Q: It is said: why does Islam not prohibit slavery?
A: Allah (Exalted be He) has the perfect knowledge, wisdom, kindness and mercy. He is All-Knowing with the matters of His creation, Compassionate with His servants and Wise in His creation and legislation. Therefore, He legislated for people that which makes them good in the world and in the Hereafter and that which will guarantee their real happiness, freedom and equality in fair circumstances, comprehensive guidance and within limits that do not transgress the rights of Allah and that of His servants. He sent this legislation with His Messengers as announcers of glad tidings and warners. So he who follows His path and follows the guidance of His Messengers, deserves dignity and attains success and bliss. Whoever refuses to follow the straight path, he deserves to be killed or enslaved in order to establish justice, maintain security and peace and safeguard lives, honor and properties.
For these mentioned causes, Jihad (striving for the cause of Allah) was legislated to deter the oppressors and eliminate the corruptors and clean the earth from the wrongdoers.
Whoever among them is captured by Muslims, the ruler has the choice either to kill him if his evil is eminent and he will not be corrected, or forgive him and accept a ransom from him if he can be deterred by that or lead him to goodness.
The ruler may take him as a slave if he believes that holding him among Muslims will correct him, rectify him and cause him to find the way to guidance, believe in and submit to it due to what he can see of Muslims’ justice, their kindness and good treatment. He may also listen to the texts of legislation and morals. Accordingly, his heart may be opened to Islam, Allah will make faith dear to him and make disbelief, transgression and disobedience unpleasant to him. Then, he will start a new life with Muslims to gain his freedom by an agreement of freedom.
Allah (Exalted be He) says:
And let those who find not the financial means for marriage keep themselves chaste, until Allâh enriches them of His Bounty. And such of your slaves as seek a writing (of emancipation), give them such writing, if you find that there is good and honesty in them. And give them something (yourselves) out of the wealth of Allâh which He has bestowed upon you.
[Noble Qur’an 24:33]
This also may be achieved through the expiation for false oath, Zhihar (a man likening his wife to an unmarriageable relative), vow or the like. It also may be achieved through the way of emancipation for the sake of Allah, seeking His reward and other kinds of emancipation. Therefore, it will be known that the origin of slavery is the capturing in Jihad against the disbelievers to correct those who were captured by isolating them from the evil environment they lived in and starting a new life in a Muslim community to guide them to the path of goodness, save them from evil, purify them from the effects of disbelief and error and make them deservea better life in which they enjoy security and peace.
Slavery in Islam is like a purifying machine or sauna in which those who are captured enter to wash off their dirt and then they come out clean, pure and safe from another door.
May Allah grant us success! May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and Companions!
Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta’
Member Member Deputy Chairman Chairman
Abdullah ibn Qa`ud Abdullah ibn Ghudayyan Abdul-Razzaq `Afify Abdul-`Aziz ibn Abdullah ibn Baz