Slavery in Pre-Islamic Arabia – The truth about Slavery

Slavery in Pre-Islamic Arabia - The truth about SlaveryIn pre-Islamic Arabia, pagans practiced human sacrifice, offering their children to idols. However, reports suggest that this practice still exists in India today. ?

Child killed for ‘human sacrifice to Lord Shiva’ in South Delhi

Man allegedly hacked youth to death as human sacrifice after birth of male child

Man kills 12-year-old sister in sacrifice to goddess of war

Human sacrifice in Orissa sends shock waves across the state, throughout India

  • There are thousands of such cases in India which are happening even today.

Did Islam started slavery in the first place

It is important to note that Islam did not invent the practice of slavery. Rather, slavery was a widespread and longstanding institution in many societies around the world, including pre-Islamic Arabia. When Prophet Muhammad emerged in the 7th century, the institution of slavery was already well-established, and it continued in various forms under Islamic rule. The Qur’an and the Hadith (sayings and actions of Muhammad) contain several passages that regulate the practice of slavery and provide guidance on how slaves were to be treated. According to Islamic tradition, slaves were to be treated with kindness and respect, and they were granted certain rights and protections. The Qur’an also encourages the freeing of slaves as an act of piety and good deeds, and it states that those who free slaves will receive a reward from God.

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It is noteworthy that in pre-Islamic Arabia, the status of women was low, particularly with regards to children. If a family was poor and had a newborn, they sometimes sold the child as a slave to repay debts or crimes, or as a source of income when they were in financial trouble. This was especially prevalent when the child was a daughter. This practice can be found in the Jewish and Christian Holy Bibles, which permit the sale of one’s own daughters. At the time, many Jews lived in Arabia and followed their corrupted Bible, leading to the sale of each other’s sons as slaves.

  • Here are a few examples of Bible verses that mention slavery:

📖Exodus 21:7-11
WHEN A MAN SELLS HIS DAUGHTER AS A SLAVE, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.


📖Exodus 21:1-3
“Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. WHEN YOU BUY A HEBREW SLAVE, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free.

📖Leviticus 25:44-46
As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: YOU MAY BUY MALE AND FEMALE SLAVES FROM AMONG THE NATIONS THAT ARE AROUND YOU. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.


📖1 Peter 2:18
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.

📖Ephesians 6:5
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ

📖Colossians 3:22
Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

📖Titus 2:9-10
Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

📖Exodus 21:20-21
“When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.

📖Exodus 21:26-27
When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.

  • There are many other verses where slavery is mentioned in the Bible

Did Jesus say anything about Slavery 

It is important to note that Jesus did not directly address the issue of slavery in the New Testament, as it was a cultural institution at the time and not unique to any one country or religion. However, Jesus did teach principles that are relevant to the issue of slavery, such as the inherent value and dignity of all people and the importance of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Additionally, the apostle Paul, who is a self claimed Apostle of Jesus and played a key role in the early spread of Christianity, wrote extensively about the concept of slavery and how Christians should approach it. In his letters to the early churches, Paul encouraged slaves to serve their masters faithfully and to respect their masters as they would respect Christ.

What Islam say about Slavery 

When Prophet Muhammad Arrived, there were many causes of slavery, such as warfare, debt (where if the debtor could not pay off his debt, he became a slave), kidnapping and raids, and poverty and need. Slavery did not spread in this appalling manner throughout all continents except by means of kidnapping; rather the main source of slaves in Europe and America in later centuries was this method.

  • The texts of Islam took a strong stance against this. It says in a hadith ?

📖Sahih al-Bukhari 2227
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Allah says, ‘I will be against three persons on the Day of Resurrection: -1. One who makes a covenant in My Name, but he proves treacherous. -2. One who sells a free person (as a slave) and eats the price, -3. And one who employs a laborer and gets the full work done by him but does not pay him his wages.

📖Sahih Muslim 1657
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: He who beats a slave without cognizable offence of his or slaps him (without any serious fault), then expiation for it is that he should set him free.

  • Abu Dharr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said ?

📖Sahih al-Bukhari 30
The Prophet said, Your slaves are your brothers and Allah has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity (power) and if you do so, then help them.

📖Sahih Muslim 1509 b
Abu Huraira (May Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah said, He who emancipates a slave, Allah will set free from Hell.

📖Sahih al-Bukhari 5649
Narrated Abu Muisa Al-Ash`ari:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Feed the hungry, visit the sick, and set free the captives.

📖Sahih al-Bukhari 30
Narrated Al-Ma’rur:
At Ar-Rabadha I met Abu Dhar who was wearing a cloak, and his slave, too, was wearing a similar one. I asked about the reason for it. He replied, “I abused a person by calling his mother with bad names.” The Prophet said to me, ‘O Abu Dhar! Did you abuse him by calling his mother with bad names You still have some characteristics of ignorance. Your slaves are your brothers and Allah has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity (power) and if you do so, then help them.

Quranic verses call for freeing slaves

📖Quran 90:7-13
Does he think that no one has seen him? Have We not made for him two eyes? – And have shown him the two ways? – But he has not broken through the difficult pass, And what can make you know what is [breaking through] the difficult pass? It is the freeing of a slave.

  • The Quran and Islam have always advocated for the freeing of slaves. This is evident from the verses.

📖Quran 9:60
Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise.

  • Quran has stated the freeing of slaves as one of the definitions of Charity.

📖Quran 2:177
Sahih International
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.

📖Quran 24:33
And those who cannot afford marriage should keep themselves chaste until Allah enriches them out of His grace. And those of your slaves who wish to enter the contract of Kitābah (emancipation by paying money), contract Kitābah with them, if you recognize some good in them. And give them out of the wealth of Allah that He has given to you. And do not compel your maids to prostitution – if they wish to observe chastity – in order that you may seek the temporary benefit of the worldly life. If one compels them, then after their being compelled, Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful.

  • The message here is that people should avoid engaging in immoral and unethical behavior, even if it brings temporary benefits, because it goes against the teachings of Islam and could lead to eternal consequences. Instead, they should strive to live their lives in accordance with the principles of Islam, and rely on Allah’s forgiveness and mercy.

Quran Verses and Hadith Applicability

The Quran is considered to be the central religious text of Islam and is believed by Muslims to be the word of God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. It is considered to be eternal and applicable to all people and all ages, containing guidance for all aspects of life. However, the interpretation and application of specific verses may vary depending on the context and time period in which they are studied. For example, in the event of a war where the army has attacked the enemy’s country, resulting in some deaths and captives, the relevant verses of the Quran and Hadiths, such as Sahih Muslim 1744 b, still apply today. The Prophet Muhammad prohibited the killing of women and children during war, the destruction of crops, trees, and buildings, and encouraged humane treatment of prisoners of war. These teachings were based on the principles of mercy and compassion, aimed at reducing harm and suffering in times of conflict, and promoting a sense of justice and respect for human life. Islam recognizes the right to self-defense and defense of one’s community against aggression and harm, but the use of force should be limited to what is necessary for self-defense and should not be used for aggression or to violate the rights of others. The Quran states, “Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but do not exceed the limits. God does not love those who exceed the limits.” (2:190), which permits the use of force in self-defense while emphasizing the importance of not exceeding necessary limits and respecting the rights of others.

Was the Prophet Muhammad a slave owner & dealer ?

The Prophet came at a time when slavery was prevalent in societies all over the world. To mitigate the impact of slavery, the Prophet and his companions started the practice of buying and freeing slaves, so that they wouldn’t fall into the hands of cruel masters. Over time, the Prophet worked to abolish the institution of slavery and his teachings and actions helped bring an end to slavery in many Muslim-majority countries. It’s important to understand that the Prophet’s ownership of slaves should be viewed in the context of his time and that his ultimate goal was to improve the lives of slaves and end slavery. Islam elevated the status of slaves by recognizing them as equal partners in the faith and granting them rights, instead of viewing them as mere property. Islam abolished slavery in a systematic and realistic manner. Unlike, Europe and America continued to enslave people from Africa even centuries after slavery had been abolished in the Muslim world.

Is slavery banned in Islam ?

According to the Quran and Hadith, slavery is not abolished in Islam. However, if slavery were to occur, as it did in pre-Islamic Arabia and other places, Muslims are commanded to follow the teachings of the Quran and Hadith, which promote the freedom and good treatment of slaves with the ultimate goal of abolition. Islam has always opposed the slave trade, abuse, dehumanization, and racism. As slavery is no longer in practice today, these teachings do not apply.