Possessed by the Right Hand

The Problem of Slavery in Islamic Law and Muslim Cultures


In Possessed by the Right Hand, the first comprehensive legal history of slavery in Islam ever offered to readers, Bernard K. Freamon, an African-American Muslim law professor, provides a penetrating analysis of the problems of slavery and slave-trading in Islamic history. After examining the issues from pre-Islamic times through to the nineteenth century, Professor Freamon considers the impact of Western abolitionism, arguing that such efforts have been a failure, with the notion of abolition becoming nothing more than a cruel illusion. He closes this ground-breaking account with an examination of the slaving ideologies and actions of ISIS and Boko Haram, asserting that Muslims now have an important and urgent responsibility to achieve true abolition under the aegis of Islamic law.

See Bernard Freamon live at Rutgers Law School (October 8, 2019).

Listen to Possessed by the Right Hand: An Interview with Prof. Bernard Freamon from Network ReOrient on Anchor

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Bernard K. Freamon, LLM (2002), JSD (2007), Columbia University; JD (1974), Rutgers Law School, is Emeritus Professor of Law, Seton Hall Law School. He is the author of “Straight, No Chaser: Slavery, Abolition and Modern Islamic Thought” in Indian Ocean Slavery in the Age of Abolition (YUP, 2013) and other works.

List of Figures and Maps

Introduction 1
1 Slavery, Slave Trading and the Law in the Pre-Islamic Middle East
2 Slavery and Slave Trading in Early Islam
3 Slavery and Empire in the Medieval and Early Modern Islamic Worlds
4 The "Mamluk/Ghulam Phenomenon"—Slave Sultans, Soldiers, Eunuchs and Concubines
5 Plural Imperialisms and Multiple Diasporas
6 A Taxonomy of Slavery and Slave Trading in Muslim Cultures
7 The Rise and Impact of Abolitionism
8 A Tale of Three Sovereigns—the Shah, the Khedive, and the Sultan
9 The Illusion of Abolition
10 The Reemergence of Slavery and Slave Trading in the Muslim World


All interested in slavery and abolition in Muslim world and in world history; scholars and students of African, Middle Eastern, and Indian Ocean history; scholars and students of Islamic Jurisprudence.
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