “Then the apostle divided the property, wives, and children of Banu Qurayza among the Muslims….
“Then the apostle sent Sa’d Zayd brother of Ashhal with some of the captive women of Banu Qurayza to Najd and he sold them for horse and weapons.”
One thing for certain: MUHAMMAD WAS A SLAVER. The names of many of Muhammad’s slaves are detailed in Muslim writings and they can be found in “Behind the Veil”.
Some Muslims claim that slaves under Islam were always treated fairly and kindly, and that slaves in the West were always treated like “chattel”. The fact is that the real treatment slaves in both the west and under Islam has varied. Some slaves were treated fairly, others were treated brutally. Both the Quran and New Testament command masters to treat slaves fairly. Compare Ephesians 6:9 with Sura 4:36. Both are similar. However, the New Testament condemns slave trading in 1 Tim 1:10 (menstealers is the same word for slave-traders), the Quran allows for, even urges slave-taking.
THE RIGHTS OF SLAVES UNDER ISLAM
According to the Hughes Dictionary of Islam, slaves had few civil or legal rights. For example:
- a) Muslim men were allowed to have sex anytime with females slaves – Sura 4:3, 4:29, 33:49.
- b) Slaves are as helpless before their masters as idols are before God – Sura 16:77
- c) According to Islamic Tradition, people at the time of their capture were either to be killed, or enslaved. Shows you that they were at the bottom of the barrel to start with.
- d) According to Islamic jurisprudence, slaves were merchandise. The sales of slaves was in accordance with the sale of animals.
- e) Muhammad ordered that some slaves who were freed by their master be RE-ENSLAVED!
- f) It is permissible under Islamic law to whip slaves.
- g) According to Islam, a Muslim could not be put to death for murdering a slave. 2:178 and the Jalalayn confirm this.
- h) According to Islam, the testimony of slaves is not admissible in court. Ibn Timiyya and Bukhari state this.
- i) According to Islamic jurisprudence, slaves cannot choose their own marriage mate. – Ibn Hazm, vol. 6, part 9.
- j) According to Islamic jurisprudence, slaves can be forced to marry who their masters want. – Malik ibn Anas, vol. 2, page 155.
Slavery continued in Islamic lands from about the beginning to this very day. Muslim rulers always found support in the Quran to call ‘jihad’, partly for booty, part for the purpose of taking slaves. As the Islamic empire disintegrated into smaller kingdoms, and each ruler was able to decide what Islam’s theology really meant. Usually, he always found it in support of what he wanted to do. Their calls of jihad against their neighbor facilitated the taking of slaves for Islam. The Quran and Islamic jurisprudence support the taking of slaves, so, those petty Muslim rulers were following the Quran when they needed slaves.
WHO COULD BE MADE SLAVES UNDER ISLAM?
1) Islam allows Muslims to make slaves out of anyone who is captured during war.
2) Islam allows for the children of slaves to be raised as slaves
3) Like #1, Islam allows for Christians and Jews to be made into slaves if they are captured in war. After Muslim armies attacked and conquered Spain, they took thousands of slaves back to Damascus. The key prize was 1000 virgins as slaves. They were forced to go all the way back to Damascus.
4) Christians and Jews, who had made a treaty with the ruling Muslims could be made into slaves if they did not pay the “protection” tax. This paying for ‘protection’ was just like paying a Mafia racketeer! This allowed Muslim rulers to extort money from non-Muslim people.
POST MUHAMMAD SLAVERY
WHERE DID MANY OF THE MUSLIM’S SLAVES COME FROM?
Although Muslims took slaves from all over the lands they conquered, many of the Muslim slaves were black Africans. There were forced to do the harshest labor.
There was a famous black slave revolt in Iraq where thousands of black slaves revolted and killed tens of thousands of Arabs in Basrah. There slaves were forced to work in the large Muslim saltpeter mines. During their revolt, they conquered the city of Basrah, in Iraq. They conquered city after city, and they couldn’t be stopped. Their uprising and drive for freedom lasted for about 11 years. [“The History of Islam”, Robert Payne, p.185.]
As the Muslim armies continued to conquer land, they acquired many slaves. Bernard Lewis in “The Arabs in History” writes: “polytheists and idolaters were seen primarily as sources of slaves.”
In the early years of the Arab conquests, vast numbers of slave were acquired by capture. C.E. Bosworth in “The Islamic Dynasties” writes: “the use of this labor enabled the Arabs to live on the conquered land as a rentier class and to exploit some of the economic potential of the rich Fertile Crescent.”
Ibn Warraq writes: “Arabs were deeply involved in the vast network of slave trading – they scoured the slave markets of China, India, and Southeast Asia. There were Turkish slaves from Central Asia, slaves from the Byzantine Empire, white slave from Central and East Europe, and Black slaves from West and East Africa. Every city in the Islamic world had its slave market.”
ABUSES OF SLAVES IN MODERN ISLAM TODAY
Muhammad did say that slaves should be treated fairly. But they were still a Muslim’s property. Just as abuses occurred under Christianity, so too, many abuses occurred, and still occur under Islam. The difference between the two is that Islam ordains the taking of slaves during war, thus perpetuating slavery. Christianity does not. In slavery’s perpetual existence, Islam has seen great abuses of slaves.
Everyone knows about the abuses of slaves in the new world. What do you know about the abuses of slaves under Islam? I found two very good books on slavery and Islam.
1) “Slavery and Muslim Society in Africa”, by Allan Fisher, pub in 1971, and
2) “The Slave Trade Today” by Sean O’Callaghan, pub in 1961.
Both books really opened my eyes to how terrible slavery under Islam really is. I use the present tense, because it is obvious that these abuses continue to this day.
I also have a number of other references concerning slavery in Islam. A general survey is Hughes Dictionary of Islam. It notes a few basic points:
- a) Slaves have no civil liberty, but are entirely under the authority of their owners.
- b) Slavery is in complete harmony with the spirit of Islam. Islam did make life better for the average slave, but Muhammad intended it to be a perpetual institution.
- c) Hughes also says that it is a righteous act to free a slave. I just find it hard to understand that the god who told Muhammad to take slaves later tells him it’s good to free slaves?
In ‘The Slave Trade Today’, Sean O’Callaghan toured the Mideast and Africa and covertly visited many slave markets. Since Islam allows for slavery and slave trading, he was able to see much of the real world of Islamic slavery. Remember O’Callaghan saw this less than 40 years ago. This probably still continues today, albeit more discreetly.
In Djibouti he writes:
“Ten boys were ranged in a circle on the dais (used to display the slaves), their buttocks toward us. They were all naked, and I saw with horror that five had been castrated. The (slave dealer) said that usually 10% of the boys are castrated, being purchased by Saudi homosexuals, or by Yemenis, who own harems, as guards.” p 75
“Why had the girls (female slaves who had just been sold) had accepted their fate without a murmur, the boys howled and cried?” “Simple” said the Somali, we tell the girls from a very early age – 7 or 8 that they are made for love, at age NINE we let them practice with each other, and a year later with the boys”.
In Aden he writes:
“The Yemeni told me that the girls (slave girls used as prostitutes) were encouraged to have children, especially by white men. For if a slave girl had a white child, she was given a bonus of 20 pounds when the child was taken from her”. As you can see, the child of a slave remained a slave, the owner could sell the child and make money. This sale is allowable under Islamic law.
“Only one offense was severely punished; attempting to escape from the harem… The wretched girl was stripped and spread eagle in the courtyard…punishment was administer by a eunuch, a huge powerful Negro who seemed to enjoy his task. 70 lashes were given.”
“Because of this (the fact that eunuchs can perform sexually), the eunuch often has his penis removed as well as his testicles”! This is also legal under Islamic law, since it is preparing the slave for service.
In Saudi Arabia he writes:
‘The slave population was estimated at 450,000″!. ….Slave auctions are no longer held regularly, only in an alley in Mecca.”
‘I was awakened by shouts and screams coming from the courtyard. Rushing to the window I looked down to see a dozen slaves being herded through a door at the far end of the yard. They were being driven in like cattle by three hefty guards armed with long lashed whips. Even as I watched, one of the poor wretches, a Sudanese girl with huge breasts, received a savage lash across her naked buttocks let out a shriek of agony’
‘As the next slave was led in, a murmur of excitement went up among the buyers and they crowded closer around the rostrum. He was a slender boy of about 12 years old with beautiful classical Arab features. Although much has been written about Arab brotherhood and solidarity, I knew that the Arab has no compunction in enslaving his fellows should they fall into his hands.
The boy was naked and tried to cover his privates with his little hands and he ran up the steps of the rostrum……there is an age old saying among the Bedouin: “A goat for use, a girl for enjoyment, but a boy for ecstasy”. He (the now purchased slave boy) was claimed by a tall bearded Arab who led him from the rostrum with an arm around his waist”.
This is just a portion of what O’Callaghan saw. This happens because Islam has made it legal for slavery. Yes, some of this is against Islam, but because Islam has made it into an institution, abuses will occur.
Remember, this happened just 35 years ago or so, and it is probably still happening today.
It is also noted that as the slaves get too old to perform service or sexually satisfy their masters, their masters ‘manumits’ the slaves. Now, aged, worn out, they are put out on the streets to fend for themselves. These ex-slaves are left to fend for themselves. Their former owner has committed a great, righteousness act in freeing a slave! He gets rid of the burdensome slave, and gets a bonus in heaven. What a religion!
In Fisher’s book, other observations are recorded:
“We take note of 20 tall Negroes in turbans walking near the Kaba. They are eunuch slaves and are employed as police in the great Mosque. There are about 50 of them all together.”
“The streets are full of slaves… we see a few old slave women. They are recognized by the poverty of clothing… but we see nothing of the younger women slaves who are kept in the houses of the city.”
“As we move along we see two or three very old men and women who look like black skeletons. If we go to the mosque at sunrise we shall see some of these, if we go at sunset they will be there too, and if we pass by at midnight, we shall see them there still .. Sleeping on the stones in their rags. They have no home but the mosque, and no food but what they receive in alms; (they were) turned out to seek the bounty of Allah, as their masters would say.”
Speaking of how Saudi obtains so many black slaves: “they (the slave traders) pose as Muslim missionaries who guide their compatriots (black African Muslims), to the Holy Places of Islam, to make the Pilgrimage, and be instructed in the Quran in Arabic.” Once transported, they are made into slaves.
“So with the connivance of the Saudi authorities the ancient trade in black ivory is perpetuated in our time in spite of the international conventions”.
Fisher also notes that white slaves are most highly prized.
Another interesting comment I’ve come across is that there were regions in black Africa that Muslim missionaries wouldn’t go into. The reason is that if those blacks became Muslim, they could no longer enslave them. So, the Muslims banned spreading the word of Islam among certain black tribes. It was from these tribes that local Muslim rulers would harvest slaves, and sell them throughout the Islamic world.
Time and time again, slavery in Islam is abused. The west has finished with slavery, Islam continues it, and with that, the abuses go on.
A recent article on the slavery in Sudan is found in Newsweek, Oct. 12, 1992. Since that time, there have been numerous articles written by every form of press on Islamic slavery in Sudan. Basically, southern Sudanese, who are not Muslim, are attacked, and rounded up, and sold into slavery. Anyone willing to do a search at a library could find these articles quite easily.
Lastly, I remember watching a Tony Brown’s Journal show. It covered the slavery existing in Muslim lands today, the torture of slaves, the hobbling by breaking the young boys ankles, the seizure of Negro lands by Arabs, etc. Anyone is able to call the show and order this tape. A Negro Muslim from Mauritania was on the show. He described what the Arabs in Mauritania were doing to the Negroes (all Muslim) there. Recent human rights publications have also stated that the same is happening in Mali. Arab Muslims are forcibly taking land, and enslaving Negro Muslims there.
Just a short while ago, a group of Negro pastors in the US, formed a group to combat Islamic slavery amongst the blacks, both Muslim and non-Muslim in Africa. The information on this can be found in the August 1997 issue of Charisma magazine, and in the 11-17-97 issue of Christianity. The group is called “Harambee” and is affiliated with the Loveland Church in Los Angeles, CA.
Islam, when compared to Christianity is a step backwards; a step into “justification” of the enslavement of others.
The book “Behind the Veil” can be obtained from The Voice of the Martyrs @ 1-918-337-8015.