Islamic views on slavery
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Islamic views on slavery first developed out of the slavery practices of pre-Islamic Arabia, and were at times radically different, depending on social-political factors such as the Arab slave trade.
In Islamic law, the topic of slavery is covered at great length. The Quran (the holy book) and the hadith (the sayings of Muhammad) see slavery as an exceptional condition that can be entered into under certain limited circumstances. Only children of slaves or non-Muslim prisoners of war could become slaves, never a freeborn Muslim. They also consider manumission of a slave to be one of many meritorious deeds available for the expiation of sins. According to Sharia, slaves are considered human beings and possessed some rights on the basis of their humanity. In addition, a Muslim slave is equal to a Muslim freeman in religious issues and superior to the free non-Muslim.
In practice, slaves played various social and economic roles, from Emir to worker. Slaves were widely employed in irrigation, mining, pastoralism, and the army. Some rulers even relied on military and administrative slaves to such a degree that they seized power. However, people did not always treat their slaves in accordance with Islamic law. In some cases, the situation was so harsh that it led to uprisings, such as the Zanj Rebellion. However, this was an exception rather than the norm, as the vast majority of labor in the medieval Islamic world consisted of free, paid labour. For a variety of reasons, internal growth of the slave population was not enough to fulfill the demand in Muslim society. This resulted in massive importation, which involved enormous suffering and loss of life from the capture and transportation of slaves from non-Muslim lands. In theory, slavery in Islamic law does not have a racial or color component, although this has not always been the case in practice.
The Quran provides for emancipation of a slave as a means of religious atonement for sins. One of the five pillars of Islam, zakāt, is meant to encourage Muslims to donate money to free slaves and bonded laborers in countries where slaves and bonded laborers may exist, in the hope that over time there will be no slaves left in that country.
The Arab slave trade was most active in West Asia, North Africa, and Southeast Africa. In the early 20th century (post World War I), slavery was gradually outlawed and suppressed in Muslim lands, largely due to pressure exerted by Western nations such as Britain and France. For example, Saudi Arabia and Yemen only abolished slavery in 1962 under pressure from Britain; Oman followed suit in 1970, and Mauritania in 1905, 1981, and again in August 2007. However, slavery claiming the sanction of Islam is documented presently in the predominately Islamic countries of Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Mali, and Sudan.
- 1 Slavery in pre-Islamic Arabia
- 2 Slavery in the Quran
- 3 Islamic jurisprudence
- 4 History of slavery under Muslim rule
- 4.1 Reasons for low natural increase in the internal slave population
- 4.2 Consequences of Muhammad's prescriptions on slavery
- 4.3 Arab slave trade
- 4.4 Roles filled by slaves
- 4.5 Rebellion
- 4.6 Capturing political power
- 4.7 19th century and later
- 5 Slavery in the contemporary Muslim world
- 6 See also
- 7 Further reading
- 8 Bibliography
- 9 Notes
- 10 External links
Slavery in pre-Islamic Arabia
Slavery was widely practiced in pre-Islamic Arabia, as well as in the rest of the ancient and early medieval world. The minority were white slaves of foreign extraction, likely brought in by Arab caravaners (or the product of Bedouin captures) stretching back to biblical times. Native Arab slaves had also existed, a prime example being Zayd ibn Harithah, later to become Muhammad's adopted son. Arab slaves, however, usually obtained as captives, were generally ransomed off amongst nomad tribes. The slave population increased by the custom of child abandonment (see also infanticide), and by the kidnapping, or, occasionally, the sale of small children. There is no conclusive evidence of the existence of enslavement for debt or the sale of children by their families; the late and rare accounts of such occurrences show them to be abnormal, Brunschvig states (According to Brockopp, debt slavery was persistent.) Free persons could sell their offspring, or even themselves, into slavery. Enslavement was also possible as a consequence of committing certain offenses against the law, as in the Roman Empire.
Two classes of slave existed: a purchased slave, and a slave born in the master's home. Over the latter the master had complete rights of ownership, though these slaves were unlikely to be sold or disposed of by the master. Female slaves were at times forced into prostitution for the benefit of their masters, in accordance with Near Eastern customs.
The historical accounts of the early years of Islam report that "slaves of non-Muslim masters ... suffered brutal punishments. Sumayyah bint Khayyat is famous as the first martyr of Islam, having been killed with a spear by Abū Jahl when she refused to give up her faith. Abu Bakr freed Bilal when his master, Umayya ibn Khalaf, placed a heavy rock on his chest in an attempt to force his conversion."
Slavery in the Quran
"Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect (zakāt) and for bringing hearts together and for freeing captives (or slaves) and for those in debt (or bonded labor) and for the cause of Allah and for the (stranded) traveler - an obligation (imposed) by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise."
The Quran includes multiple references to slaves, slave women, slave concubinage, and the freeing of slaves. It accepts the institution of slavery. It may be noted that the word 'abd' (slave) is rarely used, being more commonly replaced by some periphrasis such as ma malakat aymanukum ("that which your right hands own"). The Qur'an recognizes the basic inequality between master and slave and the rights of the former over the latter. The historian Brunschvig states that from a spiritual perspective, "the slave has the same value as the free man, and the same eternity is in store for his soul; in this earthly life, failing emancipation, there remains the fact of his inferior status, to which he must piously resign himself." Quran 24:32: "And marry the unmarried among you and the righteous among your male slaves and female slaves. If they should be poor, Allah will enrich them from His bounty, and Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing" Quran 24:33: But let them who find not [the means for] marriage abstain [from sexual relations] until Allah enriches them from His bounty. And those who seek a contract [for eventual emancipation] from among whom your right hands possess - then make a contract with them if you know there is within them goodness and give them from the wealth of Allah which He has given you."
The Quran, Surah 90:13 cleary stated , the act of freeing of a slave  will make those people who do such deed to be categorized as the Companions of the Right, a term for the blessed people in hereafter.
The Quran urges kindness to the slave and recommends their liberation by purchase or manumission. The freeing of slaves is recommended both for the expiation of sins and as an act of simple benevolence. It exhorts masters to allow slaves to earn or purchase their own freedom (manumission contracts)."
Slaves are mentioned in at least twenty-nine verses of the Qur'an, most of these are Medinan and refer to the legal status of slaves. The legal material on slavery in the Qur'an is largely restricted to manumission and sexual relations. According to Sikainga, the Qur'anic references to slavery as mainly contain "broad and general propositions of an ethical nature rather than specific legal formulations."
The Quran accepts the distinction between slave and free as part of the natural order and uses this distinction as an example of God's grace, regarding this discrimination between human beings as in accordance with the divinely established order of things. "The Qur'an, however, does not consider slaves to be mere chattel; their humanity is directly addressed in references to their beliefs, their desire for manumission and their feelings about being forced into prostitution. In one case, the Qur'an refers to master and slave with the same word, rajul. Later interpreters presume slaves to be spiritual equals of free Muslims. For example, urges believers to marry 'believing maids that your right hands own' and then states: "The one of you is as the other," which the Jalaalayn interpret as "You and they are equal in faith, so do not refrain from marrying them." The human aspect of slaves is further reinforced by reference to them as members of the private household, sometimes along with wives or children. Pious exhortations from jurists to free men to address their slaves by such euphemistic terms as "my boy" and "my girl" stemmed from the belief that God, not their masters, was responsible for the slave's status.
There are many common features between the institution of slavery in the Quran and that of neighboring cultures. However, the Quranic institution had some unique new features. Bernard Lewis states that the Qur'anic legislation brought two major changes to ancient slavery which were to have far-reaching effects: presumption of freedom, and the ban on the enslavement of free persons except in strictly defined circumstances. According to Brockopp, the idea of using alms for the manumission of slaves appears to be unique to the Quran, assuming the traditional interpretation of verses [Quran 2:177] and [Quran 9:60]. Similarly, the practice of freeing slaves in atonement for certain sins appears to be introduced by the Quran (but compare Exod 21:26-7). The forced prostitution of female slaves, a Near Eastern custom of great antiquity, is condemned in the Quran. Murray Gordon notes that this ban is "of no small significance." Brockopp writes: "Other cultures limit a master's right to harm a slave but few exhort masters to treat their slaves kindly, and the placement of slaves in the same category as other weak members of society who deserve protection is unknown outside the Qur'an. The unique contribution of the Qur'an, then, is to be found in its emphasis on the place of slaves in society and society's responsibility toward the slave, perhaps the most progressive legislation on slavery in its time."
The Islamic prophet Muhammad encouraged manumission of slaves, even if one had to purchase them first. On many occasions, Muhammad's companions, at his direction, freed slaves in abundance. Muhammad personally freed 63 slaves, and his wife Aisha freed 67. In total his household and friends freed 39,237 slaves. The most notable of Muhammad's slaves were: Safiyya bint Huyayy, whom he freed and married; Maria al-Qibtiyya, given to Muhammad by a Sassanid official, whom he freed and who may have become his wife; Sirin, Maria's sister, whom he freed and married to the poet Hassan ibn Thabit and Zayd ibn Harithah, whom Muhammad freed and adopted as a son.
Traditional Islamic jurisprudence
In Islamic jurisprudence, slavery was an exceptional condition, with the general rule being a presumption of freedom (al-'asl huwa 'l-hurriya — "The basic principle is liberty") for a person if his or her origins were unknown. Lawful enslavement was restricted to two instances: capture in war (on the condition that the prisoner is not a Muslim), or birth in slavery. Islamic law did not recognize the classes of slave from pre-Islamic Arabia including those sold or given into slavery by themselves and others, and those indebted into slavery. Though a free Muslim could not be enslaved, conversion to Islam by a non-Muslim slave did not require that he or she then should be liberated. Slave status was not affected by conversion to Islam.
In the instance of illness it would be required for the slave to be looked after. Manumission is considered a meritorious act. Based on the Quranic verse ([Quran 24:33]), the Islamic law permits a slave to ransom himself upon consent of his master through a contract known as mukataba. Azizah Y. al-Hibri, a professor of Law specializing in Islamic jurisprudence, states that both the Qur'an and Hadith are repeatedly exhorting Muslims to treat the slaves well and that Muhammad showed this both in action and in words. Levy concurs, adding that "cruelty to them was forbidden." Al-Hibri quotes the famous last speech of Muhammad and other hadiths emphasizing that all believers, whether free or enslaved, are siblings. Lewis explains, "the humanitarian tendency of the Qur'an and the early caliphs in the Islamic empire, was to some extent counteracted by other influences," notably the practice of various conquered people and countries Muslims encountered, especially in provinces previously under Roman law. In spite of this, Lewis also states, "Islamic practice still represented a vast improvement on that inherited from antiquity, from Rome, and from Byzantium." Murray Gordon writes: "It was not surprising that Muhammad, who accepted the existing socio-political order, looked upon slavery as part of the natural order of things. His approach to what was already an age-old institution was reformist and not revolutionary. The Prophet had not in mind to bring about the abolition of slavery. Rather, his purpose was to improve the conditions of slaves by correcting abuses and appealing to the conscience of his followers to treat them humanely." The adoption of slaves as members of the family was common, according to Levy. If a slave was born and brought up in the master's household he was never sold, except in exceptional circumstances.
In Islamic law (Sharia), Ma malakat aymanukum is the term for slaves or captives of war. According to Muslim theologians, it is lawful for male masters to have sexual relations with female captives and slaves, regardless of whether or not the slave woman gave her consent. The purchase of female slaves for sex was lawful from the perspective of Islamic law, and this was the most common motive for the purchase of slaves throughout Islamic history.
Al-Muminun 6 and Al-Maarij 30 both, in identical wording, draw a distinction between spouses and "those whom one's right hands possess", saying " أَزْوَاجِهِمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُمْ" (literally, "their spouses or what their right hands possess"), while clarifying that sexual intercourse with either is permissible. Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi explains that "two categories of women have been excluded from the general command of guarding the private parts: (a) wives, (b) women who are legally in one's possession".
The verse can be broken into three parts:
Slave women were required mainly as concubines and menials. A Muslim slaveholder was entitled by law to the sexual enjoyment of his slave women. While free women might own male slaves, they had no such right. The property of a slave was owned by his or her master unless a contract of freedom of the slave had been entered into, which allowed the slave to earn money to purchase his or her freedom and similarly to pay bride wealth. The marriage of slaves required the consent of the owner. Under the Hanafi and Shafi'i schools of jurisprudence male slaves could marry two wives, but the Maliki permitted them to marry four wives like the free men. According to the Islamic law, a male slave could marry a free woman but this was discouraged in practice. Islam permits sexual relations between a male master and his female slave outside of marriage. This is referred to in the Qur'an as ma malakat aymanukum or "what your right hands possess". There are some restrictions on the master; he may not co-habit with a female slave belonging to his wife, neither can he have relations with a female slave if she is co-owned, or already married.
In ancient Arabian custom, the child of a freeman by his slave was also a slave unless he was recognized and liberated by his father. In theory, the recognition by a master of his offspring by a slave woman was optional in Islamic society, and in the early period was often withheld. By the High Middle Ages it became normal and was unremarkable in a society where the sovereigns themselves were almost invariably the children of slave concubines. The mother receives the title of "umm walad" (lit. mother of a child), which is an improvement in her status as she can no longer be sold. Among Sunnis, she is automatically freed upon her master's death, however for Shi'a, she is only freed if her child is still alive; her value is then deducted from this child's share of the inheritance. Lovejoy writes that as an umm walad, they attained "an intermediate position between slave and free" pending their freedom, although they would sometimes be nominally freed as soon as they gave birth.
There is no limit on the number of concubines a master may possess. However, the general marital laws are to be observed, such as not having sexual relations with the sister of a female slave. In Islam, "men are enjoined to marry free women in the first instance, but if they cannot afford the bridewealth for free women, they are told to marry slave women rather than engage in wrongful acts." One rationale given for recognition of concubinage in Islam is that "it satisfied the sexual desire of the female slaves and thereby prevented the spread of immorality in the Muslim community." Most schools restrict concubinage to a monogamous relationship between the slave woman and her master, According to Sikainga, "in reality, however, female slaves in many Muslim societies were prey for members of their owners' household, their neighbors, and their guests."
In Shiite jurisprudence it is unlawful for a master of a female slave to grant a third party the use of her for sexual relations. The Shiite scholar Shaykh al-Tusi stated:ولا يجوز إعارتها للاستمتاع بها لأن البضع لا يستباح بالإعارة "It is not permissible to loan (the slave girl) for enjoyment purpose, because sexual intercourse cannot be legitimate through loaning" and the Shiite scholars al-Muhaqiq al-Kurki, Allamah al-Hilli and Ali Asghar Merwarid made the following ruling: ولا تجوز استعارة الجواري للاستمتاع "It is not permissible to loan the slave girl for the purpose of sexual intercourse"
Under the legal doctrine of kafa'a(lit."efficiency"), the purpose of which was to ensure that a man should be at least the social equal of the woman he marries, a freedman is not as good as the son of a freedman, and he in turn not as good as the grandson of a freedman. This principle is pursued up to three generations, after which all Muslims are deemed equally free. Lewis asserts that since kafa'a "does not forbid unequal marriages", it is in no sense a "Muslim equivalent of Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany or the apartheid laws of South Africa. His purpose, he states, is not to try to set up a moral competition - to compare castration and apartheid as offenses against humanity."
Within Islamic jurisprudence, slaves were excluded from religious office and from any office involving jurisdiction over others. Freed slaves are able to occupy any office within the Islamic government, and instances of this in history include the Mamluk who ruled Egypt for almost 260 years and the eunuchs who have held military and administrative positions of note. With the permission of their owners they are able to marry. Annemarie Schimmel, a contemporary scholar on Islamic civilization, asserts that because the status of slaves under Islam could only be obtained through either being a prisoner of war (this was soon restricted only to infidels captured in a holy war) or born from slave parents, slavery would be theoretically abolished with the expansion of Islam. Fazlur Rahman agrees, stating that the Qur'anic acceptance of the institution of slavery on the legal plane was the only practical option available at the time of Muhammad since "slavery was ingrained in the structure of society, and its overnight wholesale liquidation would have created problems which it would have been absolutely impossible to solve, and only a dreamer could have issued such a visionary statement." Islam's reforms stipulating the conditions of enslavement seriously limited the supply of new slaves. Murray Gordon does note: "Muhammad took pains in urging the faithful to free their slaves as a way of expiating their sins. Some Muslim scholars have taken this 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." In the early days of Islam, a plentiful supply of new slaves were brought due to rapid conquest and expansion. But as the frontiers were gradually stabilized, this supply dwindled to a mere trickle. The prisoners of later wars between Muslims and Christians were commonly ransomed or exchanged.
According to Lewis, this reduction resulted in Arabs who wanted slaves having to look elsewhere to avoid the restrictions in the Qur'an, meaning an increase of importing of slaves from non-Muslim lands, primarily from Africa. These slaves suffered a high death toll. Patrick Manning states that Islamic legislations against the abuse of the slaves convincingly limited the extent of enslavement in Arabian Peninsula and to a lesser degree for the whole area of the whole Umayyad Caliphate where slavery had existed since the most ancient times. He however notes that with the passage of time and the extension of Islam, Islam by recognizing and codifying the slavery seems to have done more to protect and expand slavery than the reverse.
In theory free-born Muslims could not be enslaved, and the only way that a non-Muslim could be enslaved was being captured in the course of holy war. (In early Islam, neither a Muslim nor a Christian or Jew could be enslaved.) Slavery was also perceived as a means of converting non-Muslims to Islam: A task of the masters was religious instruction. Conversion and assimilation into the society of the master didn't automatically lead to emancipation, though there was normally some guarantee of better treatment and was deemed a prerequisite for emancipation. The majority of Sunni authorities approved the manumission of all the "People of the Book". According to some jurists -especially among the Shi'a- only Muslim slaves should be liberated. In practice, traditional propagators of Islam in Africa often revealed a cautious attitude towards proselytizing because of its effect in reducing the potential reservoir of slaves.
Rights and restrictions
"Morally as well as physically the slave is regarded in law as an inferior being," Levy writes. Under Islamic law, a slave possesses a composite quality of being both a person and a possession. The slave is entitled to receive sustenance from the master, which includes shelter, food, clothing, and medical attention. It is a requirement for this sustenance to be of the same standard generally found in the locality and it is also recommended for the slave to have the same standard of food and clothing as the master. If the master refuses to provide the required sustenance, the slave may complain to a judge, who may then penalize the master through sale of her or his goods as necessary for the slave's keep. If the master does not have sufficient wealth to facilitate this, she or he must either sell, hire out, or manumit the slave as ordered. Slaves also have the right to a period of rest during the hottest parts of the day during the summer.
Evidence from slaves is rarely viable in a court of law. As slaves are regarded as inferior in Islamic law, death at the hands of a free man does not require that the latter be killed in retaliation. The killer must pay the slave's master compensation equivalent to the slave's value, as opposed to blood-money. At the same time, slaves themselves possess a lessened responsibility for their actions, and receive half the penalty required upon a free man. For example: where a free man would be subject to a hundred lashes due to pre-marital relations, a slave would be subject to only fifty. Slaves are allowed to marry only with the owner's consent. Jurists differ over how many wives a slave may possess, with the Hanafi and Shafi'i schools allowing them two, and the Maliki school allowing four. 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. Offices of authority are generally not permitted for slaves, though a slave may act as the leader (Imam) in the congregational prayers, and he may also act as a subordinate officer in the governmental department of revenue. Masters may sell, bequeath, give away, pledge, hire out or compel them to earn money.
The Qur'an and Hadith, the primary Islamic texts, make it a praiseworthy act for masters to set their slaves free. There are numerous ways in which a slave may become free. One way is through expiation for certain sins committed by the master, such as involuntary manslaughter or perjury. Other ways include emancipation through becoming an umm walad, who is freed upon her master's death along with her children, or an independent act of piety by the master, as recommended by the Quran. It is also commendable to manumit a slave who demands his freedom and is considered worthy of it; however, Richard Francis Burton states in a footnote to the "Tale of the Second Eunuch", commenting on the proposed emancipation of a slave without employable skills, that "Here the slave refuses to be set free and starve. For a master so to do without ample reasons is held disgraceful. I well remember the weeping and wailing throughout Sind when an order from Sir Charles Napier set free the negroes whom British philanthropy thus doomed to endure if not to die of hunger." Another method is the mukataba contract: Levy states that "the slave may redeem himself if his master agrees and contracts to let him go on payment of a stipulated sum of money, which may be paid in two or more instalments, or on the giving of stipulated services or other consideration. If the consideration is a sum of money, the master must grant the slave the right to earn and to own property."
If the master makes a declaration of the slave's freedom, whether in jest or earnest, in the presence of the slave or another, then such a declaration becomes legally binding. Similarly, the master may promise manumission (verbally or in writing) that the slave is to be freed upon the former's death. Lastly, a slave is also freed automatically if she or he comes into the possession of a master who is directly related to her or him.
Gordon opines that the Quran in particular and Islamic jurisprudence in general have not placed a premium on manumission but held it out as one way for atonement of sin. He states that "Manumission was only one of several virtuous observances that the pious could avail themselves of and was by no means the most important," noting that other options include reaffirming faith in God and giving food to the poor. He concludes that "there was no contradiction between being a devout Muslim and a slave-owing one as well."
The abolition movement starting in the 19th century in England and later in other Western countries influenced the slavery in Muslim lands both in doctrine and in practice. One of the first religious decrees comes from the two highest dignitaries of the Hanafi and Maliki rites in the Ottoman Empire. These religious authorities declared that slavery is lawful in principle but it is regrettable in its consequences. They expressed two religious considerations in their support for abolition of slavery: "the initial enslaving of the people concerned comes under suspicion of illegality by reason of the present-day expansion of Islam in their countries; masters no longer comply with the rules of good treatment which regulate their rights and shelter them from wrong-doing."
According to Brunschvig, although the total abolition of slavery might seem a reprehensible innovation and contrary to the Qur'an and the practice of early Muslims, the realities of the modern world caused a "discernible evolution in the thought of many educated Muslims before the end of the 19th century." These Muslims argued that Islam on the whole has "bestowed an exceptionally favourable lot on the victims of slavery" and that the institution of slavery is linked to the particular economic and social stage in which Islam originated. According to the influential thesis of Ameer Ali, Islam only tolerated slavery through temporary necessity and that its complete abolition was not possible at the time of Muhammad.
According to Brockopp, some modern interpreters have accused the medieval interpreters of having subverted the Qur'an's demand for manumission contracts (see Mukataba). They have used the dramatic change in the institution of slavery in the 7th and 8th centuries to argue that the Qur'an would not have condoned the slaving practices common in Islamic history. Others have argued that the original intent of the Qur'an, when understood properly, was to abolish slavery altogether (cf. Arafat, Attitude).
History of slavery under Muslim rule
Reasons for low natural increase in the internal slave population
According to Bernard Lewis, the growth of internal slave populations through natural increase was insufficient to maintain numbers right through to modern times, which contrasts markedly with rapidly rising slave populations in the New World. He writes that a contributing factor was the liberation of slaves as an act of piety, but the primary drain was the liberation by freemen of their own offspring born by slave mothers. Other factors Lewis describes for the low natural increase of slave populations in the Islamic world include:
- Castration: A fair proportion of male slaves were imported as eunuchs. Levy states that according to the Quran and Islamic traditions, such emasculation was objectionable. Jurists such as al-Baydawi considered castration to be mutilation, stipulating law enforcement to prevent it. However, in practice, emasculation was frequent. In 19th century Mecca, the majority of eunuchs were in the service of the mosques.
- Liberation of military slaves: Military slaves that rose through the ranks were usually liberated at some stage in their careers.
- Restrictions on procreation: Among the menial, domestic, and manual worker slaves, casual mating was not permitted and marriage was not encouraged.
- High death toll: There was a high death toll among all classes of slaves. Slaves usually came from remote places and, lacking immunities, died in large numbers. As late as the 19th century, Western travellers in North Africa and Egypt noted the high death rate among imported black slaves.
Segal notes that recent slaves, weakened by their initial captivity and debilitating journey, would have been easy victim to climate changes and infection. Children were especially at risk, and the Islamic market demand for children was much greater than the American one. Many blacks, both slave and free, lived in conditions conducive to malnutrition and disease, with effects on their own life expectancy, the fertility of women, and the infant mortality rate.
Another factor was the Zanj Rebellion against the plantation economy of 9th-century southern Iraq. Due to fears of a similar uprising among slave gangs occurring elsewhere, Muslims came to realize that large concentrations of slaves were not a suitable organization of labour and that slaves were best employed in smaller concentrations. As such, large-scale employment of slaves for manual labour became the exception rather than the norm, and the medieval Islamic world did not need to import vast numbers of slaves.
Consequences of Muhammad's prescriptions on slavery
Early Islamic history
W. Montgomery Watt points out that Muhammad's expansion of Pax Islamica to the Arabian peninsula reduced warfare and raiding, and therefore cut off the sources of enslaving freemen. According to Patrick Manning, the Islamic legislations against the abuse of the slaves convincingly limited the extent of enslavement in Arabian peninsula and to a lesser degree for the whole area of the whole Umayyad Caliphate where slavery existed since the most ancient times.
Bernard Lewis writes: "In one of the sad paradoxes of human history, it was the humanitarian reforms brought by Islam that resulted in a vast development of the slave trade inside, and still more outside, the Islamic empire." He notes that the Islamic injunctions against the enslavement of Muslims led to massive importation of slaves from the outside. According to Patrick Manning, Islam by recognizing and codifying the slavery seems to have done more to protect and expand slavery than the reverse.
Arab slave trade
The 'Arab' slave trade is sometimes called the 'Islamic' slave trade. Bernard Lewis writes that "polytheists and idolaters were seen primarily as sources of slaves, to be imported into the Islamic world and molded in Islamic ways, and, since they possessed no religion of their own worth the mention, as natural recruits for Islam." Patrick Manning states that religion was hardly the point of this slavery. Also, this term suggests comparison between Islamic slave trade and Christian slave trade. Furthermore, usage of the terms "Islamic trade" or "Islamic world" implicitly and erroneously treats Africa as it were outside of Islam, or a negligible portion of the Islamic world. Propagators of Islam in Africa often revealed a cautious attitude towards proselytizing because of its effect in reducing the potential reservoir of slaves.
The author Ronald Segal distinguishes the Islamic slave trade from that of the Atlantic or European slave trade by highlighting the aspects of its duration and nature: "It began in the middle of the seventh century and survives today in Mauritania and Sudan. With the Islamic slave trade, we're talking of 14 centuries rather than four." Further, "whereas the gender ratio of slaves in the Atlantic trade was two males to every female, in the Islamic trade, it was two females to every male."
In the 8th century, Africa was dominated by Arab-Berbers in the north: Islam moved southwards along the Nile and along the desert trails. The Solomonic dynasty of Ethiopia often exported Nilotic slaves from their western borderland provinces, or from newly conquered or reconquered Muslim provinces. Native Muslim Ethiopian sultanates (rulership) exported slaves as well, such as the sometimes independent sultanate (rulership) of Adal .
For a long time, until the early 18th century, the Crimean Khanate maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. Between 1530 and 1780 there were almost certainly 1 million and quite possibly as many as 1.25 million white, European Christians enslaved by the Muslims of the Barbary Coast.
On the coast of the Indian Ocean too, slave-trading posts were set up by Arabs. The archipelago of Zanzibar, along the coast of present-day Tanzania, is undoubtedly the most notorious example of these trading colonies. Southeast Africa and the Indian Ocean continued as an important region for the Oriental slave trade up until the 19th century. Livingstone and Stanley were then the first Europeans to penetrate to the interior of the Congo basin and to discover the scale of slavery there. The Arab Tippu Tib extended his influence and made many people slaves. After Europeans had settled in the Gulf of Guinea, the trans-Saharan slave trade became less important. In Zanzibar, slavery was abolished late, in 1897, under Sultan Hamoud bin Mohammed. The rest of Africa had no direct contact with Muslim slave-traders.
Roles filled by slaves
A system of plantation labor, much like that which would emerge in the Americas, developed early on, but with such dire consequences that subsequent engagements were relatively rare and reduced. Moreover, the need for agricultural labor, in an Islam with large peasant populations, was nowhere near as acute as in the Americas. Slaves in Islam were mainly directed at the service sector - concubines and cooks, porters and soldiers - with slavery itself primarily a form of consumption rather than a factor of production. The most telling evidence for this is found in the gender ratio; among black slaves traded in Islam across the centuries, there were roughly two females to every male.
Almost all female slaves had domestic occupations. This included the gratification of the master's sexual impulses. This was a lawful motive for their purchase, and the most common one.
In recruiting barbarians from the "martial races" beyond the frontiers into their imperial armies, the Arabs were doing what the Romans and the Chinese had done centuries before them. In the scale of this recruitment, however, and the preponderant role acquired by these recruits in the imperial and eventually metropolitan forces, Muslim rulers went far beyond any precedent. It was not until the medieval Islamic state that we find military slaves in significant numbers, forming a substantial and eventually predominant component in their armies.
While slaves were sometimes employed for manual labour during the Arab slave trade, this was usually the exception rather than the norm. The vast majority of labour in the medieval Islamic world consisted of free, paid labour. The only known exceptions to this general rule was in the plantation economy of 9th-century southern Iraq (which led to the Zanj Revolt), in 9th-century Ifriqiya (modern-day Tunisia), and in 11th-century Bahrain (during the Karmatian state).
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In some cases slaves joined to rebels or even uprose against governors. The most renowned of these rebellions was the Zanj Rebellion.
The Zanj Revolt took place near the city of Basra, located in southern Iraq over a period of fifteen years (869-883 AD). It grew to involve over 500,000 slaves who were imported from across the Muslim empire and claimed over “tens of thousands of lives in lower Iraq”. The revolt was said to have been led by Ali ibn Muhammad, who claimed to be a descendent of Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib. Several historians, such as Al-Tabari and Al-Masudi, consider this revolt one of the “most vicious and brutal uprising” out of the many disturbances that plagued the Abbasid central government.
Capturing political power
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Mamluks were slave soldiers who were converted to Islam and served the Muslim caliphs and the Ayyubid sultans during the Middle Ages. Over time, they became a powerful military caste, often defeating the Crusaders and, on more than one occasion, they seized power for themselves, for example ruling Egypt in the Mamluk Sultanate from 1250-1517.
19th century and later
Slavery in Muslim lands was influenced by the revolution against slavery in the 19th century in England and later in other Western countries which gave rise to a strong abolitionist movement in Europe. Contrasting with ancient and colonial systems, slaves in Muslim lands had a certain legal status and had obligations to as well as rights over the slave owner. Slavery was not only recognized but was elaborately regulated by Sharia law. Although emancipation of slaves was recommended, it was not compulsory. Lewis elucidates that it was for this reason that "the position of the domestic slave in Muslim society was in most respects better than in either classical antiquity or the nineteenth-century Americas" and that the economic situation of such slaves was no worse than (and in some cases better than) the free poor.
Ironically, the enlightened incentives and opportunities for slaves to be emancipated meant there was a strong market for new slaves and thus strong incentive to enslave and sell human beings. The processes of acquisition and transportation of slaves to Muslim lands often imposed appalling loss of life and hardships. The hardships of acquisition and transportation of slaves to Muslim lands drew attention of European opponents of slavery. The continuing pressure from European countries eventually overcame the strong resistance of religious conservatives who were holding that forbidding what God permits is just as great an offence as to permit what God forbids. Slavery, in their eyes, was "authorized and regulated by the holy law". Even masters persuaded of their own piety and benevolence sexually exploited their concubines, without a thought of whether this constituted a violation of their humanity. There were also many pious Muslims who refused to have slaves and persuaded others to do so. Eventually, the Ottoman Empire's orders against the traffic of slaves were issued and put into effect.
According to Brockopp, in the 19th century, "Some authorities made blanket pronouncements against slavery, arguing that it violated the Qurʾānic ideals of equality and freedom. The great slave markets of Cairo were closed down at the end of the nineteenth century and even conservative Qurʾān interpreters continue to regard slavery as opposed to Islamic principles of justice and equality."
Slavery in the forms of carpetweavers, sugarcane cutters, camel jockeys, sex slaves, and even chattel exists even today in some Muslim and non-Muslim countries (though some have questioned the use of the term slavery as an accurate description).).
According to an article in The New York Times published on March 28, 1886 with a byline dated March 4, the Ottoman Empire allowed a slave trade in girls to thrive during the late 1800s, while publicly denying it. The three main races of girls who were sold as sexual slaves in the Ottoman Empire were Circassian, Syrian, and Nubian girls. Circassian girls were described by the American journalist as fair and light skinned. They were frequently sent by Circassian leaders as gifts to the Ottomans. They were the most expensive, reaching up to 500 Turkish lira and the most popular with the Turks. The next most popular slaves were Syrian girls, with "dark eyes and hair", and light brown skin. Their price could reach to thirty lira. They were described by the American journalist as having "good figures when young". Throughout coastal regions in Anatolia, Syrian girls were sold. The New York Times journalist stated Nubian girls were the cheapest and least popular, fetching up to 20 lira.
20th-century suppression and prohibition
According to Murray Gordon, unlike Western societies in which developed anti-slavery movements, no such organizations developed in Muslim societies. In Muslim politics the state interpreted Islamic law this then extended legitimacy to the traffic in slaves.
Writing about 1862 the English traveler W. G. Palgrave says that in Arabia he constantly met with black slaves in large numbers. The effects of concubinage were apparent in the number of persons of mixed race and the emancipation of slaves he found to be common. Doughty, writing about 25 years later, made similar reports.
Slavery was common in the East Indies until the end of the 19th century. In Singapore in 1891 there was a regular trade in Chinese slaves by Muslim slaveowners, with girls and women sold for concubinage.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, slavery gradually became outlawed and suppressed in Muslim lands, due to a combination of pressure exerted by Western nations such as Britain and France, internal pressure from Islamic abolitionist movements, and economic pressures.
By the Treaty of Jeddah, May 1927 (art.7), concluded between the British Government and Ibn Sa'ud (King of Nejd and the Hijaz) it was agreed to suppress the slave trade in Saudi Arabia. Then by a decree issued in 1936 the importation of slaves into Saudi Arabia was prohibited unless it could be proved that they were slaves at that date.
In 1962 that all slavery practice or trafficking in Saudi Arabia was prohibited.
By 1969 it could be observed that most Muslim states had abolished slavery although it existed in the deserts of Iraq bordering Arabia and it still flourished in Saudi Arabia, the Yemen and Oman. Slavery was not formally abolished in Yemen and Oman until the following year. The last nation to formally enact the abolition of slavery practice and slave trafficking was the Islamic Republic of Mauritania in 1981.
Slavery in the contemporary Muslim world
The issue of slavery in the Islamic world in modern times is controversial. Critics argue there is hard evidence of its existence and destructive effects. Others maintain slavery in central Islamic lands has been virtually extinct since the mid-20th century, and that reports from Sudan and Somalia showing practice of slavery is in border areas as a result of continuing war and not Islamic belief.
Salafi and traditionalist juridical support for slavery
In recent years, according to some scholars, there has been a "worrying trend" of "reopening" of the issue of slavery by some conservative Salafi Islamic scholars after its "closing" earlier in the 20th century when Muslim countries banned slavery and "most Muslim scholars" found the practice "inconsistent with Qur'anic morality."
In 2003 a high-level Saudi jurist, Shaykh Saleh Al-Fawzan, issued a fatwa claiming “Slavery is a part of Islam. Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam.” He attacked Muslim scholars who said otherwise maintaining, “They are ignorant, not scholars ... They are merely writers. Whoever says such things is an infidel.” At the time of the fatwa, al-Fawzan was a member of the Senior Council of Clerics, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, a member of the Council of Religious Edicts and Research, the Imam of Prince Mitaeb Mosque in Riyadh, and a professor at Imam Mohamed Bin Saud Islamic University, the main Wahhabi center of learning in the country.
According to multiple sources, religious calls have also been made to capture and enslave Jewish women. As American journalist John J. Miller said, "It is hard to imagine a serious person calling for America to enslave its enemies. Yet a prominent Saudi cleric, Shaikh Saad Al-Buraik, recently urged Palestinians to do exactly that with Jews: 'Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours. Why don't you enslave their women?'" 
"Islam does not prohibit slavery but retains it for two reasons. The first reason is war (whether it is a civil war or a foreign war in which the captive is either killed or enslaved) provided that the war is not between Muslims against each other - it is not acceptable to enslave the violators, or the offenders, if they are Muslims. Only non-Muslim captives may be enslaved or killed. The second reason is the sexual propagation of slaves which would generate more slaves for their owner."
Earlier in the 20th century, prior to the "reopening" of slavery by Salafi scholars like Shaykh al-Fawzan, Islamist authors declared slavery outdated without actually clearly affirming and promoting its abolition. This has caused at least one scholar (William Clarence-Smith) to bemoan the "dogged refusal of Mawlana Mawdudi to give up on slavery" and the notable "evasions and silences of Muhammad Qutb".
"And concerning slavery, that was when slavery was a world-wide structure and which was conducted amongst Muslims and their enemies in the form of enslaving of prisoners of war. And it was necessary for Islam to adopt a similar line of practise until the world devised a new code of practise during war other than enslavement"
Qutb's brother Muhammad Qutb contrasted sexual relations between Muslim slave-owners and their female slaves with (in his view), the widespread and depraved practice of casual consensual sex in contemporary Europe:
"Islam made it lawful for a master to have a number of slave-women captured in wars and enjoined that he alone may have sexual relations with them ... Europe abhors this law but at the same gladly allows that most odious form of animalism according to which a man may have illicit relations with any girl coming across him on his way to gratify his animal passions."
Islam has clearly and categorically forbidden the primitive practice of capturing a free man, to make him a slave or to sell him into slavery. On this point the clear and unequivocal words of [Muhammad] are as follows:The words of this Tradition of the Prophet are also general, they have not been qualified or made applicable to a particular nation, race, country or followers of a particular religion.....After this the only form of slavery which was left in Islamic society was the prisoners of war, who were captured on the battlefield. These prisoners of war were retained by the Muslim Government until their government agreed to receive them back in exchange for Muslim soldiers captured by them.....
"There are three categories of people against whom I shall myself be a plaintiff on the Day of Judgement. Of these three, one is he who enslaves a free man, then sells him and eats this money" (al-Bukhari and Ibn Majjah).
When Islam came, for the situations where people were taken into slavery (e.g. debt), Islam imposed Shari’ah solutions to those situations other than slavery. ... It (Islam) made the existing slave and owner form a business contract, based upon the freedom, not upon slavery ... As for the situation of war, ... it clarified the rule of the captive in that either they are favoured by releasing without any exchange, or they are ransomed for money or exchanged for Muslims or non-Muslim citizens of the Caliphate.
and the website of the organization stresses that because sharia historically was responding to a contract, not the institution of slavery, a future Khilafah could not re-introduce slavery.
Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, a Nigerian extremist group, said in an interview "I shall capture people and make them slaves" when claiming responsibility for the 2014 Chibok kidnapping. Shekau has justified his actions by appealing to the Quran saying "[w]hat we are doing is an order from Allah, and all that we are doing is in the Book of Allah that we follow". In the digital magazine Dabiq, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed religious justification for enslaving Yazidi women whom they consider to be from a heretical sect. ISIL claimed that the Yazidi are idol worshipers and their enslavement part of the old shariah practice of spoils of war. ISIL appealed to apocalyptic beliefs and "claimed justification by a Hadith that they interpret as portraying the revival of slavery as a precursor to the end of the world." In late September 2014, 126 Islamic scholars from around the Muslim world signed an open letter to the Islamic State's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, rejecting his group's interpretations of the Qur'an and hadith to justify its actions. The letter accuses the group of instigating fitna—sedition—by instituting slavery under its rule in contravention of the anti-slavery consensus of the Islamic scholarly community.
While slavery is illegal in Saudi Arabia despite Saleh Al-Fawzan's fatwa, the proclamation carries weight among many Salafi Muslims. According to reformist jurist and author Khaled Abou El Fadl, it "is particularly disturbing and dangerous because it effectively legitimates the trafficking in and sexual exploitation of so-called domestic workers in the Gulf region and especially Saudi Arabia." Organized criminal gangs smuggle children into Saudi Arabia where they are enslaved, sometimes mutilated, and forced to work as beggars. When caught, the children are deported as illegal aliens.
According to the U.S. State Department:
Saudi Arabia is a destination for men and women from South and East Asia and East Africa trafficked for the purpose of labor exploitation, and for children from Yemen, Afghanistan, and Africa trafficking for forced begging. Hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers from India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Kenya migrate voluntarily to Saudi Arabia; some fall into conditions of involuntary servitude, suffering from physical and sexual abuse, non-payment or delayed payment of wages, the withholding of travel documents, restrictions on their freedom of movement and non-consensual contract alterations. The Government of Saudi Arabia does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.
- History of slavery
- Slavery and religion
- Slavery in ancient Greece
- Slavery in ancient Rome
- Slavery in antiquity
- Slavery in medieval Europe
- Slavery in modern Africa
- Slaves freed by Abu Bakr
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- Ahmad A. Sikainga, "Shari'a Courts and the Manumission of Female Slaves in the Sudan 1898-1939", The International Journal of African Historical Studies > Vol. 28, No. 1 (1995), pp. 1–24
- Lewis, Bernard (1990). Race and Slavery in the Middle East. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505326-5.
- Lovejoy, Paul E. (2000). Transformations in Slavery. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-78430-1.
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- Lewis 1994, Ch.1
- Brunschvig. 'Abd; Encyclopedia of Islam
- Du Pasquier, Roger, Unveiling Islam, p.67
- Gordon 1987, page 40.
- See: Martin (2005), pp.150 and 151; Clarence-Smith (2006), p.2
- Clarence-Smith (2006), pp.2-5
- William D. Phillips (1985). Slavery from Roman times to the early transatlantic trade. Manchester University Press. p. 76. ISBN 0-7190-1825-0.
- Lewis 1990, page 10
- Bernard Lewis, Race and Color in Islam, Harper and Row, 1970, quote on page 38. The brackets are displayed by Lewis.
- Chapter 24 (Surat Al-Nur), Verse 33, 
- Medani Ahmed and Sebastian Gianci, Zakat, Encyclopedia of Taxation and Tax Policy, p. 479
- Martin A. Klein (2002), Historical Dictionary of Slavery and Abolition, Page xxii, books.google.com/books?isbn=0810841029
- Segal, page 206. See later in article.
- Segal, page 222. See later in article.
- The Qur'an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English By Ali Ünal Page 1323 
- Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, Slaves and Slavery
- Bilal b. Rabah, Encyclopedia of Islam
- The Cambridge History of Islam (1977), p.36
- Lewis (1992) p. 4
- Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, Slaves and Slavery
- Mendelsohn (1949) pp. 54—58
- John L Esposito (1998) p. 79
- ([Quran 16:71], [Quran 30:28])
- [Quran 90:13]
- [Quran 90:18]
- [Quran 56:27][Quran 56:90][Quran 56:91]
- ([Quran 4:36], [Quran 9:60], [Quran 24:58])
- ([Quran 4:92], [Quran 5:92], [Quran 58:3])
- ([Quran 2:177], [Quran 24:33], [Quran 90:13])
- Lewis 1990, page 6. All Qur'anic citations are his.
- Sikainga (2005), p.5-6
- [Quran 16:71]
- ([Quran 2:221], [Quran 4:25])
- ([Quran 24:33])
- [Quran 4:25]
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- Human Rights in Islam. Published by The Islamic Foundation (1976) - Leicester, U.K.
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- from "Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir" (Book of the Major Classes) by Ibn Sa'd's
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- Azizah Y. al-Hibri, 2003
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-  Dr. Zakir Naik's views on sex with slave women
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- Surah - Al - Muminoon
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- Murray Gordon, “Slavery in the Arab World.” New Amsterdam Press, New York, 1989. Originally published in French by Editions Robert Laffont, S.A. Paris, 1987, page 28.
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- Khalil b. Ishaq, quoted in Levy (1957) p. 77
- Except according to Hanafis, who make a free man liable to retaliation in cases of murder
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- Lewis (1990), page 42.
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- Murray Gordon, Slavery in the Arab World. New Amsterdam Press, New York, 1989. Originally published in French by Editions Robert Laffont, S.A. Paris, 1987, page 28.
- Interview with Ronald Segal on the subject of his book Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora. Suzy Hansen, "Islam’s black slaves," Salon, April 5, 2001.
- Pankhurst (1997) p. 59
- Ohio State Research News with reference to "Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800" (Palgrave Macmillan).
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- Ingrams (1967) p.175
- Segal, page 4.
- Segal, page 4.
- Segal, page 4.
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- “Revisiting the Zanj and Re-Visioning Revolt: Complexities of the Zanj Conflict - 868-883 Ad - slave revolt in Iraq”.[dead link]
- Bernard Lewis, (1992), pp. 78-79
- Lewis, Bernard Race and Slavery in the Middle East (1990) p.9-11
- Lewis, Bernard Race and Slavery in the Middle East (1990) p.111, 149-156
- Segal, page 5.
- Seyyed Hossein Nasr (2004), p.182
- Jok Madut Jok (2001), p.3
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- Wolf Von Schierbrand (March 28, 1886). "Slaves sold to the Turk". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
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- In his narrative of A Years Journey Through Central and Eastern Arabia 5th Ed. London (1869), p.270
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- S.Hurgronje, Verspreide Geschriften (Bonn, 1923), II, II ff
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- Levy, p.85
- John J. Miller. "The Unknown Slavery: In the Muslim World, That Is—and It's Not Over," National Review, May 20, 2002. A copy of the article is available here.
- op cit. p.89
- Murray Gordon. 'Slavery in the Arab World', New York: New Amsterdam, 1989, p. 234.
- "Slavery: Mauritania's best kept secret". BBC News. December 13, 2004. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
- The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, "slavery", p.298
- Khaled Abou El Fadl and William Clarence-Smith
- Abou el Fadl, Great Theft, HarperSanFrancisco, c2005.
- "Islam and Slavery", William G. Clarence-Smith
- Shaikh Salih al-Fawzan "affirmation of slavery" was found on page 24 of "Taming a Neo-Qutubite Fanatic Part 1" when accessed on February 17, 2007 http://www.salafipublications.com/sps/downloads/pdf/GRV070005.pdf
- In 'The Elements of Islam' (1993) cited in Clarence-Smith, p.131
- You Ask and Islam Answers, pp. 51-2
- [dead link]
- at p.6 - 'Islam and Slavery' by William Gervase Clarence-Smith
- in Fi Zilal al-Qur'an, Surah Tawbah (3/1669) also in Tafsir of Surah Baqarah (/230), tafsir of Surah Mu'minoon (4/2455), tafsir of Surah Muhammad (6/3285)
- Qutb, Muhammad, Islam, the Misunderstood Religion, Markazi Maktabi Islami, Delhi-6, 1992 p.50
- From "Human Rights in Islam" by 'Allamah Abu Al-'A'la Mawdudi. Chapter 3, subsection 5 
- al-Shakhsiyah al-Islamiyyah (The Islamic Personality) by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, Volume 3, Slavery Section
- "The Islamic view on Slaves and Slavery", khilafah.com 13 May 2008]
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- "Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi". September 2014. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
- The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists, by Khaled Abou El Fadl, Harper San Francisco, 2005, p.255
- BBC News "The child slaves of Saudi Arabia"
- V. Country Narratives - Countries Q through Z
- When Europeans Were Slaves: Research Suggests White Slavery Was Much More Common Than Previously Believed
- Race and Slavery in the Middle East by Bernard Lewis
- BBC Domentary, Religion and Ethics - Islam and Slavery
- Arab Slave Trade