dimanche 12 octobre 2008

Slavery in the History of Black Muslim Africa (Paperback)

y Allan G. B. Fisher (Author), Humphrey J. Fisher (Author)

"Will be welcomed by all interested in African history and anthropology. A valuable contribution and a rich mine of material."
--Journal of African History

In many parts of the African Muslim world, slavery still blights the landscape. What are the origins of this terrible institution? Why is it still practiced? How widespread is it and how does it differ from Western chattel slavery?

This book tells the story of how the enslavement of Africans by Berbers, Arabs, and other Africans became institutionalized and legitimized throughout Muslim Africa. A classic, pioneering study, first published in 1971 and extensively updated in this revised edition, Slavery in the History of Black Muslim Africa provides an expansive portrait of domestic slavery from the tenth to the nineteenth century in the context of the religious, social, and economic conditions of the African Islamic world.

Drawing on a host of accounts from contemporary observers such as Leo Africanus and Ibn Battuta, Fisher and Fisher describe the status and rights of slaves in Africa, and their various roles as currency, goods, eunuchs, soldiers, and statesmen, as well as the jarring historical interruption brought on by slave raiders and traders in West and North Africa.

About the Author

Humphrey J. Fisher is Reader in the History of Africa at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. His late father, Allan G. B. Fisher, was formerly Price Professor of Economics at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London.
Product Details

* Paperback: 400 pages
* Publisher: NYU Press (August 1, 2001)

Muslim Black slavery - Islam slave history of Black Africa

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Listen to this article. Powered by Odiogo.com

A revealing historical account of the islamic slavetrade in Africa by the historian John Alembillah Alembillah Azumah.

Muslim Black slavery - Islam slave history of Black Africa

From the YouTube uploader:

This explains the current genocide that is going on in Darfur and the Sudan. I could see the link with the past that this has been going on for 14 centuries.

This person wrote this book about slavery in Islamic states.

John Alembillah Alembillah Azumah

The book is called Legacy of Arab-Islam in Africa: A Quest for Inter-Religious Dialogue.

This book reveals the dark secret of Islam and slavery of black people in Africa and the history of how Arab Muslims went to war on and captured black men, women and children and turned them into slaves.

While slavery only lasted 3 centuries in the west, it has lasted 14 centuries in the Middle East and exists today in many Muslim countries.

He explains the book in this short video and it is very interesting.

It explains that when Arab slave traders would raid black villages to the south they would kill the adults and kidnap the children.

The boy children were indoctrinated into an Islamic army for the Arabs and the girls were taken as household and sex slaves.

The reason their were not that many black descendants in the middle east is because the black male children were castrated so they could not reproduce.

There were a few black Africans who grew up and because they curried favor with their masters were allowed to also be slave traders.

A very interesting history of black African slave trade and the Muslim Arab world.

People need to know this history, BUT instead sadly people will never get enough of watching Souljah Boy dance dude, 50 cent, old Tupac Shakur Rap videos, Britany Spears and other videos and never know the truth, especially white and black converts or reverts.

This is part of the legacy of slavery that most African American people should know.

Many black converts or reverts do not know this history before they converted believing that they were originally Muslim before they were sold into slavery. They were not. People should research their history before they convert or revert.

Slavery in the Islamic World - A Forgotten Horror Story

Posted by William D. Rubinstein

The history of slavery in the Islamic world is too often ignored. William D. Rubinstein - professor of modern history at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and the author of Men of Property: The Very Wealthy in Britain since the Industrial Revolution - argues that the story of slavery in the Islamic world should be better known.

The pattern by which Western commentators, especially Western leftists, consistently whitewash the barbarisms committed by the peoples of the Third World, and not least of all by the Islamic world, is well illustrated by the appalling history of slavery in the Islamic world. This is a subject of which most people know nothing whatever, although some people may be dimly aware that slavery existed, and may continue to exist, in the Islamic world.

Slavery in the Islamic world existed far longer than did the African-based slave trade and slavery of the Christian West, which began around 1450 and reached its peak between 1750 and 1850. Some historians have estimated that during the centuries in which the slave trade existed in the West, about one-quarter of all captured African slaves were transported to the Muslim world. All of these were pagans at the time of their enslavement, as no Muslim is (theoretically) allowed to enslave another Muslim.

The slave trade in the Islamic world entailed bringing captives from black Africa across the Sahara to the Ottoman realms. It is estimated that about 1.5 million of these slaves perished while crossing the Sahara, although their number might have been far higher. The rate at which slaves captured for enslavement in the Muslim world perished might well have been higher than the death rate on the dreaded "Middle Passage" from Africa to the Americas, which is usually estimated at about fifteen per cent of those transported. Slavery into British America was a business, and slavetraders had every vested interest in trying to keep their captives alive.

One of the most bizarre aspects of the Muslim slave trade is the fact that European Christians were frequently captured as slaves in large numbers, especially by the pirates of the much-feared Barbary coast of North Africa. According to one recent historian:

between 1530 and 1780 there were almost certainly and quite possibly a million and a quarter white, European Christians [enslaved by the Muslims of the Barbary Coast].

Between 1530 and 1730, remarkably [Robert C. Davis, "Counting European Slaves on the Barbary Coast", Past and Present (172), August 2001]:

nearly as many Europeans were taken forcibly to Barbary and were worked as slaves as were West Africans hauled off to labour on plantations in the America.

The real possibility of enslavement became dreaded throughout the European world and continued until Western navies became strong enough to forcibly end this barbarity.

Just before the end of Barbary slavery, some Americans were captured and enslaved. America's first overseas war was in fact fought in 1804-5 with Tripoli (now Libya) over the enslavement and holding for ransom of its citizens, a conflict which will be surprising to many. The well-known American slogan, "Millions for defence - not one cent for tribute", was coined at the time of this war. In 1815 an American squadron of eight ships killed the last great Barbary corsair leader, Rais Hamidon, freeing many Americans held in slavery. Christian slaves could be ransomed, but ransomers were compelled to pay a fortune to free the enslaved.

Although some accounts of Muslim slavery stress that it was milder than the plantation slavery known in the New World, its slaves were subjected to hazards unknown in the West. As late as the early twentieth century, eunuchs (deliberately castrated males) still presided over the harems of sultans and other local rulers. The death rate in the castration process was extraordinarily high, with some British observers claiming that 199 out of every 200 selected for castration died in the process. One British consul of the 1880s, A. B. Wylde, reported that in the mid-1880s there were 500 eunuchs in Cairo alone, which, according to him, represented "100,000 Soudanese" done to death.

Slavery in the Islamic world continued in east Africa long after it had been abolished in the West. Slavery was still legal in Saudi Arabia and Yemen until 1962, and was not legally abolished by presidential decree in Mauritania until 1980. Reportedly, slavery still exists in the Islamic world, unremarked upon by the left-wing activists who criticise America and the West without cessation.

Slavery ended in the West for a number of reasons, including the lack of economic productivity among slaves compared to free labour after industrialisation. However, the most important reason that slavery ended in the West was because ever-increasing numbers of influential people thought it morally evil and repugnant. In the British Empire, of course slavery was ended by Parliament, thanks to the activism of William Wilberforce and others. In America, slavery was ended because of a Civil War in which 600,000 men were killed. The American Civil War turned into a struggle to abolish slavery, a moral crusade possibly without equal up till that time. Slavery persisted, apparently in a milder form, in Brazil until 1889, the last major Western state to abolish it.

In complete contrast, the Islamic world has had no local abolitionists or evangelicals who struggled to abolish slavery, which is permitted by the Koran. This is, of course, a common pattern: Western liberalism and religious or secular liberal radicalism are virtually unknown under Islam.

One wonders, too, what today's Islamists think of slavery, given that it is permitted by the Koran (the Prophet Mohammed apparently owned slaves - in fairness, it must be said that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson also owned slaves, and many centuries later). One wonders, even more, why the facts of slavery in the Islamic world are so little known today.

For those wishing to read more on this appalling subject, there are several relevant works, including: Ronald Segal, Islam's Black Slaves: The History of Africa's Other Black Diaspora (Atlantic Books, London, 2001); Humphrey J. Fisher, Slavery in the History of Muslim Black Africa (Hurst & Co., London, 2001); and Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 (Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2003).

William D. Rubinstein is professor of modern history at the University of Wales-Aberystwyth. The Social Affairs Unit is publishing a fully updated and revised edition of Prof. Rubinstein's seminal Men of Property: The Very Wealthy in Britain since the Industrial Revolution.
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I read Denis Healey's autobiography 'The Time Of My Life' a while back. As Shadow Foreign Secretary, he tours South Africa (Steve Biko takes him round Zululand) and notes the injustices of the apartheid state. All well and good.

But earlier in the book, Healey is in Abu Dhabi.

"When I visited Prince Sultan in his palace, I sat on a low cushion and was served with fragrant tea by a negro slave. Then the Prince leaned forward and asked for the latest news of Nye Bevan's illness."

At that time, slavery had been unlawful in the UK and her colonies for some 130 years. Healey makes no comment at all on the fact of slavery existing in the Gulf in 1960. It's different for "them".
Posted by: Laban at August 17, 2006 06:24 PM

Indeed: and it would be no surprise if some kind of slave trade continues in Muslim lands.
The role of the Royal Navy in suppressing the slave trade in the Indian Ocean, especially off East Africa, where many hundreds of Arab dhows were boarded and their 'caargoes' freed, is also a little-commented upon story, it being necessary always to maintain the image of the British Empire as a slave-based Empire, when it was the first one to do without such squalor.
Posted by: jon gower davies at August 18, 2006 02:12 PM

England was first to abolish domestic slavery in 1772 in the Somerset case as noted by Jeremy Black on this site:


However the first legislative action to prohibit slavery may have been the American Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which was limited to the future midwestern states of the USA. For the text see:

Posted by: rich at August 26, 2006 06:57 PM

Slavery in Islam

All the ancient as well as the contemporary scholars acknowledge the fact of slavery in Islam and clarify the status of slaves. I have chosen the opinions of the most famous scholars to shed light on their position.

The Scholars of al-Azhar in Egypt

In his book, "You Ask and Islam Answers", Dr. 'Abdul-Latif Mushtahari, the general supervisor and director of homiletics and guidance at the Azhar University, says (pp. 51,52),

"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."

The text is plain that all prisoners of war must either be killed or become slaves. The ancient scholars are in full agreement over this issue, such as Ibn Timiyya, Ibn Hisham, Malik etc. Ibn Timiyya says (Vol. 32, p. 89),

"The root of the beginning of slavery is prisoners of war; the bounties have become lawful to the nation of Muhammad."

Then (Vol. 31, p. 380), he indicates clearly and without shame,

"Slavery is justified because of the war itself; however, it is not permissible to enslave a free Muslim. It is lawful to kill the infidel or to enslave him, and it also makes it lawful to take his offspring into captivity.

In Part 4, p. 177 of the "Prophet Biography" (Al-Road Al-Anf'), Ibn Hisham says,

"According to Islamic law concerning prisoners of war, the decision is left to the Muslim Imam. He has the choice either to kill them or to exchange them for Muslim captives, or to enslave them. This is in regard to men, but women and children are not permitted to be killed, but must be exchanged (to redeem Muslim captives) or enslaved - take them as slaves and maids."

This is the statement of Ibn Hisham, on whom all Muslims and students of Muhammad's biography rely. Of course, these matters which Ibn Hisham recorded used to take place continuously in all of Muhammad's wars and invasions. All of Muhammad's people (his wives, and Muhammad himself) owned many slaves - males and females. In his campaign against the children of Qurayza (the Jewish tribe), Muhammad killed all the males (700-900) in one day. Then, he divided the women and the children among his people.

The Caliphs across the ages followed Muhammad's footsteps and enslaved (by hundreds and thousands) men and women who were captured in wars. Many of them were Persians and Byzantines. All the Islamic Chroniclers without exception have recorded these facts. The way Arab Muslims invaded Africa and killed and enslaved Africans is a well-known, historical fact.

In Vol. 2, Part 3, p. 13, Malik Ibn Anas repeated the same text as did Ibn Hisham who is also quoted by Ibn Timiyya, and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya in his book, "Zad al-Ma'ad" (part 3, p. 486). All of them taught the same principle and said the same words.

This question was delivered to Ibn Timiyya who was Mufti of Islam (Vol. 31, pp. 376, 377),

"A man married a maid-slave who bore him a child. Would that child be free or would he be an owned slave?"

Ibn Timiyya says emphatically,

"Her child whom she bore from him would be the property of her master according to all the Imams (heads of the four Islamic schools of law) because the child follows the (status) of his mother in freedom or slavery. If the child is not of the race of Arabs, then he is definitely an owned slave according to the scholars, but the scholars disputed (his status) among themselves if he was from the Arabs - whether he must be enslaved or not because when A'isha (Muhammad's wife) had a maid-slave who was an Arab, Muhammad said to A'isha, `Set this maid free because she is from the children of Ishmael.'"

Then Ibn Timiyya states (Vol. 31, p. 380) that the legist Abu Hanifa says, "Muhammad is an Arab; thus it is not admissible to enslave Arabs because of the nobility of this race since Muhammad is from them." Yet other scholars disagree with him, emphasizing that Muhammad (in one of his campaigns) enslaved Arabs, too. However, it is evident from Muhammad's traditions that he regarded Arabs to be the most noble race, especially the Quraysh, his tribe. His famous saying (that the caliphs must be elected from the Quraysh tribe) is acknowledged by all translators of the tradition without exception.

He should have told A'isha, "Set her free because she is a human being like you. It is not important whether she is a descendant of Ishmael or of Isaac!"

Islam Encourages Muslims to Keep Slaves - No Liberation

All Muslim scholars acknowledge that Islam has retained the principle of slavery, though some of them claim that Islam encourages the liberation of slaves. Maybe some of Muhammad's sayings and a few Qur'anic verses indicate so, yet from a practical point of view, we realize that the liberation of slaves was a rare occurrence. The reason is well known. Neither Muhammad nor his wives or companions were a good example in this regard. Sometimes, Muhammad used to talk about the merits of liberating a slave, yet he himself owned dozens of slaves and maid-slaves. However, we encounter a strange opinion spelled out by Muhammad's wives and his friends in which he encourages them to retain their slaves. In Vol. 33, p. 61 Ibn Timiyya says,

"Anyone who says, `If I do so (such a thing), every slave I own will become free' is not obligated by his oath and he can redeem his oath by any means and retain his slaves. (He can do that) by fasting a few days or by feeding some hungry people."

On the same page Ibn Timiyya stresses that this is what all Muhammad's friends said (such as Ibn 'Abbas and Ibn 'Umar) as well as his wives (such as Zaynab, A'isha, and Um Salama).

Is the liberation of slaves a bad thing so that it is possible for a man who swears he will liberate his slaves to renounce his oath and retain them? It should be said that whoever takes an oath to free his slaves if so and so happens, is obliged to fulfill his oath and liberate his slaves, but we see that Muhammad's wives, his great companions and his relatives say something different according to the testimony of Ibn Timiyya.

The Qur'an itself (in several places) approves of slavery and assures the Muslim the right to own dozens of male and female slaves either by purchasing them or as bounty of war. The Qur'an talks about the possession of slaves as "the possession of their necks" (Chapter 58:3, Surah Al-Mujadilah).

Slaves of Muhammad - Prophet of Freedom and Equality!

Muhammad himself owned numerous slaves after he proclaimed himself to be a prophet. I would like here to quote Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya who is one of the greatest scholars and chroniclers of Islam. In his book, "Zad al-Ma'ad" (Part I, p. 160), he says,

"Muhammad 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 name was Jacob al-Mudbir. His purchases of slaves were more (than he sold). He was used to renting out and hiring many slaves, but he hired more slaves than he rented out.

This trading used to take place in the slave market in the Arab Peninsula and in Mecca. Muhammad was accustomed to sell, purchase, hire, rent, and to exchange one slave for two. Thus, he had an increasing number of slaves, especially after he claimed to be a prophet, and after his immigration from Mecca to escape death at the hand of his tribe Quraysh. Also, the slaves of Muhammad and his followers were constantly increasing as the result of those who were captured in wars and not only by purchase. This should alert those who have accepted Islam - the Muslims of New York, Chicago, Georgia, Detroit, Los Angeles as well as all the Africans and all Muslims of the world. Even among the Arabs are Muslims who are not aware of these facts concerning Muhammad. Sadly, this is only a small part of the facts of which they are unaware concerning Muhammad.

The Names of Muhammad's Slaves

A) Male Slaves:

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya relies always on the prophet's biographies written by great ancient scholars. Therefore, he is regarded by Muslims as an authority, a primary source and a leader among the students of the Islamic religion. This scholar tells us in his book, "Zad al-Ma'ad" (part 1, pp. 114, 115, and 116), the following,

"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').

He himself relates his own story; he says:

"The apostle of God and his companions went on a trip. (When) their belongings became too heavy for them to carry, Muhammad told me, `Spread your garment.' They filled it with their belongings, then they put it on me. The apostle of God told me, `Carry (it), for you are a ship.' Even if I was carrying the load of six or seven donkeys while we were on a journey, anyone who felt weak would throw his clothes or his shield or his sword on me so I would carry that, a heavy load. The prophet told me, `You are a ship"' (refer to Ibn Qayyim, pp. 115-116; al-Hulya, Vol. 1, p. 369, quoted from Ahmad 5:222).

The story shows their ruthlessness and does not need explanation or clarification. The ill treatment Muhammad and his companions made of Mahran is very repulsive. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya is not the only one who recorded this episode and the list of names of Muhammad's slaves. The Tabari also (in his Chronicles, Volume 2 p. 216, 217, 218) presents us with these accounts. No one among the contemporary Muslim leaders denies these matters, especially if he is faced with the Tabari's and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya's records.

Still, in regard to Muhammad's slave Zayd Ibn Haritha, Muhammad set him free and adopted him, then he married him to his (Muhammad's) cousin Zaynab. Later Zayd divorced her after he realized that Muhammad was captivated by her. The scandalous story is documented by verses in the Qur'an, and Muslim scholars admit it.

B) Maid Slaves:

In this same Section (One, p. 116), Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya as well as other Muslim authors of chronicles recorded the list of names of Muhammad's maid-slaves. They 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.

The Status of the Slave Under Islam's Unjust Laws

Let us survey together some strange things embraced by Muhammad and Islam pertaining to slaves. Then let us shed some light on the attitude of Christianity towards this issue.

The Freeman Should Not Be Killed For A Slave

The Qur'an as well as Muslim scholars are explicit in this regard The Qur'an (the Chapter of the Cow:178) shamelessly says,

"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."

The reader does not need the interpretations of the scholars to understand these explicit words which indicate that the freeman should be killed only for another freeman, a slave for a slave, and a female for a female. Still, I promised to stick to the interpretations of the great expositors of these Qur'anic verses from among the Muslim scholars because they are more knowledgeable of their Book and its verses. We rely on their interpretations and not on our own. In the commentary of the Jalalan (p. 24), we read the following regarding the above mentioned verse,

"The same punishment was imposed on believers and what is similar to the act of the crime in the case of a homicide, by virtue of description or actuality. A freeman should be killed for another freeman but not for a slave, a female for a female, but a Muslim (even if he is a slave) must not be killed for an infidel, even if that infidel is a freeman."

What kind of equality is this between human beings!

To explain the aforementioned verse (2:178), the Baydawi relates what really happened with the prophet Muhammad, Abu Bakr and 'Umar. This is recorded in his book entitled, "The Commentary of al-Baydawi". On p. 36, we read,

"The Shafi'i and Malik prohibit the killing of a freeman if he slays his slave or other men's slaves. This is because 'Ali Ibn Abi-Talib mentioned that a man had killed his slave and Muhammad scourged him only; he did not kill him. It was related on the authority of Muhammad that he said a Muslim should not be killed for a non-Muslim, nor a freeman for a slave; also because Abu Bakr and 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab did not kill a freeman for a slave. (This was said) in the presence of all Muhammad's companions, and no one disapproved or objected to it."

These are the verses of the Qur'an and this is the attitude of Muhammad himself as well as Abu Bakr and 'Umar after him.

The Muslim legists

The Shafi'i, Malik and Ibn Timiyya, pronounce the same principle as in the Qur'an (2:187).

The Imam Shafi'i tells us plainly and decisively in Part I of his book, "Ahkam al-Qur'an" ("The Ordinances of the Qur'an", p. 275),

"A man is not to be killed for his slave nor the freeman for a slave."

On the same page he adds,

"A believer is not to be killed for a non-believer, nor a man for his son, or a man for his slave or for a woman."

What justice! What equality! Then he adds,

"The freeman is not to be killed for a slave according to the scholars."

Malik Ibn Anas was asked: "What is the punishment of a master who beats his slave to death?" He answered: "Nothing!" (Vol. 6, Part 15, p 164).

In Vol. 28, p. 378, Ibn Timiyya also says:

"What we mentioned in regard to the believers whose blood is treated equally is restricted to the free Muslim against another free Muslim."

I do not have better witnesses in this regard than these scholars: Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Ali and Muhammad's deeds, and all great, popular Muslim scholars.

A Slave Is Not Entitled To Property Or Money

Ibn Hazm says in Vol. 6, Part 9,

"The slave is not permitted to write a will when he dies, nor can he bequeath (anything) because his entire possessions belong to his master."

In part I, p. 180 of his book, "The Ordinances of the Qur'an", the Shafi'i also says,

"The Qur'anic verse; `Marry of the women who seem good to you, two or three or four are meant for the freeman only and not for the slaves because he says in it that the one who acts fairly is the person who owns money and slaves do not own money."'

He also indicates in Part II, p. 21, "The owned one does not have money." Besides, according to the Islamic law, all Muslims receive portions of war bounty except slaves and women. Malik Ibn Anas says (Vol. 2, Part 3, pp. 33,34),

"Slaves and women do not have any portion in the bounty."

This is true even if they have been fighting with the rest of the Muslims. In Part III of the "Prophetic Biography" (p. 386), Ibn Kathir says,

"The slave does not get anything from the bounty whether the bounty is money or women."

The Testimony Of The Slave Is Not Admissible

In Vol. 35, p. 409 Ibn Timiyya remarks,

"The Shafi'i, Malik, and Abu Hanifa, who are the legists of Islam, assert that the testimony of the slave is not acceptable."

If we also turn the pages of the "Ordinances of the Qur'an" by the Shafi'i (part II, p. 142), he determines,

"The witnesses must be from among our freeman, not from our slaves, but from freeman who belong to our religion! "

The testimony of a Jew or a Christian is not acceptable, as we have mentioned before, even if justice would be hindered for lack of their witness. This is not important. In his "Sahih" (Part III, p. 223), Al-Bukhari remarks,

"The testimony of a slave is not acceptable in marriages."

What is the meaning of the Shafi'i's statement,

"A witness should not be from our possessed slaves."

Does not Mr. Shafi'i know that God only is the One who owns people? How dare he utter the phrase, "our possessed slaves."

There Is No Punishment For One Who Makes False Accusation Against Slaves

It is well known that if a Muslim falsely accuses another free Muslim and slanders his honor, he will be punished by being flogged with eighty lashes. This is what happened when some of Muhammad's companions and relatives accused A'isha, his wife, of adultery with one of the young men because they stayed behind after the departure of the caravan, then later in the morning they arrived together. Muhammad ordered each one of them flogged with eighty lashes. But if a Muslim calumniates a slave, he would not be punished.

This is the opinion of all the scholars.

For instance (Vol. 8, Part II, p. 27 1), Ibn Hazm asserts that this is the opinion of Abu Hanifa, Shafi'i, Malik, and Sufyan al-Thawri and not only his own opinion. This is what the Sharawi shamelessly remarks,

"Female slaves are deprived of dignity and subject to abuse because they are not `an honor' to anyone (that is, they are not free, respectable women who belong to a free man). These are the same words reiterated by the Shafi'i (Part I, p. 307) in his book, `Ahkam of the Qur'an'; thus a female slave must not be veiled. When- ever Muhammad took a woman as a captive, if he imposed the veil on her, Muslims would say he took her as a wife, but if he left her unveiled they would say, `He owned her as a slave'; that is, she became a property of his right hand."

A good example is the incident of Safiyya, daughter of Hay, who was taken as a bounty in the war of Khaybar. All the chronicles (as well as the biographies without exception) have recorded, "We wonder why it is said about women and girls that they are of `shed dignity'." The Shafi'i and the Sharawi state this word for word. Is it necessary for us to repeat that Islam sheds the dignity of man under the pretense that he is a slave, that she is a woman, or that he is a non-Muslim?

On Matters Of Sex And Marriage - and About Black Slaves

1. The Slave cannot choose for himself.

This was confirmed by all the Muslim scholars on the authority of Muhammad. In Vol. 6, Part 9, p. 467, Ibn Hazm said,

"If a slave gets married without the permission of his master, his marriage will be invalid and he must be whipped because he has committed adultery. He must be separated from his wife. She is also regarded as an adulteress because Muhammad said, `Any slave who gets married without the approval of his master is a prostitute.'"

The same text is quoted by Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (Part 5, p. 117 of "Zad al-Maad"), as well as Ibn Timiyya (Vol. 32, p. 201). Malik Ibn Anas relates (Vol. 2, Part 4) more than that. He says (pp. 199, 201, 206),

"The slave does not get married without the approval of his master. If he is a slave to two masters, he has to obtain the approval of both men."

2. The male slave and the female slave are forced to get married.

Malik Ibn Anas says explicitly,

"The master has the right to force his male or female slave to marry without obtaining their approval" (Vol. 2, p. 155).

Ibn Hazm says that Sufyan al-Thawri, too, has said that the master has the right to force his male or female slave to marry without securing their approval (Vol. 6, Part 9, p. 469). Ibn Timiyya is of the same opinion.

I must not fail in this regard to mention that Malik Ibn Ons, who (after agreeing with the other scholars that the master has the right to force his male or female slave to get married) added,

"The master does not have the right to force the female slave to wed to an ugly black slave if she is beautiful and agile unless in case of utmost necessity" (refer to Ibn Hazm, Vol. 6, Part 9, p. 469).

We wonder here, what did Malik Ibn Anas mean when he said, "An ugly black slave"? Is a man valued on the basis of the color of his skin? Do you say that, O Malik Ibn Anas, and you are one of the great four legists? Or is a man valued on the basis of his personality, reasoning, and heart? We also have the right to wonder why Mihran, the black slave, suffered the humiliation afflicted on him by Muhammad and his companions when they made him carry their belongings in the burning desert while Muhammad was saying to him, "Carry them, for you are a ship." Thus he became known by that surname. Did they not have dozens of other slaves?

Muhammad even discriminated (in Islam) between a black dog and a white dog! Yet, what concerns us here is what I pointed out about slaves in general, their masters treat them as if they are not human beings who have feelings, desires and self-will.

Let us continue our discussion in order to have a more complete picture about how the Islamic religion abuses the dignity of men and women under the pretense that they are slaves and not free human beings.

3. The Arab freeman does not marry a slave unless it is inevitable:

In Vol. 31, p. 383, Ibn Timiyya says,

"It is not permissible for the Arab freeman to marry an owned slave unless it is inevitable, such as being unable to get married to a free woman. If it happened and he were wed to a slave, her children would be slaves, too, because they follow (the status) of the mother in slavery."

Malik Ibn Anas notes,

"It is not allowable for a man to wed a slave besides his freewoman wife. In this case, his wife has the right to divorce him. Likewise, if he marries a freewoman while he is already married to a slave and he fails to tell her so, the freewoman has the right to leave him" (Malik, Vol. 2, p. 204).

I do not have any comment on these strange principles, yet I wonder why an Arab freeman cannot marry a slave. Is not he a man and she a woman? And why (if it is inevitable that he should marry her) should all her descendants be slaves? These are iniquitous and ruthless ordinances. It is obvious that Muhammad failed to change the traditions of the tribal society of the pre-Islamic period. Most Arab Muslims had slaves. His companions, wives and he himself owned and retained dozens of them. He bought more after he claimed his prophethood and declared his message - the message or equality, and freedom, and human rights!

What Would Happen If A Freewoman Married Her Slave?

She might be an open-minded woman who did not discriminate between one man and another. Thus she might have fallen in love with her slave who also loved her and they intended, officially, to get married. What is the attitude of Islam in this case? If something like that took place in Islamic society, it would be a disaster! Let us see the reaction of Umar Ibn Khattab in these situations. In Vol. 8, Part 11, pp. 248, 249, Ibn Hazm remarks,

"A woman was wed to her male slave. Umar intended to stone her, but instead he made them separate and sent the slave to exile. He told the woman, `It is unlawful for you to get married to your owned slave!' Another woman got married to her slave. Umar scourged her with a whip and forbade any man to marry her. Another time, a freewoman came to Umar and told him, `I am not a pretty woman and I have a slave to whom I would like to get married.' Umar refused to do so. He whipped the slave and ordered him to be sold in a foreign country. He told the woman, `It is unlawful for you to get married to what your right hand owns. Only men have the right to get wed to what their right hand owns. Even if you set him free in order to marry him and he becomes a freeman, the manumission will be invalid and the marriage is not valid."'

Is there any comment on the ruthlessness of this second caliph who was Muhammad's father-in-law and one of the ten to whom Muhammad promised paradise? He is one of the two whom Muhammad requested the people to follow as a model when he declared, "Emulate Abu Bakr and Umar." Yet Umar was a tyrant, a ruthless man without a heart who attempted to stone a woman for no reason except she married a man who was her slave. He also scourged another woman, forbidding any other man to marry her, and beat and exiled a slave. And when a third woman wanted to free her slave in order to marry him and live happily together, especially after she lost hope in getting married to a freeman, Islam and Umar intervened and said, "No, this is not permissible." He scourged the slave and sold him into a foreign country. By that, he became an example of relentlessness, a hard heart, and detestable oppression.

In matters of sex and marriage, Ibn Timiyya states:

"The one who owns the mother also owns her children. Being the master of the mother makes him the owner of her children whether they were born to a husband or they were illegitimate children. Therefore, the master has the right to have sexual intercourse with the daughters of his maid-slave because they are his property, provided he does not sleep with the mother at the same time" (Vol. 35, p. 54).

The Value Of The Slave - What Is His Price In Dinars?

"If an owned slave assaults somebody and damages his property, his crime will be tied to his neck. It will be said to his master, `If you wish, you can pay the fine for the damages done by your slave or deliver him to be sentenced to death.' His master has to choose one of the two options - either the value of the slave and his price or the damage the slave has caused" (Vol. 32, p. 202, Ibn Timiyya).

Is this how the value of a man is calculated? If the loss amounted, for example, to 600 dinars and the value of the slave in the estimation of the master did not exceed more than 400 dinars because he was sick or weak, his master would, in this case, deliver him to be killed!

We have looked at six points concerning the status of slaves in the Islamic religion. Actually, any one point, if we ponder it, is sufficient to clarify the truth. It reveals to us how human dignity is crushed in the practice of slavery. From the very beginning, we referred to the principle of slavery as it is manifested in this religion, and we have listed the names of Muhammad's slaves, the master and the "apostle of God!"

The Position of Christianity - the Teaching of the Gospel

Christianity is very decisive in this matter. The words and the spirit of the Gospel are very clear. From the very beginning, we have used a fundamental principle in this study and research; namely, the comparison must always be between the Gospel and the Qur'an - Christianity as religion and teachings and Islam as religion, in order to see which one of the two reveals the thoughts of the true, living God. Also, the comparison should be between Muhammad, his life and his sayings on the one hand, and Christ, His life and teachings on the other.

If we were to find (for example) some Europeans or Americans who allowed themselves to acquire slaves, we should not blame Christianity for that because we must realize that the Gospel teaches something different. We see that Jesus and His disciples did not possess slaves.

We do blame Islam in this regard because Muhammad himself acquired male and female slaves by dozens. All his friends, his wives and most Muslims of his time and after owned slaves. The Qur'an encourages that and the scholars do not negate it. We blame Islamic thought and the behavior of Muhammad in regard to this matter and other issues recorded in the most authentic Islamic sources.

We should not, in any subject, dwell on the behavior of some Christians or some Muslims but rather try to examine the attitude of Islamic thought (or Christian thought) toward the issues under discussion. Some people, for instance, believe that a man like Khomeini is an extremist because of Islam, the religion of tolerance, love, and reason. We, for our part, feel surprised to hear that, because who says that this statement is true? Islam is not the religion of tolerance, love, or reason. Not at all! Islam is the exact opposite of this claim.

Did we not see that this religion humiliates and persecutes women and non-Muslims as well as waging offensive wars and encouraging Muslims to kill apostates? Is Muhammad, who ordered the killing of a woman who insulted him, the prophet of tolerance? Why should we blame Khomeini when he issued an order to kill Rushdie? Does not Rushdie (according to the law of Islam and Muhammad, not the law of the United Nations) deserve death for attacking the Qur'an, Muhammad and his wives? Khomeini was never radical; he was always a true student of Muhammad. He intended to enforce the Islamic laws and to fight nations which do not comply with them - such as Iraq (even though Islam is its official religion).

When Muslims kill one another, it is because Muhammad's friends and disciples did so immediately after his death, each one of them trying to force his friend to go in the right way. Khomeini is a true Muslim who follows Muhammad and his friends. Thus, we hear about "exporting the Islamic revolution" to other countries. All these things are compatible with the views of Muhammad and the rightly guided Caliphs who succeeded him such as Abu Bakr, Umar and Ali. When Khomeini slaughtered his opponents, he was following the footsteps of Ali who killed the dissenters, like Talha, Al Zubair and Al Khwareg, even though they were faithful Muslims.

Now, what does the New Testament say about slaves? If we turn in the pages of the New Testament we read these verses:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).

Christ was always warning his disciples and all believers from calling themselves masters. He said to them:

"But you, do not be called `Rabbi' [master]; for One is your Teacher [master], the Christ, and you are all brethren" (Matt. 23:8).

"But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be abased (humbled); and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Matt. 23:12).

By these last words Christ has turned over all the feeble human standards - The "... greatest among you shall be your servant." How profound and deep are these wonderful words!

This truth is clearly taught in the New Testament by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It happened that there was a slave called Onesimus who ran away from his master, Philemon. Onesimus met the apostle Paul in Rome and was converted to Christianity. Paul sent him back to Philemon with a very impressive letter which is included in the New Testament and in which we read these shining words,

"I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart. Receive him ... no longer as a slave but ... as a beloved brother, ..., both in the flesh and in the Lord" (Chapter 1).

Paul, Peter and the rest of the disciples did not have the authority to abolish slavery within the Roman Empire. Paul was not one of the Roman governors, but a fugitive and a persecuted man. Later he and most of the disciples were killed at the hands of the Romans along with thousands of their Christian brothers. Muhammad and his successors were rulers and could have outlawed slavery. Instead, they retained it and kept their slaves.

In another letter, Paul urged the Christians to "give your servants what is just and fair" (Col. 4:1). The text emphasizes these two words - brotherhood and justice - because there is neither slave nor freeman, but all are one in Christ.

Egyptian history relates a story about a courageous man who stood in front of his tyrannical rulers who mistreated people and wondered in agony, "Why have you enslaved people whose mothers gave birth to them as free persons?" This brave man did not know that he was addressing multitudes of people across the ages, whether ruthless Westerners in Europe and America or the prophet of Islam himself who failed to liberate the slaves because he himself had acquired dozens of them.

Christian religious leaders such as John Wesley boldly condemned slavery in Europe and sent strong messages to the rulers of Europe and America. They led the movement of slaves' liberation during the day of Abraham Lincoln. Now there are multiplied black men who hold various positions of honor and respect in America. They teach in colleges and universities. They sit on the bench of the courts of the land-even the Supreme Court. They are freely elected to local, county, state and federal positions. They hold high military offices. They build their own fortunes with which they do as they wish. They freely marry and raise their families without fear.

This is what Jesus taught - "There is no difference ...."

The Scourge of Slavery

Muslim slave traders
Over 28 Million Africans have been enslaved over the Muslim world over the past 14 centuries
While much has been written concerning the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, surprisingly little attention has been given to the Islamic slave trade across the Sahara, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. While the European involvement in the Trans Atlantic slave trade to the Americas lasted for just over three centuries, the Arab involvement in the slave trade has lasted fourteen centuries, and in some parts of the Muslim world is still continuing to this day.

Slave routes
A comparison of the Islamic slave trade to the American slave trade reveals some interesting contrasts. While two out of every three slaves shipped across the Atlantic were men, the proportions were reversed in the Islamic slave trade. Two women for every man were enslaved by the Muslims.

While the mortality rate for slaves being transported across the Atlantic was as high as 10%, the percentage of slaves dying in transit in the Trans Sahara and East African slave trade was between 80 and 90%!

While almost all the slaves shipped across the Atlantic were for agricultural work, most of the slaves destined for the Muslim Middle East were for sexual exploitation as concubines, in harems, and for military service.

While many children were born to slaves in the Americas, and millions of their descendants are citizens in Brazil and the USA to this day, very few descendants of the slaves that ended up in the Middle East survive.

While most slaves who went to the Americas could marry and have families, most of the male slaves destined for the Middle East were castrated, and most of the children born to the women were killed at birth.

It is estimated that possibly as many as 11 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic (95% of which went to South and Central America, mainly to Portuguese, Spanish and French possessions. Only 5% of the slaves went to the United States).

African Slaves
Slaves in Africa - in the early 20th century.
However, at least 28 million Africans were enslaved in the Muslim Middle East. As at least 80% of those captured by Muslim slave traders were calculated to have died before reaching the slave markets, it is believed that the death toll from the 14 centuries of Muslim slave raids into Africa could have been over 112 million. When added to the number of those sold in the slave markets, the total number of African victims of the Trans Saharan and East African slave trade could be significantly higher than 140 million people.

William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce led the campaign against slavery for 59 years.
While Christian Reformers spearheaded the anti-slavery abolitionist movements in Europe and North America, and Great Britain mobilised her Navy, throughout most of the 19th Century, to intercept slave ships and set the captives free, there was no comparable opposition to slavery within the Muslim world.

Even after Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1807 and Europe abolished the slave trade in 1815, Muslim slave traders enslaved a further 2 million Africans. This despite vigorous British Naval activity and military intervention to limit the Islamic slave trade. By some calculations the number of victims of the 14 centuries of Islamic slave trade could exceed 180 million.

Nearly 100 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in America, and 130 years after all slaves within the British Empire were set free by parliamentary decree, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, in 1962, and Mauritania in 1980, begrudgingly removed legalised slavery from their statute books. And this only after international pressure was brought to bear. Today numerous international organisations document that slavery still continues in some Muslim countries.

Slavery long predated Christianity and many of the early Christians were slaves in the Roman Empire. Without exception, the pre-Christian world accepted slavery as normal and desirable. The Greek philosopher Aristotle claimed: "From the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule." The great civilisations of Mesopotamia, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and all the civilisations in Central America and Africa were built upon slave labour.

People became slaves by being an insolvent debtor, or sold into slavery by their parents, or by being born to slave parents, or by being captured in war, or through kidnapping by slave raiders and pirates. Slave dealing was an accepted way of life, fully established in all societies. Most of these slaves were white people, or Europeans. In fact the very word "slave", comes from the people of Eastern Europe, the Slavs.

St. Patrick, the English missionary to the Irish, was once a slave himself, kidnapped from his home and taken to Ireland against his will. Patrick spoke out strongly against slavery. He wrote: "But it is the women kept in slavery who suffer the most."

Captured Slaves
About 80% of those captured by
Muslim slave raiders died before
reaching the slave markets.
The Greeks, from whom we derive so many modern, humanistic ideas, were utterly dependent on slavery. Even Plato's Republic was firmly based on slave labour. Plato said that 50 or more slaves represented the possessions of a wealthy man.

Under Roman law, when a slave owner was found murdered, all his slaves were to be executed. In one case, when a certain Pedanius Secundas was murdered, all 400 of his slaves were put to death.

Before the coming of Christ, the heathen nations despised manual work and confined it to slaves. When Christ was born, half of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves. Three quarters of the population of Athens were slaves.

Slavery was indigenous to African and Arab countries before it made its way to Europe. Slavery was widely practiced by the tribes of the American Indians long before Columbus set foot on the shores of the New World. Ethiopia had slavery until 1942, Saudi Arabia until 1962, Peru until 1968, India until 1976 and Mauritania until 1980. What is also seldom remembered is that many black Americans in the 19th Century owned slaves. For example, according to the United States census of 1830, in just the one town of Charleston, South Carolina, 407 black Americans owned slaves themselves.

But Jesus revolutionised labour. By taking up the axe, the saw, the hammer and the plane, our Lord endued labour with a new dignity. Christianity undercut slavery by giving dignity to work. By reforming work, Christianity transformed the entire social order.

Our Lord Jesus Christ began His ministry in Nazareth with these words: "The Spirit of the Lord is on Me.to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.and release to the oppressed." Luke 4:18

When the apostle Paul wrote to Philemon, concerning his escaped slave, he urged him to welcome back Onesimus "no longer as a slave, but.as a dear brother.as a man and as a brother in the Lord." Philemon 16.

Because of these and other Scriptural commands to love our neighbour, to be a good Samaritan and to do for others what you would want them to do for you, Christians like William Wilberforce, John Newton, William Carey, David Livingstone, Lord Shaftsbury and General Charles Gordon worked tirelessly to end the slave trade, stop child labour, and set the captives free.

From the very beginning of the Christian Church, Christians freed slaves. During the 2nd and 3rd Centuries many tens of thousands of slaves were freed by people who converted to Christ. St. Melania was said to have emancipated 8000 slaves, St. Ovidius freed 5000, Chromatius freed 1400, Hermes 1200. Many of the Christian clergy at Hippo under St. Augustine "freed their slaves as an act of piety." In AD315, the Emperor Constantine, just two years after he issued the edict of Milan, legalising Christianity, imposed the death penalty on those who stole children to bring them up as slaves.

The Emperor Justinian abolished all laws that prevented the freeing of slaves. St. Augustine (354 - 430) saw slavery as the product of sin and as contrary to God's Divine plan (The City of God). St. Chrysostom in the 4th Century, taught that when Christ came He annulled slavery. He proclaimed "in Christ Jesus there is no slave.therefore it is not necessary to have a slave.buy them, and after you have taught them some skill by which they can maintain themselves, set them free."

For centuries, throughout the Middle Ages, bishops and church councils recommended the redemption of captive slaves, and for five centuries the Trinitarian monks redeemed Christian slaves from Moorish (Muslim) servitude.

In 1102AD, the London Church Council outlawed slavery and the slave trade. By the 12th Century slaves in Europe were rare, and by the 14th Century slavery was almost unknown on the continent of Europe.

However, with the birth of Islam came a rebirth of the slave trade. As Ronald Segal in "Islam's Black Slaves" documents: "When Islam conquered the Persian Sassanid Empire and much of the Byzantine Empire, including Syria and Egypt, in the 7th Century, it acquired immense quantities of gold.stripping churches and monasteries.either directly or by taxes, payable in gold, imposed on the clergy and looting gold from.tombs.the state encouraged the search and sanctioned the seizure, in return for a fifth of the finds."

Segal notes: "Female slaves were required in considerable numbers for.musicians, singers and dancers.many more were bought for domestic workers.and many were in demand as concubines. The harems of rulers could be enormous. The harem of Abdal Rahman III (912 - 961) in Cordoba contained over 6000 concubines! And the one in the Fatimid Palace in Cairo had twice as many."

Slave raid
An Arab slave raid in East Africa
1888. The death toll from 14 centuries
of the Islamic slave trade in
Africa is estimated at
over 112 million.
Islam's Black Slaves also reveals that the castration of male slaves was common place. "The Calipha in Baghdad at the beginning of the 10th Century had 7000 black eunuchs and 4000 white eunuchs in his palace." It was noted that there were widespread "homosexual relations" as well. Islam's Black Slaves notes that Islamic teachers throughout the centuries consistently defended slavery: "For there must be masters and slaves." Others noted that blacks "lack self-control and steadiness of mind and they are overcome by fickleness, foolishness and ignorance. Such are the blacks who live in the extremity of the land of Ethiopia, the Nubians, Zanj and the like."

Ibn Khaldun (1332 - 1406) the pre-eminent Islamic medieval historian and social thinker wrote: "The Negro nations are as a rule submissive to slavery.because they have attributes that are quite similar to dumb animals."

By the Middle Ages, the Arab word "abd" was in general use to denote a black slave while the word "mamluk" referred to a white slave. Even as late as the 19th Century, it was noted that in Mecca "there are few families.that do not keep slaves.they all keep mistresses in common with their lawful wives."

It was noted that black slaves were castrated "based on the assumption that the blacks had an ungovernable sexual appetite."

When the Fatimids came to power they slaughtered all the tens of thousands of black military slaves and raised an entirely new slave army. Some of these slaves were conscripted into the army at age ten. From Persia to Egypt to Morocco, slave armies from 30000 to up to 250000 became common-place.

Even Ronald Segal, who is most sympathetic to Islam and clearly prejudiced against Christianity, admits that well over 30 million black Africans would have died at the hands of Muslim slave traders or ended up in Islamic slavery.

A dhow, the favourite slave carrying
vessel of Arab slave traders.
Dhow vessel
Arab traders beat their cargo into
submission on the run from the African
coast to Zanzibar.
The Islamic slave trade took place across the Sahara Desert, from the coast of the Red Sea, and from East Africa across the Indian Ocean. The Trans Sahara trade was conducted along six major slave routes. Just in the 19th Century, for which we have more accurate records, 1.2 million slaves were brought across the Sahara into the Middle East, 450000 down the Red Sea and 442000 from East African coastal ports. That is a total of 2 million black slaves - just in the 1800's. At least 8 million more were calculated to have died before reaching the Muslim slave markets.

Islam's Black Slaves records: "In the 1570's, a Frenchman visiting Egypt found many thousands of blacks on sale in Cairo on market days. In 1665 Father Antonios Gonzalis, a Spanish/Belgian traveller, reported 800 - 1000 slaves on sale in the Cairo market on a single day. In 1796, a British traveller reported a caravan of 5000 slaves departing from Darfur. In 1838, it was estimated that 10000 to 12000 slaves were arriving in Cairo each year." Just in the Arabic plantations off the East Coast of Africa, on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, there were 769000 black slaves.

Slave Market
The slave market in Zanzibar sold an average of 300 slaves every day.
In the 19th Century, the East African black slave trade included 347 000 slaves shipped to Arabia, Persia and India; 95 000 slaves were shipped to the Arab plantations in the Mascareme Islands.

Segal notes "The high death rate and low birth rate among black slaves in the Middle East and the astonishingly low birth rate amongst black slave women" in North Africa and the Middle East. "Islamic civilisation.lagged increasingly behind the West in protecting public health. The arithmetic of the Islamic black slave trade must also not ignore the lives of those men, women and children taken or lost during the procurement, storage and transport.the sale of a single captive for slavery might represent a loss of ten in the population from defenders killed in attacks on villages, the deaths of women and children from related famine and the loss of children, the old and the sick, unable to keep up with their captors or killed along the way in hostile encounters, or dying of sheer misery."

One British explorer encountered over 100 human skeletons from a slave caravan en route for Tripoli.

The explorer, Heinrich Barth, recorded that a slave caravan lost 40 slaves in the course of a single night at Benghazi.

The British explorer, Richard Lander, came across a group of 30 slaves in West Africa, all of them stricken with smallpox, all bound neck to neck with twisted strips of bullock hide.

One caravan with 3000 proceeding from the coast in East Africa, lost two thirds of its number from starvation, disease and murder.

In the Nubian desert, one slave caravan of 2000 slaves literally vanished as every slave died.

In 1818, Captain Lyon of the Royal Navy reported that the Al-Mukani in Tripoli "waged war on all its defenceless neighbours and annually carried off 4000 to 5000 slaves.a piteous spectacle! These poor oppressed beings were, many of them, so exhausted as to be scarcely able to walk, their legs and feet were much swelled, and by their enormous size formed a striking contrast with their emaciated bodies. They were all borne down with loads of firewood, and even poor little children, worn to skeletons by fatigue and hardships, were obliged to bear their burden, while many of their inhuman masters with dreadful whip suspended from their waist.all the traders speak of slaves as farmers do of cattle.the defenceless state of the Negro kingdoms to the southward are temptations too strong to be resisted, a force is therefore annually sent.to pillage these defenceless people, to carry them off as slaves, burn their towns, kill the aged and infants, destroy their crops and inflict on them every possible misery.all slavery is for an unlimited time.none of their owners ever moved without their whips - which were in constant use.drinking too much water, bringing too little wood or falling asleep before the cooking was finished, were considered nearly capital crimes, and it was in vain for these poor creatures to plead the excuse of being tired. Nothing could withhold the application of the whip. No slaves dared to be ill or unable to walk, but when the poor sufferer dies, the master suspects that there must have been something 'wrong inside' and regrets not having liberally applied their usual remedy of burning the belly with a red-hot iron."

Slave Traders
Arab slave traders along the Ruvuma River, East Africa, 1866, axe a straggler.
Records for Morocco in 1876 show that market prices for slaves varied from £10 ($48) to £30 ($140). Female slaves comprised the vast majority of sales with "attractive virgins" fetching between £40 to £80 ($192 - $386). It was reported that "a considerable majority of the slaves crossing the Sahara were destined to become concubines in North Africa, the Middle East and occasionally even further afield."

Segal also observed that: "White slaves from Christian Spain, Central and Eastern Europe" were also shipped into the Middle East and served in the "palaces of rulers and the establishments of the rich." He records that: "All slavic eunuchs.are castrated in that region and the operation is performed by Jewish merchants."

Muslim raiders kidnapping women
Muslim slave raiders kidnapped women from Europe for harems in the Middle East.
Historian Robert Davis in his book "Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters - White Slavery In the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy", estimates that North African Muslim pirates abducted and enslaved more than 1 million Europeans between 1530 and 1780. These white Christians were seized in a series of raids which depopulated coastal towns from Sicily to Cornwall. Thousands of white Christians in coastal areas were seized every year to work as galley slaves, labourers and concubines for Muslim slave masters in what is today Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. Villages and towns on the coast of Italy, Spain, Portugal and France were the hardest hit, but the Muslim slave raiders also seized people as far afield as Britain, Ireland and Iceland. They even captured 130 American seamen from ships they boarded in the Atlantic between 1785 and 1793.

According to one report, 7000 English people were abducted between 1622 to 1644, many of them ship crews and passengers. But the Corsairs also landed on unguarded beaches, often at night, to snatch the unwary. Almost all the inhabitants of the village of Baltimore, in Ireland, were captured in 1631, and there were other raids in Devon and Cornwall. Many of these white, Christian slaves were put to work in quarries, building sites and galleys and endured malnutrition, disease and mistreatment at the hands of their Muslim slave masters. Many of them were used for public works such as building harbours.

Female captives were sexually abused in palace harems and others were held as hostages and bargained for ransom. "The most unlucky ended up stuck and forgotten out in the desert, in some sleepy town such as Suez, or in Turkish Sultanate galleys, where some slaves rowed for decades without ever setting foot on shore." Professor Davis estimates that up to 1,25 million Europeans were enslaved by Muslim slave raiders between 1500 to 1800.

While Islam dominated the slave trade from the 7th to the 15th Century, between 1519 and 1815 Europe also joined in this trade in human flesh. And it was those European nations which had suffered the most at the hands of Muslim slave raiders, and under centuries of Muslim military occupation, Spain and Portugal, who dominated the European slave trade.

It was the enemies of the Reformation who brought Europe into this disgraceful trade. Emperor Charles V (whom Martin Luther defied with his historic "My conscience is captive to the Word of God.here I stand I can do no other." speech) of the Holy Roman Empire who first authorised Europe's involvement in the slave trade in 1519. Because of Pope Alexander VI's Line of Demarcation Bill of 1493 which barred Spain from Africa, Spain issued Asientos (a monopoly) to other nations to supply slaves for her South American colonies. First Portugal had this lucrative franchise, then the Dutch, then the French. Finally, by the treaty of Utrecht 1713, the Asientos was transferred from France to Britain. Britain's involvement in slavery was first authorised in 1631 by King Charles I (who was later executed by Parliament). His son, Charles II, reintroduced it by Royal Charter in 1672.

According to "The Slave Trade" by Hugh Thomas, approximately 4 million (35.4%) went to Portuguese controlled Brazil; 2,5 million (22.1%) to the Spanish nations of South and Central America; 2 million (17.7%) to the British West Indies (mostly Jamaica); 1,6 million (14.1%) to French West Indies; half a million (4.4%) to Dutch West Indies and half a million (4.4%) to North America.

Freed Slaves
Slaves freed by the British Navy.
It is extraordinary that, considering that less than 5% of all the Trans Atlantic slaves ended up in North America, the vast majority of films, books and articles concerning the slave trade concentrate only on the American involvement in the slave trade, as though slavery was a uniquely American aberration. However, the vastly greater involvement of Portugal, Spain and France seem to be largely ignored. Even more so the far greater and longer running Islamic slave trade into the Middle East has been so ignored as to make it one of history's best-kept secrets.

We tend to focus on what happened in North America because the United States would eventually fight a war, in part over slavery, and because of the enormous and vocal American opposition to slavery. This was in sharp contrast to the indifference that Muslims, Africans and many Europeans evidenced towards it.

HMS London
A steam pinnache of HMS London puts a warning shot across the bow of a slaving dhow in 1881.
The legends of European slave raiders venturing into the jungles of Africa to capture free peoples are generally just that: myths.

The embarrassing fact of history, is that the Europeans did not have to use any force to obtain these slaves. The slaves were "sold" by their black owners. There was no need for the slave raiders to risk their lives or venture into the jungles of Africa, they simply purchased the people from African chiefs and Muslim slave traders at the coast.

However, while the slave trade and slavery itself was always criticised vigorously in Britain and America, no comparable criticism was evident in the Muslim Middle East or amongst the African tribes which sold their own people, and neighbouring tribes, into slavery. Almost all of the African slaves transported across the Atlantic were captured and sold by African rulers and merchants.

Many chiefs found it more profitable to sell their enemies, criminals and debtors than to kill or imprison them. Many were weaker neighbouring tribes conquered for the express purpose of selling their people into slavery. The disgraceful fact is that there were three equally guilty partners in the crime of the Trans Atlantic slave trade: pagan African chiefs, Muslim Arabs and Christian Europeans.

The Trade, as it became known, involved a triangular voyage. Slave ships sailed from Bristol or Liverpool loaded with cloths, beads, muskets, iron bars and brandy. This merchandise was then traded in West Africa in exchange for slaves. Mostly African chiefs sold their own people, or engaged in wars and slave raids against neighbouring tribes to capture victims for this trade. Often professional Arab slave traders provided the victims.

The middle passage transported the slaves to the West Indies. Here the slaves were sold and the ships loaded with spices, rum, molasses and sugar. The third leg of the journey was the return to England. The average Englishman on the street was kept in the dark as to what was actually happening on the middle passage, until, in 1785, Thomas Clarkson's landmark study "Slavery and Commerce In the Human Species" was first published at Cambridge. According to Clarkson's research, 10% of the slaves would normally die during the middle passage. Strong men would fetch as much as £40 while the women and children were sold in cheap batches with the sick and weak men. In England 18 000 people were employed simply on making the goods to trade for slaves in Africa. This trade constituted 4.4% of British exports.

On Sunday 28 October 1787, William Wilberforce wrote in his diary: "God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the Reformation of society." For the rest of his life, William Wilberforce dedicated his life as a Member of Parliament to opposing the slave trade and working for the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire.

On 22 February 1807, twenty years after he first began his crusade, and in the middle of Britain's war with France, Wilberforce and his team's labours were rewarded with victory. By an overwhelming 283 votes for to 16 against, the motion to abolish the slave trade was carried in the House of Commons. The parliamentarians leapt to their feet with great cheers and gave Wilberforce the greatest ovation ever seen in British history. William bent forward in his seat, his head in his hands, tears of gratitude streaming down his face.

In 1809, the British government mobilised its Navy to search suspected slave ships, even foreign vessels on the high seas. In 1810, the British Parliament declared slave trading a felony, punishable by fourteen years hard labour. In 1814, the British representative at the Congress of Vienna insisted on the abolition of the slave trade being included in the International Treaty. This Treaty was signed by all the European powers on 9 June 1815. In 1825, Britain passed a bill making slave trading punishable by death.

Finally, just three days before William Wilberforce died, by an Act of Parliament in 1833, the British abolished slavery itself - setting all 700 000 slaves in British overseas territories free. Wilberforce's lifetime campaign of 59 years was now fully successful. "Thank God that I've lived to witness the day in which England is willing to give 20 million pounds sterling for the abolition of slavery!" he exclaimed. Within three days he died rejoicing. (For the story of how slavery was abolished see the chapter on William Wilberforce - Missionary to Parliament in The Greatest Century of Missions).

The "History of European Morals" suggests that "the unweary, unostentatious and inglorious crusade of England against slavery may probably be regarded as among the three or four perfectly virtuous pages comprised in the history of nations."

The abolition of slavery was one of the great turning points in history. And the long and vigorous crusade by the British Navy throughout the 19th Century against the slave trade ranks as one of the most extraordinary and unselfish applications of national policy ever seen in the history of nations.

".where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 2 Cor 3:17

Samual Crowther
Rescued from slavery by the British Navy,
Samual Crowther became the first African
bishop of the Church of England.
One of the many fruits of William Wilberforce's life long crusade against the slave trade was that Samuel Ajayi Crowther, who was born in 1807 (the year Great Britain abolished the slave trade) in Yorubaland (modern Western Nigeria) was rescued by a British naval squadron. When Samuel was just thirteen years old, he was captured by Muslim slave traders for transport across the Atlantic, but rescued by the Navy. Samuel received an education in Sierra Leone, where he was converted to Christ, and after further education in England he was ordained as a minister of the Church of England for service with the Church Missionary Society.

Liberated Slaves
Newly liberated slaves in Zanzibar.
Samuel participated in the expedition up the Niger River Valley to overcome the ravages of the slave industry still entrenched there. Of the 145 Europeans on that expedition, 130 were struck down with Malaria, and 40 died. Yet the expedition succeeded in establishing a Missionary Center at Fourah Bay for training liberated slaves to evangelise West Africa. It was built on the very place where a slave market had once stood. The rafters of the roof were made almost entirely from the masts of old slave ships.

Samuel Crowther was one of the first four students to graduate from Fourah Bay's College, Sub-Saharan Africa's first university. In 1864, Samuel Crowther was ordained as the first African Bishop of the Church of England in an overflowing Canterbury cathedral. Today there are eighteen times more Anglicans worshipping in church every Sunday in Nigeria than there are in Great Britain.

David Livingstone
Livingstone and his team free slaves from Arab slave raiders in the Shire Valley.
However, as the British Navy was defeating the slave trade in the Atlantic, the East African slave trade was increasing. It was missionary explorer David Livingstone whose graphic descriptions brought the ravages of the East African slave trade to light. His Missionary Travels and Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambezi exposed the horrors of the slave trade: "Two of the women had been shot the day before for attempting to untie their thongs. One woman had her infants brains knocked out because she could not carry her load and it; and a man was dispatched with an axe because he had broken down with fatigue.those taken out of the country are but a very small section of the sufferers. We never realised the atrocious nature of the traffic until we saw it at the fountain head. 'There truly Satan has his seat.' Besides those actually captured thousands are killed and die of their wounds and famine, driven from their villages by the internecine war waged for slaves with their own clansmen and neighbours, slain by the lust of gain, which is stimulated, be it remembered always, by the slave purchases of Cuba and elsewhere."

The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society reported that most slaves were captured in the Lake Niassa area (Malawi and Mozambique), the Bahr El Ghazal region and in areas of Ethiopia. Slaves were taken to East African markets like Zanzibar, Kilwa and Quelimane and then shipped to Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Iran and to the islands of Pemba, Reunion and Madagascar.

The Anti-Slavery Reporter estimated the Muslim slave trade as exporting 63000 slaves per year. Some estimates went as high as 500000 slaves exported in a single year. One researcher, Ralph Austen calculated that between 1830 and 1861 imports of slaves to the Persian Gulf averaged 3700 to 3100 per annum. This same researcher noted that about 8855 slaves a year were retained as slaves on the East African coast as slaves of African slave masters.

1833 Free slaves
1833 - All slaves in the British Empire
are set free by Parliamentary decree.
Few authors dared describe the horrors involved in the Trans- Sahara slave trade: kidnapping and castrating young boys to be sold as eunuchs ("the living dead") in the homes of wealthy Arab landlords and force marching young women across endless miles of scorching sand in the Sahara desert to become slave concubines, most dying in transit. The Muslim slave trade typically dealt in the sale of castrated male slaves: eunuchs. Eunuchs were created by completely amputating the scrotum and penis of eight to twelve year old African boys. Hundreds of thousands of young boys bled to death during this gory procedure. The survival rate from this process ranged from 1 in 10 to 1 in 30. These castrated boys brought the highest price at the slave market.

Islam's Black Slaves notes: "the Quran stipulated that female slaves might lawfully be enjoyed by their masters." Mohammad himself owned many slaves, some of whom he captured in wars of conquest and some he purchased. The names of forty slaves owned by Mohammad are recorded by Muslim chroniclers. Islamic law (Sharia) contains elaborate regulations for slavery. A slave had no right to be heard in court (testimony was forbidden by slaves), slaves had no right to property, could marry only with the permission of the owner, and were considered to be chattel, that is the movable property, of the slave owner. Muslim slave owners were specifically entitled by Sharia law to sexually exploit their slaves, including hiring them out as prostitutes.

One reason why very little has been written about the Arab involvement in slavery is that traditional Islamic culture still condones slavery. The Sharia, the codified Islamic law which is based upon the teachings and example of Mohammad, contains explicit regulations for slavery. One of the primary principles of Islam is following the example of Mohammad. Whatever Mohammad did, we must do, what he forbade, we must forbid, what he did not forbid, we may not forbid. As Mohammad himself traded in slaves and owned slaves, accumulating multiple wives, even marrying a six year old, and having concubines - slavery and the sexual exploitation of women is deeply ingrained in Islamic tradition. Muslim nations had engaged in the slave trade for over 600 years before Europe became involved in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Slave - my true storey
Almost 200 years after the British outlawed the slave trade in 1807, slave raids and the sale of slaves in Muslim markets continues in countries like Sudan. The slave trade remained legal in Saudi Arabia until 1962, when under international pressure it was finally abolished. However, there are persistent, credible reports, that slavery persists in Saudi Arabia, and even that slaves from Sudan are ending up in Saudi Arabia.

Recently, a former slave from the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, Mende Nazer, had her autobiography: "Slave: My True Story" published. Mende was captured in 1992, she was first a slave to a rich Arab family in Khartoum, and then in 2002 to a Sudanese diplomat in London, from whom she escaped and sought political asylum.

Although the Old Testament provided for slavery for criminals and insolvent debtors, kidnapping and enslaving law-abiding people incurred the death penalty. "Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death." Exodus 21:16

The New Testament expressly forbids both the slave trade and slavery itself. ".the Law is made not for the righteous but for Law breakers.for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers." 1 Timothy 1:9-10

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free.for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28

"From one man He made every nation of men." Acts 17:26

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.love your neighbour as yourself." Mark 12:30-31

"Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

".where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 2 Cor. 3:17

".proclaim liberty throughout the land." Leviticus 25:10

Dr. Peter Hammond is the author of Faith Under Fire In Sudan and The Greatest Century of Missions.


A History of Christianity, by Kenneth Scott Latourette, Harper, 1953

Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean; the Barbary Coast and Italy 1500 - 1800, by Robert Davis, Palgrave MacMillan, 2004

God's Politician, by Garth Lean, Helmers and Howard, 1987

History of Slavery, by Suzanne Everett, Chartwell, 1997

Islam's Black Slaves, by Ronald Segal, Farrar, New York, 2001

Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, by David Livingstone, London, 1857

Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambezi, by David Livingstone, London,1865

The Greatest Century of Missions, by Peter Hammond, CLB, 2002

The Slave Trade, by Hugh Thomas, 1997

Under the Influence - How Christianity Transformed Civilization, by Alvin Schmit, Zondervan, 2001

Slavery in the Arab World

Murray Gordon

New Amsterdam Books, New York, NY 1989

In his fact-filled work on the history of the Muslim Arab slave trade in Africa, Murray Gordon notes that this trade pre-dated the European Christian African slave trade by a thousand years and continued for more than a century after the Europeans had abolished the practice. Gordon estimates the number of slaves “harvested” from Black Africa over the period of the Muslim Arab slave trade at 11 million – roughly equal to the number taken by European Christians for their colonies in the New World.

“Despite the long history of slavery in the Arab World and in other Muslim lands, little has been written about this tragedy,” writes Gordon in his introduction. “Except for the few abolitionists, mainly in England, who railed against Arab slavery and put pressure upon Western governments to end the traffic in slaves, the issue has all but been ignored in the West.”
‘Conspiracy of Silence’ on Arab Slave Trade

Gordon decries a “conspiracy of silence. . .[that] has blocked out all light on this sensitive subject.” Among scholars in the Arab world, the author points out, “No moral opprobrium has clung to slavery since it was sanctioned by the Koran and enjoyed an undisputed place in Arab society.”

The book starts out with a brief outline of the growth of the Islamic attitude toward slavery. There is no evidence that Muhammad sought to abolish slavery, notes Gordon, although he urged slave-owners to treat their slaves well and grant them freedom as a meritorious deed.

“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.”

High Rate of Black African Casualties

While Gordon acknowledges that at times the Islamic version of slavery could be more “humane” than the European colonial version, he provides many facts which point out that the Muslim variety of slavery could be extremely cruel as well.

One particularly brutal practice was the mutilation of young African boys, sometimes no more than 9 or ten years old, to create eunuchs, who brought a higher price in the slave markets of the Middle East. Slave traders often created “eunuch stations” along the major African slave routes where the necessary surgery was performed in unsanitary conditions. Gordon estimates that only one out of every 10 boys subjected to the mutilation actually survived the surgery.

The taking of slaves – in razzias, or raids, on peaceful African villages – also had a high casualty rate. Gordon notes that the typical practice was to conduct a pre-dawn raid on an unsuspecting village and kill off as many of the men and older women as possible. Young women and children were then abducted as the preferred “booty” for the raiders.

Young women were targeted because of their value as concubines or sex slaves in markets. “The most common and enduring purpose for acquiring slaves in the Arab world was to exploit them for sexual purposes,” writes Gordon. “These women were nothing less than sexual objects who, with some limitations, were expected to make themselves available to their owners. . .Islamic law, as already noted, catered to the sexual interests of a man by allowing him to take as many as four wives at one time and to have as many concubines as his purse allowed.” Young women and girls were often “inspected” before purchase in private areas of the slave market by the prospective buyer.

Racism Toward Black Africans

Some of Gordon’s research disputes the oft-repeated charge that racism did not play a part in Islamic slave society. While it is true that the Muslims of the Middle East took slaves of all colors and ethnicities, they considered white slaves more valuable than black ones and developed racist attitudes toward the darker skinned people.

Even the famous Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun, expressed racist attitudes toward black Africans: “The only people who accept slavery are the Negroes, owing to their low degree of humanity and their proximity to the animal stage,” Khaldun wrote. Another Arab writer, of the 14th Century, asked: “Is there anything more vile than black slaves, of less good and more evil than they?”

Gordon covers the Arab/African slave trades up until the mid-20th Century, noting that Saudi Arabia only abolished the practice in the early 1960s. Unlike the European nations and the USA, the Arab nations did not abolish African slavery voluntarily out of moral conscience, but due to considerable economic and military pressure applied by the great colonial powers of time, France and Britain. Slavery is still practiced in two Islamic nations: The Sudan and Mauritania.

The Unknown Slavery: In the Muslim world, that is — and it's not over

John J. Miller

When Henry Morton Stanley explored the Congo River's Boyoma Falls, the cascades weren't the only thing he noticed: "Every three or four miles we came in view of the black traces of the destroyers. The scarred stakes, poles of once populous settlements, scorched banana groves, and prostrate palms, all betokened ruthless ruin."

The perpetrators of this wreckage were slavers. As late as 1883 -- when Stanley wrote -- they were scouring the African countryside for people they could seize and haul into bondage. Their gruesome search destroyed whole villages, leaving once-prosperous areas devoid of inhabitants. Their forced marches to the coast were ghastly, with the exposed bones of captives who died along the way so numerous they practically served as trail markers. Those who survived the ordeal -- fewer than half, by some estimates -- were exported to the world's final repository of slavery: the Islamic world.

The phenomenon of Muslim slavery is not often studied, and especially not the Muslim enslavement of black Africans. "A list of serious scholarly monographs on [Islamic] slavery -- in law, in doctrine, or in practice -- could be printed on a single page," wrote Princeton's Bernard Lewis in his pioneering but brief book Race and Slavery in the Middle East (1990). He went on to suggest that the subject is so "highly sensitive" that it would be "professionally hazardous" for young scholars to take it up. Indeed, among the thousands of professors and graduate students affiliated with Middle Eastern studies programs in the U.S., only a handful have dared to broach the controversial topic, and a comprehensive history and analysis of it remains to be written.

This stands in stark contrast to the huge amount of scholarship on slavery in the West. Judging by the sheer volume of material, one might come away with the mistaken impression that nowhere was the vile institution of slavery more entrenched than among the American hypocrites who declared that all men are created equal. And yet throughout Muslim history, starting with Mohammed himself, slavery was a vigorous and central part of Islamic civilization. This is not to say Islamic slavery was worse than American slavery; in many ways, life was easier under Muslim owners than under Mississippi owners. The problem, rather, is that the Islamic world has not experienced the same kind of moral reckoning on slavery that the West has. Muslim countries proved extremely resistant to abolition; many of them had to be dragged into it by the European colonial powers. 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?"

Words are one thing, and actions another. Even today, however, Islamic abolition cannot be called a complete success: Slavery continues to be practiced in at least two nations whose regimes claim to derive their legitimacy from Islam. These nations are Mauritania and Sudan, and Muslims remain virtually silent about the practices of their coreligionists there.

Slavery is an ancient institution, as old as recorded history. Aristotle defended it; both the Old and New Testaments accept it as a feature of the human condition. The Koran takes a similar view -- though it also encourages (without commanding) slaveholders to treat their slaves well, and urges (without requiring) their release. In Islamic theology, slave ownership is a morally neutral act, but God smiles on those who give slaves their liberty.

The characteristics of Muslim slavery have been far from uniform over the centuries, but it is possible to identify a few general traits. For starters, slaves were accorded more legal protections in the Islamic world than they received almost anywhere else. Slavery came under an intricate set of regulations that, for example, forbade the use of slaves as prostitutes, and prevented mothers and young children from being separated. The act of enslavement also wasn't supposed to occur on Muslim soil, though the slavers and their customers didn't always pay close attention to this rule. In the 19th century, Captain G. F. Lyon of the Royal Navy described slaveholding in Libya: "They seize on the inhabitants of whole towns where the only religion is that of the Koran, and where there are mosques; and this is without scruple or remorse."

There was plenty of cruelty -- slavery, of course, always involves cruelty -- but many chattels of Muslims were essentially domestic workers who functioned as surrogate members of the master's family. "Slaves in Islam were directed mainly at the service sector -- concubines and cooks, porters and soldiers -- with slavery itself primarily a form of consumption rather than a factor of production," writes Ronald Segal in Islam's Black Slaves. Perhaps the most important difference between slavery in the West and slavery in Islam is a demographic one: Two-thirds of the slaves transported across the Atlantic were male, and two-thirds of those involved in the Muslim trade were female.

Over time, sub-Saharan Africa became the principal source of involuntary labor. Muslims were not the first people to enslave black Africans -- the ancient Egyptians had done it -- but they were the first to engage in it systematically on a massive scale. Going back to Islam's birth in the 7th century, historian Raymond Mauvy estimates that 14 million black slaves have been sold to Muslims. (This compares to Paul E. Lovejoy's estimate of 10 to 11 million Africans shipped in chains to the Western Hemisphere between 1650 and 1900; the vast majority of them were sent to Latin America and the Caribbean, and half a million to British North America and the U.S.) The journey from the slave's homeland to the Middle East was often a treacherous one, especially when it involved enduring the blistering heat of a Sahara crossing. Yet the march was dangerous everywhere -- an Islamic version of the brutal Middle Passage. The dead frequently outnumbered the survivors on these journeys, often by a lot. Slavers accepted the high casualty rates because their business was so lucrative. "It is like sending up to London for a large block of ice in the summer," wrote a 19th-century missionary in what is now Tanzania. "You know that a certain amount of it will melt away before it reaches you . . . but that which remains will be quite sufficient for your wants."

The oddest aspect of Islamic slavery was the eunuch. Castrated male slaves became exceedingly popular in the Middle East sometime after the rise of Islam. They are best known for serving as harem guards, but they were also mosque custodians, administrators, and teachers. Eunuchs were bought and sold at a premium, in part because their grisly operation resulted in many fatalities. Their popularity remains something of a mystery. "One can only speculate that eunuchs were regarded as likely to be more devoted and dependable in serving their masters than other males, with normal distractions, would be," writes Segal. Whatever the reason, eunuchs became fixtures of Muslim culture. Islam teaches against physical mutilation, so Muslims found themselves searching for loopholes. Many eunuchs were castrated in non-Muslim territory immediately before importation, in the belief that this somehow kept Islamic land pure; a business in commercial castration thus developed along the fringes of the Muslim world. (Prague is said to have specialized in this during the period when Islam imported many slaves from Europe.) Muslims later accepted castration within their own lands, so long as non-Muslims performed the deed.

Slavery, in short, was an ingrained part of Islamic culture -- and it might still have been one today, but for European insistence that Muslims end it. As recently as 1878, the holy cities of Mecca and Medina served as major slave markets, trading 25,000 slaves annually. The eradication of slavery, in fact, is one of the great and unheralded legacies of colonialism.

The first Islamic countries to abolish slavery -- Tunisia, Egypt, the Ottoman Empire -- did so under pressure from the West. Others were more obstinate. In East Africa, slavery continued until after World War I. Its persistence into the 20th century explains why the League of Nations prioritized the abolition of slavery, even though doing so must have seemed an anachronism to unsuspecting Westerners. It wasn't until the start of World War II that Ethiopia and Liberia had gotten rid of slavery. Later still, the U.N.'s Declaration of Human Rights condemned slavery -- again, because the Islamic world had failed to wipe it out. In 1953, sheikhs from Qatar attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II included slaves in their retinues, and they did so again on another visit five years later. Saudi Arabia and Yemen didn't get around to abolishing slavery until 1962; three years later, a special report by the U.N. reported that the Saudi royal family continued to keep hundreds in bondage.

Mauritania outlawed slavery in 1980, apparently because its two earlier prohibitions (in 1905 and 1960) were ignored. Today, it is illegal for Mauritanians to say that slavery exists in their country -- a sure sign that it really does. By some estimates, at least 100,000 of Mauritania's 2.7 million people continue to live in unpaid servitude, most of them blacks toiling for light-skinned Moorish masters. Slavery goes back centuries in Mauritania, and there's a long tradition of slaves' working for the same family across generations. Apologists say that those who remain in this capacity aren't slaves at all, but servants who volunteer to trade their labor for room and board. Yet these claims are effectively rebutted by a small group of escapees who have delivered powerful personal testimonies of beatings and bondage. Reliable information on what's really happening in Mauritania is hard to come by because the Islamic government won't allow investigations. Foreign journalists must travel in the company of the secret police and face expulsion if they ask too many questions. In January, the government banned the main opposition party, which has demanded slavery's eradication. Mauritania has far to go before slavery ceases within its borders.

Sudan has received considerably more attention than Mauritania. In April, an organization affiliated with the Boston-based American Anti- Slavery Group made headlines by purchasing 3,000 slaves at $33 apiece and releasing them, and also negotiating the release of 3,000 others. Another group, the Swiss-based Christian Solidarity International, says it has bought freedom for 60,000 slaves in Sudan over the last several years. (This raises a separate question: Does buying slaves from modern-day slave traders wind up perpetuating their wretched business?) As with Mauritania, there are no truly credible numbers describing the extent of the problem. Sudan has engaged in slaving and slaveholding for ages; the current wave seems to have begun in 1983, with the imposition of Islamic law. Following the 1989 coup by the Islamofascist general Omar el-Bashir, the government became actively involved in arming the slavers and supporting their operations in the southern part of the country, where Muslims are outnumbered by Christians and other non-Muslims. These slavers' methods are especially vicious: The men are shot, the women and girls are sold into concubinage, and the boys are fortunate if they become unpaid cattle herders.

In considering the history of slavery in Islam and in the West, it is a mistake to decide that one branch of the same evil represents the greater sin. Instead, it is probably enough to say the human toll in both places was horrible: Call it "immoral equivalence." But there's an important difference today. The United States finds itself apologizing for slavery (at least when Bill Clinton visits Africa), handing out huge amounts of foreign aid (partly from a sense of guilt), and giving at least passing thought to financial reparations for the descendants of its own slaves. Yet when Muslim countries gather at international forums, they discuss none of this -- and instead spend their time writing resolutions bashing Israel and the West. They appear to feel no remorse for the past, and no responsibility for the present. While the West has its problems, it does not have this one.

COPYRIGHT 2002 National Review, Inc.