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Slavery and its abolition in the light of the Quran


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Zeynab
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« on: October 02, 2006, 03:22:00 am »

It's a widespread misconception with persons having scant knowledge of history and a cursory reading of the Quran that slavery is a Quranic dictate or that islam introduced slavery or was complacent about it.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Freeing a slave is one of the penalties mentioned in the Noble Quran for various offences.  It's about culture and society, not religion.  Also, it's time related not race related.  Islam disapproved of idol worship, and it disapproved of slavery too.  Both idolatry and slavery had to be abolished but with different apporaches.  The object of the Quran was not to bring about a bloody revolution in society.  Therefore it did not encourage an overnight abolition of slavery in a society where this system had been rife for centuries as that could carry grave risks of  lawlessness, insecurity and revenge with people going on a rampage with their newly found freedom, and being eventually pushed away into ghettos. Therefore, Islam strongly encouraged teaching and educating slaves, and whenever the master / mistress were  confident that their slaves were ready to lead independent lives, he or she must set them free by giving them a sum of money to start their lives.

And such of your slaves as seek a writing (of emancipation), write it for them if ye are aware of aught of good in them, and bestow upon them of the wealth of Allah which He hath bestowed upon you.  (24:33)

The Prophet never had a single slave in his household.  Though several of his companions were former slaves in Makkah, they were all freed as Muslims when they came to Medina.  The Prophet became the guardian of Zaid who was a slave, freed him right away and arranged his marriage with his own first cousin.  He also paid a heavy dowry for Zaid so that he would experience no social discriminations.  Unfortunately this marriage didn't last for more than a few years because of the couple's incompatibility.
 
As we know, it took 23 years to abolish idol worship from the Arabian peninsula.  It also took a lot of hard work, patience and perseverance on the part of the Prophet (SAAW) and his small band of followers.  By that time slavery also became much less rampant in that society compared to 20 years earlier.  Those slaves who were freed during these 23 years (and there were many who were freed) led decent lives because of the education and money that were provided to them by their former masters to begin their new lives.  This system of freeing slaves promoted a peaceful transition, avoiding any risks of anarchy and revenge. 
 
Also, as the Quran has highlighted in various chapters, there were many stringent rules imposed on the masters for taking care of their slaves during this transitional period.  Prior to this, in Arabia and everywhere else, slaves were no different than a piece of property .. of course we all know this.  And definitely no one ever thought of educating their slaves, much less treating them like equals with the view of emacipating them in future.  Even such a  concept never existed outside the sphere of Islam. 
 
As the culture of slavery has now been officially abolished from the world which was one of the goals of Islam, everything about slaves as mentioned in the Quran would no longer be applicable in the light of the Quranic laws.  This is because whatever the Quran mentions on slavery is within the social context of that period when it was in the process of being abolished.  That has now been achieved.  We are not re-introduce it.


JazekAllah Khair
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« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2006, 03:26:33 am »

Great!  and very useful information.

this takes me back to our IM discussion sometime ago.  knowledge of history is quite indispensible to understand the Quran thoroughly. 
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« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2006, 03:39:48 am »

zaid was married to zeinab bint jahsh who later after her divorce became a wife of the prophet  proem
some western authors have written big lies about the story of zeinab and zaid.  nauzbillah - they write that the prophet told zaid to divorce her so that he could marry zeinab.  i don't know how they cooked up this malacious lie.  the truth was just the opposite.  the prophet had known zeinab since she was a child because she was his first cousin.  and in fact, the prophet was the one who had arranged zeinab's marriage with zaid even though zeinab and her family wanted the prophet to marry her.  zeinab and zaid found themselves very incompatible.  when the prophet heard of this, he was upset and tried his best to help them reconcile.  but he didn't succeed.  zeinab later married the prophet much after her divorce with zaid. 

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« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2007, 02:44:54 am »

Very true TS.  Many thanks for this useful clarification.
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« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2007, 05:10:33 pm »

Recently in the 'Special Folder' of Islamonline.Net, there was a detailed talk on this topic by Dr. Jamal Badawi. 

The "Living Shariah" staff of IOL writes:[/i]

The word "slavery" evokes many bitter feelings and recalls a long history of brutal practices and inhuman treatment afflicted on poor slaves who were victims of the worst in the human nature. The brutality of the Romans towards slaves is a shame that can never be forgotten.

What is Islam's stand on slavery?

Islam adopted a unique yet practical attitude towards this problem. First of all, it recognizes freedom as a genuine right to every human being. When Islam came, slavery was a deeply rooted social system; and to eradicate it all at once was impractical and impossible. So, Islam adopted a gradual but effective plan of liberation. It almost dried out sources of slavery, disallowing the then prevalent practices of aggression against others or invading weaker nations to take their people as  slaves; such practices were responsible for enslaving and abusing millions of helpless Africans and putting them to horrible sufferings two centuries ago.

Islam took further steps in the way of liberating slaves; it liberated them spiritually and psychologically: Islam put them on equal footing with their masters, commanded kind and merciful treatment to them, prohibited hurting, abusing, or even overburdening them, and allowed them to seek freedom through arranging with their masters. In addition, Islam opened the door wide for freeing slaves, making it one of the most recommended and rewardable acts. It even made freeing slaves an expiation for many sins.

Now that all nations have agreed to stop this system and stand up against it, Islam is the first to welcome such an agreement and to endorse it. In fact, Islam has been eager to such a step for long and seized every opportunity to reach it.

To know more about Islam's stance on slavery and its scheme to do away with it, listen to Dr. Jamal Badawi, member of the Fiqh Council of North America and the European Council for Fatwa and Research:
 
Click this URL, then scroll down for the audio links.
http://www.islamonline.net/English/In_Depth/ShariahAndHumanity/articles/2007/04/01.shtml

I haven't heard all the audios. 


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