Missionary Diversion: the Question of Slavery

No to Sexism Racism Homophobia Xenophobia

Christian missionaries and die-hard Trinitarians are in the business of proselytizing ‘lost souls’ so that they can be ‘saved’ from eternal damnation. One such missionary who not too long ago had supported the apartheid structure in his native South Africa recently wrote a book with a provocative title –  ‘Slavery, Terrorism and Islam’. Someone in the internet quoted some passages from his book, which shows the depth of the author’s bigotry.

In the post-9/11 era, there is no shortage of pen-pushing zealots who dream of bringing about the ‘civilizational war’ in our time. They are vying to draw our attention to prove how much (actually, how little) they know about Islam. Every John Doe now seems to have an ‘expert’ opinion about Islam. Not surprisingly, most of these views reveal more about the writer’s mentality — which is quite often prejudicial, anti-Muslim and hateful — than the religion of Islam that is professed by nearly a quarter of world population. The attacks from hateful Christian missionaries are not new either, originating since the days of Prophet of Islam.

When Muhammad (S) was preaching the message of monotheism in Arabia, a group of Trinitarian Christians from the city of Najran (in Yemen) paid him a visit to debate about theology. The incident happened in the 10th year of the Hijri (Islamic calendar).

In his famous Sirah, the historian Muhammad ibn Ishaq says:

“The delegation of Christians from Najran came to the Messenger of Allah [Muhammad (S)]. The delegation consisted of sixty horsemen, including fourteen of their chiefs who make decisions. These men were Al-’Aqib, also known as ‘Abdul-Masih, As-Sayyid, also known as Al-Ayham, Abu Harithah bin ‘Alqamah, of [the family of] Bakr bin Wa’il and Uways bin Al-Harith. They also included, Zayd, Qays, Yazid, Nabih, Khuwaylid, ‘Amr, Khalid, ‘Abdullah and Yuhannas. Three of these men were chiefs of this delegation, Al-’Aqib, their leader and to whom they referred for advice and decision; As-Sayyid, their scholar and leader in journeys and social gatherings; and Abu Harithah bin ‘Alqamah, their patriarch, priest and religious leader. Abu Harithah was an Arab man from [the family of] Bakr bin Wa’il, but when he embraced Christianity, the Romans and their kings honored him and built churches for him (or in his honor). They also supported him financially and gave him servants, because they knew how firm his faith in their religion was.” Abu Harithah knew the description of the Messenger of Allah from what he read in earlier divine Books. However, his otherwise ignorance led him to insist on remaining a Christian, because he was honored and had a high position with the Christians.

Ibn Ishaq said, “Muhammad bin Ja’far bin Az-Zubayr said that, ‘The (Najran) delegation came to the Messenger of Allah in Al-Madinah, entered his Masjid wearing robes and garments, after the Prophet had prayed the ‘Asr prayer. They accompanied a caravan of camels led by Bani Al-Harith bin Ka’b. The Companions of the Messenger of Allah who saw them said that they never saw a delegation like them after that…”

After the Christian delegation arrived, discussions of religion and theology began, with the subject eventually turning to ‘Isa (Jesus) ibn-Maryam, and the question of defining what and who Jesus really is compared to what he is actually understood to be for each party. Muhammad (S) preached to them that Jesus is a human being granted revelation by God and requested them to accept Islam. The Christians, however, were not convinced and responded with their explanations of Jesus Christ being divine.  When they persisted in their refusal, Muhammad (S) challenged them to a Mubahalah, as prescribed by the Qur’an.

Surely the case of Jesus is like the case of Adam. He created him out of dust, then He said to him, “Be’, and he was. This is the truth from thy Lord, so be thou not of those who doubt. Now whoso disputes with thee concerning him, after what has come to thee of Knowledge, say to him “Come let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves then let us pray fervently and invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie.” (Qur’an 3:59-61)

According to Ibn Ishaq, “When these Ayat came to the Messenger from Allah, thus judging between him and the People of the Book (Christians), Allah also commanded the Prophet (S) to call them to the Mubahalah if they still refused the truth. The Prophet called them to the Mubahalah. They said, ‘O Abu Al-Qasim! Let us think about this matter and get back to you with our decision to what we want to do.’ They left the Prophet and conferred with Al-’Aqib, to whom they referred to for advice. They said to him, ‘O ‘Abdul-Masih! What is your advice’ He said, ‘By Allah, O Christian fellows! You know that Muhammad is a Messenger of Allah and that he brought you the final word regarding your fellow (‘Isa). You also know that no Prophet conducted Mubahalah with any people, and the old persons among them remained safe and the young people grew up. Indeed, it will be the end of you if you do it. If you have already decided that you will remain in your religion and your creed regarding your fellow (‘Isa), then conduct a treaty with the man (Muhammad) and go back to your land.’”

According to early historian Ibn Hisham, “The Christians returned to the place they were staying. Their leader al-Sayyid, al-‘Aqib advised them saying: “If he challenges us with his people, we accept the challenge for he is not a prophet; but if he challenges us with his family, in particular, we don’t challenge him, for he is not going to put forward his family unless he is truthful.”

On the morning of 24th Dhul Hijjah (i.e., the next day), Muhammad (S) emerged at the appointed time. He (S) brought only selected members of his family (all close blood relations), carrying Husayn (his grandson) in his arm with Hasan (his grandson) holding his hand, followed by Fatima (his daughter) and Ali (son-in-law). Tradition states the Christians were surprised when they saw Muhammad’s (S) family (“Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husayn“) accompanying Muhammad.

Muhammad (S) offered to do the Mubahala, asking each conflicting party to cover themselves with a cloak, and that all parties ask God sincerely to destroy and inflict with curses on the lying party and their families. The Christians consulted each other, and Abdul Haris lbne Alqama, a scholar among them, talked them out of carrying out the Mubahala.

They came to the Prophet (S) and said, “O Abu Al-Qasim! We decided that we cannot do Mubahalah with you and that you remain on your religion, while we remain on our religion. However, send with us a man from your Companions whom you are pleased with to judge between us regarding our monetary disputes, for you are acceptable to us in this regard.”

This is not the only time that the Christians were allowed their freedom of religion and expression in a Muslim territory. In 628 C.E. Prophet Muhammad (s) granted a Charter of Privileges to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt. Sinai. It consisted of several clauses covering all aspects of human rights including such topics as the protection of Christians, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war.

An English translation of that document is presented below.

This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them.
Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.
The Muslims are to fight for them.
If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).

This charter of privileges has been honored and faithfully applied by Muslims throughout the centuries in all lands that they ruled.

Despite such gestures shown to the Christian subjects, the enmity and hatred espoused by Christian missionaries know no bounds. For nearly two thousand years, Christians practiced slavery that killed tens of millions of people on our planet from Africa to the Americas and yet their missionaries have no shame to falsely blame that Muslims for slavery. How true is the accusation of slavery against Muslims?

As I shall demonstrate below instead of blaming Muslims if these ‘soldiers of Jesus’ had studied their own Bible well, they would have seen how it endorsed and encouraged slavery. Consider, for instance, the Biblical verses:

“You may possess slaves, but make sure they are foreigners. You may also make slaves of the natives who dwell among you and from their children who are born and reared in your land. You may own them as chattels and leave them to your sons as their hereditary property, making them slaves forever. But you should not lord it over your own countryman, your own kinsmen.” [Lev. 25:44-46] (See also: Deut. 21:10)

Even in the so-called New Testament (NT), not a single statement can be found in Jesus’s mouth that comes close to uprooting slavery. (See also: 1 Timothy 6:1, 1 Peter 2:18, Col. 3:22 for endorsement of slavery.)

Now let’s talk about real history. The ancient world was deeply entrenched into slavery, and the Arab society in Muhammad’s (S) time was no exception. The pagan aristocracy in Makkah, Jewish landowners and merchants in Madinah and many wealthy Christian Arabs were slave owners.[1] Most of the early believers in Muhammad’s (S) message of pure monotheism, on the other hand, were slaves, who were brutally tortured for their faith by their non-Muslim slavers. It became, thus, incumbent upon the Prophet (S) and his Companions (notably Abu Bakr and Uthman – may Allah be pleased with them) to free those slaves. Muhammad (S) bought the freedom of 63 former slaves, A’isha (RA) 67, Abbas (RA) 70, Abdullah ibn Umar (RA) 1000 and Abdur Rahman ibn Awf 30,000.[2] It was no wonder that some of the best-known Muslims and soldiers in the defense of Islam were those former slaves and their children.[3]

The Qur’an unequivocally makes it clear that no man, irrespective of his status (including a prophet), can enslave any other human being:

“It is not (possible) for any human being unto whom Allah had given him the Scripture and wisdom and ‘Nabuwah’ (Prophethood) that he should afterward have said unto mankind: Be slaves of me instead of Allah …” [3:79]

Thus, Islam’s credit lies in being the only major religion to curtailing slavery and encouraging the emancipation of slaves. (See the Qur’an for many such references, e.g., 4:92, 5:89, 58:3, 90:13, 24:33, 9:60, 2:177, 2:221, 4:25, 4:36.) Following the dictates of the Qur’an, personal and public wealth from zakat fund and the Baitul-Mal was used for manumitting slaves.[4] Here are some relevant Traditions (ahadith) encouraging emancipation of slaves, Muslims and non-Muslims alike:

“A person who frees a Muslim slave, Allah will deliver every one of his limbs from the fire of Hell in return for each of the limbs of the slave, even his private organs for the sake of the freed slave’s organs.” – Muhammad (S) [Bukhari and Muslim: Abu Hurayrah (RA)]

“The atonement for beating or slapping a slave (Muslim or non-Muslim) on the face, for no fault of his, is that he should be set free.” – Muhammad (S) [Muslim: Ibn Umar (RA)]

“Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom).”  – Muhammad (S) [Bukhari: Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari (RA)]

“Allah the Most High said, I will be the opponent of three persons on the Day of Resurrection. They are the one who makes a covenant in My name and then prove treacherous. Or the one who sells a free person (Muslim or non-Muslim) as a slave and appropriates his price for himself. And the one who hires a laborer and having taken full work from him, fails to pay him his wages.” – Muhammad (S) [Hadith Qudsi, Bukhari: Abu Hurayrah (RA)]

“There are three people whose prayers are not accepted. And one of these three is a man who enslaves a free person (Rajulun iitabada muharraran).” – Muhammad (S) [Abu Dawud]

“No son can repay his father unless he finds him as a slave and purchases him and sets him free.” – Muhammad (S) [Muslim: Abu Hurayrah (RA)]

As hinted earlier, many of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (S) were freed slaves who went on to become great leaders of the Islamic community. Bilal the Abyssinian became the first caller to Islam [note: the position of mu’addhin is next to the Imam]. Ammar ibn Yathir was from Yemen, Salman al-Farsi was from Persia, Suhayb al-Rumi was a Byzantine. Many of the rulers in Muslim territories were freed slaves and their descendants.

On the other hand, throughout our known history, many of the notorious slave traders (including those involved in the Atlantic slave trade) were Christians and Jews.[5] To them, the fate of dark-skinned (African) race was sealed with Genesis 9:25: “And he [Noah] said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” (See also Joshua 16:10.) The Church did not believe that Africans possessed human souls.[6] Not surprisingly, when the British Crown asked the Christian clergy for supporting documents to justify the slave trade, they readily found them within the Bible.[7]

Dr. George Best, a non-Muslim historian, says, “Christianity did not object to slavery. Politically or economically, it did not encourage the believers to oppose the traditions of their generations as regards slavery. Christianity did not even discuss the problem and said nothing against the rights of slave owners. It did not urge slaves to demand their freedom and did not basically ask to free the slaves.”

Nor should we forget that the movement to abolish slavery in Europe and America is rather a new phenomenon and dates back only to the 19th century, [8] nearly 1200 years after Islam forbade taking any free man as a slave (see Imam Bukhari’s chapter: Baab Ithm man ba’a hurr wa akala thamanahu). Even with the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 in the British Parliament, the practice of owning slaves continued for another century in the West.

The Grand Larousse of the 19th century reads:

“Man does not wonder at the presence of slavery and its being common among the Christians till now. The religious representatives approve it and believe that it is legal. In brief Christianity approves it completely till our time and it is very hard to prove that Christianity tried to abolish slavery.”

Unfortunately, modern-day slavery still exists today in one form or another, e.g., sex labors in many parts of the world, captives or prisoners of war held in many parts of the world, forced labor in Burma (Myanmar) and China, and slave camps run by Christian terrorist outfits like the SPLA and Lord’s Army in Africa.

A diversion has always been a favorite ploy utilized by shrewd strategists to divert attention. Imperialists and their agents have successfully used it to colonize and mislead others.[9] This tactic still has tremendous appeal among the modern-day empire dreamers. So, as it was during the pre-colonial days of Africa, we were bombarded not too long ago with allegations that the northern Sudanese were enslaving the southern animists and Christians. Thanks to the CBS program which unearthed the hoax of slave emancipation by the Christian Solidarity, now we know that there is no truth to these allegations. The program established that the Christian SPLA and Lord’s Army routinely practice this crime by enslaving free people (against their own kind in Sudan and Uganda) and trading thereafter for money and arms. It is a lucrative business for these savages and their western/Christian patrons to slicing Sudan and establishing their zone of influence. For years, these criminals used every means at their disposal, including heinous propaganda campaigns and arms shipment, to encourage secession movement in southern Sudan. [See the link in http://www.sudanembassy.org/ for a CBS interview with Dan Rather on the hoax of The Sudan Slave Trade.[10] Ultimately, however, with all the Christian muscles in the UNSC and the power of Goebbels-like missionary propaganda, they succeeded to divide Sudan and bring about the new nation of South Sudan. With internal fights, interestingly, the country has been in civil war ever since its independence. Tens of thousands of animists are enslaved by South Sudanese Christian warlords.

The currently hyped campaigns about slavery once again show how lying and deception are once again employed by Christian missionaries to put the blame on Islam while it is they who are committing this crime. How long will they fool everyone?


[1]. A study of the lives of many former slaves who became the Companions of the Prophet (S) is sufficient to prove this. For instance, Salman al-Farisi’s (RA) slave master was a wealthy Jew from Banu Qurayza. (See also Maulana Rumi’s masterpiece – Mathnabi.)

[2]. Human Rights in Islam by Abul ‘Ala Mawdudi.

[3]. Read this author’s – The Book of Devotional Stories – (in print) for stories of some of these early Muslims.

[4]. See Fethullah Gulen’s article: How is it that Islam, a religion inspired by God for the good of humanity, allows slavery? – Islam Herald.

[5]. According to some historians, eighteen million Africans are estimated to have died during the Atlantic slave trade. In American Holocaust (1992), David Stannard estimates that some 30 to 60 million Africans died being enslaved. Howard Zinn puts the number at 40 million.

[6]. See, this author’s “An anatomy of racism” and “White Man’s Burden: the never-ending saga.”

[7]. St. Augustine (c. 354-430) taught that slavery was God’s will and that Christianity did not make slaves free but made good slaves out of bad ones. (The City of God 19.5)

[8]. The only real exception is Portugal (1761), however, the practice continued for decades in its colonies.

[9]. For full treatment, interested readers may consult Prof. Ali Mazrui’s books, including The Africans, a PBS Documentary, USA.

[10]. http://www.sudanembassy.org/  (and click the link to The Sudan Slave Trade).