Saturday, February 09, 2013

Prophet Muhammad's Views On Slavery

Islam and Slavery:

In Sharia (Islamic law), the topic of Islam and slavery is covered at great length. The legal legislations brought two major changes to the practice of slavery inherited from antiquity, from Ancient Rome, and from the Byzantine Empire, which were to have far-reaching effects. 

The Qur'an considers emancipation of a slave to be a highly meritorious deed, or as a condition of repentance for many sins. The Qur'an and Hadith contain numerous passages supporting this view.  In chapter 2 , verse 177, God says most emphatically:

“ It is not righteous that ye turn your faces towards east or west; but it is righteousness - to believe in God and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for you kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and to practice regular charity, to fulfil the contracts which ye have made and to be firm and patient. Such are the people of truth and God-fearing”.

People Personally Freed By Prophet Muhammad:

Muhammad encouraged manumission of slaves, even if one had to purchase them first. Traditional biographies of Muhammad give many examples where Muhammad's companions, at his direction, freed slaves in abundance. Abul Ala Maududi reports that Muhammad freed as many as 63 slaves. Meer Ismail, a medieval historian, writes in Buloogh al Muram that his household and friends freed 39,237 slaves.

It was a practice and tradition of Muhammad to release from captivity those females who would face the risk of being disgraced or humiliated as a result of being held as captives or slaves, and those who came from respected backgrounds that were known for their philanthropic contributions to the general masses, regardless if their charitable deeds benefited Muslims or non-Muslims.

During the lifetime of Muhammad, the tribe of Tayy that lived to the northeast of the city of Medina, engaged in banditry and highway robbery, and came in conflict with the Muslims of Medina, which led to battles between them that led to the Tayy's defeat, and the subsequent captivity of some of their tribes folk.

Abū Ḥāmed Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad Ghazālī narrated in his Ihya' ulum al-din (Ihya'e UlumuddinThe Revival of Religious Sciences), that when the daughter of Hatim al-Tai, Safana bint Hatem, was taken as a captive, she came to Muhammad asking for her release, and not to be made a subject of humiliation amongst the various Arab quarters, as her father, Hatim al-Tai, was a person who used to aid the needy, feed the hungry, spread greetings, free slaves, and never refused an assisting request; to which Muhammad replied that these described qualities of her father are those of the believers, and if her father was a Muslim then indeed he would have asked for (Divine) mercy on him. He then asked his companions to release her stating that her father loved the noble-character, and God loves the noble-character. The Prophet said: “Whoever frees a slave, Allah will save all the parts of his body from the Fire, as he has freed the body-parts of the slave.” (Bukhari, vol 3, hadith no. 693)

Female Slaves

  • Safiyya bint Huyayy, according to Islamic accounts she adopted Islam and became a wife of Muhammad. She lived more than a decade after him as a widow and became involved in the first power politics of the early Muslim community and left a large inheritance to her Jewish family.
  • Maria al-Qibtiyya, a Coptic slave given to Muhammad by Muqawqis, a Byzantine official. She gave birth to Ibrahim ibn Muhammad whom Muhammad loved dearly. Some sources indicate that she was freed and became Muhammad's wife.
  • Rayhana, captured after siege of Banu Qurayza.

Male Slaves

  • Zayd ibn Harithah, was freed to become Muhammad's adopted son, until adoption was replaced with guardianship in Islam, upon which Muhammad became his guardian.

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