Channel: Jonathan Brown
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Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim al hamdu Lillahi Rabbil alameen wa salatu salam ala Sayidina Muhammad Ali, he was ibH mine I'm about. So I'm sure all of us are very excited for today's lecture, I'm not going to stand between you and our experts, except by setting it up in shallow data, this issue of slavery and Islam. And the reason why this topic is so difficult for us to discuss While there are many reasons, but we as Muslims are primarily interested in how can we understand the fact that Islam, maybe two potentially has allowed something that we are taught to so immoral when Islam came, it abolished so many things that abolished drinking alcohol, it eradicated or at least it wanted to
eradicate racism, and alcohol and racism were rampant across the globe? Our young men and women say, why didn't Islam come and eradicate slavery as well? That's a theological question. Why not? And on the flip side, we have those that want to reinterpret Islam completely, when it comes to gender and sexuality and morality. And they say, look, you guys, you ultra conservative folks, you're not advocating slavery anymore. So if we can get rid of slavery, why can't we get rid of gender and gender roles? If you guys are willing to abandon one aspect that was once upon a time a part of Islam? Then why can't we also abandoned another aspect? So we are stuck between a rock and a hard
place? We're stuck between those groups that are saying, how could Islam have allowed it? How could Islam have allowed something that is so intrinsically evil, and they either reject Islam, or our young men who are doubting Islam? And on the other side, we have those that are saying, Oh, yeah, that's the whole point. Islam can evolve over time. Just like Islam evolved with slavery. So two, they say to us, it should also involve with same sex and with this and with that, why can't we do that as well. And so that's why this topic is one that really does require so much talk and discussion. And I'm very, very honored and pleased to have with us today, Dr. Jonathan Brown. Dr.
Jonathan Brown is the principal at Waleed bin Talal, chair of Islamic civilization and the school of foreign service at Georgetown University. Dr. Brown received his BA in history from Georgetown in 2000. By the way he converted to Islam in the late 90s. It's an a personal illness that's not on the official bio, but I'll tell you, he converted to Islam in high school and
second University sorry, he converted to Islam second year university.
Okay, so he's not Samuel Conan Oh, well, on his cyber hoonah afternoon, what is he the second batch of Converse but pre 911, which is a very important pointed milestone. He finished his BA from Georgetown in 2000, and then his PhD from University of Chicago in 2006. And Dr. Brown has studied and conducted research in countries such as Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Iran, all of these countries. His book publications include the canonization of Bosnian Muslim Hadeeth Mohammed's legacy in the medieval and modern world, Mohammed a very short introduction, which was selected for the National Endowment for the Humanities,
bridging cultures Muslim journeys bookshelf, his book misquoting Mohammed, the challenges and choices of interpreting the prophets legacy and it goes on and on and on. His he has published extensively in the fields of Hadith which is what he is primarily known for in the academic world, Islamic law, Salafism Sufism, Arabic lexical theory and pre Islamic poetry, what have you not published on and he is the editor in chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Islamic law. Dr. Brown's current research interests include Islamic legal reform, and a translation of Sahil Bahati. He is also the Director of Research at the European Institute. And I'm also very honored to say he
is a very near and dear friend for a very long time. And so when I invited him to come to his Plano, he immediately jumped and agreed, even though it was just a month's notice or so. So hamdulillah he is here. So without further ado, should I tell you why they wrote the book, are you going to tell them why you wrote the book? Okay, without further ado, Dr. Jonathan Brown.
Okay. Bhisma rajim Bismillah R Rahman r Rahim in Alhamdulillah have been a stallion or Salam
Listen, I'd say that we're studying Allah, Allah, he was a big marine.
This, this topic, actually all the topics I write about our personal topics in the sense that I, I picked them because I have questions, I have questions. And I remember very clearly
when I had this question, because that was just after I became Muslim, that would have been probably the fall of 1997. And I remember, was sitting in my old house and my family's house in my old room, and I was reading a translation of the Quran. And
I came across the verse obviously as reading translation, right, but the verse diabolical method, and I've done them Luke and I have to do what I say in all nine Rosanna who men notice konasana, right. So, God, the God gives you a parable of a slave who's owned and can't do anything. As opposed to someone who you know, we presume a free person whom we got, we have given good the sustenance and he spends out of that in secret and in private. And the the,
this actually is not making any law about slavery, it's using this as a parable for talking about idols that have no power versus God that has all power. But I remember being confused, because I was thinking to myself, you know, how can God talk about slavery just kind of randomly and not say, slavery is wrong? Because slavery mean slavery is wrong? How can you just talk about it like that and treat it like it's no big deal?
And, you know, I think maybe a lot of us read these verses in the Quran, maybe especially younger people read these verses in the Quran, and don't really know what to make of them. And we kind of just kind of pass over them, and then assume that there's some answer, but I think it causes a lot of doubt. And so when I, when I decided to write this book was after the ISIS thing happened, because that was really it was 2015, and really caused a crisis for a lot of young Muslims because they saw you know, these people who said they were doing exactly what the Sharia they're saying, they're doing exactly what the Quran and the Prophet Alayhi Salam had done in taking slaves. And so
a lot of young listeners are sitting there saying, Wait a second, you know, not only does my scripture talk about slavery, but now people who say they're following that scripture and who can point clearly to verses in the Quran and the Sunnah are doing so in the name of Islam, and it was really caused a lot of people to leave Islam, though, you will have doubts and a lot of
anxiety. So that's why I wrote this book, which is here, he asked her, hasn't she, if he asked her, sorry. And yeah, she was fine. So I also forgot to thank you for inviting me. And thank you all for coming. It's really big honor. And I hope this will be useful for you. I'm going to talk about a huge amount of material. So I'm going to go if you're reduced to books of 50. This is a delille free book, this is not a book with a delay, this is a matassa because I'm going to go through a lot of material. So I want you to turn your brains on high power, right? I'm going to rely on high power, text and high power brain functioning.
Yes, yes, that's a thing. Let's do that. Let's go with that. Okay, Texas, high power brain functioning.
So there's there's two whenever when we when we read these verses of the Quran, there's there's two issues, right one is the service. How can God just mentioned slavery and not say slavery is wrong, or you shouldn't have slaves? And the second thing, which is a sort of a compound problem is, how do we explain our sense of discomfort. So if we believe in the Word of God, and we believe that the Sunnah of the prophet of Salaam is inspired by God, and the Prophet is incapable of moral error.
However, we also explained the fact that deep in our in our guts, we feel that slavery is wrong. I mean, how can the Qur'an be allowing something? And in our guts, we feel that it's so wrong, we can't conceive of being allowed? How do we even conceptualize that?
Just the existence of that feeling becomes a problem. So these are the two things I want to talk about today, one, sort of, how do we make sense of the moral problem of slavery? And then how do we make sense of our moral reaction to it?
And these are really what's called these are problems of what's called moral ontology. Now, that's the only really big word I'm going to use in this lecture. I think, a moral ontology ontology is a study of existence. And so moral ontology is really talking about what what is morality where, where does it come from? What is the matter
morality was it made of? What does it weigh? What kinds of morality are there? We all know slavery is wrong, right? I mean, if I go out and I ask a random person on the street, or ask one of you in the crowd, just off the street, is slavery wrong? You're gonna say yes, of course it's wrong.
Okay, what does that mean?
If it's wrong, how come? The Prophet Lisa Islam had slaves? How come the early Muslims had slaves?
I mean, did they not know it was wrong? How do we how do we answer this question? What does it mean to be rude? What kind of wrong? Is it?
What kind of wrong? Is it? So these are questions that I want to try and talk about today. Okay, slavery is really hard to talk about. It's really hard to talk about globally, it's extremely hard to talk about the United States. And there's a couple of reasons for this. The first one is that in the United States, slavery is intimately and can and consist continues to be tied to the question of race. And you don't have to be very observant or had been in this country very long to know about issues of race in this country, especially between black Americans and white Americans. And these are, this was an issue that was formed and shaped by and then also shaped slavery in the United
States. Right? So
talking about slavery, he's talking about race.
And it's especially painful because the injustice is, and the harms caused by slavery in the United States, continue to be our country continues to be with us, in our society. So it's a it's a live wire, not in the sense that it's, you know, it's sensitive, it says that it's actually a real living problem. Okay. The second reason it's very difficult to talk about is because it involves tying our brain in knots, involves tying our brain and knots and people don't like to do that causes them anxiety. I'm going to give you an example, who remembers the Charlottesville protests in 2017, Summer of 2017, Charlottesville, Virginia, University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson, of
course, as a nice big statue of Thomas Jefferson there. Thomas Jefferson was the author of the declaration independence, one of the leading thinkers of the American Revolution, a man who believed in freedom of democracy, and a man who had a lot of slaves and had children with one of his slave women. Right?
Who those children were then also slaves, he eventually freed them, but they were also slaves. So what they were a lot of protesters at University of Virginia saying,
slavery is an evil. It's a great, it's history's greatest crime.
It's wrong no matter where you are, when or when. And we don't want a statue of a guy who was a slave owner and who raped a slave woman up in front of our university. That's a pretty good argument, right? I mean, that's like a pretty good logical argument. So they really evil. This guy did slavery.
statues gotta go.
Donald Trump came out. And he summarize the situation in a way that remarkably, only he could do.
George Washington's a slave owner, you're going to take down statues of George Washington.
Imagine taking down every statue of George Washington, imagine renaming everything that's called Washington.
It's topographically or top and numerically exhausting to think about that. And it's just impossible politically in the United States to talk about this issue.
Wait a second, we have a contradiction here.
So there is evil. George Washington was a slave owner. Why do we name everything after him?
So this is the what I call this slavery conundrum. There's an American slavery conundrum. And there's an Islamic slavery conundrum and they're very similar to one another. I'll give you the basically the slavery conundrum the slavery conundrum is that there are three things there three axioms that we have to hold.
In modern America, and in the modern West, and maybe in the modern world. There's three things three axioms, we have to hold their own mind. But it's impossible to hold all three in your mind at the same time, because they're contradictory. What are they first, slavery is
an intrinsic and gross moral evil. What does that mean? intrinsic? It means that slavery itself is evil it's not slavery is evil cuz it makes you sad. It's not slavery evil cuz you're miserable. It's not slavery isn't evil, cuz it causes abuse of rights. slavery in and of itself is evil.
And it's not just, you know, a little evil like me, you know, smacking us around the back of the head for no reason.
This is a gross evil. This is never the lesser of two evils. This is never the thing you can do because there's something you think
more humble. It is never excusable is a gross and intrinsic evil across space and time. What I mean across space and time was slavery wrong when Thomas Jefferson did it? Speak talk to me like Americans Tell me Give me the American answer was slavery wrong and Thomas Jefferson did it. Yes. Okay, we slavery wrong during the Roman period? Yes. Was slavery wrong during the Egyptian times? Yes. It was throughout space and time.
Second, so that's the first axiom. What's the second axiom?
Imagine this go into a what you guys have instead of dinner parties here, barbecues, parties, but I want something with non Muslims, barbecues. Okay, barbecues. Imagine you go to your company barbecue. And someone asks you about slavery in Islam? And you say, yeah, there's slavery, but it wasn't that bad.
How, how's that barbecue gonna go for you? Well, I don't know. Actually, Texas. I'm not sure. I don't know. I'm not sure. Okay, I'm gonna retract that comment, edit that out of the video. My path my family's from Texas. So I have love for displays. But point is
the second axiom. All slavery is slavery. There's no
you're not allowed to make distinctions within slavery. There's no good slavery and bad slavery. There's no benevolent slavery and harmful slavery. All slavery is slavery. Okay, that's actually number two, axiom number three.
Our past our past has some kind of moral or legal right over us. It has some kind of moral or legal power over us. It has some kind of moral or legal authority over us. If you're Muslim. We know what that is. Right? The Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet, are our sources of guidance and morality.
If God commands us to do something, if the Prophet commands us to do something, we say, send out no altana.
Right. What is justice? It's what God commands? What is injustice? What God forbids?
If you're American,
maybe it's not that dramatic, but the Constitution, the founding fathers,
these people have authority over us. I mean, we might disagree with them, but their ideas, their writings define our political life.
Right? I mean, try going into a barbecue and just say, you know, George Washington was a real piece of, you know, what, see what happens?
You know, it's not going to go very well.
What's the problem here? These three axioms cannot be held at the same time.
So I say, Okay.
Yes, Thomas Jefferson had slaves, but it was different back then.
Can't say that. Slavery is a transitional evil throughout space and time.
Yeah, yeah, there is slavery in the Bible. But slavery in the Bible is not that it's not like slavery in America is not that bad. Oh, you're saying there's some kind of slavery, that's okay.
So, here's the problem. There is no religious or philosophical tradition that I know of. And I've done a lot of research on this. There is no philosophical or religious tradition that I know of, that did not either defend,
accept or condone slavery
until the 1600s, at the various are very earliest 1600s.
So there's not there's nobody who's going to be okay to follow. There's no one who's going to be free of the taint of slavery, from World History essentially, before the 1600s.
So we have a problem. We have a two axioms. Slavery is the gross, intrinsic evil throughout space and time, all slavery, slavery, that force us to condemn everything in our past, essentially, whether you're Americans or Muslims, or Hindu or Buddhist.
That's a really big problem. So we have in our minds, a knot, that is that something that actually cannot hold together, it can't hold together. And the second you start picking that or at talking about that the pieces start to fall apart. People don't like to talk about it. Why does this conundrum exist? Why does this conundrum exist? It's actually a result.
It's also a result and a product of abolitionist discourse. So abolitionists discourse in the United States and Britain from the late 1700s into the mid 1800s.
argued that all slavery was a gross and intrinsic evil that had to be gotten rid of immediately. Why did it make this argument?
If you're an abolitionist, and you're willing to talk about some kinds of slavery being good, and some kind of slavery being bad, what is the slave owner? you're arguing, going to say?
Oh, look, Yeah, I agree with you. Slavery is evil. I mean, when it's done badly, but my slaves come look at them, they're so happy. Look how good I take care of them. Right? Or, yes, we know you slavery in the meta in the maybe the Caribbean is bad or in the Americas are bad. But slavery in India, this is very different, right? This is not serious to severe. So the second you started allowing distinctions within this concept of slavery,
you lose your you're essentially unable to force your your opponents into accepting your position, it opens the door of negotiation.
So that ultimately, the abolitionist position became all slavery in and of itself, by fact of it being slavery, per se cannot be accepted.
It's all intrinsically evil. The problem is, if you're a historian who wants to look at slavery in world history,
what are you going to notice, you're going to notice that slavery, let's say in India is really different from slavery in the Americas, or that slavery in Istanbul is really different from slavery in Southeast Asia.
And so you're going to start actually talking about these distinctions that will start to unpick pull the threads out of this abolitionist argument. So that's why this this this discussion can't cannot. It's not easy for us to have it, because it starts to pick out the very abolitionists consensus that is held worldwide today. Okay.
The abolitionist movement, as I said, that developed in the United States, and Great Britain in the late 1700s, in the early 1800s, defined slavery, a legally defined it through a legal definition. What does that mean? It talks about a certain kind of relationship or institution that it calls slavery, it didn't talk about conditions.
So we looked at the legal definition of relationship, not at conditions, why would it not look at conditions? Why would it look at a legal definition? In this case, the idea that someone is owned by another person? Why would it do that and not look at conditions? Because if you're an abolitionist, let's say arguing with a southern slave owner in the United States, and you start saying, slavery is about someone being in a bad conditions, work conditions, or living conditions, that Southern slave owner is just going to say, Oh, yeah, look at your factory workers.
They look actually more miserable than than my slaves.
So they didn't want to have they don't you don't want to have that discussion. You want to open that door? So slavery is a defined ism as a legal relationship.
So what are the
problem is, though? Sorry, the problem is that
this is one of the premises of the slavery conundrum, right is that slavery is a gross and intrinsic evil across space and time. It's not about slavery is evil in our society, it's not about slavery is evil in the modern West, or in Western Europe, or in the Americas. It's slavery is evil throughout history, backwards and forwards in time, across the world, wherever you are.
So the problem is coming up with a definition for slavery that works in all those times and places. It's basically impossible. It's basically impossible.
You end up with definitions that are so abstract, they're so abstract, that they're ultimately result in US projecting our own assumptions and understandings onto the past. What do I mean by that? This is like a three ways that have been used to define slavery first, slavery is lack of freedom. Slavery is when someone is not free.
Okay, here's the problem. We could say, let's say in the United States, we could define freedom.
We could maybe even define freedom in the West.
But how do you define freedom throughout human history?
What is it to be free?
for enrollment law, and in western legal tradition, free means you can do whatever you want, except what the law prohibits, right? Okay, but what's being a slave slave is you can do whatever you want except what your master prohibits.
So freedom is slavery or not.
Freedom is not a complete lack of restraints, or constraint. Freedom is just less constraint than a slave has
and exactly what constraints
a free person has on them and exactly what constraints a slave has on them differ from time to time and place to place. And if you were to sit around and say, Are you going to make an argument that?
Well, a slave is always denied basic rights? What basic rights? Actually, you can't find a consistent notion of what the basic rights that that slaves or non slaves should have in human history. You could say, well, at the very least, let's say a slave
can't, you know, a slave, maybe you can just you can just go and kill. And you can't do that to a free person. But that's actually not true. Most slave systems in world history, most slave systems in world history, you could not just kill a slave, even their owner. And by the way, under Roman law until the second century AD, in theory, a father could kill his own child with no legal consequences.
It's called Patria potestas. So in Roman law, a father or the head of a family, the male head of a family could kill anyone in his own family with no legal consequences, in theory, didn't really happen. But in theory.
So even the notion that you know, the idea of a slave you as someone you can just do anything to and have no consequences. That doesn't help you in Roman law, because that also describes
a father of a free person,
or the status of a free child.
You could say, well, let's define slavery as property, somebody being the property of another person, how do you find property?
In the Western legal tradition, we can define property, it's usually it's like a bundle of rights, the right to use the right to exclude the right to sell the right to destroy.
But some of that sometimes you have some of those rights, and you own something, for example, you can't do whatever you want with your house, you own your house, you can't do whatever you want with your pets, and you own your pets. You can't sit there and torture your pet. Right?
It's against the law.
But if you have a, let's say, a van Gogh painting, and you just feel like being a jerk, you can destroy that Van Gogh painting, it's as yours. So property, what it means for owning different things is different, even in one society, then trying to come up with a definition that for property across world history,
you end up with something like this property is a person having some kind of rights over something.
And then so slavery would be one person having some kind of rights over another person, which basically describes almost any relationship.
Sometimes we talk about defining slavery as coercion,
coercive power over somebody, same problem, how do you find coercion? We get home with a clear understanding in the United States about what was unacceptable coercion and relationship. But then to say, we can make this project this definition across world history. Almost nobody in world history would be free.
If they lived up to like modern American labor standards for what is a coercive relationship?
I just on the airplane here, I watched part of Wonder Woman.
I was it's research. Look, it's going it's going into my talk. Okay.
So there's a scene where she's Wonder Woman, it's like World War One. Do you guys say the movie? No. Okay. didn't watch it. So basically, she, she comes to England and World War One. And she's from some island that stuck in ancient Greece history. And so she meets this woman who's a secretary of the guy, and she says, What's a secretary? And the woman says, Well, I wherever he says, whatever he says to do, I do. And wherever he says to go, I go. And Wonder Woman says, where I come from, we call that slavery. Right? So there's this kind of notion there that,
like, it's the ideas that filmmakers are saying that, you know, modern laborers, or treatment of women in the workforce, kind of like slavery.
The this, as you can imagine, from the example I just gave you, this gets very political. This gets very political, even in, let's just say, the modern United States, let alone globally. So one example this is in a, in the 1790s. In England and Scotland, there were these people working in Scotland and coal mines. And there was actually a debate about whether or not these people were slaves or not, in fact, they would sometimes wear collars with their masters name on them. These were white, like Scottish people.
And the main argument for their not being slaves wasn't about how they were treated, or whether or not they were born into slavery or not. It was the fact that people had decided there was no slavery in England. After the 1770s. There was no slavery in England. So it was like a pilot. It was basically a political statement about the nature of British society that define whether these people were slaves or not, how they were treated even.
Another great example of this is this notion.
modern day slavery, which I'm sure you read about in the newspaper or in magazines, hear about on the news. So in 1957, there's a major convention called the 1926 as a major convention for the outlawing of slavery globally. And in 1950 1957, there's a supplementary convention.
So the donkey 26 convention is about outlawing slavery. 1987 convention is about outlawing things that are like slavery, but not slavery.
And one of those is what's called bonded labor, bonded labor means
I agree to work for you for a certain amount of time. And in return, you know, you pay for my trip to Dallas, Texas, and you pay for my housing, and I work for you for 10 years. And then after that, you don't maybe I can stay here, but we're done. So that's sometimes called indentured service or bonded labor, right.
So in the 1957, convention, bonded labor is not slavery, it is servitude, that is similar to slavery, but not slavery. According to the, what's called the new slavery or modern day slavery, as it's been understood from the late 1990s. Until today, the major portion, one of the largest, if not the largest portion of global slavery today is bonded labor.
So what you see is actually it's like an inflation, inflation in the context of slavery. What was not slavery in 1937 has become slavery today.
Another example, this is prison labor.
So in the night in the late 1990s, some advocates for prison right prisoners rights in the United States started saying that prisoners in the United States are essentially slaves. Because the 13th amendment, the United States Constitution, does not allow forced labor and slavery except for people who are in prison. Those people can be forced to work for essentially no pay.
People didn't really accept this argument.
That but now, what do you see? Even scholars of new slavery and people who are major advocates have what's called New abolition. You abolitionism. In 2006, they did not accept that slaves in America, people prisoners in American prisons were slaves. Now those same people are saying we reconsidering it, or reconsidering it. What changed? The conditions of American prisoners change? No. The definition of slavery change? No. It's just a political political circumstances changed. Things like Black Lives Matter. movies like documentaries like 13th. And now, again, yeah, so sorry, but this is research. Thor Ragnarok. Who saw Thor Ragnarok. Okay, I shouldn't ask this question to this mosque.
Okay. None of you thought Thor Ragnarok. nor should you. I did it for research purposes.
In Thor Ragnarok. There's this alien master of this planet who runs like this gladiatorial competition, played by Jeff Goldblum.
And he's sort of this very smarmy politician, kind of corporate politician. And there's these gladiators are rebelling. And his you know, his minister comes up and says, sir, the slaves are revolting. And he says, No, don't say that. Don't say that word. And they said, What revolting? He says, No, no, the S word. Don't say the S word. And then the persistence, sorry, the prisoners with jobs are revolting. So then when you when you get Hollywood behind you, hollywood behind the idea that American prisoners are actually slave laborers, you can see how much this this has changed since the late 1990s, when saying American prisoners were slaves would just sort of fall on deaf
ears and maybe you can be considered unpatriotic. Okay? So you have this notion of even in the last couple of decades, and, and inflation, and inflation like a devaluing a devaluing of the, the moral power or the, the, the power of the word slave.
Another example, by the way, is I know this is in Texas, the idea that the Irish that the white people came to America were slaves because they were indentured servants. Is it? I think this isn't as taught in the Texas school curriculum. Someone told me this.
Okay, I don't know about this. But someone told me this all to reevaluate this, but
it was so. So there's this you see the idea that, like my ancestors, some of them came to the US to then in Britain or North American British colonies as indentured servants.
And so the argument of some kind of white nationalists is that, well, yeah, we had slavery in America of slavery of black people, but white people were also slaves because they were indentured servants. And to which a lot of African Americans would say, What the hell are you talking about? Those people chose to come, whereas my ancestor was just grabbed and sold, right?
But here's the problem.
marked by the modern definitions of new slavery, those white people were slaves.
So when you start talking about projecting some of these definitions backwards in time, it starts to mess with what we're how we conceptualize slavery in history, what we're willing to accept as slavery, which is what we're not willing to accept. Okay. Um, we end up with situations where
we come up with definitions for slavery. But those things those that definition ends up, including something in history that we don't really think is slavery, versus other things that look a lot like slavery to us, but don't fit our definition.
So we end up with definitions that don't really work. We're not able to put everything we want into the definition and exclude the things we don't want. So up here on the screen, you have two figures on the right would be a Malik Ambar. Malik Ambar, died in 1626. He's an Ethiopian slave General, who was brought to the Deccan city of Amman Atman Nagar
and was a senior general there and then eventually became like the power behind the throne in the region's in that city. On the left hand side you have socolor Mohammed Pasha, he's sitting there, presiding over a bunch of heads. Yes, those are heads of enemy soldiers. He was the Grand Vizier. He died in 1579, the Grand Vizier of three Ottoman Sultans, three Consultants. His family made him a slave when he was 18 years old. He was a serb from a Serbian Christian family. And they made him a family gave him to the Sultan as a slave when he was 18 years old, so that he could become a powerful member of the Ottoman administration, because the senior administration of the Ottoman
Empire at this time and for another century, after that, we're all slaves. He was the most powerful except for the Sultan, the most powerful person, and the Ottoman Empire for decades, the richest and most powerful he was married to one of the Sultan's daughters, actually. And yet he was technically a slave. So are we really going to say
that SoCal Amanda Pasha
is an example of the same phenomenon, as a field hand being lashed. In the summer heat of South Carolina in the year 1750.
We really gonna say these is, this is the same phenomenon. And if we, if we say we can't make internal distinctions, because all slavery is slavery.
What does that really handicaps us morally? I mean, we end up making the same moral judgment for these two different situations that are so dramatically disparate from one another. And not and just so you know, this isn't just a, you know, you know, what do you think you're gonna get in trouble for saying at a barbecue, this is even true amongst academics, there's a one of the leading scholars of slavery in American history. I was listening to a speech she gave, and she was talking about the conditions between slaves in the field versus slaves in urban areas in the American South. And someone asked her, how come How do the conditions differ? And she's, she was about to come in, she
stopped herself. And she said, I was about to say, one is better than the other. But But she says, basically, we don't, this is not appropriate. We don't like to talk about one thing being better than the other because they don't want to introduce the concept of saying one kind of slavery is bad or the other because axiom number two is all slaves. All slavery is slavery, you can't make internal distinctions. Okay, so this leads us to two major handicaps, one, we can't make different moral judgments about things that are very different. And to
the political nature of this means that slavery is usually what other people do. This has changed a little bit in the last couple of years because of increased American willingness to really turn a critical eye on, let's say, American prisons, and American labor market. But you probably all recognize it, this discussion about American prisoners being slaves. This is not this is not very popular. This wasn't very popular A few years ago, it's only kind of become popular, I think, as a result of Donald Trump and to have a notion of a far left resistance to Donald Trump, which has really made palatable, a lot of ideas that would not have been acceptable at all in mainstream
American society 10 years ago, or 15 years ago.
That's the first issue about
kind of thinking about the definition of slavery into slavery conundrum. Why is it so hard to talk about? Because it ties our mind in knots. It makes us
hold internally contradictory ideas.
So let's talk about abolition and the origins of abolition.
There's two narratives about this the popular narrative which is also by the way, a major scholarly narrative
is what you can call it the moral awakening narrative. So what happens?
some point in the distant past, there was a few voices who said, slavery is wrong.
And those people went out and argued, and then more people agreed with that. And then more people agreed with that, and then more who will agree with that. And then, in the 1700s, it sort of grew into a sort of snowballed into have real substance and real mass, and then the 18 hundred's especially in places where humans had become enlightened by the enlightened like Great Britain, the United States, northern United States, people realized slavery was a gross, intrinsic evil and had to be ended.
And then they eventually convinced everybody in the whole world and that's how we get to the modern day abolitionist consensus, which is that slavery is transhistorical moral evil, and it needs to be removed from the face of the earth. Right? That's the, what we can call a moral awakening narrative.
There's a couple problems with the moral awakening narrative.
As I said before,
there's no religion or philosophical tradition, that condemn slavery, qua slavery that condemn slavery, as slavery
until the very earliest the 1600s.
Aristotle, Plato, San Agustin, the Buddha, Jesus, Moses, the Prophet Muhammad, St. Thomas Aquinas,
you just named I mean, just I can just go through the history of humanity. There's nobody who said slavery is in and of itself, a moral evil.
They could criticize abuses of slavery. They could criticize the wrong people being enslaved.
But there was no moral minority, saying that slavery is evil.
I've counted and I've done a lot of research on this. I've counted
one person. Like, I don't mean one group of people, I mean, one person
prior to the 1500s, who said slavery was slavers evil. It was a person named Gregory of Nyssa. He died in 1394. Sorry, 394, my bad 394. The Common Era, he was from Cappadocia and andalusi, and he was a church father there.
He said, philosophically, and theologically slavery is wrong. That's it.
Until the early until the late 1600s, there's a guy named john Bowden in France died 1596. He says, auto slavery is wrong, it's evil, it harms the slave, it harms the master. And then in the late 1600s, you see it amongst American Quakers. There's when you see the real beginning of abolitionist about abolition, the idea that slavery as an institution needs to be gotten rid of, and then it really picks up in the 1700s, and the 1800s.
if this is a moral awakening,
it means that basically all of humanity was sound asleep,
out to lunch, until the 1600s, the greatest minds, the most righteous and pious souls of every single religion and philosophical tradition, didn't know that slavery was wrong. Or what's worse, maybe they know we didn't say anything. When Quantum lottoland for telecom was evil, and when to when when to tell them film or TV to album, or what's the I forget which one it is? Yeah. So if you if you, you know, what's worse, that they didn't know or they didn't know it? They knew and didn't say anything? The point is,
Does this mean that a person today who knows slavery is wrong, is more morally intelligent than Plato or Aristotle? Or Jesus or Moses or the Prophet Muhammad SAW a little holiday? Send them? I mean, forget about the theological problem that caused from Muslims just think about what that means about I mean, why do we read any of their books? Why Why do we have any respect me if we're going to take down Thomas Jefferson statues, this get rid of all these, this entire heritage?
So that's the second problem with the moral awakening narrative is what was brought up by especially historians from outside the first world, outside kind of North, the US and Europe in the mid 20th century.
And this is what you was called the kind of economic narrative or economic explanation.
Okay, so I told you before, it's really in the 1700s
That abolitionism starts getting gaining a lot of momentum and the 1800s does anyone know anything else that was happening in that time period?
Industrial Revolution, right. So is it a coincidence? Is it a coincidence that people
start to say that slavery is immoral evil
in precisely those places, namely, Great Britain in the northern United States, precisely in those places, where one
the industrial, earliest stages of the Industrial Revolution take place, and to where people have achieved unprecedented wealth,
without reliance on slavery?
Is that coincidence?
Aristotle made a very prescient points. You guys are Aristotle died 322 BC, Greek guy, lots of statues.
He said, there will be slavery, until looms spin themselves.
He doesn't know loom is like a thing that weaves cloth until they move themselves, there'll be slaves.
When did slavery becomes something that people talked about getting rid of
when human beings discovered that you can use water power, and then fossil fuels to move things that used to be moved by animals and humans?
That simply can't I just do I just simply can't accept that as a cause. That that's a coincidence.
Right? Um, here's the problem.
Wait, you say Professor Brown.
You're telling me that abolition became
a phenomenon with strength. That even became something of note at all, because of technology and economics. But what I feel in my heart isn't technology and economics, but I feel my heart is
like when I hear the word slavery or when I see.
Or when I see a movie like 12 years of slave, or Amistad, what I feel in my gut.
You can't explain that by technology. You can't explain that by economics. That's more revulsion. I feel more avulsion in my gut.
But here, there is great wisdom, wisdom in the
Islamic tradition of ethics and the Islamic tradition and moral epistemology.
Muslim scholars, the vast majority except for them with Tesla, we were talking about this earlier, right? This is why they are they were wrong. I think
the vast majority of Muslim scholars did not trust your gut.
Reminds me of george bush. But people people remember that now. You guys are a lot of old people in the crowds. You remember George W. Bush ever he made decisions about his gut. Muslim scholars do not trust your guts.
Why did they not trust guts? Why did they not trust someone feeling morally revolted?
Because they they were dealing with a world that spread from Egypt to Central Asia from Southeast Asia to Senegal.
And there's a few Have you ever seen the movie?
I don't know what to tell you. This is all research people. Okay. The movie The 13th warrior with Antonio Banderas. It's about Muslims people Muslims. Are they the Muslim is a hero of the movie.
Yeah. And there's no Hanky Panky. Thank you. Thank you. Yes. There's a lot of violence. No Hanky Panky. So he's this it's actually a real story, except for the part where the monsters but until the part with the monsters it's actually a real story of an Arab diplomat named Mohammed bin Fahd lon, who in the nine hundreds get sent by the basket, Caleb to the land of the Bulgars in Central Asia. And on the way he meets a bunch of Vikings. And he witnesses a Viking funeral. This is in the book and it's in the movie. And what's in the movie is accurate to what's in the book.
He sees them. I can't describe what they do. It's so disgusting. Just watch the movie. Okay. It's so disgusting. I can't describe it.
How they clean themselves.
I'm going to tell you, they all pass around a little buck bowl of water and they all blow their nose into the same bowl and spit into it and they pass around and they drinking and it's like the worst thing you can imagine. And then they do what they do to the body of the person they're burying and to the people involved is
This I actually can't talk about it. It's really disgusting. And even fadlan asked them, he says, How can you possibly do this? This is disgusting. And they say, What do you mean? This is? This is totally normal. You guys are the disgusting ones. You take your dead bodies, you put them in the ground with a worms eat them. This is disgusting. How can you do this? So they understood that what grosses people out when people think is morally disgusting, is really not, it's not a product of some, some way that your body or your mind is in tune with some kind of moral reality that
trans fuses in the world or that permeates the world. It's just custom. It's just ordered. If you guys know the concept of order, it's just ordered. And here's a good example today.
If I brought you if I brought,
where are you from?
Okay, if I brought you a plate of dog meat, like puppy meat with little puppy toes and ears, said, Here's your puppy, here's your dog meat. What would you do?
I mean, I tell you, I probably like I feel sick to my eyes. First, I feel this is morally wrong, and I'd feel disgusted. Just imagine you're at random American, random American would be outraged, morally outraged, and they'd be disgusted to the point of vomiting.
In southern China, they have dog meat restaurants,
the stuff that feels like it's wrong in your gut, that something has to be inherently morally wrong about this. For another person to another person in the world today, 100 years ago, 200 years ago.
It just wasn't a big deal. I don't want to ask you this question. This is really I think, very good points. Keep in mind, if I asked you if I told you that last week, someone had been brutally murdered outside of this neighborhood.
What would your reaction be?
I mean, that's, that's Yeah, that's bad. Like is that if they catch the person who did it? Do I know the person who got killed?
Let me ask you a question.
I wanted to how explicit I can be this audience. Okay, if I told you that.
married a 10 year old girl.
What would you say?
A 5050 year old man.
No, no, no, I'm just doesn't work for us. Yeah, I mean, I actually I want to ask, I want to I know I don't know I, I feel
disgusted by that.
In my stomach.
But guess what?
is wrong. Every society in human history considers murder to be wrong. Every society in human history considers murder to be wrong.
Yet I told you someone who's murdered. And yeah, it's bad. But I mean, okay.
until basically 100 years ago.
slavery, slavery was completely normal in many parts of the world.
unremarkable, unobjectionable morally, to many people in this world.
And, until, until the mid 20th century,
getting married to teenage girls or younger,
was normal in the United States. And in fact, it's still normal in lots of parts of the world today.
So the things we feel the most discussed about, I'd say in America, I'd say the things we feel the most disgust, moral disgust about our slavery and pedophilia. Those are the two things we feel the most moral disgust about. These are two things that were
common and unremarkable in the recent past.
And the thing that is universally prohibited throughout University wrong in all societies, namely murder. Yeah, it's wrong, but we don't get disgusted by it.
Because disgust is a cultural construct.
disgust is culturally conditioned with disgust somebody in one society, I'm not just talking physically, I'm talking morally what disgust someone in one society doesn't discuss someone in another society, because disgust is a way that a culture affects moral change.
Its way the culture affects moral change. So it's not surprising that on those issues where the change has been most dramatic, you find the most intense senses of disgust
for Muslim scholars,
Muslim scholars talking about law and ethics or Sunni scholars,
what God commands
his rights. What God forbids is wrong those things we can talk about being absolutely right and wrong, absolutely wrong.
But from pretty much all other moral feelings we have,
those are based on custom. Those are based on ORF something is maroof or something is one card.
Slavery was mount roof.
And now slavery is one card.
And someone could say, Professor Brown, are you telling me that our moral condemnation of slavery is just based on custom? Like the same thing that tells me what kind of wedding gifts to give somebody?
How dare you belittle, belittle my moral objection to slavery? I'm not belittling at all. In fact, that objection belittles the concept of custom.
It belittles the fact that human beings for most of their moral transactions in the world and most of their moral actions in the world, their judgments are based on custom,
not based on some kind of universal moral law. And in fact, it's a very unique feature of modern Western society, that we assume that everything that we feel is right and we feel is wrong, must be a universal.
So when we decide that, let's say, it's proper for, for women to dress with their hair showing, and wearing short sleeve shirts are for guys to wear, not to wear a hat or something like that. We just assume that this is the normal thing that everybody in the world should do.
And that women or men who are not allowed to dress like this in other countries are being oppressed. Because these are universals. If we decide that it's right for people to be able to engage in all sorts of relationships, before marriage, just based on what they feel with no consequences. This must be universal, that everyone in the world should follow. And if they're not being allowed to fall, wherever they live, then they're being oppressed.
So we live in a society that takes custom and makes an animal universals.
Whereas Muslim scholars understood that customs is custom is really important. It has real legal meaning for people. It has real moral meaning for people, but that you can't universalize it, because it's not fair to do that to other cultures.
So for example, if we were to have Sharia courts in America, I'm not advocating Sharia creep. But if we were to have Sharia courts in America,
and my wife were to go and say, my husband, he sits around, he doesn't do any work around the house, he doesn't take care of the kids. He just goes out and hangs out with his friends All the time.
And I think he's lousy husband and I want to get divorced from him.
My guess is that Muslim scholar applying Islamic law in America would say, Yes, Your husband is not giving you your Huck. Because in American ORF, these are not the duties and rights and obligations of men and women to one another in marriage. The obligations of a husband the obligations of the wife, the right to the husband, the rights of the wife. In Islamic law, these are determined by custom.
I mean, there's a few like out, you know, outlines or boundaries and pillars that are determined by the Quran and the Sunnah. But the details is determined by customer and this is legally meaningful. People will get divorced on this, have to pay more or not pay more.
Um, the last thing I want to talk about two things. I can't believe I've actually gotten through what I talked about. I'm not talking about two other issues. One is the change that
change in slavery that was brought by Islam. The second is abolition of slavery in Islam.
It is not an exaggeration, it is not and I will I will happily go in front of the most skeptical academic audience and say this this is not me doing some kind of Muslim cheerleading, you know, Islam is great Muslims have been an ice cream I'm not talking I'm not doing that kind of thing.
This is completely true.
The Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet and the, the legal understanding of the early Muslim community completely revolutionized slavery in the Near East.
And slavery in kind of what we would think of sort of the Western world who went to Central Asia or Mediterranean world, Europe and then the Americans.
The main routes into slavery the main ways that someone became a slave.
Prior to Islam in the Near East were debt you owed money you couldn't pay became the person slave
capture as a basically being raided.
Self definition which means giving yourself as a slave. This is people don't know this but many, many millions of people in human history gave themselves as slaves to other people. Why would they do this?
Because they were starving because they were poor, because they were foreigners in a place where no one protect them to protect them, and being protected and taken care of was more important to them than their freedom.
Selling your children into slavery. This is a major source of slaves in the ancient Near East, in India, until the 20th century, in Southeast Asia, in medieval Europe was given you're selling your children in slavery because you couldn't afford to keep them or because you owed money.
Islam eliminated all of these, there is no debt slavery. And this is very clear in the Sharia. Every once in a while in Islamic history, you see it for example, in Southeast Asia, in the 1500s and 1600s. You see some debt slavery. This is a pre a pre Islamic tradition that continues the Sharia prohibits debt slavery, the Sharia prohibits self petition you cannot give yourself as a slave, the Sharia prohibits selling your children as slaves into slavery.
So the major routes into slavery are all cut off completely.
At the end, what's interesting is, these are actually not mentioned in the Quran, or in the deeds.
But they're simply it's just like, understood by consensus and the other Muslim community ended.
There's only one way to become a slave in Islamic law, which is for a Muslim to capture a non Muslim, outside the abode of Islam in a war. That's the one way or you can be born into slavery if your mother is a slave owner.
All right, another really important change
that Islam brought for slavery was
what happens to the offspring between between a slave male slave owner and his female slave? So remember, I gave you the example of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson's children were born slaves.
They were born slaves. And they were born members of an oppressed class in the United States, which is, which are African Americans.
What's an African American? How do you define African American versus white in the United States? Anybody know?
I mean, if Can you be like, let's say, all my answers are white, except for one person, but I have my black or white.
is, means your black white means no blackness, unless you're able to pass, which means no one can tell that you're black, you're black ancestry. But you can be extremely dark, or you can be extremely light. But if you're black, you're black.
And otherwise, you can't be part whites.
You're either white or you're fully white or black. Right?
If abran if Thomas Jefferson had been a Muslim, his children would have been born free,
who had been born free.
They would have been legitimate, they can inherit from him.
Their mother would have been freed when he when he when their father died.
And this is important, they would have had the same social standing as children born of a free wife.
This is also agreed upon in Islamic law, completely,
very important. The offspring of a male slave owner and his female slaves are born free. They're legitimate. And they have the same social standing as people born of free women free wives. That's why
almost all the ambassador bailiffs and all of the Ottoman Sultans except one were children, not of wives not a free wives, but a slave woman.
This is what
leads to what the scholar of African history I name is Rui Rahim Allah died recently called ascending miscegenation, ascending miscegenation. Whereas in America, people who were a result of mix free enslave union
went down into the enslaved oppressed class people or resulted in who are born of those unions in Islamic civilization went up into the free Muslim community.
The final thing the final change brought by Islamic law, or is the Quran and Sunnah is an obsession with emancipation.
emancipation is different from abolition emancipation means freeing people.
abolition means getting rid of the institution of slavery as a whole.
The Qur'an does not propose abolition.
Because nobody proposed abolition until the early modern period.
There's no society that had slaves, which is almost every society in human history, and certainly every civilization even history. No one proposed the idea of abolition until the early modern period.
I want you to understand this very clearly. When who saw the movie Spartacus? Come on? That's an old movie. That's okay, right? You guys didn't watch Spartacus. This guy watches everything someone needs to talk to him. So the Spartacus, if you see an image in the beginning movie, Kirk Douglas, he's like a slave. He says he labored under the sun and the hot sun and the
dreaming of a day which slavery would die 2000 years before he ever would. And in the movie, Spartacus gives a speech where we're gonna fight to be free, all the slaves in the world are all the slaves of the Roman Empire. That's not at all what Spartacus is rebellion was about. Spartacus wasn't fighting to end slavery. He and his friends, they just didn't want to be slaves. And in fact, they took their own slaves and all pre modern slave rebellions. They're not trying to end slavery. They're just trying to get out of their own situation, slavery and they very often talk to their own slaves.
So yes, abolition is not indigenous to Islam, in the sense that is not present in the Quran and the Sunnah.
But it's not indigenous to any religion or any philosophy. It's only something that emerges as an idea in the early modern period, really in the 1700s.
What the Quran and the Sunnah do do is they are they provide a impulse and an impetus for emancipation that does not have an equal in any religious or philosophical tradition that I've seen pre modern religious or philosophical tradition.
The Quran introduces a few things that are unprecedented one is it ties the charity tax does account to freeing slaves, one of the type one of the eight groups that can get the cat our place to help free themselves to the idea of freeing slaves as expiation for certain sins or as partial punishments or things you do expiate sins are crimes.
Three is the notion of making a notion of mu cassava, highly recommended or required mu cassava is when a slave says I want to basically buy my own freedom on installments. So the Quran says, if a slave wants to do this, your sequences, then do it in Ireland to see him later on. If they are able to do it. If you think they're going to be able to do it, then you should agree. And the in the water of Malik, the Caliph, Omar de la hautala. And who actually makes ns makes ns agree to mokaba requests for his slave.
So these things are really unprecedented in history as far as I know.
And the hadiths, the rewards you get for free slaves is incredible. The rewards in the afterlife. Now what's really interesting is not only are there lots of so Heidi's about this, but Muslims crank out forgeries if you look at books of forge heads like sucio theorbo, Josie, you'll find the most outrageous Hadith that are doing what
urging Muslims to free their slaves.
One Hadith it's made up in the eight hundreds. I mean, I'm not saying it's made up Muslim scholars that it's made up even hijos Kalani said this and if it's used he says it's made up is definitely made up. It's he's very lacks in his standards or him a whole lot, right. So this one is supposedly the one of the last hook was given by the prophet lace Aslam. He says, If you walk to the mosque, think about this. If you walked to the mosque, every step you take is the equivalent of freeing a slave. Now this is not that's interesting. That's that Hadith isn't telling you to free slaves. But free slaves has become so important that freeing slaves is like the unit of measurement. You're used
to talk about the reward you're gonna get for something else. Another headache
It's made up in the nine hundreds. The Prophet allegedly says, if you if you're, he tells a woman sub A sub Baker do tests be of God right? For every test B is the equivalent of freeing 100 slaves. So slavery freeing slaves is such a basic unit in Muslim understanding of pious life, that it becomes a way to count other good deeds.
And this impetus to free slaves, this drive to emancipate is so
widespread and consistent, that if you look in Islamic history, now, as long history is very long and very broad geographically, but in general, in general, this is a generalization, but I think it's a fairly accurate one.
People who were in slaves to Muslims, were not slaves for their whole lives, they were usually slaves for like seven to 10 years, and then they were freed.
And if they became Muslim, in that time, they entered the Muslim community as members in good standing as citizens like anybody else. And by the way, this is another argument for why there was not
an indigenous movement for abolition in the Islamic world, like there was in the Americas, especially the Caribbean, in the 1700s 1800s. Why?
If you were, first of all, the majority of slaves brought into Islamic civilization were women,
who then were made part of families and when children with those families,
they were integrated into those communities. The second reason is, if you were a freed slave, in the Caribbean, or in the United States,
you're still a black person.
You could still be re enslave, like in the movie, 12 years of slave, you're still treated like garbage.
you weren't a enfranchised member of society. So they're the only way as long as slavery existed, you were under threat of re enslavement, the only way to get rid of to ever feel safe was to end slavery, or to do what's called maroonish, which means you basically go and you live in the some isolated part of an island with other fruits, other escaped are freed slaves.
From Muslims, who were freed slaves, they were part of the society, they could, they could be successful merchants, they could be Muslim scholars, they could be saints. My book, there's a whole section on slave saints, by the way, saints who are slaves.
What led up
the way that we can talk about abolition in Islamic tradition that I think is the most accurate
is to say that and this is entirely entirely authentic in the shriya tradition, that the
as a legal Maxim says,
you have to show a fool a shadow in anhedonia, the law giver God looks expectantly towards freedom. And actually, you can find this in one of the earliest books that survives in Islamic tradition, the keytab It's a free ship that autonomic there's a hadith we talked about this Hadith, actually, it's, it comes from the very early period, we don't know if the profits that or not, but it's a very early idea. If you if a man says to his wife, Auntie tarlac insha Allah,
she's not divorced, because God doesn't want divorce. But if you say to your slave, and to her in sha Allah, the slave is freed. Why? Because God wants freedom. So one of the even if you look in the market tab and wafaa cot, have a shot to be dyed 1388, a major scholar of the mocassin of the show, Dr. He says one of the costs of the Sharia is
And if we now live in a time, when it's economically, not just economically feasible, but economically profitable, not to have slaves.
If we can remove the harm of slavery, and this is something I forgot to mention, which I'll shoehorn in really quickly.
Muslim scholars always recognized that slavery was harmful. They talked about
the harm of slave slave, what was the harm of slavery, they realized that being a slave was not pleasant for a lot of people. It's it was
you were unable to make your free choices. You were like you couldn't, let's say lead prayer or lead a Juma prayer.
You were unable to benefit from the fruits of your own labor if you wanted.
So that's why they understood that freeing people was a good thing. That's why there's fuddling it there is a you get a reward for freeing people.
But they also understood that it wasn't the most they believed it was not the most efficient
thing. So if someone was going it was too old or too sick, or too incompetent to handle themselves, it was actually wrong to free them.
Because they were going to be in worse off if they were freed.
So if we are in a position in world history where slavery is not needed economically, if we're in a position where we can remove the harm of it from people, then the best way to fulfill this Maxim, this aim of the Sharia
of emancipation is simply to do a category element categorical emancipation, and get rid of the institution as a whole.
Does that come along here? And I
can't believe I actually finished this. And I'll try and answer your questions afterwards, inshallah. Zack will head cello. After Southeast Asia, we will have around 1520 minutes for q&a. And I've already gotten a number of questions, but feel free to continue to send them in.
Can you? Can you figure out how to send them in with the written paper? And also, I know that the number of people have asked, they're interested in Dr. Brown's personal story as well of how, you know, he came from converting to Islam to becoming without praising him too much. But the fact of the matter is, he is one of the most famous professors of Islamic Studies in the world today. And this is a very honorable, Georgetown's, you know, Islamic studies professor, and it's definitely a very interesting story from where to where, so a little bit about that as well after selected Asia, but we have five minutes. So I'm going to ask you one question before starting Asia. And that is,
you glossed over this issue of concubinage and obviously, this is a very sensitive issue. So in four and a half minutes, if you're able to answer, how do we explain to especially our young men and women, and the outside the faith is obviously different than our young men? How do we rationalize the concept of milkier mean? Because there is confirmation? And what if she doesn't want it? What if? What if? What if I mean, how do we so what do you say what do you thoughts about this from within the paradigm?
I never do this, but I'm in to not answer the question. I mean, it's there's a whole chapter in it in my book, and that issue you don't talk about, without, you know, serious mental preparation. I mean, what I mean is that, in the book, I was able to, I think, do a very good and thorough job of discussing it, what I'll say I will talk about is one aspect, which is that,
um, and this also comes up in people talk about the notion of like marital rape and Islam and how there's no consent for, you know, legally, there's no notion of consent and wait for sex within marriage and things like that.
And I think this is an instance where we have to understand how other legal traditions work, and not just get obsessed with the language and concepts that we use in American law, especially modern American law and modern American society. So we in modern United States think about consent as the sort of scenic one on of morally acceptable relationship, right? So consent is what makes something okay. The lack of consent makes it not okay, makes it not okay, morally, it makes it not okay, legally.
This is fairly unusual and world history, especially the fact that this is basically the only moral tool we use in American society.
Consent was is of some importance in most legal and moral systems, but it's usually not the only thing. For example, if somebody wants to be in a relationship, which is horribly destructive for them, and their family doesn't like it, and a lot of places in the world, what they want doesn't really matter. The family's gonna say, No, you can't be in this relationship. Right? So that that kind of we don't have that in modern American culture. We don't accept that, right? It's it's the person's consent, their desire that makes something right or wrong.
So I think the first thing to understand is that we have a we make the kinds of consent do a lot of moral and legal work, that it's really not up for. And if you're interested in this, I can suggest an excellent book by Joseph the shell, professor from Yale, and it's called screw consent.
That's what the books called. It's a very interesting
excellent book of political theory and philosophy I recommend the book is not very long.
consent is important in Islamic law.
A woman who is badly right she cannot be married off in general without her consent.
But it's not everybody doesn't have the same
kind of power to consents, your kind of consent is sort of based on yours. The amount of importance of that consent is based on your social standing. But the reason why this sort of differed and had a sliding scale is because consent wasn't really how Muslim jurists and ethicists understood. Right and wrong in relationships. They understood it through the language of harm. Right? So if you're a wife, and you go to an IF actually collected cases, and they're in my book, cases where women go to a judge and say, my, I can't get into the details, but it's just say, it's a good read, you'll enjoy it, you won't, you won't put it down, at least not for that section. Okay. They go to a judge and
certain things are happening, and it's causing me harm. And the judge it the husband has a right to do those things. In theory, the woman because she's married and has no capacity to consent. But the judge says, You can't do this anymore. Because the harm is what makes something right or wrong.
So what the the work that we do in modern America through the concept of consent, Muslim ethics and Muslim law did through the concept of harm, and you could not harm your slave. I mean, you could discipline your slave in the same way that you could discipline your child, but you couldn't if you were to go and like
beat your slaves severely in a way that left like marks or made a lot of blood flow, then we have instances in the time of the Prophet Alayhi Salaam and in Islamic history throughout his long history, that the judge would forced you to free the slave or to sell a slave right inshallah, we will continue after salata, Lucia inshallah Tada. So please take for the example of
Bismillah Alhamdulillah wa Salatu was Salam ala
So the first question is that we have been told that some of our Muslim or our brothers were involved in the American slave trade. Is this correct? In your research? And did they is this valid Islamic Lee? And did they justify it what they were doing? The Arab slave traders?
So, I'm not a specialist in the Atlantic slave trade, but I can say, from what I do know,
you know, there are people buying, you know, buying and selling at both ends, so to speak, right? So
most of the slaves who are,
I don't want to say most because I don't know if that's accurate or not, but I'll say it a lot, a large portion of the slaves who are transported from West Africa, to the Americas. Remember, most of the slaves went to Brazil.
There's actually a really good graphic you can see on this for I think, from like the African American Museum History Museum, or
I think one of the slavery databases, they actually have like a chart of all the ships that you can see the majority of them actually go to Brazil.
So they're, they're basically being supplied by people who are writing for slaves in interior, in, you know, various parts of West Africa.
And those people were, some of them are Muslim, some are not Muslim. But what's interesting is that, and if you want to read about this, you can read below or Rudolf Where is Muslim name is Bella, his book, The Walking Quran, he talks a lot about this, that in the late 1700s, and the early 1800s, there's a state that's created in what's now essentially senegambia a place called food to food a Torah, which
arises because these are not these two are lemme see Muslims being enslaved and they can't accept that. So they basically start kind of a political movement, military, political may create a state in order to make sure that no Muslims are sold into slavery to the Europeans, and they in fact, strike treaties with the French that knows French slave ships are going to come up the Senegal River. And eventually, the Europeans like basically give support to other states and they defeat this state, but the Mohammed and Futura The other thing is that I know at least one scholar in West Africa, I think one of the scholars from the lineage of moqtada Qin t
A great kind of West African scholarly tradition, he prohibited selling any slave if you thought that that slave might get sold, get then sold to a European. So I don't know about Yes, Muslims were involved for sure. But there is also a lot of Muslims, especially Muslim scholars who are really committed to preventing any Muslims being sold into that
commerce or whatever slave trade. So we have another question here. I'm going to combine two questions. You said do not trust your gut. How do we understand this in the light of the fitrah and also in light of the Hadeeth albedo melt Manta enough's with Mojave, South Africa, went off the stack. And that's what took both of these things to have a gut. So how do we say to
someone like, you know, even Tamia, we're talking about the notion of and lack of sleep, you know, or like. So,
it's not that human beings can't have a kind of correct moral sense. But that we need to be very aware that
we need to be able to kind of read our moral senses through an awareness of our culture, right? So
let's say, you know, I'm American. If someone says something about democracy, I'm going to be like democracy. So it says something about tyranny or monarchy, MSA, tyranny, monarchy, right. So we kind of have this
culture into view that democracy is good, tyranny slash monarchy is bad.
So you just have to be aware, I think of how your what your biases are. If you know that you have a temper, if you know that you have an ego, if you know that you have a hard time letting go of money or things like that, you know, you I think you have to be aware of what your own failings are, what your own biases are, and then you can, it's at that point, like your sense of your kind of moral intuition becomes more toned, more and more tuned, more and more finely tuned. So I don't mean to say that, you know, your God is useless. I just mean to say that you need to always be aware that your God is also a creation of your spirit of your circumstances.
Do you mind if I add to that, it's awkward being you can add as much as you want.
As you're probably aware, the third chapter of my dissertation is about the fifth law, the concept of the fifth or even taymiyah. So just to add to that, I've been Tamia mentioned that the fifth law can be corrupted, and when the fifth is corrupted, then you will feel the incorrect fifth row telling you something that is incorrect. So hence, this notion of gut instinct is not necessarily right or wrong. So the point is, is that when tibia mentions the fifth row needs a check and balance mechanism, who's going to check which fifth row is valid or not? So he gave the example of eating something that one culture finds disgusting versus another culture finds not disgusting, the culture
that doesn't find it disgusting, the culture that is taken it as the norm, how will they know that it is wrong, because their gut instinct is gonna say that it's fine. So even the fedora it needs a checks and balances, it needs a higher source to tell it once the fitrah is in line with the higher source. Now the gut instinct does kick in, right. So if you have Eman and taqwa then yes, you follow your gut instinct. But if you don't really have an adequate or you don't have your fitrah is not in sync with the Quran and Sunnah. It's been corrupted, then you cannot rely just on your fitrah for morality. So that was sorry, to no great
expert on the subject with us. We have a question here. Is War fair. The only basis for enslavement is the only way to get a slave is Yeah, so I actually I should have mentioned this, I meant to and I forgot,
which is so probably, and it's hard to know, because Islamic civilization is very big over a long period of time. But probably most of the slaves that come into Islamic civilization are not captured in warfare. They're, they're bought. So you go to the slave market in Samarkand or French, and there's like a Viking guy there who's got like 300 Russian peasants, and he says, Here's 300 Russian peasant slaves for you.
So that's like the majority are just purchased from outside. So if someone's already a slave, you can purchase them.
So that's probably how most people entered Islamic civilization as such, especially from the Central Asia Russian area, which is by the way, probably the majority of slaves in Islamic civilization are from the area.
The issue comes with whether the warfare that allows enslavement is like sanctioned by the mmm for
Just rating because a lot of it is just rating. And there's actually if they laugh amongst themselves about whether that's allowed or not.
And what happens in the 19th century, when a lot of this this is so this is interesting, like, we would expect that kind of slave trade in the Muslim world, especially like African Indian Ocean Indian Ocean world is like kind of decreasing, decreasing, decreasing decreasing countries, and then it gets rid of it. It's actually not the case, its peak in terms of numbers is in the 1800s and 1900s. Like in the early 20th century, the Red Sea is just teeming with slave trade. So probably more so than earlier. So, a lot of Muslim scholars start getting really concerned about the slave trade in the late 19th century in the early 20th century, for two reasons. One, because a lot of
Muslims are being enslaved people going to hide from Baluchistan, or from Southeast Asia or West Africa. We're being enslaved, like and killed Danny, you know, a madman can banni his family, his ancestors, were Muslim scholars who are going to Hajj and were enslaved. You can't enslave Muslims. This is unacceptable, right? This is completely unacceptable in this area.
So one of the things that they started to talk about, like Mohammed Bayer, Mohammed who dies in 1889.
Kodak, he died in 1902. Then Muhammad Abdul Rashid read, the stuff they talk about is actually they're saying that a lot of these, the writing has become unacceptable like these, these they kind of take the position that only a sanctioned, sanctioned warfare by the Mmm, can create prisoners that you can enslave, and you can't just go raiding into the Sahara, because a lot of times they're enslaving Muslims. So can I ask a very blunt question? Is it true to say that, especially towards later, Islamic times, most Muslim societies did not live up to the Islamic norms of slavery?
In terms of acquiring, that's hard to say?
I don't know. I don't I don't know if I think I don't know if it'd be hard to make that generalization.
I'd say that there's certainly by the late 19th century, it's certainly become a big enough problem, that it was like,
spoiling a system, right? They mean, it was enough, it was problematic enough that when people like Muhammad Beetham and harness or admin Bay, the governor of Tunis in 1846, when they said that there's too many people being acquired illegally, that we basically have to end slavery. I don't think they were making that up, I think there was like a genuine concern of there become a genuine concern. Okay. We have a question here that you talked about the fact that Islam is very encouraging to free slaves. What do we say to the argument that, since Islam is universal, and since the process of is the seal of profits, and since Islam came with so many other difficult things, why didn't
Islam abolish instead of merely encourage? Why didn't do that? I mean, that's a that's an excellent question. The answer is that
it would be like, I mean, essentially, it would be like saying, we're gonna abolish, you know,
transportation. I mean, it wouldn't, or we're gonna abolish working or walking, it doesn't, it wouldn't make sense for people.
And I want to repeat this. Nobody thought it abolition wasn't some kind of idea that a few enlightened souls were arguing for. Nobody was arguing for that no one conceptualized the idea of abolition, even slaves who were engaged in slave rebellions, like Spartacus, weren't thinking about abolishing slavery, even in their own area, let alone like globally, it would be like, just imagine a world where in order to move anything, you need a person or an animal to do that. And then just imagine saying,
you can no longer use people or animals to move things. I mean, it just wouldn't make sense to people. So
just imagine the impact that use of fossil fuels has had on the human psyche, the human race, what kind of things that we are able to do with ease today that we live lives where the weather means nothing? Maybe we live lives where we can, I can literally go to London and come back in the same day. You know, I mean, this is
this kind of thing is inconceivable to pre modern minds. So if the Quran talks about abolition, it would be like us talking about
I mean, I don't even know like dimensional transport or something. Yes, we do talk about that. But like, you know, it'd be like talking about like, interdimensional transport and
Like 1800 would make any sense.
So, you also mentioned the issue that an argument can be made that Islam does discourage and encourages, let's say abolishment. However, is it possible to theoretically claim open ended question he's saying that if the circumstances change slavery might return and in the context of Islam would then that be permissible. So it's interesting to note this because Schiff, Hammad psychodrama Donald boutier him all along right he in one of his books, he actually talks about this he says that
he says that the the
concept of slavery is actually proof of you Islam's universality? Why does he say that? He says that?
It There may come a time when the laws of slavery will actually be needed again. And I don't think that's because he's arguing for the kind of Muslims reintroducing slavery like ISIS or something like that. It's because
I want you to imagine I call it the Mad Max after escape situation. You guys watch Mad Max movie? No, of course not.
How do I communicate with you people? I know you keep watching Mad Max movie.
You know, Mel Gibson, and then Tom's like this. So imagine like, you know, nuclear war, we're all wearing rubber tire body armor with crossbows driving around.
We're all gonna be Umes. Or maybe we'll be like partners in this accuracy of the camera Gasser we used to talk about human rights in that stuff. Wow, it's so funny. You know. So the point is,
imagine a world where we actually don't have full fossil fuels don't have any kind of way to move things except people are human beings.
I'm from what I've studied, I'm as a, if I were a betting man, I would argue that there's actually slavery will be reintroduced. Because it will be considered an economic, it would just be
a result of economic course of events. And at that point,
you know, human beings either going to have rules for governing that or not have rules.
So, again, I want to make very clear, because I don't really get the wrong idea. I'm not encouraging this. I'm not saying that I think it's a good idea. I'm not saying that. Islam, I think it's a good idea. Again, God wants freedom, God doesn't want slavery. So human Muslim should always be
on the side of emancipation. But I don't think by any stretch of the imagination, it's inconceivable to think that there will be a time in human history that we will again have things that we consider slavery, like, in the pre modern period. So let's finish off with two three questions. inshallah, actually, I'm going to combine the next few in one. And again, I know you, you were hesitant to answer and I fully understand but I'm being bombarded. And especially there's a number of sisters are asking this, obviously, they are obviously fully understandably. One sister says that, as I understand it, masters were not even allowed to slap their slaves. So how can we understand the fact
that a Muslim male slave owners forcing himself on a slave girl and another sister says that if emancipation was seen as such a good deed then why did it take so long? Or why were captured women kept slaves for so long? merely to any, you know, have a family, let's say?
So I think it's important to hear to distinguish between
application, social application of law. What do I mean by that?
If you read like, even asms you guys don't even hasn't died.
10 5056, right.
Famous zaharie scholar 1064 46 1064.
So his book, telco Hana is translated English as ring of the dove. It's a treatise on love, and heat several instances, he talks about
men who owns female slaves and who were like deeply in love with those slaves, but the slave didn't like them back. And it just drove those guys crazy.
Even has them himself talks about, by the way, his first love, who he didn't get over for decades, was a slave woman who was deeply in love with her and he has a bad paragraph talking, praising her.
Um, so what I mean, and it's not just, it hasn't but you can see another scholar who's writing in the 19th century and Mecca talks about the idea that he has a friend who's like madly in love with his slave woman, his own slave woman and who is
like crying because she won't. She's not interested in him. So
I think it's important to remember that
just because an even hasn't even says this, he says, These men, these women were their property, they could do what they wanted with them. But their loves their love sick, and they're heartbroken because they're not interested in them. So, you know,
I don't think that.
I don't think that Muslim men just because they were legally allowed to do something that necessarily follow that that's what they want to do all the time.
And as I said before, it's very important to keep in mind that the work that in our legal and moral system we do to the concept of consent, Muslim scholars and Muslim ethics did do the concept of harm.
Right? So if,
if a slave woman was harmed by her owners approaches to her or her owners access of her, that was something that she could go to a judge and complain about, and get relief from and get potentially maybe fried because of, and we have instance of that instances of this. It's not like a theoretical thing. We have like factoids about this. We have court cases about this.
Final question, and then I have you have personal question, as well. So final question relates to the topic and then a question about your life. question related to the topic.
How do you address the fact that many pre classical scholars of Islam, thought of marriage as a form of slavery?
I don't think they thought of marriage as a form of slavery, I think they used slavery as a language as an idiom for talking about marriage. Marriage is definitely not a form of slavery, because midwives are not slaves. They're not slaves. That's like a base, you can't In fact, you cannot marry your slave.
In Sharia, you either you can either free you can free them, and then you can marry them, but you can't marry your slave. So
what they, you know, when we, for example, when we talk about marriage in modern United States, what do we say we say it's a partnership.
We say it's a, you're a team, I don't know things like what are the things that we talk about? Right? You know, oh, you say it's a partnership, like a business partnership. I mean, think about the fact that we societies can have different idioms for legally talking about a relationship. Just because they you choose that legal idiom doesn't mean that that is the nature of the relationship for those people involved. So Muslim scholars use the concept of milk of property when they're talking about marriage, but it doesn't mean that marriage was like, equivalent of slavery or some modified version of slavery or something. So I think it's important to not get kind of legal
language and legal idioms mixed up with the actual definition of these things in Islamic law or how they were understood.
Okay, and here's the question that a lot of people have been asking me to ask you, can you tell us a bit a little bit about your own conversion and your journey through Islam for the 7627 second time, but this is online in a multiple we don't watch we don't watch online, we don't watch videos.
You guys are killing me here. Ready? Someone's actually wants to know this.
Do you guys want to know why he converted to Islam and his story? I
need to get a card. I can just hand people. So yes, I was.
Long time ago. I was. I was.
I was raised in Washington, DC suburbs. You guys know, Brett Kavanaugh? Yeah, I'm from the same neighborhood. But I'm not. I don't know. But he's,
he made he made my he gave my neighborhood a bad name. Chevy Chase, Maryland. But dad Yeah, that's where I'm from suburb of outside of Washington, DC. Total population of non white people. Zero.
Except for some, like Africans who worked for the World Bank or something, but there's no, it's a super
rich white person place. So the so I grew up and I was raised. Christian, I was raised on fiscal paleo and Christian, which is like American Anglican Church. But I went to church every Sunday. We had to go every Sunday, but and I was an acolyte. I went all the way through the finish the senior level of acolyte. Those are the guys who helped with the minister. They help the community and they carry the crosses, where the outfits like you see those English boys with those white outfits and the red and the
That's what I used to wear on Sundays. I was also I learned by the way that I was definitely going to be an alcoholic because when they brought around the communion wine, like you would get it for as the as the Acolytes and I would chug as much as I loved it, even as a child. So I would be if I were not Muslim, I think I'd be a functional alcoholic. That's my theory. hamdulillah.
So, yeah, but it was interesting because we didn't talk about we went to church with religion had no place in our household. So we didn't. There's no no one ever talks about God or anything in my house. So it was really weird. I'm the most religious person by far my family.
But anyway, the point is that I didn't have like a lot of religion. Christianity wasn't really a big deal for us.
So then I went to high school, I went to boarding school in California, I went to boarding school in the same town Hamza Yusuf Sheikh Hamza, Yusuf went to boarding school in, which is called Ojai, California, which no one knows about. But we went to rival high schools. Plus, he's older than me.
And his dad, by the way, was a teacher at the boarding school that my dad was a student that so my dad might have studied with his dad. But my dad died, too. I couldn't ask him that question. So then I went to high school in California. And
I had a lot of existential angst as a teenager, this might be normal people. I had a lot of existential angst, like it was almost incapacitating for me. Then when I went to Georgetown for college, they have you have to take two theology requirements, you have to take either problem of God, which I didn't take, or you take intro to Biblical literature, I took intro to Biblical literature. And I was like, this is really interesting, but I don't think I I want to follow this. And then the next class I took was a randomly just totally randomly on Islam. And because I had this friend in my dorm was actually Palestinian guy. I had no idea about Islam. And one time I asked him,
I was like, hey, how much is a camel cost? Like I asked that not ironically, like not as a joke I actually wanted to know, and he really he was like, two women. And then I was like, What? He's like, No, I'm just messing with you. He's I don't know. I've never seen a camel in my life. But the point you said he lived in the UAE. The point is, he's I had zero idea about Islam, but I took I was like, God, it's interesting. I'll take this class on Islam. So my second requirement, and the you know, who taught is the niece of sniper Farooqi, and him hold on May 7, it'll be she taught the class and we read Muhammad Said's book, read the his translation of the Quran. And we read road to Mecca. And
the road to Makkah really like me, bowled me over. And I think
kind of by the end of that semester, it was spring semester, my freshman year, I was really like,
I just really felt like a Muslim. That summer, I spent thinking a lot about the issue and stop eating pork and stop drinking and things like that. And then in the fall, when I went back to my second year, I went to the MSA eat dinner at the beginning of the year. And I I said someone I told someone I'm interested in becoming Muslim. And that was it.
I'd like to, obviously thank Dr. Arthur Brown, he is extremely busy person. You didn't never told the story of the book. I'll just quickly mention it.
That small controversy happened when he's giving a lecture, small, very small controversy that took over the national media for a short period of time, where he basically told the Muslim in the audience like are you a Muslim? And I said yes. And he said, if you're a Muslim, how can you you know, dismiss slavery as being immoral. When the Prophet system himself had a milk? You mean? I mean, it's a contradiction, you either this or that. And he said this in an audience of non Muslims as well
as all Muslims, but then it got picked up by the non Muslim media. A person is actually a total idiot, but I mean, I'm sorry, he's just a moron. And he then got all upset about this. And actually, the funny thing is, he's actually a white guy that's like a middle aged white guy who got anyway, he was really up, and then he did you guys remember Milo,
Milo. I was Milo's last victim. Milo attacked me. And then Milo went down.
So what when when Dr. Brown was basically
put under the spotlight, how do you respond when you're a professor at Georgetown, you write a 350 page book. So he dropped all of his other projects. And within two days was it or four days on I'm just exaggerating, but somehow amazing, fast turnaround, he publishes a book, where's the book, it's over there. Um, so I have the book. And I encourage all of you to get it. And it's a very readable book. It's not, it's not something that's only meant for PhDs in their ivory towers, it's meant for the inquisitive mind. That's the great thing about the book. It's actually meant for people that are struggling with these issues, and it's very, very readable. That's something that you will enjoy.
I'm currently almost finishing it up. I haven't quite finished it yet. And it's a variable
Books. So do encourage you to purchase the book, and it's something that will be of great benefit. I'd like to thank Dr. Brown for spending so much of his time precious time. He's on his other project. Now he keeps on coming out with books and articles and puts all the rest of us to shame. I don't know how he does this on a lot of friends.
And Michelle also his family is very supportive. His wife's won two Emmys, or three or four. His wife has won two Emmy Awards. Marshall, that's about a cola. So just a bit of pressure on him to also, you know, as an actress, as a producer, you're journalists, just to be clear. Okay, two Emmy Awards as a producer and journalists, so just a small bit of pressure on him to write another 1520 books to make up for that but at hamdulillah we'd like to thank him immensely for coming down. He literally just came down for this talk is flying out back in early tomorrow morning, just came down in the afternoon today. So Giacomo Lafayette, I hope that inshallah you also benefited and enjoyed
your stay here and inshallah we do plan to invite him again for more difficult topics that only somebody in his position and tenure track and what our tenured professor can say, the rest of us cannot say so just akmola head malvazija continue to bless you and guide you and guide others through you. And we ask Allah azza wa jal to cause you and all of us to be instruments of is to Islam and through Islam, for what you are doing. You are one of the very, very few people I know and I'm sorry to praise you in front of your face, but our audience should know. Practicing proud Muslim in the halls of academia is very, very, very, very rare. Somebody who's unabashedly Muslim, somebody
who defends Islam and the values of Islam at a place you know, like Georgetown, I mean, it's something that's
almost unheard of one of the very few people so we thank a lot that we have somebody like Dr. Brown, and we asked a lot to canoes to continue to give him a bat and to make him firm and to make him a source of others. for Islam through Islam Chuck would love it, so I'm heading out to
in a feed dunia Santa Monica villa.