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1,001 Sayings and Deeds of the Prophet

Slavery

The Prophet Muhammad, in both his actions and sayings implicitly, if not explicitly, like His Mentor, is accepting of slavery, if not more so.

You may remember from the chapter The Pulpit that it was a slave who built God's Messenger a lectern.

Narrated Jabir:

A woman said, "O Allah's Apostle! Shall I get something constructed for you to sit on as I have a slave who is a carpenter?"

He replied, "Yes, if you like."

So she had that pulpit constructed.

Bukhari 8.440

In another hadith, it is the Prophet himself  who came up with the idea and who tells the nameless woman to "order her slave" to get on with it and build him a pulpit.

Narrated Sahl:

Allah's Apostle sent someone to a woman telling her to "Order her slave, carpenter, to prepare a wooden pulpit for him to sit on."

Bukhari 8.439

The punishment for having intercourse while fasting is to free a slave if you can afford to do so.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

While we were sitting with the Prophet a man came and said, "O Allah's Apostle! I have been ruined."

Allah's Apostle asked what was the matter with him.

He replied "I had sexual intercourse with my wife while I was fasting."

Allah's Apostle asked him, "Can you afford to manumit a slave?"

He replied in the negative.

Allah's Apostle asked him, "Can you fast for two successive months?"

He replied in the negative.

The Prophet asked him, "Can you afford to feed sixty poor persons?"

He replied in the negative.

The Prophet kept silent and while we were in that state, a big basket full of dates was brought to the Prophet.

He asked, "Where is the questioner?"

He replied, "I (am here)."

The Prophet said (to him), "Take this (basket of dates) and give it in charity."

The man said, "Should I give it to a person poorer than I? By Allah; there is no family between its (i.e. Medina's) two mountains who are poorer than I."

The Prophet smiled till his pre-molar teeth became visible and then said, "Feed your family with it."

Bukhari 31.157

To whom belongs the son a deceased father and a slave-girl:

Narrated Aisha:

Abu bin Zam'a and Sad bin Abi Waqqas carried the case of their claim of the (ownership) of the son of a slave-girl of Zam'a before the Prophet.

Sad said, "O Allah's Apostle! My brother, before his death, told me that when I would return (to Mecca), I should search for the son of the slave-girl of Zam'a and take him into my custody as he was his son."

Abu bin Zam'a said, "the boy is my brother and the son of the slave-girl of my father, and was born on my father's bed."

The Prophet noticed a resemblance between Utba and the boy but he said, "O Abu bin Zam'a! You will get this boy, as the son goes to the owner of the bed. You, Sauda (one of the Prophet's wives), screen yourself from the boy."

Bukhari 41.603

A man once broke his slave's cupping cups and explained to his son that he had done so because of a list of what God's Messenger forbade; a list which did not include cupping, and rightly so, for the Prophet was very much into cupping as curative medicine.

Narrated Aun bin Abu Juhaifa:

My father bought a slave who practiced the profession of cupping. (My father broke the slave's instruments of cupping).

I asked my father why he had done so.

He replied, "The Prophet forbade the acceptance of the price of a dog or blood, and also forbade the profession of tattooing, getting tattooed and receiving or giving Riba, (usury), and cursed the picture-makers."

Bukhari 34.299

You paid whoever “cupped” you as you would a physician.

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

Once the Prophet got his blood out (medically) and paid that person who had done it. If it had been illegal, the Prophet would not have paid him.

Bukhari 34.316

The cupping was often done by a slave, a slave who paid taxes to his owners.

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Abu Taiba cupped Allah's Apostle so he ordered that he be paid one Sa of dates and ordered his masters to reduce his tax (as he was a slave and had to pay a tax to them).

Bukhari 34.315

As the Prophet's reputation for knowing about the right and the wrong way to do everything grew, many quit thinking for themselves altogether and asked God’s Messenger to rule on what could be considered silly; trivial matters such as, "is a sheep killed by a slave-girl lawful to eat?"

Narrated Ibn Ka'b bin Malik from his father:

We had some sheep which used to graze at Sala. One of our slave-girls saw a sheep dying and she broke a stone and slaughtered the sheep with it.

My father said to the people, "Don't eat it till I ask the Prophet about it (or till I send somebody to ask the Prophet)."

So, he asked or sent somebody to ask the Prophet, and the Prophet permitted him to eat it.

Ubaidullah (a sub-narrator) said, "I admire that girl, for though she was a slave-girl, she dared to slaughter the sheep."

 Bukhari 38.500

Freeing the "it" of two owners:

Narrated Ibn Umar:

The Prophet said, "Whoever manumits a slave owned by two masters, should manumit him completely (not partially) if he is rich after having its price evaluated."

Bukhari 46.697

If only one owner remits his share of a jointly owned slave, the slave remains a slave.

Narrated Nafi:

Ibn Umar said, "Allah's Apostle said, 'If one manumits his share of a jointly possessed slave, and can afford the price of the other shares according to the adequate price of the slave, the slave will be completely manumitted; otherwise he will be partially manumitted.'"

Bukhari 44.671

When you read a hadith like the following about pre-Islamic slave-owners freeing their human chattel without reservations or cost considerations as a tribute to their god, you have to wonder who are the ignorant ones.

Narrated Abdullah:

The Muslims did not free slaves as Sa'iba (set free in the names of their gods), but the People of the pre-lslamic Period of Ignorance used to do so.

Bukhari 80.745

An incentive to be a good and obedient indentured servant:

Narrated Ibn Umar:

Allah's Apostle said, "If a slave is honest and faithful to his master and worships his Lord (Allah) in a perfect manner, he will get a double reward."

Bukhari 46.722

A married woman, under Islamic law, had less freedom than an indentured servant e.g. permanent seclusion in the home of her husband, therefore, marrying your slave-girl was not necessarily doing her any favours.

Narrated Abu Burda's father:

Allah's Apostle said "Three persons will have a double reward:

1. A Person from the people of the scriptures who believed in his prophet (Jesus or Moses) and then believed in the Prophet Muhammad (i .e. has embraced Islam).

2. A slave who discharges his duties to Allah and his master.

3. A master of a woman-slave who teaches her good manners and educates her in the best possible way (the religion) and manumits her and then marries her."

Bukhari 3.97

That persistent illegal intercourse bugaboo of Allah and His Messenger rears its ugly head again.

The punishment for a slave-girl who committed illegal intercourse – the only type of intercourse she could engage in – was a severe whipping ending perhaps with her being put back on the auction block. You could consider this another advantage of being a slave-girl over a married  woman who would have been stoned to death for the same offence.

Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid:

The Prophet said, "If a slave-girl (Ama) commits illegal sexual intercourse, scourge her; if she does it again, scourge her again; if she repeats it, scourge her again."

The narrator added that on the third or the fourth offence, the Prophet said, "Sell her even for a hair rope."

Bukhari 46.731

Female slaves made handy, cheap wet nurses, but make sure she has not suckled a woman you intend to marry.

Narrated Uqba bin Al-Harith:

That he had married Um Yahya bint Abu Ihab.

He said. "A black slave-lady came and said, 'I suckled you both.'

I then mentioned that to the Prophet who turned his face aside."

 Uqba further said, "I went to the other side and told the Prophet about it."

He said, "How can you (keep her as your wife) when the lady has said that she suckled both of you (i.e. you and your wife?)"

So, the Prophet ordered him to divorce her.

Bukhari 48.827

Eclipses were good omen for some slaves.

Narrated Asma bint Abu Bakr:

The Prophet ordered us to free slaves at the time of solar eclipses.

Bukhari 46.695

Narrated Asma' bint Abu Bakr:

We were ordered to free slaves at the time of lunar eclipses.

Bukhari 46.696

For a slave, the chance of obtaining his or her freedom increased substantially if they were related to a dead Prophet, in this instance Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar, the patriarch of the Arabs.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

I have loved the people of the tribe of Bani Tamim ever since I heard, three things, Allah's Apostle said about them. I heard him saying, these people (of the tribe of Bani Tamim) would stand firm against Ad-Dajjal (the false messiah)."

When the Sadaqat (gifts of charity) from that tribe came, Allah's Apostle said, "These are the Sadaqat (i.e. charitable gifts) of our folk."

Aisha had a slave-girl from that tribe, and the Prophet said to Aisha, "Manumit her as she is a descendant of Ishmael (the Prophet)." 

Bukhari 46.719

A slave for a slave:

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

The law of Qisas (i.e. equality in punishment) was prescribed for the children of Israel, but the Diya (i.e. blood money was not ordained for them).

So Allah said to this Nation (i.e. Muslims): "O you who believe! The law of Al-Qisas (i.e. equality in punishment) is prescribed for you in cases of murder: The free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But if the relatives (or one of them) of the killed (person) forgive their brother (i.e. the killers something of Qisas (i.e. not to kill the killer by accepting blood money in the case of intentional murder) then the relatives (of the killed person) should demand blood-money in a reasonable manner and the killer must pay with handsome gratitude. This is an alleviation and a Mercy from your Lord, (in comparison to what was prescribed for the nations before you). So after this, whoever transgresses the limits (i.e. to kill the killer after taking the blood-money) shall have a painful torment." (2:178)

Bukhari 60.25

Slaves as payment for causing a miscarriage:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Two ladies (had a fight) and one of them hit the other with a stone on the abdomen and caused her to abort. The Prophet judged that the victim be given either a slave or a female slave (as blood-money).

Narrated Ibn Shihab: Said bin Al-Musayyab said, "Allah's Apostle judged that in case of child killed in the womb of its mother, the offender should give the mother a slave or a female slave in recompense.

The offender said, 'How can I be fined for killing one who neither ate nor drank, neither spoke nor cried: a case like that should be denied'

On that Allah's Apostle said 'He is one of the brothers of the foretellers.'”

Bukhari 71.655

Foretellers (or soothsayers) often challenged the Prophet’s predictions and his rulings. This did not endear them to God’s Messenger. But I digress. A slave as precursor to Judgement Day (surely he is dead, so what happened?):

Narrated Anas:

A bedouin came to the Prophet and said, "O Allah's Apostle! When will The Hour be established?"

The Prophet said, "Wailaka (Woe to you), What have you prepared for it?"

The bedouin said, "I have not prepared anything for it, except that I love Allah and His Apostle."

The Prophet said, "You will be with those whom you love."

We (the companions of the Prophet) said, "And will we too be so?"

The Prophet said, "Yes."

So we became very glad on that day. In the meantime, a slave of Al-Mughira passed by, and he was of the same age as I was.

The Prophet said. "If this (slave) should live long, he will not reach the geriatric old age, but the Hour will be established."

Bukhari 73.188

The following probably applies to both a free believer and a believing slave;

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Allah's Apostle said, "Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His slave than anyone of you is pleased with finding his camel which he had lost in the desert."

Bukhari 75.321

The Prophet was very much in favour of emancipating slaves who had submitted to the Will of Allah i.e. become Muslims. One of the more persuasive incentives to do so.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "If somebody manumits a Muslim slave, Allah will save from the Fire every part of his body for freeing the corresponding parts of the slave's body, even his private parts will be saved from the Fire) because of freeing the slave's private parts."

Bukhari 79.706

What if a slave is your ruler (the ruling slave would have to be a Muslim) and his "head looks like a raisin"?

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Allah's Apostle said, "You should listen to and obey, your ruler even if he was an Ethiopian (black) slave whose head looks like a raisin."

Bukhari 88.256

The Prophet rebuked one of his wives for freeing a slave-girl instead of giving her to an uncle.

Narrated Kurib:

The freed slave of Ibn Abbas, that Maimuna bint Al-Harith told him that she manumitted (freed) a slave-girl without taking the permission of the Prophet.

On the day when it was her turn to be with the Prophet, she said, "Do you know, O Allah's Apostle, that I have manumitted my slave-girl?"

He said, "Have you really?"

She replied in the affirmative.

He said, "You would have got more reward if you had given her (i.e. the slave-girl) to one of your maternal uncles."

Bukhari 47.765

The Prophet helped a man in need of money by selling his slave for him.

Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah:

A man decided that a slave of his would be manumitted after his death and later on he was in need of money, so the Prophet took the slave and said, "Who will buy this slave from me?"

Nu'aim bin Abdullah bought him for such and such price and the Prophet gave him the slave.

Bukhari 34.351

The Prophet cancelled the freeing of a slave (perhaps the slave in the preceding hadith) and sold it for its former owner who had no other chattel.

Narrated Jabir:

A man manumitted a slave and he had no other property than that, so the Prophet cancelled the manumission (and sold the slave for him).

No'aim bin Al-Nahham bought the slave from him.

Bukhari 41.598

The Prophet cancelled a dying man’s wish that six of his slaves be freed, manumitting only two and keeping the other four for himself, or for someone else.

Imran b. Husain reported that a person who had no other property emancipated six slaves of his at the time of his death. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) called for them and divided them into three sections, cast lots amongst them, and set two free and kept four in slavery; and he (the Holy Prophet) spoke severely of him.

Imam Muslim 15.4112

Another hadith about the Prophet ignoring the wish of a dying man that his slave be freed after his passing.

Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah:

A man amongst us declared that his slave would be freed after his death. The Prophet called for that slave and sold him. The slave died the same year.

Bukhari 46.711

The Prophet would not part with his slaves even to help out the daughter who gave him two grandsons.

Narrated Ali:

Fatima complained of what she suffered from the hand mill and from grinding, when she got the news that some slave girls of the booty had been brought to Allah's Apostle. She went to him to ask for a maid-servant, but she could not find him, and told Aisha of her need. When the Prophet came, Aisha informed him of that.

The Prophet came to our house when we had gone to our beds. (On seeing the Prophet) we were going to get up, but he said, 'Keep at your places,'

I felt the coolness of the Prophet's feet on my chest. Then he said, "Shall I tell you a thing which is better than what you asked me for? When you go to your beds, say: 'Allahu Akbar (i.e. Allah is Greater)' for 34 times, and 'Alhamdu Lillah (i.e. all the praises are for Allah)' for 33 times, and Subhan Allah (i.e. Glorified be Allah) for 33 times. This is better for you than what you have requested."

Bukhari 53.344

A next to last hadith about what the Prophet had to say about slavery; and it is somewhat of a confounding one:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

The Prophet said, "The freed slave belongs to the people who have freed him."

Bukhari 80.753

The Prophet's son-in-law, Ali, may have the beginning of an explanation, that if a freed slave wants to return to his former status as a slave, he must return to his former masters. Read to the end of the following hadith for Ali's take on what his father-in-law said about a freed slave belonging the those who freed him.

Narrated Ibrahim At Tamii's father:

Ali addressed us while he was standing on a brick pulpit and carrying a sword from which was hanging a scroll He said "By Allah, we have no book to read except Allah's Book and whatever is on this scroll."

And then he unrolled it, and behold, in it was written what sort of camels were to be given as blood money, and there was also written in it: "Medina is a sanctuary from Air (mountain) to such and such place so whoever innovates in it an heresy or commits a sin therein, he will incur the curse of Allah, the angles, and all the people and Allah will not accept his compulsory or optional good deeds."

There was also written in it: "The asylum (pledge of protection) granted by any Muslims is one and the same, (even a Muslim of the lowest status is to be secured and respected by all the other Muslims, and whoever betrays a Muslim in this respect (by violating the pledge) will incur the curse of Allah, the angels, and all the people, and Allah will not accept his compulsory or optional good deeds."

There was also written in it: "Whoever (freed slave) befriends (takes as masters) other than his real masters (manumitters sic) without their permission will incur the curse of Allah, the angels, and all the people, and Allah will not accept his compulsory or optional good deeds."

Bukhari 92.403