2d. Slavery in Islam


Slavery is legal under Islamic law
• Muhammad was a slave owner who bought and sold slaves
• Slavery is permitted by the Qur’an
• Dehumanizing practice was banned in many Muslim countries only in 1960’s, however, it is still practised in secret in many Arab states.

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. A Muslim slaveholder was entitled by law to the sexual enjoyment of his slave women.

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. The mahr that is given for marriage to a female slave is taken by her owner.


1) Islam allows Muslims to make slaves out of anyone who is captured during war.
2) Islam allows for the children of slave parents to be raised as slaves
3) Islam allows for Christians and Jews to be made into slaves if they are captured in war.
4) Christians and Jews, who had made a treaty with the ruling Muslims could be made into slaves if they did not pay the “protection” tax. This paying for ‘protection’ was just like paying a Mafia racketeer! This allowed Muslim rulers to extort money from non-Muslim people.

People who cannot be made slaves:
1) Free Muslims (slaves who convert to Islam are not automatically freed)
2) Children born to legally enslaved Muslims are also slaves
3) Dhimmis (People of the Book paying jizya tax)


According to the Hughes Dictionary of Islam, slaves had few civil or legal rights. For example:

a) Muslim men were allowed to have sex anytime with female slaves – Sura 4:3, 4:29, 33:49.
b) Slaves are as helpless before their masters as idols are before God – Sura 16:77
c) According to Islamic Tradition, people at the time of their capture were either to be killed, or enslaved.
d) According to Islamic jurisprudence, slaves were merchandise. The sales of slaves was in accordance with the sale of animals.
e) Muhammad ordered that some slaves who were freed by their master be RE-ENSLAVED!
f) It is permissible under Islamic law to whip slaves.
g) According to Islam, a Muslim could not be put to death for murdering a slave. Ref. 2:178 and the Jalalayn confirm this.
h) According to Islam, the testimony of slaves is not admissible in court. Ibn Timiyya and Bukhari state this.
i) According to Islamic jurisprudence, slaves cannot choose their own marriage mate. – Ibn Hazm, vol. 6, part 9.
j) According to Islamic jurisprudence, slaves can be forced to marry who their masters want. – Malik ibn Anas, vol. 2, page 155.

Slave rights – Continued
• Slaves must not be mistreated or overworked, but should be treated well
• Slaves must be properly maintained
• Slaves may take legal action for a breach of these rules, and may be freed as a result
• Slaves may own property
• Slaves may own slaves
• Slaves can get married if their owner consents (They can be forced to marry who their masters want)
• Slaves may undertake business on the owner’s behalf
• Slaves guilty of crimes can only be given half the punishment that would be given to a non-slave (although some schools of Islamic law do allow the execution of a slave who commits murder)
• A female slave cannot be separated from her child while it is under 7 years old
• Female slaves cannot be forced into prostitution if she doesn’t want it. If she doesn’t want to keep chaste then it is allowed.
• If a mujaahid takes possession of a female slave or male slave, it is permissible for him to sell them. In either case – whether one acquires a slave through battle or through purchase – it is not permissible for a man to have intercourse with a female slave until she has had a period which proves she is not pregnant.
Slave rights to freedom
Islamic law allows slaves to get their freedom under certain circumstances. It divides slaves with the right to freedom into various classes:
• The mukatab: a slave who has the contractual right to buy their freedom over time
• The mudabbar: a slave who will be freed when their owner dies (this might not happen if the owner’s estate was too small)
• The umm walid, a female slave who had borne her owner a child

Restrictions on slaves

Islamic law imposes many restrictions on slaves:
• Slaves cannot carry out some religious roles
• Slaves can have only limited authority
• Slaves cannot be witnesses in court
• Killing a slave does not carry the death penalty in most schools of Islamic law
• Slaves are punishable under Islamic law if they commit a crime – although for some major crimes they only receive half the punishment of free people

-Unlimited supply of sex partners if you own captives or slaves.
Q33:50 “O Prophet! Verily, We have made lawful to you your wives, to whom you have paid their Mahr (bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage), and those (captives or slaves) whom your right hand possesses – whom Allah has given to you,”

-This verse permits the slave owner to have sex with his slaves.
Q23:5-6 “And those who guard their chastity (i.e. private parts, from illegal sexual acts) Except from their wives or (the captives and slaves) that their right hands possess, for then, they are free from blame.”

-Even sex with married slaves is permissible.
Q4:24 “And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.”

-You can marry your slave.
Q4:3 “And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three, or four but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or (the captives and the slaves) that your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice.”

-Show kindness to slaves.
Q4:36 “(Show) kindness unto parents, and unto near kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and unto the neighbour who is of kin (unto you) and the neighbour who is not of kin, and the fellow-traveller and the wayfarer and (the slaves) whom your right hands possess.”

-Breed slaves based on fitness.
Q24:32 “And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves…”

-Slaves must ask your permission before entering your house; to avoid being seeing naked by them.
Q24:58 “Believers, your slaves and the immature people must ask your permission three times a day before entering your house: before the morning prayer, at noon time and after the late evening prayer; these are most private times. After your permission has been granted, there is no harm if they come into your presence from time to time. This is how God explains His revelations to you. God is All-knowing and All-wise.”
(See: Bukhari – Al-Adab Al-Mufrad: Book 43, Hadith 1063)

-Rules of retaliation for murder are different for freeman, slave and females. If a freeman kills a slave, he doesn’t get killed. He pays his/her master the value of the slave.
Q2:178 “O ye who believe! Retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the murdered; the freeman for the freeman, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female.”

Q33:50 “Prophet, We have made lawful for you your wives whom you have given their dowry, slave girls whom God has given to you as spoils of war,”

Q4:92 “No believer should kill another believer, unless it be by mistake. Anyone who kills a believer by mistake should free a believing slave and pay blood money to the victims relatives unless they forego it as an act of charity. If the victim belongs to a people at war with you, but is a believer, then the compensation is to free a believing slave. If he belongs to a people with whom you have a treaty, then blood-money should be handed over to his relatives and a believing slave set free. Anyone who lacks the means must fast for two consecutive months. Such is the penance imposed by God. God is all knowing and wise.”

-Qur’an assumes Muslims have slaves to manumitt
Q5:89 – Allah will not punish you for what is unintentional in your oaths, but He will punish you for your deliberate oaths; for its expiation feed ten Masakin (poor persons), on a scale of the average of that with which you feed your own families, or clothe them or manumit a slave. But whosoever cannot afford (that), then he should fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths when you have sworn. And protect your oaths (i.e. do not swear much) . Thus Allah make clear to you His Ayat (proofs, evidence, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) that you may be grateful.

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya – Zad al-Ma’ad” (part 1, pp. 114-116)
“These are the names of Muhammad’s male slaves: Yakan Abu Sharh, Aflah, ‘Ubayd, Dhakwan, Tahman, Mirwan, Hunayn, Sanad, Fadala Yamamin, Anjasha al-Hadi, Mad’am, Karkara, Abu Rafi’, Thawban, Ab Kabsha, Salih, Rabah, Yara Nubyan, Fadila, Waqid, Mabur, Abu Waqid, Kasam, Abu’ Ayb, Abu Muwayhiba, Zayd Ibn Haritha, and also a black slave called Mahran, who was re-named (by Muhammad) Safina (`ship’).”
Muhammad’s Maid Slaves “are Salma Um Rafi’, Maymuna daughter of Abu Asib, Maymuna daughter of Sa’d, Khadra, Radwa, Razina, Um Damira, Rayhana, Mary the Coptic, in addition to two other maid-slaves, one of them given to him as a present by his cousin, Zaynab, and the other one captured in a war.”

Sunan Abu Dawud – Book 32, Hadith 4094
Narrated Anas ibn Malik: The Prophet brought Fatimah a slave which he donated to her. Fatimah wore a garment which, when she covered her head, did not reach her feet, and when she covered her feet by it, that garment did not reach her head. When the Prophet saw her struggle, he said: There is no harm to you: Here is only your father and slave.

Sunan Abu Dawud – Book 30, Hadith 3950
‘Imran b. Husain said: A man emancipated six slaved at the time of his death and he had no other property. The Prophet was informed about it. He cast lots among them, emancipated two and retained four in slavery.

-According to Muhammed, the punishment for committing adultery is different between a free man, a free woman and a slave-woman. The man is to be flogged one-hundred stripes and be exiled for one year. The free woman must be stoned to death. But the slave-woman (since she has a monetary value) will not be exiled or killed, she is to be flogged one-hundred stripes. If the violation is repeated, the slave-woman is to be sold.

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 8, Book 82, Hadith 821
Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid: A bedouin came to the Prophet while he (the Prophet) was sitting, and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Give your verdict according to Allah’s Laws (in our case).” Then his opponent got up and said, “He has told the truth, O Allah’s Apostle! Decide his case according to Allah’s Laws. My son was a laborer working for this person, and he committed illegal sexual intercourse with his wife, and the people told me that my son should be stoned to death, but I offered one-hundred sheep and a slave girl as a ransom for him. Then I asked the religious learned people, and they told me that my son should be flogged with one-hundred stripes and be exiled for one year.” The Prophet said, “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is, I will judge you according to Allah’s Laws. The sheep and the slave girl will be returned to you and your son will be flogged one-hundred stripes and be exiled for one year. And you, O Unais! Go to the wife of this man (and if she confesses), stone her to death.” So Unais went in the morning and stoned her to death (after she had confessed).

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 8, Book 82, Hadith 822
Narrated Abu Huraira and Said bin Khalid: The verdict of Allah’s Apostle was sought about an unmarried slave girl guilty of illegal intercourse. He replied, “If she commits illegal sexual intercourse, then flog her (fifty stripes), and if she commits illegal sexual intercourse (after that for the second time), then flog her (fifty stripes), and if she commits illegal sexual intercourse (for the third time), then flog her (fifty stripes) and sell her for even a hair rope.” Ibn Shihab said, “I am not sure whether the Prophet ordered that she be sold after the third or fourth time of committing illegal intercourse.”

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 3, Book 34, Hadith 351
Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah: A man decided that a slave of his would be manumitted after his death and later on he was in need of money, so the Prophet took the slave and said, “Who will buy this slave from me?” Nu’aim bin ‘Abdullah bought him for such and such price and the Prophet gave him the slave.

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 3, Book 47, Hadith 765
Narrated Kurib: 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.”

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 6, Book 60, Hadith 281
Narrated Ibn Abbas: … I returned to my house, astonished (and distressed) that I did not know for what purpose I had gone out. Then I became sick (fever) and said to Allah’s Apostle “Send me to my father’s house.” So he sent a slave with me, and when I entered the house, I found Um Rum-an (my mother) downstairs while (my father) Abu Bakr was reciting something upstairs.

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 6, Book 60, Hadith 435
Narrated Ibn Abbas: Then I put on my clothes and went to Allah’s Apostle’s residence, and behold, he was staying in an upper room of his to which he ascended by a ladder, and a black slave of Allah’s Apostle was (sitting) on the first step. I said to him, ‘Say (to the Prophet) ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab is here.’…

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 7. Book 62, Hadith 119
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: I sat with them for a while but could not endure the situation, so I went to the upper room where the Prophet; was and said to a black slave of his, ‘Will you get the permission (of the Prophet ) for ‘Umar (to enter)?’ The slave went in, talked to the Prophet about it and then returned saying, ‘I have spoken to the Prophet and mentioned you but he kept quiet.’

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 1, Book 11, Hadith 662
Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, “Listen and obey (your chief) even if an Ethiopian whose head is like a raisin were made your chief.”

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 9, Book 91, Hadith 368
Narrated ‘Umar: I came and behold, Allah’s Apostle was staying on a Mashroba (attic room) and a black slave of Allah’s Apostle was at the top if its stairs. I said to him, “(Tell the Prophet) that here is ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab (asking for permission to enter).” Then he admitted me.

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 5, Book 59, Hadith 512
Narrated Anas: The Prophet offered the Fajr Prayer near Khaibar when it was still dark and then said, “Allahu-Akbar! Khaibar is destroyed, for whenever we approach a (hostile) nation (to fight), then evil will be the morning for those who have been warned.” Then the inhabitants of Khaibar came out running on the roads. The Prophet had their warriors killed, their offspring and woman taken as captives. Safiya was amongst the captives, she first came in the share of Dahya Alkali but later on she belonged to the Prophet. The Prophet made her manumission as her ‘Mahr’.

Sahih Bukhari – Al-Adab Al-Mufrad: Book 43, Hadith 1063
‘Ata’ said, “I asked Ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Does one ask permission of one’s sister?’ He replied, ‘Yes.’ I repeated it and said, ‘My two sisters live in my room and I provide for them and spend on them, so do I ask them for permission?’ He said, ‘Yes. Do you want to see them naked?’ Then he recited, ‘O you who believe! Those you own as slaves and those of you who have not as yet reached puberty should ask your permission to enter at three times:
before the Dawn Prayer and when you have undressed at noon and after the Night Prayer – three times of nakedness for you.’ (24:56) Ibn ‘Abbas said, ‘He did not command these individuals to ask permission other than at these three times of nakedness.’ Then he went on to say, ‘The verse in Surat an-Nur: 57 is: ‘Once your children have reached puberty, they should ask your permission to enter as those before them also asked permission.'”

Sahih Muslim – Book 15, Hadith 4112
‘Imran b. Husain reported that a person who had no other property emancipated six slaves of his at the time of his death. Allah’s Messenger called for them and divided them into three sections, cast lots amongst them, and set two free and kept four in slavery; and he (the Holy Prophet) spoke severely of him.

Sahih Muslim – Volume 9, p. 46-47
Muhammed is quoted as saying that Blacks are, “pug-nosed slaves”.

Sunan Ibn Majah – Book 21, Hadith 2766
It was narrated from ‘Amr bin Shu’aib, from his father, that his grandfather said: “A man killed his slave deliberately and with malice aforethought, so the Messenger of Allah gave him one hundred lashes, banished him for one year, and cancelled his share from among the Muslims.”

Sunan Ibn Majah – Book 33, Hadith 3691
It was narrated from Abu Bakr Siddiq that the Messenger of Allah said: “No person who mistreats his slave will enter Paradise.” They said: “O Messenger of Allah, did you not tell us that this nation will have more slaves and orphans than any other nation?” He said: “Yes, so be as kind to them as you are to your own children, and feed them with the same food that you eat.” They said: “What will benefit us in this world?” He said: “A horse that is kept ready for fighting in the cause of Allah, and your slave to take care of you, and if he performs prayer, then he is your brother(in Islam).”

-The Testimony of Slaves is Not Admissible
Ibn TimiyyaIn – Volume 35, p. 409
“The Shafi’i, Malik, and Abu Hanifa, who are the legists of Islam, assert that the testimony of the slave is not acceptable.”
The “Ordinances of the Qur’an” by the Shafi’i (part II, p. 142), stipulates that
“The witnesses must be from among our freeman, not from our slaves, but from freeman who belong to our religion!”

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 2, Book 14, Hadith 68
Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah’s Apostle offered the Fajr prayer when it was still dark, then he rode and said, ‘Allah Akbar! Khaibar is ruined. When we approach near to a nation, the most unfortunate is the morning of those who have been warned.” The people came out into the streets saying, “Muhammad and his army.” Allah’s Apostle vanquished them by force and their warriors were killed; the children and women were taken as captives. Safiya was taken by Dihya Al-Kalbi and later she belonged to Allah’s Apostle go who married her and her Mahr was her manumission.

Sahih Muslim – Book 10, Hadith 3901
Jabir reported: There came a slave and pledged allegiance to Allah’s on migration; he did not know that he was a slave. Then there came his master and demanded him back, whereupon Allah’s Apostle said: Sell him to me. And he bought him for two black slaves and he did not afterwards take allegiance from anyone until he had asked him whether he was a slave (or a free man)

Muwatta Malik – Book 28, Hadith 52
Yahya related to me from Malik from Zayd ibn Aslam that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “When you marry a woman or buy a slave-girl, take her by the forelock and ask for baraka. When you buy a camel, take the top of its hump, and seek refuge with Allah from Shaytan.”

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 3, Book 41, Hadith 598
Narrated Jabir: A man manumitted a slave and he had no other property than that, so the Prophet cancelled the manumission (and sold the slave for him). No’aim bin Al-Nahham bought the slave from him.

Sunan Abu Dawud – Hadith 1814
Narated Asma’ bint AbuBakr: “… He then began to beat [his slave] him while the Apostle of Allah was smiling and saying: Look at this man who is in the sacred state (putting on ihram), what is he doing?” The future first caliph of Islam is beating his slave for losing a camel while Muhammad looks on in apparent amusement.

Sunan Abu Dawud – Volume 2, Hadith 2074
Ibn Umar reported the prophet as saying: “If a slave marries without the permission of his master, his marriage is null and void.”

Sahih Bukhari – Volume 3, Book 47, Hadith 743
Narrated Sahl: The Prophet sent for a woman from the emigrants and she had a slave who was a carpenter. The Prophet said to her “Order your slave to prepare the wood (pieces) for the pulpit.” So, she ordered her slave who went and cut the wood from the tamarisk and prepared the pulpit, for the Prophet. When he finished the pulpit, the woman informed the Prophet that it had been finished. The Prophet asked her to send that pulpit to him, so they brought it. The Prophet lifted it and placed it at the place in which you see now.”

Sunan an-Nasa’i – Book 37, Hadith 4055
Jarir used to narrate from the Prophet:”If a slave runs away, no Salah will be accepted from him, and if he dies he will die a disbeliever.” A slave of Jarir’s ran away, and he caught him and struck his neck (killing him).

Sahih Bukhari – Book 46, Hadith 720
Narrated Abu Musa: Allah’s Messenger said, “He who has a slave-girl and educates and treats her nicely and then manumits and marries her, will get a double reward.”

Volume 8, Book 79, Hadith 708
Narrated `Aisha: that she intended to buy Barira (a slave girl) and her masters stipulated that they would have her Wala’. When `Aisha mentioned that to the Prophet; he said, “Buy her, for the Wala’ is for the one who manumits.”

Ibn Ishaq -734
A slave girl is given a “violent beating” by Ali in the presence of Muhammad, who does nothing about it.

Abolisment of Slavery in Muslim Countries
1922: Morocco abolishes slavery.
1923: Afghanistan abolishes slavery.
1924: Iraq abolishes slavery.
1935: Italian General Emilio De Bono proclaims slavery to be abolished in the Ethiopian Empire.
1936: Britain abolishes slavery in Northern Nigeria.
1948: UN Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights bans slavery globally.
1952: Qatar abolishes slavery.
1960: Niger abolishes slavery (though it was not made illegal until 2003).
1962: Saudi Arabia abolishes slavery.
1962: Yemen abolishes slavery.
1964: The United Arab Emirates abolishes slavery.
1970: Oman abolishes slavery.
1981: Mauritania abolishes slavery.
2003: Niger makes slavery a crime.

Tafsir al-Tabari, 29/84
Al-Tabari said: Allaah says, “And those who guard their chastity” i.e., protect their private parts from doing everything that Allaah has forbidden, but they are not to blame if they do not guard their chastity from their wives or from the female slaves whom their rights hands possess.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 1/383
Ibn Kathir said: Taking a concubine as well as a wife is permissible according to the law of Ibraaheem. Ibraaheem did that with Haajar, when he took her as a concubine when he was married to Saarah.

Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 10382, November 24, 2005
Islam allows a man to have intercourse with his slave woman, whether he has a wife or wives or he is not married…Whoever regards that as haraam is a sinner who is going against the consensus of the scholars.


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