Before the advent of Islam, owning a slave was a common practice among the Arabs. Slaves were widely employed in irrigation, mining, pastoralism, and the army. Slaves were treated as an important asset in gaining more wealth and were sold in markets similar to objects of possession. However, when Prophet Muhammad received the message of Islam, he started to encourage Muslims to treat their slaves well. He said: “Allah has made some of your brothers as slaves under your care. So whoever has his brother under his care, then let him feed him from his food, and let him clothe him from his clothes. And do not give him a duty that he cannot bear, and if you give him a duty he cannot bear, then assist him with it.[1]

When Islam flourished and its followers began to grow, little by little the Prophet started to establish the rights of the slaves. “No one is allowed to say this is my slave or that is my maid. You should say this is my young man, and that is my young lady”[2]. Some other Arabs were treating their slaves like animals, they do not feed them and beat them to death. However, the Prophet warned those people, when he said “Whoever kills his slave, we will kill him”[3]

To teach Muslims that slaves were equal to anyone, the Prophet started to raise their status. He made a pledge of brotherhood for slaves such as Bilal al-Habashi (the Abyssinian), Zayd ibn Harith and Kharizat ibn Zayd and married off many of the women from noble families to the slaves.

Until the Qur-an said” Shall I not tell you what the straight path is? It is to free the neck of the slave.”[4] 

There are overwhelming verses in Qur-an mentioning great rewards of freeing a slave but terrorist groups are preaching and reviving to have one. This is contrary to the goal of Islam – to abolish slavery. Terrorists aims to have one but the Prophet aims to have none. Every time the lunar and solar eclipse occurred the Prophet encouraged his companions to free their slaves. Whoever committed a grave sin such as breaking an oath, its atonement is to free their slaves. This directly implies that the goodness in manumitting a slave overcomes the evil in something. There is clearly, then, a high moral status attached to the freeing of slaves. In Islam, the freeing of slaves is not only a noble deed, but also one that is highly encouraged, and at times, required.


[1] Hadith of Jami’ Tirmidhi

[2] Sahih Muslim

[3] Hadith of Abu Dawud

[4] Surah Balad 12-13