Refuting ISIS Allegations On The Revival Of Slavery – Analysis


The fourth issue of DABIQ magazine, owned by ISIS, published an article which claimed the revival of slavery through the capture of the Yazidis tribe.

One of the basis of their arguments is the verse from the Quran which means, “And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (The Quran, 9:5)

They then argue using the prophet’s sayings about the birth of children who will become masters to their domiciled mothers who happen to be slaves. The hadith indicates that at the end of times, there will be plenty of such births. There is therefore a clear sign in the hadith which justifies making the Yazidis women slaves as well as sex slaves which ISIS claims to be desirable as the precise time has come for such an act as mentioned in the hadith.

They are proud and boastful with the number of Yazidis women being their slaves while quoting the hadith of Abu Hurairah which means, “God marvels at people who enter paradise in chains.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari) They further explained that according to hadith scholars, the hadith refers to those who embraced Islam after being slaves and that resulted in them entering paradise.

They also used a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah by al-Bukhari as the basic argument. According to the hadith, when Abu Hurairah explains the verse of the Qur’an which means, “You (the people of Muhammad) are the best of the people sent onto to Man”, he said, “You are the best of men to all of mankind; you take them as slaves so that they embrace Islam.”

Finally, they claimed most of the lustful deeds such as adultery, close proximity between non-mahrams and others have become widespread as a result of the failure to implement the Quranic verses with regards to slavery which could have provided a permissible alternative to the vices mentioned above.

Slavery in Islam

Historically, slavery has been practiced long before the birth of Islam and it is not created or innovated by Islam.

In Islam, slavery can only be practiced over the enemy who has been defeated in the war and even that can only occur if they differ in religion and if the captive has already served as a slave. Hence, a Muslim who is originally a free person cannot be taken as a slave by another Muslim unless he has indeed been a slave.

There is no single verse in the Qur’an or hadith that mentions the obligation to enslave prisoners.. In fact, Islam encourages the freeing of the servants (prisoners?) when they show signs of remorse and are willing to return to Islam and become good citizens.

When Islam emerged in the Arab world, slavery was already widely practiced and its practice was defended stoutly by its perpetrators. As a religion full of wisdom, Islam took a more conscientious approach to encourage people to free the servants they owned. This was done gradually with an eye on abolishing the slavery system totally. According to Ibn Qudamah, man was born free, whereas his slavery was caused by war, which therefore makes it unjustifiable to be imposed upon anyone if there is no oppression or war.

The correct method in Islam with regards to the liberation of slaves is to encourage Muslims who own slaves to free them and they shall be granted a bountiful reward.

Allah says in the Quran, “And what can make you know what [breaking through] the difficult pass is? It is the freeing of a slave.” [The Quran, 90:12-13]

Furthermore, by freeing slaves, one can atone for the sins he has done such as killing without intention, zihar, vain (false?) oaths and having intercourse in the month of Ramadan.

Even in the practice of slavery itself, , Islam commands the masters to deal with their slaves with good manners and prohibit cruelty which is completely different from the existing practice by ISIS, as the mentioned by the Prophet, “Your friends from among the slaves were made under your control, so anyone who has someone under his power, let him feed him with the kind of food you would eat, and cloth him with the clothes you are wearing and do not bog him down with difficult tasks. If you should command him to do so, then help him (in its performance).” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Rebuttal to ISIS

The verse from chapter nine of the Quran that is put forth as an argument to practice slavery is one of the few verses that mention the rulings when dealing with infidels. ISIS did not include other verses that encourages and extols the act of doing good and just towards everyone, including the non-Muslims. It is stated in the Quran, 60:8 which means, “Allah does not forbid you, with regards to those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous towards them and acting justly towards them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.”

The late Shaikh Muhammad al-Amin al-Shinqiti in his book Tafsir Adhwa’ al-Bayan, explained that the context of the verse in chapter sixty still exists and therefore, is still applicable. The ruling has not been removed or replaced contrary to the claims of some scholars. . For such claims to be enforced, evidence is required to justify that the ruling for the verse had been removed.

The hadith about the end of times mentioning that a slave woman will bear her own master is one of the many opinions from the scholars of hadith. The above interpretation is not the only one which they agreed upon. There are other interpretations offered in understanding the phrase. Ibn Hajar said that it could refer to disobedient children. This is to indicate that at the end of times, due to the extensive erosion of good manners, it has resulted in children becoming rebellious towards their parents. This is his preferred opinion because if it is literally understood as slaves bearing the masters, then it is not considered as a sign of prophethood due to its already prevalent existence in the time of the Prophet himself.

As for the narration referring to a a group of people entering paradise with chains, Ibn Hajar in explaining the meaning of the narration, laid down a few opinions from various scholars. One of them is the view of Ibn al-Jauzi who said that those people in chains are those who were originally slaves and converted to Islam willingly, without being forced. There is also a view that Muslims who are slaves to non-Muslims and eventually dying in slavery while holding firmly to their belief will enter paradise.

The point on lustful deeds and wrongdoings by humans has nothing to do with the non-enforcement of the shariah rules. It is an obligation for all Muslims to be good, well-mannered and exercise control over his evil desires.

Dr. Muhammad Ammarah a renowned Muslim thinker said in his book al-Islam wa Huquq al-Insan, that only those who have brains and think fairly will understand that Islam clearly removes and eliminates the practice of slavery.

Likewise, there are other scholars who have the same understanding with regards to the elimination of slavery in Islam like Shaikh Mutawalli al-Sha’rawi from Egypt, Shaikh Dr. Muhammad al-‘Iwadhi from Kuwait, Dr. Yasir Qadhi a renowned religious scholar from America and many more.


ISIS’s claim which allows the revival of slavery in their territories by quoting from the past scholars and their arguments do not conform to the true spirit of Islam when viewed in the light of the classical scholars’ opinions. Indeed, their views are totally against the view of a majority of the Islamic scholars today. This proves their ignorance and their lack of Islamic knowledge and traditions as well as the inability to exercise proper application of Islamic knowledge to the current situation.
It is worth mentioning as well that besides the issue of slavery, ISIS is fundamentally wrong in the killing of innocents and their mistreatment of the captives. This is based on their confession in the DABIQ magazine and in the other editions. Clearly it is against the Prophet sayings which he states, “ not kill the weak elderly, do not kill children, do not kill women and do not be treasonous. Gather all the spoils of war and do good and practise ihsan, verily Allah loves those who do good.” (Narrated Abu Daud)
The Prophet also said, “Three groups of people whom I will be contending against in the hereafter, one of them is a man who sells a free man and gain from the proceeds.” (Narrated al-Bukhari)
Unlike Islam, ISIS has easily passed a sentence on humans without looking into the goodwill of Islam holistically. The method they applied in reasoning from al-Quran, hadith and the scholars opinions are biased and not comprehensive. Shaikh Muhammad bin Nasir al-Ja’wan in his book al-Qital fi al-Islam: Ahkamuhu wa Tashri’atuhu, said, “Whoever claims that Islam encourages and legitimizes slavery, it is actually forbidden unless to those who remain as infidels in the aftermath of the war, and even if that happens, the way to deal with them is by giving them just retribution, not by using them and making slaves out of them.”

*Mustazah Bahari is an Associate Research Fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU.

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