“It is the freeing of a slave. Or feeding on a day of severe hunger. An orphan of near relationship. Or a needy person in misery. And then being among those who believed and advised one another to patience and advised one another to compassion. Those are the companions of the right.” (Qur’an 90:13-18)
Slavery in the History of Islam
In Islam, the only permissible way to be enslaved was if one was a war prisoner. Other mediums of enslavement such as through kidnapping and debts were abolished as a means to gradually ban slavery altogether. Islam allowed the enslavement of those who fought against Muslims in non-Muslim countries. Even so, the enslavement came with multiple regulations. For example, it was permissible only if the Muslim ruler deemed it in the best interest of Muslims. Also, it was impermissible to enslave those who did not fight Muslims. Enslavement of prisoners of war, including women and children, was considered less evil than killing them.
Treatment of Slaves
Islam commands Muslims to treat their slaves kindly until they are freed; they are not to commit any transgression towards their slaves. In various shari’ah texts, slaves were regarded as brothers to their masters as they shared the brotherhood of humanity. As such, it is only fair that slaves are treated with mercy and dignity.
Islam places importance on the emancipation of slaves. Therefore, the manumission of slaves was often regarded as a means to expiate the wrongdoings of their masters, such as breaking their oaths or involuntary manslaughter. The merciful treatment of Muslims towards slaves has resulted in a large number of people entering the religion.
Slavery in Islam Today
Slavery ended worldwide after the international treaty for the abolishment of slavery was signed in Berlin in 1860 AD. War captives from then on were to be imprisoned or treated accordingly based on international agreements rather than be enslaved. This treaty was fully supported by Muslim scholars and Islamic countries and as such, slavery has no place in Islam since then.
Radical Groups and Slavery
Unfortunately, within the largely peaceful fabric of the Muslim community lies radical groups who stir up violence – including enslaving and mistreating women – and justify their actions based on an extreme and often misguided interpretation of Islamic scriptures. More often than not, such interpretations are self-serving and these radicals conveniently overlook the main principles of Islam such as peace and mercy.
Extracted and adapted from