Egypt Independent

Quran does not legitimize slavery



Perhaps something harmful is a blessing in disguise. It is the involvement of this holy verse from the Quran, which is the root of all mercy and which they want to make in the context of slaughter and terrorism, that made me go back and write about it.

Let’s mention the verse first: {So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens} [Surah Muhammad 47:4].

Many may not know that this verse is a source of pride for Islamic law.. Why? Because it does not mention the option of slavery in dealing with prisoners. {…either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them]…}. Either Muslims free them or take something in return for release, but the option of slavery does not exist.

The late journalist and writer Abbas al-Aqqad was not lying when he said that “the Quran legitimizes emancipation and does not legitimize slavery.” The Islamic jurist Muhammad Abu Zahrah was not making it up when he said that there is not single verse or rigorously authenticated hadith (saying or tradition of Prophet Muhammed – peace be upon him) that legitimizes slavery.

It is your right, dear reader, to be surprised and say, “But the Quran has repeatedly spoken about what those whom your right hands possess, who are the slaves, so then how do you say that the Quran does not legitimize slavery?”

Try to understand me. In principle, there is no dispute that Islam has called for emancipation in dozens of verses and made it an expiation for many sins. This is not argued by anyone.

But please differentiate between two things. To legitimize slavery in the sense that Muslims are allowed to take slaves from the prisoners according to Quranic text, and this did not happen.

However, all that came in the Quran regarding slaves is either to emancipate them, urge their Mukataba (manumission) to redeem themselves, or organize their affairs with kindness, and to be kind to them even in the event of sin…{then for them is half the punishment for free [unmarried] women} [Surah al-Nisa’a 4:25].

This is while waiting for humanity to fully abolish slavery. In other words, the Quran deals with mercy in the existing situation, but it does not legitimize the occurrence of slavery.

Someone may ask me, “Why doesn’t the Quran completely abolish slavery?” I do not speak on behalf of Allah, but my personal thoughts.

Islam has spread through a very human effort. Allah could have humiliated the hostile army just by [saying] “Be”, but he made the victory through the effort of His followers…{to test some of you by means of others}.

It is a matter of human effort. The principle of reciprocity has an Islamic origin: {And if you punish [an enemy, O believers], punish with an equivalent of that with which you were harmed} [Surah al-Nahl 16:126], {and expel them from wherever they have expelled you} [Surah al-Baqara 2:191]. Therefore, it is not practical that the enemies make Muslim prisoners slaves, but then the Muslims release the enemy prisoners.

Therefore, taking prisoners as slaves was according to the principle of reciprocity without Quranic legislation. Because had slavery been legislated, Muslims today would be in great embarrassment after the people of the earth agreed to abolish it. Islam very much welcomed the abolition of slavery, which is in keeping with its teachings.

Therefore, I say that this verse, {…either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them]…}, is a source of pride for Islamic law.