Slaves, Muslim to be Emancipated?

Quran and Hadith make no distinction between a Muslim slave and a non-Muslim slave. The only difference is that according to one hadith, freeing a Muslim slave can save a person from hellfire. That does not mean that freeing non-Muslims is not meritorious or is not recommended for expiation of sins. Since, later, a law was established that no free Muslim would be taken as slave, limiting emancipation to Muslims would have been meaningless.

Verse 47:4 of Quran clearly suggests that non-Muslim captives who were made slaves can be freed as a “favor.” In the Battles of Hunain and Bani Mustaliq, non-Muslim slaves were freed. Tabari also lists several non-Muslims who were bought and freed by Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) or freed when they were captured after a military campaign and they fell in his lot. People who were freed by the Prophet (s.a.w) included Yasar, Abu Muwayhibah, and Abu Kabshah, among others. Caliph Umar bin Abd al-Aziz had ordered that non-Muslim subjects, if taken prisoners by an enemy should be as much ransomed and liberated on state expenses as any Muslim subject [for reference see Ibn Sa’ad’s al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, Volume 5, pages 26, 272. For secondary reference see “Non-Muslims Under Sharia’ah Law” by Abdul Rehman Doi).

How About Verse 4:92 which states:

[4.92] And it does not behoove a believer to kill a believer except by mistake, and whoever kills a believer by mistake, he should FREE A BELIEVING slave, and blood-money should be paid to his people unless they remit it as alms; but if he be from a tribe hostile to you and he is a believer, the freeing of a BELIEVING SLAVE (suffices), and if he is from a tribe between whom and you there is a covenant, the blood-money should be paid to his people along with the freeing of a BELIEVING SLAVE; but he who cannot find (a slave) should fast for two months successively: a penance from Allah, and Allah is Knowing, Wise.

The verse deals with a specific condition in which a Muslim is found guilty of manslaughter for killing another Muslim. In the verse prior to this, it is clear that what is being referred to is unintentional killing of a Muslim, who may or may not be a hypocrite or who may be living in enemy territory. And if life of a Muslim was taken without proper justification, it was only right that another Muslim benefits and he/she gains freedom. Freeing of a Muslim slave as a compensatory corrective measure does not in any way negate the general principle that freeing of slaves, regardless of their faith, is a meritorious act. In other verses of the Quran, expiation of other sins is achievable through freeing of a slave, and no mention is made whether the slave has to be a Muslim or not. See Verses 90:13, 5:89, 58:03, 9:60, 2:177, 24:33.

To further clarify, in case of a non-Muslim victim of manslaughter at the hands of a Muslim or vice versa, other punishments or penalties may be given. The verse in question was strictly dealing with manslaughter of a Muslim by another Muslim in times of conflict, and under normal circumstances a judge should come up with proper verdict in other cases, including freeing of a non-Muslim slave, if possible. Since slavery no longer exists, other measures may be prescribed to inculcate repentance. Regarding protection of non-Muslims, the Prophet once said “Their property is like our property and their blood is like our blood” (see Mishkat al-Masabih, Ch. 25, Hadith 10). Caliph Ali (r.a.) had also stated, “The blood of a Dhimmi (protected non-Muslim) is like the blood of a Muslim, his goods and chattels are like those of the Muslims.”

How About This Hadith which States:

Sahih Muslim

Book 009, Number 3604:

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: He who emancipates a BELIEVING SLAVE. Allah will set free from Fire his every limb for every limb of his (slave’s), even his private parts for his.

The Hadith simply implies that freeing a Muslim slave is such a supererogatory act that a person can save himself from hellfire. It does not mean that freeing a non-Muslim slave does not have its own rewards. Most of the other Ahadith and Quran do not make a distinction between a Muslim and a non-Muslim slave when manumission of a slave is recommended for expiation of sins.


2 thoughts on “Slaves, Muslim to be Emancipated?

  1. sam September 24, 2013 at 4:05 pm Reply

    in arabia there were never black only restaurants water fountains hotels etc only found in christian west…most were indebtured servants who even after paying off debts chose ro remain as servants who lived in the same houses and ate same food as their owners

  2. Herman December 25, 2013 at 3:18 pm Reply

    From what is provided we have further evidence that
    1) There was no compelling need to enslave anyone to begin with, if a slave can be freed as expiation,
    2) Disbelievers in the eyes of Muhammad and the Muslims truly are second-class citizens — Muhammad and Allah provide no benefit in freeing them.

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