From WikiAhmadiyya, the free encyclopedia on Islam and Ahmadiyyat
Slavery is a legal or economic system in which people are treated as property. The practice was rampant in pre-Islamic Arabia, but the advent of the faith sought to wipe out the practice.
For this reason, many of the earliest adherents of Islam were slaves while many of the earliest and fiercest opponents of Islam were slave owners. Muhammadsa freed every single slave who came into his possession within his lifetime and was able to personally free 63 slaves. Meanwhile the early Muslims were able to free well over 30,000 slaves.
Not only were the slaves freed but Muhammadsa took special care to ensure the social standing of the slaves was improved and that any stigma associated with their former slavery was removed. For example, Muhammadsa not only personally freed Zaid bin Harithah, but later appointed him as a chief of the city of Medina and as a commander of the Muslim army. Zaid's son Usama was also given similar roles of responsibility. Moreover, Muhammadsa arranged Zaid's marriage to his own cousin, Zainab bint Jahash. For a former slave to marry a noble woman in Arabia at that time would have been considered highly abnormal. Muhammad'ssa kind treatment of the former slave was so great that Zaid said he loved Muhammadsa more than his own father.
In another instance, Muhammadsa encouraged his companion Abu Bakr to buy the slave Bilal from his cruel owner, for the purpose of freeing Bilal. Abu Bakr freed Bilal, administered medical treatment to heal his injuries, taught him how to read and write and employed him as his store keeper. Bilal was not only a slave but was of African descent, meaning - unlike the fairer Arabs he lived among - he was black. Yet despite the stigma associated with slaves, Muhammadsa sought to end any form of racial prejudice. Muhammadsa appointed Bilal the first caller to prayer in Islamic history as well as numerous official roles including managing the state's treasury. The affection shown Bilal by Muhammadsa led to the former African slave often being revered more greatly than even the Arab chiefs by the early Muslims. Muhammad'ssa desire to raise the status of former slaves was so great that he would say:
So Muhammadsa stated one of the greatest positions one could hold was as a teacher of the Quran and then subsequently appointed a former slave as one of the four official teachers and in so doing paid great compliment to his intellect and knowledge.
In many verses like the one above, the Quran teaches the freeing of slaves.
Above, the Muslims are told to grant a 'deed of manumission', meaning freedom, to all those slaves who desire it. The proviso being that they should 'know any good in them'. This was reference to the slave having a skill or trade by which they could support themselves as freeing a slave in the deserts of Arabia who had no means of employment could perhaps have placed the former slave in great difficulty. Where slaves were unskilled, the Muslims would teach them. So when Abu Bakr freed Bilal, he taught him to read and write and then employed him in his store. The verse adds 'give them out of the wealth', meaning when the slaves were freed they were entitled to a monetary gift from those who freed them. Finally, we read 'force not your maids to unchaste life' which forbade sexual abuse of slaves.