Skip to main content
yazidi_displaced001
Markaz

Satan’s Slaves: Why ISIS Wants to Enslave a Religious Minority in Iraq

William McCants

Can Satanists be enslaved? That’s one of the questions the Islamic State put to its religious scholars before the group conquered Sinjar, Iraq in August. Sinjar is home to the Yazidi religious minority that many Muslims wrongly accuse of devil worship.

The Islamic State’s scholars answered affirmatively, arguing that Islamic law permitted the Islamic State to enslave Yazidi women on the grounds that they were mushriks (polytheists) and not members of any protected religion mentioned in the Qur’an. “This large-scale enslavement of mushrik families is probably the first since the abandonment of this Sharī’ah law,” glowed the author of an article on the decision published today in the Islamic State’s online magazine.

Although the Qur’an sanctions slavery, Muslim countries formally forbade the practice in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In 1981, Mauritania became the last Muslim-majority country to abolish slavery but it still continues there and in a few other Muslim countries informally. The Islamic State now proudly celebrates the return of the practice to public view and distributes the captured Yazidi women as sex slaves to its members.

The Islamic State not only celebrates the revival of slavery as a major step in the return of Islamic law, which the group wants to impose in its totality. The group also hails the renewal of slavery as “one of the signs of the Hour” or Day of Judgment. According to a story about Muhammad, the Prophet foretold that the Hour would be close when “the slave girl shall give birth to her master, and that you see barefoot, naked, poor shepherds building tall buildings.” The prophecy only makes sense today when slavery is prohibited, argues the Islamic State author reporting on the group’s decision.

The author adduces another prophecy to confirm his reading, this time the Dabiq prophecy I wrote about last week. According to the prophecy, the Romans will line up against the Muslims near the small town of Dabiq, Syria and say, “Leave us and those who were enslaved from amongst us so we can fight them.” Never mind that the enslaved Romans are supposed to be Christians not Yazidis.

Neither details nor human decency will compel the Islamic State’s apocalypse-addled misogynists to second guess themselves. As the Qur’an says, “They have taken satans for friends instead of God yet think they are rightly guided” (7:30).

Get daily updates from Brookings