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Slavery under prevalent circumstances

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Question

Suppose a war breaks out and many people are taken prisoners. So can they be kept as slaves? Many muslim scholars believe that the prisoners of wars , both men and women, can be kept as slaves. Please clarify this matter thoroughly as I am very confused.

Reply

During the time of the Prophet (pbuh), the institution of slavery was not a matter of choice, but one of compulsion. It was impossible for Islam to completely abolish this institution immediately, without serious as well as large-scale human, social and socio-moral repercussions, given the particular socio-psychology of the Arabs, in particular, and the world, in general. It was primarily due to these repercussions that rather than passing any legislations for the immediate abolition of the institution, Islam sought to improve the psyche of the individuals as well as the collectivity and, thus, paved the way for the permanent, smooth and systematic abolition of the institution over time.

We can easily derive from the above explanation that even though Islam accepted the existence of slavery in the society , yet this acceptance was not as a permanent approval of the existence of this institution, but as a social vice, which could not be avoided under the prevalent domestic as well as international social conditions. The mere fact that Islam took a series of steps for the initiation of a social reform right from the beginning , which ultimately resulted in the complete abolition of the institution of slavery, is evidence of the fact that, given a choice, Islam would never have approved the existence of the institution, in the first place.The final verse appears in Quran in surah Muhammad(47) verse 4 which clearly puts an end to slavery.

Keeping the foregoing explanation in perspective, it should be easy to derive that Islam would never approve any steps that may, in any way, contribute towards the re-establishment of the institution of slavery once it has been completely abolished.

You have asked:

Suppose a war breaks out and many people are taken prisoners. So can they be kept as slaves?

As should be clear from the foregoing explanation, the answer to your question is ‘No’.

Another aspect, which clearly goes against making slaves of prisoners are the prevalent international laws and treaties, which are agreed upon by all Muslim as well as non-Muslims nations of the contemporary world. These laws and treaties have considerably changed the status of the prisoners of wars as well as any territory that is conquered during such aggression. No Muslim country remaining faithful to its international contracts and agreements can make slaves of its prisoners of wars just as other nations cannot make slaves of the citizens of an Islamic state.Just to stress one point that even in the absence of these international laws keeping in view the directives of Quran Islam would never have allowed slavery in the present circumstances.

Hope it helps

UIUK team

 

 

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