Assalamualaikum just a quick question. Can anyone help explain the rationale behind enslaving children. In most of the battles in the Prophet's time we see women and children being enslaved together. If we are to say that enslavement is a form of punishment for waging war against the Islamic power, then I fail to see why immature children who didn't know any better should be punished for the crimes of their parents and older relatives. Doesn't this contradict the Islamic principle that none shall bear the burden of another? Please clarify.
Children are blameless as they have no control over the actions of their parents. They are not enslaved as punishment since such a thing is illogical, just because someone gets the short end of the stick does not mean that Islam's intent is to punish them. Rather, the rationale for making it permitted to enslave them is:
The parents are either dead or enslaved, so who should support the children? Who will be responsible for their upbringing? Charity? If the children are enslaved their care is entrusted to their master, who will raise them not just out of philanthropy but because his own interest is served by it (slave is an asset).
Slaves raised in a Muslim community will closely experience it and get inspired. It is probable that their hearts will open to Islam. Conversely, if they are groomed by their own people they will be raised to hate Islam and to seek revenge on the Muslims.
An aim of enslavement is recoup war expenses and any damage caused by the enemy. It is also meant to further strengthen the Muslim economy and to deplete the enemy's manpower. If the Muslims do not do it they will themselves be a weak and easy target for invaders, such that it will be the Muslim women and children who will get enslaved instead. Hence it is done because it serves the greater interest of Muslims.
Finally remember that we are all slaves of Allah, the reason why He makes some people subservient to others is to test them so they can appreciate the freedom of subservience to Allah alone. Islam teaches us to treat slaves with generosity and provides abundant means to free them.