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Concept of slavery was different in Islam from what we understand today

Reader comment on item: Modern-day Versions of Military Slavery
in response to reader comment: Islamic apologia by Encyclopedia of Orient

Submitted by Bilal (United States), Jun 17, 2006 at 15:39

Slavery like prostitution probably existed at one time or other throughout the world. However, it woudl be unfair to treat all types of slavery as one. In Pre-Islamic & post-Islamic Arabia slavery was not a defined by the color of your skin as it was in the Western Hemisphere specifically in the early history of the United States. In the ancient world - people entered into slavery because of personal and financial debts or because they were captured as prisoners of war. Relatives of the slaves could ransom and free their loved ones. Thus the status of the slave could change - it was not tied to the colour of the skin.

Prohet Mohammed also had a slave - before his calling - an Arab slave given to him as a gift by his older wife Khadija. When the relatives of the boy became aware that he is in the possession of the Prophet - they came to free him by paying for his bondage; however, the slave refused to go with his parents and continued to serve the Prophet. The Prophet then emancipated him by adopting him as his son and declaring his decision to the city of Mecca. Thus here once a slave - now became the legal heir of the Prophet.

At the early stages of Islam one abyssinian male named Bilal accepted Islam. He was still owned then by his non-muslim master until he was emancipated by one of the early companion of the Prophet by way of monetary compensation. Then he became one of the equals and his skin colour no longer determined his status. This type of slavery is indeed different from what was/is practised in other parts of the world. Let's take the example of the harijans of India (dalits/untouchables). They are yet to be fully emancipated despite the governments efforts to reward them with education and mobility. Harijans or outcastes had a lower status from which they could never escape - they do the menial work of the society - cleaning of tiolets - garbage collection etc. They could not marry outside their caste and are considered sub-humans by the pandits (cannot enter certain temple or drink and eat within vacinity of a brahmin - upper caste).

We all also know that Abraham Lincoln emancipated the slaves to create a second front in the U.S. confederate states. Emancipated slaves still faced segregation and discrimination - they had to escape to attain better life. During the industrial revolution the serfs on the European farm lands - controlled by the aristocracy - became the factory labourers - again was this better then some of the conditions of the slavery. There is a new type of slavery also prevailing in the houses of the wealthy. The Atlantic (June 2006) contains an interesting review by Caitlin Flanagan on the modern economy and the priviliged class in the U.S. In the article (book review) titled "How to Treat the Help?" Flanagan quotes Cheryl Mendelson from Home Comforts.. "Few laws protect domestic employees on the job" most domestic workers take on jobs with no health benefits, no pension plans, no vacation pay , no job security, no hope of advancement and no redress for grievances and injustices except to leave a job they may desperately need - and most of these domestics are illegal female workers from Mexico/South America live thier lives in fear of deportation in the back room of the house of the wealthy Americans. I suppose this wealthy American could be Muslim, Jewish, Christian or agnostic. Thus lets not rush to condemn a particular religion or group before looking all around us - and realizing we need to do our own house keeping.

Submitting....

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