The Prophet & Slavery [Sal Allahu alayhi wasallam]
Robert Morey mentions the hadīth from vol. 6 no. 435 of Sahīh al Bukhārī where it mentions that Umar (Allah be well pleased with him) went to visit the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and he saw a black slave sitting on the first step. Although he proves very well that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) did own slaves, his true agenda is to make Prophet Muhammad sound like a false prophet. But does this logically imply that Prophet Muhammad is a false Prophet if he owned slaves?
As i will demonstrate, this approach is highly fallacious. We read in the Bible that Abraham was gifted many slaves/servants and maid servants by the Pharaoh (Gen. 12:16). What did Abraham do with these slaves/servants? Did he set them free? The Bible tells us no. .
In Genesis 14:14 we find that he prepares three hundred and eighteen servants for Jihād (millatary warfare) in a successful attempt to rescue Prophet Lot. Even after this Abraham never liberated any of these slaves. We find in his old age he gave a command to a slave to find a wife for his son Isaac (Genesis 24:2).
The practice of having slaves is not unique to Abraham. His son, Isaac inherited his father’s servants as can be seen in Genesis 26:19; 25; 32. Isaac passes these servants down to Jacob as an inheritance (Gen 27:37). Genesis 50:2 tells us that Joseph had “his servants” embalm his father. Numbers 11:28; 31:49 even explains that Moses had servants. Somebody could argue at this point, “a slave is not a servant and a servant is not a slave!” In this case Deuteronomy 5 verse 15 where it says “Remember you was a servant in the land of Egypt”is enough to refute this notion if it ever arrises. There is no doubt here that the noun “servant” is synonymous with “slave”. Being that they both carry the same meaning and the same import.
“So what the Bible shows us that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses had slaves, but this does not logically imply that God has sanctioned it”. The burning question is, however, did God sanction slavery? If He did not, then, how can all the laws regarding keeping a slave be explained?“And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.” Exodus 12:44
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant…” Exodus 20:8-10
“Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door,or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him forever. And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.” Exodus 21:1-7
“And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.” Exodus 21:20-21
“And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake. And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.” Exodus 21:26-27
Does God sanction slavery in the “Old Testament”? Yes! but what about the New Testament? did Jesus Christ do away with the practice of slavery? did he even condemn it? No!
If we turn to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 8, verse 6 through to 10, we will find that a centurion approached Jesus asking him to heal his servant:”….And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy,grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 8:5-11
Here we do not find any condemnation from Jesus. It is conspicuously absent. Instead of giving hard admonition we find Jesus informing the centurion that he hasn’t found anybody else in Israel with “great faith” like that of the centurion.
Now does Morey consider himself more morally upright than Jesus? If Jesus did not condemn the centurion then who is Morey to condemn. ? How can any Christian think they have the right to say that slavery is wrong, in direct opposition to what is in their own scripture? This is not to say that the slave trade and the treatment of the black African slaves conducted by “Stone Age Western Christianity ” was ever justified.
The treatment of slaves is another subject which differs greatly between Biblical law and Islāmic law. Whilst the Bible allows you to beat slaves, Islām forbids it. See the apology Islām & Slavery for further detail. However, back to the point, Jesus did not forbid nor abolish slavery. This can be seen from the fact that St. Paul in many areas of the “New Testament” ordered the slave to obey his master!
“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters” Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22“Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal” Colossians 4:1“Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.” 1 Timothy 6:1“Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again” Titus 2:9“Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear” Peter” 2:18.
The fact of the matter is that Christianity never claimed that slavery was morally wrong, nor did it abolish slavery, and the evidence is too overwhelming for any Christian to deny. Despite knowing this, there are those who try. They blindfold themselves to the evident and most logical conclusions. As a result they feel they need to deny that the God of the Bible has a Master and servant relationship with His creation. I discuss more about this aspect in my rebuttal to John Gilchrist. But the cat I want to drag out the bag right here is the fact that Jesus is referred to with the same Greek word “pais” in which the centurion used for his slave back in Matthew 8 verse 6 and it is the same word “pais” that is translated as “Ghulām” in the ‘Arabic Bible, and it is the same ‘Arabic word “ghulām” that is used for the word “slave” mentioned in the text of the hadīth that Morey quotes. This presents major theological discrepancies to those who believe in the deity of Christ, and I have hammered this point home in my article “Christ the Deity or Slave of Allāh?” For if Jesus was a “ghulām”, a “pais”, then, how could he be God?
Robert Morey needs to be more careful at picking a self perceived “fault” with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). The plank is in Morey’s eye as it is very obvious he is ignorant of the Tanakh, and the Greek manuscripts. Otherwise he would not make such claims. Morey’s argument that Muhammad is a false prophet falls in the face of hard facts. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) did own slaves, but in no way does this negate that he was a Prophet, as many Biblical Prophets had slaves and the Bible sanctioned it