Islam and the Abolition of Slavery

March 2020 9781787383388 300pp


In this important book, Clarence-Smith provides the first general survey of the Islamic debate on slavery. Sweeping away entrenched myths, he hopes to stimulate more research on this neglected topic. He draws on examples from the ‘abode of Islam’, from the Philippines to Senegal and from the Caucasus to South Africa, paying particular attention to the period from the late eighteenth century to the present. Once slavery had disappeared, it was the Sufi mystics who did most to integrate former slaves socially and religiously, avoiding the deep social divisions that have plagued the Western societies in the aftermath of abolition.


‘As a historian, Clarence-Smith has certainly made his case. Islam and the Abolition of Slavery is a tour de force.’ — Times Literary Supplement

Islam and the Abolition of Slavery is a tour de force which ranges over the entire Islamic world, from the Hijrah to the present, and for good measure includes comparisons with the attitudes and practice of other major world religions towards the “embarrassing institution”.’ — Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

‘Raises the profile of a debate which, for a long time, has been confined to a small group of Orientalists.’ — The Muslim World Book Review

‘An impressive survey … and objective analysis.’ — Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


William Clarence-Smith is Professor of the Economic History of Asia and Africa at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and teaches a course Islamic reform in Southeast Asia. He has written widely on slavery, colonialism, entrepreneurial diasporas, and tropical agriculture. He edited The Economics of the Indian Ocean Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century (1989).

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