Liberate, Emancipate and Marry Slaves
Verses From The Glorious Qur'an
Copyright © 1990, 1998 Compiled by Dr. A. Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq

Attempt the Ascent, Free a Slave, Qur'an: Surah 90 Al-Balad (The City): Nay, I swear by this city... We verily have created man in an atmosphere... But he hath not attempted the Ascent, Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Ascent is! It is to free a slave, And to feed in the day of hunger, An orphan near of kin, Or some poor wretch in misery. And to be of those who believe and exhort one another to perseverance and exhort one another to pity.
Marry: Slaves and Maid Servants; Emancipation, Qur'an 24:27-34 Surah An-Nur (Light): Tell the believing men... And tell the believing women... And marry such of you as are solitary and the pious of your slaves and maid servants. If they be poor; Allah will enrich them of His bounty. Allah is of ample means, Aware. And let those who cannot find a match keep chaste till Allah give them independence by His grace. And such of your slaves as seek a writing of emancipation, write it for them if ye are aware of aught of good in them, and bestow upon them of the wealth of Allah which He hath bestowed upon you. Force not your slave girls to whoredom that ye may seek enjoyment of the life of the world, if they would preserve their chastity. And if one force them, then (unto them), after their compulsion, Lo! Allah will be Forgiving, Merciful...
Free Slaves, Qur'an 2:177 Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow): It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the Prophets; and giveth his wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the God fearing.
Prefer Marriage to a Believing Slave, Qur'an 2:221 Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow): Wed not idolatresses till they believe; for lo! a believing bondwoman is better than an idolatress though she please you; and give not your daughters in marriage to idolaters till they believe, for lo! a believing slave is better than an idolater though he please you. These invite unto the Fire, and Allah inviteth unto the Garden, and unto forgiveness by His grace, and expoundeth thus His revelations to mankind that haply they may remember.
Expiation of Breaking Sworn Oath, Qur'an 5:89 Surah Al Ma'idah (The Table Spread): Allah will not take you to task for that which is unintentional in your oaths, but He will take you to task for the oaths which ye swear in earnest. The expiation thereof is the feeding of ten of the needy with the average of that wherewith ye feed your own folk, or the clothing of them, or the liberation of a slave, and for him who findeth not (the wherewithal to do so) then a three day fast. This is the expiation of your oaths when ye have sworn; and keep your oaths...
Set Free a Believing Slave, Qur'an 4:92 Surah An-Nisa (Women): It is not for a believer to kill a believer unless it be by mistake. He who hath killed a believer by mistake must set free a believing slave, and pay the blood money to the family of the slain, unless they remit it as a charity. If he (the victim) be of a people hostile unto you, and he is a believer, then (the penance is) to set free a believing slave. And if he cometh of a folk between whom and you there is a covenant, then the blood money must be paid unto his folk and (also) a believing slave must be set free. And whoso hath not the wherewithal must fast two consecutive months. A penance from Allah. Allah is Knower, Wise.
Free a Slave, Qur'an 58:3-4 Surah Al-Mujadilah (She That Disputeth): Those who put away their wives by saying they are as their mothers and afterward would go back on that which they have said; the penalty in that case is the freeing of a slave before they touch one another. Unto this ye are exhorted; and Allah is informed of what ye do. And he who findeth not the wherewithal, let him fast for two successive months before they touch one another; and for him who is unable to do so the penance is the feeding of sixty needy ones. This, that ye may put trust in Allah and His messenger. Such are the limits imposed by Allah; and for disbelievers is a painful doom.

Those who wish to understand the specific and broader meaning of the verses of the Qur'an, it is recommended that they should also read commentary on these subjects and verses. The English readers will find either Yusuf Ali's or Maududi's commentaries a good source. Allama Yususf Ali presents the meaning Ayah (verse) by Ayah with detailed footnotes for relevant words in each verse and includes a detailed index of the topics mentioned in the Qur'an. Maulana Maududi's work covers commentary for each Surah (chapter) of the Holy Qur'an.

Pickthall writes in his foreward of 1930: "... The Qur'an cannot be translated. ... The book is here rendered almost literally and every effort has been made to choose befitting language. But the result is not the Glorious Qur'an, that inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy. It is only an attempt to present the meaning of the Qur'an-and peradventure something of the charm in English. It can never take the place of the Qur'an in Arabic, nor is it meant to do so. ..."

"The Holy Qur'an," Text, Translation and Commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, 1934. (Latest Publisher: Amana Publications, Beltsville, MD, USA; Title: "The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an," 1992). A pocket edition of Yusuf Ali's translation is also available in contemporary English.

"The Meaning of the Glorious Koran," An Explanatory Translation by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, a Mentor Book Publication. (Also available as: "The Meaning of the Glorious Koran," by Marmaduke Pickthall, Dorset Press, N.Y. and several Islamic book publishers; Published by several publishers since 1930). Note: The Mentor publication (451 MJ1529 195) contains a few errors/omissions, e.g., in Surah 72: the last part of Verse 2 should read "we ascribe no partner unto our Lord", and Surah 68: Verse 22 should read "straight" road instead of "beaten" road. In case of any doubt, the reader is advised to check with a copy from an Islamic publisher and also check with an Islamic scholar for the meaning directly from the Arabic original.

For the serious readers of the meaning of the Qur'an in English, it is recommended that it should be read along with a good commentary to comprehend the essential meaning and scope of verses. Either Yusuf Ali's or Maududi's commentaries are a good starting point. The former presents the meaning Ayah (verse) by Ayah with footnotes and includes a detailed index of the topics mentioned in the Qur'an, while the latter presents commentaries for each Surah (chapter) of the Qur'an.

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Slavery - Never a Race Issue
Taken from The Wisdom Fund

Much of the early history of African-American Muslims is discussed by Y. N. Kly in the article "The African-American Muslim Minority: 1776-1900."

One of the causes of the continuing conversion of African-Americans to Islam is the contrast between their brutal and racist enslavement at the hands of Anglo-Americans in the United States, on the one hand, and the relative absence of racism in Islam, on the other. Although one dimension of the current anti-Islamic polemic in the West is the highlighting of the occurence of slavery both in Islamic history and today in Sudan and Mauritania, this has failed to turn away many African-Americans from Islam.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • the Qur'an repeatedly condemns oppressors;
  • the Qur'an exhorts people to free their slaves;
  • while slavery has occured in the Muslim world, it has not been racist;
  • slavery in the Muslim world was largely a way of dealing with prisoners of war who were then ransomed back to their own people.
  • Given the clear opposition of Islam to injustice, the Islamic virtue of not practicing slavery, and the relatively recent horrors of African-American slavery, why have Muslims not put an end to slavery in the Muslim world?

     I suspect that the answer to this lies in the fact that in most areas of the Muslim world, Muslims are themselves not free to act politically, that they are preoccupied with other local struggles against injustice, or are constrained by poverty. If my suspicion is correct, in the future as Muslims gradually emerge from the bondage of neocolonial dictatorships and/or poverty, we should see Muslims at the forefront of those activists who are striving to end all forms of slavery.

    On the other hand, if Muslims do not actively work to end slavery, Islam will no doubt lose much of its appeal to people for whom oppression is a reality. See the article Slavery in Islam for useful source material.

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    Non-Muslim Writers on Slavery in Islam
    Taken from The Wisdom Fund

    Annemarie Schimmel in "Islam: An Introduction" Slavery was not abolished by the Koran, but believers are constantly admonished to treat their slaves well. In case of illness a slave has to be looked after and well cared for. To manumit [free] a slave is highly meritorious; the slave can ransom himself by paying some of the money he has earned while conducting his own business. Only children of slaves or non-Muslim prisoners of war can become slaves, never a freeborn Muslim; therefore slavery is theoretically doomed to disappear with the expansion of Islam. The entire history of Islam proves that slaves could occupy any office, and many former military slaves, usually recruited from among the Central Asian Turks, became military leaders and often even rulers as in eastern Iran, India (the Slave Dynasty of Delhi), and medieval Egypt (the Mamluks). Eunuchs too served in important capacities, not only as the guardians of the women's quarters, but also in high administrative and military positions. -- p. 67

    Roger Du Pasquier in "Unveiling Islam" To answer this question, it should first be remarked that Islam has tolerated slavery but has never approved of it, and that all its teachings and prescriptions in this regard lead to its alleviation as far as possible in the short term, and, in the longer term, conduce to its progressive suppression. To abolish it would have been impossible in a world in which it was generally practiced by all the states which bordered on the new Muslim empire, and in which the idea of challenging the principle itself had not occurred to anyone. It was the custom to enslave prisoners of war -- when these were not simply massacred -- and the Islamic state would have put itself at a grave disadvantage vis-a-vis its enemies had it not reciprocated to some extent. By guaranteeing them humane treatment, and various possibilities of subsequently releasing themselves, it ensured that a good number of combatants in the opposing armies preferred captivity at the hands of Muslims to death on the field of battle.

    It should be very clearly underlined that the slavery once practiced in the Muslim world cannot be compared to the form it had assumed -- for instance -- in the Roman Empire. Islamic legislation subjected slaveowners to a set of precise obligations, first among which was the slave's right to life, for, according to a hadith, 'Whoever kills his slave shall be killed by us'. In consequence, the murder of a slave was punished like that of a free man.

    There are many other hadiths which define Islam's true attitude in this regard. The Prophet said: 'Your slaves are your brethren; therefore whoever has a brother who depends upon him must feed and clothe him in the way he feeds and clothes himself; and should not impose upon him tasks which exceed his capacity; should you ask them to do such things, then you are obliged to help them.' The Sharia takes this injunction, among many others, into account when defining the responsibilities and duties of slaveholders.

    There is another teaching which enjoins respect for the human dignity of slaves: 'Let none of you say, "This man, or this woman, is my slave". He must rather say: "This is my man, and this my woman."' Putting into relief the provisional character of social ties and the authority exercised by slaveowners over their slaves, the Prophet said: 'It is true that God has made you their masters, but, had He so wished, He could equally well have made you their slaves.'

    To manumit a slave has always been regarded as one of the most meritorious of all acts, and many passages of the Qur'an recommend or even require it, particularly as a means of expiation for serious faults. Traditional legislation lays down the methods of voluntary liberation of slaves by their masters (itq), and there were very many Muslims who observed these, especially at the end of their lives, so as not to die and appear before God without having given full freedom to the human beings placed in their power during their earthly lives.

    Additionally, slaves had the ability to enfranchise themselves at their own initiative, without waiting passively for the goodwill of their masters: the procedure known as mukataba allowed them to buy their own freedom with sums which they saved from their work, and which the state frequently augmented with advances -- a measure which the slaveowner had no right to oppose. In contrast to the situation under Roman law, slaves were not deprived of the legal ability to exercise their rights and to appeal to a judge against their masters in all cases of illegal treatment.

    Besides domestic slavery, which was generally imbued with a patriarchal character, there also existed a form of military slavery, which was frequently employed by princes in need of recruits, especially for their personal guards. This situation had the effect of conferring an often considerable influence and power on men of servile condition or origin, and some of these became the founders of great and illustrious dynasties such as the Tulunids and Mamlukes of Egypt.

    The object of a prosperous commercial sector, which under the Abbasid Empire was often the speciality of non-Muslims, particularly Byzantine and Venetian Christians, and Jews, slavery gradually declined in importance until, at the beginning of the present century, it was confined to a few survivals which have now disappeared entirely. Thanks to the strict traditional controls which have always regulated the practice, it would be difficult to deny that social conditions were remarkably humane during the great periods of Muslim civilization, and that these, moreover, were in conformity with the 'egalitarian' spirit of Islam, which, in a hadith, teaches that 'the blackest of Abyssinians' is superior to most noble of Quraishites, if he has more faith. -- p. 104 to 107

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