As we have seen, Islam for most of its existence was carried forward by the sword. Two nomadic tribal peoples, the Arabs and the Turks were responsible for most of this expansion. The question to be answered is how these primitive and thinly populated nomadic tribes expanded so explosively into large and densely populated civilized regions. The reasons for their success are various; some of these have been given in previous chapters.
One important answer to the question lies in an ingenious social invention arising among the early Muslims. This was a breeding system that motivated successful warriors with a great incentive to spread their faith and their culture. Bloom puts this motivation in stark terms as “the restless effort of human males to find more wombs to carry their seed.” Islam has the remarkable advantage of being highly patriarchal and polygamous with great sexual benefits for those warriors able to conquer in its name; Islam was and remains a great male racket. Furthermore, these advantages are not the temporary kind that have always been associated with warfare, but continue to exist within the peacetime new order. Wherever the warriors of Islam went they were able to commandeer large numbers of native women as wives and concubines. And unlike their counterparts in the West, they were able to do so with full religious and legal sanction. Their warrior sons, the mixed offspring of these matings, in turn zealously spread their new religion and culture as they conquer still more territory and the process is repeated through several generations. Of course, such a permanent system also meant deterioration in the status of women; the latter lost even the limited rights they had managed to acquire under the preceding Greek and Roman civilization.
Indeed, Islam was, until the West developed its technological edge, the civilization most successful at both expansion and tenacity. In a remarkably short time the Arabs burst out of their peninsula to encompass the entire Middle East, Persia, North Africa and Spain. Later on, Muslim Turks and, ultimately, Mongol converts extended Islam into Asia Minor, the Balkans and South Asia. Other empires, such as those of the Macedonians and early Mongols expanded rapidly, but within a few centuries they were pushed back or assimilated by the cultures they had conquered. Rome also had a vast empire but its growth was a long drawn-out process requiring centuries. Furthermore, in contrast to the religion of Islam the other two great proselytizing religions, Christianity and Buddhism, grew very slowly and, at least in their initial stages, peacefully.
Historians have enumerated a number of reasons for Islam’s success but have ignored or, perhaps have not understood, the unprecedented way in which Islam evolved as an engine for harnessing the aggressive energy of young males. Nor have they acknowledged how the usual and temporary sexual advantages accruing to successful warriors in a time of war were extended into a permanent institution sanctified by religious law. This part of the Islamic meme, expressed by the institution of polygamy and concubinage, may be termed the culture of the harem. This institution was not limited to that of the large harem complexes of the Abbasid caliphs, Ottoman sultans and other high officials of Muslim society. These large harems were most prominent at certain periods and were limited to powerful and wealthy elites. However, the more general institution of polygamy was fairly common in Islamic history and is still widespread in certain parts of the Muslim world. And sexual slavery was a frequent occurrence, even among lower levels of society throughout much of Islamic history, particularly during the periods of the great Islamic conquests.
For, during those times of conquest, a Muslim warrior was motivated by more than religious fanaticism to achieve success. He had the prospect of confiscating as his permanent property many of the most attractive females among the conquered population as concubines or wives. These women, now stripped of their cultural moorings provided numerous half breed sons who were acculturated into Islam as well as into the Arabic, and later the Turkish, language. These sons, in their turn, extended Islam and its harem culture to new territories. In this way, a relatively small number of Arab and, at a later period, Berber and Turkish warriors, imprinted Islamic religion and culture on vast areas with large populations.
Warriors were not the only Muslim males sexually rewarded for advancing Islam. As seen above, Islam was also spread by trade and mercantile activity. The wealth accumulated by a successful merchant could be considerable. Thus, those responsible for promoting Islam beyond the borders of the Dar-al-Islam could also obtain the means of purchasing concubines and of affording multiple wives. Muslim officials and administrators who successfully defended and consolidated Islamic gains would also obtain the ability to acquire such advantages.
A requirement of this harem culture is the grinding down and degradation of even free Muslim women. For they are required to accept all of the concomitants of that institution: polygamy, ease of divorce and concubinage. During Islam’s frequent wars they are obliged to resignedly accept their husbands returning from the campaign with captive concubines for his own use as often as for sale. In other traditions, particularly in the West, wives were a little more assertive as shown by some famous examples from Greek mythology. Hera was not inclined to look on placidly while Zeus consorted with his numerous mortal mistresses. The fate of Agamemnon at the hands of his wife, Clytemnestra, showed what danger a warrior might expect after sacrificing a daughter and dragging home a concubine. Similarly, the formidable Medea did not meekly acquiesce in Jason’s infidelity. Under Islam such an ideology and expression of female assertiveness had to be suppressed.
An additional consequence was that the misogynistic harem culture became deeply embedded within Islamic civilization as it spread from the warriors to the general male population. A successful merchant or religious pundit was also able to partake in these sexual advantages. The result is the peculiar degradation of women as well as many of the other sexual oddities, i.e. the sexual abuse of young boys by older men, which have become almost institutionalized. To be sure, misogyny and oppression of women is not confined to Islamic culture. But it appears to be much more persistent in Islam. When the British abolished the Hindu custom of suttee, there was much agitation among Hindu traditionalists. Yet, Hindu culture adapted to the change without any great upheaval. But Islam seems peculiarly resistant to altering its established sexual attitudes. The reason may lie in the fact that the very existence of Islamic culture over wide regions is due to these attitudes. Winston Churchill wrote of the consequences of Muslim attitudes toward women: “A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property - either as a child, a wife, or a concubine - must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.”
Scriptural Legitimization of Sexual Slavery
In addition to allowing polygamy and permitting easy divorce to his male adherents, the Prophet also provides ample verses promoting the rape of captives and the institution of sexual slavery:
O Prophet! We have made lawful unto thee thy wives unto whom thou hast paid their dowries, and those whom thy right hand possesseth of those whom Allah hath given thee as spoils of war…
It is not allowed thee to take (other) women henceforth … save those whom thy right hand possesseth.
Save with their wives and those whom their right hands possess…
And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess.
And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) that your right hands possess.
And marry such of you as are solitary and the pious of your slaves and maid-servants.
Successful indeed are the believers; Who are humble in their prayers; … And who guard their modesty; Save from their wives or the (slaves) that their right hands possess, for then they are not blameworthy.
And all married women are forbidden unto you except those captives whom your right hand possesses.
It is a decree of Allah for you. Lawful unto you are all beyond those mentioned, so that you seek
them with your wealth in honest wedlock, not debauchery.
Salih Muslim, Book 8:3371
After the battle with the Bani Al-Mustaliq, Muhammad is presented with a question by his men of whether they could have sex by means of coitus interruptus with the captive women so as to avoid impairing their ransom value. “When Muhammad said ‘It is better that you should not do it.’ He was referring to coitus interruptus, not to raping their captives. He took that for granted.” Indeed, no other major world religion puts it quite as bluntly as the Prophet does in Surah 2:223. “Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will”. Commentator Jamie Glazov remarks on the singular reversals of morality present in Islamic doctrine regarding sex with captives:
Since it emphasizes the importance of Muslims conquering all non-Muslims, Islam bestows some intriguing sexual incentives. While it is a sin for a male to have sex with an unmarried woman, Allah makes an exemption for the Muslim male who rapes the women of the infidels that he kills. Muhammad did just that.
This explains why any time Islamic warriors defeat another nation, they call the inhabitants kafir (the one who, according to the Qur'an, is ungrateful to the blessings showered by Allah) and rape their women. Pakistani Muslim soldiers raped a quarter of a million Bangali women in 1971 after they massacred 3 million unarmed civilians. This atrocity is not considered a sin in Islam, because the religious leader of the soldiers decreed that Bangladeshis were infidels.
It may sound harsh, but the distinction between "fertilizing" and "punishing" a woman is evident. On the one hand you have sexuality as a tool serving the expansion of Islam, and on the other hand there is sexuality as a weapon against disobedient and non-Muslim women, both categorized as "unbelievers". Against them jihad is the duty, and what to do with women "conquered" in jihad, this may be read in the Qur'an: they become slaves to be used by the victors.
The rape of enemy women in war has been widespread in all cultures and at all times. However, the institutionalization of sexual slavery in Islam when combined with the downtrodden condition of Muslim women made the continuation of legalized rape in time of peace a commonplace of Islamic society and puts an indelible mark on the Muslim character. According to historian Stanley Lane-Pool the
…female slave in the East … is at the entire mercy of her master, who can do what he pleases with her and her companions; for the Muslim is not restricted in the number of his concubines. … The female white slave is kept solely for the master’s sensual gratification … The Muslim soldier was allowed to do as he pleased with any ‘infidel’ woman he might meet with on his victorious march. … And this cruel indulgence has left its mark on the Muslim character, nay, on the whole character of Eastern life.
Bernard Lewis also notes the “generous provision” Islam makes for male sexual needs while enforcing a puritanical code regarding sex in general. He observes that while polygamy was confined to the upper classes, concubinage was common throughout all strata of Muslim society.  In addition, he acknowledges that non-Muslim female slaves occupied the “bottom of the social pile”.
For the Muslim warrior Islamic heaven offered rather more robust delights than did its competitors. There was no floating on clouds and playing harps for male jihadists. Neither the Jewish nor the Christian concept of the afterlife could compete with the Prophet’s paradise. Moreover, the best way to merit eternal bliss was by slaughtering enemy infidels; a method not generally endorsed by the other monotheistic faiths. The other religions that Islam encountered in its expansion, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and Buddhism also suffered a competitive disadvantage in the rewards offered to warriors. With respect to Hinduism, Keay observes how the Ghaznian, Mahmud’s, forces “were powerfully motivated by religious zeal, plus the prospect of booty and women in this world or something equally agreeable in the next. …for Hindus no particular merit attached to the massacre of mlecchas.” The Prophet offers his warriors these agreeable delights in a number of verses. The following surahs promise sexual delights as a reward for pious Muslim men and martyred warriors:
“Lo! For the duteous is achievement – Gardens enclosed and vineyards, And maidens for companions”
“Reclining upon couches lined with silk brocade, the fruit of both gardens near to hand. Which is it, of the favours of your Lord that ye deny? Therein are those of modest gaze, whom neither man nor jinni will have touched before them. … (In beauty) like the jacynth and coral stone.”
“Fair ones, close-guarded in pavilions … Whom neither man nor jinni will have touched before them”
“And (there are) fair ones with wide lovely eyes, Like unto hidden pearls, Reward for what they used to do.”
“Lo! We have created them a (new) creation And made them virgins, Lovers, friends, For those on the right hand.”
“Reclining on ranged couches. And we wed them unto fair ones with wide lovely eyes.”
“And with them are those of modest gaze, companions. This it is that ye are promised for the Day of Reckoning.”
“Lo! Those who kept their duty will be in a place secure Amid gardens and water-springs … And we shall wed them unto fair ones with wide lovely eyes.”
So it was that even the unsuccessful warrior, who died in the service of Islam, would be compensated in heaven with the sexual advantages he failed to win on earth. The Koran’s promised “fair ones with lovely eyes” was eventually multiplied into a harem of some seventy perennially virginal heavenly concubines. Paradise became a veritable orgasm factory with one accommodating virgin after another on the heavenly assembly line. Glazov describes these virginal prizes:
The Islamic temptation to wage violent war against non-Muslims also involves the sexual incentive of the houries (the 72 eternal virgins in paradise that are given to the Muslim warrior who dies in battle). The houri makes earthly women even more redundant. Yet even the individual houri herself is not sacred or special in any way. As Fatna Sabbah notes, she "has no spiritual dimension; she is a thing because she has neither will nor any possibility of development. . . . [she] has no intellect; she does not think. She is a thing that awaits consumption."
The houri is a manifestation of the ultimate misogyny…
Warraq describes how later Muslim commentators enhanced the lurid aspects of Muhammad’s Paradise.
In these utterly childish and sensual fantasies, the woman once again has been created to serve man – there are no fantasies of dark eyed gigolos serving reclining sensual women. The Koranic paradise was further elaborated with much glee by Muslim commentators. As Suyuti, for example wrote: ‘Each time we sleep with a houri we find her virgin. Besides, the penis of the Elected never softens, the erection is eternal. The sensation that you feel each time you make love is utterly delicious and out of this world and were you to experience it in this world you would faint. Each elected will marry seventy houris, besides the women he married on earth, and all will have appetizing vaginas.’
Thus eternal erections and appetizing vaginas, not harps and wings, are the distinguishing characteristics of the Prophet’s paradise.
Harem Culture and the Growth of the Muslim Population
Polygamy and widespread legal concubinage was the prime factor underlying the success of Islam’s nomadic vanguards. The conquerors were driven by religious zeal to ensure that Islam be imposed on the numerous half breed children resulting from these matings. These offspring formed the nucleus of a Muslim elite which assisted in the conversion of native populations and enabled Islamic culture to crystallize over vast territories. The Macedonian Greeks shared with Muslims a desire to spread their way of life. However, Greek culture, lacking the institution of polygamous marriage and the extensive peacetime concubinage that characterized Islam, was unable to establish deep roots in the very lands that ultimately became Muslim. The Mongols, like the Muslims, also had widespread polygamy and sexual slavery. However, lacking a strong cultural imperative, the Mongols were ultimately absorbed by those they conquered.
Geneticist C. D. Darlington comes to very similar conclusions in his study of the breeding system established by the Arab conquests. He notes that the Arab governing elite
…were derived at the beginning … from the commanders of the conquering armies … They had killed in battle or driven into exile the rulers and commanders of the defeated states. The widows and daughters of these enemies they generously took into their harems. … In this way they created in one generation a new governing class, undoubtedly Muslim, assertedly Arab and unmistakably both able and diverse in their abilities. They also became exceedingly numerous. The original armies issuing forth from Arabia in the seventh century may have numbered no more than a hundred thousand men. The survivors of war, including civil war, must have been fewer. But their descendants in two or three generations numbered millions; they populated the Muslim world.
At once we can see that polygamous conquerors must always be selected for a high rate of propagation. … But certainly the genetic effect of the Arabs was enough to influence the whole Islamic world. It was enough to beget in a few generations, at each successive expansion, a vast hybrid population.
Thus the vast hybridization plan of Alexander, frustrated by his caste-forming successors was now … carried to a fruitful issue. A consequence of this hybridization was the spread of the Arabic language in which converts had to affirm their Muslim faith. … This continuity of language and religion, reinforcing the continuity of race, created the triple-bound network in space and time for the lack of which military empires have promptly fallen to pieces.
Furthermore, the continuing vitality and solidarity of Muslim society required a large influx of captive concubines. When the conquests ceased and the razzias were contained, the frustrated energy of young males needed to find other outlets in crime and outlawed sexual practices.
…the polygamy of the conquering Muslim warriors could be genetically effective only when their conquests gave them large numbers of female slaves. At other times only a small section of society could indulge in a harem. And as a rule the propagation that resulted was compensated for by a high death rate either from war or murder. … And homosexual and other perversions … became the fashionable cult of all the governing warrior castes.
Historian Hitti joins with Darlington in affirming the importance of this breeding system. “Between the master and the female slave concubinage, but not legal marriage, was permissible. The children…belonged to the master and were therefore free”. Furthermore, in “the melting pot process which resulted in the amalgamation of Arabians and foreigners, the slave trade undoubtedly played an extremely important role.” Hitti, like Darlington, shows how the diffusion of the Arab bloodline among the more numerous conquered peoples was accompanied by the grafting of Arab culture onto the conquered lands. “In bringing about this fusion of the Arabians with their subject peoples polygamy, concubinage and the slave trade proved effective methods. As the pure Arabian element receded into the background non-Arabs, half –breeds and sons of freed women began to take their place.”
In distant Spain, as in other conquered lands, the same process of the spread of Muslim culture through hybridization took place:
From the beginning … the real Arabians in the army of conquest and among the colonists were comparatively few, limited to those in command and in high office. The number of women accompanying the army and first immigrants was necessarily small. Disease and fighting decimated the early conquerors and settlers. After the fourth generation the Arabian blood must have become greatly diluted by intermarriage with native women. Concubines, slaves and prisoners of war helped the process of amalgamation, as in other lands. The researches of Ribera have shown that even the Moslems of Spain, the so-called Moors were overwhelmingly of Spanish blood.
The Turkish conquests were followed by the same process of sexual slavery and hybridization. The confiscating of vast numbers of native women by conquering nomads led to the genetic absorption of the Turks by the conquered races and the simultaneous impressing of Turkish religion and language on that population. Ottoman historian Kinross observes:
Women … whether war widows or the young daughters of Greeks, Serbs, and Bulgarians, were generally enslaved as wives and concubines for the conquerors, who had brought virtually no women of their own. The eventual result of this was the development of an Ottoman race vigorous and rich in the mixture of its blood. Eastern blood – Tatar, Mongol, Circassian, Georgian, Persian and Arabian – which already flowed through Turkish veins was now mixed with the blood of the Balkan races and those of Europe beyond …
This insight of Kinross is echoed by Darlington:
But owing as much to the prestige of the Greeks as to the polygamous habits favored by Islam, the new governing class of the Turks seems to have been more deeply transformed than that of the Christians in Spain. As the Turks advanced they converted the Christians and they also interbred with them. The conquered agricultural peoples constituted a new hybrid Turkish-speaking nation governed by hard-riding pashas also somewhat hybrid…
Size and Extent of the System of Sexual Slavery
Numerous historical references to the sheer number of native women enslaved by the Muslim invaders, as well as the vast extent and diversity of lands in which these occurred, support the assertions given above. The enormous numbers of female slaves possessed, like the immense wealth expropriated, by members of the Muslim elite is astounding.
The importance of the Islamic female slave trade is evident from the beginning of the Arab conquests. Arab historian Abun-Nasr describes circumstances in Cyrenaica a decade after the followers of the Prophet burst out of Arabia:
Human tribute was a means through which the conquerors obtained slaves, especially slave girls, to cater for the pleasures of the Arab ruling class. …upon conquering Cyrenaica in 642 or 643 ‘Amr b. al-‘As fixed the jizya to be paid by the Berber tribes … From the Lawata tribe he demanded that they should ‘sell’ to the Arabs a number of their ‘sons and daughters’ to the value of their share of the total jizya. … Ibn ‘Abdul Hakam … reports that during his term as amir of Ifriqiya his son and nephew, each commanding a column of troops, raided Berber settlements and took captives who were treated as war booty and taken into slavery.
There was, of course, a learning curve for some of these early Arab conquerors, lacking experience in the intricacies of the sex slave market. “When an Arabian warrior at al-Hirah [Iraq] was blamed for selling a nobleman’s daughter who fell as his share of the booty for only 1000 dirhams, his reply was that he ‘never thought there was a number above ten hundred.’”
After the Muslim armies conquered Persia and the Near East, their addiction to sexual slavery led them to raid lands far from their centers in Arabia and the Fertile Crescent. In 652 the first Muslim attack on Sicily took place. “The delights of Syracuse, ravaged in this first attempt consisted of women, church treasures and other valuable booty which invited repeated returns by Moslems in the course of the second half of the seventh century.” Similarly, after the pacification of Andalusia, the Moors satisfied their perpetual need for slave women by repeated raids across the Pyrenees. The Muslim historian Ibn-al-Athir describes a Moorish incursion into southern France in 793. “Abd al-Malik b. Abd al-Wahid b. Mugith … traversed this land in every direction, raping women …burning and pillaging everything… He returned…dragging behind him God knows how much booty.”  God also knows how many of the raped women were dragged back to harems as part of the booty.
Huge numbers of female slaves were widely available for satisfying the lust of Arab males of all classes in Umayyad times. Musa ibn Nusayr is said to have forwarded 30,000 virgins to the Umayyad caliph al-Walid. These were, presumably, not destined for work in the mines. Of course, the Caliph undoubtedly sold many of these, as even the prodigious appetite of a caliph would not be up to copulating on such a mass scale. Included among virgins sent “as an adornment to Caliph Walid’s seraglio” were the two young daughters of King Dahar, a present sent by ibn Qasim the conqueror of Sind. Another Umayyad aristocrat, Al-Zubayr ibn-al-‘Awwam, “bequeathed among other chattels one thousand male and female slaves.” Even middle and lower class Arab males partook in the bounty. “The famous Makkan poet of love ‘Umar ibn-abi-Rabi’ah (ca 719) had many more than seventy slaves. For an Umayyad prince to maintain a retinue of about a thousand slaves was nothing extraordinary. Even the private in the Syrian army at the battle of Siffrin had from one to ten servants waiting on him”.
Women slaves were invariably required as part of the tribute exacted by conquest or by treaty. In the invasion of Sind “what was required of the conquered people was not conversion to Islam, but tribute and taxes, treasure, slaves and women.” The tributary states of the Sudan were required by treaty to provide the Arabs with a quota of women since “attractive Nubian and pretty Bejawi girls … were valued as concubines.”
Under the Abbasid dynasty, there was no diminishment of the voracious appetites of Muslim males for sex slaves. In Abbasid times there “are few indications of the numbers of women who might be found in a harem … Harun al-Rashid is said to have had more than two thousand singing and servant girls in his huram, and records suggest that there were around twenty four concubines who bore him children. …it was claimed that the mid-ninth-century caliph al-Mutawwakil had four thousand concubines and had sexual intercourse with every single one of them.” The latter reportedly, at one time received a present of “two hundred slaves from one of his generals. It was customary for governors and generals to send presents, including girls received or exacted from among their subjects, to the caliph or vizir; failure to do so was interpreted as a sign of rebellion.”
Furthermore, the “girls who formed the Abbasid harem came from many different lands and cultures … almost always procured from outside the empire.” Some were of aristocratic or even royal origin captured as prizes in war. Many of these came from Iran, central Asia or Afghanistan. “None of these women was married to the caliphs or other notables to whom they belonged, but their aristocratic origins were certainly part of their appeal”. Women destined for the harems of the caliphs also came from far beyond the neighboring provinces. “Some of the most beautiful slave-girls were sent to the harems of the Baghdad Caliphs from Europe, particularly from Spain.”
In the Abbasid court all pretensions of religion were discarded such as the prohibition against drinking and the disapproval of music and poetry. Thus, the underlying reality of the male pursuit of sexual advantage is shown in its unvarnished form. The early Abbasid period saw the rise of the singing girl as a desirable commodity. “They were sexually available, at least to their owners and patrons.” The most desirable were often procured by courtiers who “would make it their business to send out talent scouts. Large sums of money were involved. …girls could be traded up, gaining value at each transaction.” The top tier, of course, would usually reach the caliph’s harem.
In addition to pimping for their caliphs, Arab generals would wisely make certain that the common soldiers under their command should have no cause for complaint. Michael the Syrian wrote that after the capture of Amorium in 838 “there were so many women’s convents and monasteries that over a thousand virgins were led into captivity, not counting those that had been slaughtered. They were given to the Moorish slaves, so as to assuage their lust.”
The trade in sex slaves continued to flourish after the Abbasid Empire fragmented into a number of regional dynasties. In 1291, when the Mamluks captured the city of Acre from the Crusaders the harems of the Muslim world were replenished:
Soon the Moslem soldiers penetrated right through the city, slaying everyone, old men, women and children alike. A few lucky citizens who stayed in their houses were taken alive and sold as slaves, but not many were spared. No one could tell the number of those that perished…Some prisoners were freed and returned to Europe after nine or ten years of captivity…Many women and children disappeared for ever into the harems of Mameluk emirs. Owing to the plentiful supply the price of a girl dropped to a drachma a piece in the slave market at Damascus.
During the Turkish conquests, also, there was often a plentiful supply of female slaves. At times, concubines were so ubiquitous and hence cheap that they could even be given as a casual gift to a passing traveler. “Ibn Battuta reported that the ruler of … Aydin had twenty Greek slaves standing at attention at the entrance to his palace; indeed he gave the traveler a Greek slave woman as gift.” Greek female slaves were extensively employed in both domestic and commercial slavery. Battuta also remarks on the use of Greek slave girls in the brothels of Laodicea.
The early Ottoman sultans, with their recent history as nomads from the steppes, found the Muslim institution of sexual slavery quite congenial. The Ottoman experience is but one more example of how an Islamic institution invented by nomads, inevitably conformed with and, appealed to similar nomadic cultures. Historian Leslie Peirce notes that the “stories of Osman’s village wife, Orhan’s bride from Bilejk, and Murad’s consort Gulcicek suggest that the practice of acquiring women through raid and conquest, familiar to the early Ottomans from their nomadic heritage, overlapped in important ways with the Muslim institution of slave concubinage.”
The later Ottomans certainly proved themselves worthy of living up to both their religious tradition and nomadic ancestry. At the fall of Constantinople, in the great Hagia Sophia cathedral, “most of the worshippers were tied together … herded through the streets to the bivouacs of the soldiers, who quarreled fiercely for possession of the comelier girls and youths”. Shortly thereafter, the Byzantine historian Doukas tells how Mehmed left Constantinople taking back “in wagons and on horseback all the [Byzantine] noblewomen and their daughters.”
Two centuries later the Ottoman Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa (ca. 1680) had a harem that “was reputed to house fifteen hundred concubines and as many female slaves, with seven hundred Black Eunuchs to attend them.” This indicates that large harems were common among the Ottoman elite and were, by no means, limited to the famous seraglio of the Sultan.
A serious problem arose for the Ottoman upper classes as a consequence of the halt to the expansion of the Empire into the lands of the infidels. Such lands had, in the past, been the source of nubile sex toys for the pleasure of the Sultan and other notables. With the end of the Turkish advance that supply dried up necessitating the seeking out of alternative sources. One of these sources was the region of the Caucasus, for “Caucasian women had always been appreciated in the harems of the Middle East”.  The Caucasus continued as a source into the nineteenth century. “Georgians and Circassians were greatly appreciated both in Persia and in the Ottoman lands … the women for pleasure.” The Sultan Ibrahim (ca 1640) had a rather more direct solution to the concubine shortage. He simply had his soldiers scour the baths of Constantinople “to find beauties for his pleasure”.
The Muslim invaders of India also had a copious demand for slave concubines. “According to Ferishta, Mahmud’s [Mahmud Khalji (1431-69)] successor was able to assemble a harem of ten thousand maidens.” Even accounting for a tendency to exaggerate on Ferishta’s part, it still must have been a formidable number. Another Muslim ruler with a prodigious sexual appetite was the Mogul ruler Shah Jahan who “had 5,000 concubines in his harem, but nevertheless indulged in incestuous sex with his daughters”. Furthermore, when the Moguls took the Portuguese enclave of Hugh four thousand inhabitants “were taken to Agra where they were offered Islam or death. Most refused and were killed, except for the younger women who went to harems.”
Mass enslavement of young women was not confined to the jihads and razzias of the distant past. There have been a number of equivalent examples in the modern age. As late as 1860 during Muslim-Christian strife in Lebanon and Damascus, Christian women were consigned en masse to harems. “Between twenty and twenty five thousand Christians were brutally slaughtered … and another hundred thousand were forcefully dislocated. Women were seized for harems; mothers were forced to sell their children.” During the Armenian massacres of 1916, female “slave markets were established in the Muslim agglomerations through which the Armenians were driven, and thousands of young Armenian women and girls were sold in this way. Even the clerics were quick to avail themselves of the bargains of the white slave market.”
Degradation of Women
Besides the indignities visited on the captives, the harem system had the more general effect of lowering the position of all women, Muslim as well as non-Muslim, free as well as slave. The large harems, made possible by the large number of eunuchs and numerous child slaves, all contributed to the degradation of women at every level of society. To be sure, in early Islamic times there was a general looseness of behavior amongst the Arab elite and a degree of freedom for women, which was later to be curtailed as the system of concubinage and sexual slavery inevitably led to the oppression of free and even aristocratic Muslim women. In those first days of the Arab Empire the “ladies of the royal household seem to have enjoyed a relatively high degree of freedom.” The first establishment of harems guarded by eunuchs did not appear until the reign of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid II (743-4).
Levy contends that the institution of the harem attained its full form in the reign of Harun and was no longer only the prerogative of the caliph. Upper class males in imitation of the caliph, frequently built their own harems.
It is not possible to say when the harem system and the seclusion of women began to be general. The early interpreters of the Koran were men who originated in Persia, a land in which the women had long been secluded, and it is probable that their authority began to make itself felt after the close of the rule of the Umayyad Caliphs of Damascus. By the time of Harun al-Rashid … the system was fully established, with all the appurtenances of the harem, in which among the richer classes, the women were shut off from the rest of the household under the charge of eunuchs.
The ideology of the harem soon affected all classes of society, even among those who could not afford elaborate secluded quarters guarded by a staff of eunuchs. By “the end of the tenth century … the system of strict seclusion and absolute segregation of the sexes had become general.” And with that followed a “period of decline, characterized by excessive concubinage, laxity of sex morality and indulgence in luxury” so that “the position of women fell to the low level we find in the Arabian nights.”
Other social ills followed as the system of sexual slavery began to permeate most of Muslim society. The increasing demand for eunuchs, for instance, was prompted by the growth of the harem system. As Lewis observes:
The recruitment by natural increase to slave parents within the empire was never sufficient for the insatiable needs of Middle Eastern society … The price of slaves, especially of young female slaves, was high, and despite the perishable character of this merchandise the trade was well worth the risks. The price of young male slaves could be greatly increased by castration to meet the demand for eunuchs to serve in palaces, in the wealthier homes, and in some religious sites.
As the possession of concubines became widespread, a class distinction developed even within the ranks of sex slaves:
Slave women of every ethnic origin were acquired in great numbers to staff the harems of the Islamic world – as concubines or as menials, the two functions not always clearly differentiated. Some slave girls received education. Some were trained as performers … A few even have an honoured place in literary history. These belong to the elite rather than to the commonality.
In addition, to the earthly rewards and heavenly delights promised to the young male warrior, Islamic sexual ideology created a more negative incentive driving youths to violent behavior which could only be diverted through participation in holy war. The existence of polygamy and massive slave concubinage when combined with the puritanical sanctions against illicit sex kept young males in a state of heightened frustration. For these practices entailed a severe restriction in the available sexual outlets. The wealthy and powerful monopolized the supply of young women and enforced their property rights with drastic penalties. One consequence was the growth of potentially disruptive factions among young men such as had existed in ancient Persia, another society with widespread polygamy. “Polygamy had been practiced in pre-Islamic Iran as under Islam, and the shortage of women resulting from it fostered the recruitment of bachelor societies”. The other outlets for youthful male energy, of course, jihad or razzia, held the promise of quicker and more effective relief for frustration.
A number of authors note one additional result of this bottling up of male sexual energy. In Muslim nations, the suppression of liaisons between men and women
…has produced frustrated sexual tension that has sought and found release in homosexual intercourse through the centuries. Those denied access to licit sexuality have sought and obtained outlets that have produced chronic contradictions between normative morality and social realities. Male and female prostitution and same-sex practices — including abuse of young boys by their older male relatives — have been rampant in Islamic societies from the medieval to the modern period.
It should be emphasized that those societies stress a distinction between the sexual act itself, which was deemed acceptable, and emotional attachment, which was unpardonable: ‘Sexual relations in Middle Eastern societies have historically articulated social hierarchies, that is, dominant and subordinate social positions: adult men on top; women, boys and slaves below.’
Thus, in spite of its condemnation by religious authorities, homosexuality persisted in a subterranean manner. For the great accumulation of wealth and power in a few hands combined with the continuance of and regularization of polygamy and concubinage must have severely restricted the sexual opportunities available to young men, even with the prohibition of female infanticide. Such opportunities were only opened via jihad and razzias or through some form of illicit sex.
Darlington observes that in pre-Islamic Arabia the practice of homosexuality was common; there was “a caste of dancers whose boys before marriage act as male prostitutes. … The excess of women arising from the slaughter of men was compensated by female infanticide. If it was over-compensated, male homosexuality was in the past … no less common than it is now.” However, the formal Islamic prohibition against female infanticide was accompanied by scriptural injunctions against homosexuality. These were both the means by which Islam reversed the “immemorial system of population control” necessitated by the life of the desert, in favor of increasing fertility. But, once the Islamic system was fully in place and young men found their licit sexual outlets extremely restricted, homosexuality returned in a surreptitious form.
Homosexual activity existed and was, undoubtedly, frequent during times of conquest when the pent-up exuberance of Muslim males was explosively released. Such acts inflicted on a vanquished and enslaved population could be quite open. In fact, members of the elite could continue to indulge their varied tastes long after the heat of battle subsided, as shown by the actions of one particularly renowned warrior. Mehmed the Conqueror “who was known to have ambivalent sexual tastes, sent a eunuch to the house of Notaras, demanding that he supply his good looking fourteen year old son for the Sultan’s pleasure. When he refused, the Sultan instantly ordered the decapitation of Notaras, together with that of his son and his son-in-law; and their three heads … were placed on the banqueting table before him.” Another youth Mehmed found attractive, and who was presumably more accommodating, was the brother of the famous Vlad the Impaler, “Radu, a hostage in Istanbul whose good looks had caught the Sultan’s fancy, and who was thus singled out to serve as one of his most favored pages.” After the defeat of Vlad, Mehmed placed Radu on the throne of Wallachia as a vassal ruler.
Polygamy, sexual slavery and the oppression of women provide substantial reproductive opportunities for favored Muslim males. Monarchs, high officials and wealthy merchants have, since the beginning of Islam and up to the present day, sired incredible numbers of children. Following are some of the more notable examples. Undoubtedly, the most extreme case is that of the documented world record holder in paternity, “Moulay Ismail, Emperor of Morocco, who is alleged to have had 700 sons (so presumably as many daughters) by the time he was forty nine in 1721. He died in 1727 – so there was another six years to have some more.”
There were other somewhat less prodigious, but still impressive, documented examples of fatherhood. The Spanish Umayyad Abd-al-Rahman II fathered 45 sons. It can be presumed that he sired an equal number of daughters. The Ottoman Sultan Murad III was “known chiefly for his 112 children.” That feat is even more astounding “in that fifty-four of these children were born in the last twelve years” of his life, during which “he seems to have done little other than serve as the royal stud.” Many Ottoman sultans would regularly father large numbers of children, though short of Murad’s record. For example Mahmud II (1808-39) had eighteen concubines who “bore him nineteen boys and seventeen girls.” Abdul Mecit was also no slacker, having fathered eighteen sons and twenty five daughters.”
The logical outcome of this system was, indeed, the degeneration of the person of the Ottoman sultan solely into that of a stud whose role was to produce male sons to continue the dynasty lest the empire fall into civil strife and fragmentation. The Sultan Ibrahim, a shadowy figure who was raised to the throne directly from the Cage, had lost all of his sexual inclinations. The Queen Mother Kosem
…took it upon herself to remedy this by finding beautiful concubines for Ibrahim’s harem, which were supplied to her from the slave market by a confidant named Pezevenk, or the Pimp. But when her son at first showed no interest in these women she consulted the sultan’s tutor and confidant, Cinci Hoca, who dosed Ibrahim with aphrodisiacs and brought him illustrated pornographic books … The treatment worked, and Ibrahim soon began enjoying the company of his concubines as well as the other pleasures of life that had been denied to him…
Such instances of prodigious paternity are by no means confined to the distant past. The modern conqueror of the Arabian Peninsula, Ibn Saud started his career as a desert raider. His
…sexual payoff was equally impressive. He sired forty-five official sons by twenty-two mothers. He fathered at least an equal number of daughters by a bewildering variety of women that included concubines, slave girls and ‘wives of the night’. As of 1981, roughly five hundred royal children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren could trace their origins back to Ibn Saud’s loins.
There are other modern examples of ardent Muslim males, of somewhat lesser renown, who have taken up the challenge of fruitfully multiplying. In Saudi Arabia, “133 year-old Hussein Rashid al-Sowaikat al-Baqami died on May 8, 2002, leaving behind the last of his nine wives, 23 sons and 113 grandchildren.” In the Gaza Strip the oldest resident “Haj Abdullah Kadurah, died … at the age of 128. … Kadurah is survived by more than 240 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.”
The Harem Legacy: Social Pathologies of Modern Islam
As we have seen the culture of the harem degrades women and by restricting the availability of sexual outlets leads to the frustration of large numbers of males. This system has been good at producing and motivating warriors for jihad; for only those successful at spreading Islam could have their frustrations relieved and that in quite an abundant way. However, the consequent pathologies produced by this system afflict Muslim society even today.
In pursuit of this sexual imperative Islamic societies have evolved a number of child rearing practices. One unfortunate consequence noted by all “those who have made first-hand observations of Arab family life” is “that the incidence and severity of corporal punishment administered to Arab children is much greater than is the case in the Western world.” Bloom observes that an Arab boy at puberty
…is expelled from the loving world of his mother and sisters into the realm of men. There, hand-holding between males is still allowed, but physical affection between men and women is frowned upon. A vengeful masculinity stands in its place. The result: violent adults.
Social psychologist Patai notes the effect of the cognitive dissonance created by the vast discrepancy in the treatment children receive in the two realms:
The harsh, disciplinarian father is thus counterbalanced by the compassionate loving mother. Accordingly, the budding personality of the boy develops a twofold aspect; one expressive of his self-image and his position in the larger male world; and the other presented to him by the small world of the women…
The similarity of child rearing practices in “even two such widely separated cultures as those of Morocco and Iraq” show the power of Islamic Arab culture in impressing itself on originally quite diverse ethnicities. Moreover, the effects of such practices on the political life of the Muslim world are grave:
In much of Arab society, the unmerciful approach of fathers to their children continues, and public warmth between men and women is still considered an evil. Perhaps this is why a disproportionate number of Arab adults, stripped of intimacy and thrust into a world in which vulnerable emotion is a sin, have joined extremist movements dedicated to wreaking havoc on the world.
It is undoubtedly the case that Muslim sexual mores creates a greater obsession with sex than occurs in other cultures. It is the Muslim view that both men and women have little or no control over their sexual appetites, and will always copulate given even the slightest opportunity. According to Patai “intense and uncontrolled sexuality is the assumption that underlies the segregation of the sexes … and of the entire strict code and rigid Arab code of sexual conduct.” Furthermore, as another example of the bottling up of male sexual energy:
…the average Arab, unless he happens to live in a larger town … has no sexual experience with women until he marries. If we add the fact that the average Arab does not marry until his middle or even late twenties … we find that usually years pass between sexual maturation and the beginning of licit heterosexual activity.
Homosexuality, although condemned in Muslim law, is a frequent outcome of the Islamic sexual system. As shown above, historically it occurred during periods of raiding and conquest, but it is also common in times of peace. Moreover, in certain parts of the Muslim world, as in the Egyptian Siwa Oasis, it is quite openly practiced “with the shaykhs and the well-to-do men lending their sons to each other.” Reconciling behavior strongly condemned by religious stricture with a common social practice is accomplished by some deft rationalization on the part of many Muslims. Patai points out that among Arabs and Turks homosexuality is justified as an expression of power. The “active homosexual act is considered as an assertion of one’s aggressive masculine superiority, while the acceptance of the role of the passive homosexual is considered extremely degrading and shameful because it casts the man or youth into a submissive, feminine role.”
Glazov emphasizes the utilization of the homosexual act as an expression of the domination of the strong over the weak. Older and stronger unmarried males seek their sexual outlet in “victimizing younger males just the way they were victimized.”
Socially segregated from women, Arab men succumb to homosexual behavior. But, interestingly enough, there is no word for "homosexual" in their culture in the modern Western sense. That is because having sex with boys, or with effeminate men, is seen as a social norm. Males serve as available substitutes for unavailable women. The male who does the penetrating, meanwhile, is not emasculated any more than if he had sex with a wife. The male who is penetrated is emasculated. The boy, however, is not, since it is rationalized that he is not yet a man.
In this culture, males sexually penetrating males becomes a manifestation of male power, conferring a status of hyper-masculinity. It is considered to have nothing to do with homosexuality. An unmarried man who has sex with boys is simply doing what men do. As the scholar Bruce Dunne has demonstrated, sex in Islamic societies is not about mutuality between partners, but about the adult male's achievement of pleasure through violent domination.
This cycle of frustration, humiliation and rage has consequences for all members of society. It is an important factor in the abusive child rearing practices detailed above. It is also a cause of violence against, and humiliation of, Muslim women. Patai describes the underlying violence toward women which is always present just beneath the surface of Arab society:
Thus sex is both prohibited, and therefore feared, and desired, and therefore sought after. Both emotions are experienced with considerable intensity, which can be taken as an indication of the intensity of the childhood repression of the sexual interest. After adolescence this repression creates a strong sense of frustration. If, however, the social controls break down, or are eliminated, the repressed aggression engendered by the frustrated sex drive breaks through to the surface and seeks its expression in sexual as well as other aggression. … In an environment where he is unknown, the individual feels that the old taboos with their built-in threat of punishment can be infringed with impunity. A third type of occasion … is at an accidental encounter between a man … and a woman in a place where there are no witnesses. In such a situation, and especially if the woman is not a member of the ingroup, or is a member of a hostile group, her sexual abuse is quite likely to occur.
Glazov emphasizes the denial that surrounds the issue of violence against women and the resulting poisoning of the relations between the sexes:
There is silence around this issue. It is the silence that legitimizes sexual violence against women, such as honor crimes and female circumcision. It is also the silence that forces victimized Arab boys into invisibility. Even though the society does not see their sexual exploitation as being humiliating, the psychological and emotional scars that result from their subordination, powerlessness and humiliation is a given. Traumatized by the violation of their dignity and manliness, they spend the rest of their lives trying to get it back.
In all of these circumstances, the idea of love is removed from men's understanding of sexuality. Like the essence of Arab masculinity, it is reduced to hurting others by violence. A gigantic rupture develops between men and women, where no harmony, affection or equality is allowed to exist. In relationships between men, meanwhile, affection, solidarity and empathy are left out of the picture. They threaten the hyper-masculine order.
Another consequence of this syndrome is that women are required to devalue their own worth and deny their own sexuality. Women are viewed as instruments of the devil; lures placed to tempt and deceive Muslim men. Thus from an early age women are required to accept their moral and social inferiority. “Within a few months after weaning, the female infant is well on the way to internalizing the role she will play in life as a woman: a subordinate, a person of little importance, destined to remain most of her life in a servile position in relation to the menfolk who will dominate her life: her father, brothers, husband, sons.” She is also required to acknowledge that only males are allowed sexual privileges. She must accept polygamy and the ease of divorce, as her forbears were required to meekly accept sexual slavery. “Thus, a man does not have to invest in one woman. The concept of "the couple" is shattered; the individual woman is seen as useless and expendable.”
Glazov points to the prevalence of female circumcision in many parts of the Muslim world as being one additional probable consequence of the deep seated misogyny rooted in Islamic culture.
To add to this tragedy: whenever the genital mutilation holocaust is raised, the first chorus that comes from the Muslim community is that this genocide is not rooted in Islam and predates Islam. Well then, why are Muslim girls this genocide's greatest victims? And why do so many Muslims spend more of their time and energy arguing that female genital mutilation is non-Islamic than campaigning to stop this “un-Islamic” barbaric practise from violating their women and defaming their religion?
The answer is simple: female genital mutilation produces the oxygen that Islamic fundamentalism needs to breathe. It helps militant Islam keep intact the foundation on which its life depends: the subjugation and enslavement of women under a rigid system of gender apartheid.
Lure of the Harem
In addition to the payoffs that Islam’s harem culture provided its warriors, it gave a powerful incentive to potential male converts. Vryonis notes that in Anatolia “there is some evidence that the hedonism attendant upon polygamy and concubinage appealed to some converts.” Of course, some cultures were more predisposed than others to embrace Islam owing to its system of polygamy and concubunage. In parts of Africa, for example, Islam “finds the readier acceptance … amongst the men of the native tribes by recognizing polygamy as necessary, both as satisfying sexual demands and as according with the indigenous system of family life.”
Furthermore, the harem system even appealed to some dhimmis still clinging to their religious traditions. In Spain during the reign of Abd-al-Rahman II “the lure of the language, literature, religion and other institutions of the conquerors – including the harem system - had become so strong that a large number of urban Christians had become Arabized.” The Norman conquerors of Muslim Sicily were, likewise seduced by Islamic culture in general, and the institution of the harem, in particular. “The strange and fascinating Sicilian-Arab line started by Roger I culminated in his son and successor, Roger II” who “dressed like a Moslem and his critics called him the ‘half-heathen king.” Roger II’s grandson the Emperor Frederick II, who invited philosophers from Baghdad to reside at his court, “kept a harem and was semi-Oriental.” The harem provided an endless source of titillation even for Europeans far from Muslim lands. Legends of harem life were fueled by the reports of travelers. “European visitors to the Islamic lands were intrigued by what they … heard concerning the harem system, and some of them speak with ill-concealed … envy of what they imagine to be the rights and privileges of a Muslim husband and master of the house.”
The lure of concubinage would also be used by Muslim rulers as a bribe, inducement or reward for useful or favored individuals, even including non-Muslims. One such case was that of the English craftsman Thomas Dallam, sent by Queen Elizabeth to install an organ as a present for Mehmed III. Dallam was reportedly asked to stay on permanently in the palace and that “the sultan would set him up there with two women for his own harem.” Dallam politely refused the offer. Presumably many favored non-Muslim males were less strong in their resistance to temptation. Another documented case was that of the Jewish Exilarch Bustanay b. Haninay who was honored by the Arabs
because he was considered to be a descendant of King David, whom they revered as a prophet. … Bustanay was given the captive daughter of one of the last Sasanian shahs for a wife. The gesture was clearly to emphasize his own noble lineage …Caliph Ali (656-61) gave another Persian princess to his son Husayn, who was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Bustanay must have rendered the conquerors important services and… acted as a trusted adviser on native affairs. After Bustanay’s death  … his sons by Jewish wives attempted to repudiate the offspring of the Persian princess, claiming that she had never been properly manumitted and thus her issue were merely slaves …
Although women may have been beaten down under Muslim culture, sheer ambition and ability could not always be extinguished. The intrigues of the harem were an outlet for those ambitious and energetic women who were situated in proximity to the levers of power. Favored wives and concubines often exercised great influence over their husbands and jockeyed for position and power on behalf of their own sons. A trusted wife or concubine might be given considerable power by a ruler despite the generally poor position of women in Islamic law. This was due partly to the general distrust male relatives had for each other combined with the limits placed on ambitious women by the Islamic prohibition against women holding high offices in their own names.
However, strong-willed women wielding power occur rarely. Therefore, as would be expected with any curiosity, these are extensively documented in Muslim chronicles. While the same is also true of the West, “outside Islam the obstacles deliberately and officially put in the way” of women “have not been so formidable.” Lewis notes how “the slave women of the royal or imperial harem … as the favorites, or still more as the mothers, of the reigning sultans, were sometimes able to play a decisive if largely hidden role in the course of public affairs.”
Another factor playing a part in the politics of the harem was the tendency in those Islamic states of long duration for the ruler to resort more frequently to concubinage than to legal marriage. After the death of the Abbasid Harun-al-Rashid, the caliphs apparently only rarely married relying instead on their concubines to produce children. “The change is connected with the emergence of the queen mother, rather than the wife or favourite, as the leading figure in the huram.” This situation was mirrored seven hundred years later in the Ottoman court with marriage for sultans becoming rare and the harem now ruled by the Valide Sultan (Queen Mother). Thus harem intrigue became closely connected with the problem of the succession. With numerous sons by numerous mothers, each of which could be considered a valid candidate for rule, strife, assassination and even civil war was the consequence. This problem, conveniently solved by the Ottomans through mass fratricide, afflicted almost every Muslim dynasty. For example, in India, when the Khalji Sultan Ala-ud-din died, “in the space of four years two of his sons, plus a Hindu convert occupied the throne and quickly paid the price … invariably lethal. So did … Kafur who briefly acted as king-maker; half a dozen other pretenders were either blinded or murdered.”
The price paid by the wives, concubines, eunuchs and other denizens of the harem, as well as by the contending sons of the monarch, for their close proximity to power was considerable. There were the inevitable fratricides, assassinations and mutilations which awaited those who lost the game of power. But even more common were the psychological costs. As Kennedy puts it the “social and emotional lives of the harem” involve “stories of bitter jealousies”, enmities, sexual frustration and ubiquitous lesbianism.
Harem intrigue was costly to Islamic society in general and played a major role in the decline of many Muslim states. Hitti, in particular, lists the harem system and its intrigues as one of the reasons for the decline of the Arab empire. The “unlimited concubines and numberless half brothers and half sisters in the imperial household with their unavoidable jealousies and intrigues … all these … sapped the vitality of family life and inevitably produced the persistently feeble heirs to the throne.” The very same pattern was reproduced by subsequent Islamic conquerors.
It was in the Abbasid dynasty, under which the royal harem institution reached its full development that harem intrigue first surfaced:
In the sphere of practical affairs it was not often that women’s capacity was openly recognized. In the harem and behind the throne it obviously existed very frequently … during the Abbasid Caliphate several instances are known of royal ladies whose influence extended beyond the throne. … the name of the Sitta Zubayda, wife of Harun al-Rashid, acquired such renown that to this day great reverence is paid to the tomb which … is said to be the depository of her remains. …the mother of the Caliph Muqtadir, who was a weakling, ruled the empire of Islam – somewhat shrunken by that time. It was said that she held public audience … summoned governors and qadis … and … signed and issued state edicts.
Another powerful lady of the Abbasid harem was Khayzuran whose son the Caliph Hadi “resented the fact that his officers continued to visit his mother to ask for favors … After a barrage of … none-too-subtle hints, courtiers stopped going to Khayzuran and she was left lonely isolated and powerless. … in mid September  … the young caliph was dead”. It was whispered that his mother “had ordered one of her slave girls, with intimate access to the caliph, to place a pillow over his face and sit on it until he suffocated. … Whatever the cause of the caliph’s death, Khayzuran … summoned Yahya the Barmakid and other allies, who moved fast.” Hadi’s young son Ja’far was arrested and Harun al Rashid, Khayzuran’s other son was proclaimed caliph. These women accumulated great wealth, exercised power, and helped make or unmake caliphs ensuring the succession for a favorite son, and sometimes dominated a weak or underage caliph.
There was another famous incident showing that slave girls who were singers, dancers and concubines could exert considerable influence over their masters. Dhat-al-Khal whom al-Rashid “in a fit of jealousy bestowed on one of his male servants”, ultimately extracted from the caliph a governorship for her new husband. “In order to wean him from another singing-girl to whom he became attached, al-Rashid’s wife Zubaydah presented her husband with ten maidens one of whom became the mother of al-Ma’mun and another of al-Mu’tasim.” The tale of Tawaddud in the Arabian Nights “illustrates how highly cultured some of these maids must have been.” In the following century there was “the case of the weak and vacillating al-Musta’in (862-6), who eventually fled to Baghdad pursued by his guard after he had been besieged and forced to abdicate, his slave mother shared with two Turkish generals the supreme power.”
Islamic Spain was also the scene of intrigue and treachery in the royal harems. Abd-al-Rahman II’s favorite wife Tarub was “a consummate intriguer. The eunuch was his gifted slave Nasr, the royal chamberlain and favourite with the queen.” This favorite “entered into a conspiracy with Tarub to poison her royal husband; Tarub’s motive was to secure for her own son … the succession to the throne to the prejudice” of his elder brother. Another able intriguer was the mother of the Spanish caliph Hisham II, “a beautiful and able Basque named Subh” who “was the real power in state affairs.” Her protégé and lover al-Mansur “started life as a humble professional letter writer and ultimately became virtual ruler of the kingdom.” Hisham who was totally incapable of rule as a result of a life spent in enforced seclusion was forced to abdicate. Another famous and talented concubine who wielded much influence in the state was the beautiful I’timad. She became the wife of Al-Mu’tamid (1068-91) ruler of Seville, a rather liberal and cultured ruler. With I’timad’s help he made his capital a center of art and learning before being overthrown and imprisoned by the intolerant and fanatical Almoravids.
The Fatimids of Egypt also experienced their share of, often deadly, harem intrigues. In 1021 Caliph al-Hakim was killed in a conspiracy organized by his sister whom he had accused of behaving unchastely. The mother of the long-reigned caliph al-Mustansir (1035-1094), was a Sudanese slave purchased from a Jew. His mother along with her one time vendor ruled the Fatimid domains in the early part of al-Mustansir’s reign. The darkest days of the Fatimid dynasty in the 1140s and 1150s were rife with jealousy and intrigue. The murder of one vizier and the attempted assassination of his son and successor at the behest of the caliph were followed by the murder of the caliph himself.
But the greatest influence of the women of the harem occurred under the Ottomans. These descendants of central Asian nomads still maintained some of the attitudes of their ancestors who held women in relatively high status. The high position of women on the central Asian steppes goes back thousands of years. Russian archeologist T. Sulimirski observes the power and prestige of women among the ancient Iranian tribes inhabiting the steppes before the coming of Islam. Women of the ancient Sarmatian tribes, one of the inspirations, no doubt of the legend of the Amazons, were expected to take up arms and join their husbands in war. Sarmatian women also exercised important religious functions as priestesses.
An echo of the ancient status of the Iranian women of the steppes persisted in Central Asia even under Islam. “So also in central Asia the women of the nomad tribes are not restricted in their social intercourse with men by the veil, and the harem system is unknown.” The Arab traveler Ibn Battuta also suggests that “Turco-Mongol political traditions were very much alive in the public roles of these fourteenth century women.” Two centuries later these “Central Asian models and traditions had lost much of their overt force. Nevertheless, the idea persisted that a woman of the royal dynasty, especially in her capacity as mother, had a vital role to play in … the protection and preservation of the dynasty.”
Vryonis notes how the ancient female military tradition of the steppes persisted even under some of the early, nominally Muslim, Turkish invaders of Anatolia:
…the Turkmen women … assumed along with their maternal tasks military duties. The Dulgadirogullari in east Anatolia are said to have had 30,000 such women-soldiers … and the subject is so frequently mentioned … that one assumes it to have been a regular aspect of Turkmen organization and life.
Therefore, it is quite possible that the greater prominence of Sultanas among the Turks may be a reflection of the higher status of women in the early Turkish tribes, as compared to the patriarchal Arabs. This higher status was also, certainly, due as well to Byzantine influence since Byzantium was noted for its powerful and influential royal women. Darlington observes how European and Byzantine attitudes may have influenced the position of Ottoman royal women:
While the Dynasty trembled on the verge of extinction, the Empire stumbled on, ruled by the mothers and the grandmothers of its puppet princes. These women were themselves in a strange situation. For the sultans’ concubines were themselves largely European. But they were trapped in an institution, the harem, adapted by its origins and customs to an oriental and patriarchal submission of women. They did not submit. On the contrary they often thought they could manage the state; and they usually succeeded in managing the Sultan.
The most famous of the Ottoman women was Suleiman the Magnificent’s favorite concubine, an ambitious and formidable woman of Russian birth, Roxelana. She conspired in the overthrow in 1536, of her rival for the sultan’s counsels, the Grand Vizier Ibrahim. Her next target was Suleiman’s former favorite concubine, Gulbehar. Following the birth of her child “Roxelana contrived to become in terms of Moslem law his acknowledged legal wife … as no concubine of an Ottoman Sultan had been for two centuries past.” Finally, she contrived to have her son-in-law and protégé Rustem Pasha appointed Grand Vizier. “As the Sultan increasingly relinquished the reins of government to Rustem, so did Roxelana approach the zenith of her power.” Finally Roxelana achieved her ambition by contriving the murder of the Sultan’s son Mustafa whose mother was Gulbehar. A few years after the strangulation of Mustafa, Roxelana herself died. But, by then she had ensured that one of her sons would succeed Suleiman.
A few decades later the Valide Sultan Nurbanu, a woman with a reputation for wisdom, along with the Vizier Sokullu kept her husband Selim’s body “in an icebox to conceal his death until her son Murat could be summoned … Murat finally arrived in Istanbul twelve days after Selim’s death.” Shortly thereafter he ordered his five brothers strangled to secure his position as Sultan. Grand Vizier Sokullu, having dutifully assisted Murad’s accession to the sultanate was now “continually at the mercy of the capricious intrigues of his new master’s slave favourites and the women of his harem, who sought maliciously to influence the Sultan against him.” Murad, who was under the influence of his many courtiers allowed several women to rule over him. One was his mother, another one was his sister, Sokullu’s wife. Still another “was a Venetian beauty named Safiye. She had been captured by a Turkish corsair … Disturbed at Safiye’s ascendancy, his mother did her best to direct his desires into more promiscuous channels, and he plunged into a life of license, requiring the services of two or three concubines in a single night.”
Safiye, following what was now a family tradition kept Murad’s death a secret to give her own son Mehmed time to return to the capital. “She took him to see the body of his dead father, which presumably had been preserved in the same icebox in which the corpse of Selim II had been kept twenty-one years before.” The following evening he had his nineteen surviving brothers strangled. Then he had all of his father’s pregnant concubines drowned. This extension to the tradition of fratricide by the drowning of concubines shows that Mehmed was determined to introduce his own innovation into the family custom; clearly, he was not one to be upstaged by his forbears. Mehmed, in turn fell under the domination of his formidable mother. Safiye obstructed and delayed the plans of his ministers to have the Sultan command in Hungary “fearing to let the Sultan out of Istanbul, hence beyond the sphere of her influence. She preferred instead to provide him with distractions in the form of well-chosen concubines.” Mehmed was finally persuaded to take command of his forces in Europe. Following their victory at Mezo-Keresztes, Mehmed returned to Istanbul where “he relaxed as before amid the pleasures of the harem, leaving the direction of affairs to his …mother.” Mehmed’s own son Ahmed I “was forever changing his Grand Vezirs, largely at the behest of the harem … which now spread its corrupting influence everywhere.” A Sultan Valide participated in the regicide of Ahmed’s son, the Sultan Osman who she then had replaced by her mad son Mustafa. As proof that the murder took place one of Osman’ ears was cut off and sent to the Sultan Valide. Mustafa was soon replaced and the Sultana took control of the administration of government, making and unmaking Grand Viziers. “When Janissaries and sipahis together momentarily turned against [Grand Vizier] Hussein, the Sultana fully veiled but nonetheless in contravention of the laws of the Koran, appeared before them to ask which of these candidates they would now prefer as Grand Vezir.” This Sultan Valide, Kosem, with her young son Murad IV now on the throne exercised authority with vigor and ability until he came of age.
The intrigues, rivalries and jealousies of the powerful women of the harem continued into the next generation:
When the Sultan [Ibrahim 1648] refused a demand to appear before his troops, a deputation from the army and the ulema approached his mother, the Sultan Valide, who had been removed from the Seraglio through the intrigues of the favourites and was now threatened with exile. … The Sultana had alienated Ibrahim through endeavouring, without success, to persuade him to mend his ways. She now pleaded for him, insisting that he was a victim of bad ministers, begging that he should be allowed to retain his sovereignty but placed under the guardianship of the ulema and the new Grand Vezir.
Following the accession of the boy sultan Mehmed IV to the throne in 1648, “sedition continued at home in a partisan spirit among the Janissaries and sipahis, playing off against one another the two Sultanas Valide: Mehmed’s mother, Turhan, and his once powerful grandmother, Kosem, who in due course was murdered at the instance of her rival.” The career of the remarkable Kosem marks a milestone, of sorts, in Ottoman harem intrigue. Here was a woman so formidable that not only could she conspire in assassinations, but would, herself, require assassination as the only means of ending her grip on state power.
The Mogul dynasty was also marked by the inevitable Muslim distrust between male members of the ruling family. Such distrust here, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, was a factor engendering harem intrigue. Its exacerbation was also a consequence of that intrigue. “Distrust between father and son, as also between brothers, would be a recurring theme of the Mughal period, generating internal crises more serious and more costly than any external threat.” One such intriguer was Jahangir’s favorite wife Nur Jahan who “acted as co-ruler and, during periods of imperial incapacity, as the supreme sovereign.” She attempted to secure the succession of her son-in law Prince Shariyar, “one of Shah Jahan’s brothers and rivals, who was duly married to Nur Jahan’s daughter by her first marriage.” Shariyar was ultimately defeated and murdered by his rival Shah Jahan, putting an end to Nur Jahan’s career.
Thus, political maneuvering within the royal harem was the only means by which aristocratic women in Islam could assert themselves. This fact illuminates the contrast in the status of women between Islam and the West. To be sure, Christian states were no paradigms of female equality. However, in the West there was a definite elevation in the freedom and status of women when compared to that of Islam. In Islam powerful women able to exercise authority openly, as the Sultana Kosem was able to do, were quite rare. Female power brokers generally remained hidden within the harem walls. As Lewis observes:
But even the free Muslim woman was at a considerable disadvantage and was virtually excluded from the political process, except by what was seen and condemned as palace intrigue. There are no queens in Islamic history … There are a few instances where Muslim dynastic thrones were briefly occupied by women, but this was perceived as an aberration and condemned as an offense.
In Western Europe and the Byzantine lands, high-born women were expected to be visible and in many cases were able to wield sovereign authority in the absence of eligible royal males. In Byzantium there was the example of Empress Theodora wielding almost as much authority as her husband Justinian. At a later time the empresses Irene (797-802) and Zoë (ca 1057) ruled in their own names. In the West, there were, among others Marie de Medici, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth I of England, Isabella of Castile, Mary Queen of Scots, Christina of Sweden and Catherine the Great who wielded power openly or even held outright sovereignty. Oftentimes these women proved themselves abler sovereigns and more cunning politicians than their male contemporaries.
Even under Islam, however, exceptions are bound to occur. There were two instances of Muslim women bold enough to rule in their own name. As Lewis indicates, Muslim opinion found the sovereignty assumed by these women to be an abominable violation of religious law. In addition, both of these queens came to unfortunate ends. Undoubtedly the most daring and successful of the female harem intriguers was Shajar-al-Durr. This Islamic version of the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut began her climb to power when her husband, the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt al-Salih died in November 1249. She, like some of the Ottoman sultanas afterwards, kept his death a secret until the sultan’s son Turan-Shah returned to Egypt. However, “Turan failed to make himself agreeable to the slaves (mamluks) of his father and with the connivance of his stepmother was murdered in 1250.” Shajar then proclaimed herself Sovereign. Hitti summarizes the life and unfortunate fate of this remarkable woman who initiated the rule of the Mamluk dynasty:
The foundation of Mamluk power was laid by Shajar-al-Durr … originally a Turkish or Armenian slave. Formerly a bondmaid and member of the harem of the Caliph al-Musta’sim, Shajar entered the service of al-Salih, by whom she was freed after she had borne him a son. On her assumption of sovereign power her former caliph-master addressed a scathing note to the amirs of Egypt saying: ‘If ye have not a man to rule you, let us know and we will send you one.’ For eighty days the sulatanah, the only Moslem woman to rule a country in North Africa and western Asia, continued to function as sole sovereign in the area which had once produced Cleopatra and Zenobia. … And when the amirs chose her associate…. Aybak for sultan she married him. …the queen was not only sharing her consort’s power but keeping him in subordination. Finally, on hearing that he was contemplating another marriage, she had him murdered … Immediately after she was herself battered to death … by the slave women of Aybak’s first wife …
The other instance of a Muslim “queen” occurred in India. In Delhi the slave sultan Iltumish was succeeded by an “ineffectual son” with a “vindictive and detested” mother as the power behind the throne. They were ultimately toppled by Iltumish’s strong willed daughter Raziya. Despite her acknowledged wisdom and justice “Raziya’s reign lasted barely four years (1236-40). Perhaps her decision to dispense with the veil” and dress “in mannish garb of coat and cap … was unnecessarily provocative to Muslim sensitivities.”
The Conquerors Half Breed Sons: Cases
The mixed progeny resulting from the harem culture was an important component in the population of every land conquered by Muslims. The sons resulting from such matings, acculturated as Arabs or Turks, indoctrinated into Islamic religion and following in the footsteps of their fathers were instrumental in pushing the bounds of Islamic territory outward. These sons were warriors, merchants, scholars, administrators and even rulers. The examples given by Muslim historians or recorded in official chronicles, of course, are only given for the top tier of Muslim society. However, the system of polygamy and sexual slavery was common among all Muslims. Thus the historically cited cases among the elite are an indication of more general social circumstances.
It is true that during the first Arab conquests and into early Umayyad times only “true Arabs … of pure Arab descent on both sides were admitted to the highest levels of power and privilege. Half-Arabs, sons of an Arab father and of a non-Arab, usually a slave mother, could ascend part of the way, but were still excluded from the highest levels.” That the class of “Half Arabs”, generally the offspring of the conquerors and enslaved concubines, is specifically enumerated as a social class shows how numerous these must have been. In Umayyad times there are a number of prominent cases of “Half Arabs”. The distinguished general, Prince Maslama being the son of a concubine was barred from the succession. The Umayyad governor of Iraq, Abdullah al-Qasri had a Christian mother. It was toward the end of the Umayyad dynasty that the offspring of concubines became eligible for the highest office. By the year 744 in the reign of the caliph Yazid III
…the eunuch system, which made the harem institution possible, was now fully developed. Indulgence in luxury due to increased wealth and a superabundance of slaves was rife. Even the reigning family could no longer boast pure Arabian blood. Yazid III was the first caliph in Islam born of a slave mother. His two successors were also the sons of such freed women.
It is true that Yazid III’s mother was no ordinary slave. She was a descendant of the last Persian emperor who was captured by the governor al-Hajjaj and sent to the Caliph al-Walid. However, the last Umayyad caliph Marwan II’s mother was a Kurdish slave of no particular distinguished background.
The Umayyads of Spain, like the last of their line in Damascus and like their enemies in Baghdad, were also not fastidious in allowing the succession to their half-breed sons. Abd-al-Rahman’s mother was a Berber slave. His namesake, Abd-al-Rahman III’s mother was a Christian slave. The mother of the caliph Hisham II (976-1009) was a Basque. The powerful vizier and general al-Mansur had a son nicknamed little Sancho, since his mother was a daughter of the Christian King Sancho.
The Abbasid dynasty is filled with half breed caliphs. The following is a list of Abbasid caliphs whose mothers were slaves:
Caliph-------------- Origin of Mother
Harun al-Rashid------- Foreign (unspecified)
In addition, it is recorded that the second Abbasid caliph Mansur had at least two concubines who bore him sons. One was a Kurdish and the other a Byzantine slave girl.
In Egypt and the Maghreb, many of the rulers were also sons of concubines or of non-Muslim wives. Among the Fatimids, al-Hakim’s Russian mother was the sister of the Melkite patriarch and al-Mustansir’s mother was a Sudanese slave. The Almohad ruler abu-Yusuf Ya’qub al-Mansur (1184-99) “like many other Berber rulers, was the son of a Christian slave.” The mother of the famous 16th century Ottoman pirates and rulers of Algiers, Uruj and Khayr al-Din Barbarossa, was Greek. Moreover their father was either a Turkish soldier stationed on the island of Mytilene, or else a Greek Muslim convert. The sultans of Morocco had a long tradition of sons born of slave mothers, sometimes from Spain. “Rashid’s son and successor, Mawlay Ibrahim” in the 1520s reportedly had a Castilian mother. Known as a half Spaniard, Ibrahim felt it necessary to go on raids regularly in order to establish his reputation as a holy warrior. Another common source of slave mothers of Moroccan rulers was sub-Saharan Africa. “The Moroccan sultan, Ali b. Uthman b. Ya’qub (d. 1351) was the son of a Nubian slave girl.” Mawlay Ismail (1672-1727) who “himself was half-Negro” created an army consisting of black slave soldiers.
In general, the Turkish ruling families were even more hybridized than were Arab rulers:
A sultan’s father would naturally be the previous sultan, but his mother might be a concubine or a slave, possibly not a born Muslim, and from one of a dozen subject peoples. This genetic inclusiveness was to provide the Ottomans with extraordinary resources.
The dilution of the Turkish strain among the Ottoman sultans, as well as other Turkish rulers, was to such a degree that they can scarcely be said to be Turks at all. A mixture of Greeks, Slavs, Italians, Caucasians and others constituted most of the blood line. Such was undoubtedly the case with the rest of the Turkish elite families, many of whose founders were themselves slaves; and also of all classes of Turkish society. Yet such was the power of the Islamic meme that this population of diverse origins was of undoubted Turkish culture and Muslim religion.
Intermarriage was frequent among the Seljuk conquerors of Anatolia. Sultan Ghiyath al-Din Kaykhusraw had a Greek Christian mother. Ala al-Din I Kaykubad took the daughter of a Christian governor into his harem and Rukn-al-Din Kilidj Arslan IV had a Christian wife. Two of the sons of al-Din II Kaykhusraw had Christian mothers: Izz-al-Din’s mother was Greek, while al-Din Kaykubad’s mother was Georgian. Moreover, Vryonis notes that:
This history of intermarriage of the Seljuk sultans with Christian women is incomplete, but the process is discernible among the Ottoman sultans while they were still resident in Bithynia, as well as among the Karamanid and Dulgadirogullari dynasties and the Turkish princes who had close relation to the Greek state of Trebizond. There is occasional reference to intermarriage in the ranks of the Muslim and Christian aristocracy.
Furthermore, the Conqueror Mehmed II’s, mother “was a slave girl of undetermined but probably Christian origin.” His son Bayezid II’s mother was a “slave girl, Gulbehar, presumed to be of Albanian or Greek Christian” birth. In addition, Mehmed’s opponent in eastern Anatolia, the Turcoman nomad prince Uzun Hassan had a Syrian Christian mother.
Many of the Ottoman sultans of the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries were of mixed birth, almost always to harem slaves. Sultan Selim II’s mother, the famous Roxelana, was a Slav. Murad III’s mother was the Graeco-Venetian Nurbanu and Mehmed III’s mother was the Venetian Safiye. Osman II’s mother was Hadice, a concubine reported to be of Greek origin. Murad IV’s mother, the formidable Kosem, was Greek. Mustafa II’s and Ahmed III’s mother was a Greek girl captured during the Turkish invasion of Crete. Osman III’s mother was of Russian parentage and Selim III’s mother was a Georgian slave girl. Three of Abdul Mecit’s sons and successors were the offspring of Circassian slave girls.
In India also, many of the sons of the rulers were of mixed parentage. One notable example was that of the Mogul Emperor Jehangir, whose mother was a Hindu princess.
Demographic Effects of Harem Culture
The following hypothetical example is constructed to illustrate the manner by which Islam may have expanded through hybridization.
In the 9th century a Turkish tribe encounters Muslims from newly conquered Iran and is slowly converted to the new religion. Islam has the remarkable advantage of being highly patriarchal and polygamous with great sexual advantages for successful warriors. In the 11th century a chieftain named Orkhan leads a group of these nomad Turks into the territories of the decaying Byzantine Empire. Becoming ghazis they spread their language and religion, as they establish themselves in Byzantine territory. Orkhan, who is appointed governor of a small town and its adjacent area, takes two wives and four concubines from among the conquered sedentary Greek and Armenian inhabitants. Three of his sons, in the early 12th century, follow in their father’s footsteps and become ghazis. One son, Iskender, whose mother is a Greek peasant captured on a raid into adjacent Byzantine territory, leads a Turkish war party into that territory. Although, raised as a Muslim Turk, Iskender is also bilingual and is recognized as “cousin” by his mother’s relatives. They help him consolidate his new fiefdom. Iskender takes a wife from among his Greek kinfolk, as well as two concubines, one being a Slav originally from Bulgaria who was captured and enslaved by Muslim corsairs. The second son, Ibrahim, whose mother is half Syrian Christian and half Greek, enters the service of the Seljuk sultan as a bodyguard. Rising in the service of the sultan, Ibrahim is given the governorship of a territory in southern Anatolia whose inhabitants are primarily Armenian. He takes two wives and two concubines from the local population, and also purchases an additional two concubines, a Georgian woman from the Caucasus and a Greek woman captured from the Aegean coast. The third son, the dervish Bayazit, becomes the religious and military leader of a small group of newly converted Turkmen ghazis. After two decades spent raiding and plundering he settles down with his eight Greek concubines, on an estate purchased from a newly converted Byzantine aristocrat. These three sons have between them thirty eight surviving children including twenty three sons. Eight of these sons, themselves, become highly successful Muslim warriors and take numerous local indigenous women as concubines as well as mixed Turkish-Greek Muslim women as wives. Some of the offspring of these matings, in turn, zealously spread their new religion and culture as they conquer still more territory further west, and so on into the following generations. Eventually, Orkhan’s hybrid descendants aid the Ottomans in their conquest of Constantinople and their expansion into Europe.
The following demographic simulation of a hypothetical area conquered by nomadic Muslim warriors gives a reasonable quantitative illustration of the way in which a newly conquered territory becomes Muslim. It shows a possible path for the process of Islamization in intervals of twenty five years over a period of four centuries by tracing the various bloodlines. Initially the territory is assumed to contain one million native inhabitants who survive the war of conquest. The surviving warrior elite among the Muslims consist of 50 thousand men; these are joined by 25 thousand Muslim women. In the year of conquest 10% or 50 thousand of the infidel women are appropriated by the Muslim warriors as wives or sex slaves. The following demographic parameters yield plausible results which approximately conform to the progress of Islam in a conquered region as described by various historians. Pre-modern societies have both high fertility and high death rates. The death rate for both Muslims and non-Muslims is assumed to be 1.6% annually which means that roughly 40% of the existing population will die over a quarter of a century. The total fertility rate for non-Muslim women, the average number of children they will have throughout their childbearing years, is assumed to be 3.8. Muslim women and concubines are given a slight reproductive advantage resulting from polygamy; this TFR is assumed to be 4.0. It is also assumed that each quarter century interval encompasses 90% of the average reproductive life of females. Another factor driving the growth in the Muslim population is a steady flow of concubines. In the second quarter century 30 thousand concubines are added as a result of continued war on the borders of the province. For each quarter century thereafter, 20 thousand concubines are added from more distant lands. Finally, a conversion rate of 25% a century or 6.25% for each 25 year interval, roughly following some of Bulliet’s conversion curves, are applied to the remaining non-Muslim population.
Under these assumptions the following tables show the numbers and percents of the various groups. The population of the territory increases three and a half fold over four centuries. The Muslims steadily increase as a percent of the population to almost ninety percent. This conforms to Bulliet’s findings for Muslim conquered lands. There are four components of the population. Of course, this simulation is an idealization; in fact, there are no sharp divisions between these groups; all of the bloodlines have blended to varying extents. The Original Muslim category represents the bloodline of the original invaders. These might, in reality, be represented by the Bedouin and Turkmen nomads who still exist in the Arab and Turkish speaking lands and make up a very small fraction of the population. The Concubine Hybrid group consists of the descendants of the original invaders and their female slaves or indigenous wives. The original invader bloodline, however, has thinned out considerably for this group. The Convert group consists of the descendants of those natives who voluntarily or through force accepted Islam. These could well be concentrated in certain cities and rural parts of the province. The last two groups have, in reality, greatly mixed with each other; they constitute the great majority of the population. The non-Muslim group represents the ancient pre-Islamic bloodline in its purist form. Their adherence to the old religions has prevented extensive hybridization from taking place.
It can be seen that under the assumptions of this simulation it takes about a century and a half for the Muslims to become a majority and two centuries for them to become an overwhelming majority. The actual experience of the different lands conquered by Muslims, of course, as outlined in the previous chapter can vary somewhat.
The enormous demographic assimilative power of nomadic Muslim conquerors is clearly shown by early Ottoman history. Three generations after the founding of the Ottoman state in Bithynia by the end of the reign of Sultan Orkhan, “the population of his state had increased … to some half-million souls – a far cry from Ertoghrul’s legendary four hundred horsemen.” In three quarters of a century, a relatively few tribesmen were able to co-opt a large indigenous population; using their skills and exploiting their economy to create a powerful state.
The mass enslavement of non-Muslims, as well as the institution of concubinage, was important to the ability of Islam in the assimilation of large populations and the extension into large territories. The factor of Muslim slavery is explored, in depth, in the following chapter.
 Bloom, The Lucifer Principle, p. 38.
 Winston Churchill, The River War, London, Longmans, 1899, p. 249.
 Verses are from Pickthall, The Meaning of the Glorious Koran.
 Quoted in Trifkovic, The Sword of the Prophet, p. 43.
 Robert Spencer, Islam Unveiled, San Francisco, Encounter Books, 2002, p. 51.
 Quoted in Pickthall, The Meaning of the Glorious Koran.
 Jamie Glazov, Atta’s Rage Rooted in Islam’s Misogyny, FrontPageMagazine.com, October 12, 2001.
 Gudrun Eussner quoted in Jamie Glazov, To Rape an Unveiled Woman, FrontPageMagazine.com, March 7, 2006.
 Quoted in Warraq, Why I Am Not a Muslim, p. 204.
 Lewis, The Middle East, p. 253.
 Ibid, p. 210.
 Ibid, p. 66.
 Keay, India, A History, p. 211.
 From Pickthall.
 Glazov, Atta’s Rage Rooted in Islam’s Misogyny.
 Warraq, Why I Am Not a Muslim. pp. 307-8.
 Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society, pp. 342-43.
 Ibid, p. 350.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, pp. 235-36.
 Ibid, p. 332.
 Ibid, p. 544.
 Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, p. 48.
 Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society, p. 381.
 Jamil M. Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib in the Islamic Period, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 34.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 157.
 Ibid, p. 602.
 Spencer, Islam Unveiled, p. 136.
 Keay, India, A History, p. 185.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 235.
 Naipaul, Among the Believers, p. 132.
 Hasan, The Arabs and the Sudan, p. 43.
 Hugh Kennedy, When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World, Cambridge MA, De Capo, 2005 (proof) p. 165.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, pp. 342-43.
 Kennedy, When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World, pp. 172-73.
 Levy, The Social Structure of Islam, p. 81.
 Kennedy, When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World, p. 174.
 Spencer, Islam Unveiled, p. 136.
 Steven Runciman quoted in Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad in Palestine.
 Peirce, The Imperial Harem, p. 35.
 Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, p. 240.
 Peirce, The Imperial Harem, pp. 36-7.
 Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, p. 109.
 Peirce, The Imperial Harem, p. 37.
 Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, p. 341.
 Lewis, The Middle East, p. 126.
 Lewis, What Went Wrong?, p. 86.
 Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, p. 133.
 Keay, India, A History, p. 286.
 Trifkovic, The Sword of the Prophet, p. 112.
 Karsh, Islamic Imperialism, p. 93.
 Ibid, p. 113.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 485.
 Ibid, pp. 228-29.
 Ibid, p. 229.
 Levy, The Social Structure of Islam, p. 127.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 333.
 Lewis, The Middle East, p. 174.
 Ibid, p. 209.
 Frye, The Cambridge History of Iran Volume 4, p. 307.
 Trifkovic, The Sword of the Prophet, p. 170.
 Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society, p. 329.
 Ibid, p. 334.
 Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, pp. 115-16.
 Ibid, p. 131.
 Bryan Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve, New York, Norton, 2001, p. 191.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 516.
 Muller, The Loom of History, p. 309.
 Freely, Inside The Seraglio, p. 84.
 Ibid, p. 235.
 Ibid, p. 251.
 See Chapter 8: The Slave Society. The male relatives of the Sultan were rendered harmless by being confined to a cell in the seraglio.
 Freely, Inside The Seraglio, p. 146.
 Bloom, The Lucifer Principle, p. 156.
 Spencer, Islam Unveiled, p. 171.
 Raphael Patai, The Arab Mind, New York, Scribners, 1976, p. 26.
 Bloom, The Lucifer Principle, p. 240.
 Patai, The Arab Mind, pp. 34-5.
 Ibid, p. 25.
 Bloom, The Lucifer Principle, p. 243.
 Patai, The Arab Mind, p. 33.
 Ibid, p. 122.
 Ibid, p. 135.
 Ibid, p. 134.
 Jamie, Glazov, The Sexual Rage Behind Islamic Terror, FrontPageMagazine.com, October 4, 2001.
 Patai, The Arab Mind, pp. 139-40.
 Glazov, The Sexual Rage Behind Islamic Terror.
 Patai, The Arab Mind, p. 31.
 Glazov, Atta’s Rage Rooted in Islam’s Misogyny.
 Jamie Glazov, Sexual Amputation and Silence, FrontPageMagazine.com, December 2, 2004.
 Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, p. 359.
 Levy, The Social Structure of Islam, pp. 51-52.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 515.
 Ibid, pp. 208-9.
 Lewis, What Went Wrong?, p. 66.
 Freely, Inside The Seraglio, p. 98.
 Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands, p. 30.
 Levy, The Social Structure of Islam, pp. 133-34.
 Lewis, The Middle East, p. 209.
 Kennedy, When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World, pp. 167-68.
 Keay, India, A History, p. 260.
 Kennedy, When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World, p. 177.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 485.
 Levy, The Social Structure of Islam, p. 133.
 Kennedy, When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World, pp. 61-2.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 342.
 Ibid, p. 467.
 Ibid, pp. 514-16.
 Ibid, pp. 532-34.
 Ibid, pp. 538-39.
 Ibid, pp. 621-23.
 T. Sulimirski, The Sarmatians, pp. 33-4.
 Levy, The Social Structure of Islam, p. 128.
 Peirce, The Imperial Harem, p. 275.
 Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, p. 246.
 Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society, p. 388.
 Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, pp. 232-40.
 Freely, Inside The Seraglio, p. 79.
 Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, pp. 274-75.
 Freely, Inside The Seraglio, pp. 88-89.
 Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, pp. 288-89.
 Ibid, p. 290.
 Ibid, pp. 294-301.
 Ibid, p. 316.
 Ibid, p. 331.
 Keay, India, A History, p. 328.
 Ibid, pp. 333-34.
 Lewis, The Political Language of Islam, p. 66.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 655.
 Ibid, pp. 671-72.
 Keay, India, A History, p. 245.
 Lewis, The Middle East, p. 66.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 279.
 Ibid, p. 332.
 Kennedy, When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World, p. 166.
 Hitti, History of the Arabs, pp. 620-21.
 Ibid, p. 548.
 Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib in the Islamic Period, p. 209.
 Hasan, The Arabs and the Sudan, p. 45.
 Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib in the Islamic Period, p. 231.
 Roger Crowley, 1453, New York, Hyperion, 2005, p. 32.
 Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, pp. 227-28.
 Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, pp. 87-93.
 Ibid, p. 120.
 Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, p. 472.
 Chapter 6: Triumph of the Faith
 Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, p. 33.