Is Slavery Allowed in Islam? – Ask A Muslim

Is Slavery Allowed in Islam?

The Sharias rulings on how to capture and treat slaves are the most humane out of any other civilization. First of all, the only way to capture a slave in Islam is through captives of war. Therefore, you can never make a free man or woman in Islam your slave. It is also not based on race, sex, or ethnicity. Rather, slaves can only be obtained through wars between Muslims and disbelievers. If one just ponders over this ruling, one can see so much wisdom that comes from it. If there was a war and you let the captives go, they would just come back to fight you again. If you killed the captives of war, then that is even more brutal. The most logical, moral, and humane option is that you keep them as slaves and they help your society while you are also helping them. This is why we see that all premodern civilizations had to have slaves; it was just a necessary aspect of life in order to survive. Slaves in Islam cannot be beaten, mutilated, killed, or prostituted. If one did beat his or her slave, the Prophet Muhammad PBUH said that the expiation is to free that slave (Sahih Muslim 1657). It was narrated that one of the Prophet’s PBUH companions, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, tweaked the ear of a slave of his when he did something wrong, then he said to him after that: “Come and tweak my ear in retaliation.” The slave refused but he insisted, so he started to tweak it slightly, and he said to him: “Do it strongly, for I cannot bear the punishment on the Day of Resurrection.” The slave said: “Like that, O my master? The Day that you fear I fear also.” In Islam, slaves are guaranteed food and clothing like that of their master’s. It was narrated that when ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Awf walked among his slaves, no one could tell him apart from them, because he did not walk ahead of them, and he did not wear anything different from what they wore. It was also narrated that one day ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab passed by and saw some slaves standing and not eating with their master. He got angry and said to their master: What is wrong with people who are selfish towards their servants? Then he called the servants and they ate with them. Moreover, slaves could buy their freedom from their master, they have to be treated in a kind and just manner, and they even sometimes had precedence over free men in some matters where that slave excelled in a religious or worldly affair over the free men. For concubines specifically, if she gives birth to her master’s baby, the baby is free. On top of that, she is also freed automatically when her master dies. These rules ensure that captured slaves in Islam would quickly be able to achieve their freedom, especially after one or two generations. Even in Islam, it is a honorable deed if someone freed a slave that they had out of their kindness, and this was encouraged for the Muslims to do. Contrast this to other societies in history that maintain a permanent, subjugated, and unjust slave class based on race or ethnicity, Islamic slavery is not like that. This is why we see for example, the Mamluks, who were a ruling class of Muslim slaves and the descendants of slaves, were given such power and duties, some of who even reached the level of Sultan’s and Amir’s in the Muslim Caliphate.

To conclude, when one looks at the evidence, it is very clear that Islam would not only protect slaves and honor their dignity, but it would also give them many ways to become free. On top of that, capturing slaves was out of necessity and could only come through wars and not by means of unjust racial discrimination. Allah is truly the All-Knowing, All-Wise.

And Allah knows best.