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Slavery In Islam

Disclaimer: This topic is subject to editing and continuation. There will be more added on this topic in deeper details in the near future.

Slavery existed before Islam. Slaves were considered property and were being bought, sold, and captured. Islamic slavery acknowledged the humanity of slaves, commanding them to be treated with honor, respect, and love as if they were family, elevating their status in society, giving them rights, and providing several means to gain their freedom.

Pharaoh is a good example of what Islam is against as a whole in terms of slavery. One of his major sins was enslaving and conquering the Israelites:

وَتِلكَ نِعمَةٌ تَمُنُّها عَلَيَّ أَن عَبَّدتَ بَني إِسرائيلَ

(Quran 26:22)- Moses saidHow can that be a ‘favour,’ of which you remind me, when ˹it was only because˺ you ˹have˺ enslaved the Children of Israel?”

وَقالَ المَلَأُ مِن قَومِ فِرعَونَ أَتَذَرُ موسىٰ وَقَومَهُ لِيُفسِدوا فِي الأَرضِ وَيَذَرَكَ وَآلِهَتَكَ ۚ قالَ سَنُقَتِّلُ أَبناءَهُم وَنَستَحيي نِساءَهُم وَإِنّا فَوقَهُم قاهِرونَ

(Quran 7:127)- “The chiefs of Pharaoh’s people protested, “Are you going to leave Moses and his people free to spread corruption in the land and abandon you and your gods?” Pharaoh responded, “We will kill their sons and keep their women. We will completely dominate them.”

فَقالوا أَنُؤمِنُ لِبَشَرَينِ مِثلِنا وَقَومُهُما لَنا عابِدونَ

(Quran 23:47)- They argued, “Will we believe in two humans, like ourselves, whose people are slaves to us?”

Quran 26:22, Quran 7:127, Quran 23:47

Allah spoke against Israelites who were guilty of enslaving people in the same way Pharaoh had done to them:

وَإِذ أَخَذنا ميثاقَكُم لا تَسفِكونَ دِماءَكُم وَلا تُخرِجونَ أَنفُسَكُم مِن دِيارِكُم ثُمَّ أَقرَرتُم وَأَنتُم تَشهَدونَثُمَّ أَنتُم هٰؤُلاءِ تَقتُلونَ أَنفُسَكُم وَتُخرِجونَ فَريقًا مِنكُم مِن دِيارِهِم تَظاهَرونَ عَلَيهِم بِالإِثمِ وَالعُدوانِ وَإِن يَأتوكُم أُسارىٰ تُفادوهُم وَهُوَ مُحَرَّمٌ عَلَيكُم إِخراجُهُم ۚ أَفَتُؤمِنونَ بِبَعضِ الكِتابِ وَتَكفُرونَ بِبَعضٍ ۚ فَما جَزاءُ مَن يَفعَلُ ذٰلِكَ مِنكُم إِلّا خِزيٌ فِي الحَياةِ الدُّنيا ۖ وَيَومَ القِيامَةِ يُرَدّونَ إِلىٰ أَشَدِّ العَذابِ ۗ وَمَا اللَّهُ بِغافِلٍ عَمّا تَعمَلونَ

And ˹remember˺ when We took your covenant that you would neither shed each other’s blood nor expel each other from their homes, you gave your pledge and bore witness. But here you are, killing each other and expelling some of your people from their homes, aiding one another in sin and aggression; and when those ˹expelled˺ come to you as captives, you still ransom them—through expelling them was unlawful for you. Do you believe in some of the Scripture and reject the rest? Is there any reward for those who do so among you other than disgrace in this worldly life and being subjected to the harshest punishment on the Day of Judgment? For Allah is never unaware of what you do.

Quran 2:84-85

The prophet peace be upon him explained that slaves were not to be mistreated, they were to be cared for, as they were elevated to the status of servants. In Islam, you treated those servants how you would want to be treated: 

حَدَّثَنَا سُلَيْمَانُ بْنُ حَرْبٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ وَاصِلٍ الأَحْدَبِ، عَنِ الْمَعْرُورِ، قَالَ لَقِيتُ أَبَا ذَرٍّ بِالرَّبَذَةِ، وَعَلَيْهِ حُلَّةٌ، وَعَلَى غُلاَمِهِ حُلَّةٌ، فَسَأَلْتُهُ عَنْ ذَلِكَ، فَقَالَ إِنِّي سَابَبْتُ رَجُلاً، فَعَيَّرْتُهُ بِأُمِّهِ، فَقَالَ لِيَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ يَا أَبَا ذَرٍّ أَعَيَّرْتَهُ بِأُمِّهِ إِنَّكَ امْرُؤٌ فِيكَ جَاهِلِيَّةٌ، إِخْوَانُكُمْ خَوَلُكُمْ، جَعَلَهُمُ اللَّهُ تَحْتَ أَيْدِيكُمْ، فَمَنْ كَانَ أَخُوهُ تَحْتَ يَدِهِ فَلْيُطْعِمْهُ مِمَّا يَأْكُلُ، وَلْيُلْبِسْهُ مِمَّا يَلْبَسُ، وَلاَ تُكَلِّفُوهُمْ مَا يَغْلِبُهُمْ، فَإِنْ كَلَّفْتُمُوهُمْ فَأَعِينُوهُمْ ‏”‏‏.‏

At Ar-Rabadha I met Abu Dhar who was wearing a cloak, and his slave, too, was wearing a similar one. I asked about the reason for it. He replied, “I abused a person by calling his mother with bad names.” The Prophet said to me, ‘O Abu Dhar! Did you abuse him by calling his mother with bad names You still have some characteristics of ignorance. Your slaves are your brothers and Allah has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity (power) and if you do so, then help them.’ “

Sahih al-Bukhari 30

حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ أَيُّوبَ، وَقُتَيْبَةُ، وَابْنُ، حُجْرٍ قَالُوا حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ، – وَهُوَ ابْنُ جَعْفَرٍ – عَنِ الْعَلاَءِ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ لاَ يَقُولَنَّ أَحَدُكُمْ عَبْدِي وَأَمَتِي ‏.‏ كُلُّكُمْ عَبِيدُ اللَّهِ وَكُلُّ نِسَائِكُمْ إِمَاءُ اللَّهِ وَلَكِنْ لِيَقُلْ غُلاَمِي وَجَارِيَتِي وَفَتَاىَ وَفَتَاتِي ‏”‏ ‏.‏

None of you should say: My bondman and my slave-girl, for all of you are the bondmen of Allah, and all your women are the slave-girls of Allah; but say: My servant, my girl, and my young man and my young girl.

وَحَدَّثَنِي زُهَيْرُ بْنُ حَرْبٍ، حَدَّثَنَا جَرِيرٌ، عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ، عَنْ أَبِي صَالِحٍ، عَنْ أَبِي، هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ لاَ يَقُولَنَّ أَحَدُكُمْ عَبْدِي ‏.‏ فَكُلُّكُمْ عَبِيدُ اللَّهِ وَلَكِنْ لِيَقُلْ فَتَاىَ ‏.‏ وَلاَ يَقُلِ الْعَبْدُ رَبِّي ‏.‏ وَلَكِنْ لِيَقُلْ سَيِّدِي ‏”‏ ‏.‏

None of you should say: My bondman, for all of you are the bondmen of Allah, but say: My young man, and the servant should not say: My Lord, but should say: My chief.

 Sahih Muslim 2249a, Sahih Muslim 2249b

Even the servants of the Prophet had nothing bad to say about him. If they were mistreated wouldn’t it make sense that they’d report it, and explain his mistreatment towards them?:

حَدَّثَنَا سُلَيْمَانُ بْنُ حَرْبٍ، قَالَ‏:‏ حَدَّثَنَا حَمَّادُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ، وَسُلَيْمَانُ بْنُ الْمُغِيرَةِ، عَنْ ثَابِتٍ، عَنْ أَنَسٍ قَالَ‏:‏ خَدَمْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَشْرَ سِنِينَ، فَمَا قَالَ لِي‏:‏ أُفٍّ، قَطُّ، وَمَا قَالَ لِي لِشَيْءٍ لَمْ أَفْعَلْهُ‏:‏ أَلاَ كُنْتَ فَعَلْتَهُ‏؟‏ وَلاَ لِشَيْءٍ فَعَلْتُهُ‏:‏ لِمَ فَعَلْتَهُ‏؟‏‏.‏

Anas said, “I served the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, for ten years. He never said ‘uff’ to me and he never questioned me about anything I had not done, asking, ‘Why didn’t you do it?’ or questioned me about something I had done, asking ‘Why did you do that?'”

 Al-Adab Al-Mufrad Book 14, Hadith 277

حَدَّثَنَا نَصْرُ بْنُ عَلِيٍّ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الصَّمَدِ، وَسَلْمُ بْنُ قُتَيْبَةَ، قَالاَ حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ زَيْدٍ، عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ إِنْ كَانَتِ الأَمَةُ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْمَدِينَةِ لَتَأْخُذُ بِيَدِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ فَمَا يَنْزِعُ يَدَهُ مِنْ يَدِهَا حَتَّى تَذْهَبَ بِهِ حَيْثُ شَاءَتْ مِنَ الْمَدِينَةِ فِي حَاجَتِهَا ‏.‏

“If a female slave among the people of Al-Madinah were to take the hand of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), he would not take his hand away from hers until she had taken him wherever she wanted in Al-Madinah so that her needs may be met.”

Sunan Ibn Majah 4177

This shows the good treatment of the servants and proves that this idea of Islamic slavery is not a bad thing. Besides the good treatment of the servants, Islam also encouraged the freeing of slaves through many different means: 

فَلَا اقتَحَمَ العَقَبَةَوَما أَدراكَ مَا العَقَبَةُفَكُّ رَقَبَةٍأَو إِطعامٌ في يَومٍ ذي مَسغَبَةٍيَتيمًا ذا مَقرَبَةٍأَو مِسكينًا ذا مَترَبَةٍثُمَّ كانَ مِنَ الَّذينَ آمَنوا وَتَواصَوا بِالصَّبرِ وَتَواصَوا بِالمَرحَمَةِأُولٰئِكَ أَصحابُ المَيمَنَةِ

If only they had attempted the challenging path ˹of goodness instead˺! And what will make you realize what ˹attempting˺ the challenging path is? It is to free a slave, or to give food in times of famine to an orphaned relative or to a poor person in distress, and—above all—to be one of those who have faith and urge each other to perseverance and urge each other to compassion. These are the people of the right.

Quran 90:11-18

وعن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه قال‏:‏ قال لي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏:‏ ‏ “‏من أعتق رقبة مسلمة أعتق الله بكل عضو منه عضوًا منه من النار حتى فرجه بفرجه‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏متفق عليه‏)‏‏)‏

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “He who sets free a Muslim slave, Allah will deliver from the fire of Hell every limb of his body in return for every limb of the slave’s body, even his private parts.”

Riyad as-Salihin 1358

حَدَّثَنَا قُتَيْبَةُ بْنُ سَعِيدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو عَوَانَةَ، عَنْ مَنْصُورٍ، عَنْ أَبِي وَائِلٍ، عَنْ أَبِي مُوسَى الأَشْعَرِيِّ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ أَطْعِمُوا الْجَائِعَ، وَعُودُوا الْمَرِيضَ، وَفُكُّوا الْعَانِيَ ‏”‏‏.‏

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Feed the hungry, visit the sick, and set free the captives.”

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ كَثِيرٍ، أَخْبَرَنَا سُفْيَانُ، عَنْ مَنْصُورٍ، عَنْ أَبِي وَائِلٍ، عَنْ أَبِي مُوسَى الأَشْعَرِي ِّ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ أَطْعِمُوا الْجَائِعَ، وَعُودُوا الْمَرِيضَ، وَفُكُّوا الْعَانِيَ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالَ سُفْيَانُ وَالْعَانِي الأَسِيرُ‏.‏

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom).

Sahih al-Bukhari 5649, Sahih al-Bukhari 5373

حَدَّثَنِي مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ رَافِعٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّزَّاقِ، أَخْبَرَنَا ابْنُ جُرَيْجٍ، حَدَّثَنِي ابْنُ شِهَابٍ، عَنْ حُمَيْدِ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، أَنَّ أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ، حَدَّثَهُ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَمَرَ رَجُلاً أَفْطَرَ فِي رَمَضَانَ أَنْ يُعْتِقَ رَقَبَةً أَوْ يَصُومَ شَهْرَيْنِ أَوْ يُطْعِمَ سِتِّينَ مِسْكِينًا ‏.‏

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) commanded the person (who) broke the fast in Ramadan to free a slave or observe fasts for two (consecutive) months or feed sixty poor persons.

Sahih Muslim 1111e

حَدَّثَنَا مُوسَى بْنُ إِسْمَاعِيلَ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الْوَاحِدِ، حَدَّثَنَا صَالِحُ بْنُ صَالِحٍ الْهَمْدَانِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا الشَّعْبِيُّ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي أَبُو بُرْدَةَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ أَيُّمَا رَجُلٍ كَانَتْ عِنْدَهُ وَلِيدَةٌ فَعَلَّمَهَا فَأَحْسَنَ تَعْلِيمَهَا، وَأَدَّبَهَا فَأَحْسَنَ تَأْدِيبَهَا، ثُمَّ أَعْتَقَهَا وَتَزَوَّجَهَا فَلَهُ أَجْرَانِ، وَأَيُّمَا رَجُلٍ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ آمَنَ بِنَبِيِّهِ وَآمَنَ بِي فَلَهُ أَجْرَانِ، وَأَيُّمَا مَمْلُوكٍ أَدَّى حَقَّ مَوَالِيهِ وَحَقَّ رَبِّهِ فَلَهُ أَجْرَانِ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالَ الشَّعْبِيُّ خُذْهَا بِغَيْرِ شَىْءٍ قَدْ كَانَ الرَّجُلُ يَرْحَلُ فِيمَا دُونَهُ إِلَى الْمَدِينَةِ‏.‏ وَقَالَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ عَنْ أَبِي حَصِينٍ عَنْ أَبِي بُرْدَةَ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ أَعْتَقَهَا ثُمَّ أَصْدَقَهَا ‏”‏‏.‏

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, any man who has a slave girl whom he educates properly, teaches good manners, manumits and marries her, will get a double reward And if any man of the people of the Scriptures believes in his own prophet and then believes in me too, he will (also) get a double reward And any slave who fulfills his duty to his master and to his Lord, will (also) get a double reward.”

Sahih al-Bukhari 5083

حَدَّثَنَا مُوسَى بْنُ مَسْعُودٍ، حَدَّثَنَا زَائِدَةُ بْنُ قُدَامَةَ، عَنْ هِشَامِ بْنِ عُرْوَةَ، عَنْ فَاطِمَةَ بِنْتِ الْمُنْذِرِ، عَنْ أَسْمَاءَ بِنْتِ أَبِي بَكْرٍ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ قَالَتْ أَمَرَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم بِالْعَتَاقَةِ فِي كُسُوفِ الشَّمْسِ‏.‏ تَابَعَهُ عَلِيٌّ عَنِ الدَّرَاوَرْدِيِّ عَنْ هِشَامٍ‏.‏

The Prophet (ﷺ) ordered us to free slaves at the time of solar eclipses.

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ أَبِي بَكْرٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَثَّامٌ، حَدَّثَنَا هِشَامٌ، عَنْ فَاطِمَةَ بِنْتِ الْمُنْذِرِ، عَنْ أَسْمَاءَ بِنْتِ أَبِي بَكْرٍ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ قَالَتْ كُنَّا نُؤْمَرُ عِنْدَ الْخُسُوفِ بِالْعَتَاقَةِ‏.‏

We were ordered to free slaves at the time of lunar eclipses.

Sahih al-Bukhari 2519, Sahih al-Bukhari 2520

If a servant was to ask to be set free, then the owner would be obligated to set that person free through terms the owner would set:

وَليَستَعفِفِ الَّذينَ لا يَجِدونَ نِكاحًا حَتّىٰ يُغنِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ مِن فَضلِهِ ۗ وَالَّذينَ يَبتَغونَ الكِتابَ مِمّا مَلَكَت أَيمانُكُم فَكاتِبوهُم إِن عَلِمتُم فيهِم خَيرًا ۖ وَآتوهُم مِن مالِ اللَّهِ الَّذي آتاكُم ۚ وَلا تُكرِهوا فَتَياتِكُم عَلَى البِغاءِ إِن أَرَدنَ تَحَصُّنًا لِتَبتَغوا عَرَضَ الحَياةِ الدُّنيا ۚ وَمَن يُكرِههُنَّ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ مِن بَعدِ إِكراهِهِنَّ غَفورٌ رَحيمٌ

And let those who do not have the means to marry keep themselves chaste until Allah enriches them out of His bounty. And if any of those ˹bondspeople˺ in your possession desire a deed of emancipation, make it possible for them, if you find goodness in them. And give them some of Allah’s wealth which He has granted you. Do not force your ˹slave˺ girls into prostitution for your own worldly gains while they wish to remain chaste. And if someone coerces them, then after such a coercion Allah is certainly All-Forgiving, Most Merciful ˹to them˺.

Quran 24:33

It was not ok to strike your servants either, and was looked down upon by the Prophet peace be upon him who never hit a servant:

وعنها قالت‏:‏ ما ضرب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم شيئاً قط بيده، ولا امرأة ولا خادماً، إلا أن يجاهد في سبيل الله، وما نيل منه شئ قط فينتقم من صاحبه، إلا أن ينتهك شئ من محارم الله تعالى، فينتقم لله تعالى‏.‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه مسلم‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) never hit anything with his hand neither a servant nor a woman but of course, he did fight in the Cause of Allah. He never took revenge upon anyone for the wrong done to him, but of course, he exacted retribution for the sake of Allah in case the Injunctions of Allah about unlawful acts were violated.

Riyad as-Salihin 643

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو بَكْرِ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ، وَمُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ نُمَيْرٍ، – وَاللَّفْظُ لأَبِي بَكْرٍ – قَالاَ حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ إِدْرِيسَ، عَنْ حُصَيْنٍ، عَنْ هِلاَلِ بْنِ يَسَافٍ، قَالَ عَجِلَ شَيْخٌ فَلَطَمَ خَادِمًا لَهُ فَقَالَ لَهُ سُوَيْدُ بْنُ مُقَرِّنٍ عَجَزَ عَلَيْكَ إِلاَّ حُرُّ وَجْهِهَا لَقَدْ رَأَيْتُنِي سَابِعَ سَبْعَةٍ مِنْ بَنِي مُقَرِّنٍ مَا لَنَا خَادِمٌ إِلاَّ وَاحِدَةٌ لَطَمَهَا أَصْغَرُنَا فَأَمَرَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنْ نُعْتِقَهَا ‏.‏

Hilal b. Yasaf reported that a person got angry and slapped his slave girl. Thereupon Suwaid b. Muqarrin said to him: You could find no other part (to slap) but the prominent part of her face. See I was one of the seven sons of Muqarrin, and we had but only one slave-girl. The youngest of us slapped her, and Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) commanded us to set her free

Sahih Muslim 1658b

Concubinage existed in the past, and wasn’t introduced by Islam. The Prophet peace be upon him instituted many practices that were intended to remove slavery and concubinage over time from society, including legal protections for concubines from rape, sex crimes, and abusive men.

Do not force your slave-girls into prostitution, when they themselves wish to remain honorable, in your quest for the short-term gains of this world, although, if they are forced, God will be forgiving and merciful to them. 

Quran 24:33

And do not compel your slave-girls, your handmaidens, to prostitution, fornication, when they desire to be chaste, to abstain therefrom (this ‘desire’ is the cause of the [act of] ‘compulsion’, so that the statement is not properly a conditional), that you may seek, through such compulsion, the transient things of the life of this world 

Tafsir Al-Jalalayn 24:33

حَدَّثَنَا مُسْلِمُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ جُحَادَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي حَازِمٍ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ نَهَى النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنْ كَسْبِ الإِمَاءِ‏.‏

The Prophet (ﷺ) prohibited the earnings of slave girls (through prostitution).

حَدَّثَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ الْجَعْدِ، أَخْبَرَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ جُحَادَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي حَازِمٍ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، نَهَى النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنْ كَسْبِ الإِمَاءِ‏.‏

The Prophet (ﷺ) forbade taking the earnings of a slave girl by prostitution.

Sahih al-Bukhari 2283, Sahih al-Bukhari 5348

وَحَدَّثَنِي مَالِكٌ، أَنَّهُ بَلَغَهُ أَنَّ عُمَرَ بْنَ الْخَطَّابِ، أَتَتْهُ وَلِيدَةٌ قَدْ ضَرَبَهَا سَيِّدُهَا بِنَارٍ أَوْ أَصَابَهَا بِهَا فَأَعْتَقَهَا ‏.‏ قَالَ مَالِكٌ الأَمْرُ الْمُجْتَمَعُ عَلَيْهِ عِنْدَنَا أَنَّهُ لاَ تَجُوزُ عَتَاقَةُ رَجُلٍ وَعَلَيْهِ دَيْنٌ يُحِيطُ بِمَالِهِ وَأَنَّهُ لاَ تَجُوزُ عَتَاقَةُ الْغُلاَمِ حَتَّى يَحْتَلِمَ أَوْ يَبْلُغَ مَبْلَغَ الْمُحْتَلِمِ وَأَنَّهُ لاَ تَجُوزُ عَتَاقَةُ الْمُوَلَّى عَلَيْهِ فِي مَالِهِ وَإِنْ بَلَغَ الْحُلُمَ حَتَّى يَلِيَ مَالَهُ ‏.‏

Malik related to me that he had heard that a slave-girl came to Umar ibn al-Khattab (who had been beaten by her master with a red hot iron) and he set her free.

Muwatta Malik Book 38, Hadith 7

Allah encouraged men to marry their concubines or to give them in marriage to suitable men, increasing their legal status and removing the label as a concubine. Concubinage was discouraged by the encouragement to free and marry them:

وَأَنكِحُوا الأَيامىٰ مِنكُم وَالصّالِحينَ مِن عِبادِكُم وَإِمائِكُم ۚ إِن يَكونوا فُقَراءَ يُغنِهِمُ اللَّهُ مِن فَضلِهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ واسِعٌ عَليمٌ

Marry off the single among you and those of your male and female slaves who are fit [for marriage]. If they are poor, God will provide for them from His bounty: God’s bounty is infinite and He is all-knowing.

Quran 24:32

If they be poor, Allah will enrich them out of His bounty.) `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn `Abbas: “Allah encouraged them to get married, commanded both free men and servants to get married, and He promised to enrich them.”

Tafsir Ibn Kathir 24:32

When we think of the word “Slavery” or “Slave” we associate these terms with the total loss of control over your life as a slave and the dehumanization of others. Patrick Manning estimates that about 12 million slaves entered the Atlantic trade between the 16th and 19th centuries, but about 1.5 million died on board ships. About 10.5 million slaves arrived in the Americas. We think of people being taken out of their homeland to become enslaved in the Americas, beaten to death, or seriously injured over the smallest inconvenience just because their masters think they have the right to do anything, and not treat them as human beings

Forced labor was not uncommon — Africans and Europeans had been trading goods and people across the Mediterranean for centuries — but enslavement had not been based on race. The trans-Atlantic slave trade, which began as early as the 15th century, introduced a system of slavery that was commercialized, racialized and inherited. Enslaved people were seen not as people at all but as commodities to be bought, sold and exploited. Though people of African descent — free and enslaved — were present in North America as early as the 1500s, the sale of the “20 and odd” African people set the course for what would become slavery in the United States.

The New York Times

We would probably never believe that a well-spoken, well-educated man, about to move as soon as he has a job in another place that suits him better, would be considered a “Slave“. It’s hard for us to imagine that this man who lives with a Muslim family, eats the same food they eat, wears nice clothing, and has his room and privacy is a “Slave“. 

In Islam, the definition of “slave” is much different from the western dictionary definition. 

وما خلقت الجن والانس الا ليعبدون

I did not create the Jinns and human beings except for the purpose that they should worship Me.

Quran 51:56

Allah specifically says in that verse that everything created including the Jinn and Mankind is created to worship and submit to him alone. We are all slaves to Allah SWT. Multiple terms are used to define who exactly fits the category of a slave when it comes to the topic of Slavery in Islam.

Al Mamluk – Al Riq – Al A’ama – Milq Al Yamen (Right Hand Possesses) – Jaryah | مملوك – الرِّق – إماء – ملك اليمين – جاريه

They are all terms that are used to describe a slave but they all have different meanings. We will dive deeper into their explanation and origins in Arabic as we continue with this page in the future.

All of the above can only become slaves when they are taken as war captives. Under Shariah, it impermissible for Muslims to kill or injure their slaves, and those who did that faced legal consequences. Slaves have the right to marry other slaves or a “free” person. They have the right to work a job that is fit for them and their physical ability. A Muslim is not allowed to overwork a slave, harm them, hit them, beat them. If a Muslim was to hurt a slave, Allah commands that you immediately set them free. A slave has the right to sign a contract with their owner on conditions to fulfill for them to become free. If a Muslim wants to repent from sin, Allah encourages them to free a slave. If a Muslim wants to become closer to Allah in faith, they are encouraged to free a slave.

The most important difference between Western Slavery and Islamic Slavery is that:

Muslims did not go to other countries, enslave innocent civilians and ship them back to Islamic countries to work as slaves for the rest of their lives. In Islam, one is considered a slave when Muslims are in defensive wars, protecting their land and property. The prisoners of these wars become slaves or war captives, as a result of them losing a war against the Muslim army..

(We will be continuing this in the future!)

5 thoughts on “Slavery In Islam Leave a comment

  1. I haven’t read this yet but am eager too. I only wanted to send a reminder, when we make plans of a future event and bring mention to it we should always say inshallah! Such as the beginning and ends of your post you say this will be updated in the future..

    And never say of anything, “I will definitely do this tomorrow,” without adding, “if Allah so wills!” But if you forget, then remember your Lord, and say, “I trust my Lord will guide me to what is more right than this.”
    Surah Al-Kahf 23-24

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