Islam’s disturbing legacy of slavery

We are often told that Islam is “peaceful,” but few know about the long practice of slavery within Islam, which continues to this day.

“Slavery is a part of Islam… Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam… [Those who argue that slavery has been abolished are] ignorant, not scholars. They are merely writers. Whoever says such things is an infidel.”

Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan, member of Senior Council of Clerics, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body (2003)

“Slavery still exists in a host of majority-Muslim countries (especially Sudan and Mauritania, also Saudi Arabia and Pakistan)….”

Dr. Daniel Pipes, New York Post (July 30, 2002)

“Besides being practiced more or less openly today in Sudan and Mauritania, there is evidence that slavery still continues beneath the surface in some majority-Muslim countries as well – notably Saudi Arabia, which only abolished slavery in 1962, Yemen and Oman, both of which ended legal slavery in 1970, and Niger, which didn’t abolish slavery until 2004. In Niger, the ban is widely ignored, and as many as one million people remain in bondage. Slaves are bred, often raped, and generally treated like animals.”

Robert Spencer, “The Persistence of Islamic Slavery”

“…the worst, most inhumane and most diabolical institution of the black African slave trade was initiated, refined, perpetrated and implemented by the Mohammedan Arabs and later aided and abetted by the black converts to Mohammedan Islam.”

John Alembillah Azumah, Legacy of Arab-Islam in Africa

“Historically, the major juristic schools of Islam traditionally accepted the institution of slavery. The Islamic prophet Muhammad and many of his companions bought, sold, freed and captured slaves. …The Qur’an includes multiple references to slaves, slave women, slave concubinage, and the freeing of slaves. It accepts the institution of slavery…. Slaves are mentioned in at least twenty-nine verses of the Qur’an… Slavery was also perceived as a means of converting non-Muslims to Islam… According to some jurists – especially among the Shi’a – only Muslim slaves should be liberated… Evidence from slaves is rarely viable in a court of law [since] slaves are regarded as inferior in Islamic law… Slaves are not permitted to possess or inherit property, or conduct independent business, and may conduct financial dealings only as a representative of the master…. Slave women were required mainly as concubines and menials. A Muslim slaveholder was entitled by law to the sexual enjoyment of his slave women…. There is no limit on the number of concubines a master may possess…. There was a high death toll among all classes of slaves. Slaves usually came from remote places and, lacking immunities, died in large numbers…. the Islamic market demand for children was much greater than the American one…. According to multiple sources, religious calls have also been made to capture and enslave Jewish women…. Organized criminal gangs smuggle children into Saudi Arabia where they are enslaved, sometimes mutilated, and forced to work as beggars.”

“Islam and slavery”

“Raiding non-Muslim territories became a constant phenomenon after Muslim powers were established in Southeast Asia…. Over five centuries after Muslims came to power in the early fifteenth century, those animist hill peoples completely disappeared as a result of their incorporation, through enslavement, into the Muslim populace of Malaya, Sumatra and Borneo ‘by a mixture of raiding, tribute and purchase, especially of children.’… In Muslim wars in Southeast Asia, the enslavement was often complete: the entire population were enslaved and carried away…. These enslaved people…[belonged] to the polytheistic Hindu, Buddhist and Animist creeds….”

M.A. Khan, Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery (143-144)

Slavery has been justified by Mohammed’s example, as laid out in the Koran and in the records of the Islamic prophet’s words and deeds called the “hadiths.” In addition, Mohammed’s father was named by what has become a common Muslim appellation, Abd-Allah or Abdullah, which means “Slave of Allah,” a moniker proudly worn by millions of Muslims. Islam itself means “submission,” as in being a slave to Allah’s will.

“A believing slave is better than an idolater…”

Muhammad, Quran 2:221

“…you may marry other women who seem good to you: two, three, or four of them. But if you fear that you cannot maintain equality among them marry one only or any slave-girls you may own.”

Muhammad, Quran 4:3

“Blessed are the believers…who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them…)…”

Muhammad, Quran 23:1

“Prophet, We have made lawful for you the wives to whom you have granted dowries and the slave-girls whom God has given you as booty…”

Quran 33:50

“Mohammed had many male and female slaves. He used to buy and sell them, but he purchased more slaves than he sold, especially after God empowered him by His message, as well as after his immigration from Mecca. He once sold one black slave for two…. His purchases of slaves were more than he sold….”

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Zad al-Ma’ad (1.160)

“So Muhammad began seizing their herds and their property bit by bit. He conquered home by home. The Messenger took some people captive, including Safiyah and her two cousins. The Prophet chose Safiyah for himself.”

Tabari VIII 116; Ishaq 511

“We conquered Khaibar, took the captives, and the booty was collected. Dihya came and said, ‘O Allah’s Prophet! Give me a slave girl from the captives.’ The Prophet said, ‘Go and take any slave girl.'”

Sahih Bukhari 1:8:367

“…Khaibar is destroyed… Then the inhabitants of Khaibar came out running on the roads. The Prophet had their warriors killed, their offspring and woman taken as captives.”

Sahih Bukhari 5:59:512

“The Prophet Muhammad was heard saying: ‘The smallest reward for the people of paradise is an abode where there are 80,000 servants and 72 wives…'”

Commentary by Ibn Kathir on Koranic chapter Al-Rahman (55), verse 72

“A man from the Ansar called Basrah said: I married a virgin woman in her veil. When I entered upon her, I found her pregnant. (I mentioned this to the Prophet). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: She will get the dower ["morning gift"], for you made her vagina lawful for you. The child will be your slave. When she has begotten (a child), flog her…”

Sunan Abu-Dawud 11:2070

“Muhammad took pains in urging the faithful to free their slaves as a way of expiating their sins. Some Muslim scholars have taken this to mean that his true motive was to bring about a gradual elimination of slavery. Far more persuasive is the argument that by lending the moral authority of Islam to slavery, Muhammad assured its legitimacy. Thus, in lightening the fetter, he riveted it ever more firmly in place.”

Murray Gordon, Slavery in the Arab World (19)

There are many more such quotes from Islamic texts and authorities that validate the practice of slavery. Conservative estimates place the number of Africans enslaved by Arab Muslims over the past 1,400 years at between 11 and 18 million, while others say that, when those killed in the raids or who died in transit to the Arab slave markets – some 80% – are factored in, the toll is at least 112 million. Hundreds of thousands of white Europeans also ended up in Islamic slave markets, the women being a particular favorite of Arab slavers.

Further Reading

Qur’an, Hadith and Scholars: Slavery
Saudi Religious Leader Calls for Slavery’s Legalization
Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery: Saudi Arabia
Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery: Pakistan
Arab slave trade
Islam and slavery
The Koran: with a parallel Arabic text
Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean
Slavery and Rape under the Islamic system
Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism, and Slavery
Slavery in Islam
Inside the Arab slave trade: Human trafficking is still a problem in the Middle East

© 2014 Freethought Nation, Acharya S, D.M. Murdock & Stellar House Publishing
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