Islamophobia Episode 6 – How Did Islam Deal with Slavery and Concubines’ Problem
Islam came to liberate all slaves and to end the Judeo-Christian and Pagan slavery that was practiced before Islam.
Islam came to liberate all slaves
It is true that a lot of people push this subject ‘under the rug’ and do not understand it or are sometimes ashamed of this concept. That is because, today’s society and behavior is absolutely different from the conditions prevalent 1500 years ago at the time of Revelation of the Quran. There is no place on earth where this concept is practiced today, thus to really understand the concept in its entirety, we must try to imagine the times of the Revelation of the Glorious Quran.
Since time immemorial, slavery was an accepted practice; thus it was not Islam that started this practice, but rather Islam was the first system to inculcate the freedom of slaves and take steps to make them equal citizens of society. Slavery was abolished in modern society only a couple of centuries ago, and was openly practiced in almost all parts of the civilized world even until the early 1900s. But Islam made it a virtue to free slaves, and inculcate them into society as equal citizens, almost 1500 years ago
The prophet said regarding the rights of slaves:
Your servants and your slaves are your brothers. Anyone who has slaves should give them from what he eats and wears. He should not charge them with work beyond their capabilities. If you must set them to hard work, in any case I advise you to help them.
Source: Bukhari, Iman, 22; Adab, 44; Muslim, Iman, 38–40; Abu Dawud, Adab, 124
Ali reported that the last words of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, were: “The prayer! The prayer! Fear Allah concerning your slaves ! “
Source: Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari , Nr. 158.
· Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah said, “The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, advised that slaves should be well-treated. He said, ‘Feed them from what you eat and clothe them from what you wear. Do not punish what Allah has created.’ “
Source: Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari , Nr. 188.
· Sallam ibn ‘Amr reported from one of the Companions of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Your slaves are your brothers, so treat him well. Ask for their help in what is too much for you and help them in what is too much for them.”
Source: Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari , Nr. 190.
· Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “The slave has his food and clothing. Do not burden a slave with work which he is incapable of doing.”
Source: Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari , Nr. 192.
Not one of you should [ when introducing someone ] say ‘This is my slave’ , ‘This is my concubine’. He should call them ‘my daughter’ or ‘my son’ or ‘my brother’.
Source: Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 2 ,4
For this reason ‘Umar and his servant took it in turns to ride on the camel from Madina to Jerusalem on their journey to take control of Masjid al-Aqsa. While he was the head of the state, ‘Uthman had his servant pull his own ears in front of the people since he had pulled his. Abu Dharr, applying the hadith literally, made his servant wear one half of his suit while he himself wore the other half. From these instances, it was being demonstrated to succeeding generations of Muslims, and a pattern of conduct established, that a slave is fully a human being, not different from other people in his need for respect and dignity and justice.
“The masters were obliged not to put slaves under hardship; slaves were not to be tortured, abused or treated unjustly. They could marry among “themselves with their master’s permission – or with free men or women ! They could appear as witnesses and participate with free men in all “affairs. Many of them were appointed as governors, commanders of army and administrators. In the eyes of Islam, a pious slave has precedence over “an impious free man.” Source: Al-Tabataba’i, Tafsir ( vol.16, pp. 338-358 )
The Prophet, had stipulated in his “last pilgrimage” speech:
“And your slaves ! see that you feed them such food as you eat yourselves and dress them what you yourself wear. And if they commit a “mistake which you are not inclined to forgive then sell them, for they are the servants of Allah and are not to be tormented! “
Source: Ibn Sa’d, op. cit., vol. II:1, p. 133
“Serve God, and join not any partners with Him ; and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near, neighbours “who are strangers, the Companion by your side, the way-farer (ye meet), And what your right hands possess : for God loveth not the arrogant, the “vainglorious” Surah An Nisa, verse 36
The phrase “What your right hands possess” refers to one’s slaves (male and female). Allah swt ordains the kind treatment of slaves in the same verse where He commands man to worship Him and to treat his parents, relations and neighbours generously, and this signifies the importance of this ruling.
What were the rights of concubines?
The status was similar to that of wife. The children were exactly like the other children from the person’s legally wedded wife. They were to be given exactly the same rights as his other children. The children of the slave girl would inherit the property exactly as the other children. There was absolutely no difference amongst the children. And once any slave girl bore a child, she could not be sold to anybody else and thus became a permanent member of the household.
Then you will probably ask how is this any different from the modern days concept of a mistress/prostitution/adultery?
There is a huge difference between the slave girls of those times and the system of prostitution which is so prevalent as a disease in today’s society.
The slave girl was a social issue of the times, which if not solved by Islam would give rise to adultery and prostitution. In prostitution, the woman sells here services for a fee to anyone who is willing to pay. The slave girl was taken into a household as a full member.
In prostitution, the woman has sexual relationships with many men. The slave girl would have sexual relations only with the person she was given to; very similar to the husband-wife relationship, the only difference being that the wife came into the house through a marriage contract, and the slave girl was allotted to the person by the state.
Prostitution is a result of illegal lust, and is a huge sin in the eyes of Allah.
The allocation of slave girls was a issue of the times to envelope the woman taken as slaves in a war into the Islamic society. Prostitution and adultery do not have any responsibility attached to it. The man- woman have a one-off relationship and depart. The slave girls were a responsibility of the person, who spent on them, gave them a place to live, fed them, clothed them, and raised their children as his children.
The children from adultery and prostitution are regarded as born out of wedlock and grow up without the name and without the shadow of a father. The children of the slave girls were known as the children of the person, grew up with his other children, and had exactly the same rights and inheritance as the other offspring. The system of slave girls was accepted and respected by the Islamic society of the times. The slave girl was treated like his wife, and the children from these slave girls were treated like their children by society. No religion, no state, no moral society accepts and respects the institutions of prostitution and adultery. This is a disease of society and every moral society has tried to eradicate this disease with little success.
Despite this, it was not simply a case of forcing someone into having sex to satisfy your desires.