In late-seventeenth-century Morocco, Mawlay Ismail commanded his officials to enslave all blacks: that is, to buy coercively or freely those already slaves and to enslave those who were free, including the Haratin (meaning free blacks or freed ex-slaves). This command violated the most salient Islamic legal code regarding the institution of slavery, which states that it is illegal to enslave fellow Muslims. This controversy caused a heated debate and overt hostility between the ulama (Muslim scholars) and Mawlay Ismail. Official slave registers were created to justify the legality of the enforced buying of slaves from their owners and the enslavement of the Haratin. An equation of blackness and slavery was being developed to justify the subjection of the free Muslim black Moroccans. To prove the slave status of the black Moroccans, the officials in charge of the slavery project established a fictional hierarchy of categories of slaves. This project therefore constructed a slave status for all black people, even those who were free.
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