Da’Wah to Christians: Slavery in the Bible and Qur’an

by James Randall

The Qur’an makes it clear that a person enters slavery under only one of two circumstances: they were taken prisoner during an ordained and legitimate war of jihad (only declarable by a Caliph) or that person was born into slavery due to both parents being slaves. This makes the slave trade of the European empires, and also of rogue Arab pirates throughout history, un-Islamic and against Qur’anic teaching. However the Bible here mentions how a father may sell his daughter into slavery, to be used by her new master as he will. No similar mandate is found anywhere in the Qur’an or Hadith, for it is an abhorrent teaching that goes against all common morality.

  • Exodus 21:7
    When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do.
  • Keluaran 21:7
    Maka jikalau seorang sudah menjual anaknya perempuan menjadi sahaya, maka tiada ia akan keluar seperti keluar segala hamba laki-laki.
 Islam is the only religion which commands its followers to give slaves the best living conditions, and even entitles them to receive sustenance from the master, which includes shelter, food, clothing, and medical attention. It is a requirement for this sustenance to be of the same standard generally found in the locality and it is also recommended for the slave to have the same standard of food and clothing as the master.

Al-Qur’an, Surah an-Nisa 4:36:

  • WaAAbudoo Allaha walatushrikoo bihi shay-an wabilwalidayni ihsananwabithee alqurba walyatama walmasakeeniwaljari thee alqurba waljarialjunubi wassahibi biljanbi wabniassabeeli wama malakat aymanukum inna Allahala yuhibbu man kana mukhtalan fakhoora.
  • Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful.
  • Sembahlah Allah dan janganlah kamu mempersekutukan-Nya dengan sesuatupun. Dan berbuat baiklah kepada dua orang ibu-bapa, karib-kerabat, anak-anak yatim, orang-orang miskin, tetangga yang dekat dan tetangga yang jauh, dan teman sejawat, ibnu sabil dan hamba sahayamu. Sesungguhnya Allah tidak menyukai orang-orang yang sombong dan membangga-banggakan diri.
 Along with that, should a Muslim be in the possession of a slave of the other gender, and they wish to marry, they are perfectly entitled to, provided the slave is also Muslim in the case of a female owner. Allah (SWT) says in Surah an-Nisa, 4:25, how the believers are equal to one another in every aspect, even in marriage:

al-Qur’an 4:25

  • “And Allah is most knowing about your faith. You [believers] are of one another.”
  • “Allah mengetahui keimananmu; sebahagian kamu adalah dari sebahagian yang lain…”

 Also in contrast, Allah reminds us throughout the Qur’an of the virtue of freeing slaves, as a method of redemption from our sins and as simple charity for His favour. They also have the right to liberate themselves after a duration of work or the death of their master, which can be determined through an agreement between master and slave, and also through purchasing and freeing themselves. However, in regards to the manumission or freeing of slaves, the Bible only speaks on Israelite male slaves being freed after 6 years of service. Otherwise, they are, as the scripture says, to remain slaves forever, along with their descendants.

  • Leviticus 25:46
    You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.
  • Imamat 25:46
    Kamu harus membagikan mereka sebagai milik pusaka kepada anak-anakmu yang kemudian, supaya diwarisi sebagai milik; kamu harus memperbudakkan mereka untuk selama-lamanya, tetapi atas saudara-saudaramu orang-orang Israel, janganlah memerintah dengan kejam yang satu sama yang lain.