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Slaves and Slavery

(2,487 words)

Author(s): Brockopp, Jonathan E.
Persons incorporated into a family in a subordinate position who are subservient to a master who owns them and may sell them, and the institution of acquiring, keeping, selling, and freeing slaves. Slaves are mentioned in at least twenty-¶ nine verses of the Qurʾān, most of these are Medinan and refer to the legal status of slaves. Seven separate terms refer to slaves, the most common of which is the phrase “that which your/their right hands own” (mā malakat aymānukum/aymānuhum/aymānuhunna/yamīnuka), found in fifteen places. This phrase often refers to female concubines (q…

Justice and Injustice

(2,919 words)

Author(s): Brockopp, Jonathan E.
Equitable action according to God's will; action that transgresses God's bounds. One of the key dichotomies in the Qurʾān, it separates divine from human action, moral from immoral behavior (see ethics and the qurʾān ). The Qurʾān uses several different words and metaphors to convey this moral balance. ʿAdl and qisṭ can be used to speak of justice as equitable action but justice can also be defined as correct or truthful action, in which case ṣidq or ḥaqq may be used. Metaphors (see metaphor ) such as the balance ( mīzān, see weights and measures; instruments), inheritance (q.v.) shares ( naṣī…


(811 words)

Author(s): Brockopp, Jonathan E.
Persons who are captured in an act of war and whose lives are in the hands of the captor. According to Islamic law a captive may be killed, enslaved or returned for ransom. The Qurʾān refers to captives directly as asīr (pl. asrā, asārā or usarāʾ), the literal meaning of which is “one who is shackled” (cf. q 2:185; 18:73; 94:5, 6). Raqaba (pl. riqāb), literally “nape of the neck,” is used six times (cf. q 2:177; 5:89; 9:60; 47:4; 58:3; 90:13) to refer to captives or slaves synecdochically; the verb taʾsirūna, “you make captive,” is found in q 33:26 (see slaves and slavery ). Pre-Islamic rules of wa…


(2,461 words)

Author(s): Brockopp, Jonathan E.
Creatures bound in service to God. In over 100 places, the Qurʾān describes prophets (see prophets and prophethood ), believers (see belief and unbelief ), jinn (q.v.; cf. q 51:56) and angels (see angel ) as servants ( ʿabd, pl. ʿibād, ʿabīd; also ʿābid, pl. ʿābidūn) of God. Human beings in general are also described as God's servants, though they may be currently worshipping Satan (see devil ) or another false god (e.g. the ʿabada l-ṭāghūt in q 5:60, the only ¶ occurrence of this plural form; see idols and images; polytheism and atheism). The relationship of master and servant is one o…


(750 words)

Author(s): Brockopp, Jonathan E.
Female slaves who enter into a sexual relationship with their male master. In addition to four legal wives, Islamic law allows a Muslim man the right of sexual intercourse with his female slaves (see marriage and divorce; sex and sexuality). This right is based on ancient Arab custom (see pre-islamic arabia and the qurʾān ) and on several verses of the Qurʾān which refer to ‘that which your [or their] right hands own (mā malakat aymānukum, variants: aymānuhum, aymānuhunna, yamīnuka).’ The phrase occurs 15 times in the Qurʾān. Other qurʾānic terms for female slaves ( ama, pl. imāʾ, fatayāt) d…


(816 words)

Author(s): Brockopp, Jonathan E.
Persons physically detained by judicial authority in an institution for that purpose. The Qurʾān explicitly mentions prisoners (al- masjūnūn) only once, in q 26:29, referring to Moses (q.v.). The noun “prison” (al- sijn) and its verbal forms are, however, found in the story of Joseph (q.v.) at q 12:25 and in eight other places. Both of these narratives (q.v.) refer to the Pharaoh's (q.v.) prison in Egypt (q.v.), which some commentators described as “an underground place where a person was held without seeing or hearing anyone” ( Jalālayn, 482, ad q 26:29). ¶ It seems unlikely that Mecca (q.…