الحمد لله، الحمد لله الذي أكمل للمسلمين دينهم، وجعل قومه لا يخافون من اللائمين لومهم، نحمده تعالى ونستعينه، ونشكره تعالى ونستغفره ونستغيثه، نعوذ بالله من شرور أنفسنا ومن سيئات أعمالنا، من يهد الله فهو المهتد ومن يضلل فلن تجد له وليا مرشدا، ونشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له، له الملك و له الحمد، يحيي ويميت، بيده الخير، وهو على كل شيء قدير، ونشهد أن سيدنا و مولانا محمداً عبده ورسوله، وحبيبه وصفيه، بلغ الرسالة وأدى الأمانة ونصح الأمة، النبي الأمي الذي أرسله الله بالهدى والدين الحق، بشيرا ونذيرا بين يدي الساعة، صلى الله عليه وسلم وعلى آله وأصحابه ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين.
أما بعد! فيا عباد الله اتقوا الله حق تقاته ولا تموتن إلا وأنتم مسلمون. يأيها الذين ءامنوا اتقوا الله وقولوا قولا سديدا يصلح لكم أعمالكم ويغفر لكم ذنوبكم. ومن يطع
الله ورسوله فقد فاز فوزا عظيما. اتقوا الله فيما أمر وانتهوا عما نها عنه وزجر.
There is a topic I discussed a couple of years ago in a khutba which is a particular emotive one in the modern era and one which comes with a lot of historical baggage attached. It is a topic that I had no real intention of revisiting, given that I brought it up only to illustrate a point that our perspectives on what is right or wrong are coloured more by modern values and morality than the deen of truth. But I have decided to bring it up again despite how distasteful it may seem to be to our modern sensibilities. That topic is slavery, or the ownership of one human being of another. The reason I bring it up again is because of a class my wife recently attended here in Cape Town where the teacher told the class that it was clear that Islam came to abolish slavery and that was finally realised 100 years ago. So, slavery is forbidden in the deen of Allah. This teacher is not a modernist but subscribes to one of the four madhhabs – so this tendency of rewriting the deen is not limited to the modernist movement but has pervaded the thinking of many of the traditional scholars of the modern world.
The reasoning for this viewpoint may at first seem compelling. Is Islam not the deen of justice? Does Allah not say,
إِنَّ اللهَ يَامُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالاِحْسَانِ
the translation of which is, “Allah commands to justice and ihsan” And does He not say,
وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُم بَيْنَ النَّاسِ أَن تَحْكُمُواْ بِالْعَدْلِ
the translation of which is, “If you judge between people, judge between them with justice” And did the Messenger of Allah not say,
إن العدل ميزان الله في الأرض
“Justice is Allah’s balance upon the earth.” Well, they say, everything we know of slavery appears to negate justice. Look at how they were treated in the Americas – they were chattel. Every part of them was owned by their master and they had no rights and no time of their own. They were often abused and maltreated and worked to death, and they or their forefathers were brought into slavery through kidnapping or illicit trade. Everything about their status seems inherently unjust and our hearts scream at us that it is wrong. And has not one of the main purposes of the deen always been to eliminate injustice and remove it from the earth? In the open letter to ISIS of 1914, signed by a large number of scholars, it says,
“No scholar of Islam disputes that one of Islam’s aims is to abolish slavery. You have resuscitated something that the Shari’ah has worked tirelessly to undo and has been considered forbidden by consensus for over a century.”
This sounds reasonable and right until you actually stop and reflect what the statement implies, given the actions and words of our noble Messenger and his Companions and all the generations of right-acting Muslims since. Firstly, it implies that the Messenger and His Companions continued to engage in something that our Lord frowns upon right to the end of their lives, and in the case of the Companions, after the death of their guide and teacher. Proof for this is found, not just in the history books or books of Sira, but in the Book of Allah itself. Allah says,
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِنَّا أَحْلَلْنَا لَكَ أَزْوَاجَكَ اللَّاتِي آَتَيْتَ أُجُورَهُنَّ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ يَمِينُكَ مِمَّا أَفَاءَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكَ
the translation of which is, “O Prophet! We have made halal for you: your wives to whom you have given dowries and any slavegirls you own from the booty Allah has allotted you.” And, according to the majority of scholars, at least one of these slaves, Maariya al-Qibtiya, the mother of his son Ibrahim, remained a slave until his death.
And it is impossible for a Messenger of Allah to engage in something which is displeasing to Allah, for by definition he is our iswa, our example to be followed. Allah says,
لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولُ اللهِ إِسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِمَنْ كَانَ يَرْجُو اللهَ وَاليَوْمَ الآخِرَ
the translation of which is, “You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah, for all who put their hope in Allah and the Last Day.”. Every action that he took and every decision that he made becomes, at the very least, recommended or permissible for us, aside from those few things that are his khasa’is, rights that are his and his alone. And slavery was clearly not one of those, for he himself gave slaves taken as booty in various battles to various Companions of his.
Secondly, it implies that the deen was not complete at the death of the Prophet, that the final Messenger that Allah will send to creation did not complete his mission, but a committee of non-Muslim secularists and humanists finally completed it for him approximately one century ago, and brought enlightenment to the Muslim lands. Thus, the Muslims were unable to bring about the aims of the deen on their own, but needed the guidance of the misguided to do so.
Their justification for this view is that slavery was so deeply imbedded in the culture of the time that for the Messenger to remove it completely in his lifetime was not possible. Do they limit Allah? Do they deny Allah’s Words, revealed during the farewell hajj near the end of the life of the Prophet,
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ
the translation of which is, “Today, I have completed your deen for you.” Do they not know how deeply imbedded in Arab culture was worshipping idols or drinking alcohol or even riba? Were those left only partially forbidden at the end of his lifetime? No, what was permissible at the time of his death remains permissible, and what was forbidden remains forbidden. No part of the deen was lacking or incomplete.
Thirdly, it implies that the fuqaha and ulama, throughout the ages, have been misguided to assign so much time and space in their books to the rulings relating to slaves, when the reality is that they should have just declared it impermissible. For the fact that they addressed the subject indicates that they viewed it as permissible. You do not find any sections dealing with the correct adab for robbing someone, or the rulings on how to engage in an adulterous relationship and how to treat ones mistresses. It implies that every scholar, from the time of the Prophet until now, has misunderstood what is permissible in the deen and what is not, and that only these scholars in the modern world have seen the light. In other words, it implies that the deen that has been passed to us is untrustworthy and flawed, since if they could get this wrong, what else might they also have gone wrong. So it becomes hard to trust or accept anything we have been taught, and what we know of Islam goes up in smoke.
Our deen is taken from the Messenger of Allah and preserved by the scholars of this umma. And from that, it is clear that slavery is part of the laws and legacy of our deen? But, for many of us, the practice stills seems incredibly repugnant, and we feel ashamed to admit to it. We feel like we must tiptoe around the subject or apologise for the mores of the people of a bygone age. People were very different in those times – they acted by a different moral code. The implication being that such a moral code is incompatible with the age in which we live and many of their practices must be left behind. We have not only become technologically advanced but morally advanced. At some level, we accept without question that the values and ideals of the present era are the standard for values and ideals. We accept the notion that the last few hundred years have seen unprecedented progress and enlightenment and that we as a race as continually becoming more civilised and our societies more egalitarian and fair. But this narrative is an illusion and a lie and its falseness is becoming more and more apparent. We are taught to reject the ownership of one human being over another, but to view as normal their enslavement to states and corporations, entities which have no concept of empathy or compassion, entities which ask more from most of them and give less than most human owners ever did. For a society that likes to talk about equality and the dignity of the human being, injustice is more rife than it has ever been. We buy over houses from banks at five times their sale price, more than half of what we earn is taken from us in bills and taxes, we can be arrested and imprisoned on the basis of mere suspicion and unfounded accusation. The corruption of our youth is not allowed but encouraged.
These values that have been programmed into us are not our own and are not based on anything real or lasting. They were not revealed and not chosen for us by the One who created us and truly knows what best suits us and our natures. These values arose in the millat al-kufr, arrived at by a people who do not worship Allah but instead follow their own whims and opinions. They do not want the best for us, they want the best for themselves – they want nothing more than the dissolution of all belief and the coronation of the sensory. They want us to abandon the deen, bit by bit, ruling by ruling, until nothing of it remains. Allah says,
وَلَن تَرْضَى عَنكَ الْيَهُودُ وَلاَ النَّصَارَى حَتَّى تَتَّبِعَ مِلَّتَهُمْ
the translation of which is, “The Jews and the Christians will not be pleased with you until you follow their milla.” Every time we relinquish some part of the deen, they rejoice. They are a step closer to realising their designs and we are a little weaker.
We are not here to please them or appease them, we are here to please Allah. And, in the eyes of Allah, the deen is perfect. Timeless and perfect. Nothing needs to be changed, reformed or discarded. No part of it is repugnant or distasteful. Our miqyās/ our measuring stick for measuring acceptability is the Book of Allah, the Sunna of the Messenger and the ijmā‘ of the Muslims, not the ahwā’ of enlightened modern man. When we realise that and return to that and overcome the false programming of the age, then our hearts will awaken and we will start to see clearly wherein lies justice and dignity and wherein lies it not.
أَقُولُ قَوْلِي هَذَا وَأَسْتَغْفِرُ اللهَ الْعَظِيمَ لِي وَلَكُمْ وَلِسَائِرِ المُسْلِمِينَ مِنْ كُلِّ ذَنْبٍ فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهُ إِنَّهُ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ.
الحمد لله الحمد لله رب العالمين، وأشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له وأشهد أن محمداً عبده ورسوله، صلى الله وسلم وبارك عليه وعلى آله وصحبه، والتابعين وتابعي التابعين ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين.
أما بعد! فيأيها الذين ءامنوا اتقوا الله ما استطعتم واسمعوا وأطيعوا وأنفقوا خيرا لأنفسكم. يا عباد الله أوصيكم وإياي بتقوى الله وطاعته وأحذركم وإياي عن معصيته ومخالفته.
As I mentioned in the first khutba, the topic of slavery is an emotive one and many struggle to see how such a thing could be allowed in the deen of fairness and truth. There is a strong reason for this and that is because of the negative association of that term in our psyches given the abuse of slavery in the centuries leading it upon to its abolition. We are bombarded with films, imagery, articles and books portraying that abomination and abuse. Whenever we hear the word ‘slavery’, that is all that comes to mind. So when we hear that Islam condoned slavery, we think that it condoned all of that. It did not. Let me set your hearts at rest by mentioning a few of the rulings on slavery and quoting a few of the hadith from the Messenger of Allah on the matter.
Please note that the reason I do this is not to encourage its practice, given the conditions for its implementation do not currently exist, but rather to show people that nothing in this deen is distasteful or repugnant and that you never need to apologise or explain away any action of the Messenger of Allah or his Companions or feel ashamed about any aspect of the guidance you have received.
The definition of slavery is for one human being to own another, but the implications and extent of that ownership are very different to what you might think. It is a contract of ownership, but at the same moment it is a contract of care and dependence. An owner must feed and clothe them well. The Prophet said,
من كان أخوه تحت يده فليُطعمه مما يطعم وليلبسه منا يلبس
“If one of your brothers is owned by you, feed him as you would feed yourself and clothe him as you would clothe yourself.” Indeed, not only that, but he should sit and eat with them.
He should also never force them to do anything that they would find overly burdensome or would not be able to do. The Prophet said,
لا تكلفهم ما يغلبهم فإن كلفتهم ما يغلبهم فأعينوهم
“Do not give them tasks to do that will prove too much for them. And if you do, then you yourself should help them to do them.” Umar ibn al-Khattab used to go among the people and if he found any slave being made to do something too burdensome, he relieved him of that task.
If a slave found himself tasked with tasks beyond his capacity and was not given help, he could go to the authorities who would step in to protect his rights and prevent his master from exploiting him thus, or even punish the master depending upon the circumstances. Indeed, if the abuse was very severe, the slave was freed on the spot as the Messenger of Allah did.
Even verbal abuse was not allowed. It was not permissible to make them feel lowly by addressing them in a derogatory way. Indeed, the Messenger of Allah instructed his Companions to call them ghulāmī or fatātī, ‘my boy’ or ‘my girl’, not ‘slave’.
And even if there was no abuse, but simply a clashing of personalities, the deen provided a way out. The Messenger of Allah said,
من لائمكم من مملوككم فأطعموه منا تاكلون واكسوه مما تلبسون، ومن لم يلائمكم منهم فبيعوه ولاتعذبوا خلق الله
“When one of your slaves gets on with you, feed him as you would feed yourself and clothe him in what you would clothe yourselves, but when he does not get on with you, sell him to another. DO not punish Allah’s creation!” He must allow them to marry and have families, and indeed it then becomes incumbent upon him to support and maintain that person’s family. And he must provide them with a place to live where they can live and have their own privacy and time together. And indeed, he should help out with their wedding, and give them medicine when they are ill and allow them time off for prayers, and for when it is hot
He should act well towards them and treat them with honour and respect. One of the final things the Messenger of Allah said to his community was,
الصلاك الصلاه اتقوا الله فيما ملكت أيمانكم
“The prayer! the prayer. Have taqwa of Allah with respect to those whom you own.”
And part of that was giving them jobs and tasks that best fit their skills and capacities. You would not force someone who was best fit to cooking, for example, to do manual work.
And, some scholars say that he must permit his slaves to enter into mukātaba contracts whereby they can purchase their own freedom.
The contract was as about looking after the wellbeing of both sides. The owner gets work and, in some cases, physical rights, and the slave got all his basic needs taken care and seen to. If any master fell short in his responsibilities, whether through poverty or cruelty or anything else, he was forced to sell the slave to those who would see to his or her needs more adequately.
Slaves were not viewed as being a sub-class, the Messenger of Allah stressed time and again that they were our brothers and sisters. They had the chance to advance considerably in the societies in which they lived, both in terms of wealth, for they were often given time to earn for themselves, and in terms of status and social standing. The well-known Scottish explorer, Mungo Park, during one of his journeys encountered a wealthy slave in one of the Muslim lands and offered to be pay for his freedom. The slave appeared alarmed and replied, “For heaven’s sake, do not free me. That will spoil my entire life.”
And the land of Egypt was governed for many years by the Mamluks, literally those who are owned, former slaves, and the Ottoman empire was run by them. Slavery, in Islam, was no barrier to social or economic advancement. And it was often a great mercy to those enslaved. When Muslims heard that European battles often left battlefields so covered with dead bodies that the ground could scarcely be seen, they were shocked, for their battles rarely had such a result. There were other options open to them aside from killing, and they were ransom and enslavement.
And if a slave desperately did not want to be a slave, then there were options available to him to obtain his freedom, including buying his own freedom by using his own time to earn the necessary money to do so. And aside from that, the freeing of slaves is highly encouraged in the deen and there are few actions which are so highly rewarded.
Thus, there is no incompatibility between justice and the permissibility of slavery as understood by the Muslims. So there is no need to contort the deen to somehow remove it. The practice of slavery does not exist today, but that fact does not make it in itself impermissible in the eyes of Allah. Do not project the values of the modern world on your deen and judge it accordingly. Things are not how you think. Do not assume the definition you have been provided with of something is the correct one, especially if it has been defined for you by non-Muslims. Rather, make your starting point a good opinion of Allah and His Messenger and a good opinion of those whom He has entrusted to preserve His deen, the true ulama of every age. Do not assume they are all wrong and you are somehow right and have stumbled upon some higher understanding that they all missed, but rather look at things from the opposite perspective, from a position of humility, and re-examine your positions through that lens. We ask our Lord for a correct understanding and appreciation of His deen.
إِنَّ اللهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ، يَا أَيُهَا الذِينَ آمَنُواْ صَلُّواْ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيماً.
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ وَسَلِّمْ وَبَارِكْ عَلَيْهِ وَعَلَى آلِهِ وَصَحْبِهِ أَجْمَعِينَ. وَارْضَ اللَّهُمَّ عَنِ الْخُلَفَاءِ الرَّاشِدِينَ أَبِي بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرَ وَعُثْمَانَ وَعَلِيٍّ، وعن أم المومنين عائشة التي أمرنا الله في سورة النور أن ندافع عنها، وَعَنْ سَائِرِ الصَّحَابَةِ أَجْمَعِينَ، خُصُوصاً اِلأَنْصَارَ مِنْهُمْ وَالمُهَاجِرِينَ، وَعَنِ التَّابِعِينَ وَتَابِعِي التَّابِعِينَ وَمَنْ تَبِعَهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ إِلَى يَوْمِ الدِّينِ.
اللَّهُمَّ اهْدِ وُلَاةَ أُمُورِ المُسْلِمِينَ لِمَا يُرْضِيكَ وَلِاتِّبَاعِ سُنَّةِ نَبِيِّكَ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَهُمْ عَلَى الصِّرَاطِ المُسْتَقِيمِ، وَأَصْلِحْهُمْ يَا رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ.
اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى شَيْخِنَا، وَعَلَى أَمِيرِنَا، وَعَلَى جَمِيعِ أُمَرَاءِ وَزُعَمَاءِ المُسْلِمِينَ.
اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى المُسْلِمِينَ فِي هَذِهِ المَدِينَةِ، وَوَفِّقْهُمْ لِمَا تُحِبُّهُ وَتَرْضَاهُ يَا أَكْرَمَ الأَكْرَمِينَ.
اللَّهُمَّ أَعِزَّ الإِسْلَامَ وَالمُسِْلمِينَ، وَاخْذُلِ الْكُفْرَ وَالْكَافِرِينَ، وَانْصُرِ المُجَاهِدِينَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ. وَاجْعَلْ كَلِمََتَكَ هِيَ العُلْيَا وَكَلِمَةَ الْكُفْرِ هِيَ السُّفْلَى.
رَبَّنَا ءَاتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقَِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ.
إِنَّ اللهَ يَامُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى، وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ، يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَّكَّرُونَ، وَلَذِكْرُ اللهِ أَكْبَرُ وَاللهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ. وَقُومُواْ إِلَى صَلاتِكُمْ يَرْحَمُكُمُ اللهُ.