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Slavery and Islam (Submission)
Historical and religious background on slavery
Slavery is a very old practice that was gradually abolished in Islam (Submission). Many people out of ignorance or out of biased attack Islam (Submission) for its stand on slavery, distorting and misrepresenting the true stand of Islam (Submission). In this article we will see the great humane position of Islam on slavery. The central issue of slavery and equality is the concept of human dignity. In Islam, God has conferred honor and dignity on all human beings irrespective of their race, gender, age, social status and beliefs.
In (17:70) God says, “We have honored the children of Adam, and provided them with rides on land and in the sea. We provided for them good provisions, and we gave them greater advantages than many of our creatures.”
Together with human dignity and honor comes freedom to live, the right to be respected on an equal basis before the law and to enjoy equal social treatment. Islam (Submission) stresses the equality of mankind as God created man from a common source and the only allegiance and obedience is to God, the Almighty creator. Islam has never condoned any form of discrimination. The only thing that sets men apart is their righteousness.[49:13] ”O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant.”
Slavery has been gradually abolished by Islam, it did not come by decree or injunction but rather in the form of total management principles which were applied during the early periods of Islam and still applicable today if necessary.
Slavery has long been practiced before the coming of Islam (Submission). In the pre-Islamic Egyptian, Jewish, Greek and Roman societies, slavery was in full use in different aspects. Aristotle subscribed to the idea that men were born not to be equal as some will become master due to their superior brain power and intellectual capacity while others will become slaves.
The approach taken by Islam (Submission) is full of wisdom and at the same time provides a package of pro-active measures to eliminate this practice. It is a gradual but effective approach which combines several affirmative measures. The main strategy is:
To narrow down the sources of slavery with a view to eliminating it all-together; and
OPENING a wide avenue for slaves to gain independence.
People became slaves because of criminal actions, unpaid debts, gambling, kidnapping, piracy, irresponsible parents who sold their children into slavery, being descendants of slaves, prisoners of war and voluntary submission to be a slave in order to get out from the miseries of life such as acute poverty. These were effectively reduced by Islam.
The provision of slavery through wars was no longer important after the Islamic civilization redefined the mode of interaction between nations — from power struggle to peaceful and productive coexistence. Indirectly but effectively Islam has closed this source of slavery.
Islam (Submission) opened all the doors to free the slaves by setting up rules which greatly facilitated the emancipation of slaves:
The initiative of Islam in promoting independence for slaves was carried out in the following ways:
(1) Encouraging the masters and the Muslim societies at large to help in freeing the slaves. The act of freeing the slave is considered a noble one which is highly valued by God. The slaves themselves entered into an agreement with the master to buy their independence by paying certain amounts of money. The society was encouraged to help in providing the freedom money.[24:33] “Those who cannot afford to get married shall maintain morality until GOD provides for them from His grace. Those among your servants who wish to be freed in order to marry, you shall grant them their wish, once you realize that they are honest. And give them from GOD’s money that He has bestowed upon you. ………”
(2) Making the act of freeing the slave a part of punishment for any criminal act as well as for non-conformity of the Islamic rituals. There are several verses in the Holy Quran which specifically mentioned the requirement of freeing the slave as a way of meeting the punishment for wrongdoing. See 4:92, 5:89 and 58:3
(3) Using Charity money as a financial source to free the slave.[9:60] Charities shall go to the poor, the needy, the workers who collect them, the new converts, to free the slaves, to those burdened by sudden expenses, in the cause of GOD, and to the traveling alien. Such is GOD’s commandment. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise. [2:177] “Righteousness is not turning your faces towards the east or the west. Righteous are those who believe in GOD, the Last Day, the angels, the scripture, and the prophets; and they give the money, cheerfully, to the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the traveling alien, the beggars, and to free the slaves; and they observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat); and they keep their word whenever they make a promise; and they steadfastly persevere in the face of persecution, hardship, and war. These are the truthful; these are the righteous.” [90:10-13] Did we not show him the two paths? He should choose the difficult path. Which one is the difficult path? The freeing of slaves.
Finally we can say that Islam found the slavery system already existing and put forward a plan to abolish it.
No slaves or Free the slaves:
Some people question why God in the Quran did not prohibit slavery and instead commanded and rewarded the freeing of the slaves.
God, The Almighty, knows that slavery is a social disease that will persist as long as humans are present on earth. If the order in the Quran is to prohibit slavery, it would be a noble command but since ONLY the believers in the Quran would be the ones following the Quran, the command would not help slavery outside Islam (Submission.) Every Muslim would then free his slaves and remind the other Muslims not to have slaves any more and their duty stop at that. The command in the Quran to FREE THE SLAVES, does not stop at the Muslims or Islam but extend to all the slaves wherever they are. A muslim (Submitter) would therefore free any slaves he might have had and after that turns to any other slaves in any location and of any religion to free, as commanded by God in the Quran. In other words, the command to free the slaves is far more reaching and far more effective than the mere order to stop having slaves.
Van Denburg, a non-Muslim historian says, ”Many regulations have been made by Islam, showing how noble was the feeling of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers towards slaves. In those regulations, we find that the merits of Islam are contrary to all the systems used until recently by nations, who claim to be most civilized and developed.”
Islam never became a force nor a party that promoted and condoned slavery. A balanced analysis of this issue would recognize the wisdom of Islam in managing the heinous practice of slavery and effectively putting an end to it.
To view the position of Today’s Christianity on Slavery, click here