On the BBC Slavery in Islam page

the Prophet... stated that freeing slaves was the act that God found most acceptable

I'm trying to pinpoint the hadith they're referring to.

Question: Is there a hadith to the effect of "freeing slaves was the act that God found most acceptable"?

(And if there is, what is its level of authenticity?)

It seems likely that the BBC were paraphrasing, so I'm not expecting to find a word-for-word exact match.


Googling site:sunnah.com freeing slaves and site:sunnah.com freeing slaves was the act that God found most acceptable comes up with some related ahadith, e.g.:

  1. "...any Muslim man who frees a Muslim man, then it is his salvation from the Fire..." Jami' at-Tirmidhi 1547

  2. "We were ordered to free slaves at the time of lunar eclipses." Sahih al-Bukhari 2520

  3. "Abu Huraira said (to the Prophet), 'I make you witness that the slave is free for Allah's Cause.'" (Sahih al-Bukhari 2532)

But these are not good fits to the BBC's hadith.

There's mention of freeing slaves in the Qur'an (e.g. 9:60), but I don't think these are what the BBC is referring to.

  • 1
    I'd like to point at the fact that the article doesn't quote this statement as a hadith. So maybe it is a conclusion of many statements or actions or even a mix of both. – Sassir Oct 7 '16 at 5:24

I think the BBC article means verses such as Quran 90:11-13

He should choose the difficult path.

Which one is the difficult path?

The freeing of slaves.

There is further discussion in Adam Watson's article which says:

freeing slaves seems to be the choice that Allah prefers Muslims to take

but is a better article than the BBC article because it cites actual verses

  • Dave, verses of the Quran are different from what the prophet stated. I think the writer may have mistakenly wrote "most". It should be one of the most. The Quran says: "Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; ..." It says about many deeds not just freeing slaves. – Mohammad Sakib Arifin Dec 8 '16 at 20:04
  • Freeing slaves is one of the most righteous deeds not the most. – Mohammad Sakib Arifin Dec 8 '16 at 20:04
  • @MohammadSakibArifin That's a good point that verses of the Quran are different from what the Prophet stated, but what if the writer of the BBC article didn't understand that? – DavePhD Dec 8 '16 at 20:26
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    In Islam, if you mistakenly kill someone, you must free a slave as expiation. And freeing a slave is on the top of the list of expiations. So, it's quite reasonable to say "Allah finds freeing slave most acceptable form of expiation for sins" and the prophet may have said something like that. But he didn't provide any assertions which is why it's difficult to know if the prophet said it or not. There are 10000 - 50000 (maybe more) saying of the prophet and it's really really hard to examine all of them since most of them probably aren't available in the internet. – Mohammad Sakib Arifin Dec 8 '16 at 20:32

I think the article refers to the concept of expiation in Islam. The Quran says regarding expiation for unintentional murder:

It is not for a believer to slay another believer unless by mistake. And he who has slain a believer by mistake, his atonement is to set free from bondage a believing person and to pay blood-money to his heirs, unless they forgo it by way of charity. And if the slain belonged to a hostile people, but was a believer, then the atonement is to set free from bondage a believing person. And if the slain belonged to a (non-Muslim) people with whom you have a covenant, then the atonement is to pay the blood-money to his heirs, and to set free from bondage a believing person. But he who cannot (free a slave) should fast for two consecutive months. This is the penance ordained by Allah. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. -- 4:92

The Quran says in another verse:

Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous. -- 2:77

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