In Ancient Middle East, Muhammad and his companions regularly sold, captured, freed and bought slaves. Islam’s holy book, the Quran, the perfect, unaltered word of God both sanctions and codifies one of humanities most inhumane realities – slavery. This five-part essay will examine the problem of Islamic slavery. This essay will also question the Qurans authorship, Muhammad’s immorality and many other muddy issues Muslims wish we would simply ignore. The moment anyone says anything about the Quran which is not flattering, you know what to expect. Muslims will scream, “That is out of context!” “Respect my religion!” “Do not insult Islam or you will burn in hell!” Unfortunately for them, I do not believe in hell, paradise, Allah, angels, demons, jinns, flying horses or any other magical thing. These threats do not affect atheists. Muslims tell atheists that if we insult Muhammad, after we die an angel will sneak into our grave and pummel us on the head with an iron hammer. They tell us snakes from hell will bite us and we will have to wear clothing spun from flames. Threatening an atheist with ‘hellfire’ because they insulted Muhammad, is about as meaningful as telling us that evil Leprechauns and arrogant Elves will jump into our graves and dance on our foreheads. Threatening us with childish superstition is pointless. Atheists only find it amusing. In short, Islamic superstition is as pepless as biscuits without baking powder. You will not get a rise out of us – except for our laughter.
As an equal opportunity offender, I am obliged to make one thing perfectly clear. This essay is not politically correct. I am concerned only about truth, evidence, and rationality. This essay is not concerned about giving any person a sentimental education. Emotional trivialities are irrelevant in my world. Truth comes about through an accurate understanding of logical fallacies, superstition, and cognitive bias. Truth comes by thinking for oneself – not by listening to the ramblings of any Islamic charlatan who succeeds only at raising more questions than he answers. ( Zakir Naik, Bilal Philips etc.. ) Both Muslims and Atheists are entitled to the truth. Muslims are just as deserving of true information as anyone else. In recent history, Muslims are denied the opportunity to develop their fullest potential in many areas of their lives. As a result, they underperform the rest of the world. My book The Atheist Guide To Islam will discuss many of the things Islam does to hurt, hinder, and oppress Muslim people. For the moment, we are going to concern ourselves only with Islamic slavery.
If you just so happen to be one of those Muslims that cannot handle any criticism of your holy prophet Muhammad, I have only two pieces of advice for you. One, stop reading this essay immediately. If a Danish cartoon pissed off Muslims so much that they had to file a string of frivolous lawsuits, set cars a flame, and cry like a little girl with a skinned knee – then they should be very careful in reading this essay. What I have to say might enrage them so much, that they may actually suffer spontaneous human combustion. I certainly would not want you to hurt yourself on account of reading something that your vulnerable, virgin ears cannot handle. Second, seek therapy immediately. I am not obligated to respect any religion. Your precious emotional love for Muhammad is a private matter. You will have to learn how to deal with your emotions like an adult. Children cry when they do not get what they want. Children throw a temper tantrum when someone says a word they do not like. This is a simple question – either you are a child or you are an adult. I will not respect your religion. I will not respect your prophet. If you cannot handle it, this is your problem not mine.
This essay will examine many dimensions of slavery. Not only will we look at how the Quran condones and codifies slavery, but we will also examine why Muslims think that Islamic slavery is a good thing. According to the all-loving, all-merciful Allah, slavery is a perfectly legitimate institution. According to Allah, it is also permissible to rape slaves. This poses many disturbing questions, all the way down to the very existence of Allah himself. Please double check every source that I have cited in this essay. I do not want any person to simply take my word on anything. I encourage each reader to finish this short essay, and then go to the list of books and articles referenced for further reading.
The Quran talks a lot about the importance of humans having an ‘open heart.’ Open heart simply means that we should have an open mind. In all fairness, this is true. We all should have an open mind. Whether we are discussing Islam or atheism, an open mind is a very positive attribute. Here you find one of the many instances where I do think the Quran is correct. I completely encourage any person to read the Quran with an open mind.
We should all be willing to accept something new or reject something we previously believed was true. The good news is that this idea goes both ways. If you are a Muslim, and you want others to look at Islam with an open mind then you should be at least willing to read this entire essay from beginning to end with an open mind. If you are unwilling to do so, then you have no place to ever ask an atheist to read the Quran with an open mind. If you would like others to have an open mind when they approach the Quran, then it is only fair that we ask you to have an open mind when you read this essay. This essay holds the basic idea that there is nothing honorable about slavery. This essay will treat all forms of slavery: Biblical slavery, Islamic slavery, Jewish slavery, American slavery as equally evil. American slave owners were just as morally wrong for owning slaves as Muhammad was for owning slaves. For Muslim people, I hope that you ask yourself the right questions. I hope that you approach these questions with a logical mind, and do not fall into the pits of any logical fallacies or cognitive biases. This essay hopes to share important information with Muslim people, not only about the universal evils of slavery, but also with the basic concept of rational thinking. Even if you are not familiar with good logic, if you use a bad argument many people will realize that there is something wrong with your arguments. Others will realize that there is a fallacy involved, even if they are not able to identify exactly what that fallacy is. I encourage all Muslim people to think calmly and rationally about the evidence and arguments presented. Even if Muslim people chose to keep their religion, it is my hope that they will extract certain lessons from this essay.
One can use several methods when they embark on that muddy task of debating Islamic slavery with a Muslim. The Bible and Quran are full of slavery. The Jews permitted slavery. Christians practiced slavery. The Quran codifies slavery. Although we are concerned with Islam and the Quran at this time, make no mistakes that all three monotheistic religions are innately immoral for permitting this barbaric institution in the first place. Just as Muslims hold that Islamic slavery is morally justified, we will begin to discover that Muslims are also enslaved people. They are slaves to ideology, slaves to their religion, slaves to Islamic indoctrination, and slaves to Islamic superstition. As we tie the knots together, we find that Muslims are proud of being slaves. Although atheism will never console a sick person or grieving mother, atheism does have a lot to offer Muslims that Islam can never offer them. Atheism offers them an uncomfortable truth. Islam offers childlike delusions. Atheism can free their minds from the shackles of superstition. Instead of wasting the only life they will have on a lie, chasing a paradise that does not exist – atheism will make this life more meaningful. Eternity in heaven is a fairy tale – make the life you have now the best you possibly can. Because of atheistic thinking, Muslim people will find that they will be more productive in life. Atheism will not nurture any delusions about paradise, but instead it will give Muslims the confidence in their own abilities to live their lives to the fullest. Atheism will help them understand why the Quran does not represent universal morality, or at least the kind of morality that any decent human being should value.
At the end of the nineteenth century, Muslims began to shift their interpretations on the Quran and slavery. They began to interpret slavery as opposed to Islamic principles of equality and justice. Slavery is a topic that encourages both silence, denial, and then a string of esoteric excuses. Accusations of slavery offer a civilization a lasting source of anxiety. Mortified and embarrassed that slavery lasted as long as it did, and that Muhammad condoned slavery, Muslims are in a state of anxiety whenever someone raises the issue. It is easy to blame others, deflect, or talk about slavery that happened in other parts of the world. Anyone can do this. As the modern world wants answers, Muslim must find creative ways of providing answers.
In an effort to appeal to modern sensibilities, Islamic apologetics must contrive new ways to ‘soften’ Islamic slavery. Softening Islamic slavery simply means they must manipulate others into believing that Islamic slavery is ‘good’ while all other forms of slavery is ‘bad.’ Muslims cannot lie and say that Islam forbids slavery. 1Nor can they say Muhammad never bought, sold or raped slaves. The evidence is right in front of their faces. The Quran and Hadiths are full to the brim with slavery. 2Their own primary resources are so full of slavery that they overflow with slavery. Denying slavery in Islam is about as logical, as denying the earth rotates around the sun. The function of Islam is to maintain itself at any cost. Maintaining Islam means that the Muslim must sacrifice his or her own dignity. They humiliate themselves when they ignore obvious facts, obvious logical fallacies and obvious cognitive bias. They know their arguments are bad, but in their esoteric minds, they will suffer humiliation just to maintain Islam. The Quran cannot represent universal morality and accept slavery at the same time. At the crossroads, Muslims find themselves in an uncomfortable state of cognitive dissonance. At that moment of crisis, they contrive new ways to convince themselves that Allah is not imaginary. It is almost as if they know Allah is imaginary, but have to find new ways of lying to themselves.
In ancient Arabian society, only a small portion of private citizens could afford to own slaves. Most slaves belonged to kings, priests and temples. They maintained private property, served as domestic help and worked in family gardens. Wherever the Sharia predominated, the definition of slavery was simple and precise.3 Slaves were chattels. Slaves were livestock who also who also possessed certain circumscribed rights arising from their undeniable humanity. In many instances, men would make their slaves into their concubines. Unlike the Americas, slavery was not a vital part of their ancient economy. 4Owning slaves was simply as symbol of personal wealth and social status.
When we examine Islamic slavery, one fact is certain. The Quran cannot claim to represent universal, timeless morality while allowing one group of human beings to enslave other human beings. When Muslims are confronted with this problem, they will immediately start a long-winded lecture about how Islamic slavery is ‘good’ while all other forms of slavery are ‘bad.’ Other times, they will extract words for the Quran and apply the equivocation fallacy5 , one of the more common logical fallacies used by Muslims as they try to defend the Quran’s brutalities. Muslims will try to divert our attention away from the cruelty of slavery, instead focusing on all the good things Muhammad said about slaves. Pay special attention and you will see that Muslims consistently chose to ignore the fact that slavery is an existentially a cruel institution. They will ignore the fact that Muhammad did something existentially cruel. All slavery is wrong, regardless if the slavery happened two thousand years ago, two hundred years ago or in the modern world.
1. Quran 33:50 – “Prophet, We have made lawful to you the wives to whom you have granted dowries and the slave girls whom God has given you as booty.”
Quran 23:5 – “… except with their wives and slave girls, for these are lawful to them”
2. There are numerous sources on Islamic Slavery from Many Hadiths, here is a small sample of Al Bukhari Hadiths on slavery: Vol. 7-#137, Vol. 5-#459, Vol. 3-#765, Vol. 7-#734, Vol. 7-#344, Vol. 5-#541, Vol. 5-#637, Vol. 5-#512, Vol. 5-Chapter 67, Vol. 5-#182 , Vol. 5-#50 , Vol. 9-#462
3. Islam and Slavery, By W.G. Clarence-Smith, page 2
4. See References at the end of this essay, there are many books discussing the economics of Islamic Slavery in the Arabia Peninsula.
5. Equivocation Fallacy: This is a type of ambiguity used by Muslims to apply more than one meaning to words. They will shift the meaning of Quranic words to suit their personal agenda. Equivocation is a type of ambiguity they apply to words.