Due to the patriarchal nature of Arab society, Arab men, including during the slave trade in North Africa, enslaved more African women than men. They used more enslaved African female in domestic service and agriculture than males. The men interpreted the Quran to permit sexual relations between a male master and his enslaved females outside of marriage (see Ma malakat aymanukum and sex), leading to many mixed-race children. When an enslaved woman became pregnant with her Arab master’s child, she was considered as umm walad or “mother of a child”, a status that granted her privileged rights. The child was given rights of inheritance to the father’s property, so mixed-race children could share in any wealth of the father. Because the society was patrilineal, the children took their fathers’ social status at birth and were born free.

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