Rethinking Slavery and Freedom in Islamic Law

12:30pm ET
WCC 4059

This event is in person. Members of the Harvard community are invited to attend the event on November 7 at 12:30pm in WCC 4059. Lunch will be served to attendees. To receive further updates about upcoming HRP events, sign up for our newsletter.

Event banner for discussion “Rethinking Slavery and Freedom in Islamic Law” on November 7 at 12:30pm in WCC 4095 with photos of panelists Havva Guney-Ruebenacker, Abadir M. Ibrahim and Omar Abdel-Ghaffar.

Slavery, and what’s today called human trafficking or contemporary forms of slavery, has been or is commonplace in most countries. Islamic law, in addition to finding expression in the constitutional systems of most Muslim majority countries, informs the ethical and social values of about a quarter of the world’s population. Islamic law and ethics, or generally Islam can thus be expected to impact how Muslim communities make sense of social realities that are affected by historical and contemporary practices falling under the rubric of slavery. This panel will discuss varied historical and contemporary positions of Islamic law on slavery and how these positions interact with and influence broader Islamic conceptions on freedom. 


Abadir M. Ibrahim is the Associate Director of the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School. His current research focuses on African approaches to human rights which studies, among other things, the iteration and practice of human rights as impacted by Africa’s (post)colonial, religious and traditional heritages. 

Havva Guney-Ruebenacker specializes in American family law, Islamic law and comparative law, and works as a lecturer at Harvard Law School, teaching comparative family law, and as a consultant and expert witness in divorce litigation matters involving spousal support, marital property and child custody issues. 

Omar Abdel-Ghaffar (moderator) is a 1L at Harvard Law School and a G4 at the PhD program in History. His research focuses on Islamic law in the fourteenth century, examining the relationship between courts and peasants. He is also interested in the relationship between law, documentary practices, and social structures. 

The discussion is organized by the Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World and the Human Rights Program and is co-sponsored by Religion and Public Life at the Harvard Divinity School.