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Main Article: Slavery in the Bible

Slavery is implicitly condoned in the Old Testament in several instances. The New Testament recognizes that the institution of slavery exists, but it doesn't make any attempt to criticize it.

Christians abolished slavery

"Slavery is one of the best examples — far from being a Western Christian invention, it was ubiquitous, and it was only the Christian west that abolished it.[1]"

The Atlantic slave trade was created and operated by Christians, so abolishing it was really the least they could do. Christian slave owners often used the Bible to defend slave ownership.

"At best, one could say that these cultures belatedly realized the evil of slavery only after they themselves had instituted it and caused it to flourish for hundreds of years, and finally corrected their own mistake.[2]"


While slavery pre-existed Islam, it continued in Islamic countries for many centuries. Muhammad himself bought, sold, captured, and owned slaves. Sharia law specifies limited conditions, mainly prisoners of war, in which a person may be enslaved. This practices is also supported by the example of Muhammad.

"[Allah] makes them their property by means of slavery unless the ruler chooses to free them for nothing or for a ransom, if that serves the interests of the Muslims."

— Adwa’ al-Bayaan 3/387

"O Prophet! We have made lawful [for sex] those (slaves) whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee"

Surah 33:50 Bible-icon.png, see also Surah 4:24 Bible-icon.png

"And it is not permissible for a man who believes in Allaah and the Last Day to have intercourse with a captured woman until he has established that she is not pregnant."

— Abu Dawood, 2158; classed as hasan by Shaykh al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 1890.

Apologists argue that the Qur'an only allows slaves to be ransomed or released but not enslaved (TMQ 47:4). [3] This principle is arguably violated by Muhammad's own actions. The Qur'an states that it is lawful for a man to have sex with female slaves that he owns Surah 4:24 Bible-icon.png; consent is not required and by modern standards, he can rape them.

However, the Qur'an does make a virtue out of freeing slaves and treating them well in most respects. The Qur'an does not directly call for the abolition of slavery.

"Although Islam is much credited for moderating the age-old institution of slavery, which was also accepted and endorsed by the other monotheistic religions, Christianity and Judaism, and was a well-established custom of the pre-Islamic world, it has never preached the abolition of slavery as a doctrine. [4]"
"Islamic law and custom provided no basis for the abolition of slavery or even for the curtailment of the slave trade. [5]"

The vast majority of Muslims condemn slavery and it is universally banned by secular law. However, it seems contradictory that such measures are needed to improve on the supposedly "perfect" Sharia law. On the other hand, it is possible that the circumstances of enslaving someone can no longer be met, while slavery would technically be legal, it would make slavery illegal in practice. A minority view in contemporary Islam is that slavery is still a valid practice:

"Slavery is a part of Islam. Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam. [6]"

Islam abolished slavery

"I mean, if you know anything about Islamic history the very first thing that Muhammad did was outlaw slavery"

Reza Aslan [7]

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Islam explicitly allows for slavery.


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [3]
  4. Forough Jahanbaksh, Islam, Democracy and Religious Modernism in Iran, 1953-2000, 2001
  5. Bernard Lewis, The Shaping of the Modern Middle East, 1994
  6. Shaikh Salih al-Fawzan "affirmation of slavery" was found on page 24 of "Taming a Neo-Qutubite Fanatic Part 1" when accessed on February 17, 2007
  7. [4]

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