Question/answers about my article on the slave trade

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Q: Everything the USA has today is connected to 300 years of free black labour. A: I will let someone else decide how important cheap labor was for the American economy. I just want to point out that slaves were used by Arabs for more than 1,000 years (not just 300 years) and that every civilization in the world has used slaves. So the argument that slaves helped an economy applies to any civilization. It applies "less" to countries born recently (USA, Germany, etc) because they just didn't exist in the boom periods of the slave trade. To give you an idea, the percentage of slaves in ancient Greece was 300% the free population, and in the Arab emirates it was about 100% the free population. In the USA it never reached more than 10%. Slavery still exists in one part of the world: the Arab world. Slavery is actually prescibed in the Quran, so it is technically legal in all Islamic countries of the world.
Q: I do not know about Greece, but slavery was not the economic backbone of the middle East. In Arabia they were no massive fields of slaves with whips over their backs turning out sugar (which was the primary income generator which built up the Caribbean). A: On the contrary. Slavery was quite important for the Arab economies. Until very recently, Arab countries had very few people, and therefore a great demand for forced immigration. The Europeans simply improved on the Arab model. The first sugar plantations to use mass-scale systems were in Lebanon, run by the Arabs. With the crusades, some Italian merchants learned how the Arab were doing things, and used Portuguese islands to create the same kind of sugar plantations (Madeira in particular). When Portugal discovered how easy it was to purchase slaves from the African kingdoms, the sugar plantations moved to Portugal's colonies in Africa. When Portugal began colinizing Brazil, the plantations (and the slaves) moved to Brazil. So it was actually the Arabs who invented the "sugar" economy that the Portuguese refined in Brazil and eventually reached British north America and spread to cotton.
Q: No, chattel slavery is not legal in Islam. A: I have studied Islam for many years. I have found many references to slaves as a "natural" part of society, but never a single sentence that says "slavery is bad". One of the duties of a good Muslim is to free one of his own slaves (I write "his" because only men are allowed to own slaves). If you cannot free one fo your slaves, you're supposed to fast for two consecutive months (Quran 4:92). So, by definition, slaves exist in Islam. The Quran also prescibes that a master is allowed to marry a slave (Quran 4:3), which, again, means that slavery is ok. The Mamelukes were children of non-Muslim slaves, raised by Islamic priests.
Q: Islam came at a time when slavery (not chattel Slavery) was in existence. A: Every people can say this. Slavery has always existed. What is chattel and what is not chattel? When you are owned by a master, and you are not free to leave the master, you are his property.
Q: In the Hadith you will find numerous references to freeing the slave as an act > of worship and true belief. A: Yes, just like charity and other "good deeds". But you misunderstand the concept: charity is good not because money is bad, but because money is very important, so giving money to the mosque is a good deed. Ditto for slaves: freeing a slave is a good deed because slaves are precious. It is still that way today in Saudi Arabia and other places.
Q: Islam stipulates extreme rules regarding those who still owned slaves: you cannot slap a slave, he must wear what you wear, eat what you eat, A: There were laws protecting slaves in all countries that engaged in slavery. Needless to say, reality was much different. Anyway, your very statement proves that Islam prescibes slavery and even prescribes how to treat slaves.
Q: Islamic fiqh eventually made slavery illegal altogether. A: Unfortunately, the only countries that today (2004) still have slavery are Islamic. We still have to convince Saudi Arabia that slavery should be banned. The problem is that countries like Saudi Arabia are very Islamic, and they cannot contradict the Quran and the religious authorities. As far as i know, Islam is the only religion in the world that has refused to condemn slavery. Leaders of Christianity, Buddhism and Confucianism have long condemned it. But no major Islamic leader ever fully condemned it. And the reason is simple: Mohammed in person practised slavery and found nothing wrong with it. So you have to decide if Mohammed was a prophet or not. If he was a prophet, then everything he did is right, including slavery.
Q: From Sudan to Saudi slavery is condemned. A: No, both Sudan and Saudi Arabia admit slavery. They have never condemned it. That's why it still exists. In fact, i could quote several high-ranking officials from those countries who defended slavery. Just last year the Saudi ambassador in Washington, far from pledging to crack down on slave owners and slave traders, defended slavery as a way to give poor Africans and Asians a chance in life...
For example, the man in charge of deciding what students should study in Saudi Arabia recently stated his approval of slavery.

Q: Islam was and is still opposed to slavery. A:

From the Quran and the Hadith:
"A slave, the property of another, has no power over anything" (Sura 16.75)
"Your slaves are your brethren upon whom Allah has given you authority" (Hadith 3.721)

From Islamic scholars of ancient times:
"Slavery is justified... it is not permissible to enslave a free Muslim, but it is lawful to enslave the infidel, and it also makes it lawful to take his offspring into captivity." (Mufti Ibn Timiyya, Vol 31, p 380)
"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." (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, "Zad al-Ma'ad", Part I, p. 160),
"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 Harith..." (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya: "Zad al-Ma'ad" Part 1, pp. 114, 115, and 116)
The following episode is reported by all ancient chroniclers of Mohammed. The two female slaves of Mohammed captured in battle and forced to have sex with him where Maria (Christian) and Rayhana (Jewish). After the battle with the Jewish tribe of Quraiza, Rayhana was crying and mourning for her husband's death by the order of Mohammed, but in the same night that Mohammed massacred her tribe in cold blood, he forced himself upon her.
(I was not there: I am just quoting holy Islamic chroniclers, studied in all madrasa of the Islamic world).

From Ahreeman's "History of Slavery in Iran":
"Slavery was basically non existent in the Persian Empire before Islam. Persians... never open practiced slavery... They were anti slavery and the best example was the released of 42,000 Jews from slavery in Babylon by Cyrus The Great... When Islam came to Persia, slavery came with it. Arabs took many Persians as slaves, basically young boys and girls. Young girls would be forced to become concubines and young boys were forced to become "toy boys". Strong and bigger boys would become slave laborers for Muslims. Persian women were sent by tens of thousands to the Arabian Peninsula... During the 222 years of Arab occupation, Iran imported slaves from Africa such as Ethiopia... The term "Nokar-e Khan-e Zad" (house nigger) is a popular Persian term which originated in those times. Slavery was a norm during the 222 years of Persia's occupation under Islam... When Yaqoob Leis Saffarid liberated Iran, the tradition of slavery started to fade away."

In the early stages of Islam, slaves were used in the "American" way. In southern Iraq, they were put to work in large quantities to clear the salt crust for agriculture and plantation labor. In the ninth century, following a slave rebellion that caused much damage in Baghdad, there developed a reluctance to allow large concentrations of slaves for plantation agriculture, and slavery was limited to domestic use. Like it is today in Saudi Arabia.

I forgot Mauritania. The Anti-Slavery Society's findings (1982) and those of Africa Watch (1990) estimate 100,000 slaves and additional 300,000 half-slaves, all of them black, still being held as slaves by Arabs in Mauritania.

The Saudi ambassador to the USA, Prince Bandar, is the son of a black slave family originally sold by Sudanese slave traders to a wealthy Saudi Arabian family.

I suggest you read the "Arab Human Development Report 2002", written by a group of Arab intellectuals (many living in Arab countries). They are more objective than you in confronting the problems of the Arab world.

Bottom line: the Quran tolerates slavery. Mohammed himself practiced and tolerated slavery.