Islam and Slavery

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Dr. Safi Kaskas

The question of slavery, been on my mind since I moved to the U.S in 1969 and lived in the deep south. It has therefore become important for me, to establish a firm understanding of this issue. First, for myself, then for my Muslim community, and in order to be able to explain where Islam stands on slavery, to my neighbors and yours.

When the Qur’an was revealed, slavery was a worldwide established reality in Arabia and the world.

While the holy Books of Judaism and Christianity had never preached the abolition of slavery as a doctrine or issued clear ruling to discourage slavery, Muslims, through the revelation of the Qur’an, believe that God established a new system with emancipation at its heart.

The Quran contains a number of verses aimed at regulating slavery, mitigating its negative impact, in order to gradually put an end to it. It prescribes kindness towards slaves, but it finally calls for the manumission of slaves.

Finally, owning a slave became according to the Qur’an and the Sunna of the Prophetﷺ a major burden for the slave owner.

Beating a slave is strongly prohibited. – Hadith: “There is no expiation for hitting a slave, except for freeing him.” There is another narration where the prophet ﷺ reprimanded a man for hitting his slave. The man freed his slave and the prophetﷺ told the owner that he would have entered hellfire had he not freed him.

Killing a slave will get you killed. – Hadith of Abu Dawud: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Whoever kills his slave, we will kill him.”

The Prophet said: They (slaves or servants) are your brothers, and Allah has put them under your command. So the one under whose hand Allah has put his brother, should feed him of what he eats, and dresses him of what he wears, and should not ask him to do a thing beyond his capacity. And if at all he asks him to do a hard task, he should help him therein.’

The prophetﷺ broke the barrier that existed between the ‘slave’ and the ‘master’, and so a heinous crime such as the rape of a slave became completely unthinkable for a true believer.

Be kind to slaves as to your own children…and those that say their prayers are your brethren.

The Prophet said: ‘There are three categories of people against whom I shall myself be a plaintiff on the Day of Judgement. Of these three, one is he who enslaves a free man, then sells him and eats this money’. al-Bukhari and Ibn Majjah

Narrated Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari: “The Prophet said, ‘Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom).'” Bukhari

These were simply ways used to discourage owning new slaves and to create loopholes that will allow for the freedom of slaves.

But is this all? No, it is not.

One of the most effective ways the Qur’an invented to end slavery is the Mukataba Contract.

Dr. Safi Kaskas is a management executive and a strategist with more than 40 years of experience. For this program, Kaskas has co-authored “The Qur’an – with References to the Bible, A Contemporary Understanding,” a new, never-before-completed translation of the Qur’an into contemporary English featuring more than 3,000 parallel references to the Bible.  More about him at

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