By T.O. Shanavas, New Age Islam
25 January 2019
In our current Trump world of Alternate
Right and other white supremacists with their anti-Semitic, Islamophobic racist
creed, it is deemed necessary to search for guidance for the Muslim
interaction-etiquette with the people of different races. Moreover, these
Islamophobes and their media outlets spread the canard that the slavery by ISIS
and Sudanese dictatorship is guided by Muslim religious text. So, we will
review the slavery at the time of the origin of Islam. Furthermore, the
Islamophobia of many Republican politicians and white supremacists has the
underpinning in their white racism. And also racism and slavery are
interconnected. We will review race relations within Islamic context.
It is true that Prophet tolerated slavery
initially. Prophet Muhammad came at a time when slavery was sanctioned by Holy
Scriptures of Jews and Christians and practiced it all over the world. Sadly,
slaves were a normal commodity in the marketplaces.
For example, "ye, shall take them
(the slaves) as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them
(the slaves) for a possession, they shall be your bondmen (slaves) forever . .
. “[LEVITICUS 25:46].
"When you draw near to a city to
fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if its answer to you is peace
and it opens to you, then all people who are found in it shall do forced labor
for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, then you shall
besiege it . . . you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and
the little ones, the cattle and everything else in the city all its spoil, you
shall take as booty for yourselves; and you shall enjoy the spoil of your
enemies." (Deuteronomy 20:10-17)
“Moreover of the children of the
strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their
families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be
your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children
after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for
ever" (Leviticus 25:44-46). “Servants, be subject to your masters with all
fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward" (1 Peter
2:18). "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to
the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto
Christ" (Ephesians 6:5).
The western Christians abused the Biblical verses of the curse of Ham by Noah
(“Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also
said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, God of Shem. May God extend Japheth’s territory;
may Japheth live in tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”)
to justify racism and enslavement of black Africans. They claimed that
Africans are the children of Canaan and the black color of Africans is due
Noah’s curse. Thereby, Christian
ecclesiastic authorities in Europe ruled that Ham’s children, black Africans,
were destined to be the slaves to his brother’s white descendants. Noah’s curse
was drafted to the service against American abolitionists in its Civil War.
Widely celebrated Muslim scholar of the
14th century, Ibn Khaldun rejected the Western explanation for the black colour
of Africans and proposed truly a scientific explanation:
“Genealogists who had no knowledge of the
true nature of things imagined that Negroes were the children of Ham, the son
of Noah, and they were singled out to be black as a result of Noah’s curse,
which produces Ham’s color and slavery of God inflicted upon his descendants. .
. . The black skin common to the inhabitants of the first and second zones [Ibn
Khaldun divided northern hemisphere of the earth into seven north zones. The
first zone runs along equator and is followed to the north successively by the
second through seventh zones.] is the result of the composition of air in which
they live, and which comes about under the influence of the greatly increased
heat in the south. The sun is at the zenith there twice a year at short
intervals. In all seasons, the sun is in culmination for a long time. The light
of the sun, therefore, is plentiful. People there go through a very severe
summer, and their skins turn black because of excessive heat.”
(Ibn Khaldun “Muqaddimah” translation by
Franz Rosenthal. Vol. I pages 169-170).
The evil of racism never existed among
Muslims until the affluence from the oil economy corrupted rich Arab nations
even though the Qur’an cautions Muslims against racism and discrimination. It
“Mankind was one nation…” (Qur’an 10:19). “O Mankind! We created you
male and female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each
other, not that you may despise each other.” (Qur’an 49:13). “Surely the
believers are brethren; so reconcile between your brethren, and venerate God,
that perhaps you may have mercy.” (Qur’an 49:10).
Within this maxim, racial divisive frame of mind vanished from converts to
Islam. Umar ibn Khattab, the son of an African mother, became the second head
of state after Prophet(s). Bilal, an African slave, became revered companion of
Prophet (s). The extinction of racial prejudices within Muslim community is
well documented by western historians.
Famous British Historian Arnold J, Toynbee states:
“What value are we to place on Islam?…Islam’s creative gift to mankind is
monotheism and we surely dare not throw this gift away…two conspicuous sources
of danger—one psychological and the other material—in the present relations of
this cosmopolitan proletariat [--i.e., westernized humanity--] with dominant
element in our modern western society are race consciousness and alcohol; and
in the struggle with each of these evils the Islamic spirit has a service to
render which might prove, if it were accepted, be of high moral and social
value. The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the
outstanding moral achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there
is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue.”
[Arnold Toynbee: “Civilization on Trial.” London. 1957 page 87-88,
Similarly, American historian, philosopher, Will Durant:
“Muhammad’s ethics transcended the limits of tribe…The believers are naught
else than brothers.” (xlix, 10). Distinction of rank or race, so strong among
the tribes was diminished by similarity of belief. ‘If Negro slave is appointed
to rule you, hear and obey him…It was a noble conception that made one people
of diverse nations scattered over continents;”
[Will Durant: “The Story of Civilization.”
New York.1950, Page 182]
Edward W Blyden, the father of
“Muhammadan religion, on the other hand,
disregarding all advantageous circumstances, seeks for the real man, neglect
accidental for essential, the adventitious for the integral. Hence it
extinguished all distinctions founded upon race, color or nationality. ‘I
admonish you to fear God’ said Muhammad to his followers, ‘and yield obedience
to successor, although he me a black slave,’ And therefore throughout the
history of Islam, in all countries, race or ‘previous condition’ has been no
barrier to elevation. Frequent are the instances in which proud Arabs have
submitted to the rule of aliens, even if the aliens were Negro slaves...An
American missionary, resident in Egypt, calls attention to the entire absence
of race-prejudices in that country, ...This liberty , so far the Negro is
concerned, may be chiefly the result of Muslim rule...The religion of Jesus,
after eighteen hundred years, nowhere furnishes such practical evidence
cosmopolitan adaptation and power.”
(Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race by
Edward W Blyden, 1887. Pages 244-245)
S.H.Leeder, a British historian, describes a meeting between Archbishop
Cyrus and the head of deputation from Egypt:
“Take away that black man!” Exclaimed the Christian Archbishop Cyrus, ‘I can
have no discussion with him!’ when the Arab conquerors had sent a deputation of
their ablest men to discuss terms of surrender of the capital of Egypt, headed
by the Negro Ubadah, as the ablest of them.”
“To the sacred archbishop’s astonishment, he was told that this man was
commissioned by the General Amr; that the Moslems held Negroes and white men in
equal respect judging a man by his character and not by his colour.”
“Well, if the Negro must lead, he must speak gently,’ ordered the prelate, so
as not to frighten his white auditors”
“The reply of the Negro shows the spirit of those early conquerors. ‘There are
a thousand blacks, as myself, among our companions’
[Veiled Mysteries Of Egypt And the Religion of Islam. By S.H. Leeder.
London: Eveleigh Nash, 1912. Page. 332]
Over twelve hundred years after the above incident, we, Homo sapiens, still
have remnants of racism of Cyrus in our conscience. One of the founding fathers
our great nation, Abraham Lincoln said: “There is a physical difference between
the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races
living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they
cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of
superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man in favor of having the
superior position assigned to the white race. [Ref: The Mismeasure of Man by
Stephen Jay Gould. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1981. Page. 35.].
Similarly, Thomas Jefferson said: “I advance it, therefore, as a suspicion
only, that blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time
and circumstance, are inferior to the whites in endowment both of body and
[Ref: The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould. New York: W.W. Norton &
Company, 1981. Page 35]
I quote these statements of our founding fathers, who have reaped our genuinely
deserving deep-seated admiration, not to discredit them by washing their old
dirty linens in public. I cite these to expose the hypocrisy of Cal Thomas,
Rabbi Hier, FOX channel, other Islamophobes, and their egotistic appreciation
of Western and Christian values over Islamic values. They know our nation
rejected the racial ranking only after the birth of civil right movement
under the leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. about fifty years ago. Rev.
Martin Luther King gave his precious life for a dream to watch “the white girls
and black girls, white boys and black boys playing in our backyards as children
of one nation under God.”
Two hundred years ago our nation dismantled the painful and repulsive system of
slavery. We paid heavy price of flesh and blood for the right cause under the
leadership of Abraham Lincoln. On the other hand, the world of Islam
eliminated slavery by peaceful means. Islam at its origin did not encourage
slavery, nor did it forbid it outright. Prophet (s) abolished slavery by (1)
the theology of religious atonement for
sins by the emancipation of a slave;
(2) preventing taking free men into slavery and prohibition of turning the
prisoners of war into slaves, (3) improving the treatment of slaves by their
owner; (4) giving inalienable right to slaves to buy back their
freedom, and (5) giving rights to slaves to own personal wealth and property.
God of the Qur’an dislikes slavery. So,
the Qur’an encourages liberating slaves.
“Have We not created for men two eyes, and a tongue and two lips, and have
We not shown him the two paths-- evil and virtue? Yet he did not hurl himself
on to the different way. What makes you know what the difficult way is? It
is the freeing the slave, or feeding on a day of famine, an orphan who is
near of kin, or an indigent who is in apparent misery. Then he should be those
who believe, and enjoin one another in patience, and enjoined one another in
compassion. Such are the companions of the right hand. But those who disbelieve
in Our signs are the companions of the left hand. Around them there will be an
[The Qur’an 90: 9-20]
The Qur’an demanded action from its faithful.
According to the Qur’an, turning one’s face to East or West is not Islamic
piety. The emancipation of slaves is highlighted as one of the characteristics
of a true believer and is recommended for expiation of sin.
is not piety that you turn your faces towards the East or the West, but pious
are those who believe in God, and the hereafter, the angels, the Books (Torah,
Psalm, Gospels, Qur’an), and the prophets; and those who, for the love of God,
give of their wealth, to kinsmen, the orphans, the indigent, wayfarers,
beggars, and for the redemption of slaves;” (Qur’an 2:177)
The Qur’an demanded also not to take free
men and turn into slaves:
“It is not fit for a prophet to take
captives unless he has fought and triumphed in the land” [Quran 8:67].
Prophet preached what God legislated:
“Abu Huraira relates that the Prophet used to say that God has spoken to
him saying: “There are three classes of men with whom I will make war on the
Day of Judgment. Firstly, the man who makes a covenant with someone in my name
and then break it. Secondly, the man who enslaves a free man, sells him and
eats his price. Thirdly, the man who employs a man to do a work and extracts
full work from him but does not pay his wage.”
[Ref: 1. Bukhari, Kitab Al-Bai and 2. Abu Daud as quoted by Fath Al-Baree].
“Abu Musa reported that Allah's Messenger
said about one who emancipated a slave woman, and then married her, that for
him there are two rewards.” (Muslim. Book #008, Hadith #3327).
“If any of you have a slave girl, whom you
give good education and excellent training, and then he emancipates her and
marry her, he shall get a two-fold reward.”
[Ref: Bukhari, Kitab Al-Nikah].
Baraa’s son Azib relates that once an Arab
of the desert came to the Prophet and said: ‘O Prophet of God let me know by
doing which I may go straight to heaven.’ Prophet replied: ‘Your question is
brief, but you have asked a big thing. Emancipate a slave; and if you cannot do
it alone, do it jointly with others.”
[Ref: Baihaqi, as quoted by Mishkat in
The Qur’an and the above traditions of the
Prophet (s) convey that God of Islam dislikes slavery and Muslims are in a
better position on the Day of Judgment if they do not own slaves.
Prophet (s) transformed the psyche of both owners and slaves. The Prophet (s)
defined the slave-owner relationship and it is not the same relationship as the
Caucasian west had with their slaves. The owners are required to banish from
their minds all idea of self-glorification and on the other hand, the slaves
were imbibed with self-assurance and self-confidence to buy back their freedom.
Thus, not only was their social status raised, but they were also morally
uplifted. It is reflected in the following traditions:
“None of you should say: My slave, for all
of you is the slaves of Allah. Rather, you should say: My boy. The servant
should not say: My lord, but rather he should say: My chief. (Sahih Muslim
Along with the ordinances to raise the
standard of living of the slaves equal to the owner of the slave, the Quran
legislated the means for the slaves to buy themselves out of servitude as
modern-day American contract employee buyout his servitude to his employer.
“...And any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing to enable them to earn
their freedom for a sum, give them such a deed...” [Quran 24:33].
Prophet also wanted all slaves to be
emancipated, and so commanded:
“Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said,
"Whoever manumits his share of a jointly possessed slave, it is essential
for him to manumit the slave completely if he has enough money. Otherwise he
should look for some work for the slave (to earn what would enable him to
emancipate himself), without overburdening him with work." (Bukhari.
Book #44, Hadith #682)
The following tradition of Prophet cites
the kind and compassionate treatment of slaves:
“Narrated Al-Ma'rur: At Ar-Rabadha I met
Abu Dhar who was wearing a cloak, and his slave, too, was wearing a similar
one. I asked about the reason for it. He replied, "I abused a person by
calling his mother with bad names." The Prophet said to me, 'O Abu Dhar!
Did you abuse him by calling his mother with bad names You still have some
characteristics of ignorance. Your slaves are your brothers and Allah has put
them under your command. So, whoever has a brother under his command should
feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them
(slaves) to do things beyond their capacity (power) and if you do so, then help
them.' “(Bukhari Book #2, Hadith #29).
This tradition demands that slave cannot
be forced to do a work that is beyond his physical capability. This workplace
disability act of Islam was enacted few centuries later as American disability act..
Abdul Yusr told Â Ubadah, a companion of the prophet said:
“Dear nephew, my eyes have seen, my ears have heard, my mind remembers that the
Holy Prophet used to enjoin: ‘Give to your slaves the same food that you eat
and give same garment that you yourselves wear.’ Therefore, I prefer to give a
share of my worldly possessions to my slave rather than lose any reward on the
Day of Judgment.” [Bukhari, Kitab Al-Zuhd]
All these Islamic legislations led to the
death of slavery without shedding a drop of blood. Bernard Lewis, Professor
at Princeton University, states:
“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. The Qur’an was promulgated in Mecca and Medina in the seventh
century, and the background against which Qur’anic legislation must be seen
ancient Arabia. Arabs practiced a form of slavery, like that which existed in
other parts of the ancient world. The Qur’an accepted the institution, but It
urges, without commanding, kindness to the slave¦ and recommends, without
requiring, his liberation by purchase or manumission.
The freeing of slaves is recommended both
for the expiration of sin (Quran4:92; 58:3) and as an act of simple benevolence
(Quran2:177; 24:33; 90:13). It exhorts masters to allow slaves to earn or
purchase their freedom. An important change from Pagan era …the believing slave
is now the brother of the freeman in Islam and before God, and superior of the
free pagan and idolaters (II: 221).
This point is emphasized in innumerable
hadiths (traditions)…The recruitment of slave population by natural increase
seems to have been small and, right through to modern times [in Muslim world],
insufficient to maintain numbers. This is striking contrast with conditions in
the New World, where the slave population increased very rapidly. Several
factors contributed to this difference, perhaps the most important being that
slave population in the Islamic Middle East was constantly drained by
liberation of slaves ”sometimes as an act of piety, most commonly though the
recognition and liberation, by a freeman, of his own offspring by slave
[Ref: Race and Slavery in the Middle East by
Bernard Lewis. Page 5-8].
To summarize, the racial ranking of human
species by Christian ecclesiastics of the ancient for the purpose of the
sanctification of slavery in the west never existed in Islam and among Muslims.
The word, slave, in Islam has a different connotation. Unlike a slave in the
west, a slave in Islam was treated as a member of the family and must be fed
with the same food and similar clothes as the master or mistress wears. It is
forbidden to overwork a slave. Slaves had the right to buy his or her freedom
and the owner had no recourse but to grant freedom after payment by the slave.
In other words, the slave is a contract employee treated much better than
modern day contract employee.
Prophet further curbed the sovereignty of
owner over slave and gave certain rights to the slaves. The Prophet
(s) raised the standard of living of slaves equal to that of their owners.
The cost of slave ownership skyrocketed under Islam because the responsibility
to maintain the standard of living of slaves equal to that of the owner fell on
the shoulder of slave-owner. As a
result, owning slaves lost its economic sense and slavery melted away among
Muslim. Above all, Muslims without slaves are better off on the Day of Judgment
and manumission brings atonement of sin.
Finally, we have come to the question of “why didn’t Prophet declare war on
slavery as President Lincoln did?” Prophet (s) knew that a change of heart
against slavery was the more important to abolish slavery permanently. The
wisdom of Prophet (s) eliminated slavery with a least human suffering and disruption for his nation
and his people while more than a million
died, millions suffered, and national life disrupted by the US civil war as
result of pursuing a policy of a swift abolition the slavery in US by Abraham
Shanavas is a native of Kerala, India and is now based in the USA. He is the
author of “Islamic Theory of evolution of Evolution the Missing Link between
Darwin and The Origin of Species.” Co-author of the book, And God Said,
"Let There Be Evolution!” Reconciling the Book of Genesis, The Qur'an, And
the Theory of Evolution. Edited by Prof. Charles M. Wynn and Prof. Arthur W.
Author of book: “The Islamic Theory of
Evolution: The Missing Link between Darwin and the Origin of Species.”
Co-author of the book:
And God Said, “Let There Be Evolution”: Reconciling the Book of Genesis, the
Qur’an and the Theory of Evolution, by Prof. Charles M. Wynn and Prof. Arthur
W. Wiggins (Editors)
New Age Islam, Islam
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Women and Feminism
The Morality or the Immorality of the Institution of
Slavery and the Quranic Permission That Allowed Sex with Female Slaves
You are simply digressing having been cornered. You have blamed
Allah for not banning slavery in the Quran and said that there is no excuse for
Allah not banning slavery outright in your very first comment in the thread.
Now you want to change your blaming Allah into a mere wish. So be it. Exercise better care in future when you comment on the Quran.
Because you fail to understand why Allah regulated slavery but did not
ban it and fail to recognize how much worse the conditions are even though we
have excellent laws on paper.
The blame lies with the Muslims that slavery existed even during
peace-time when it should have disappeared within say 20 years of continuous
peace if they had followed the verses on helping the slaves earn their freedom
or free them nevertheless as an act of piety. That this did not happen is
unfortunate for which the people should be blamed. There cannot be any blame on
the Book, however.
What is it that makes you unable to make a distinction between good Islamic
laws that produced the best outcomes and Utopian laws that sound good but have
produced the worst outcomes, and unable to make a distinction between precept
You ask why Allah did not ban it and unable to understand why He didn’t.
That is what makes you deaf, dumb and blind to the reasons although fully
explained. Do you still blame Allah for not banning it or are you able to comprehend why He didn't ?