The absurd idea that somehow slavery is not against Islam isn’t as much a misconception amongst non-Muslims as it is amongst Muslims. Or more likely, it is a misconception amongst non-Muslims, but few want to make accusations when slavery is rampant in their own history. In my experience, both times a non-Muslim has pointed to a history involved in slavery as a means to excuse their Islamophobia… they were both Christians. (Oh come oooooonnn.)
Generally when Muslims rush to the defense of Islamic history on this specific subject, they say that slavery was not as devastating to its victims in Islamic history than in the history of other faiths or other territories, because you could not identify a slave by his or her race, and they were supposedly better treated than any other time period of slavery anywhere else because they are supposed to eat at the table with your family–same food–and have your things. I’m kind of tentatively calling bullshit on this. Maybe the former may have been true for early Islam, before the expansion, when most Muslims belonged to the same race (by today’s standards) and the differences between slaves and slave-owners were tribal. But later works clearly betray that slaves were identified by darker skin tones; whether or not this resulted from the influence of outside empires is up for debate. (Besides, in an only partly discovered world tribes are basically races.) And sure, they were supposed to be treated well–we know by now not to expect this in reality. Muslims are supposed to not bomb things but… yeah. I don’t doubt that slavery was “better” in the Islamic regions than other empires, but it really doesn’t matter to me. To say it was better–that sounds too much like a justification for my comfort. Even in the suffocating desperation of being backed into a corner by Islamophobia, that is not an argument anyone should be making.
There is no way around it. It happened. It is humiliating–for anyone–to confess, “There is slavery in my national/religious/ethnic identity’s history.” But it happened. And it still happens. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable whenever Muslims try to water down the atrocity, or to claim, “Yeah we were slave-owners but–we were better slave-owners than you!” Yeah, don’t care. It is disturbing that you can talk about slavery in your history without your face crumbling to dust in shame.
So. Much. Fail.
But what’s even more of a fail is when Muslims attempt to convince other Muslims that slavery is not against Islam. The most common argument? “It’s it in the Qur’an.”
Great! Soooo… didya read it? Because God does not seem happy.
Slavery existed before Islam, already so heavily in practice that it was the basis of financial security, and Islam encouraged that the corrupt economic system come to an end. It’s not surprising that the results didn’t show overnight, since chaos is likely to have ensued, which is why the discouragement of keeping slaves was blatant but gradual. But there is no argument that the practice itself violates the religion at its core in suggesting that a human being can have a human master, or any master other than God. Blasphemous.
And there is no debate that verses discourage it heavily:
And if any of your slaves ask for emancipation, give them such if you know any good in them: and give them the wealth of God that God has given you! And force not your female captives to prostitution for they desire chastity only to gain the fleeting pleasures of worldly life. (Qur’an 24:33)
Modern English: Free the slaves! You must also pay them, because they must have money to start with, and that money’s not yours anyway because God gave it to you so don’t bitch about it! And for crying out loud, don’t rape people!
There are also several confirmed stories of people “buying” slaves (in quotes because you can’t buy a human being) just to free them; we usually only know about this when the former slaves becomes someone historically remarkable or famous so there is a chance that it happened more frequently than reported. And the Qur’an encourages paying for slaves to free them:
True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west – but truly pious is one who believes in God, and the Last Day, and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends substance – however much one may cherish it – upon one’s near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; […] (Qur’an 2:177)
The Qur’an also makes freeing slaves mandatory if you’ve sinned in other ways:
And it is not conceivable that a believer should slay another believer, unless it be by mistake. And upon him who has slain a believer by mistake there is the duty of freeing a slave and paying compensation to the deceased’s family unless they remit it freely to charity […] (Qur’an 4:92)
There’s hadith dictating that if you so much slap a slave in the face, you are obligated to free him/her. You’re supposed to free a slave for even totally random things, like dissing your wife and changing your mind:
And those who say, regarding their wives, ‘thou art unlawful to me,’ and then retract what they have said, they shall set free a slave […] (Qur’an 58:3)
Want another one? Okay.
God will not call you to account for what is futile in your oaths, but God will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave freedom. (Qur’an 5:89)
Here, have some hadith on the treatment of slaves, since I mentioned it before and am a disorganized person:
Narrated Al-Ma’rur: The Prophet said, Your slaves are your brothers and sisters so whoever has a brother or sister under command you should feed him or her of what you eat and dress him or her of what you wear. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity (power) and if you must, then help them.’ (Bukhari Vol 1 Book 2 No 29)
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, When the slave of anyone amongst you prepares food for him and he serves him after having sat close to (and undergoing the hardship of) heat and smoke, he should make him (the slave) sit along with him and make him eat (along with him), and if the food seems to run short, then he should spare some portion for him (from his own share) (Muslim, Book 015 No 4096)
It is clear that in an Islamic society, the purpose had always been to completely eliminate slavery because it is Islamically unlawful. (The gradual nature of change is prevalent in Islam, and the Qur’an itself says, “Why is not the Qur’an revealed to him [the Prophet] all at once? Thus (is it revealed), that We may strengthen thy heart thereby, and We have rehearsed it to thee in slow, well-arranged stages, gradually.” (Qur’an, 25:32)] There is an incredible emphasis on the importance of liberating slaves, on paying them to start off their new lives, and there is also a significant amount of encouragement for marrying slaves into the family.
But of course, we still have bimbos like Salwa al-Mutairi, “activists” who call for not only the legalization of slavery, but specifically of sex slavery [aka SYSTEMATIC RAPE]… because that would keep men from committing adultery, according to her logic.
*headdesk headdesk headdesk*