From a scientific point of view, and particularly physiologically, there is no difference between an Arab woman and a Byzantine woman captured by Muslim armies and sold off as slaves in the slave market. The Qur'an says that Those of you who die and leave wives behind, these should keep themselves in waiting for four months and ten days.[i] The purpose of the ‘idda (waiting period) of four months and ten days is to ensure that the uterus is free of any fetus.
BUT WHEN THE COMMAND came to the female slave, that is, the mulk al-yamīn, Malik quoted Sa’īd ibn al-Musayyib and Sulaymān ibn Yasār, who said:
The ‘idda of the mother of a child, when her husband dies, is to be two months and five nights. It was narrated that Ibn ‘Umar had said: If her master perishes the ‘idda of the mother of a child is to last one of her periods.[ii]
‘The mother of the child’ is the mother with whom her master cohabits and who bears him one or more children. There is, of course, no reason to halve the length of the mother’s ‘idda in the case of a free women other than Arab racism, given that the duration of a pregnancy is the same in both.
Arab racism continues even when it comes to punishment
But Arab racism continues even when it comes to punishment, for if a free married woman commits an act of indecency she is to be stoned, while a married slave woman committing an act of indecency is merely flogged, for the Qur’ān had said of the slave women:
When they are taken in marriage, if they are guilty of indecency, they shall suffer half the punishment which is inflicted upon free women.[Qur’ān IV (al-Nisā’), 25].
What is the difference between an Arab Muslim woman committing adultery and another brought from North Africa who subsequently became a Muslim and married? Even the area denoted as the pudendum of the slave woman is limited to between the chest and the knee, while the pudendum of the free woman covers her entire body. The slave woman has half the freedom in all things even if she is a Muslim like themselves, in much the same way that Islam has made women to be half the value of men and allowed men to enslave them, as Islamic jurists such as al-Ghazālī maintain.
So if there are two Muslims, one a free Arab and the other an enslaved captive Persian who converts to Islam, he still remains a slave. If a Persian kills an Arab the Persian is to be executed, but if an Arab kills a Persian slave, he is not killed for spilling his blood. On this Al-Qurṭubī writes:
Scholars have unanimously agreed that when the Almighty said: It is not for a believer to kill a believer unless it be by mistake, but this does not apply to slaves, since what was intended by this was free men not slaves. There is also the Prophet’s saying that: “Muslims are recompensed as to their blood”, but again, what was intended by this was free men in particular, and the vast majority agree on this.[iii]
Al-Muṭṭaqī al-Hindī said the following:
According to the authority of Al-Aḥnaf ibn Qays from ‘Alī from ‘Umar: “For killing a free man the slave is to be executed”. Their view was that ‘the blood price is unreachable”.[iv]
If there are two Muslims, one a free Arab and the other an enslaved captive Persian who converts to Islam, he still remains a slave
Does the conscience of a normal man, even if he owns a female slave, allow him to have sex with her so that she conceives bears him a son, and then to sell her off? Ibn Rushd al-Qurṭubī says the following on this:
Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq and ‘Alī (may Allah be pleased with them), Ibn ‘Abbās, Ibn al-Zubayr, Jābir ibn ‘Abdullah and Abū Sa‘īd al-Khudrī permitted the sale of the mother of a child, and on this the Ẓāhirī jurists in North Africa pronounced. Jābir and Abū Sa‘īd said: “We used to sell off mothers with children and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not see anything wrong in that”. They objected to what Jābir was said to have narrated, that “We used to sell off mothers with children during the era of the Messenger of Allah and during the time of Abū Bakr and this was the established practice in the caliphate of ‘Umar, until ‘Umar forbade their sale”.[v]
A free Muslim man may contract four marriages, but a Muslim slave is not:
Abū Ḥanīfa and al-Shāfi‘ī Hanifa said: “These may only marry the one person. And the reason for the difference is the issue of whether the category of slavery should influence this reduction in the same way that it influences the reduction by half of the ḥadd penalty for adultery imposed on a free person, and for divorce if that were witnessed. This is because the Muslims agreed to halve the ḥadd punishment for adultery. What I mean by this is that the ḥadd is half that for the free man. On other matters they differed.[vi]
Even so, Muslims say that Islam honoured slaves and recommended their emancipation, just as it honoured and cherished women. They know full well that for every slave they freed, their armies imported thousands of new slaves. In the end, more than a thousand years after the Qur’ānic verses on the freeing of slaves, the nation’s tally of male and female slaves was many times more than the number of those freed.
Does the conscience of a normal man allow him to have sex with her and then to sell her off?
Although slavery has been forbidden the world over, slavery is still practised in Yemen and Mauritania. The Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, continue to practice modern slavery through the sponsorship system of imported labour, male and female. They still treat them in a manner that falls below the humane, and this despite their claim that there is no difference between an Arab and a non-Arab in anything other than their level of piety.
Since all of Islam is based on contradictions, no Muslim has stood up to ask himself about the famous saying attributed to ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb:
“When was it that you enslaved people while their mothers gave birth to them free?”
And they still repeat this without thinking. How is it possible that ‘Umar could say this when he himself owned eight slaves, and in the year eleven AH purchased his slave Aslam in Makka from some Ash‘arīs?[vii] This man sent his armies to conquer Persia and the Levant and returned with hundreds of thousands of captive slaves who were distributed by ‘Umar among the Muslims.
The Nation, which has surrendered its minds to the jurists of Islam, has lost the capacity for affection, for love for the Other who may be different. It has armed itself with the jurisprudence of al-walā’ wal-barā’,[viii] and has justified it to its members who are the slaves of God and their rulers, so that they may own Muslim slaves like themselves and sell them off in the slave market as if they were trading in animals. We are not surprised if they pine for those good old days when they invaded countries thousands of miles away, insulted their women, enslaved their men, and forced them into labour in their service, while at the same time diverting themselves by marrying slave women.
[i] Qur’ān II (al-Baqara), 224.
[ii] Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī, الدر المنثور في التفسير بالمأثور Part 1, Sūrat al-Baqara 281.
[iii] Al-Qurṭubī, الجامع لأحكام القرآن Vol.5, Sūrat al-Nisā’, 92.
[iv] Al-Muṭṭaqī al-Hindī: كنز العمال Vol.55, section ‘Retaliation and Killing’, Hadith no. 40176.
[v] Ibn Rushd al-Qurṭubī, بداية المجتهد ونهاية المقتصد Vol. 2 section: ‘Mothers with Children’, p.120.
[vi] Ibn Rushd al-Qurṭubī, بداية المجتهد ونهاية المقتصد Vol. 2 p.367.
[vii] Ibn al-Athīr, الكامل في التاريخ Vol.2, p.204 and Ibn al-Jawzī, المنتظم في التاريخ Vol.4 p.47.
Read Part One of this essay here