Friday, December 12, 2008

The Meaning of Enslavement in Islam

The Meaning of Enslavement to Allah (God) 

Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid

It would be most grateful if you please clarify the subject of Slaves in Islam? In The Qur'an, there are many of this term in particular the instance where man is the slave to his Master Allah, which I fully understand and agree. But in many instances the Quran cites where one man or woman is the slave of another man or woman. In what context has Allah made this permissible, if it is permissible?

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam is His Messenger.

We are commanded to worship Allah alone and not anything else besides Him. The enslavement to Allah had been commanded in His Book and is the Message through his Messengers. He says:

“And verily, We have sent among every Ummah (community, nation) a Messenger (proclaiming): “Worship Allah (Alone), and avoid (or keep away from) Taaghuut (all false deities, i.e. do not worship Taaghuut besides Allah)” [Al-Nahl 16:36].

The word ‘Ubudiyyah (enslavement) in Arabic comes from the word Ta’beed (enthrallment, subjugation). The phrase ‘abbadtu’l-tareeq means “I made the way smooth and easy to walk on.”

The enslavement of the slave to Allah has two meanings, one general and one specific. If by “slave” I mean al-mu’abbad, i.e., one who is subjugated, this is the general meaning which includes every created thing in the both the higher and the lower realms, sentient and otherwise, animate and inanimate, moving and stationary, kafir and mu’min, righteous and immoral, for every creature is subjugated by Allah and is subject to His control, and for each of them there is a limit at which it stops.

If by “slave” I mean al-‘aabid, one who worships Allah and obeys His commands, this meaning applies specifically to the believers to the exclusion of the kafireen, because the believers are the true slaves of Allah who attribute Lordship and Divinity to Him Alone and recognize Him by His Names and Attributes, and do not associate anything with Him. As Allah says in the story of Iblis:

“[Iblis (Satan)] said: ‘O my Lord! Because You misled me, I shall indeed adorn the path of error for them (mankind) on the earth, and I shall mislead them all. Except Your chosen, (guided) slaves among them.’ (Allah) said: ‘This is the Way which will lead straight to Me. Certainly, you shall have no authority over My slaves, except those who follow you of the Ghaawun (Mushrikun and those who go astray, criminals, polytheists, and evildoers).’” [Al-Hijr, 15:39-42]

With regard to the ‘ibadah (worship) which Allah enjoins upon us, this is a word which includes everything that Allah loves and is pleased with of words and deeds, both open and hidden, and excludes anything that may cancel that out. This definition includes the Shahaadatayn, Solah, Hajj, fasting, jihad for the sake of Allah, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, and believing in Allah, the angels, the Messengers and the Last Day. The basis for this worship is purity of intention, so that the aim of the worshipper is to seek the Face of Allah, May He be glorified, and the Home of the Hereafter. Allah says:

“And Al-Muttaqûn (the pious) will be far removed from it (Hell). He who spends his wealth for increase in self-purification, And who has (in mind) no favour from anyone to be paid back, Except to seek the Countenance of his Lord, the Most High. He surely, will be pleased (when he will enter Paradise).” [Al-Layl, 92:17-21]

So purity of intention is essential, as is sincerity, so that the believer strives to follow what Allah has commanded and to avoid what He has forbidden, prepares himself for the Meeting with Allah (may He be exalted), gives up feeling helpless and lazy, and refrains from following his own desires, as Allah says:

“O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in words and deeds).” [Al-Tawbah, 9:119]

It is also essential to follow the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), so the worshipper should worship Allah in accordance with what He has prescribed and not in accordance with what created beings desire or innovate. This is the aim of following the Prophet who was sent from Allah, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Purity of intention, sincerity and following the Messenger are all essential. Once these matters are understood, and then it will be clear to us that everything that goes against these essentials is in fact enslavement to people.

So showing off (riya’) is a form of enslavement to people; shirik is a form of enslavement to people; neglecting Allah’s commands and angering the Lord in order to earn people’s approval is a form of enslavement to people. Everyone who puts following his own desires before obeying his Lord has gone beyond the bounds of ‘Ubudiyyah (enslavement to Allah) and has deviated from the Straight Path. Hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Doomed is the slave of the dinar, doomed is the slave of the dirham, doomed is the slave of fine cloth and doomed is the slave of velvet. If he is given something he is pleased and if he is denied, he is angry. Doomed is he! If he is pierced by a thorn, may he never be able to remove it.”

Enslavement to Allah includes and implies love, fear and hope. The slave loves his Lord, fears His punishment and hopes for His Mercy and reward. These are the three essential pillars of ‘Ubudiyyah or enslavement.

Enslavement to Allah is an honour, not a cause of humiliation, as the poet said:

“What increases me in honour and pride, so that my feet nearly stepped on the Pleiades, is that I am included in Your words ‘O My slaves,’ and that You made Ahmad my Prophet.”

We ask Allah to make us among His righteous slaves.

[Via Islam QA]

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