i – Mercy for Slaves
The Noble Prophet was particularly kind to slaves. He used to say, “They are your brothers; give them to eat what you eat, and give them to wear what you wear.” Whenever he received any slaves, he always gave them freedom but they could never free themselves from his kindness and generosity. They left their parents, relatives and families and regarded it as an honour to live in bondage to him.
Zaid Ibn Haritha was a slave. Muuhammad freed him and gave him the choice to go with his father, who had come, to take him, but he refused to go with his father and preferred to stay with the Prophet. Muhammad loved Osama, son of Zaid, so much that he used to say that if he had been a girl, he would have adorned him with ornaments.
Slaves felt humiliated at being called slaves. He advised his companions not to say “my slave” or “my slave-girl” but to say, “my son” or “my daughter.” He also told the slaves not to call their masters “lord” for Allah alone was the Lord. He was so kind to slaves that his last admonition before he died was, “Fear Allah in regard to your slaves.” Abu Dharr was one of the converts and Muhammad praised him for his honesty. Once he abused a non-Arab slave, who complained to the Noble Prophet about this.
He reprimanded Abu Dhar and said, “You still have some traces of Days of Ignorance; these slaves are your brothers. Allah has given you authority over them; if they are not suited to your temperament, sell them. Don’t harm Allah’s creatures. Give them to eat what you eat; and wear what you wear. Don’t give them that much work which they cannot do. If you assign a piece of work to them which is beyond their capacity, then give them a helping hand to finish their work.’
Once Abu Masud Ansari was beating his slave when he heard a voice behind him say, “Abu Masud! Allah has more power and control over you than you have over this slave.” Abu Masud turned and saw that it was Allah’s Messenger. He said, “O Allah’s Messenger! I free this slave for the pleasure of Allah.” Prophet Muhammad replied, “If you had not done so, the fire of Hell would have touched you.”
People in those days arranged the marriages of slaves but forcibly separated them whenever they wished. One man arranged the marriage of his slave to his slave-girl and then waited to separate them. The slave complained to Allah’s Messenger, who stood up in the Mosque and ad dressed the people “Why do people marry slaves and then separate them? The right of marriage and divorce belongs only to the husband and wife.”
The effect of this kindness was that many slaves of polytheists used to run away and come to him. He used to grant them freedom. When the spoils of war were distributed, slaves were given their due share. The newly freed slaves received their shares first for they did not have any property.
Once a man came to Prophet Muhammad and said, “O Allah’s Messenger! How many times should I forgive the mistakes of slaves?” The Noble Prophet kept quiet. The man repeated his question three times, and the Prophet replied at the third time, “Forgive them seventy times every day.” A man had two slaves but was not happy with them. He used to beat and abuse them but they did not change their ways. He complained to the Prophet and asked for his advice. Prophet Muhammad said that if his punishment was in proportion to their wrongs, well and good; otherwise Allah would punish him for his excesses.
On hearing this the man was upset and began crying. Prophet Muhammad recited the verse from the Qur’an, “We shall set up scales of justice on the Day of Judgement.” (1:47) and observed that the man did not read the Qur’an. After this he said, “O Allah’s Messenger, it is better that I release them from my possession. Be witness that they are now free.”