Is Slavery In Islam Encouraged?


Quran verses on slavery in Islam

A common argument is that slavery in Islam is encouraged, or that Islam did not eradicate slavery. In the Quran slaves are referred to as ‘those whom your right hand possess.’ The Quran actually teaches to free slaves in many verses:

And never is it for a believer to kill a believer except by mistake. And whoever kills a believer by mistake – then the freeing of a believing slave and a compensation payment presented to the deceased’s family [is required] unless they give [up their right as] charity – 4:92

And those who pronounce thihar (leaving their wife) from their wives and then [wish to] go back on what they said – then [there must be] the freeing of a slave before they touch one another. That is what you are admonished thereby; and Allah is Acquainted with what you do. 58:3

Allah will not impose blame upon you for what is meaningless in your oaths, but He will impose blame upon you for [breaking] what you intended of oaths. So its expiation is the feeding of ten needy people from the average of that which you feed your [own] families or clothing them or the freeing of a slave. – 5:89

And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if ye know any good in them: yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which Allah has given to you. – 24:33

Sexual slavery in Islam is forbidden

Another common argument is that sex with slaves is permitted in Islam. This can easily be proved incorrect. There is no such thing as sex outside of marriage in Islam as it is one of the major sins. Sex is only permitted after marriage. Here is the verse taken out of context:

And [also prohibited to you are all] married women except those your right hands possess. 4:24

If we look at the rest of the verse:

And [also prohibited to you are all] married women except those your right hands possess. [This is] the decree of Allah upon you. And lawful to you are [all others] beyond these, [provided] that you seek them [in marriage] with [gifts from] your property, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse. So for whatever you enjoy [of marriage] from them, give them their due compensation as an obligation. And there is no blame upon you for what you mutually agree to beyond the obligation. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.
And do not compel your slave girls to prostitution, if they desire chastity, to seek [thereby] the temporary interests of worldly life. 24:33

It is clear that sex with slaves is not permitted. You have to marry your slave first which would free them. They would then be your wife and no longer your slave. Only then is sex permitted. Here are other verses also mentioning that you must marry the slave first before you can have sex:

And whoever among you cannot [find] the means to marry free, believing women, then [he may marry] from those whom your right hands possess of believing slave girls. 4:25

And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice]. 4:3

Why did Islam not ban slavery

Slavery was not something that could be banned overnight. At the time of the 7th century there was no period in human history where slavery did not exist. Slavery dates back to the earliest known records of human civilisations in ancient Egypt, India and China.

Slaves depended on their masters for food and shelter. Immediately banning slavery would make former slaves homeless and unable to provide for themselves. There were slaves where their fathers, grandfathers and their entire family history was all in slavery. However some slaves were even better off than some free people, who were struggling to provide for themselves. Many free people would sell themselves into slavery if they struggled to feed themselves.

A modern day analogy would be computers. Hypothetically, if we found out that computers emit radiation which causes cancer. Could we then ban computers immediately? Of course not. Planes without coordination would be colliding with each other, cars would crash into each other without traffic lights, just to name a few of the problems that it would cause. Computers could only be banned gradually.

Computers are so embedded in modern  society similar to how slavery was so embedded in ancient civilisations. Islam knew it could not be eradicated immediately but gradually. Islam also taught to treat slaves better and to give them rights as slavery was being gradually phased out and becoming less common.

And Allah has favored some of you over others in provision. But those who were favored would not hand over their provision to those whom their right hands possess so they would be equal to them therein. Then is it the favor of Allah they reject? 16:71

Under Islam, a slave could ask their master to free them at any time. Slavery in Islam was more of an occupation for poor people to support themselves. They were given the same rights as free people such as marrying free people. Under non-Muslim slavery, slaves were considered sub-human and they were forbidden from marrying free people.

And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if ye know any good in them: yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which Allah has given to you. – 24:33

If that is not enough, then here is another verse teaching to free slaves.

Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous. – 2:177

It can be concluded that anyone who claims Islam promotes slavery or sex with slaves is ignorant about Islam.


Do you agree or disagree? Feel free to comment below.

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