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Question: Does Islam condone slavery? Does Islamic teaching allow Muslim men to keep women as sex slaves?
Summary Answer: Far from ignoring or condemning slavery, Islam condones the horrible institution like no other religion.
Muslims are encouraged to live in the way of Muhammad, who was a slave owner and trader. He captured slaves in battle. He had sex with his slaves. And he instructed his men to do the same. The Qur'an actually devotes more verses to making sure that Muslim men know they can keep women as sex slaves than it does to telling them to pray five times a day.
The Qur'an: Qur'an (33:50) - "O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those (slaves) whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee" This is a special command that Muhammad handed down to himself, allowing himself virtually unlimited sex. Others are limited to four wives, but may also have sex with an unlimited number of slaves, as the following verse make clear:
Qur'an (23:5-6) - "..who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess..."
This verse allows the slave-owner to have sex with his slaves. See also Qur'an (70:29-30).
Qur'an (4:24) - "And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess." Even sex with married slaves is permissible.
Qur'an (8:69) - "But (now) enjoy what ye took in war, lawful and good" A reference to war booty, of which slaves were a part. The Muslim slave master may enjoy his "catch" because (according to verse 71) "Allah gave you mastery over them."
Qur'an (24:32) - "And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves..." Breeding slaves based on fitness.
Qur'an (2:178) - "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 message of this verse, which prescribes the rules of retaliation for murder, is that all humans are not created equal. The human value of a slave is less than that of a free person (and a woman's worth is also distinguished from that of a man's).
Qur'an (16:75) - "Allah sets forth the Parable (of two men: one) a slave under the dominion of another; He has no power of any sort; and (the other) a man on whom We have bestowed goodly favours from Ourselves, and he spends thereof (freely), privately and publicly: are the two equal? (By no means;) praise be to Allah." Yet another confirmation that the slave is is not equal to the master. In this case it is plain that the slave owes his status to Allah's will. (According to 16:71, the owner should be careful about insulting Allah by bestowing Allah's gifts on slaves - those whom the god of Islam has not favored).
From the Hadith:
Bukhari (80:753) - "The Prophet said, 'The freed slave belongs to the people who have freed him.'"
Bukhari (52:255) - The slave who accepts Islam and continues serving his Muslim master will receive a double reward in heaven.
Bukhari (41.598) - Slaves are property. They cannot be freed if an owner has outstanding debt, but rather used to pay off the debt.
Bukhari (62:137) - An account of women taken as slaves in battle by Muhammad's men after their husbands and fathers were killed. The woman were raped with Muhammad's approval.
Bukhari (34:432) - Another account of females taken captive and raped with Muhammad's approval. In this case it is evident that the Muslims intend on selling the women after raping them because they are concerned about devaluing their price by impregnating them. Muhammad is asked about coitus interruptus.
Bukhari (47.765) - A woman is rebuked by Muhammad for freeing a slave girl. The prophet tells her that she would have gotten a greater heavenly reward by giving her to a relative (as a slave).
Bukhari (34:351) - Muhammad sells a slave for money. He was thus a slave trader.
Bukhari (72:734) - Some contemporary Muslims in the West, where slavery is believed to be a horrible crime, are reluctant to believe that Muhammad owned slaves. This is just one of many places in the Hadith where a reference is made to a human being owned by Muhammad. In this case, the slave is of African descent.
Muslim 3901 - Muhammad trades away two black slaves for one Muslim slave.
Muslim 4112 - A man freed six slaves on the event of his death, but Muhammad reversed the emancipation and kept four in slavery to himself. He cast lots to determine which two to free.
Bukhari (47:743) - Muhammad's own pulpit - from which he preached Islam - was built with slave labor on his command.
Bukhari (59:637) - "The Prophet sent Ali to Khalid to bring the Khumus (of the booty) and I hated Ali, and Ali had taken a bath (after a sexual act with a slave-girl from the Khumus). I said to Khalid, 'Don't you see this (i.e. Ali)?' When we reached the Prophet I mentioned that to him. He said, 'O Buraida! Do you hate Ali?' I said, 'Yes.' He said, 'Do you hate him, for he deserves more than that from the Khumlus.'" Muhammad approved of his men having sex with slaves, as this episode involving his son-in-law, Ali, clearly proves. This hadith refutes the modern apologists who pretend that slaves were really "wives," since Muhammad had forbidden Ali from marrying another woman as long as Fatima (his favorite daughter) was living.
Abu Dawud (2150) - "The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) sent a military expedition to Awtas on the occasion of the battle of Hunain. They
met their enemy and fought with them. They defeated them and took them captives. Some of the Companions of the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) were reluctant to have intercourse with the female captives in the presence of their husbands who were unbelievers. So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Qur’anic verse: (Qur'an 4:24) 'And all married women (are forbidden) unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.'" This is the background for verse 4:24 of the Qur'an. Not only does Allah grant permission for women to be captured and raped, but allows it to even be done in front of their husbands.
Ibn Ishaq (734) - A slave girl is given a "violent beating" by Ali in the presence of Muhammad, who does nothing about it.
Ibn Ishaq (693) - "Then the apostle sent Sa-d b. Zayd al-Ansari, brother of Abdu'l-Ashal with some of the captive women of Banu Qurayza to Najd and he sold them for horses and weapons." Muhammad trades away women captured from the Banu Qurayza tribe to non-Muslim slave traders for property. (Their men had been executed after surrendering peacefully without a fight).
Umdat al-Salik (Reliance of the Traveller) (o9.13) - According to Sharia, when a child or woman is taken captive by Muslims, they become slaves by the fact of their capture. A captured woman's previous marriage is immediately annulled.
Slavery is deeply embedded in Islamic law and tradition. Although a slaveowner is cautioned against treating slaves harshly, basic human rights are not obliged. The very fact that only non-Muslims may be taken as slaves is evidence of Islam's supremacist doctrine.
Of the five references to freeing a slave in the Qur'an, three are prescribed as punitive measures against the slaveholder for unrelated sin, and limits the emancipation to just a single slave. Another (24:33) appears to allow a slave to buy their freedom if they are "good." (This is consistent with the traditional Islamic practice of wealth-building through the taking and ransoming of hostages, which began under Muhammad).
A tiny verse in one of the earliest verses 90:13 does say that freeing a slave is good, however, this was "revealed" at a time when the Muslim community was miniscule and several of their new and potential recruits were either actual slaves or newly freed slaves. Many of these same people, and Muhammad himself, later went on to become owners and traders of slaves, both male and female, as they acquired the power to do so. The language of the Qur'an changed to accommodate slavery, which is why this early verse has had negligible impact on slavery in the Islamic world.
Contrary to popular myth, converting to Islam does not automatically earn a slave his freedom, although doing so is said to increase a slave master's heavenly reward (Muslim slaves are implied in Qur'an (4:92)). As far as the Islamic courts are concerned, a master may treat his slaves however he chooses without fear of punishment.
By contrast, Christianity was a major impetus in the movement to abolish the age-old institution of slavery. Yet, abolition had to be imposed on the Islamic world by the West.
Given that there was no abolitionary movement within the Islamic world, it is astonishing to see contemporary Muslims write their religion into the history of abolition. The lie - that the eradication of slavery had anything to do with Islam - has been repeated so often that even those who may parrot it are blissfully ignorant of its lack of factual foundation.
There was no William Wilberforce or Bartoleme de las Casas in Islam. As mentioned, Muhammad, the most revered figure in the religion, practiced and approved of slavery. Even his own pulpit was built with slave labor. The second caliph, a companion of the prophet, was stabbed to death by a slave whose liberty he refused to grant. Caliphs since have had harems of hundreds, sometimes thousands of young girls and women brought from Christian lands and other places to service the desires of Islam's religious equivalent of the pope in the most demeaning fashion.
Literally millions of Christians were captured into slavery during the many centuries of Jihad against the West. So pervasive were the incursions by the Turks into Eastern Europe, that the English word for slave is based on Slav. Muslim slave raiders even operated as far north as England. In 1631, a French cleric in Algiers observed the sale of nearly 300 men, women and children, taken from a peaceful English fishing village:
"It was a pitiful sight to see them exposed in the market…Women were separated from their husbands and the children from their fathers…on one side a husband was sold; on the other his wife; and her daughter was torn from her arms without the hope that they’d ever see each other again." (from the book, White Gold, which also details the story of English slave, Thomas Pellow, who was beaten, starved and tortured into embracing Islam).
The Indian and Persian people suffered mightily as well - as did Africans. At least 17 million slaves (mostly black women and children) were brought out of Africa by Islamic traders - far more than the 11 million that were taken by the Europeans. However, these were only the survivors. As many as 85 million other Africans were thought to have died en route.
Most telling, perhaps, is that slavery is still practiced in the Sudan, Niger, Mauritania and a few other corners of the Muslim world - and you won't see any of those Muslim apologists (who shamelessly repeat the lie that Islam abolished slavery) doing or saying anything about it!
Since Muhammad was a slave owner and slavery is permitted by the Qur'an, the Muslim world has never apologized for this dehumanizing practice. Even Muslims in the West will often try to justify slavery under Islam, since it is a part of the Qur'an.
Islam is intolerant of enslaving human beings. The religion eradicated the institution of slavery thanks to the principles set in motion by Muhammad, who was an abolitionist.
There is not the least bit of intolerance for slavery anywhere in the Qur’an. In fact, the “holy” book of Islam explicitly gives slave-owners the freedom to sexually exploit their slaves – not just in one place, but in at least four separate Suras. Islamic law is littered with rules concerning the treatment
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of slaves, some of which are relatively humane, but none that prohibit the actual practice by any stretch.
The very presence of these rules condones and legitimizes the institution of slavery. Adding to this is the fact that Muhammad was an avid slave trader. After providing ample evidence of his activities according to the most reliable Muslim biographers, the Center of the Study of Political Islam summarizes its findings:
Muhammad captured slaves, sold slaves, bought slaves as gifts of pleasure, received slaves as gifts, and used slaves for work. The Sira is exquisitely clear on the issue of slavery. (Muhammad and the Unbelievers: a Political Life)
Even the very pulpit from which Muhammad preached Islam was built by slave labor on his command!
As such, this deeply dehumanizing horror has been a ubiquitous tradition of Islam since the days of Muhammad to the current plight of non-Muslims in the Sudan, Mali, Niger and Mauritania, as well as other parts of the Muslim world.
There has never been an abolitionary movement within Islam (just as the religion produces no organized resistance to present-day enslavement). The abolition of slavery was imposed on the Islamic world by European countries, along with other political pressures that were entirely unrelated to Islamic law.
Although horrible abuses of slaves in the Muslim world were recorded, there has been little inclination toward the documentation and earnest contrition that one finds in the West. The absence of a guilty Muslim conscience often
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leads to the mistaken impression that slavery was not as bad under Islam... when it is actually indicative of the explicit tolerance the religion has for this practice
So narcissistic is the effect of Islam on the devoted, that to this day many Muslims believe in their hearts that the women and children carried off in battle, and their surviving men folk, were actually done a favor by the Muslim warriors who plucked them from their fields and homes and relegated them to lives of demeaning servitude.
Shame and apology, no matter how appropriate, are almost never to be found in Dar al-Islam. Caliphs, the religious equivalent of popes, maintained harems of hundreds, sometimes thousands of young girls and women captured from lands as far away as Europe and consigned to sexual slavery. Hungarians were hunted like animals by the Turks, who carried 3 million into slavery over a 150 year period in the 1500-1600's. In India, 200,000 Hindus were captured and transported to Iranian slave markets in just a two year span (1619-1620) by one of the kinder Muslim rulers.
African slaves were often castrated by their Muslim masters. Few survived to reproduce, which is why there are not many people of African descent living in the Middle East, even though more slaves were taken out of Africa in the 1300 years of Arab slave trading than in the 300 years of European slavery. The 400,000 slaves brought to America, for example, have now become a community of 30 million, with a much higher standard of living than their African peers.
There is no William Wilberforce or Bartoleme de las Casas in Islamic history as there is in Christianity. When asked to produce the name of a Muslim abolitionist, apologists sometimes meekly suggest Muhammad himself. But, if a slave owner and trader, who commanded the capture and sexual exploitation of slaves, and left a 13-century legacy of divinely-sanctioned
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slavery, is the best that Islam can offer, then no amount of sophistry will be enough to convince any but the most ignorant.
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),
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"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 (700900) 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
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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
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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).
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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 AlMujadilah).
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 alMudbir. 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.
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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:
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"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 alJawziyya'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
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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,
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"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).
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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
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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
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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
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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?
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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,
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"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.
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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!
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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.
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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!"
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CHRISTIANITY AND SLAVERY
The largest slave trade in the history of the world was created by Christian European nations. This is a fact.
It is also a fact that the Bible has many verses defending slavery.
In America before the Civil War, the majority of evangelical Christians were totally convinced that "their personal relationship with Jesus Christ" authorized them to own slaves.
Some evangelical factions in recent times did oppose the slave trade. In England they helped abolish it in the early 19th century. The radical abolitionist John Brown defended his raid at Harper's Ferry, Virginia in 1859 as an act against slavery born out of his Christian conviction.
However, throughout most of Christian history slavery has been a reality that has received the official sanction of the church. Leading figures in the Catholic Church, from St. Augustine, to numerous popes, to consider the enslavement of human beings to be a perfectly acceptable practice sanctioned by God. After the Reformation, this was a tradition that carried over into many Protestant sects as well.
The set of quotes below makes clear the depth of pro-slavery sentiment within the history of Christianity. They are not intended to be an exhaustive
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list. Rather, they are but a fraction of justifications based on Scripture that were used to uphold the existence of slavery.
JUSTIFICATION IN THE BIBLE
"Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also said, 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be his slave'. " -- Genesis 9:25-27
"If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.' If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever." -- Exodus 21:2-6
"When a slave owner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner's property." -Exodus 21:20-21.
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"Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property." -- Leviticus 25:44-45
"Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives." -- Matthew 24:45-46.
"Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful to them on the ground that they are members of the church; rather they must serve them all the more, since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these duties. Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain." -- 1 Timothy 6:15.
"Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." -Ephesians 6:5-6.
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"Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men." -- 1 Peter 2:13
"Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval." -1 Peter 2:18-29.
SLAVERY AND THE EARLY CHURCH FATHERS
ST THOMAS AQUINAS
"Slavery among men is natural, for some are naturally slaves according to the Philosopher (Polit. i, 2). Now 'slavery belongs to the right of nations,' as Isidore states (Etym. v, 4). Therefore the right of nations is a natural right."
Source: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, "On Justice"
"It belongs to justice to render to each one his right, the distinction between individuals being presupposed: for if a man gives himself his due, this is not strictly called 'just.' And since what belongs to the son is his father's, and what belongs to the slave is his master's, it follows that properly speaking there is not justice of father to son, or of master to slave."
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Source: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, "On Justice"
ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO
"The prime cause ... of slavery is sin, which brings man under the dominion of his fellow -- that which does not happen save by the judgment of God, with whom is no unrighteousness, and who knows how to award fit punishments to every variety of offence."
Source: St. Augustine of Hippo, City of God, Book XIX, Chapter. 15.
"Beyond question it is a happier thing to be the slave of a man than of a lust; for even this very lust of ruling, to mention no others, lays waste men's hearts with the most ruthless dominion."
Source: St. Augustine of Hippo, City of God, Book XIX, Chapter. 15.
"But by nature, as God first created us, no one is the slave either of man or of sin. This servitude is, however, penal, and is appointed by that law which enjoins the preservation of the natural order and forbids its disturbance; for if nothing had been done in violation of that law, there would have been nothing to restrain by penal servitude. And therefore the apostle admonishes slaves to be subject to their masters, and to serve them heartily and with good-will, so that, if they cannot be freed by their masters, they may themselves make their slavery in some sort free, by serving not in crafty fear, but in faithful love, until all unrighteousness pass away, and all principality and every human power be brought to nothing, and God be all in all."
Source: St. Augustine of Hippo, City of God, Book XIX, Chapter. 15.
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ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
"Masters contribute greater benefits to their servants than servants to their masters. For the former furnish the money to purchase for them sufficient food and clothing, and bestow much care upon them in other respects, so that the masters pay them the larger service ... they suffer much toil and trouble for your repose, ought they not in return to receive much honor from you, their servants?"
Source: St. John Chrysostom, "Homily 16 on 1 Timothy," quoted in Philip Schaff, Saint Chrysostom and Saint Augustin (New York: Whittaker Press,1889), p. 465.
"Astonishing! Where has he put slavery? As circumcision profits not, and uncircumcision does no harm, so neither doeth slavery, nor yet liberty. And that he might point out this with surpassing clarity, he says 'But even if thou canst become free, use it rather,' that is, rather continue as a slave. Now upon what possible ground does he tell the person who might be set free to remain a slave? He means to point out that slavery is no harm but rather an advantage."
Source: St. John Chrysostom, "Homily 19 on I Corinthians," quoted in Philip Schaff, Saint Chrysostom and Saint Augustin (New York: Whittaker Press,1889), p. 108.
"Since not at all for need’s sake was the class of slaves introduced, else even along with Adam had a slave been formed; but it is the penalty of sin and punishment of disobedience. But when Christ came, He put an end to this. ... So that it is not necessary to have a slave: or if it be at all necessary, let it be about one only, or at the most two."
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Source: St. John Chrysostom, "Homily 40 on I Corinthians".
SLAVERY AND CHURCH (CANON) LAW
"If any one shall teach a slave, under pretext of piety, to despise his master and to run away from his service, and not to serve his own master with good-will and all honour, let him be anathema."
Source: Synod of Gangra, ca. 340 C.E.
"Cruel avarice has so seized the hearts of some that though they glory in the name of Christians they provide the Saracens with arms and wood for helmets, and become their equals or even their superiors in wickedness and supply them with arms and necessaries to attack Christians. There are even some who for gain act as captains or pilots in galleys or Saracen pirate vessels. Therefore we declare that such persons should be cut off from the communion of the church and be excommunicated for their wickedness, that catholic princes and civil magistrates should confiscate their possessions, and that if they are captured they should become the slaves of their captors. We order that throughout the churches of maritime cities frequent and solemn excommunication should be pronounced against them."
Source: Canon 24, Third Lateran Council, 1179 C.E.
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"With regard to the Brabanters, Aragonese, Navarrese, Basques, Coterelli and Triaverdini, who practise such cruelty upon Christians that they respect neither churches nor monasteries, and spare neither widows, orphans, old or young nor any age or sex, but like pagans destroy and lay everything waste, we likewise decree that those who hire, keep or support them, in the districts where they rage around, should be denounced publicly on Sundays and other solemn days in the churches, that they should be subject in every way to the same sentence and penalty as the above-mentioned heretics and that they should not be received into the communion of the church, unless they abjure their pernicious society and heresy. As long as such people persist in their wickedness, let all who are bound to them by any pact know that they are free from all obligations of loyalty, homage or any obedience. On these and on all the faithful we enjoin, for the remission of sins, that they oppose this scourge with all their might and by arms protect the Christian people against them. Their goods are to be confiscated and princes free to subject them to slavery. Those who in true sorrow for their sins die in such a conflict should not doubt that they will receive forgiveness for their sins and the fruit of an eternal reward."
Source: Canon 27, Third Lateran Council, 1179 C.E.
"Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons. ... It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given. The purchaser should carefully examine whether the slave who is put up for sale has been justly or unjustly deprived of his liberty, and that the vendor should do nothing which might endanger the life, virtue, or Catholic faith of the slave."
Source: Instruction 20, The Holy Office (Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), June 20, 1866.
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SLAVERY AND THE PAPACY
"Indeed, the deeds of superiors are not to be smitten with the sword of the mouth, even when they are rightly thought to be deserving of reproof. And if sometimes the tongue in criticism of them slips in the least degree, the heart must be overwhelmed with penitential grief. It should reflect upon itself, and when it has offended the power set over it, it should dread the judgment passed against it by Him who appointed superiors. For when we offend those set over us, we oppose the ordinance of Him who set them above us."
Source: Pope Gregory I, ca. 540-604 C.E., quoted in Henry Davis, Pastoral Care; Ancient Christian Writers Series, no.11, (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1950), p. 100.
"Differently to be admonished are servants and masters. Servants, to wit, that they ever keep in view the humility of their condition; but masters, that they lose not recollection of their nature, in which they are constituted on an equality with servants. Servants are to be admonished that they despise not their masters, lest they offend God, if by behaving themselves proudly they gainsay His ordinance: masters, too, are to be admonished, that they are proud against God with respect to His gift, if they acknowledge not those whom they hold in subjection by reason of their condition to be their equals by reason of their community of nature. The former are to be admonished to know themselves to be servants of masters; the latter are to be admonished to acknowledge themselves to be fellow-servants of servants. For to those it is said, Servants, obey your masters according to the flesh (Coloss. iii. 22);
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and again, Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their masters worthy of all honour (1 Tim. vi. 1); but to these it is said, And ye, masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening, knowing that both their and your Master is in heaven (Ephes. vi. 9)."
Source: Gregory I, The Book of Pastoral Rule, Part III, Chapter V.
"Slavery itself ... is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law ... The purchaser [of the slave] should carefully examine whether the slave who is put up for sale has been justly or unjustly deprived of his liberty, and that the vendor should do nothing which might endanger the life, virtue, or Catholic faith of the slave."
Source: Statement of the Holy Office of the Vatican, 1866
"We (therefore) weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso -to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ where so ever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery."
Source: Nicholas V, Papal Bull Romanus Pontifex, January 8, 1455.
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"It is certainly a matter of faith that this sort of slavery in which a man serves his master as his slave, is altogether lawful. This is proved from Holy Scripture. It is also proved from reason for it is not unreasonable that just as things which are captured in a just war pass into the power and ownership of the victors, so persons captured in war pass into the ownership of the captors. All theologians are unanimous on this."
Source: Leander, Quaestiones Morales Theologicae, Lyons 1668 - 1692, Tome VIII, De Quarto Decalogi Praecepto, Tract. IV, Disp. I, Q. 3.
SLAVERY IN THE UNITED STATES
"All servants not being Christians, imported into this colony by shipping, shall be slaves for their lives."
Source: Official Act of the Colony of Virginia, 1670. Quoted in David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966), p. 180.
"It is to be hoped, that on a question of such vital importance as this to the peace and safety of our common country, as well as to the welfare of the church, we shall be seen cleaving to the Bible, and taking all our decisions about this matter, from its inspired pages. With men from the North, I have observed for many years a palpable ignorance of the divine will, in reference to the institution of slavery. I have seen but a few, who made the Bible
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their study, that had obtained a knowledge of what it did reveal on this subject. Of late, their denunciation of slavery as a sin, is loud and long.
I propose, therefore, to examine the sacred volume briefly, and if I am not greatly mistaken, I shall be able to make it appear that the institution of slavery has received, in the first place,
1st. The sanction of the Almighty in the Patriarchal age.
2d. That it was incorporated into the only National Constitution which ever emanated from God.
3d. That its legality was recognized, and its relative duties regulated, by Jesus Christ in his kingdom; and
4th. That it is full of mercy.
... Now, my dear sir, if, from the evidence contained in the Bible to prove slavery a lawful relation among God's people under every dispensation, the assertion is still made, in the very face of this evidence, that slavery has ever been the greatest sin-- everywhere, and under all circumstances-- can you, or can any sane man bring himself to believe, that the mind capable of such a decision, is not capable of trampling the Word of God under foot upon any subject?"
Source: Reverend Thomas Stringfellow, A Brief Examination of Scripture Testimony on the Institution of Slavery (Locust Grove, VA, 1841)
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"Jesus Christ recognized this (i.e. slavery) institution as one that was lawful among men, and regulated its relative duties. ... I affirm then, first (and no man denies) that Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command; and second, I affirm, he has introduced no new moral principle which can work its destruction."
Source: Reverend Thomas Stringfellow, A Scriptural View of Slavery, Culpeper County, Virginia, 1856.
"... The right of holding slaves is clearly established by the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were directed to purchase their bond-men and bond-maids of the Heathen nations; except they were of the Canaanites, for these were to be destroyed. And it is declared, that the persons purchased were to be their 'bond-men forever'; and an 'inheritance for them and their children.' They were not to go out free in the year of jubilee, as the Hebrews, who had been purchased, were: the line being clearly drawn between them. ...
In the New-Testament, the Gospel History, or representation of facts, presents us a view correspondent with that which is furnished by other authentic ancient histories of the state of the world at the commencement of Christianity. The powerful Romans had succeeded, in empire, the polished Greeks; and under both empires, the countries they possessed and governed were full of slaves. Many of these with their masters, were converted to the Christian Faith, and received, together with them into the Christian Church, while it was yet under the ministry of the inspired Apostles. In things purely spiritual, they appear to have enjoyed equal privileges; but their relationship, as masters and slaves, was not dissolved. Their respective duties are strictly enjoined. The masters are not required to emancipate their slaves; but to give them the things that are just and equal, forbearing threatening; and to remember, they also have a master in Heaven. The "servants under the yoke" (bond-servants or slaves) mentioned by Paul to Timothy, as having "believing masters," are not authorized by him to demand of them emancipation, or to employ violent means to obtain it; but are directed to "account their masters worthy of all honor," and "not to
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despise them, because they were brethren" in religion; "but the rather to do them service, because they were faithful and beloved partakers of the Christian benefit." Similar directions are given by him in other places, and by other Apostles. And it gives great weight to the argument, that in this place, Paul follows his directions concerning servants with a charge to Timothy, as an Evangelist, to teach and exhort men to observe this doctrine.
Had the holding of slaves been a moral evil, it cannot be supposed, that the inspired Apostles, who feared not the faces of men, and were ready to lay down their lives in the cause of their God, would have tolerated it, for a moment, in the Christian Church. If they had done so on a principle of accommodation, in cases where the masters remained heathen, to avoid offences and civil commotion; yet, surely, where both master and servant were Christian, as in the case before us, they would have enforced the law of Christ, and required, that the master should liberate his slave in the first instance. But, instead of this, they let the relationship remain untouched, as being lawful and right, and insist on the relative duties.
In proving this subject justifiable by Scriptural authority, its morality is also proved; for the Divine Law never sanctions immoral actions.
... If the holding of slaves is lawful, or according to the Scriptures; then this Scriptural rule can be considered as requiring no more of the master, in respect of justice (whatever it may do in point of generosity) than what he, if a slave, could consistently, wish to be done to himself, while the relationship between master and servant should still be continued."
Source: Reverend Dr. Richard Furman, President of the Baptist State Convention, Exposition of the Views of the Baptists, Relative to the Coloured Population in the United States in a Communication to the Governor of South Carolina (1838)
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"If we prove that domestic slavery is, in the general, a natural and necessary institution, we remove the greatest stumbling block to belief in the Bible; for whilst texts, detached and torn from their context, may be found for any other purpose, none can be found that even militates against slavery. The distorted and forced construction of certain passages, for this purpose, by abolitionists, if employed as a common rule of construction, would reduce the Bible to a mere allegory, to be interpreted to suit every vicious taste and wicked purpose.
Source: George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All! or Slaves without Masters (Richmond, VA, 1857)
"We have a great lesson to teach the world with respect to the relation of races: that certain races are permanently inferior in their capacities to others, and that the African who is intrusted to our care can only reach the amount of civilization and development of which he is capable--can only contribute to the benefit of humanity in the position in which God has placed him among us (i.e. that of a slave)."
Source: Reverend James Warley Miles, God in History: A Discourse Delivered Before the Graduating Class of the College of Charleston (March 29, 1863)
"What right had you under the Constitution to declare war against a 'sovereign' state? To invade one for coercion? To blockade a port? To declare slaves free? To suspend the writ of habeas corpus? To create the state of West Virginia by the consent of two states, one of which was dead, and the other one of which lived in Ohio? By what authority have you appointed military governors in the 'sovereign' states of Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana? Why trim the hedge and lie about it? We, too, are revolutionists, and you are our executive. The Constitution sustained and protected slavery. It was 'a league with death and a covenant with hell,' and our flag 'a polluted rag'!
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The South is no more to blame for Negro slavery than the North. Our slaves were stolen from Africa by Yankee skippers. When a slaver arrived at Boston, your pious Puritan clergyman offered public prayer of thanks that 'A gracious and overruling Providence had been pleased to bring to this land of freedom another cargo of benighted heathen to enjoy the blessings of a gospel dispensation."
Source: Baptist Minister Thomas F. Dixon, Jr, The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (New York: Doubleday, 1905)
The Third Lateran Council of 1179 imposed slavery on those helping the Saracens. The legitimacy of slavery was incorporated in the official Corpus Iuris Canonici, based on the Decretum Gratiani, which became the official law of the Church since Pope Gregory IX in 1226: 24. Cruel avarice has so seized the hearts of some that though they glory in the name of Christians they provide the Saracens with arms and wood for helmets, and become their equals or even their superiors in wickedness and supply them with arms and necessaries to attack Christians. There are even some who for gain act as captains or pilots in galleys or Saracen pirate vessels. Therefore we declare that such persons should be cut off from the communion of the church and be excommunicated for their wickedness, that catholic princes and civil magistrates should confiscate their possessions, and that if they are captured they should become the slaves of their captors. We order that throughout the churches of maritime cities frequent and solemn excommunication should be pronounced against them. Let those also be under excommunication who dare to rob Romans or other Christians who
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sail for trade or other honourable purposes. Let those also who in the vilest avarice presume to rob shipwrecked Christians, whom by the rule of faith they are bound to help, know that they are excommunicated unless they return the stolen property. Note that this is an Ecumenical Council! Surely, this is a far more "authoritative" proof that the ordinary and universal magisterium supported slavery than the local synods (Nimes, Orange, and Laodocia) cited to support the ban on women priests.
However, even Ecumenical Councils contain matters that are not considered infallible doctrine. Just as the law of celibacy for ministerial priests and passed at the Second Lateran Council is a discipline, rather than a dogma, so too, canon 24 of Lateran III is a disciplinary matter.
The point, however, is that an Ecumenical Council not only takes for granted that slavery is acceptable, but imposed slavery as a punishment for sin. It is important to note that if slavery is so bad as to be considered a punishment, one cannot argue that the slavery supported by the magisterium was less cruel than later slavery!
Instead, one must either accept infallibly that slavery is God's will, or recognize that the magisterium does make errors when creating disciplines or making judgments with ordinary authority rather than extraordinary authority.
Indeed, some conservatives accept that Ecumenical Councils use "sloppy language". One conservative layperson argued with me that in the case of the canon regarding the ordination of deaconesses at the Council of Chalcedon (canon 15), the Church was being "sloppy".
But maybe the conservatives think that three synods outweigh a single Ecumenical Council due to number.
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At lower levels of authority, the ordinary magisterium also supported slavery in the following instances:
- The local Council at Gangra in Asia Minor, in 362 AD, excommunicated anyone telling a slave to despise his master or withdraw from his service. The same decree is repeated in a Council under Pope Martin I in 650 AD!
- The ninth Council of Toledo in 655 AD imposed slavery on the children of priests.
- The Synod of Melfi under Pope Urban II in 1089 imposed slavery on the wives of priests. Still not convinced the Church supported slavery? Consider the following quotation from the Apostolic Constitution written by His Holiness, Pope Nicholas V, on January 8, 1455 ("Apostolic Constitutions" carry more authority than an "Apostolic Letter", and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was issued as an Apostolic Letter): We (therefore) weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso -to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery,... The full text can be read at this link: Papal support for slavery
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Note, as well, that Pope Nicholas seems to congratulate Henry, infante of Portugal, for "slaughtering" non-Christians and imposing forced conversions on "negros" and other peoples!
As late as June 20, 1866, the Holy Office (now called the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) issued a statement that said: "Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons.... It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.
The first, and most obvious, thing to remember is that there is no specific condemnation of slavery to be found anywhere in the Bible. At no point does God express even mild disapproval of enslaving human beings, robbing them of what freedom and independence they might have had. On the contrary, God is depicted of both approving of and regulating slavery, ensuring that the traffic and ownership of fellow human beings proceeds in an acceptable manner. In many cases, the regulations display a horrible disregard for the lives and dignity of enslaved individuals, hardly the sort of thing one would expect from a loving God.
Passages referencing and condoning slavery are common in the Old Testament. In one place, we read:
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When a slave owner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner's property. (Exod. 21:20-21)<
So, the immediate killing of a slave is punishable but a man may so grievously injure a slave that they die a few days later from their wounds without facing any punishment or retribution. All societies in the Middle East at this time were condoned slavery, so it shouldn't be surprising to find approval for it in this document. As a human law, the above would be commendable - after all, there was nothing quite so advanced anywhere else in the Middle East. But as the will of an all loving god, it's abominable.
As a side note, it should be observed that the King James Version of the Bible presents the above verse in an altered form, replacing "slave" with "servant" - thus gravely misleading Christians as to the intentions and desires of their God. One more reason to reject fundamentalist claims that the KJV is the only true and valid translation!
The New Testament, unfortunately, is little better. Jesus never even comes close to expressing disapproval of the enslaving of other human beings, and many statements attributed to him reveal a tacit acceptance or even approval of that inhuman institution. Throughout the Gospels we read passages like:
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A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master (Matt. 10:24)
Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. (Matt. 24:45-46)
Although Jesus is using slavery in order to illustrate larger points, the question still remains why he would directly acknowledge the existence of slavery without saying anything negative about it?
The letters (rightly or wrongly) attributed to Paul are even worse, making it clear that the existence of slavery is not only acceptable, but that slaves themselves should not presume to take the idea of freedom and equality preached by Jesus too far by attempting to escape their forced servitude.
Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful to them on the ground that they are members of the church; rather they must serve them all the more, since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these duties. Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (1Tim. 6:1-5)
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to
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please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. (Eph. 6:5-6)
Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior. (Titus 2:9-10)
Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval. (1Pet. 2:18-29)
What are we to make of passages such as those quoted above? We must conclude that the author(s) did not disapprove of the institution of slavery and probably regarded it as an appropriate part of society. Again, slavery was common in all contemporary societies, and it would be surprising to find condemnation here. But if those authors were indeed divinely inspired, as is commonly thought by Christians, then we must conclude that God's attitude towards slavery is not particularly negative. Christians are certainly not prohibited from owning slaves, and anyone who does not agree is directly condemned. There is, then, no conflict between being a Christian and being an owner of other human beings.
No "common sense" interpretation can deny such things without doing violence to the text itself, and nothing can be criticized as having been "taken out of context." Christians should perhaps consider admitting that their Bible was written in a primitive, barbaric age and as such represents the primitive, barbaric attitudes of that age.
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Early Christian History
How did the early Christians deal with the issue of slavery? There was almost universal approval of slavery among church leaders. Christians vigorously defended slavery (along with other forms of extreme social stratification) as instituted by God and as being an integral part of the natural order of men. At all points, their reasoning was clearly and easily supported by the Bible passages quoted above.
Let's allow them to tell us in their own words:
The slave should be resigned to his lot, in obeying his master he is obeying God... (Saint John Chrysostom)
...slavery is now penal in character and planned by that law which commands the preservation of the natural order and forbids disturbance. (Saint Augustine)
These attitudes continued throughout European history, even as the institution of slavery evolved and in most cases slaves became "serfs" - little better than actual slaves and living in a deplorable situation which the church declared as being divinely ordered.
Not even after serfdom disappeared and full-fledged slavery once again reared its ugly head was it generally condemned by Christian leaders. Edmund Gibson, Anglican Bishop in London, made it clear in the 18th century that Christianity freed us from the slavery of sin, not from earthly and physical slavery:
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The Freedom which Christianity gives, is a Freedom from the Bondage of Sin and Satan, and from the Dominion of Men's Lusts and Passions and inordinate Desires; but as to their outward Condition, whatever that was before, whether bond or free, their being baptized, and becoming Christians, makes no manner of Change in it.
The first ship bearing slaves for America landed in 1619, beginning over two centuries of human bondage on the American continent, bondage which would eventually be called our "peculiar institution." This institution always received theological support from various religious leaders, both in the pulpit and in the classroom. For example, through the late 1700s, Reverend William Graham was rector and principle instructor at the Liberty Hall Academy, now Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Every year, he lectured the senior graduating class on the value of slavery and used the Bible in his defense of it. For Graham and the many like him, Christianity was not a tool for changing politics or social policy, but instead to bring the message of salvation to everyone, regardless of their status of freedom. In this, they were certainly supported by biblical text.
As Kenneth Stamp wrote in The Peculiar Institution, Christianity actually became a way to add value to slaves in America:
...when southern clergy became ardent defenders of slavery, the master class could look upon organized religion as an ally ...the gospel, instead of becoming a mean of creating trouble and strive, was really the best instrument to preserve peace and good conduct among the negroes.
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Through teaching slaves the message of the Bible, they could be encouraged to bear the earthly burden in exchange for heavenly rewards later on - and they could be frightened into believing that disobedience to earthly masters would be perceived by God as disobedience to Him. Ironically, enforced illiteracy prevented slaves from reading the Bible themselves. This is ironic because a similar situation existed in Europe during the Middle Ages, as illiterate peasants and serfs were prevented from reading the Bible in their own language - a situation which was instrumental in the Protestant revolution. Now, Protestants were doing much the same thing African slaves: using the authority of their Bible and the dogma of their religion to repress a group of people without even allowing them to read the basis of authority on their own.
Division and Conflict
As Northerners decried slavery and called for its abolition, southern political and religious leaders found an easy ally for their pro-slavery cause in the Bible and Christian history. In 1856 Reverend Thomas Stringfellow, a Baptist minister from Culpepper County in Virginia, put the pro-slavery Christian message succinctly in his "A Scriptural View of Slavery:"
...Jesus Christ recognized this institution as one that was lawful among men, and regulated its relative duties... I affirm then, first (and no man denies) that Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command; and second, I affirm, he has introduced no new moral principle which can work its destruction...
Of course, Christians in the North disagreed - and some denominations, like Quakers, appear to have never been afflicted by slavery. Interestingly, most abolitionist attacks were based on the premise that the nature of Hebrew slavery differed in significant ways from the nature of slavery in the American South. Although this was meant to argue that the American form
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of slavery did not enjoy Biblical support, it nevertheless tacitly admitted that the institution of slavery did, in principle, have divine sanction and approval so long as conducted in an appropriate manner.
In the end, the North won on the question of slavery. Although the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in an effort to preserve the Christian basis for slavery before the start of the Civil War, they did not feel it necessary to bother apologizing until June 1995. The reason was that even though the question of slavery had been settled, the question of race still burned.
Repression and Superiority
The later repression and discrimination against the freed black slaves received as much biblical and Christian support as the earlier institution of slavery itself. This discrimination and the choice to enslave blacks only was made primarily on the basis of what has become known as the "sin of Ham" or "the curse of Canaan." Occasionally there would also be defenses of the inferiority of blacks by asserting that they bore the "mark of Cain."
We read in Genesis, chapter nine, that Noah's son Ham comes upon him sleeping off a drinking binge and sees his father naked. Instead of covering him, he runs and tells his brothers. Shem and Japheth, the "good" brothers, return and cover their father. In retaliation for Ham's "sinful act" of seeing his father nude, Noah puts a curse on his grandson (Ham's son) Canaan: ?Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers" (Gen 9:25).
Over time, this curse came to be interpreted that Ham was literally "burnt," and that all his descendants had black skin, marking them as slaves with a convenient color-coded label for subservience. When and how this gained
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widespread acceptance is questionable, but anti-slavery religious and political leaders have worked to refute it for more than a century. Today, biblical scholars note that the ancient Hebrew word "ham" does not have to be translated as "burnt" or "black" - but there is unfortunately little consensus on how the name and passage should be interpreted. Further complicating matters is the position of some Afrocentrists that Ham, although not actually cursed (despite what the Bible says!) was indeed black, as were many other characters in the Bible. Once again, people end up reading the passage as supporting their own racial assumptions.
Although many Christians today would be horrified at using the Bible as a support for racism, they should recognize that it was used in just such a fashion by Christians in America in the same way and with the same justification as Christians today use the Bible in their defense of their favorite ideas. Even as recently as the 1950's and 60's, Christians vehemently opposed desegregation or "race-mixing" for religious reasons. The "curse" of poor Ham lingered on in the minds of white Christians who fought to preserve a constant separation of the races.
A corollary to the inferiority of blacks has long been the superiority of white Protestants - something which has not yet dissipated in America. Although "Caucasians" are not to be found anywhere in the Bible, that hasn't stopped members of Christian Identity groups from using the Bible to prove that they are the true "chosen people" or "true Israelites." This may seem bizarre, but it has long been popular among American Protestants to see themselves as being "divinely appointed" to tame the American wilderness despite the "demon Indians." Americans are supposed to be blessed with a special destiny by God, and many read an American role in Armageddon in the book of Revelations. I am ever amazed at the degree to which Christianity encourages extreme egotism and inflated sense of self-importance or personal destiny.
Christian Identity is just a new kid on the block of White Protestant Supremacy - the earliest such group was the infamous Ku Klux Klan. Too few people realize that the KKK was founded as a Christian organization and
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still sees itself in terms of defending true Christianity. Especially in the earliest days, Klansmen openly recruited in churches (white and segregated, of course), attracting members from all strata of society, including the clergy.
Although Klan ceremonies have varied greatly, one common form will include an American flag, a cross, and a Bible opened to Romans 12, exhorting Christians to "godly conduct, godly nature." Also common is a sword representing the war against all enemies of the Christian life an the American "Christian Nation." Opening and closing prayers may often include "The living Christ is a Klansman's criterion of character." The origin of a burning cross is unclear - it may stem from the ancient Scottish tradition of burning a cross on a hill to call together the clans, or it may be representative of spreading the light of the True Cross in an effort to promote Christian faith.
Passages from the Hebrew Scriptures that sanction slavery: There are many Bible passages which directly sanction and regulate slavery. Quoting from the KJV (except as noted) some of these passages are:
The Ten Commandments: Rabbi M.J. Raphall (circa 1861) justified human slavery on the basis of the 10th commandment. It places slaves "... under the same protection as any other species of lawful property...That the Ten Commandments are the word of G-d, and as such, of the very highest authority, is acknowledged by Christians as well as by Jews...How dare you, in the face of the sanction and protection afforded to slave property in the Ten Commandments--how dare you denounce slaveholding as a sin? When you remember that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job--the men with whom the Almighty conversed, with whose names he emphatically connects his own most holy name, and to whom He vouchsafed to give the character of 'perfect, upright, fearing G-d and eschewing evil' (Job 1:8)--that
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all these men were slaveholders, does it not strike you that you are guilty of something very little short of blasphemy?" 1
Exodus 20:17"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's." Deuteronomy 5:21"Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbor's.
Beating and Killing Slaves: Although an owner could beat a male or female slave, she/he would have to avoid serious injury to eyes or teeth. The owner would have to avoid beating the slave to death. But it was acceptable to beat a slave so severely that it only disabled him or her for two days: Exodus 21:20-21 "And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money [property]." Exodus 21:26-27 "And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye's sake. And if he smite out his manservant's tooth, or his maidservant's tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake."
Emancipation of Slaves: Slaves in ancient Israel were automatically emancipated after 6 years of slavery, but only if they were Jewish. However, if the slave owner "gave" the slave a wife, the owner could keep the wife and any children as his property.
Passages in Exodus state that female slaves who were sold into slavery by their fathers would be slaves forever. A corresponding passage in Exodus
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contradicts this; it required female slaves to be given their freedom after 6 years.
One could purchase a slave from a foreign nation or from foreigners living with them. These slaves would remain in slavery forever, unless the owner chooses to frees them An Israelite who was a slave could be freed by a family member or by himself if he had the money. The cost of freeing a slave was computed on the basis of the number of years to the next Jubilee Year; this could be 1 to 50 years. Male Israelite slaves were automatically freed during the Jubilee Year. Depending upon which verse was being followed, female Israelite slaves might also have been freed at that time as well. Foreign slaves were out of luck. Exodus 21:1-4: "If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself." Deuteronomy 15:12-18: "And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him." Exodus 21:7: "And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do." Leviticus 25:44-46: "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly." (NIV) Leviticus 25:48-53: "After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem
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him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself. And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubilee: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him."
Restrictions on the Re-selling of Slaves: A slave was considered a piece of property, and thus could normally be resold to anyone at any time for any reason. However, special rules applied for Hebrew slaves. If a person bought a female slave from her father and she displeased him, he had no right to sell her to a foreign owner. If the owner required her to marry his son, then the owner was required to treat her like a daughter-in-law. If the owner marries his slave and later marries another woman, he was required to treat his slave as he previously had. If he violates any of these requirements, then she must be emancipated. But she would leave without any money or means of supporting herself; she would be free, but abandoned. Exodus 21:8: "If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money."
Sexual Activity with an Engaged Female Slave: A man who rapes or engages in consensual sex with a female slave who is engaged to be married to another man must sacrifice an animal in the temple in order to obtain God's forgiveness. The female slave would be whipped. There is apparently no punishment or ritual animal killing required if the female slave were not engaged; men could rape such slaves with impunity. Leviticus 19:20-22: "And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for a trespass offering. And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering
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before the LORD for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him."
Purchasing a Brother as a Slave: If a man is sold into slavery due to poverty and his brother purchases him, then the man must be treated as a hired hand or as a guest of the brother. He would be not be free to leave, but was required to serve until the Jubilee Year, which occurs every 50 years. This would often require him to serve his brother for the rest of his life. Some translations (e.g. Living Bible) refer to"a fellow Israelite" rather than "brother." The fate of a woman being bought by her brother is unclear. Leviticus 25:39: "And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubilee: And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return."
Punishment for Criminals or Debtors: A person who kidnaps a fellow Israelite and makes him a slave or sells him into slavery would be stoned to death. If a thief is caught and cannot make full restitution, he would be sold as a slave. A debtor who could not pay back creditors might be sold into slavery or have his children sold. Exodus 21:16: "And he that stealeth [kidnaps] a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death." Deuteronomy 24:7: "If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from among you." Exodus 22:3: "...he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft." II Kings 4:1: "Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen."
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Enslaving Women Captives: In a foreign war, an Israelite could take any woman as a slave-wife, even if it were against her will. He would put her through what could be regarded as a period of ritual abuse. If he later dislikes her, he can grant her freedom, but cannot sell her to another slave owner. Deuteronomy 21:10-14: "When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her [i.e. rape her or engage in consensual sex], and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her." Deuteronomy 20:14" "But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself"
Runaway Slaves: If a slave runs away from his owner and comes to you, then you are not to return the slave to his owner. Rather, you are to let him live in any town in your area. Deuteronomy 23:15-16: "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him."
Circumcision of Slaves: A male slave would be required to undergo circumcision. This would be a very painful operation for an adult. It was lifethreatening in the days before modern medical techniques. A small percentage of slaves would die from infection caused by the operation. Genesis 17:13: "He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy
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money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant." Genesis 17:27: "And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him."
Priests as Slave Owners: God ordered Moses to wage war against the Midianites, because the latter had attempted to convert the Israelites to their religion. They Israelite soldiers killed every male Midianite, but initially spared the lives of the women and children. Moses was angry at this act of mercy, and in an act of near genocide, ordered that all of the women and children be murdered in cold blood, allowing only 32,000 female virgins to live. All of the booty, including the surviving girls and virgin women, was then divided into two equal portions: one for the soldiers and the rest for the people of Israel. 0.1% of the slaves from the first half and 2% of the slaves from the second half were considered the Lord's share. i.e. they were to be given to the priests. The priests ended up with 365 female virgins; one for each day of the year. Numbers 31:28-47: "And levy a tribute unto the LORD of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep: Take it of their half, and give it unto Eleazar the priest, for an heave offering of the LORD.And of the children of Israel's half, thou shalt take one portion of fifty, of the persons, of the beeves, of the asses, and of the flocks, of all manner of beasts, and give them unto the Levites, which keep the charge of the tabernacle of the LORD."
Slaves Owning Slaves: Saul's slave Ziba owned 20 slaves of his own: 2 Samuel 9:10: "...Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants."
Raping Slaves: Being property, female slaves could be required to engage in sexual intercourse and become pregnant against their will. The perpetrator could be their owner, or anyone that their owner designates: Genesis 16:1-2: "Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee,
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go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai." Genesis 30:3-4: "And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her." Genesis 30:9-10: "When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son."
Slaves Given the weekly Sabbath off: Slaves were not required to work on Saturday. Exodus 20:10: "But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:"
The Christian Scriptures and Slavery Neither Jesus nor St. Paul, nor any other Biblical figure is recorded as saying anything in opposition to the institution of slavery. Slavery was very much a part of life in Judea, Galilee, and in the rest of the Roman Empire during New Testament times. The practice continued in England, Canada and the rest of the English Empire until the early 19th century; it continued in the U.S. until later in the 19th century.
Quoting Rabbi M.J. Raphall, circa 1861:
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"Receiving slavery as one of the conditions of society, the New Testament nowhere interferes with or contradicts the slave code of Moses; it even preserves a letter [to Philemon] written by one of the most eminent Christian teachers [Paul] to a slave owner on sending back to him his runaway slave." 1
Paul's violation of the Mosaic Code on slavery: While in prison, Paul met a runaway slave, Onesimus, the property of a Christian -- presumably Pheliemon. He sent the slave back to his owner. This action is forbidden in Deuteronomy 23:15-16:
"Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee."
"He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him."
Rather than give the slave sanctuary, Paul returned him to his owner. Paul seems to hint that he would like Pheliemon to give Onesimus his freedom, but does not actually request it. See the Letter to Philemon in the Christian Scriptures.
Other references to slavery in the Christian Scriptures: People in debt (and their children) were still being sold into slavery in the first century CE:
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Matthew 18:25: "But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made."
Priests still owned slaves:
Mark 14:66: "And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest:"
Jesus is recorded as mentioning slaves in one of his parables. It is important to realize that the term "servant" or "maid" in the King James Version of the Bible refers to slaves, not employees like a butler, cook, or maid. Here, a slave which did not follow his owner's will would be beaten with many lashes of a whip. A slave who was unaware of his owner's will, but who did not behave properly, would also be beaten, but with fewer stripes.
This would have been a marvelous opportunity for Jesus to condemn the institution of slavery and its abuse of slaves. But he is not recorded of having bothered to taken it:
Luke 12:45-48: "The lord [owner] of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."
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One of the favorite passages of slave-owning Christians was St. Paul's infamous instruction that slaves to obey their owners in the same way that they obey Christ:
Ephesians 6:5-9: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him."
Other passages instructing slaves and slave owners in proper behavior are:
Colossians 4:1: "Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven."
1 Timothy 6:1-3 "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;"
In his defense, St. Paul incorrectly expected that Jesus would return in the very near future. This might have demotivated him from speaking out against slavery or other social evils in the Roman Empire. Also he regarded slaves as persons of worth whom at least God considers of importance. St.
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Paul mentioned that both slaves and free persons are sons of God, and thus all part of the body of Christ and spiritually equal.
1 Corinthians 12:13: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit."
Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."
Colossians 3:11: "Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all."
Paul apparently saw no evil in the concept of one person owning another as a piece of property. In his Letter to Philemon, he had every opportunity to discuss the immorality of slave-owning, but declined to do so.
Christianity, Islam and Slavery By Craig Keener Islam has taken root in many urban centers of the United States today and is spreading particularly among young urban African-American men suspicious of White society's promises that have seemed out of their reach. The current crisis did not begin overnight. Spawned by the church's neglect, the movement continued to offer its warnings to an inattentive church until reaching its present proportions.
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Islam Takes Root in the African-American Community
Resentful of White Christians' hypocritical practice of racism and the Black church's unwillingness to overtly challenge it, heterodox Islamic sects such as the Moorish Science Temple arose in the early decades of this century. Although such groups diverged considerably from the Quranic Islam practiced in the Middle East, they provided a cultural bridge to it for their converts.
In the 1930s, a white Turk named W. D. Fard began recruiting disciples for his heterodox Islamic sect; his most prominent disciple, who took the name Elijah Muhammad, claimed that Master Fard revealed that he was himself God and made other claims that would outrage most orthodox Muslims. Elijah Muhammad declared that an evil genius, one Mr. Yacub, planned the creation of the white race by breeding the lightest of his 59,999 black followers on the island of Patmos, a process that produced a brown race after 200 years, a red race after 200 more, a yellow race after 200 more, and finally a race of "blonde, pale-skinned, cold-blue-eyed devils, savages, nude and shameless." Malcolm X became the leading spokesman for Elijah Muhammad's cause until a rift between himself and Elijah Muhammad, strengthened by revelations of Elijah's extramarital affairs, led Malcolm to look elsewhere for truth.
Not only Malcolm, but Elijah Muhammad's own son, Warith D. Muhammad, recognized the difference between the Nation of Islam and Sunni Islam, and moved toward the latter position. Although traditional Islam lacked a component of urban appeal that the Nation of Islam possessed - anti-white sentiment and a myth to honor it - it provided more integrity and a larger network of allies (and, perhaps of some relevance, financial support), and still functioned as a protest against the racial insensitivities of most U.S. churches. Louis Farrakhan led many of W.D. Muhammad's followers back to the more original views of the Nation of Islam, yet more African-Americans today probably seriously follow Sunni Islam, as represented by W. D.
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Muhammad and the later Malcolm. Most adherents now hold to Islam out of sincere conviction of its truth; dissatisfaction with other traditional religious options, however, remains a major initial force in commending this religion to inquirers.
Charges Against Christianity
Muslims have raised many objections to Christianity, for instance, the charge of its collusion with Western imperialism in Africa. Yet Islamic expansionism from the seventh century on was no less colonial than Western imperialism came to be, and Western colonialism finds far less support in Jesus' teaching than Islamic expansionism finds in the Quran. Ancient African kingdoms like the mighty Medieval kingdom of Songhay (which had Islamic influence) were destroyed by Muslim imperialists from the north. Other African kingdoms like Nubia and Ethiopia were forced to stand against Islamic armies for centuries, to defend the Christian minority in Egypt. These were the nearest Christian kingdoms that many Muslims experienced, except for the remnant of Christians in their own territories. North Africa was predominantly Christian long before Muhammad's birth.
But one of the most prominent objections made by Black Muslims is that the Christian West participated in slave trade. Although we may question how genuine the Christianity of slave traders was, we cannot deny that professed Christians participated in slave trade. What we can question is whether Muslims are those best suited to raise this objection! Muhammad and his earliest followers did not shrink from the practice of slavery (quite in contrast to Jesus and the disciples); but Muslim slavery, like most other kinds of slavery, was originally not racially based. After the revolt of the Mamelukes [white slaves] in Egypt, however, black slaves became the preferred commodity.
Arabs, Berbers, and Persians pioneered the long-distance slave trade, and the Spanish and Portuguese originally purchased Black African slaves from
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Arab dealers. The first Africans in the British colonies arrived before the Mayflower, and were temporarily indentured servants like many White colonists. In time, however, colonists found African servants easier to exploit than European ones (the latter could appeal to authorities in Europe or, escaping, blend into the local populations). Economic incentives also led to African-American slavery and its racist ideological justification. Whereas Arabs introduced this exploitation, Europeans perfected it. The Arabs had no tortures comparable to the long journeys across the Atlantic with slaves chained side by side for months in dark cargo holds. For every slave brought to the so-called New World, more Africans were brutally murdered in their capture or died en route multiplied millions of human beings raped, butchered, or reduced to the status of animals.
In Defense of Christians
Yet Christians provided resistance. William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect, in fervor fueled by the Wesleyan Revival, pushed the abolitionist cause through the British Parliament, leading to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. The evangelical revival movement fueled the abolitionist cause in the United States as well, and abolitionist revivalists such as Charles Finney and the evangelicals at Oberlin College helped galvanize popular support for abolitionism; others, like the Tappans, defied their culture still more directly by demanding integration. Black Christians in the north contributed still more to the abolitionist cause one may sample Frederick Douglass (an ordained A. M. E. Zion deacon), Sojourner Truth, and the great heroine of the underground railroad, Harriet Tubman.
Some Black Christians, in fact, practiced a resistance more vibrant than that of the Nation of Islam. Whatever else we may say of it, slave revolts were led by such figures as Nat Turner, a Baptist preacher; Denmark Vesey, with much A. M. E. support; Gabriel Prosser, envisioning himself as a new Samson; and the White visionary John Brown. The Black minister David Walker called hypocritical White Christians "devils" in 1829, although (unlike the original Nation of Islam) he allowed for exceptions.
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Islam provides no analogous abolitionist imperative. Just as Britain and France were finally working to shut down the Atlantic slave trade, it was picking up in East Africa, and most of the slaves were being sold to kingdoms in Arabia and the Persian Gulf. The Arabian peninsula in 1962 became the world's final region to officially abolish slavery, yet even afterward Saudi Arabia alone was estimated to contain a quarter of a million slaves. As many as 20 million Pakistanis (mainly Christians and lowercaste Muslims) are now being held in bondage. Arab Muslims in the northern Sudan have been systematically starving the Black African adherents of traditional African religions and Christians in the south; raids have also been taking slaves, a practice Sudan had once abolished. In the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Arab-Berber Muslims from the north hold possibly over 100,000 Black African slaves from the south; "aside from the shantytowns and a strip of land along the Senegal River, virtually all blacks are slaves and they are more than half the population."
One African-American writer specializing in African history thus laments the confusion of many US youth, who "are dropping their white western slave masters' names and adopting, not African, but their Arab and Berber slave masters' names!" Indeed, because "the importation of Black slaves into Islamic lands" over 1200 years may have involved more slaves than the European slave trade did, some African writers have suggested that both the West and the Middle East should pay reparations to Africa.
Islam has gained many of its converts in the African-American community by pointing to historic weaknesses in professed Christianity, such as Christian participation in the slave trade. While this charge, like most other charges, reflects a very selective reading of the historical evidence, these charges are rendered believable by the state of much of the church in North America. Can inner city Black youth believe a gospel that plainly teaches racial
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reconciliation when examples of it are nowhere to be found in the inner cities? Articles like this can provide an apologetic on paper, but the real apologetic will be far more costly. Until North American Christians learn to live the gospel of reconciliation they preach, paying any necessary price to bridge the gaps historically formed by White racism, Islam will continue to appear credible by contrast to a Christianity that is often indistinguishable from the rest of North American culture.
See e.g., The Autobiography of Malcolm X, p. 208. Autobiography of Malcolm X, pp. 165-68; Malcolm renounced this view when he recanted the beliefs of the Nation of Islam (Autobiography, p. 169). See Chancellor Williams, The Destruction of Black Civilization Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D. (Chicago Third World Press, 1987), pp. 207-9; Lerone Bennett, Before the Mayflower; rev ed. (Baltimore, MD Penguin, 1966), p. 17; cf. W.E.B. Du Bois, The World and Africa: An Inquiry into the Part which Africa Has Played in History, rev. ed. (New York International Publishers, 1965), p. 212. John H. Taylor, Egypt and Nubia (Cambridge Harvard University Press, 1991), p. 64; Williams, Destruction, pp. 145-46, 149; Du Bois, World and Africa, pp. 147, 215; William Y. Adams, Nubia: Corridor to Africa (Princeton Princeton University Press, 1977), pp. 539-44; idem, "Medieval Nubia," pp. 120-125 in Africa in Antiquity 1. The Arts of Ancient Nubia and the Sudan The Essays (Brooklyn, NY Brooklyn Museum, 1978), p. 125. William Leo Hansberry, Pillars in Ethiopian History, ed. Joseph Harris (Washington, DC Howard University Press, 1981), pp. 131-32; Williams, Destruction, p. 148; Du Bois, World and Africa, p. 186. Cf. Williams, Destruction, p. 149. On slavery and the New Testament, see e.g., Craig S. Keener, Paul, Women & Wives (Peabody, MA Hendrickson, 1992), pp. 184-224. See Williams, Destruction, pp. 77, 153.
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This is commonly noted, e.g., by Bennett, Mayflower, pp. 34-35. Because of Nation of Islam propaganda, William Dwight McKissic, Beyond Roots (Wenonah, NJ Renaissance Productions, 1990) p. 52, notes his astonishment when he learned that "Arab Muslims" were the first "to target Blacks...for slavery," and that many Black Africans had converted to Islam only to gain kinder treatment from their masters. See especially Bennett, Before Mayflower, pp. 29-37; cf. C. Eric Lincoln, Race, Religion, and the Continuing American Dilemma (New York Hill & Wang, 1984), p. 135. Wesley's evangelical preaching against slavery also compared European slavery with Islamic slavery unfavorably (La Roy Sutherland, The Testimony of God Against Slavery [Boston Webster & Southard, 1835], p. 91). Cf. e.g., The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago University of Chicago, 1992), 12654; Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity (Grand Rapids Eerdmans, 1977), p. 561 (cf. p. 556 "In the 1790s the evangelical was marked out as much by a desire for the abolition of the slave trade as by an interest in missions"). This is often documented; cf. e.g., Nancy A. Hardesty, Women Called to Witness Evangelical Feminism in the 19th Century (Nashville Abingdom, 1984); for a sample of abolitionist preaching, see Sunderland, Slavery. Cf. e.g., James Cone, For My People Black: Theology and the Black Church (Maryknoll Orbis, 1984), pp. 123-25. On slave resistance and religion, see especially Gayraud S. Wilmore, Black Religion and Black Radicalism: An Interpretation of the Religious History of Afro-American People, 2nd rev. ed. (Maryknoll, NY Orbis, 1983); Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South (New York Oxford University Press, 1978). Wilmore, Black Religion, p. 40. Norman Robert Bennett, Mirambo of Tansania, ca. 1840-1884 (New York Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 16.
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Robert William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery (Boston Little, Brown & Company, 1974), p. 13. Jorge I. Domínguez, "Assessing Human Rights Conditions," pp. 21-116 in Enhancing Global Human Rights, by Jorge I. Domínguez, Nigel S. Rodley, Bryce Wood, Richard Falk, 1980s Project/Council on Foreign Relations (New York McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1979), p. 91. Tom Masland, Rod Nordland, Melinda Liu, and Joseph Contreras, "Slavery," Newsweek May 4, 1992, pp. 30-39, p. 37. Cf. many reports, e.g., in Africa News, July 6-19, 1992, p. 16; Newsweek, Oct. 12, 1992, p. 49; ESA Advocate, Oct. 1992, p. 6; World Press Review, March 1989, pp. 28-29; June 1991, p. 36. "Forgotten Slaves," World Press Review, Jan. 1991, p. 57; "Slavery," Newsweek, May 4, 1992, p. 32. "Slavery," Newsweek, May 4, 1992, p. 30. "Slavery," Newsweek, May 4, 1992, p. 32. Williams, Destruction, p. 23. Bethwell Ogot, "The Muslim Trade," in the Daily Nation of Nairobi, Kenya, responding to Ali Mazrui and citing substantial historical data (reprinted in World Press Review, Aug. 1993, p. 23).
JEWS, JUDAISM AND SLAVERY As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are round about you.
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You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you, to inherit as a possession forever, you may make slaves of them, but over your brethren the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another, with harshness. (Leviticus 25:44-46)
Genesis 9:25-27: "Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also said, 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japeth live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be his slave.' " This passage was one of the favorite of theologians who wished to justify slavery on Biblical grounds. The descendants of Ham were assumed to be Africans. According to this verse, they were to be slaves forever. Thus the South Carolina slave owner was only implementing God's wishes.
In Roman times the Jews often followed the Roman Army on its conquests and enslaved enemy soldiers and civilians. According to the Jewish writer Solomon Grayzel in “A History of the Jews” “Jews were among the most important slave dealers” in European society. Jews were the major ship chandlers in the Caribbean. Jews were expelled from many places for their business practices in this trade. In Curacao in the 17th century and Barbados and Jamaica in the 18th century and in most of the French, British and Dutch colonies the Jews dominated the slave trade or were major traders. When their host country was at war with one of their trading partners the Jews would continue to trade, merely changing the names of their ships as the port of call required. Portuguese Jews, who had developed their mastery of the slave trade off the west coast of Africa on the island of Sao Thome where they employed up
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to 3,000 black slaves. They arrived in Brazil in 1503 and by 1600 the bulk of the slave trade and up to 100 plantations in Brazil, with some 10,000 black slaves, were in the hands of the Jews. In the mid 1600,s slave revolts and war with Portugal caused many Jews to leave for the Caribbean, Amsterdam and New Amsterdam (later New York). Jews could buy slaves cheaper from their co-religionists (there was one price for the Jew and one price for the other or goim) and then sell them to the plantation owners at profits of up to 300% with interest of 3-4% monthly. Slaves were also rented at exorbitant rates to non-Jews to the extent that Adrian Lems, on June 13, 1643 wrote to his company that nonJewish planters could not prosper because the price and interest on slaves was too high. According to Arnold Wiznitzer in “Jews in colonial Brazil “if it happened that the date of such an auction fell on a Jewish holiday the auction had to be postponed. This occurred on Friday, October 16th, 1644.” Slavery was a major feature of Jewish life in Surinam where slaves, often kept nearly naked and fed only yams and bananas. Slaves were often given away as gifts. By 1730 there were some 1,300 Jews in Surinam, a third of the white population. There were 400 plantations where some 80,000 black slaves toiled. Tortures included flogging, mutilations such as slitting of noses or cutting off ears, hanging and quartering, drowning, starvation and burning alive. Slaves sometimes chose suicide and would swallow their tongues or jump into boiling sugar cane. When the government considered passing a law to idle slaves on the Sabbath the Jews protested saying it would be a “crippling disability”. The English explorer Captain John Gabriel Stedman wrote in his narrative of his expeditions of witnessing an execution of a slave presided over by a Jew named De Vries in Surinam. The Black man was laid upon a wooden cross with arms and legs expanded and was fastened by ropes and his hand chopped off. Then they “next took up a heavy iron bar, with which, by repeated blows, he broke his bones to shivers, til the marrow, blood, and splinters flew about the field; but the prisoner never uttered a groan nor a sigh. The ropes being next unlashed, I imagined him dead, and felt happy; till the magistrates stirring to depart, he writhed himself from the cross, when he fell on the grass, and damned them all, as aset of barbarous rascals; at the same time removing his right hand by the help of his teeth, he rested his head on part of the timber, and asked the by-standers for a pipe of tobacco, which was infamously answered by kicking and spitting on him; till I, with some American seamen, thought proper to prevent it. He then begged that his head
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might be chopped off; but to no purpose. At last, seeing no end to his misery, he declared, "that though he had deserved death, he had not expected to die so many deaths: however, (said he) you Christians have missed your aim at last, and I now care not, were I to remain thus one month longer." After which he sung two extempore songs (with a clear voice) the subjects of which were, to bid adieu to his living friends, and to acquaint his deceased relations that in a very little time he should be with them, to enjoy their company for ever in a better place. This done, he calmly entered into conversation with some gentlemen concerning his trial; relating every particular with uncommon tranquility - "But," said he abruptly, "by the sun it must be eight o'clock; and by any longer discourse I should be sorry to be the cause of your losing your breakfast." Then, casting his eyes on a Jew, whose name was De Vries, "A-propos, sir," said he, "won't you please to pay me the ten shillings you owe me?" "For what to do?" - "To buy meat and drink, to be sure - don't you perceive I am to be kept alive?" Which speech, on seeing the Jew stare like a fool, this mangled wretch accompanied with a loud and hearty laugh. Next, observing the soldier that stood sentinel over him biting occasionally on a piece of dry bread, he asked him "how it came to pass, that he, a white man, should have no meat to eat along with it?" - "Because I am not so rich," answered the soldier. "Then I will make you a present, sir," said the negro; "first, pick my hand that was chopped off clean to the bones, next begin to devour my body, till you are glutted; when you will have both bread and meat, as best becomes you"; which piece of humor was followed by a second laugh; and thus he continued, until I left him, which was about three hours after the dreadful execution. Wonderful it is indeed, that human nature should be able to endure so much torture, which assuredly could only be supported by a mixture of rage, contempt, pride, and the glory of braving his tormentors, from whom he was so soon to escape. Stedman wrote: "At Demerary, so late as October, 1789, thirty-two wretches were executed in three days, sixteen of whom suffered in the manner just described, with no less fortitude, and without uttering one single complaint." The slaves of Surinam revolted between 1690 and 1772 and some 6,000, known as Maroons, escaped into the jungle and waged a guerilla war for over 70 years and were not defeated. Herbert Bloom in his book “The Economic Activities of the Jews of Amsterdam in the 17th and 18th Centuries” said the slave revolted against their plantations and slave masters
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“especially those in Jewish hands”. The abolition of the slave trade in 1819 brought about the economic decline of the Jewish community. In Barbados the Jews made up 22% of the white population of 20,000. Jewish business practices (not paying taxes on their slaves or imported items and not serving in the defense of the island) caused the legislature to pass an act in 1679 to limit their commerce in the slave trade. In 1741 on May 7th a special tax was passed for the Jews with the legislature enumerating the reasons for such actions. "...That the Jews in this island are a very wealthy body, their gains considerable, and acquired with great ease and indolence, and with little risk, and their fortunes so disposed, that the usual methods of laying taxes will not affect them; they are generally concerned in, nay have almost entirely engrossed, the whole retail trade of this island, furnish people with materials of luxury, tempt them to live and dress above their circumstances, carry on a traffic with our slaves greatly prejudicial to the planter and fair trader, encouraging the negroes to steal commodities from their masters, which they sell to or barter with the Jews, at inconsiderable and under values; and, when by such means they have amassed great wealth, they layout their money at interest, by which the public stock is no way increased; and it must ever be against the interest and policy of every country, to encourage the heaping up of such riches among them: That it is in this light the Jews are taxed separately, and not on account of religion or country, nor does the present tax exceed what they have paid forty years ago, when their riches were not so great as they are at present, and their numbers have been daily increasing under a taxation of this sort ever since. . ." The Jews were in the slave trade on the islands and in the communities of Curacao, Martinique, Nevis, Saint Dominique, Saint Eustatius, Saint Thomas, and others. There were numerous Jewish slave owners in the earliest Jewish communities in America in Rhode Island, Newport and New York. In some Jewish communities in New York Jews would pay their dues to the Synagogue by sending a black slave to clean it. In the south, Jews were heavily engaged in the slave trade. In 1826 the estimated value of slaves in the south was about 300 million dollars. The wealthiest Jewish community in the nation was in Charleston S.C. Jews made up a disproportionate number of slave owners, slave traders and slave auctioneers.
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In Los Angeles in 1861 after Secessionists victory in the elections The News accused the Jewish community of voting the Secessionist ticket and was branded anti-Semitic by the Jews for its article. During the speculation in gold papers such as The New York Tribune, Herald, Commercial, Patterson Press, Missouri Republican Chicago Tribune and the Detroit Commercial Advertiser noted that the great majority of those involved in the speculation were of the Jewish race. In 1898 the newspaper Jewish Sentiment editorialized “The laws of nature cannot be reversed by an act of Congress and the white man is not only superior to the black man but will assert his suprimacy (sic) at the proper time and in the proper manner. Estimates vary as to the number of slaves that died transiting to the New World during the centuries of the slave trade. 6-12 million would probably be low.
SLAVE SHIPS OF THE JEWS
There were numerous Jewish slave ships that sailed the Atlantic and Caribbean. Jews were heavily involved in slavery since its beginning. Abigail Active Africa Albany Ann Anne & Eliza Antigua Betsy Caracoa Charlotte
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Cleopatra Crown De Vrijheid Eagle Elizabeth Fortunate Four Sisters George Greyhound Hannah Hester Hetty Hiram Hope Juffr. Gerebrecht Juf Gracia Leghorn Mary Nancy Nassau Nina Pinta Prince George
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Prudent Betty Royal Charlotte Sally Santa Maria Sherbo Shiprah Spry Three Friends Union Joseph and Rachel Mary and Abigail Young Chaterine Young Adrian Lydia Barbadoes Factor Charming Sally Polly Dolphin Prince Orange Charming Polly Drake Sea Flower Phila
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Parthenope General Well Defiance Perfect Confirmation Diamond Rising Sun Lord Howe Rabbit General Webb Charming Betsey Two Sisters New York Dobirah Gloucester Delaware Belle Mars Lark David Patrick Abraham le Parfait
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l' Alliance le Vainquerur Jane Nancy Rebecca Ann Crown Gally Postillion Orleans Dreadnought Duke of Cumberland Duke of York Betsy Pearl Mary and Ann King George
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