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Document Type:Latin Dissertation
Language of Document:English
Record Number:52452
Doc. No:TL22406
Call number:‭NR46002‬
Main Entry:Jennifer Lofkrantz
Title & Author:Ransoming policies and practices in the western and central bilād al-sūdān, c1800–1910Jennifer Lofkrantz
College:York University (Canada)
Date:2008
Degree:Ph.D.
student score:2008
Page No:243
Abstract:Ransoming, or the returning to freedom of a captive in exchange for payment, has been practised in many cultures and time periods throughout the world. In Africa, Muslim jurists and intellectuals had discussed the issue of ransoming from the medieval period, as reflected in the writings of Muhammad al-Maghīlī and Ahmad Bābā al-Tinbuktī, and in the nineteenth century, as demonstrated in the work of 'Uthmān ibn Fūdī, 'Abdullāhi ibn Fūdī and 'Umar al-Fūtī. It is argued in this dissertation that the system of ransoming was integral to the institution of slavery as it operated in Islamic areas of West Africa, in particular the western and central bilād al-sūdān, especially in the nineteenth century when it appears that ransoming was practised extensively. The nineteenth century was a period of intense insecurity and warfare in the western and central bilād al-sūdān, which led to considerable enslavement. Enslavement was undertaken for political reasons, and was fundamental to the social and economic structure of the societies of the Muslim regions of the western and central bilād al-sūdān. Warfare, even the jihāds that were perpetrated in the hopes that Islamic unity would usher in a better political world, generated slaves and in regions of enslavement, there was a corresponding level of insecurity and instability. This allowed space for kidnapping and raiding that were not particularly motivated by ideology or politics but simply for the private and economic reasons of the captors. Ransoming served as a safety net for Muslims captured in war, or otherwise seized and threatened with sale into slavery. Hence, the prevalence of ransoming exposes the tensions between personal security and the Islamic state and religious institutions. The prevalence of ransoming demonstrates that the fragile political systems could not protect individuals from enslavement that was defined in Muslim terms as "wrongful". The practice of ransoming helped to shape the institution of slavery since ransom prices were usually about twice the amount of slave prices. This had implications for the functioning of the market in slaves. In addition to ransoming at the time of enslavement, or shortly thereafter, two related practices, which were also widespread and sanctioned by Islamic law, were third-party redemption and self-redemption. However, while ransoming and redemption shared many commonalities, the practices differed in that while the goal of ransoming was to return a captive to his or her previous social status after a short time in captivity, a redeemed slave remained in a inferior position to his or her previous owners and indeed to all free-born free members of the community. Ransoming was an option for dealing with prisoners of war. In this way, ransoming did not undermine slavery in the Islamic context but was a means to protect certain individuals from enslavement. Ransoming provided an outlet to free those who should not have been enslaved, according to Islamic legal interpretations and customary rights, and also provided the opportunity for those individuals whose status allowed his or her family and friends the means to ransom. Third-party redemption and self-redemption, were so central to the practice of slavery in the western and central bilād al-sūdān that both the French and British colonial regimes used the institutions as a means to end the practice of slavery in their respective territories. With the end of legal enslavement and captivity came the end of the legal ransoming although the practice continued into the first decade of colonial rule as long as illegal enslavement continued. Just as precolonial Islamic states and officials used ransoming to shape slavery, colonial regimes used redemption to reshape the institution of slavery, only this time with a goal of a gradual end to slavery. Colonial reform of the practice of redemption transformed the institution. Both the French and the British took the power to allow for self-redemption from the owners and put it into the hands of the slav s. While it was still difficult for slaves to raise the self-redemption fees, and many, especially in the western bilād al-sūdān, left, by setting redemption prices, in the case of the French, and giving the jurisdiction to set the redemption price to the Islamic courts if an owner and an enslaved individual could not agree on a price in the case of the British, and putting the onus to self-redeem in the hands of slaves, colonial officials changed the practice of third-party ransoming and self-redemption.
Subject:Social sciences; Bilad al-sudan; Colonialism; Prisoners of war; Ransoming; Slavery; African history; 0331:African history
Added Entry:York University (Canada)