Alms-tax is only for the poor and the needy, for those employed to administer it, for those whose hearts are attracted ˹to the faith˺, for ˹freeing˺ slaves, for those in debt, for Allah’s cause, and for ˹needy˺ travellers. ˹This is˺ an obligation from Allah. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.
The Quran contains a number of verses aimed at regulating slavery and mitigating its negative impact. It calls for the manumission (freeing) of slaves. It prescribes kindness towards slaves. Slaves are considered morally equal to free persons, however, they have a lower legal standing. All Quranic rules on slaves are emancipatory in that they improve the rights of slaves compared to what was already practiced in the 7th century. Many Muslims have interpreted Quran as gradually phasing out slavery.
The Quran calls for the freeing of slaves, either the owner manumitting the slave, or a third party purchasing and freeing the slave. The freeing of slaves is encouraged is an act of benevolence, and expiation of sins. Quran 24:33 devises a manumission contract in which slaves buy their freedom in installments. Two other verses encourage believers to help slaves pay for such contracts. According to Maurice Middleberg, “Sura 90 in the Quran states that the righteous path involves ‘the freeing of slaves.'” One of the uses of zakat, a pillar of Islam, is to pay for the freeing of slaves.
The Quran prescribes kind treatment of slaves. Verse 4:36 calls for good treatment to slaves. The Quran recognizes the humanity of slaves, by calling them “believers”, recognizing their desire to be free, and recognizing female slaves’ aversion to prostitution. Several verses list slaves as members of the household, sometimes alongside wives, children and other relatives.
The Quran recognizes slaves as morally and spiritually equal to free people. God promises an eternal life in the Hereafter. This equality is indicated in Quran 4:25, which addresses free people and slaves as “the one of you is as the other” (ba’dukum min ba’din). Quran 39:95 refers to master and slave with the same word. However, slaves are not accorded the same legal standing as the free. Slaves are considered as minors for whom the owner is responsible. The punishment for crimes committed by slaves is half the punishment as to be meted out on free persons. The legal distinction between slaves and the free is regarded as the divinely established order of things, which is seen as part of God’s grace.
The Quran recognizes slavery as a source of injustice, as it places the freeing of slaves on the same level as feeding the poor. Nevertheless, the Quran doesn’t abolish slavery. One reason given is that slavery was a major part of the 7th century socioeconomic system, and it abolishing it would not have been practical. Most interpretations of the Quran agree that the Quran envisions an ideal society as one in which slavery no longer exists.
Slaves are mentioned in at least twenty-nine verses of the Quran, most of these are Medinan and refer to the legal status of slaves. The legal material on slavery in the Quran is largely restricted to manumission and sexual relations. The Quran permits owners to take slaves as concubines, though it promotes abstinence as the better choice. It strictly prohibits slave prostitution. According to Sikainga, the Quranic references to slavery as mainly contain “broad and general propositions of an ethical nature rather than specific legal formulations.” The word ‘abd’ (slave) is rarely used, being more commonly replaced by some periphrasis such as ma malakat aymanukum (“that which your right hands own”). However the meaning and translation of this term has been disputed. Ghulam Ahmed Pervez argued that the term is used in the past-tense in the Quran, thus signalling only those individuals who were already enslaved at the dawn of Islam. This slight change in tense is significant, as it allowed Parwez to argue that slavery was never compatible with the commandments of the Quran and is in fact outlawed by Quranic Law.
There are many common features between the institution of slavery in the Quran and that of neighboring cultures. However, the Quranic institution had some unique new features. Bernard Lewis states that the Quranic legislation brought two major changes to ancient slavery which were to have far-reaching effects: presumption of freedom, and the ban on the enslavement of free persons except in strictly defined circumstances. According to Brockopp, the idea of using alms for the manumission of slaves appears to be unique to the Quran, assuming the traditional interpretation of verses 2:177 and 9:60. Similarly, the practice of freeing slaves in atonement for certain sins appears to be introduced by the Quran (but compare Exodus 21:26-7). The forced prostitution of female slaves, a long practiced custom in the Near Eastern, is condemned in the Quran. Murray Gordon notes that this ban is “of no small significance.” Brockopp writes: “Other cultures limit a master’s right to harm a slave but few exhort masters to treat their slaves kindly, and the placement of slaves in the same category as other weak members of society who deserve protection is unknown outside the Quran. The unique contribution of the Quran, then, is to be found in its emphasis on the place of slaves in society and society’s responsibility toward the slave, perhaps the most progressive legislation on slavery in its time.”
— TheMuslimTimes (@TheMuslimTimes2) July 17, 2017
- Lovejoy, Paul (2000). Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa. Cambridge University Press. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-0521784306.
The religious requirement that new slaves be pagans and need for continued imports to maintain slave population made Africa an important source of slaves for the Islamic world. (…) In Islamic tradition, slavery was perceived as a means of converting non-Muslims. One task of the master was religious instruction and theoretically Muslims could not be enslaved. Conversion (of a non-Muslim to Islam) did not automatically lead to emancipation, but assimilation into Muslim society was deemed a prerequisite for emancipation.
- ^ Jump up to:a b c Brunschvig, R. (1986). “ʿAbd”. In P. Bearman; Th. Bianquis; C.E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W.P. Heinrichs (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). Brill. p. 25. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_COM_0003.
2. The Kor’an. The Religious Ethic. a.—Islam, like its two parent monotheisms, Judaism and Christianity, has never preached the abolition of slavery as a doctrine, but it has followed their example (though in a very different fashion) in endeavouring to moderate the institution and mitigate its legal and moral aspects. Spiritually, the slave has the same value as the free man, and the same eternity is in store for his soul
- ^ Jump up to:a b c d Olayinka Kudus Amuni. Pade Badru, Brigid M. Sackey (ed.). Islam in Africa South of the Sahara: Essays in Gender Relations and Political Reform. Scarecrow Press. pp. 48–9.
The Qur’anic injunctions were such as to mitigate the effects of slavery and to provide considerable encouragement for manumission. Kindness to slaves is enjoined in the following verse: [2:177]. In this verse, kindness to slaves is enjoined along with goodness to parents, kindsmen and orphans. Elsewhere the Qur’an says [90:4116].
- ^ Jump up to:a b c d Bernard Lewis. Race and Slavery in the Middle East. Oxford University Press. p. 6.
[The Quran] recommends, without requiring, his liberation by purchase or manumission. The freeing of slaves is recommended both for the expiation of sins (IV:92; V:92; LVIII:3) and as an act of simple benevolence (11: 177; XXIV:33; XC:13).
- ^ Jump up to:a b Jonathan E. Brockopp. “Slaves and slavery”. In Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the Quran. Vol. 5. p. 59.
Finally, the important role played by slaves as members of this community may help explain the Quran’s emphasis on manumission and kind treatment.
- ^ Jump up to:a b c Bernard K. Freamon. Possessed by the Right Hand: The Problem of Slavery in Islamic Law and Muslim Cultures. Brill. pp. 122–3.
Before embarking on the typological analysis it is also important to note at the outside that all of the important Quranic rules on slavery are emancipatory. None of the Quran provisions actively further, promote, or counsel the continuation of the pre-Islamic institutions of slavery. Rather, as I and others have argued elsewhere, the message of the Quran appears to be one that exhorts humankind to work toward the attainment of a slavery-free society.
- ^ Jump up to:a b c d Tamara Sonn (6 October 2015). Islam: History, Religion, and Politics. p. 18. ISBN 9781118972311.
The Quran clearly recognizes that slavery is a source of inequity in society becaise it frequently recommends freeing slaves, along with feeding and clothing the poor as part of living a moral life (90:12-19)…the Quran does not abolish the institution of slavery…slavery was an integral part of the economic system at the time the Quran was revealed; abolition of slavery would have requires an overhaul of the entire socioeconomic system. Therefore, instead of abolishing slavery outright, virtually all interpreters agree that the Quran established an ideal toward which society should: a society in which no one person would be enslaved to another.
- ^ ( Quran 2:177, 24:33, 90:13)
- ^ ( Quran 4:92, 5:92, 58:3)
- ^ Quran 2:177, 9:60
- ^ Jump up to:a b c d Jonathan E. Brockopp. “Slaves and slavery”. In Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the Quran. Vol. 5. p. 58.
- ^ Middleberg, Maurice (2016-04-22). “‘All faiths can unite to end modern slavery”. CNN. Archived from the original on 2018-09-04. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
- ^ Omer Faruk Senturk (2007). Charity in Islam: A Comprehensive Guide to Zakat. p. x. ISBN 9781597841238.
- ^ Jump up to:a b Jonathan E. Brockopp. “Slaves and slavery”. In Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. Vol. 5. p. 57.
The Qur’an, however, does not consider slaves to be mere chattel; their humanity is directly addressed in references to their beliefs (q 2:221; 4:25, 92), their desire for manumission and their feelings about being forced into prostitution (q 24:33)…The human aspect of slaves is further reinforced by reference to them as members of the private household, sometimes along with wives or children (q.v.; q 23:6; 24:58; 33:50; 70:30) and once in a long list of such members (q 24:31). This incorporation into the intimate family is consistent with the view of slaves in the ancient near east and quite in contrast to Western plantation slavery as it developed in the early modern period.
- ^ Jump up to:a b c d Jonathan E. Brockopp (2000), Early Mālikī Law: Ibn ʻAbd Al-Ḥakam and His Major Compendium of Jurisprudence, Brill, ISBN 978-9004116283, pp. 131
- ^ Jump up to:a b Tamara Sonn (6 October 2015). Islam: History, Religion, and Politics. p. 18. ISBN 9781118972311.
The Quran acknowledges that slaves do not have the same legal standing as free people; instead they are treated as minors for whom the owners are responsible. But it recommends that unmarried Muslims marry their slaves (24:32), indicating that it considers slaves and free people morally equal.
- ^ Jump up to:a b Jonathan E. Brockopp. “Slaves and slavery”. In Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. Vol. 5. p. 57.
In one case, the Qur’an refers to master and slave with the same word, rajul (q 39:29). Later interpreters presume slaves to be spiritual equals of free Muslims. For example, q 4:25 urges believers to marry “believing maids that your right hands own” and then states: “The one of you is as the other” (ba’dukum min ba’din), which the Jalalayn interpret as “You and they are equal in faith, so do not refrain from marrying them”.
- ^ Sikainga (2005), p.5-6
- ^ Clarence-Smith 2006, p. 198.
- ^ Jump up to:a b Bernard Lewis. Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry. Oxford University Press. p. 5.
But Qur’anic legislation, subsequently confirmed and elaborated in the Holy Law, brought two major changes to ancient slavery which were to have far-reaching effects. One of these was the presumption of freedom; the other, the ban on the enslavement of free persons except in strictly defined circumstances.
- ^ Quran 24:33
- ^ Gordon 1989, page 37.
- ^ www.alhakam.org/what-is-the-meaning-of-those-whom-your-right-hand-possesses-milk-al-yamin
- ^ Jump up to:a b Jonathan E. Brockopp (2006). “Slaves and slavery”. In Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. Vol. 5. Brill. pp. 57–58.
- ^ Jump up to:a b Bernard Freamon. Possessed by the Right Hand: The Problem of Slavery in Islamic Law and Muslim Cultures. pp. 129–130.
- ^ Clarence-Smith 2006, pp. 198–200.
- ^ Brunschvig, R. (1986). “ʿAbd”. In P. Bearman; Th. Bianquis; C.E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W.P. Heinrichs (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). Brill. p. 25. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_COM_0003.
Tradition delights in asserting that the slave’s lot was among the latest preoccupations of the Prophet. It has quite a large store of sayings and anecdotes, attributed to the Prophet or to his Companions, enjoining real kindness towards this inferior social class.
- ^ Bernard Lewis (1992). Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry. Oxford University Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-19-505326-5. Archived from the original on 2020-05-19. Retrieved 2020-03-04.
This point is emphasized and elaborated in innumerable hadiths (traditions), in which the Prophet is quoted as urging considerate and sometimes even equal treatment for slaves, denouncing cruelty, harshness, or even discourtesy, recommending the liberation of slaves, and reminding the Muslims that his apostolate was to free and slave alike.
- ^ Murray Gordon (1989). Slavery in the Arab World. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 19–20. ISBN 9780941533300.
- ^ “Aydin, p.17 (citing Ibn Abdilberr, İstîâb, IV, p. 1868; Nawavî, Tahzib al Asma, I, p. 162; Ibn al Asîr, Usd al Ghâbe, VI, p. 160)”. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
- ^ Hughes (1996), p. 370
- ^ Jump up to:a b Brunschvig, R. (1986). “ʿAbd”. In P. Bearman; Th. Bianquis; C.E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W.P. Heinrichs (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). Brill. p. 26.
- ^ Jump up to:a b Bernard Lewis. Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry. Oxford University Press. p. 6.