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Slavery: A Past and Present Tragedy | Video by Imam Omar Suleiman


Recent headlines about Islam and slavery have shaken many. Bayyinah TV hosted a webinar exploring the past and present manifestations of slavery, and how Islam and other religions viewed it. A brutally honest program that discussed this topic in great depth. Video starts at 29:20.


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  1. Sarah

    October 5, 2015 at 8:25 AM

    I’m surprised at Umer Suleiman for covering up the history of how slavery was used and abused in the Muslim world. The people listening to this seminar are not fools – it’s academically dishonest to imply that Imam Shafi3i was talking about consent in your quote of him. He was specifically talking about if a foreign man forces himself on someone else’s slave woman. The traditional scholars did not conceive of a slave woman’s consent to sex from her owner, since her body was already considered owned by him, and it is arguable that the Sahaba did not do so as well – since I doubt that women whose families had just been killed would be jumping into willing sexual relationships with their captors, and since the Sahaba take for granted the idea that they have access ti women’s bodies. The concept of having to wait a mourning period to have sex with concubines is not what the Sahaba practiced, as can be seen in the various ahadith and incidents where they approached a slave woman immediately after bringing her home from capture. And finally, even the assertion that slavery in the Muslim world was not race based is untrue – there were many instances of deep racism that was justified via citing the Biblical texts (israeeliyat).

    This seminar, whilst reassuring us as to how abolition is Islamic, basically fails to address the real question, which is that of consent. Anyone with half a brain realizes that this is the real issue for any listener, since it leaves no distinction between concubinage and rape. And yet it seems that we would rather comfort ourselves than face the bald facts – which is deeply hypocritical.

    • Zeemar

      October 8, 2015 at 12:52 PM

      Please provide textual quotes with references for everything you’ve claimed above. Currently, it all just smells of BS.

      • Jasha

        October 11, 2015 at 2:07 AM

        Hi Zeemar,

        Koran 4:24: “Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess…”

        Muslim 3433: “Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) sent a small army. The rest of the hadith is the same except this that he said: Except what your right hands possessout of them are lawful for you; and he did not mention” when their ‘idda period comes to an end…They took captives (women) on the day of Autas who had their husbands. They were afraid (to have sexual intercourse with them) when this verse was revealed:” And women already married except those whom you right hands possess” .

        Muslim 4345: “I drove them along until I brought them to Abu Bakr who bestowed that girl upon me as a prize. So we arrived in Medina. I had not yet disrobed her when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) met me in the street and said: “Give me that girl.”

        Much more evidence is being added on the Youtube video comments.

      • Rahin Omar

        July 29, 2016 at 2:46 PM

      • Truth has come

        August 3, 2016 at 2:50 AM

        Alsalamu alaykom.
        Moderators please remove the link comment above me as it is blatant falsehood. As for the refutation of all the comments above me:



        {And Say: “The truth has come and falsehood has perished. Falsehood is always bound to perish!”} (Quran 17:81)

    • Truth has come

      August 3, 2016 at 8:07 AM

      Assalamu alaykum :)

      It cannot be helped but to notice your post being indicative as to how you approached the webinar, which is too biased to say the least, sister. Moreover you have stated clear falsehood regarding the Sahaba as the Hadith(s) you are referring to have all been famously misinterpreted by Islamophobes to support perverted agendas that holds no water. There are multiple sites that address the hadiths in truth such as:

      Umar Suleiman provided many evidences from various angles that rape is Haram whether to a free person or a slave and you are stuck with his quote of Imam Shafi3i? And in addition jumping immediately to the conclusion of calling him academically dishonest? That is too biased, dear sister. Have a bit of good thann (assumption) of others.

      In any case, he replied to your Shafi3i point and more in the followup QA video he made:

      Anyways I took the time to correct you.

      How many hadiths or even possibly 1 hadith (for the clean-minded) closes the entire case yet Islamophobes go to great extents to lie just to try and prove their twisted agendas while ignoring the ocean of authentic proofs that easily refute them. Truly deeply hypocritical, yet they love to “comfort” themselves by self-delusion.

      Here’s a few and I only kindly ask to sit & ponder on each point and not simply read:

      The Islamic principle in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

      “There should be no harming or reciprocating harm.” 

      one of his last words and advices:

      “The prayer, the prayer! And fear Allaah with regard to those whom your right hands possess. ”
      emphasising the importance of taking care of slaves.

      In Islam, a mere slap to the slave equals the slave to be freed.

      Narrated Suwaid bin Muqarrin Al-Muzani:
      “We were seven brothers without a servant except one, and ONE OF US SLAPPED her, so THE PROPHET ORDERED US TO FREE HER.”
      (Jami` at-Tirmidhi volume 3, Book 18, Hadith 1542) 

      If a mere slap was prohibited and the captive was set free, then by default rape which is a much bigger crime is Haram (forbidden in Islam).

      Let us look at how Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him dealt with the rapists:

      Narrated Wa’il ibn Hujr:

      “When a woman went out in the time of the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) for prayer, a man attacked her and overpowered (raped) her.  She shouted and he went off, and when a man came by, she said: That (man) did such and such to me. And when a company of the Emigrants came by, she said: That man did such and such to me. They went and seized the man whom they thought had had intercourse with her and brought him to her.

      She said: Yes, this is he. Then they brought him to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him).  When he (the Prophet) was about to pass sentence, the man who (actually) had assaulted her stood up and said: Apostle of Allah, I am the man who did it to her.

      He (the Prophet) said to the woman: Go away, for Allah has forgiven you.  And about the man who had intercourse with her, he said: Stone him to death

      He also said: He has repented to such an extent that if the people of Medina had repented similarly, it would have been accepted from them. 
      (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4366)

      this would go on forever however I’ll end with this as it’d be an article if I continued posting the endless ocean of proofs.

      This is my favorite to be honest:

      There is a whole chapter in Saheeh Muslim called:

      “(18) Chapter: His Compassion Towards Women And His Command To Treat Them Kindly”

      In this chapter there is only 1 hadith which has different wordings.

      The Hadith is as follows:

      Anas b. Malik reported that Umm Sulaim was with the wives of Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ) and a camel-driver had been driving (the camels) oil which they were riding. Thereupon Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ) said:

      “Anjasha, drive slowly, for you are carrying (on the camels) vessels of glass.” Saheeh Muslim 2323

      Do you know what the Prophet (peace be upon him) meant by vessels of glass?

      He meant women, as they are delicate and must be taken care of gently. If we were to ponder on this hadith alone, it’s sufficient as evidence.

      And that’s why the chapter is named so beautifully.

      Anyone with a clean and sane mind would already come to the conclusion that rape is unacceptable in Islam to a free or a slave by just reading any one of those hadiths.

      Each and every hadith above is sufficient on its own if given proper insight and pondering.

      Moreover, any person who reads the seerah (biography) of the Prophet ( peace be upon him ) would reject such perverted accusations and see them for what they really are: baseless lies.

      No man can ever be equal in righteousness of the Prophet ( peace be upon him ) as he have reached the epitome of all praised & noble qualities, even unbiased non-Muslim historians and great thinkers affirm this.

      Lastly, Islamic morality by its very nature does not allow any immoral & wicked acts in any way shape or form.

      Hope this helps sister :)

      May Allah guide us all to see what is truth as truth and see what is case hood as falsehood.

      {And Say: “The truth has come and falsehood has perished. Falsehood is always bound to perish!”} (Quran 17:81)

  2. Spirituality

    October 5, 2015 at 10:52 AM

    Is it just Imam Shafii who says consent is required or is there ijmaa (consensus) on this issue?

  3. saqib

    October 6, 2015 at 3:37 AM

    Islam introduced the concept of no slavery in such a manner that that one one was in loss.
    1- freedom of slaves in the form of fine, Quran readers know well that there is fine of freedom of slaves if someone fails to abide by his outh (Qasam), breaking Fast , Zahaar ,
    2- Quran ordered his followers to make a written agreements with their slaves to earn agreed amount and give it to his/her owner .
    3- Slave Deserves first all of the compulsory spending ( Zakat , Khums ) and optional spending.
    History lovers tell the stories of slaves while if you use your common sense you can understand that no slave can exist after the order of written agreement.
    4- Allah closed the door of future slaves by saying that prisoners should be free after receiving some compensation amount and if u like you may show generosity and free the slaves without any reward. ( Allah will reward you on Judgement day )

  4. sara

    October 10, 2015 at 6:18 AM

    Islam condemns slavery. There are rules and regulations, circumstances the matter of Captives and slavery in Islam
    Here look at this video, it briefly covers the whole topic, I was surprised and very content to find this video.
    watch “The Captives and Slaves in Islam”

    • Peter

      October 22, 2015 at 10:23 AM

      It does not condemn slavery, it regulates it.

      If it condemned slavery, it would say owning slaves, any slaves is evil. The old testament of the Bible does not condemn slavery either. The lack of true condemnation of something so obviously immoral, are holes in both books.

      In the matters of some basic human rights, there is no shades of grey. Slavery is one of those issues.
      Under modern laws, we do not view slavery in any form legal or moral. The ownership of one human by another is abhorrent. Slavery is one matter that unfortunately, books and values of the past were slaves to the social environments that they emerged from, and have left an immoral legacy.

      • saqib

        February 3, 2016 at 5:02 AM

        Quran ordered his followers to make a written agreements with their slaves to earn agreed amount and give it to his/her owner . After paying the agreed amount slaves were free

        • Peter

          February 3, 2016 at 6:42 AM

          What you posted is true, and it is regulating slavery, not condemning it.

          It is like telling people a nice way to rob someone, or a nice way to murder someone.

          By today’s standards, it does not measure up.

      • saqib

        February 4, 2016 at 3:25 AM

        this order was for the slaves which were already present, for new prisoners Quran ordered ” either release war prisoners by taking some money or free them in the way of God ”
        so Islam was the first religion which condemns slavery. The concept of making new slaves has no room in Islam

  5. Bob

    October 10, 2015 at 3:35 PM

    It is easy to find passages in the Koran which appear to promote or at least accept sexual slavery; see below: (“those whom thy right hand possesses” is an expression for slavery)

    Koran 33.50
    O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; …

    Koran 23.5 – 6
    (The believers) Who abstain from sex,
    Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame,

    These references should come as no surprise since slavery was a rather common institution at the time.

  6. Ali ibn Abdullah

    October 22, 2015 at 5:12 PM

    My previous posts supporting Islam are removed and yet anti-Islamic posts remain. It seems this website may be disingenuous; my comments could not be disproven in an academic discussion but were simply deleted; censorship for no good reason is oppressive and differences in opinion and dialogue are healthy. In the hope that some administrators are actually pro-Islam, pro-freedom and have a conscience, I will address the disbeliever’s comments, just in case they are genuinely interested or God forbid they succeed in harming the faith of other Muslims with their posts. If the administrators wish to delete this first paragraph they are welcome but please ask yourselves why my comments were deleted and perhaps re-examine your motivation for working here; it doesn’t seem to be for the sake of Allah (Azza wa Jall) and if my guess is correct, then you are choosing a hapless journey’s end. This will be my last attempt to post here since encouraging liberty and freedom from economic slavery (usury and ribba) is not something that Shaytan, or you guys, can tolerate.

    Allah (swt) did not just free slaves immediately – this would be cruel and heartless because where could they go and how could they live? Slaves had no land or home of their own, no income and no local family because often their homelands were far away and their environment was new to them. It is unlikely they would find employment because of asabiyyah (prejudice, racism). If the slaves were suddenly set free and dumped on the streets they may either starve or resort to crime.

    The wisdom of Islam is sublime genius in every way – no human could have figured out how best to deal with this awful situation. Allah (swt) eradicated slavery by forbidding the collecting of innocent humans to be used as slaves and by forbidding the selling and purchasing of such slaves. For those who were already ‘owned’, He (swt) made the slave-owners responsible for them in every way with numerous conditions; that the master must be fair and just and honour and respect his slave. He cannot beat or rape the slave. The slave has the right to demand a salary and to build up their savings. The slave must eat the same food as his master. The master must provide everything for a comfortable and fulfilling life, including and especially an education (in America 1200 years later, if a slave even knew the letter ‘A’ their master might cut off their fingers).

    It is a little more complicated than this and I suggest further research but Islam made it so much of a burden to keep the slaves that existed prior to Islam, and eventually they could afford to free themselves gently so that they are fully independent and so no harm should come to them during their transition to liberty.

    In Islam, the only legitimate slaves now are prisoners of war; the enemy who aggresses against the Muslims because of their faith, and is then defeated, loses some of their rights (other religions or cultures might kill them or imprison them in harsh conditions). Muslims are not permitted to harm their prisoners and they must be treated with dignity (unlike what happens at Guantanamo). It is necessary to try and prevent the enemy soldiers and their families from later regrouping their army and repeating their attacks so by making them slaves and limiting their ability to gather military equipment or to pay for another army, both sides can avoid further violence and losses. The beauty of this is not only for the safety of the Muslims but also for the souls of the enemy soldiers who will be educated and introduced to the Holy Teachings of Islam and Muslim life. Often the slaves would convert or at least have a better understanding of our faith so that further hostilities would be less likely.

    The enemies who brought their women with them while invading the Muslims, and were defeated in battle, were taken as slaves for reasons I described above and so that they would be cared for properly in the event of them being widowed or destitute. The “…right hand…” translation is likely wrong in many translations and it is more likely to be “whom your oaths possess”, possibly meaning that you must marry them before conceiving children (confirmed by An-Nisaa 4:3 and 24:33). Islam gives slaves more rights than free souls and among these rights is that the female slaves may associate in the presence of their male owners without a chaperone (Islam forbids free association between genders who are not closely related / married). It would not be fair to deny these women intimacy or children so Allah (swt) also permits them to be married if they both wish – that is why they are mentioned right next to the wives in both these verses.

    This is not sexual slavery; rape is always a mortal sin with severe punishments for those who don’t repent and these verses in no way condone such horrible violence. The verse I mentioned above (Al-Noor:33) is perfectly specific;
    “… As for those who seek an emancipation deal from among your slaves, make such a deal with them if you know any good in them, and give them out of the wealth of Allah which He has given you. Do not compel your female slaves to prostitution when they desire to be chaste, seeking the transitory wares of the life of this world.”

    If you are Christians then you are aware that the second wife of the prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) was a slave called Hagar [Hajar in Arabic] (see Genesis 16:1). She is greatly revered in Islam and was the mother of prophet Ishmael (pbuh).

    The most awesome nail in the coffin of slavery is the system of Islamic penalties; for example, if I break my fast even once during the days of Ramadan, one penalty for this transgression is that I must free a slave. There were many good reasons and rewards for conscientiously freeing slaves and in this way, it wasn’t long before slavery was almost unknown among sincere Muslims, without them ending up on the streets or in jails. If only the west employed this same wisdom, the plight of the freed slaves would not have been so awful. Even now we are still suffering for those transgressions.

    Islam certainly provides the most elegant way of dealing with the abomination of traditional slavery.

    • Peter

      October 22, 2015 at 7:56 PM

      Sorry, you claims have no basis in fact.

      To say that to release slaves is cruel defies belief. The USA released its slaves, they passed laws that slavery is illegal, Europe stopped slavery by saying you cannot own another humans, that stopped slavery in Europe.

      So you claim is illogical.

      Your claim Islam forbade slavery is equally has no basis in fact, as the last countries to outlaw slavery, we all Muslim majority countries. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states all only made slavery Illegal in 1963. That only happened because the USA forced them to make slavery illegal.

      So again your claims are not only completely wrong, but total fabrications.

      Your obvious lies and dishonesty, are a far great threat to the faith of Muslims, than anything I, or any other non Muslim here could post.

      The reason is, you draw attention to the negative actions of the followers of Islam, a side that the followers of all other religions hold too, and try and justify them. That is very wrong.

      • Ali ibn Abdullah

        October 24, 2015 at 10:02 AM

        Dear Peter, It is rather bad form not to include proof when making allegations of dishonesty and lies. In a civilised academic debate, such claims are redundant because the evidence itself supplants any need for disparaging statements.

        Do you expect anyone to believe that you inadvertently failed to understand the rest of the sentence and two further paragraphs where I clearly described why it is cruel to abandon a freed slave to die of starvation? Surely you are making mischief with your straw-man. A goal of Islam is to free slaves but practicality requires some vital preparations so that they survive to enjoy their freedom and live harmoniously with dignity.

        The west eventually began addressing slavery some twelve-hundred years after Islam but unfortunately, their method; that of ‘legislation’ which violently enforced the notion that all slaves must be freed immediately, was proven to be jejune and disastrous. The recent book “Sick From Freedom” by historian Jim Downs is an examination of the tragic reality of emancipation in America. His research reveals that about a quarter of the four million freed slaves either died or suffered from illness between 1862 and 1870. He states that this shameful episode was; “the largest biological crisis of the 19th century”.

        Divine guidance from Allah (swt) is always superior to human impulsiveness; in-spite of the haste to do good immediately, you and the oligarchy of the time did not foresee even the short-term grim results of this sophomoric [non]strategy. Many had to turn to crime or live as scavengers just to survive; this caused wider acceptance of racist lies such as the ‘incivility’ of freed slaves. The shadow of slavery continued with a vengeance because the essence of it still existed, and even increased, in the hearts and minds of their oppressors. The repeal of the Jim Crow laws is well documented but the oppression didn’t end in 1965; it didn’t end at all.

        Modern demographics show a disproportionally high percentage of African-Americans in jail; in 2009, U.S. Department of Justice revealed that they account for approximately 12-13% of the American population but they make up 60% of the male inmates. It is obvious to me that this is a direct result of slavery followed by decades of oppression and racist attitudes that persist until today. When all of humanity voluntarily ensures oppressed minorities have sufficient opportunity to live and thrive as equals, only then will the deep festering wound of slavery have a chance to finally heal.

        Next in your comment you condemn the Holy Teachings of Islam based upon the abysmal standards of a tyrannical self-appointed monarchy (the despotic Saud family). The Quran rejects humans fabricating their own ‘authority’ (no ‘divine right of politicians’); these insane ideas have no basis in religion or logic. Nimrod was the first pompous narcissist to crown himself ‘king’ and Allah (swt) protected Abraham (as) against his tyranny until He (swt) ended the life of Nimrod via a humble mosquito. Following a leader should be a voluntary arrangement; no one has the right to violently raise themselves, as kings, presidents or prime ministers (Al-Hujurat 49:13). This coercive rule that we are conditioned to accept is bogus. Only the prophets (as) and divinely appointed Imams (as) have been given authority and even they never transgress the natural law of Allah (swt) by claiming immunity to morality (as every coercive ‘ruler’ and ‘government’ does). Islam is a way of life that forbids violent domination by parasitic ‘ruling classes’. The allegiance of a Muslim is only to Allah (swt), His Messenger (saawa) and those he appoints. Presently in the dunya, only the Imam Mahdi (as) is qualified to lead because his purity cannot be corrupted by his position of authority.

        Your theory that all Muslims must be infallible or else their shortfalls indicate flaws in the Holy Teachings is bizarre. Christianity is never subjected to this absurd non-sequitur. It is a complement to the Noble Quran that in order to fault Islam, you can only resort to crude fallacies.

        Here is just a brief modicum of the extensive proof that slavery is forbidden in Islam: 2:256; “There shall be no compulsion in religion…” The Arabic word used for religion is ‘Deen’ which means the entire lifestyle described for Muslims. In An-Nisaa (4:29), mutually consenting trade is insisted upon (voluntaryism / mutualism in a free market – no slave-trade). 2:190 and 42:42 forbids any acts of aggression and there are countless teachings regarding standing for justice (4:135) and forbidding oppression (5:2). Islam is a clearly a ‘voluntaryist’ deen; our ‘golden rule’ is “love for your brother what you love for yourself” (Hadith 13 Bukhari & Muslim).

        Allah (swt) addressed the entrenched sin of enslaving innocents by changing hearts and that is key for effective and permanent change; this was absent in the American ’emancipation’. The first ever Muezzin (a great honour) was a freed slave of African ethnicity; all Muslims know the name Bilal and love and respect him deeply. Even a mustard seed of asabiyyah (prejudice or tribalism) will prevent the afflicted from reaching paradise. It was not accidental that the Farewell Sermon emphasised those teachings which outlaw the enslavement of innocents, oppression and inequality and I wish you would at least read this short sermon before commenting again; it beautifully précis Islam in a nutshell. It also obliterates your claims.

    • Halima

      October 23, 2015 at 4:41 AM

      Jazaak Allahu Gayran for your contribution to this discussion! I absolutely agree with your arguments.

      Slavery wasn’t prohibited immediately because of the consequences during that time.

      • Ali ibn Abdullah

        October 24, 2015 at 10:04 AM

        May Allah bless you dear sister. I only repeated what was gifted to us through our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him). All thanks and praises belong to Allah (Azza wa Jall).

    • Aly Balagamwala

      October 23, 2015 at 7:31 AM

      Dear Brother

      Your comments were removed due to being excessively long. Please comment short and to the point. We can’t have entire articles in the comments section.

      JazakAllahu Khairin for your understanding.

      Comments Team

      • Ali ibn Abdullah

        October 23, 2015 at 10:36 AM

        Dear Brother Aly, thank you for your reply. I withdraw my speculation and apologise to you. I hope Allah (swt) will forgive me for any injustice. Sadly, the other communities I have posted articles and comments upon have often deleted posts or banned my account. This happens when I counter anti-Islamic rhetoric or discuss modern methods of subjugation such as usury, haram fiat currency, the Federal Reserve private banking cartel and the myth of human ‘authority’ (government). The cartel ruling America have legalised propaganda recently and several years prior to that they admitted buying a $2.4 million ‘Sock Puppet’ software package from the corporate arms-dealer Ntrepid. This facilitates the spreading of pro-government opinion all over the internet. So please excuse my scepticism; I guess I got too used to dealing with cowardly collaborators. Freedom from subjugation and exploitation is not a popular topic among the media controlled by the ‘ruling classes’, for obvious reasons.

        I will keep it brief in future insha’Allah. May I suggest limiting the size of the comment box or having some note or written policy limiting the length or frequency of comments? I spent a couple of hours that I couldn’t really spare on this discussion and was disappointed to see the conversation vanish without explanation. Had I not bothered to complain, I would have abandoned this community, while feeling rather forlorn and without ever knowing the reason my comments were rejected.

    • Mohammad

      August 29, 2016 at 11:53 AM

      Brother Ali, I think your comments should be compiled in a separate article. They are very informative. I thank you for standing up.

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