A large proportion of early converts to the religion of Islam were slaves. From the very beginning of his ministry, Muhammad (pbuh) strived for the fair and humane treatment of slaves and the abolition of slavery altogether.
The society and economy of 6th century Arabia was propped up by a system of slave labour and trading. Though the religion of Islam forbids slavery of any kind, Muhammad (pbuh) understood that it would take time for such a revolutionary concept to be accepted and adopted by society (e.g… It took 90 years, from the formation of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, to the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution, for slavery to be abolished in the USA).
Muhammad (pbuh) adopted two approaches to deal with the issue of slavery:
Teachings for the betterment of the conditions of the existing slaves of the time and for their eventual emancipation.
Teachings for the permanent abolition of slavery.
Muhammad (PBUH) upheld the honour of the slaves and safeguarded their rights in an excellent way. For example, it is mentioned in the traditions or Hadith that:
There were seven brothers who had one slave shared between them. On one occasion, one of these seven brothers became enraged with the slave. In his anger, he firmly slapped that slave. When this incident came to the knowledge of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), he stated: “Free this slave. You do not have the right to keep this slave any longer because you are not aware of how to treat the slave in a good manner.”
In short, if we delve into that era when keeping a slave was normal practise, and for those who were rich keeping a slave was a great asset—the more slaves a person possessed, the more he would be deemed to be wealthy or rich—in such circumstances, this commandment is given, that if you desire true wealth, which is the wealth of faith, it is better for you that you should free slaves and provide the means of their freedom. Upon this commandment, the Companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) according to their capacity, freed dozens, sometimes thousands of slaves.
It is said regarding Hadhrat Uthman bin Affan (ra) ,who later became the 3rd successor of the prophet (PBUH), freed 20,000 slaves at just one time and separate to this, at other times he also freed thousands of slaves. Other companions freed dozens of slaves. So they freed slaves according to their capacity and means. For those who had slaves to carry out different tasks, the Islamic teaching upon them was that treat them like your brothers; whatever you wear yourself, clothe them with; whatever you eat yourself, feed them with. The Holy Prophet (PBUH)’s own model was such that when after marriage to Hadhrat Khadijah (ra) she gave all her possessions and slaves to him, he freed them all.
Muhammad (PBUH) said to his followers, that when you are ascertaining work from your slaves, treat them in a good manner, and if you give them difficult work to carry out, then give them a helping hand. As such, the Holy Prophet (saw) transformed the history of slavery.
As a result of this, the Italian Orientalist, Dr Vaglieri, has written, that: ‘the custom of slavery has existed since the outset of human civilisation itself, and it continues even today. Whether pertaining to the nomadic Muslims or to the civilised Muslims, the state of slavery amongst them was far better than the other peoples. It would be unfair to compare the slavery in Eastern countries with the slavery that existed in America 100 years before today. In the traditions of Islam, we find great compassion for mankind. Muhammad (PBUH) said “Do not say that he is my ‘slave’, in fact, say he is my son, and do not say that she is my female ‘slave’, rather say that she is my daughter.’”
Then Dr Vaglieri writes: that ‘if we reflect upon these accounts from a historical perspective, we become aware that the Holy Prophet (PBUH), in this respect, brought about spectacular reforms. Prior to Islam, a person who could not repay a debt faced the possibility of losing his freedom. (In other words, a person who took a loan from someone in those times and was unable to repay it would become enslaved to the debtor until he repaid that the debt; or at least there was a possibility of becoming a slave to that person he owed money to. Dr Vaglieri continues that) after Islam, no Muslim could enslave another free Muslim. The Prophet of Islam (saw) did not only limit slavery, rather he also introduced regulations and inculcated Muslims to continue marching onwards in this regard until such a time arrives when slowly but gradually all slaves would be free.”
Compare this statement of Dr Vaglieri to conditions in the USA before the civil rights movement, Muhammad (PBUH) taught that men and women were equal regardless of the colour of their skin, the history of their family roots or the size of their wallet.
Now consider this, Muhammad (PBUH) had the power to enslave and use those under his influence in whatever way he desired, and this would have been in complete conformity with the norms of Arabian society at the time, but he was not concerned with worldly influence, his mission was to emancipate man from the bondage of false doctrine and this was the single objective that dominated his being, so through his divinely guided teachings and noble example mankind was free and equal under the sight of one god, what do you think about this? what would you have done? what was different about this man, contact us and find out about Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Of Allah Be Upon Him)