SLAVERY IN ISLAM
Islam institutionalized slavery. Muhammad began to take slaves after he
moved to Medina, and had power. Slaves were usually taken in raids on
nearby Arab tribes, or war, either through offensive or defensive
actions. Islam allows the taking of slaves as "booty", or reward for
fighting. This has led to numerous "jihads" by Muslim states and tribes
to attack other non-Muslim groups and obtain slaves. Islamic
jurisprudence laid down regulations for the proper treatment of slaves.
However, abuses have occurred throughout history.
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. The white Southerners 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.
"... except with their wives and slave girls, for these are lawful to
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
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.]
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.
[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
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.
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.
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
This Hadith shows that another one of Muhammad's slaves was a tailor.
#346 gives additional details.
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.....
Hadith shows that Muhammad held a slave, who was struck with an arrow.
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 manís property, they can use the
female slave for sex, i.e., rape them.
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
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.
5-#182 Narrated Aisha: "Abu Bakr had a slave who used to give him
some of his earnings.
5-#50 Narrated Amr Maimun: "....The slave of Al-Mughira..."
Muslim who owned the slave that killed Umar.]
....Al-Abbas had the greatest number of slaves....
the future Muslim leader had many slaves]
9-#462 Narrated Aisha: "...Furthermore you may ask the slave girl
who will tell you the truth". So the prophet asked Barira (my slave
Aisha had her own slave.
7-#s 845, 341, 352, 371, 410, 413, 654, ch. 22, ch. 23, and
29, 439, 661,
ch. 23, ch. 32, #293, 296, 277, 100, 80.
Hadith detail that many other Muslims owned slaves.
MUHAMMAD, ABU DAWUD'S HADITH, AND SLAVERY
vol. 2, chapter 597 - "On a Man who Beats His Slave While he is in the
Sacred State (wearing Ihram)."
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."]
vol. 2, chapter 683 - "On the Marriage of a Slave without the Permission
of His Masters"
Umar reported the prophet as saying: "If a slave marries without the
permission of his master, his marriage is null and void."
vol. 2, chapter 1317 - "Contractual Obligation of a Slave.
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
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.
- "Who takes the Property of a Slave When He is Freed"
- "Slaves who cannot be set Free in the Obligatory Freeing of a Slave"
- "Cohabitation with a Slave Girl after Declaring Her 'Mudabbir'" (free
after the master's death).
- "Who is Entitled to the Property of a Slave or Slave Girl at the time
- "The Limit of Responsibility of the Seller in the Sale of a Slave or
- "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
OTHER ISLAMIC WRITINGS ON MUSLIMS OWNING SLAVES
additional Islamic writings that document how Muhammad took purchased,
sold, and gave away slaves. The following quotes are from "Behind the
al-Jawziyya, a great scholar and Islamic historian says in his book "Zad
al-Ma'ad", part 1, p160:
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
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.]
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....
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."
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".
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
THE RIGHTS OF SLAVES UNDER ISLAM
to the Hughes Dictionary of Islam, slaves had few civil or legal
rights. For example:
Muslim men were allowed to have sex anytime with females slaves - Sura
4:3, 4:29, 33:49.
Slaves are as helpless before their masters as idols are before God -
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.
According to Islamic jurisprudence, slaves were merchandise. The sales
of slaves was in accordance with the sale of animals.
Muhammad ordered that some slaves who were freed by their master be
It is permissible under Islamic law to whip slaves.
According to Islam, a Muslim could not be put to death for murdering a
slave. Ref. 2:178 and the Jalalayn confirm this.
According to Islam, the testimony of slaves is not admissible in court.
Ibn Timiyya and Bukhari state this.
According to Islamic jurisprudence, slaves cannot choose their own
marriage mate. - Ibn Hazm, vol. 6, part 9.
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?
Islam allows Muslims to make slaves out of anyone who is captured during
Islam allows for the children of slaves to be raised as slaves
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
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.]
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."
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
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
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.
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.
and Muslim Society in Africa", by Allan Fisher, pub in 1971, and
"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
Slaves have no civil liberty, but are entirely under the authority of
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
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?
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.
"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
"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
"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
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
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
this happened just 35 years ago or so, and it is probably still
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
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
"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
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 @