Asking from a non-Muslim's viewpoint, if Islam preaches equality, then why does it permit slavery?

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    TLDR: it was the status quo at the time and place Islam came down. Islam added humanity to an inhumane system. Detailed answer coming soon inshaAllah.
    – ashes999
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 19:53
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    Does Islam permit slavery? Quran always encourages to find and free slaves if there are any. Muhammad (pbuh) clearly forbid slavery. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 14:39
  • ^ When did Muhammad forbid slavery?
    – John Doe
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 20:26
  • Islam is not a religion of equality but of Justice. Islam permits slavery as part of serving justice.
    – Riyaz
    Commented Jul 7, 2022 at 11:14

5 Answers 5


Even though our Imams and Prophets accepted a slave system, Islam had a plan to free slaves gradually. What people don't normally pay attention to is that if a wrong system has entered a society, removing it needs time and scheduling. If you do something without considering all aspects, it'll have opposite results. It's like something infected with a dangerous virus, or an addicted person who cannot just stop using drugs all of a sudden.

Now if Islam had ordered to free slaves, some of them could have perished when they were an important group in the society. Or a large group of people could became jobless without a place to live in.

Islam consider freeing slaves an "Ibadat", all Prophets and Imam tended to free slaves so simply to give other people a lesson on how it's done.

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:

«شَرُّ النَّاسِ مَنْ بَاعَ النَّاسَ » Reference

The worst people are the ones who sell humans.

This is a quite popular Hadith among Shi'as.

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    "but Islam had a plan to free slaves gradually" This is apologist rhetoric, not doctrine. "What people don't normally pay attention to is that if a wrong system has entered a society, removing it needs time and scheduling" The USA freed slaves with the stroke of a pen at the end of the civil war. "Now if Islam had ordered to free slaves, some of them could got perished when they were an important group in the society. Or a large group of people could became jobless without a place to live in." This is something to consider if Islam isn't true; if it is, then Allah could have provided.
    – G. Bach
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 15:24
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    Apart from Allah providing: if you are able to provide for a slave (and as far as I understand Islam requires you to when you have one) why is it not possible to provide for a free person until that person can manage for themselves on their own? Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 7:34
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    "removing slavery needs time and scheduling" are you arguing that Allah the omnipotent needed millennia to do something that secular Americans did in 4 years (from 1861 to 1865)? Also, how do you reconcile the quoted Hadith with Quaran 24:32: "And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves..." and also with Quaran 33:50, 23:5-6, 4:24, 8:69, 2:178 and 16:75? Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 12:57
  • Is allah so weak that he himself could not abolish slavery on his own? why does he wait for the humans to "gradually" remove something so wrong. Commented May 13, 2018 at 4:22
  • I'm wondering why Islam didn't forbid slavery altogether (eventually) if the plan was to free all slaves.
    – John Doe
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 20:27

Islam permits slavery for those who come to fight against Muslims and Islam. Slavery is a kind of blessing for those who are slaves.
To understand this let me explain. Whenever someone is arrested obviously he is an enemy so should be killed straight away because he is enemy and came to kill Muslims but Islam restricts the owner of slaves to keep slave at their homes, provide them as much and good food to them as they have for themselves. Provide them as good clothes as they own have. Let them walk around, let them get education.
These are all benefits he gets. Islam says they should be kept at home because if there were so many prisons it would be a burden to keep them there. Government (Khilafat) would have to provide everything to them. Instead the way I mentioned above is followed so that they (slaves) see how Muslims live and how good their morals and habits are. This means Islam is giving them an opportunity to observe Islam closely.
In the eyes of Islam those who are not Muslims are going to hell so slavery is giving them chance to save themselves from fire of hell and see how good Islam is.
In the end those who observe Islam closely embrace Islam. Also Prophet SAW has already told too many fazail(benefits) for releasing slaves. Therefore in the past we see many top scholars after the Era of Prophet SAW who used to be slaves, people (Muslims) followed them because they became Muslims and were able to lead them.
Sorry I couldn't give any reference here because these are all logical things. References can be seen in other answers.


I think the definition of "slave" isn't always "(free) labour by force"

If you read Aristotle speak of slavery.

He does not believe that all citizens of captured cities will assimilate. Some undisciplined minds would not be able to adapt to a new culture, language and doctrines on their own. Since they preferred working with their body instead of their mind.

Therefore a society can't educate these people to assimilate. These people wouldn't change by reason. One has to take in these "natural slaves" and assimilate them by example.

Do remember that as a slave master you had to teach your slaves to be intelligent; how to live without a slave master. Those who would buy and sell people that could understand and adapt to a new society did something Aristotle wouldn't condone because these "smart people" would rebel. And the slave owners would use force to keep them, slaves. Only those that didn't rebel, because they prefer working with their body instead of their mind where natural slaves. Most happy as slaves, because they couldn't survive by themselves well.

In the context of your question, a Muslims opinion could be; "Islam allows slavery so undisciplined minds can assimilate to the Muslim way of living"

God knows best.


There are many verses in the Quran discussing slavery, and throughout the life of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) slavery was fully accepted. There is no evidence to suggest that slavery is in anyway or form banned in Islam.


Narrated 'Abdullah: Allah's Apostle said, "Everyone of you is a guardian and is responsible for his charges. The ruler who has authority over people, is a guardian and is responsible for them, a man is a guardian of his family and is responsible for them; a woman is a guardian of her husband's house and children and is responsible for them; a slave ('Abu) is a guardian of his master's property and is responsible for it; so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your charges." Sahih Bukhari 3:46:730

Based on the above Hadith, Slavery is an element of an Islamic Society.

In Islam the idea behind slavery is that the criminal, or enemy combatant's expenses are paid by his/her owner while the slave is expected to work for the owner.

As such it is seen as a better alternative to a prison system in which the expenses are paid by a group of people who have no control over him/her and in which the prisoner therefore might not be required to work.

Islam has laws governing slavery, if slavery wasn't part of Islam, there would be no laws on it.

  • @G.Bach The idea here is, to govern the inevitable, rather than ban it and let it happen in the dark. Current example being the situation of Syrian girls/women, whose men have been killed in the war, whose homes have been destroyed & they have been displaced, therefore many have turned to prostitution in places such as Lebanon, and many more forced in to prostitution, practically kept in rooms with barred windows and locked doors. Prostitution is illegal in Lebanon by the way. Not enough space to give you a more in-depth answer in comment section, don't hesitate to ask a question then link it. Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 5:44
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    @G.Bach Please, if you want to debate, go somewhere else. If you have a question, ask and link me. Post a question about "Islam, Marriage, Slavery and Prostitution", or what ever you like. I will provide you with most in depth answer with Islamic sources, statistics, logical analysis, feasibility, comparison and contrast with current systems... @ me when you've asked the question. Thanks. Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 8:40
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    "Some oppose slavery because they are brainwashed to think slavery is bad, and evil, this belief couldn't be further from the truth." I could say "Some don't oppose slavery because they are brainwashed to think slavery is good, this belief couldn't be further from the truth." Doesn't make any of these claims true or one more true than the other. The rest of the answer has some major flaws so there isn't much backup for the claim. "most efficient replacement for prison system"... according to which criterions? Fairness? How do you measure that objectively? Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 14:00
  • See this post about the claim that slavery is an alternative to the prison system; slavery does not seem to be part of the system of criminal law in Islam.
    – G. Bach
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 16:20

Islam does not permit slavery to Muslims. In fact one of the requirements of being a Muslim is to not enslave one another (3:64).

But Islam does not force other adherers to other ideology to conform to Islam's belief system (15:3,23:54,43:84,52:45,70:42) even at the expense of death to uphold their beliefs(6:112) at one extreme.

So if there is a citizen (a mushrik/polytheist or kaafir/rejecter of the concept of Prime Creator) amongst the nation and he has a slave who is a Muslim, the nation has no right to take away from the citizen his Muslim slave, because it's part of the belief of this citizen to own a slave, and the nation has no right to take it away from him. Otherwise there would be bloodshed amongst Muslim and non-Muslim to fight for an ideological point of view, which Islam does not want. This is what is meant in the verse 24:32.

وَأَنكِحُوا الْأَيَامَىٰ مِنكُمْ وَالصَّالِحِينَ مِنْ عِبَادِكُمْ وَإِمَائِكُمْ ۚ إِن يَكُونُوا فُقَرَ‌اءَ يُغْنِهِمُ اللَّـهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ ﴿٣٢﴾

And marry those unmarried amongst you and the righteous amongst your male and female slaves...(24:32)

That is amongst your male and female citizens that are being enslaved. If we take it that Islam allows slavery amongst the Muslims, it would be contradicting verse 3:64.

So in this verse Allah SWT is talking to us as a nation (with Muslim and non-Muslim citizens) and not as a group of Muslims.

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