Conquered Populations in Early Islam

Non-Arabs, Slaves and the Sons of Slave Mothers

Elizabeth Urban

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Explores the ways in which new Muslims of slave origins were integrated into early Islamic societyChoice Outstanding Academic Title, 2020
  • Brings together three separate groups (freedmen, slave women and the children of enslaved mothers) as parts of the same prism of unfreedom
  • Recovers enslaved women’s voices and treats them as important agents of historical change
  • Combines close textual analysis with large-scale demographic study to provide multiple levels of understanding
  • Explores the transformation of Islam from a small piety movement to an imperial doctrine upholding the distinction between conquerors and conquered
  • Challenges simplistic notions of ethnicity and shows the categories of ‘Arab’ and ‘non-Arab’ are historically contingent

This book traces the journey of new Muslims as they joined the early Islamic community and articulated their identities within it. It focuses on Muslims of slave origins, who belonged to the society in which they lived but whose background of slavery rendered them somehow alien. How did these Muslims at the crossroads of insider and outsider find their place in early Islamic society? How did Islamic society itself change to accommodate these new members?

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List of Tables and Figures


Notes on the Text

1. Introduction: Why Muslims of Slave Origins Matter

2. Insiders with an Asterisk: Mawālī and Enslaved Women in the Quran

3. Abū Bakra, Freedman of God

4. Enslaved Prostitutes in Early Islamic History

5. Concubines & Their Sons: The Changing Political Notion of Arabness

6. Singers & Scribes: The Limits of Language and Power

7. Conclusions



Elizabeth Urban is Assistant Professor of the Islamic World in the Department of History at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. She has published articles in Interdisciplinary Humanities and Journal of Qur’anic Studies and peer-reviewed chapters in edited volumes published by Peeters, OUP and Brill. This is her first book.

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