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The title is only really one half of the question, as what I'm really unsure about is the fact that the majority of slaves throughout the Islamic slave trade were bought and not acquired through war.

I would be under the assumption that with how much the prophet ﷺ abhorred capturing free folk and kidnapping them, that it would be prohibited in turn to purchase slaves from foreign bodies which they had acquired via the very kidnapping which was not forbidden for them.

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Allah says, 'I will be against three persons on the Day of Resurrection: -1. One who makes a covenant in My Name, but he proves treacherous. -2. One who sells a free person (as a slave) and eats the price, -3. And one who employs a laborer and gets the full work done by him but does not pay him his wages.' " Sahih al-Bukhari 2227 https://sunnah.com/bukhari:2227

Yet that leads to another problem in which how could it then be possible for any of the slaves acquired by non-muslim forces to be permissable in that sense as they have not acquired them from a holy war, nor have they had to follow any of the islamic principles.

The reason why I say it's only one half is because I'm also wondering what the actual stipulations are for Muslims to capture slaves. I keep seeing contradicting answers on this site or it just being incompletely explained elsewhere, but is the acquisition of slaves only the combatants and non combatants who were present at the battle or does it include the cities of conquest? Because even if a minority of slaves historically were gained from Muslim conquest, there's no way so many women would be present in the battle fields throughout history for Muslims to have such a large ratio of female slaves and concubines.

As such I'd be led to believe that POWs included the common folk of cities under siege and conquest by the Muslims as well, but is it so?

And finally, sorry for adding an emotional response rather than rational one at the end, but is it not unfair that in the case that we could trade and buy slaves from non Muslims regardless of how they were acquired, or rather the fact that they ended up slaves for reasons unrelated to being against the Muslims in any way shape or form? They were not fighting the Muslims, they were not complicit in anything, in the case of kidnapping they had been guilty of absolutely nothing.

Shaykh al-Shanqiti (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The reason for slavery is kufr and fighting against Allah and His Messenger. When Allah enables the Muslim mujahidin who are offering their souls and their wealth, and fighting with all their strength and with what Allah has given them to make the word of Allah supreme over the kuffar, then He 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-Bayan, 3/387)

Of course this builds upon the idea that my first supposition is true though lol.

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  • note that in many battles the Prophet PBUH also captured the children from the enemy, it is a no brainer that children wouldn't be combatants, generally speaking. Same applies for the women that you mentioned, but they were captured anyway. This indicates that combatance is not the reason for slavery.
    – Hisham
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 20:50
  • Read this Hadith which explains something relevant sunnah.com/muslim:23a
    – Hisham
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 20:52
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    @Maalik I recognized that it was allowed to capture non combattants but many here have said that it was just non combatants who were at the battle site and not citizens of cities being sieged, but from the answer I got and from what I've read where cities under attack by the Muslims also fell under the right to capture slaves hence it seems like the supposition that I read from many that they must be present at the battle is false. Jzk for responding regardless though
    – Almond
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 9:57

1 Answer 1

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It depends on the religion and legal status of the slave.

A Muslim who is originally free can never be enslaved. So if the non-muslims kidnap and enslave a Muslim then that person remains free under Islamic law and must be let go when they come under our control.

Non-Muslims fall under the following categories:

  • Dhimmi - a permanent resident\citizen of the Islamic state who is protected by a treaty and pays Jizyah.
  • Musta’min - a visitor to the Islamic state who has been given asylum and permission to stay for less than one year. For example traders would typically adopt this option.
  • Mu‘aahid - a non-muslim who has a peace treaty with the Muslims other than payment of Jizyah.
  • Harbi - Every non-muslim who is not in the above categories. And this is the category with which war exists. Being a combatant or soldier is not necessary.

If the non-muslims 'kidnap' a Dhimmi non-muslim and later hand them over to us then that person can not be enslaved and must be let go when we gain control over them.

وجملة ذلك أن أهل الحرب إذا استولوا على أهل ذمتنا، فسبوهم، وأخذوا أموالهم، ثم قدر عليهم، وجب ردهم إلى ذمتهم، ولم يجز استرقاقهم. فى قول عامة أهل العلم؛ منهم الشعبى، ومالك، والليث، والأوزاعى، والشافعى، وإسحاق، ولا نعلم لهم مخالفا؛ وذلك لأن ذمتهم باقية، ولم يوجد منهم ما يوجب نقضها. وحكم أموالهم، حكم أموال المسلمين فى حرمتها. قال على، رضى الله عنه: إنما بذلوا الجزية لتكون دماؤهم كدمائنا، وأموالهم كأموالنا

If the Ahl al-Harb gain domination over the Ahl al-Dhimmah and capture them and snatch their properties and later we gain power over them, then it is obligatory to return them to the status of being Dhimmis and it is not permitted to enslave them. This is the saying of most of the scholars including Ash-Sha'bi, Malik, Al-Layth, al-Awzaa‘i, Al-Shaafa'i and Ishaaq and we do not know of anyone who disagreed. That is because their treaty of protection remains and nothing has occurred on their behalf which could nullify the treaty, and the ruling of their property is the same as the ruling of the property of the Muslims in terms of sanctity. And Ali said: They pay Jizyah so that their blood becomes like our blood and their property becomes like our property.

al-Mughni

However if the non-muslims 'kidnap' a Harbi and hand that prisoner to us then it is categorically valid to enslave him\her. That is because a Harbi's life and property does not have any sanctity and war exists against them inherently.

Note that Mariah the Copt was sent to the Prophet ﷺ as a gift by the (non-Muslim) ruler of Egypt, she was not captured in an actual battle fought by the Muslims. The case of Hajar was similar, as she was given as a gift to Sarah \ Abraham عليه السلام by a tyrant king, she was not captured in a battle fought by them.

إذا أسر الرجل منهم في القتال أو غير القتال مثل أن تلقيه السفينة إلينا أو يضل الطريق أو يؤخذ بحيلة فإنه يفعل فيه الإمام الأصلح من قتله أو استعباده أو المن عليه أو مفاداته بمال أو نفس عند أكثر الفقهاء كما دل عليه الكتاب والسنة. وإن كان من الفقهاء من يرى المن عليه ومفاداته منسوخا

If a (Harbi Kafir) male is made prisoner in fighting or without fighting, such as if he is cast adrift from a ship, or loses his way (and ends up in Islamic territory), or is taken by some ruse then the Imam will deal with him according to what best suits the Muslim interests. The choices being between executing him, or enslaving him, or freeing him as a favor, or exchanging him for ransom or for life (prisoner exchange) according to most of the jurists as this is evident from the Quran and Sunnah. And some of the jurists held that freeing as a favor or exchange (for ransom) are abrogated.

Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa

The above quote is regarding male prisoners. Female prisoners would be similar with some exceptions such as that they can not be executed.

والسبي لا يختص بزوجات المقاتلين، ولا بمن وجدت في أرض المعركة، فكل نساء العدو من أهل البلاد والحصون المفتوحة عنوة، يدخلن في هذا الحكم

Enslavement is not specific to the wives of the fighters nor to those present in the land where the battle took place, rather all enemy women from the people of a city or fortress which is conquered by force are included in this law

islamway

فأما النكاية التي هي الاستعباد فهي جائزة بطريق الإجماع في جميع أنواع المشركين، أعني: ذكرانهم وإناثهم وشيوخهم وصبيانهم صغارهم وكبارهم إلا الرهبان

Harm that amounts to enslavement is permitted by way of consensus for all categories of the (harbi) polytheists, I mean, their men and women, old and young, and the common people and the elite with the exception of monks.

Bidaayat al-Mujtahid

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