Slavery in the Islamic Middle East

Publication Year



Slavery, recognized and regulated by Islamic law, was an integral part of Muslim societies in the Middle East well into modern times. Recruited from the "Abode of War" by means of trade or warfare, slaves began their lives in the Islamic world as deracinated outsiders, described by Muslim jurists as being in a state like death, awaiting resurrection and rebirth through manumission. Many of these slaves were manumitted and some rose to prominence as soldiers and political leaders. Others were not so fortunate. Slaves of African origin, in particular, were often condemned to lives of menial labor.
This volume examines the institution of slavery in Islam in a range of cultural settings. Shaun Marmon examines the role of domestic slavery and clientage in Medieval Egypt. Yvonne Seng discusses the social and spatial mobility provided by the institution of slavery in Ottoman Anatolia. John Hunwick examines the debates that took place among the North African ulama in the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries about the relationship between skin color and slavery. Michel Le Gall's partial translation of memoirs of the French physician Louis Frank presents a vivid picture of the fate of these African victims of the slave trade in the nineteenth century. David Ayalon returns again to the important institution of military slavery in Islam in the pre-modern period.


Slavery in the Islamic Middle East makes available five interesting perspectives on a topic that is beginning to generate the scholarly attention it deserves. The tension between Islamic legal theory and social reality receives complex and original analysis in several of the essays that make up this volume. Furthermore, the translations and discussions of primary sources included in most of the chapters elucidate the ideas and practices that shaped the multiple experiences of slaves and that gave flexibility to the boundary between slavery and freedom in different regions and periods of the history of the Islamic world.”
The Journal of North African Studies

Markus Wiener Publishers
Princeton, NJ
Cloth: 1558761683; paper: 1558761691