Marching Towards Freedom
With the Prophet (pbuh), the slave was no longer ‘a thing’ but a human being with a human soul just like his master. Previous nations regarded slaves as a different race from free people, created to be enslaved and subjugated. They had no qualms about killing, torturing, burning, or subjecting them to inhumane conditions of forced labor.1 The Prophet (Pbuh) started the process of retrieval of the exploited and abused humanity of slaves by securing their most essential rights and, ultimately, their freedom, saying,
“For the slave (man or woman) is his food and clothing, and from work he should only be charged with what he can bear.”2
Side by side, the masters gradually developed in their faith and values to regard their slaves as a soul equal to them in rights, and perhaps superior to them in piety and more honorable in the Sight of Allah. Mu‘adh bin Jabl narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Pbuh) said,
“Shall I tell you about the kings of Paradise?” Mu‘adh replied, “Yes.” He (Pbuh) said, “A weak, oppressed person with (only) two rags who is totally unheeded, if he takes an oath by Allah, He (Allah) fulfills it.”3 During this transitional process of treating and gradually eliminating this deeply-rooted social illness the Prophet (Pbuh) protected the community from falling into anarchy by preventing forced attainment of freedom through escape. He (Pbuh) said, “If the slave flees, his Salah shall not be accepted.”4
Hence, loyalty and discharge of duty was demanded towards the masters; the Prophet (Pbuh) said, “If the slave is loyal to his master and worships Allah well, he shall have his reward twice over.”5 And, “Any slave who fulfills the Right of Allah and the right of his masters shall have a double reward.”6 The task, which was indeed heavy upon slaves, was lightened by the promise of double reward and further consolatory words of the Prophet (Pbuh), who said, “To the righteous Mamluke (owned) slave a double reward. By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, were it not for Jihad in the Way of Allah, Hajj (pilgrimage), and piety towards my mother, I would have loved to die a Mamluke.”7
- Muhammad Qutb, Shubuhat Hawl Al-lslam: Islam and Slavery, p. 42.
- Abu Hurairah, Sahih Muslim, Book of Iman, Hadith no. 3141.
- Sunan Ibn Majah, Book of Az-Zuhd, Hadith no. 4105.
- Jarir bin ‘Abdullah, Sahih Muslim, Book of Iman, Hadith no. 103.
- Ibn ‘Umar, Sahih Muslim, Book of Iman, Hadith no. 3143.
- Abu Musa Al-Ash‘ary: Sahih Al-Bukhary, Book of Al-‘Atq, Hadith no. 2361.
- Abu Hurairah, Sahih Al-Bukhary, Book of Al-‘Atq, Hadith no. 2362.