This blog aims to acquaint readers with the research and activities of the Swiss National Science Foundation-funded project (grant number 208124) TraSIS: Trajectories of Slavery in Islamicate Societies, based at the University of Bern. As part of our project output, we aim to publish one blog post every month that explores a primary source related to the theme of slavery and coerced labour in Islamic law, broadly conceived. The sources discussed will vary in terms of temporal, geographic, linguistic and sectarian origin, and will reflect the diversity and range of Islamic legal thought and practice. Individual posts may excerpt sources in translation or offer full transcriptions of texts, and will feature some discussion of the provenance and significance of the work in question. We are also interested in questions of race, class, gender and ethnicity, and how these inflect the experience—and juristic conception— of slavery and coerced labour. Intersectionality is a central concern of the TraSIS project. Given the variety of sources presented in our blog, however, this theme will figure more or less prominently, depending on the nature of the text discussed. Moreover, though our project focuses on three key juristic concepts, namely the umm al-waladmukātaba, and kafāla, our blog posts will explore the full spectrum of unfreedom.

The blog is open to guest contributors not affiliated to the project team. Otherwise, the main contributors will be core members of TraSIS, whose blog posts will typically illustrate some aspect of their project research. New blog posts will appear uppermost on the blog page, with older posts appearing below. Links to all blog posts will be available on the home page, to facilitate smooth navigation of content.

Our first blog post translates the section on slavery from a recently published 3rd/9th century Ibāḍī epistle addressing a range of theological and legal questions. This source highlights the ways in which distinct sectarian trends in the formative period of Islam engaged in shared conversations on the subject of slavery. The post demonstrates how a sensitive, cross-sectarian and comparativist reading of early texts sheds light on the development of Islamic law. Though the epistle originates in Oman, many hundreds of miles from the origin-point of Ibāḍism in the garrison towns (amṣār) of Southern Iraq, jurists across Islamdom were participants in a far-flung republic of letters, and ethico-legal advice authored in one city could decisively influence views in another, far-removed one. The source is also interesting for reasons of genre, given its origin in an epistolary exchange that was felt to be of broader concern to its sectarian community, who later copied and circulated it more broadly. Our first contribution thus illustrates several themes that will reappear in future posts.

We hope our blog is of interest to readers: we welcome comments, feedback, and proposals for contributions!

The TraSIS Team

Recent Blog Posts:

Anchassi, Omar: Legal and Theological Dimensions of Slavery in an Early Ibāḍī Text. 24.01.2023.

Tolino, Serena: On Eunuchs: An Italian Medical Doctor’s View (Cairo, 1902). 28.02.2023.

Emunds, Laura: The Case of Najma Saʿīd Ismāʿīl: A ‘Proof of Ownership’ Document Issued by the Islamic State (2016). 10.04.2023.

Rowitz, Laura: The Standard Unified Contract for Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon — Recognition of Rights and Responsibilities or Facilitation of ‘Modern Slavery’?. 25.05.2023.

Anchassi, Omar: The Sins of the Father: Theodicy, Salvation and the Enslavement of Children in Some Kalām Texts. 20.07.2023.

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