Saturday, June 23, 2012

Slavery and Islam Part 2 - Solutions

Slavery Part 2:
Solving the Issue of Slavery
  • The honourable shaykh and mujtahid Imam Taqi al-Din al-Nabhani (d.1977) writes in his masterpiece al-Shakhsiyya al-Islamiyya (‘The Islamic Personality’):[1]
Islam solved the problem of slavery with a solution that leads to relieving its imposition as well as a solution leading to full emancipation whether through one’s choice or not. There are many rulings in this regard that thefuqaha’ have explained with the utmost detail. What follows are only brief discussions of these rulings:
[1] When Islam came, people owned slaves[2] and solved the problem of slavery amongst the owners with a solution that seeks to endow the slaves with rights as well as to establish the fact that they are human beings equal to any free person in their natural and intrinsic attributes that can be found in human beings.[3] Allah Most High in many verses in the Noble Qur’an and His Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in many noble hadithshave strongly urged human beings to be kind and have the best conduct with slaves. Allah most High says: {Worship Allah without joining any partners with him. Be good to your parents, relatives, orphans, the needy, neighbours near and far, to travellers in need and what your right hand possesses. Allah does not like arrogant and boastful people.}.[4] And the meaning of {whatever your right hand possesses} refers to ‘your slaves’.[5] The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Fear Allah regarding what your right hand possesses. They are your brothers and Allah has put them under your charge. Feed them with what you eat, clothe them with what you wear and do not impose duties upon them which will make it difficult for them. If you impose duties, then help them…”[6] It is also narrated from the Prophet through Abu Hurayra that he said: “Let not any one of you say ‘My slave’ (`abdi)[7] and ‘my slave-girl’ (amati). All of you are the slaves of Allah and all of your women are the slave-girls of Allah. Rather say, ‘my boy’ (ghulami), ‘my girl’ (jariyati), ‘my young boy’ (fataya) and my young girl’ (fatati).[8]
The Shar` has raised the rank of the slave equal to that of a free person in how it has made the blood of a slave inviolable and protected (ma`suman) if a free person kills him due to Allah’s saying: {You who believe, retaliation is prescribed for you in cases of murder: the free man for the free man, the slave for the slave, the female for the female.},[9] i.e. reciprocal retaliation (qisas)[10] and punishment for the perpetrator. Qisas is declared as a recompense for the crime and so whatever the perpetrator has done may have the same done to him. The meaning of {Qisas has been prescribed for you} is ‘recompense has been made obligatory on you for the crime committed if a person kills someone’. This is a general text and includes men, women, free persons and slaves.[11] What strengthens this is a narration from Ibn Majah from Ibn `Abbas that he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “the Muslims are equal in their blood[12] and this is a general text. Thus, the free person and the slave are equal in their blood being inviolable and protected and both being impermissible to kill. So, Islam made the life of a slave equal to that of a free person, his blood is like that of the free person’s blood. He (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Whoever kills his slave, we will kill him”.[13] Moreover, Islam granted the slave rights to marry, divorce, learn, be a witness over others whether free person or another slave.
As for the right given by Islam to the owner or master of a slave-girl in allowing him to enjoy sexual relations with her, then this in fact raises the status of the slave and results in her emancipation and freedom. This is because the enjoyment of the master with his slave-girl is considered the same as the enjoyment of the husband with his wife, thus lifting the status of the slave girl to the status of a free wife and gives the slave-girl a status before her master. More than that, if the slave-girl falls pregnant and bears a child she is compulsorily emancipated after the death of her master.
[2] Islam has strongly encouraged manumitting slaves. It made the act of manumitting slaves as helping the human being to be grateful for the splendid favours of Allah and assists him to attempt the ‘steep path’ (iqtiham al-`aqaba). Allah Most High says: {Yet he has not attempted (iqtiham) the steep path (`aqaba). What will explain to you what the steep path is? It is freeing the neck...}.[14] The word “iqtiham” is entering into severe difficulty and the word “`aqaba” means ‘difficulty’. Islam made `aqaba one of the righteous deeds (al-a`mal al-saliha) and characterised its performance as iqtiham due to the immense difficulty involved and struggle with one’s soul (mujahadat al-nafs). {Freeing the neck} means emancipating it from slavery so Allah urged the freeing of slaves in this verse.[15]
Similarly the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) urged the freeing of slaves. He said: “Whichever man frees a Muslim man, Allah Most High will liberate for each of his organ an organ from the Fire”.[16] This clearly proves that Islam urges the freeing of slaves and put in it a great reward.[17]
[3] Islam legislated practical rulings obligating the manumission of slaves.[18]
[a] For example, any slave owned by one of his mahram (unmarriageable relatives) is automatically set free whether the owner consents or not. Therefore anyone who owns a relative by purchase or inheritance, his relative is freed from him compulsorily once he owned him without any need for undergoing the process of manumitting him. Abu Dawud narrated from Hasan from Samura that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “If anyone gets possession of a relative who is within the prohibited degrees of marriage, that person becomes free.[19]
[b] Islam also made punishing the slave whether by burning, cutting or damaging an organ, or hitting him violently as obligating his freedom. So, if his owner does not free him, the ruler will him by force from his owner. He (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Whoever slaps his slave or strikes him, his expiation (kaffara) is to free him.[20] The meaning of the ‘to hit’ is ‘violent hitting’ for there are ahadith that permit the owner to hit his slave as a means of discipline (ta’dib).
[c] Islam made manumitting slaves as a compulsory expiatory penalty (kaffara) for many sins. As an example, whoever accidentally kills a believer, his expiation is to manumit a believing slave. Allah Most High says: {A believer does not kill another believer except by mistake. If anyone kills a believer by mistake he must free one Muslim slave and pay blood money to the victim’s relatives, unless they charitably waive it; if the victim belonged to a people at war with you but is a believer, then the compensation is only to free a believing slave; if he belonged to a people with whom you have a treaty, then blood money should be handed over to his relatives and a believing slave set free}.[21]
[d] Whoever breaks his oath then an expiation for that mistake is to free a slave.  Allah Most High says: {Allah does not take you [to task] for what is thoughtless in your oaths, only for your binding oaths: the atonement for breaking an oath is to feed ten poor people with food equivalent to what you would normally give your own families, or to clothe them, or to set free a slave…}.[22]
[e] Whoever says to his wife ‘you are to me like my mother’s back’ (anti `alayya ka-zahr ummi) and then returns to her, his expiatory penalty is to free a slave. Allah (swt) says:  {Those of you who say such a thing to their wives (i.e. ‘you are to me like my mother’s back’), then go back on what they have said, must free a slave before the couple may touch one another again...}.[23]
[f] Whoever breaks the fast of Ramadan by having sexual intercourse, his expiation is to free a slave. Abu Hurayra narrated that: “A man came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! I am ruined!’ [Allah’s Messenger] asked: ‘what has ruined you?’ He replied: ‘I had sexual intercourse with my wife while I was fasting’. [Allah’s Messenger] asked him: ‘Are you able to free a slave?’ He replied in the negative. [Allah’s Messenger] asked him: ‘Can you fast for two successive months?’ He replied again in the negative. [Allah’s Messenger] asked him ‘Can you afford to feed sixty poor persons?’ He replied yet again in the negative. He then sat down and the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) brought a basket full of dates. He said: ‘Take this [basket of dates] and give it in charity.’ The man said: ‘Is there anyone poorer than us? By Allah, there is no family between its two mountains who are poorer than us!’ The Prophet smiled till his pre-molar teeth became visible and then said: ‘Feed your family with it’…”[24] The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) first commanded freeing the slave and he did not move to anything else except after the inability of doing so was clear to him. All these rules of expiation obligate the expiator to manumit the slave.
[f] Islam did not stop there; it also gave the slave a method of manumitting himself just like an owner has a method by which he can gain a price in exchange for his slave. This is known as the ‘manumission contract’ (al-mukatab).[25] Islam highly encouraged this contract. Allah Most High says:  {If any of your slaves wish to pay for their freedom, make a contract with them accordingly, if you know they have good in them, and give them some of the wealth Allah has given you…}.[26] If the master contracts his slave by saying to him, ‘If you give me so much, within in such and such time, then you are free,’ it is obligatory upon the master to enable his slave to work in order to attain the money which he contracted upon him. It is obligatory upon the master to free the slave if he brings the money to him, and it is not correct for him to renege from this mukatab contract. The fuqaha’ recognised the mukatab contract as the immediate manumission of the slave and the future freeing of his neck. Once the contract is validated then the slave is hands of his released from the hands of his master and whenever the slave pays the amount due to his master he goes out of his ownership as well.[27]
All of these rulings are for manumitting slaves. The point to note is that there is a huge emphasis and encouragement on individuals to manumit slaves as well as a method for the Islamic State to forcefully implement the legislated rulings if the individual’s personal taqwa fails to motivate him to abide by these rulings. All of these rulings lead to generating thinking and action by the owners to free slaves. They also lead to generating thinking and action among the slaves themselves so they can work to free themselves from their slavery. This shows how the Islamic society aims to eliminate slavery in society.
[4] Islam was not only satisfied with encouraging the freeing of slaves and legislating rulings to compel their manumission, rather Islam made manumitting slaves one of the eight categories the bayt al-mal (‘state treasury’) spends Zakat money on. Allah Most High says: {Zakat are meant only for the poor, the needy, those who administer them, those whose hearts need winning over and for freeing slaves (riqab) and helping those in debt, for Allah’s cause and for travellers in need. This is ordained by Allah; Allah is all knowing and wise…}.[28]His Most High statement: {and for the riqab…} means ‘freeing slaves’. Islam did not specify a specific amount of money for this category. The State can assign what it feels is necessary from the Zakat in order to free slaves; it can even assign the entire amount of Zakat for freeing slaves. This is because the Zakat is not obligated to be spent on all the eight categories, but rather on those categories the Khalifa of the Muslims views as a priority.[29]
  • Islam’s ruling regarding manumission of slaves is both interventionist and revisionist. It is revisionist in that it emphasised the equality of intrinsic humanity to all – whether free or not – altering the perception of slaves from a discarded, marginalised and rejected segment of society to fully participative members. It is interventionist in that the process underpinning the formation and manumission of slaves was systematic and controlled and not arbitrary or unrestricted as was the case in Arabia and the wider world.
  • Islam does not prohibit slavery outright but it has established clear laws for personal piety and prescribes the emancipation of slaves as expiation for transgression of Divine laws. Thus, freeing slaves is not only a demonstration of awareness and submission to the divine Will, but it is one of the ways in which to compensate for transgression and sins.
  • The Qur’anic ideal or aim is to eliminate slavery from society and the laws were legislated in order to achieve this.
  • It is part of the Islamic State’s expenditure to designate the Zakat funds to manumitting slaves. Thus, manumission of slaves is an intrinsic action of the State and if required, the total Zakat funds can be utilised for this purpose.

[1] al-Nabhani, al-Shakhsiyya al-Islamiyya, vol.2, pp.272-276.
[2] W. Phillips, Slavery from the Roman times to the Early Transatlantic Trade, pp.66-88.
[3] That is, in their undeniable humanity, Islam has prescribed slaves with automatic rights (huquq).
[4] Q. 4:36.
[5] al-Qurtubi, al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, vol.5, p.165.
[6] Muslim, Sahih (#1661).
[7] R. Brunschwig, art. “`Abd” in EI1, vol.1, pp.24-40.
[8] Muslim, Sahih (#2248).
[9] Q. 2:178.
[10] On qisas, see T. Wasti, The Application of Islamic Criminal Law in Pakistan: Shari`a in Practice, pp.1-17.
[11] al-Qurtubi, al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, vol.2, p.230. This is the position of the Hanafi School. Imam al-Mawsuli states:
ويقتل الحر بالحر وبالعبد . والرجل بالمرأة، والصغير بالكبير، والمسلم بالذمي
“A free man may be killed for a free man and for a slave; a man may be killed for a woman and a minor for an elder as well as a Muslim for a dhimmi…” See al-Ikhtiyar li-Ta`lil al-Mukhtar, vol.5, p.505 and al-Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur’an, vol.1, p.157.
[12] Ibn Majah, Sunan (#2189).
[13] Ahmad, al-Musnad, 3/1227 and Abu Dawud, Sunan (#4515) from Samura b. Jundub.
[14] Q. 90:11-13.
[15] al-Qurtubi, al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, vol.20, p.59-
[16] Bukhari, Sahih (#2517) and Muslim, Sahih (#1509).
[17] Imam al-Qurtubi writes:
الثالثة : العتق والصدقة من أفضل الأعمال وعن أبي حنيفة أن العتق أفضل من الصدقة وعند صاحبيه الصدقة أفضل والآية أدل على قول أبي حنيفة لتقديم العتق على الصدقة وعن الشعبي في رجل عنده فضل نفقة أيضعه في ذي قرابة أو يعتق رقبة ؟ قال الرقبة أفضل لأن النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – قال : من فك رقبة فك الله بكل عضو منها عضوا من النار .
“The third discussion: manumitting a slave and sadaqa are of the best actions to do. Abu Hanifa said that manumitting a slave is superior to sadaqa whereas the two companions ruled that sadqa is superior. The verse appears to indicate the view of Abu Hanifa due to manumitting a slave being mentioned before sadaqa. And it is reported from al-Sha`bi regarding a person who has the duty of nafaqa whether he should look after his relatives or free a slave and he replied that freeing a slave is superior because of what the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘Whichever man frees a Muslim man, Allah Most High will liberate for each of his organ an organ from the Fire’… ” See al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, vol.20, p.61.
[18] Other methods and means by which a slave may be manumitted include: [1] through tadbir; [2] the situation of an umm al-walad; [3] a solar eclipses; [4] a lunar eclipses; [5] out of jest. See S. Ahmad, Slavery in Islam, pp.122-139.
[19] Abu Dawud, Sunan (#3949).
[20] Muslim, Sahih (#1657).
[21] Q. 4:92.
[22] Q. 5:89.
[23] Q. 5:83.
[24] Muslim, Sahih (#1111).
[25] See al-Quduri, Mukhtasar, pp.487-495 (tr. T. M. Kiani).
[26] Q. 24:33.
[27] J. Neusner, Comparing Religions Through Law: Judaism and Islam, pp.158-166; T. P. Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, s.v. “Slavery”, pp.596-600 and F. Klein, The Religion of Islam, pp.196-198
[28] Q. 9:60.
[29] al-Nabhani, al-Shakhsiyya al-Islamiyya, vol.2, pp.272-276.


Anonymous said...

As salam alaykum, Please watch this short clip by Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki on the "Concept of Slavery in Islam"

Nisam said...

Here is a debate going on between two colleaques on the issue of Slavery and the the stands taken by Mohammad The Messenger of God. Following are some of the introductory posts.

1. Debate On Slavery - Intro - 1

2. A Journey from Babylon To White House

3. The Code of Hammurabi

4. FWD by Sonia Gandhi - Glimpses of World History

5. The Roman Empire

6. Gladiators - The Bloody Sport of The Roman Empire

7. Egypt The House Of Slavery.