Questions and Answers > Qur'an > Moral

Does the Qur'an support slavery?

1. Slavery is legal in the Qur’an
Slaves are mentioned in at least 29 verses in the Qur’an, and most of them refer to the legal status of slaves. Slaves are in most verses referred with “that which your hands own” and in most cases it is about female slaves [1]. The Qur’an accepts slavery and that the position of a master and a slave is not equal (Qur’an 16:77 and 30:28). A believer will be a slave owner according to the Qur’an: “Allah will not impose blame upon you for what is meaningless in your oaths, but He will impose blame upon you for [breaking] what you intended of oaths. So its expiation is the feeding of ten needy people from the average of that which you feed your [own] families or clothing them or the freeing of a slave” (Qur’an 5:89). And also: “We have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have given their due compensation and those your right hand possesses from what Allah has returned to you [of captives]” (Qur’an 33:50). This verse supports to take one or more slaves in war was as a reward.

2. Sex-slaves in the Qur’an
The Qur’an also provides guidelines about marriages with slaves [2]: “And marry the unmarried among you and the righteous among your male slaves and female slaves.” (Qur’an 24:32). The Qur’an allows that Muslim man can have sex-slaves as concubines: “Save from their wives or the (slaves) that their right hands possess, for then they are not blameworthy” (Qur’an 23:6). More Qur’an support for sex-slaves as concubines is in Qur’an 4:3, 33:50-52 and 70:30.

3. Slavery in Muslim countries
Under Islam, slaves have no legal rights and are considered as the property of their master. When the Muslim countries could no longer conquer new countries and get slaves from them, they started with requests to the new conquered countries to supply new slaves. Therefore the Arabs developed a big network of slave trading from China, Southeast Asia and Southeast Europe till Western Africa. Every city in the Islamic world had a slave market. The unlucky slaves had to do the hard work in mines and on the plantations. Many female slaves had to work as a prostitute [3]. Slaves had very limited rights in Islam. Muslim men had the right to have sex with their females slaves any time, according to Qur’an 4:3, 4:29 and 33:49. And Qur’an 16:77 says that slaves are helpless before their masters. Slavery still exist in the last areas of radical Islam continues till today [4].

4. Conclusion
Because Muslims hold the Qur’an as valid for all time, Islam has in 21th century a big problem with the above mentioned Qur’an about slavery, because the verses are against human rights.


Notes:

[1] Jonathan E. Brockopp, Slaves and slavery, in: Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, Brill, Leiden, 2002, Volume Five, 56-57.
[2] Robert Spencer, Islam Unveiled. Disturbing questions about The World’s Fastest-Growing Faith, Encounter Books, San Francisco, 2002, 63.
[3] Ibn Warraq, Why I am not a Muslim, Prometheus, New York, 1995, 203.
[4] Ibid, 64.