The Problem of Slavery and viewing Islam through a Western lens

Thank you for this very well-written piece, Abdullah.
The gradual abolition of slavery and how it was set in motion also reveals another dimension of Divine Wisdom in the Prophet’s {SAW} method in how he tackled centuries-old entrenched behaviour amongst the Arabs. While not abolishing slavery outright, the seeds were sown by his commands that slaves be fed and clothed in like manner as their owners and by specifically determining compensation (kaffarah) for many rituals of missed worship as the manumission of slaves. This taken with the radical monotheism of Tauhid and the strict prohibition of usury (riba) affected a seminal turning point in human exploitation which the then Arabs were mired in and once having taken root, spread far and wide, and beyond the Arabian peninsula. The key feature being liberating mankind from subjugation to other creatures by universally recognising and submitting to the one Creator of All (SWT) as one Ummah rising to grasp its destiny.

Abdullah al Andalusi

It is currently 183 years since the British Empire abolished slavery (1834). The slavery prevalent during the British Empire, ‘chattel slavery’, was ended due to a combination of the rising difficulty to keep growing slave populations from revolting against their plantations owners (The Great Jamaican Slave Revolt 1831), increasing industrialisation and mechanisation brought about by the industrial revolution, and the constant campaigning by Protestant Christian lobbyists belonging to particular sects of Christianity (despite the Bible not outlawing Roman slavery).

After 1834, Muslims begun to face the question from Western Europeans about the issue of slavery. This polemic wasn’t taken too seriously until colonialism and slowly became more acute during the 20th century. If slavery is morally wrong, why didn’t Islam or the Prophet Muhammed (saaw) outlaw it during their time?

The typical answer from many Muslims is that the Prophet Muhammed (saaw) tried to phase out slavery. However, if this…

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