Slavery is the condition in which one human being is owned by another. The origin of the term “slave” is traced to the German sklave, meaning a captive of the Slavonic race who had been forced into servitude (compare Slav); French esclave, Dutch slaaf, Swedish slaf, Spanish esclavo. A slave was considered in law as property, or chattel, and was deprived of the rights ordinarily held by free persons. Slavery has existed on nearly every continent, including Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas, and throughout most of recorded history. The ancient Greeks and Romans accepted the institution of slavery, as did the Mayas, Incas, Aztecs, and Chinese. The Islamic civilization, emerged in 7th century C.E was no exception as it was prevalent system, which could not be eliminated over night, so it was gradually eliminated. Europeans began importing slaves from Africa to the New World beginning in the 16th century (international slave trade, unprecedented in history). An estimated 11 million people were taken from Africa during the transatlantic slave trade. By the mid-19th century the slave population in the U.S. had risen to more than four million, although slave imports had been banned from 1809. Most slaves worked on plantations in the South, their status governed by slave codes. Most of the slaves sent to the Americas ended up in South America, where harsh conditions required the constant replenishing of slaves. Following the rise of abolitionism, Britain outlawed slavery in its colonies in 1833, and France did the same in 1848. During the American Civil War, slavery was abolished in the Confederacy by the Emancipation Proclamation (1863), which was decreed by Pres. Abraham Lincoln. Slavery continues to exist in many parts of the world, although it is not officially recognized by any government.
Bible mentions about slaves in sufficient details:
According to Old Testament, the slaves were: (1) Bought, (Le 25:39 ). Hebrew slavery broke into the ranks of every human relationship: a father could sell his daughter (Ex 21:7; Ne 5:5); a widow’s children might be sold to pay their father’s debt (2Ki 4:1); a man could sell himself (Le 25:39,47); a woman could sell herself (De 15:12-13,17). (2) Exchange. Slaves, i.e. non-Hebrew slaves, might be traded for other slaves, cattle, or provisions. (3) Satisfaction of Debt: (Le 25:39), (2Ki 4:1).(4) Gift: (Ge 29:24).(5) Inheritance: (Le 25:46).(6) Voluntary Surrender: (Ex 21:6). (7) Arrest: (Ex 22:2-3).(8) Birth: (Ex 21:4; Le 25:54).
(9) Capture in War: Thousands of men, women and children were taken in war as captives and reduced, sometimes, to most menial slavery. Such slavery, however, was more humane than wholesale butchery according to the customs of earlier times (Nu 31:7-35). Males were usually slain and females kept for slavery and concubinage (De 21:10-11,14). Captive slaves and bought slaves, “from nations round about,” forced moral ruin into Israel’s early civilization. The two principal sources of slave supply were poverty in peace and plunder in war.
The New Testament Conception: There were slaves during New Testament times. The church issued no edict sweeping away this custom of the old Judaism.
but permeated with love. Christ’s life and teaching were against Judaistic slavery, Roman slavery and any form of human slavery.[International Standard Bible Encyclopedia]
Qur’an on Slavery
When the message of Islam was preached in early 7th century CE, slavery was a very common practice in all-human societies, it was an international system. The Greeks, Romans, the ancient Germans whose legal and social institutions have mostly influenced the modern world, recognized and practiced all kinds of slavery, like praedial servitude as well as household slavery. Slavery as it existed under the Mosaic law has no modern parallel. That law did not originate but only regulated the already existing custom of slavery
Christianity as a religion did not oppose slavery. The teachings of Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) did not express disapproval of slavery. Christianity did nothing to eliminate slavery except general advice to the masters to give due to the servants, even the Church held slaves and considered it to be a lawful system. The cruel treatment to slaves in America are well known. Le 25:44 Le 25:45 Le 25:46 Ex 21:20 Ex 21:21 Ex 21:26 Ex 21:27 Jos 9:23 Jos 9:27
Islam does not support slavery. Like the nuisance of Riba (Usury), in the present time, the evil of slavery was so much ingrained in the world that its elimination had to come gradually as the society developed. There was an important reason for that, which was to help slaves cope with their new status. Had Islam issued an order to free all the slaves straightaway, that would have created social and economic chaos, as many would not have been able to cope. This happened in the US when slavery was abolished by law. Many former slaves went back to their masters to serve them, because they could not earn their living without them.
The Islamic approach to the eradication of slavery is balanced:
Islamic legislation includes a variety of ways to ensure the reduction and eventual eradication of slavery.
1) As the atonement for many offenses, granting freedom to a slave in addition to repentance was made obligatory. A portion of Zakah funds (Charitable donations) was also used to help anyone who could buy his own freedom in return for a sum of money, which he would pay to his master.(Qur’an;9:60).
2) The institution of slavery was discouraged and the owners and other people were enjoined to give financial help to the slaves to earn their freedom under the law of Mukatabat and marriage with virtuous slaves.(Qur’an;24:33, 24:32).
3)The slaves were to be treated with equity and fairness (Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith, 3.721).
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”. [Sahih Bukhari Hadith:9.256]
However, the slavery continued in Muslim societies for much longer than what could have been expected because of historical and continuation of international slavery.
The renowned Orientalist Annemarie Schimmel in the book titled “Islam: An Introduction” has comprehensively summarized the Slavery in Islam; “Slavery was not abolished by the Koran, but believers are constantly admonished to treat their slaves well. In case of illness a slave has to be looked after and well cared for. To free (manumit) a slave is highly meritorious; the slave can ransom himself by paying some of the money he has earned while conducting his own business. Only children of slaves or non-Muslim prisoners of war can become slaves, never a freeborn Muslim; therefore slavery is theoretically doomed to disappear with the expansion of Islam. The entire history of Islam proves that slaves could occupy any office, and many former military slaves, usually recruited from among the Central Asian Turks, became military leaders and often even rulers as in Eastern Iran, India (the Slave Dynasty of Delhi), and medieval Egypt (the Mamluks).”
Some references form Qur’an or warfare and slavery:
1) Do not acquire slaves except through war, 8:67 [Prevalent custom of that time]
2) Free slaves after fighting ends, 47:4
3) To rescue the helpless oppressed old men, women, and children; 4:75
4) Deliberate killing of believer, punishment is hell forever;4:93
5) Don’t fight nonbelievers who neither fought against your faith nor driven you out of your homes, treat them justly; 60:8
6) Aggression: Forbidden, 2:190, 4:90, 60:8 , Sin of, 5:2
7) If foes cease, then you must cease, 2:193, 4:90, 8:37, 8:61
8) Go forth humbly, 8:47 , Prepare well, 8:60
9) Repentance of recent belligerents, 5:34, 9:5, 9:11
10) When warfare ordained, 2:190-193, 2:216-217, 4:91, 22:39, 60:8
11) Striving hard against disbelievers, 9:73, 25:52, 66:9
12) Striving hard in Allah’s cause, 2:218, 3:142, 4:95, 5:35, 5:54, 8:72, 8:74-75, 9:16, 9:19-20, 9:24, 9:44, 9:86, 9:88, 22:78, 29:6, 29:69, 49:15, 60:1, 61:11
13) Non-believing parents trying to persuade a believer to polytheism, 29:8, 31:15
14) Don’t create mischief [fasaad] in land; 28:77; 2:11-12; 2:60, 206, 3:63, 7:56
15) Wards off evil from those who are true believers:22:38-40
16) Suicide not Permissible; 2:195 ; 4:29
17) Sins forgiven, those participate in the cause of Allah; 61:12-13; 4:95 3:157