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Islam the Misunderstood Religion: Is Religion Antiquated? Islam and Slavery

Jun 28, 2013, 11:41 AM

[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE ‘“ ’” The Holy Prophet used to free a slave who would teach reading and writing to ten Muslims or render any other kindred service to the Muslim community. The Quran enjoined that atonement for some of the sins consisted in freeing of slave as also the Holy Prophet encouraged it for the reparation of any other sin one might commit. This contributed more than anything to bring liberty to the greatest number of slaves, for no man could hope to be wholly free from sin as the Holy Prophet said: “All sons of Adam are sinner”. It may be well to point out here one of theatonements prescribed by Islam for sins, as it in particular illustrate the standpoint of Islam with regard to slavery.Islam prescribed that redemption for the killing of a believing slave and playing blood money to his people: “And whoever kills a believer by mistake, he should free a believing slave, and blood-money should be paid to his people” (iv: 92). The murdered man killed by mistake was a human being of whose service his people as well as the community were deprived without any legal justification, for which reason Islam prescribed that compensation should be made to both parties, his people and the society another man to serve it in his place i.e. the newly freed believing slave. Thus the freeing of a slave meant bringing back to life a human being killed by mistake. As is clear from this, Islam views slavery as death or a state very much similar to it notwithstanding all those securities that it did provide for a slave. That is why it eagerly snatched every opportunity to resuscitate this wretched class of human beings by restoring to them their liberty.

History tells us that such large numbers of slaves achieved their freedom through this voluntary emancipation (Al ltq) in Islam as have no other parallel in this history of any nation before or after Islam till modern times, besides the fact that the factors that contributed towards this emancipation were purely humane springing up from Muslims’ sincerest wish to win their God’s pleasure by freeing the slaves they possessed.

(2) The second means whereby Islam brought freedom to slaves was that of Mukatabah i.e the writing freedom to a slave on his asking for it by the master in return for a certain amount of money agreed upon by both of them. The master could in such a case neither refuse nor delay the freeing of a slave ready to ransom his freedom: he needs must set him at liberty on the receipt of the ransom. Otherwise the slave could move the court to decree his enfranchisement.

By this institution of Mufatabah, Islam paved the way for the freedom of all those slaves who happened to desire their freedom and not passively wait for their masters’ good will or piety to set them at liberty at their own convenience.

From the moment a slave offered to ransom his freedom, not only his master could not return down the offer, but there was also no need for him to fear any repercussions, for Islam Government guaranteed that he would henceforth work for his master in return for a fixed payment, or it would make arrangements for him to work outside for anyone else on hire till the time he is able to collect the money needed for the winning back of his freedom.

This was what happened in Europe afterward as in the fourteenth century, that is some seven centuries after Islam had already enforced it in its domain. The great distinguishing feature of Islam that can hardly be looked for anywhere else was the financial aid the Islamic government advanced to slaves such as would demand the writing of their freedom out of the Public Exchequer. This was a clear manifestation of the great interest Islam had in the voluntary emancipation of slaves without expecting any material gains in return, merely with a view to securing God’s pleasure and fulfilling one’s obligations as a slave towards Him. The Quranic verse describing the uses of poor-rate (Az-Zakat) says: “Alms are only for the poor and the needy, and the officials (appointed) over them…. And the (ransoming of) captives” (ix : 60). Thus the Quran laid it down that the poor-rate (Az-Zakat) should be spent for purchasing the freedom of such slaves as were unable to work out their own liberty with the help of their personal earnings.

These two institutions in Islam signified a great practical advancement achieved by Islam in the history of slavery. It forestalled the normal historical advancement of mankind by at least seven centuries besides featuring some quite new ingredients of advancement such as security afforded by the state to the slave-so meting rare in the history of mankind till modern times-and others which mankind is far from having yet realized i.e. the noble and generous treatment of slaves, or freeing them of one’s own free will without any external pressure of economic or political developments such as at last forced the peoples of Europe to grant freedom to slaves.

These two things are sufficient to confute the false assertions of the communists, who claim that all systems including Islam represent but a particular stage in the economic development of mankind. Faithful to thelaw of dialectical materialism thus Islam too with all its beliefs and views came at a time best suited for it, reflecting the economic and material conditions of the period, for a system may, according to them, only reflect the economic life but can by no means anticipate a future economic stage. They insist that this theory cannot be false as it has been testified by the Reason of the One who “can neither be influenced with falsehood from above nor from below”-the Reason of Kari Marx, the most Exalted and Blessed one! But the bottom is knocked out of this falsehood by Islam-a standing refutation of all this Marxist humbug, for it did not work up its way in the manner Marx prescribed, inside the Arabian peninsula, nor outside it all the world over. And this is true not only with regard to the life of slaves under Islam but this is equally tenable in its manner of distributing wealth, in determining the mutual relationship of the ruler and the ruled, and of a master’s to his hieling. On the other hand, Islam raised its whole social and economic superstructure on voluntary obedience of such a style as in many ways still remains unsurpassed and unmatched in the history of social system.

Here a very perplexing question may haunt some persons: Why is it that Islam-so-great a champion of slave emancipation and talking such radical steps towards that end voluntarily and without any outside pressure of coercion before all the world-did not also take the final and decisive step, and abolish it once for all, as it might have in that way immensely benefited mankind besides proving thereby that it was really a system most perfect and in effect revealed by God, who dignified the sons of Adam over many of His creations?

For an answer to this question we need must inquire into the allied social, psychological and political problems of slavery-the reasons due to which Islam delayed its much expected and outright abolition. We must also during this inquiry bear in mind that actually the abolition of slavery was rather delayed more than Islam would have desired or allowed it if it had continued functioning properly in its pristine purity, unadulterated by extraneous in gradients of deviation.

In the first place then it much be recorded that when Islam came, slavery was prevalent throughout the world as an acknowledged fact of socio-economic existence. There was hardly a man to be met with who was repelled by it, or who felt any need for a change. As such the changing or the total discarding of it required a gradual process stretched over a long period of time. Thus we see that prohibition of liquor was effected not immediately but after years of preparation although it before all other things constituted a mere individual habit, notwithstanding the fact that it carried so many social implications as well and that some of the Arabs practiced abstinence even in the days of ignorance, believing it a vice degrading for a truly noble man. But slavery was looked upon by them as something quite different. It was deep-rooted in the social structure of the time as the psychology of the individuals, it entailed individual as well as social and economical implications and, as we observed above, nobody regarded its existence as something underside able. That is why its abolition required a period of time far longer than the life of the Holy Prophet, the period which coincided with the period of Divine revelation through him. God, the Best Knower of all that He created, knew that the total prohibition of wine would be achieved after a few years by a mere commandment. So He did command its prohibition when such time came. Similarly, if the conditions of life had been such as mere directions were to suffice to suppress forbidden it once for all without any further delay.

To be continued