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Islam and Slavery


Date Published: 
Monday, 24 October, 2016

Tens of millions of people were placed under the Muslim yoke over the centuries, and yet servitude remains marginal to general accounts of Islamic history. The consensus is that slaves consisted mainly of female domestics and concubines.
Islam has thus mattered to servitude, and continues to do so, albeit not as some monolithic juggernaut imposing one model uniformly on believers across time and space. Fractures in Islamic beliefs were of multiple and complex origins, often originating in non-economic factors, but they could effect who became a slave, how they were treated, and under what conditions they, or their descendants, were freed. Such ideological debates undoubtedly meshed with specific economic interests, but causality by no means simply flowed from the base to the superstructure.