A thorough exploration of slavery from the perspective of Islam’s authoritative texts as well as moral and philosophical debates on the subject
What happens when authorities you venerate condone something you know is wrong?
Every major religion and philosophy once condoned or approved of slavery, but in modern times nothing is seen as more evil. Americans confront this crisis of authority when they erect statues of Founding Fathers who slept with their slaves. And Muslims faced it when ISIS revived sex slavery, justifying it with verses from the Quran and the practice of Muhammad.
Exploring the moral and ultimately theological problem of slavery, Jonathan A.C. Brown traces how the Christian, Jewish and Islamic traditions have tried to reconcile modern moral certainties with the infallibility of God’s message. He lays out how Islam viewed slavery in theory, and the reality of how it was practiced across Islamic civilization. Finally, Brown carefully examines arguments put forward by Muslims for the abolition of slavery.
Jonathan A.C. Brown is Professor and Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He is the author of Slavery & Islam, Misquoting Muhammad and Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World, all of which are published by Oneworld. He lives in Virginia.
‘Slavery & Islam hints at some of the great questions that are still outstanding in this field.’
– Literary Review
‘For any system of belief that vests ultimate authority in the past, slavery is a big moral problem… For several reasons, this dilemma is an acute one for Muslims, as emerges in [this] scholarly but digestible new book.’
– The Economist
‘A must-read for students and scholars of slavery in historical and contemporary Islam, as well as for anyone interested in slavery and its relationship to religion… Slavery & Islam is a thoughtful, well-researched, and well-written elucidation of a very difficult problem.’
– Journal of Islamic Ethics
‘This insightful, courageous and comprehensively argued book is bound to constitute a new beginning. It is certain to be as widely debated as it is widely read. And we will all be all the better for it.’
– Sherman A. Jackson, King Faisal Chair of Islamic Thought and Culture, University of Southern California
‘A prodigiously researched, provocatively argued, learned and multi-faceted treatment of a difficult and complex problem. One might not agree with all of Brown’s conclusions, but the book will be a must-read for students and scholars of historical and contemporary Islam, as well as for anyone interested in slavery and its relationship to religion.’
– Bernard K. Freamon, Professor of Law Emeritus, Seton Hall University School of Law