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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Roxelana, a victim of the Crimean slave trade, became an umm al-walad when giving birth to a child by her enslaver, sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

In the Muslim world, the title of umm al-walad (Arabic: أم الولد, lit.'mother of the child') was given to a slave-concubine who had given birth to her master's child.[1] These women were regarded as property and could be sold by their owners, a practice that received an endorsement from Muhammad.[2][3] However, later after Muhammad’s death, Umar authorized a policy during his time as a caliph, that prohibited owners from selling or gifting their umm al-walads, and upon their owners deaths, they would be granted freedom.[4][5] Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, initially concurred with Umar's decision. However, after Umar's death and the death of Uthman, who maintained the policy, Ali reversed it in the later period of his caliphate, declaring that umm al-walad was still sellable despite having given birth to the owner's child.[6][7]

Ali's viewpoint was eventually integrated into Shi'ism, along with the acceptance of temporary marriages. On the other hand, all prominent Sunni legal schools of jurisprudence embrace Umar's perspective that the umm al-walad should not be sold and should be granted freedom following her master's death.[8] Children born to umm al-walad from her master were considered freeborn and legitimate, and they were often treated similarly with the other children born to the master's free wives.[9] In 740, Zayd ibn Ali's failed attempt for the caliphate marked a turning point in favor of leaders with slave maternal origins and reached its peak in 744 with the rise of Yazid III as the first Umayyad caliph with a slave mother. Subsequently, the last three Umayyad caliphs and a majority of the Abbasid caliphs were born to slave women.[10]

Rhetoric concerning their mothers surrounded this rise to power, serving either to glorify or criticize their ascension to the caliphate. One rhetorical tactic involved portraying the slave mothers as foreign princesses with prestigious family backgrounds, thereby elevating their social status. An example of this is Yazid III, who proudly declared that his mother was a Persian princess from the esteemed Sasanid dynasty, emphasizing his noble lineage. He boasted about his dual heritage, connecting himself to both Caesar and Khaqan. Conversely, their adversaries used a contrasting rhetorical approach by casting doubt on their paternity and implying that using slave women to bear children would lead to significant sociopolitical unrest. For instance, those opposed to Marwan II claimed that he was not truly the son of the Umayyad prince Muhammad ibn Marwan, suggesting that his slave mother was already pregnant when she was captured from the enemy camp.[11]

If an unmarried slave bore a child and the slave owner did not acknowledge parenthood, then the slave had to face zina charges.[12]

Islamic jurisprudence was complicated, if a male owner failed to provide economic maintenance to female slave or if the owner goes missing, then the situation of female slave could get precarious if a local judge did not rule to free them.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Gordon & Hain 2017, p. 301.
  2. ^ Gordon & Hain 2017, pp. 312, 314.
  3. ^ Eltis et al. 2021, p. 199.
  4. ^ Gordon & Hain 2017, p. 308.
  5. ^ Nagel 2020, p. 174.
  6. ^ Gordon & Hain 2017, pp. 298, 314–5.
  7. ^ Zysow 2014, p. 138.
  8. ^ Gordon & Hain 2017, p. 315.
  9. ^ Gordon & Hain 2017, p. 229, 327.
  10. ^ Gordon & Hain 2017, p. 228.
  11. ^ Gordon & Hain 2017, p. 230.
  12. ^ a b De la Puente, Cristina (2013). "Free fathers, slave mothers and their children: a contribution to the study of family structures in Al-Andalus". Free Fathers, Slave Mothers and Their Children: A Contribution to the Study of Family Structures in Al-Andalus: 27–44.


This page was last edited on 9 May 2024, at 23:12
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