An umm walad (Arabic: أم ولد, lit.'mother of the child') was the title given to a slave-concubine in the Muslim world after she had born her master a child. She could not be sold, and became automatically free on her master's death.[1][2] The offspring of an umm walad were free and considered legitimate children of their father, including full rights of name and inheritance.[2]

The practice was a common way for slave girls endowed with beauty and intelligence to advance in the court, especially if they gave birth to sons; under the Caliphates, quite a few of them were raised in rank to queen.[2][3] Few of them had been fortunate enough to be valide sultan (mother of the king).

If an unmarried slave bore a child and the slave owner did not acknowledge parenthood, then the slave had to face zina charges.[4]

Islamic jurisprudence was complicated, if a male owner failed to provide economic maintenance to female slave or if the owner goes missing, then the situation of female slave could get precarious if a local judge did not rule to free them.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Bowen 1928, p. 13.
  2. ^ a b c "Umm al-Walad". The Oxford Dictionary of Islam.
  3. ^ Urban, Elizabeth (2012). The early Islamic mawālī: A window onto processes of identity construction and social change (Thesis). ProQuest 1027764937.
  4. ^ a b De la Puente, Cristina (2013). "Free fathers, slave mothers and their children : a contribution to the study of family structures in Al-Andalus". Free Fathers, Slave Mothers and Their Children : A Contribution to the Study of Family Structures in Al-Andalus: 27–44.