Cariye

Last updated
A cariye or imperial concubine. Odalisque (Boston Public Library).jpg
A cariye or imperial concubine.

Cariye or Cariyes (Arabic : جارية) was a title and term used for category of enslaved women concubines in the Islamic world of the Middle East. [1] They are particularly known in history from the era of the Ottoman Empire, where they legally existed until the mid-19th century.

Contents

History

General meaning

The general meaning of the term cariye was a woman enslaved during warfare. This remained the formal definition of the term in the Islamic world. The rights of the enslaved woman was regulated within Islamic law.

The enslavement of women was permitted only during warfare of a war deemed "just"; that is, a war against non-Muslims. Only a non-Muslim woman could be enslaved during warfare, as Islam banned Muslims from enslaving other Muslims. [2]

In Islamic law, the enslavement of a woman was the only case in which concubinage was legally permitted. [1] A woman taken as a cariye concubine had to obey her male owner as she would a husband. [2] The son of a cariye was not regarded a slave, but born free. A daughter born to a slave woman was however born a slave, though it was customary to manumit her.

Ottoman Empire

The cariye system existed in the Ottoman Empire far into the 19th century and is most famous within the Ottoman Imperial Harem of the Ottoman court. It has often been translated to mean "lady-in-waiting".

The Ottoman system formally followed the original Islamic law, but varied from it in practice. After the Ottoman Empire had conquered most of the Middle East, and after the borders to Christian Europe had come to a standstill, there was in practice few opportunities to capture women through warfare. [2]

Because of the general ban for enslavement of Muslims, the non-Muslim cariye was instead provided to the Ottoman slave market from Christian Europe through the Crimean slave trade and the Barbary slave trade. [2] Being from non-Muslim countries, with whom the Ottoman Empire could be regarded to be in passive warfare, this was regarded equivalent to enslaved prisoners of war, and thus in accordance with Islamic law.

When the Crimean slave trade was closed after the Russian conquest of the Crimea in 1783 (and the Barbary slave trade in the early 19th-century), the cariye slave trade underwent yet another transformation. From this point on, a majority of the cariye were Circassians from Caucasus, with a minor part coming from the white slave trade. While the Circassians were normally Muslim, the ban against the enslavement of Muslims was overlooked in their case, and their original Muslim status was an "open secret". [2]

The cariye was always regarded as sexually available for the master of the house, and if she bore a child by him, she could no longer be sold. [3] It was common for a cariye to be freed (manumitted). However, a manumission did not mean that a cariye was free to simply leave the household. In a Muslim society based on gender segregation, were women lived in seclusion, it was not a possibility for a manumitted woman to simply leave the house and walk about in the street, as a free unmarried woman without family would have no way to support herself. [3] Instead, the manumission of a woman normally meant that a marriage was arranged for her; often, a male who freed a woman married her himself, or arranged for her to be married to another man. [3]

There was a difference between women bought to be domestic servants of Muslim women, and women bought by men; the slave women who were formally the property of a Muslim woman, although legally available for the master of the house, could also be sold by her female owner. [3]

In the first half of the 19th century, slavery had come to be regarded as morally wrong in the Western world. The liberal Sultan Abdulmejid I, who was affected by these views, included anti-slavery laws among his Westernized reforms, and formally banned the cariye slavery system. This was, however, a formal ban, and in reality, the cariye continued informally until the end of the 19th century. [1]

Ottoman Imperial Harem

Cariye were provided for the Ottoman Imperial Harem through the Crimean slave trade and the Barbary slave trade, or recruited within the empire. They were selected from among the most beautiful and intelligent girls, and came to the harem as children. They were converted to Islam upon their arrival, and given a new name. They were trained in the discipline of the palace harem, and in the accomplishments for which they had talent. They were then promoted according to their capacities.

Cariye had the lowest rank of the women in the Imperial Harem. [4] They differed from the odalisque in that they were all formally concubines to the sultan. However, in practice, they may never be chosen to share the bed of the sultan, so they often acted as the servants of the valide sultan, and the wives and children of the sultan.

A cariye who proved to be a valuable servant could be promoted to kalfa or usta , which meant she earned wages. If a cariye was neither promoted to kalfa nor chosen as a sexual partner by the sultan, she was manumitted after nine years of service. In practice, her manumission would mean that she would have to marry, since an unmarried free woman without family had no means to support herself in the gender-segregated society of the Ottoman Empire.

The cariyes with whom the sultan shared his bed became members of the dynasty and rose in rank to attain the status of gözde ('the favorite'), ikbal ('the fortunate'), kadin ('the woman/wife') or haseki sultan ('legal wife'). The highest position was the valide sultan, the legal mother of the sultan, who herself used to be a wife or a cariye of the sultan's father and rose to the supreme rank in the harem. No cariye could leave or enter the premises of the harem without the explicit permission of the valide sultan.

See also

Related Research Articles

Ibrahim of the Ottoman Empire Ottoman Sultan (r. 1640–1648)

Ibrahim was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1640 until 1648. He was born in İstanbul, the son of Ahmed I by Valide Kösem Sultan, an ethnic Greek originally named Anastasia.

Hurrem Sultan Haseki Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (c.1502-1558)

Hurrem Sultan, also known as Roxelana, was the chief consort and wife of the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. She became the most powerful and influential women in Ottoman history as well as a prominent and controversial figure during the era known as the Sultanate of Women.

The Ottoman Empire developed over the centuries as a despotism with the Sultan as the supreme ruler of a centralized government that had an effective control of its provinces, officials and inhabitants. Wealth and rank could be inherited but were just as often earned. Positions were perceived as titles, such as viziers and aghas. Military service was a key to many problems.

Circassian beauty Stereotypical belief

Circassian beauty or Adyghe beauty is a stereotype and a belief referring to the women of the Circassian people. A fairly extensive literary history suggests that Circassian women were thought to be unusually beautiful and attractive, spirited, smart and elegant, and as such were desirable. A similar yet smaller literature also exists for Circassian men, who were thought to be especially tall and handsome.

Slavery in medieval Europe Slavery during the medieval period in Europe

Slavery became increasingly uncommon through the Middle Ages, replaced by serfdom by the 10th century, but began to revive again towards the end of the Middle Ages and in the Early Modern Era. The Byzantine–Ottoman wars (1265–1479) and the Ottoman wars in Europe resulted in the capture of large numbers of Christian slaves.

Harem Womens quarters in the traditional house of a Muslim family

Harem properly refers to domestic spaces that are reserved for the women of the house in a Muslim family. This private space has been traditionally understood as serving the purposes of maintaining the modesty, privilege, and seclusion of women from other men. A harem may house a man's wife or wives, their pre-pubescent male children, unmarried daughters, female domestic servants, and other unmarried female relatives. In harems of the past, concubines, which were enslaved women, were also housed in the harem. In former times some harems were guarded by eunuchs who were allowed inside. The structure of the harem and the extent of monogamy or polygamy has varied depending on the family's personalities, socio-economic status, and local customs. Similar institutions have been common in other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilizations, especially among royal and upper-class families, and the term is sometimes used in other contexts. In traditional Persian residential architecture the women's quarters were known as andaruni, and in the Indian subcontinent as zenana.

Turhan Sultan Valide Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

Turhan Sultan, was Haseki Sultan of the Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim and Valide Sultan as the mother of Mehmed IV. Turhan was prominent for the regency of her young son and her building patronage. She and her mother-in-law, Kösem Sultan, are the only two women in Ottoman history to be regarded as official regents and had supreme control over the Ottoman Empire. But Turhan herself was the only one in Ottoman history to equally share the power of running the entire empire with Ottoman Sultan legally. As a result, Turhan became one of the prominent figures during the era known as Sultanate of Women. Her name means 'noble, chosen person' in older Turkic.

Islamic views on slavery Body of Islamic thought on slavery

Islamic views on slavery represent a complex and multifaceted body of Islamic thought, with various Islamic groups or thinkers espousing views on the matter which have been radically different throughout history. Slavery was a mainstay of life in pre-Islamic Arabia and surrounding lands. The Quran and the hadith address slavery extensively, assuming its existence as part of society but viewing it as an exceptional condition and restricting its scope. Early Islamic dogma forbade enslavement of free members of Islamic society, including non-Muslims (dhimmis), and set out to regulate and improve the conditions of human bondage. The sharīʿah regarded as legal slaves only those non-Muslims who were imprisoned or bought beyond the borders of Islamic rule, or the sons and daughters of slaves already in captivity. In later classical Islamic law, the topic of slavery is covered at great length. Slaves, be they Muslim or those of any other religion, were equal to their fellow practitioners in religious issues.

White slavery Enslavement of people of European descent

White slavery refers to the chattel slavery of Europeans, whether by non-Europeans, or by other Europeans. Slaves of European origin were present in ancient Rome and the Ottoman Empire.

Ottoman Imperial Harem Ottoman sultans harem

The Imperial Harem of the Ottoman Empire was the Ottoman sultan's harem – composed of the wives, servants, female relatives and the sultan's concubines – occupying a secluded portion (seraglio) of the Ottoman imperial household. This institution played an important social function within the Ottoman court, and wielded considerable political authority in Ottoman affairs, especially during the long period known as the Sultanate of Women. Multiple historians claim that the sultan was frequently lobbied by harem members of different ethnic or religious backgrounds to influence the geography of the Ottoman wars of conquest. The utmost authority in the Imperial Harem, the valide sultan, ruled over the other women in the household; the consorts of the sultan were normally of slave origin, and thus were also his mother, the valide sultan.

Ottoman court was the culture that evolved around the court of the Ottoman Empire.

Women in the Ottoman Empire Overview of the topic

Women in the Ottoman Empire enjoyed a diverse range of rights depending on the time period, as well as their religion and class. The Ottoman Empire, first as a Turkoman beylik, and then a multi-ethnic, multi-religious empire, was ruled in accordance to the qanun, the semi-secular body of law enacted by Ottoman sultans. Furthermore, the relevant religious scriptures of its many confessional communities played a major role in the legal system, for the majority of Ottoman women, these were the Quran and Hadith as interpreted by Islamic jurists, often termed sharia. Most Ottoman women were permitted to participate in the legal system, purchase and sell property, inherit and bequeath wealth, and participate in other financial activities, rights which were unusual in the rest of Europe until the 19th century.

Slavery in the Ottoman Empire

Slavery in the Ottoman Empire was a legal and significant part of the Ottoman Empire's economy and traditional society. The main sources of slaves were wars and politically organized enslavement expeditions in North and East Africa, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Caucasus. It has been reported that the selling price of slaves decreased after large military operations. In Constantinople, the administrative and political center of the Ottoman Empire, about a fifth of the 16th- and 17th-century population consisted of slaves. Customs statistics of these centuries suggest that Istanbul's additional slave imports from the Black Sea may have totaled around 2.5 million from 1453 to 1700.

Slavery in Iran History of Slavery in Iran

The History of slavery in Iran (Persia) during various ancient, medieval, and modern periods is sparsely catalogued.

Ikbal was the title given to the imperial consort of the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, who came below the rank of kadın.

Sultanate of Women Period in the Ottoman Empire

The Sultanate of Women was a period of extraordinary political influence exerted by wives and mothers of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. This phenomenon in the early modern period, approximately between the years 1533 and 1656, began during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent with his marriage to Hürrem Sultan. These sultanas were either the wives of the Sultan, referred to as Haseki Sultans, or the mothers of the Sultan, known as Valide Sultans. Many of these women were of slave origins, as was expected of the sultanate, since traditional marriage roles were considered too large of a risk for the Sultan, who was expected to have no personal allegiances outside his title. During this time, Haseki and Valide Sultans held political and social power, which allowed them to influence the daily running of the empire, as well as requesting the construction of buildings, and philanthropic works, such as Valide Sultan Mosque. 

Sexual slavery in Islam

Islamic law allows men to have sexual intercourse with their female slaves. Medieval Muslim literature and legal documents show that those female slaves whose main use was for sexual purposes were distinguished in markets from those whose primary use was for domestic duties. They were called "slaves for pleasure" or "slave-girls for sexual intercourse". Many female slaves became concubines to their owners and bore their children. Others were just used for sex before being transferred. The allowance for men to use contraception with female slaves assisted in thwarting unwanted pregnancies.

Abbasid harem Portion of the Abbasid household

The harem of the caliphs of the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258) in Baghdad was composed of his mother, wives, slave concubines, female relatives and slave servants, occupying a secluded portion of the Abbasid household. This institution played an important social function within the Abbasid court and was the part of court were the women of the court were confined and secluded. The senior woman in rank in the harem was the mother of the Caliph. The Abbasid harem acted as a role model for the harems of other Islamic dynasties, as it was during the Abbasid Caliphate that the harem system was fully enforced in the Muslim world.

Slavery in Egypt

Slavery in Post-Ancient Egypt existed up until the early 20th-century. It differed from the previous Slavery in ancient Egypt, being managed in accordance with Islamic law from the conquest of the Caliphate in the 7th-century until the practice stopped in the early 20th-century, having been gradually abolished in the late 19th-century. During the Islamic history of Egypt, slavery were mainly focused on three categories: male slaves used for soldiers and bureaucrats, female slaves used for sexual slavery as concubines, and female slaves and eunuchs used for domestic service in harems and private households. At the end of the period, there were a growing agricultural slavery. The people enslaved in Egypt during Islamic times mostly came from Europe and Caucasus, or from the Sudan and Africa South of the Sahara through the Trans-Saharan slave trade.

References