Hesham A Syed

May 25, 2010

Slavery : How Islam eradicated this ?

Filed under: Global,Islam,Muslim world — Hesham A Syed @ 6:54 pm
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How Islam eradicated Salvery :  Dr Javed Jamil

How Islam eradicated Slavery

When Muhammad ( sav ) announced his status as the Prophet of God, slavery was, almost throughout the world, in its most abominable form. Slaves were treated much worse than animals; they were purchased and sold like cattle. Islam started eradication of slavery in a systematic manner. Several steps were taken: First came the lessons of kindness towards slaves. They should be given to eat what the masters eat and to wear what the masters wear. The Qur’an was kind to slaves in matters of punishment, too, declaring that the punishment for immorality by slaves will be half than that for the free women (4: 25). This was followed by the Qur’anic directive to consider slaves for marriage; for believing slaves are better than non-believing slaves (4: 25).

. Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters), until they believe: A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allures you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire. But Allah beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His Signs clear to mankind: That they may celebrate His praise. (2: 221)

If any of you have not the means wherewith to wed free believing women, they may wed believing girls from among those whom your right hands possess: And Allah hath full knowledge about your faith. Ye are one from another: Wed them with the leave of their owners, and give them their dowers, according to what is reasonable: They should be chaste, not lustful, nor taking paramours: when they are taken in wedlock, if they fall into shame, their punishment is half that for free women. This (permission) is for those among you who fear sin; but it is better for you that ye practise self-restraint. And Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (4: 25)

The Qur’an further directed that slave-girls cannot be forced into prostitution

“Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste, until Allah gives them means out of His grace. And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if ye know any good in them: yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which Allah has given to you. But force not your maids to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life. But if anyone compels them, yet, after such compulsion, is Allah, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (to them), (24:33).

This was a clear warning that slave-girls can be taken as wife but cannot be forced into flesh trade. Another step that was taken by the Prophet was the directive that any slave-woman who became pregnant would become a free woman. This implies that a mother can never be a slave; and also that the children of slaves would not be slaves. Thiswas no less than a revolutionary step in eradication of slavery. The prophet did clearly express his displeasure at the practice of some companions to practise azl (coitus interruptus) with slave-women so that, in case they became pregnant, they would not have to be given the status of free wives. This was further complemented by the declaration of freeing a slave as compensation or punishment of some crimes and mistakes (4:92; 5: 89; 58: 3).

Never should a believer kill a believer; but (If it so happens) by mistake, (Compensation is due): If one (so) kills a believer, it is ordained that he should free a believing slave, and pay compensation to the deceased’s family, unless they remit it freely. If the deceased belonged to a people at war with you, and he was a believer, the freeing of a believing slave (Is enough). If he belonged to a people with whom ye have treaty of Mutual alliance, compensation should be paid to his family, and a believing slave be freed. For those who find this beyond their means, (is prescribed) a fast for two months running: by way of repentance to Allah. for Allah hath all knowledge and all wisdom.” (4:92)

“Allah will not call you to account for what is futile in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom. If that is beyond your means, fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths ye have sworn. But keep to your oaths. Thus doth Allah make clear to you His signs, that ye may be grateful.” (5: 89)

“But those who divorce their wives by Zihar, then wish to go back on the words they uttered,- (It is ordained that such a one) should free a slave before they touch each other: Thus are ye admonished to perform: and Allah is well-acquainted with (all) that ye do.” (58: 3)

The most important step that the Qur’an took that paved way for the eradication of slavery was that freeing slaves was declared an extraordinarily virtuous act (2: 177) for which man will be given special incentives in the Hereafter. 

“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah.fearing. (2: 177)”

Some people ask why the practice of slavery was not forbidden altogether. The answer is not difficult to find. This in fact goes to prove that the Qur’an is, in truth, the word of God; for it does not suffer from the shortcomings of human nature and   intellect which often tend to take decisions that look good in short term, but prove disastrous in the end. If slavery was declared prohibited, it would mean that purchasing and selling of slaves would not remain permissible. This would not give Muslims an opportunity to buy slaves from other communities who would then neither be freed from their captivity; nor would they get an opportunity to understand Islam. What happened in the aftermath of the revolutionary steps taken by Islam was that a large number of slaves were purchased by Muslims; they were given exemplary treatment; they were presented the message of God; influenced by Islamic teachings and the kind treatment by Muslims they converted to Islam; and were sooner than later freed. And there came a time in the history of Islam when the descendants of slaves, popularly known as Mamluk Dynasty, ruled over Egypt.

Furthermore, Qur’an did not even use the word “Haram” for alcohol. The directive that drinking is a Satanic act was taken as “prohibited”. Similarly 2: 177 was almost a clear signal to Muslims that Allah did not want Muslims to keep slaves and concubines except for short term for the ultimate purpose of disseminating Islamic environment to them and their ultimate release.

Unfortunately though, the practice of slavery returned to some Muslim countries later. 

It is also to be stressed here that Islam also prohibited prostitution which is worse than slavery and thanks to modernity that has commercialization of sex as one of the pivots on which it revolves is now perhaps bigger than slaver ever in the past.

Dr Javed Jamil



  1. i want to now if dogs are hallal or harem becaeuse i want bye one and my dad says its harem so call me on 0468559343 please and tell me

    Comment by mohamad — May 28, 2010 @ 11:05 pm | Reply

  2. What has your query to do with this article posted ?
    Please ask a Mufti / or any scholar in Islam who are assigned to answer such query Thanks

    Comment by heshamsyed — May 29, 2010 @ 3:12 am | Reply

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