Hi readers! In the previous article we have discussed about the harsh punishment of the perpetrators of crime, murder, in the teachings of Islam. In this article I will invite you all to know slavery in Islamic teachings. I think this is a very good topic for us to talk about, given that in recent years there have been many radical Islamic movements that have made prisoners of war they capture as slaves. Besides that, Islam itself has historically been in contact with slavery.
But before talking further about slavery in the view of Islamic teachings, I would first like to mention that this enslavement existed, even considered normal, by humankind before the coming of Islam. We can see it in the history of the Greeks, for example. There are even laws that they make to govern the slaves. There are some slaves who are set up for house keepers and some are arranged for house keeping, but none of the laws allow a slave to do anything related to worship. All things related to slaves are governed by the laws they make. This pattern of treatment of slaves is no different from those in other countries, such as Persia and Hindi. (Mushthafah Muhammad Abu ‘Imarah, al-Inaarah fii Ahaadiitsi Mukhtaarah fii Shahiihii al-Imaam Muslim, al-Iman bookstore, Cairo, p. 301).
Slavery itself, in its history, happened at least for four things;
1. Warfare and invasions to other group’s areas in order to enslave them.
2. The race with swords and arrows; after the race is over then the losing party will become a slave.
3. Buy and sell; someone who deliberately bought someone else to be his slave.
4. Debt payments; a person who is not able to pay his debt with money or property will be slaves by the person who gave him the debt. (Mushthafah Muhammad Abu ‘Imarah, al-Inaarah fii Ahaadiitsi Mukhtaarah fii Shahiihi al-Imaam Muslim, al-Iman bookstore, Kairo, p. 300-301)
However, when Islam came, this enslavement was arranged with humanity. Slaves gain their rights as human beings. Not even the religion of Islam strongly recommends someone freeing slaves. I think this is one factor why so many slaves convert to Islam, such as Bilal bin Rabah.
For example, we can see the humane treatment of Islam against slaves in several verses of the Qur’an;
إِنَّمَا ٱلصَّدَقَٰتُ لِلۡفُقَرَآءِ وَٱلۡمَسَٰكِينِ وَٱلۡعَٰمِلِينَ عَلَيۡهَا وَٱلۡمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمۡ وَفِي ٱلرِّقَابِ وَٱلۡغَٰرِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ وَٱبۡنِ ٱلسَّبِيلِۖ فَرِيضَةٗ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِۗ وَٱللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٞ ٦٠
Alms are only for the poor and the needy, and the officials (appointed) over them, and those whose hearts are made to incline (to truth) and the (ransoming of) captives and those in debts and in the way of Allah and the wayfarer; an ordinance from Allah; and Allah is knowing, Wise. (At-Taubah ; 60).
وَٱعۡبُدُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَلَا تُشۡرِكُواْ بِهِۦ شَيۡٔٗاۖ وَبِٱلۡوَٰلِدَيۡنِ إِحۡسَٰنٗا وَبِذِي ٱلۡقُرۡبَىٰ وَٱلۡيَتَٰمَىٰ وَٱلۡمَسَٰكِينِ وَٱلۡجَارِ ذِي ٱلۡقُرۡبَىٰ وَٱلۡجَارِ ٱلۡجُنُبِ وَٱلصَّاحِبِ بِٱلۡجَنۢبِ وَٱبۡنِ ٱلسَّبِيلِ وَمَا مَلَكَتۡ أَيۡمَٰنُكُمۡۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ مَن كَانَ مُخۡتَالٗا فَخُورًا ٣٦
And serve Allah and do not associate any thing with Him and be good to the parents and to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the neighbor of (your) kin and the alien neighbor, and the companion in a journey and the wayfarer and those whom your right hands possess; surely Allah does not love him who is proud, boastful. (An-Nisaa’ ; 36).
In terms of marriage for example. If a man wants to marry his female slave, then he must ask permission first to the slave family. Allah Almighty said;
وَمَن لَّمۡ يَسۡتَطِعۡ مِنكُمۡ طَوۡلًا أَن يَنكِحَ ٱلۡمُحۡصَنَٰتِ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنَٰتِ فَمِن مَّا مَلَكَتۡ أَيۡمَٰنُكُم مِّن فَتَيَٰتِكُمُ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنَٰتِۚ وَٱللَّهُ أَعۡلَمُ بِإِيمَٰنِكُمۚ بَعۡضُكُم مِّنۢ بَعۡضٖۚ فَٱنكِحُوهُنَّ بِإِذۡنِ أَهۡلِهِنَّ وَءَاتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ بِٱلۡمَعۡرُوفِ مُحۡصَنَٰتٍ غَيۡرَ مُسَٰفِحَٰتٖ وَلَا مُتَّخِذَٰتِ أَخۡدَانٖۚ فَإِذَآ أُحۡصِنَّ فَإِنۡ أَتَيۡنَ بِفَٰحِشَةٖ فَعَلَيۡهِنَّ نِصۡفُ مَا عَلَى ٱلۡمُحۡصَنَٰتِ مِنَ ٱلۡعَذَابِۚ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَنۡ خَشِيَ ٱلۡعَنَتَ مِنكُمۡۚ وَأَن تَصۡبِرُواْ خَيۡرٞ لَّكُمۡۗ وَٱللَّهُ غَفُورٞ رَّحِيمٞ ٢٥
And whoever among you has not within his power ampleness of means to marry free believing women, then (he may marry) of those whom your right hands possess from among your believing maidens; and Allah knows best your faith: you are (sprung) the one from the other; so marry them with the permission of their masters, and give them their dowries justly, they being chaste, not fornicating, nor receiving paramours; and when they are taken in marriage, then if they are guilty of indecency, they shall suffer half the punishment which is (inflicted) upon free women. This is for him among you who fears falling into evil; and that you abstain is better for you, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (An-Nisaa’ ; 25).
In the teachings of Islam, an independent person is forbidden to be a wave to the slaves. Allah Almighty said;
وَٱللَّهُ فَضَّلَ بَعۡضَكُمۡ عَلَىٰ بَعۡضٖ فِي ٱلرِّزۡقِۚ فَمَا ٱلَّذِينَ فُضِّلُواْ بِرَآدِّي رِزۡقِهِمۡ عَلَىٰ مَا مَلَكَتۡ أَيۡمَٰنُهُمۡ فَهُمۡ فِيهِ سَوَآءٌۚ أَفَبِنِعۡمَةِ ٱللَّهِ يَجۡحَدُونَ ٧١
And Allah has made some of you excel others in the means of subsistence, so those who are made to excel do not give away their sustenance to those whom their right hands possess so that they should be equal therein; is it then the favor of Allah which they deny? (AN-Nahl ; 71).
In the case of calling a person who has a slave is forbidden to call his slave “my slave” and his slave is forbidden to bear his master with the call of “my Lord (Allah)”. Information about it can be seen in the hadith of Muhammad as follows;
لا يقولن أحدكم عبدي , فان كلكم عبد , وليقل فتاي , ولا يقولن ربي , فان ربكم الله , وليقل سيدي
Let no one of you say “my servant” because you are all slaves, but he should say “my youth.” And let no one of you say “my Lord (Allah)” because your Lord (Allah) is Allah, but he should say, “my master”. (The hadith is narrated by Imam Muslim, 2249).
The strong suggestion even the order to free the slaves can be seen in some verses of the Qur’an;
وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤۡمِنٍ أَن يَقۡتُلَ مُؤۡمِنًا إِلَّا خَطَٔٗاۚ وَمَن قَتَلَ مُؤۡمِنًا خَطَٔٗا فَتَحۡرِيرُ رَقَبَةٖ مُّؤۡمِنَةٖ وَدِيَةٞ مُّسَلَّمَةٌ إِلَىٰٓ أَهۡلِهِۦٓ إِلَّآ أَن يَصَّدَّقُواْۚ فَإِن كَانَ مِن قَوۡمٍ عَدُوّٖ لَّكُمۡ وَهُوَ مُؤۡمِنٞ فَتَحۡرِيرُ رَقَبَةٖ مُّؤۡمِنَةٖۖ وَإِن كَانَ مِن قَوۡمِۢ بَيۡنَكُمۡ وَبَيۡنَهُم مِّيثَٰقٞ فَدِيَةٞ مُّسَلَّمَةٌ إِلَىٰٓ أَهۡلِهِۦ وَتَحۡرِيرُ رَقَبَةٖ مُّؤۡمِنَةٖۖ فَمَن لَّمۡ يَجِدۡ فَصِيَامُ شَهۡرَيۡنِ مُتَتَابِعَيۡنِ تَوۡبَةٗ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِۗ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمٗا ٩٢
And it does not behoove a believer to kill a believer except by mistake, and whoever kills a believer by mistake, he should free a believing slave, and blood-money should be paid to his people unless they remit it as alms; but if he be from a tribe hostile to you and he is a believer, the freeing of a believing slave (suffices), and if he is from a tribe between whom and you there is a convenant, the blood-money should be paid to his people along with the freeing of a believing slave; but he who cannot find (a slave) should fast for two months successively: a penance from Allah, and Allah is Knowing, Wise. (An-Nisaa’ ; 92).
لَا يُؤَاخِذُكُمُ ٱللَّهُ بِٱللَّغۡوِ فِيٓ أَيۡمَٰنِكُمۡ وَلَٰكِن يُؤَاخِذُكُم بِمَا عَقَّدتُّمُ ٱلۡأَيۡمَٰنَۖ فَكَفَّٰرَتُهُۥٓ إِطۡعَامُ عَشَرَةِ مَسَٰكِينَ مِنۡ أَوۡسَطِ مَا تُطۡعِمُونَ أَهۡلِيكُمۡ أَوۡ كِسۡوَتُهُمۡ أَوۡ تَحۡرِيرُ رَقَبَةٖۖ فَمَن لَّمۡ يَجِدۡ فَصِيَامُ ثَلَٰثَةِ أَيَّامٖۚ ذَٰلِكَ كَفَّٰرَةُ أَيۡمَٰنِكُمۡ إِذَا حَلَفۡتُمۡۚ وَٱحۡفَظُوٓاْ أَيۡمَٰنَكُمۡۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمۡ ءَايَٰتِهِۦ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَشۡكُرُونَ ٨٩
Allah does not call you to account for what is vain in your oaths, but He calls you to account for the making of deliberate oaths; so its expiation is the feeding of ten poor men out of the middling (food) you feed your families with, or their clothing, or the freeing of a neck; but whosoever cannot find (means) then fasting for three days; this is the expiation of your oaths when you swear; and guard your oaths. Thus, does Allah make clear to you His communications, that you may be Fateful. (Al-Maa’idah ; 89).
وَٱلَّذِينَ يُظَٰهِرُونَ مِن نِّسَآئِهِمۡ ثُمَّ يَعُودُونَ لِمَا قَالُواْ فَتَحۡرِيرُ رَقَبَةٖ مِّن قَبۡلِ أَن يَتَمَآسَّاۚ ذَٰلِكُمۡ تُوعَظُونَ بِهِۦۚ وَٱللَّهُ بِمَا تَعۡمَلُونَ خَبِيرٞ ٣
And (as for) those who put away their wives by likening their backs to the backs of their mothers then would recall what they said, they should free a captive before they touch each other; to that you are admonished (to conform); and Allah is Aware of what you do. (Al-Mujaadalah ; 3).
فَلَا ٱقۡتَحَمَ ٱلۡعَقَبَةَ ١١
وَمَآ أَدۡرَىٰكَ مَا ٱلۡعَقَبَةُ ١٢فَكُّ رَقَبَةٍ ١٣
But he would not attempt the uphill road  And what will make you comprehend what the uphill road is?  (It is) the setting free of a slave . (Al-Balad ; 11-13).
We can also find the strongest suggestion that one liberate slaves in the hadith of the prophet Muhammad;
من أعتق رقبة مؤمنة أعتق الله بكل ارب منها اربا من النار
Whoso frees a believer a slave, then Allah will liberate every member of his body from hell with every member of the body of the slave. (The hadith is narrated by Muslim, 1509.)
أيما امرئ مسلم أعتق امرءا مسلما كان فكاكه من النار يجزى بكل عضو منه عضوا منه وأيما امرئ مسلم أعتق امرأتين مسلمتين كانتا فكاكه من النار تجزى بكل عضو منهما عضوا منه وأيما امرأة مسلمة كانت فكاكها من النار تجزى كل عضو منه
Whoever is a Muslim who frees a Muslim other is a ransom from the fire of Hell where every member of the body of the liberated person is sufficient one member of the body of the liberator. Whoever is a Muslim who frees two Moslems then they are the ransom of the fire of Hell where each member of the body of both of them sufficient one member of the body of the liberator. (The hadith is narrated by at-Tirmidzi, 1587).
Here, by observing the above description, we must have understood that Islam indeed strictly prohibits slavery. The process of Islam to abolish slavery on earth is done gradually so that reality is ready to accept it. Abolition of slavery is one way of Islam to spread love among humankind, in this life of the world.
I think that is enough and to meet again in the next article!