Through the Looking Glass:  Why Islam Didn’t Conquer the World

Through the Looking Glass:  Why Islam Didn’t Conquer the World

Sheila Musaji

An article by Paul Akers, editor of the opinion page of the Free Lance Star  Why Islam Didnt conquer the World the author makes some surprising statements in his zeal to show why it was such a blessing that Islam was turned back from Europe at the Battle of Tours.

“And what sort of world would that be? Without the Christian quickening of conscience that helped abolish slavery in England, the United States, and elsewhere, the Quran-sanctioned institution might be the global norm. An Emir Ibrahim al-Lincoln would not have issued the Emancipation Proclamation.”

This is a surprising re-writing of history - slavery in the U.S. wasnҒt ended because of Christian beliefs but in spite of them.  The Bible doesnt forbid slavery in the Old or New Testaments.  A list of quotations giving biblical references for their support of the institution of slavery by 19th century defenders of slavery can be found at 


“Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be defamed.” (Timothy I 6:1)

(Genesis 21: 1-8) 21:1 Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them.  Slavery 21:2 If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.  21:3 If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.  21:4 If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.  21:5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: “Take an awl and thrust it through his ear.”  21:6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.  21:7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.  How to sell your daughter—and what to do if she fails to please her new master.  21:8 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. “

“As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are round about you.” (Leviticus 25:44)

“If a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave, betrothed to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, an inquiry shall be held. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free” (Leviticus 19:20)

“When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be punished; for the slave is his money.” (Exodus 21:20-21)

(Deuteronomy 20:10-15)” 10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. 12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.”

“And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant” (Genesis 9:26)

“So the Canaanites have dwelt in the midst of Ephraim to this day, but become slaves to do forced labour.” (Josh 16:10)

“And all the people that were left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which were not the children of Israel; their children that were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel also were not able utterly to destroy, upon those did Solomon levy a tribute of bondservice unto this day.”(I Kings 9:20-21)

“but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him.” (Exodus 12:44)

“When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing.” (Exodus 21:2)

Matthew 18:25: “But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.”

Ephesians 6:5-9: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.”

Luke 12:45-48: “The lord [owner] of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

Colossians 4:1: “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.”

1 Timothy 6:1-3 “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;”

Note:  Servants means slaves

The QurҒan also doesnt forbid slavery, but there are several verses which specifically mentioned the requirement of freeing the slave as a way of meeting the punishment for wrongdoing. See 4:92, 5:89 and 58:3.  Islam tolerated slavery but never approved of it.  Also, those who were slaves were never considered to be sub-human, and in fact often held positions of authority and even power.

There is not in Islam anything like the idea of the curse of Ham (The curse of Ham (also called the curse of Canaan) refers to the curse that Noah placed upon Canaan (the son of Ham) after Ham saw Noah naked because of drunkenness in his tent.) which was used by some Christians to justify slavery and even racism.  The Qur’an is completely clear that all human beings are related:

“O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in God’s sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.”49:13

A Few Verses From the Qur’an

[9:60] Charities shall go to the poor, the needy, the workers who collect them, the new converts, to free the slaves, to those burdened by sudden expenses, in the cause of GOD, and to the traveling alien. Such is GOD’s commandment. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise.

[2:177] ғRighteousness is not turning your faces towards the east or the west. Righteous are those who believe in GOD, the Last Day, the angels, the scripture, and the prophets; and they give the money, cheerfully, to the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the traveling alien, the beggars, and to free the slaves; and they observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat); and they keep their word whenever they make a promise; and they steadfastly persevere in the face of persecution, hardship, and war. These are the truthful; these are the righteous.

[90:10-13] Did we not show him the two paths? He should choose the difficult path. Which one is the difficult path?  The freeing of slaves.”

And in the Hadith we find many precepts encouraging kindness, and the freeing of slaves. 

“A man came to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and said: ‘Guide me to a deed that makes me close to Heaven and far from Hell.’ The Prophet replied: ‘Free a person and redeem a slave.’ “ A Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad found at Fiqh us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 67.

“O people, Remember that your Lord is One. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a black has no superiority over white, nor a white has any superiority over black, except by piety and good action (Taqwa). Indeed the best among you is the one with the best character (Taqwa). Listen to me. Did I convey this to you properly? People responded, Yes. O messenger of God, The Prophet then said, then each one of you who is there must convey this to everyone not present.” (Excerpt from the Prophet’s Last Sermon as in Baihiqi)

“The Prophet said: Let people stop boasting about their ancestors. One is only a pious believer or a miserable sinner. All men are sons of Adam, and Adam came from dust.” (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi).

The Prophet said: You should listen to and obey your ruler even if he was an Ethiopian slave whose head looked like a raisin.” (Bukhari).

Mr. Akers goes on to bring up an old and discredited statement as if it was a fact.

“The seething anti-Islamic passions in the Balkans make sense when you consider that the very name “Slav” comes from “slave.”

I looked this one up and found an article on the Etymology of ‘Slav’ on Wikipedia

ԓEven the origin of the word “Slav” remains controversial. In the Old Slavonic language that word is “slovene”.  There are obvious similarities to the word slovo meaning “word, talk”. Thus slovene would mean “people who speak (the same language)”, i.e. people who understand each other, as opposed to the Slavic word for Germans, nemtsi, meaning “speechless people” (from Slavic n쬬emi - mute, silent, dumb). Compare the Greek coinage of the term “barbarian”.

“Another obvious similarity links “Slavs” to the word slava, that is “glory” or “praise”. The word came about from the verb “slyti”, “to be known about”; it arises from the corresponding causative verb, “slaviti”.”

“Sometimes “slav” is calculated to derive from “slov-” by the distinctly Russian phenomenon of akanie. Almost every Slavic nation which retains its initial name for “Slav” uses the word “slovene” for the meaning.”

“Some linguists believe, however, that these obvious connections mislead.  A false etymology popular in National Socialist propaganda, but also found in some older editions of the Oxford English Dictionary, connected Slav with slave. There is certainly no basis for this.”

Mr. Akers is wrong even on his basic facts, but his perception of Islam is obviously so colored by misperception and stereotypes that he fails even to acknowledge that the Dark Ages of Europe were terminated thanks to the scientific advances of Muslim scholars in such disciplines as medicine, astronomy, and mathematics.

Sheila Musaji is the editor of The American Muslim at  reprint authorized with this link intact.