The Prophet (Pbuh) started with kind treatment that realized freedom from within. Nothing can restore equilibrium and dignity to a distorted soul better than good treatment, whereby a man senses his worth as a human being and redeems his self-respect. Only then he can savor the taste of freedom.
The surrounding circumstances under which man lives are the ones responsible for adapting his feelings and molding his emotions and psychology.
The psychological entity of a slave differs from that of a free person. Not because he is a different race, as ignorant people have thought, but because his life under permanent slavery causes the adaptation of his psychological system to such circumstances. Consequently, the system of obedience grows to its maximum, whereas the system of independence and responsibility for one’s actions are atrophied to the minimum.
A slave can perform many things well when his master commands him to do them; all he has to do is to obey and fulfill the command. But he does not act well when it is something he should be responsible for – even if it is a simple matter. This is not because his body fails to do it or his mind is unable to understand it, but because his soul cannot bear its consequences. He starts to see in it unreal perils or unsolvable obstacles, and so runs away from it to keep himself away from troubles.
This psychological adaptation to slavery within slaves, which originates from external circumstances, is truly what enslaves them. With Islam, the slave starts to break free from it and becomes independent, like a branch hanging down towards the earth; it starts to stretch its own roots and separates from the origin.
This psychological adaptation cannot be wiped by a state proclamation abolishing slavery. It must be changed from within, through new circumstances that adapt one’s feelings differently, develop the atrophied systems inside the slave’s soul, and shape a normal human entity out of the deformed and distorted one, which is exactly what Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) did.
- Muhammad Qutb, Shubuhat Hawl Al-lslam: Islam and Slavery, pp. 47-49.