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Attitude of Ahl al-bayt towards slaves

May 2, 2006

Following up on my previous post, I thought that it would be interesting to view the attitude of the Prophet’s pure household (peace be upon them) towards slaves in contrast to that of the ruling parties of their times, mainly the Umayyad and ‘Abbassid regimes.

Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi writes,

“When Islam spread in the first times and its brave mujahidin liberated many lands of the world to summon them to Allah, the movement and bringing of slaves became very wide. We think that many kinds of such slaves were taken illegally, for the ruling authorities in those times did not observe the Islamic precepts in respect with them.

Madinah markets “were full of slave traders who brought slaves to sell them; a street in Baghdad was called Slave Street (Murjj al-Dhahab, vol 3, p. 316), in which slaves were shown and sold.”

“As for the attitude of Ahl al-bayt toward those unfortunate slaves, it was merciful and kind to them. They bought as many of them as they could and freed them for Allah’s sake…

“Imam Musa motivated and urged his companions to marry female slaves, saying: ‘Marry female slaves, for they have cleverness and intellects many women do not have. (Al-Ithaf bi Hub al-Ashraf, p. 55).

Imam Musa al-Kazim’s mother was a slave purchased for his father Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (peace be upon them).

It is reported that, after she was purchased, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (peace be upon him) said to her, “What is your name?”

“Hamida” she answered with a voice dripping shamefulness.

The Imam gave her a medal of honor and dignity, saying: “You are praiseworthy (Hamida) in this world and praised (Mahmuda) in the hereafter.”

The Imam happily turned to his son and granted her to him. (Usul al-Kafi, vol 1, p. 476) Abu ‘Abd Allah (al-Sadiq) married her; she was the dearest, most beloved, and preferred of all his wives to him.”

Source: Hayat al-Imam Musa b. Ja’far al-Kazim by Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi (ISBN: 964-438-639-6).

There are a number of points that can be drawn from the above examples:

1. The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was merciful and kind to all slaves, and his objective was to give them freedom, not only of the physical kind but also a liberation of the mind and soul through al-Islam.

2. The Imams of Ahlul-bayt continued the Prophet’s legacy, despite efforts of the ruling powers to return to the practices of al-Jahilyya (age of ignorance).

3. Islam demolished the class system of the Arabs, replacing artificial marriage criteria with the criterion of taqwa (God consciousness). A few Muslims, even to this day still practice a tribal class system in relation to marriage and dealings, despite it being prohibited in Islam.

4. Many of the Imams of Ahlul-bayt were children of former slave women, all pious, righteous, and wise mothers and wives. Even Prophet Ismail, son of Abraham, was himself the child of a servant of his wife, Sarah (peace be upon them all).

5. By raising the status of slaves and equalizing corrupted class systems, Islam initiates the institution of slavery to gradually fade away.

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