Treatment of Slaves
He constantly exhorted those who owned slaves to treat them kindly and well. He had laid down that if the owner of a slave beat his slave or abused him, the only reparation that he could make was to set the slave free (Muslim, Kitabul Iman). He devised means for, and encouraged, the freeing of slaves on every pretext. He said: ‘If a person owning a slave sets him free, God will in recompense save every part of his body corresponding to every part of the slave’s body from the torment of Hell.’ Again, he laid down that a slave should be asked to perform only such tasks as he could easily accomplish and that when he was set to do a task, his master should help him in performing it so that the slave should experience no feeling of humiliation or degradation (Muslim).
If a master went on a journey accompanied by a slave, it was his duty to share his mount with the slave either by both riding together or each riding in turn. Abu Hurairara, who used to spend the whole of his time after becoming a Muslim in the company of the Prophetsa and who had repeatedly heard the Prophet’ssa injunctions regarding the treatment of slaves, has said: ‘I call God to witness in Whose hands is my life that were it not for the opportunities that I get of joining in holy war and of performing the Pilgrimage and were it not that I have opportunities of serving my old mother, I would have desired to die a slave, for the Holy Prophetsa constantly insisted upon slaves being well and kindly treated.’ (Muslim).
Ma‘rur bin Suwaidra relates: ‘I saw Abu Dharr Ghaffarira (a companion of the Holy Prophetsa) wearing clothes exactly similar to those worn by his slave. I inquired of him the reason of this and he said, “During the lifetime of the Holy Prophetsa I once taunted a man with his mother having been a slave. Upon this the Holy Prophetsa rebuked me and said, ‘You still seem to entertain pre-Islamic notions. What are slaves? They are your brethren and the source of your power. God in His wisdom confers temporary authority upon you over them. He who has such authority over his brother should feed him with the kind of food he himself eats, clothe him with the kind of clothes he himself wears and should not set him a task beyond his strength and should himself help him in whatever he is asked to do.’” On another occasion the Prophetsa said: “When your servant cooks food for you and sets it out before you, you should ask him to sit down with you to eat or at least to partake of a portion of it in your company, for he has established a right in it by working on it.”’ (Muslim).
1. Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmud Ahmadra, Life of Muḥammad (Tilford, Surrey, U.K.: Islam International Publications Limited, 2013), 226-227.