By Prof. Abdussamad Umar Jibia
The trending topic that every Nigerian is talking about is the execution of a young woman who insulted the personality of the Prophet of Islam (May peace be upon him). There is not too much I have to say on it. It is clear that Nigerian Muslims have spoken. We have a redline; no one would insult the Holy Prophet of Islam and get away with it. If democracy is all about what pleases the majority and protects the right of all, then there should be a law criminalizing any attack on the personality of our Holy Prophet with the appropriate punishment; unless some people feel it is part of their right to insult him. If, on the other hand, democracy is about being anti-Islam and crossing its redlines, then our problem has just begun.
The discussion on the Sokoto incident as I followed it on social media has revealed the level of hypocrisy in many of those who claim to be Muslims. Many commentators were not worried about the magnitude of the evil the woman committed but the way she was executed. Others would say, “She should be taken to a court of law”, etc., as if they are not the same people who would condemn any law that applies execution as the punishment for blasphemy.
Specifically, in a Whatsapp group I belong a particular person was so deep into his attack of the “perpetrators of the murder” that he went out of his way to be making other unsavory comments about Islam. The particular point I took him on was his association of slavery to Islam. To him it was the British who liberated slaves relying on a colonial document written by Lugard.
But he is not alone. A Northern writer with large followership among Northern elites once accused the Arabs of killing slaves because we don’t have African Arabs like we have African Americans. That, to the best of his imagination was because Arabs killed their slaves.
The danger is not about these people but the unsuspecting followers they can influence. Unfortunately, most social media followers are fascinated by beautiful grammar even if it is bereft of facts. In particular, I have always wanted to respond to the claim on the killing of African slaves by the Arabs. With my discussion with another Northerner I decided to write a few lines on this.
It is well known that it is not Islam that came with slavery. Islam came and met the practice of enslaving fellow humans well established not only in Arabia but in all other societies. The methods of acquiring slaves and the way they were treated were devoid of sanity in most societies. These methods were practiced before Islam came and continued to be practiced after the coming of Islam in societies where the impact of Islam was yet to be felt. Sadly, even in some Muslim societies where ignorance or selfish desires prevailed some of these methods were practiced.
One way slaves were acquired was through war. In war, the victor could treat the vanquished enemy the way he liked. They could simply kill them, torture them to death, put them under their control as soldiers or otherwise make them slaves.
Another way slaves were made was through guardianship. A father or grandfather had absolute authority over his offspring. He could sell or gift them away as slaves; could lend him or her to someone else, or exchange him or her with another’s son or daughter. A community chief could sell out one or more of his subjects as slaves.
Invasion was another method. In many cases, strong communities invaded weaker ones, enslaved all men, women and children and sold them. This is chiefly how many Africans found their way to other continents as slaves.
Other methods include pawning, tribute, etc. depending on the geographical location and time in history.
Islam restricted the means of enslavement to only one method. Jihad. The Qur’anic meaning of the word is maximum struggle in spreading and defending the message of Islam. As long as falsehood is confronting the truth and evil is opposing good and mischief and its doers are standing in the way of reform, Islam does not allow Muslims to seclude themselves with rituals and look the other way. Just like a Muslim is enjoined to give Zakah that symbolizes kindness, he is enjoined to perform another form of worship that symbolizes opposing evil. That is Jihad. Of course this write-up is not about Jihad.
When Jihad becomes an armed struggle and prisoners are taken, a favour is done to them. Instead of being killed they are taken to Muslim community as slaves to serve as house helps, on the farm and help in other activities not beyond their ability.
Of course, it is not a rule in Islam that war captives must be enslaved. Captives can be released freely by the leader or after payment of ransom (Q47:4). Both of these happened during the lifetime of the Prophet (Salllahu alaihi wa sallam). Peculiarities of situation would always guide the leader. Islam also prohibits torturing the enemy or mutilating their body as practiced in other climes.
The rules of treating slaves are summarized in the following Hadith, quoted in parts, “They are your brothers and servants. Allah Has put them under you. Whosoever has his brother under him, he should feed him from what he eats and clothe him from the type of cloth he uses. Do not assign them to do any work that is too much for them. When you assign them, help them.” (Bukhari and Muslim reported it).
In addition to this golden rule of treating slaves, Islam introduced incentives for freeing slaves. For example, freeing a Muslim slave would emancipate the freer from hell fire on the Day of Judgment, according the Holy Prophet (May peace be upon him) himself. Kaffara (expiation) for incorrect breaking of fast, abrogation of oath, killing by mistake, zihar, etc. can be done by freeing of slaves, sometimes as the first option.
The claim that Arabs killed their slaves stems from ignorance of the above and the fact that intermarriage took place between Arabs and freed slaves. Even in modern day America or Europe, how many whites marry blacks? The former still look at the latter as slaves. The fact is that even among themselves, enslaved people in America were not legally allowed to marry until recently. One woman was allocated to several slaves to share, so she gave birth to another slave whose father did not matter. This beastly practice was unheard of in what our ‘liberals’ condemn as “puritan” Islamic societies.
The Shiite-brainwashed “intellectuals” probably forgot that in Islam a master can have intercourse with his female slave subject to laid down conditions and when she gives birth to any child she qualifies for her freedom and her child has full rights of a child. Some of the famous early generations of Muslim rulers were children of such slaves. A handy example is Abdurrahman bn Muawiya of Spain. The only maid slave the Holy Prophet had, Maria, was an African and she gave birth to his son Ibrahim. This is unheard of in western societies.
I challenge any believer in western civilization to cite an example where a white master married a slave.
Thus, slaves were integrated into the Arab/Muslim society. Not only were they integrated but many of them learned Islam and excelled in Islamic scholarship. The list is long but a few would suffice. Nafiu m. Abdullahi bn Umar, Ata’ bn Abi Rabah, Tawoos bn Kaisan, Yazid bn Abi Habeeb, Makhul, Maimoon, Addhahhak, Ibrahim Annakha’iy are some of the famous scholars of early Muslim generation who were originally slaves.
Coming down to recent history of West Africa, what confused many who get their knowledge of Islam from secondary sources is the conduct of some West African kings. For example, Kano and Zaria were Muslim states and war between them was far from being Jihad. People enslaved as a result of that war were enslaved unjustly and Allah will judge between them and those responsible for their enslavement.
Another wrong pre-colonial enslavement method was raiding of minor tribes by major tribes for the purpose of generating slaves. Such slaves were kept in the palaces of traditional rulers or sold out to foreigners. This is clearly outside what Islam permits, regardless of whether or not such major tribes are predominantly Muslim.
Sheikh Abubakar Gummi had very tough times trying to educate some traditional rulers who still kept such slaves in their palaces that such practice was unIslamic.
Most western-educated people in Muslim societies are misled by Shiite propaganda. It is well known that Shiites have deep animosity towards Arabs and Islam.
Prof Abdussamad Umar Jibia