More specifically, Mohammed endorsed slavery? While there are verses where Mohammed suggests slaves may be freed, it is in some cases for the benefit of the Muslim slave owner, not the slave – to earn bonus points for good behaviour, so to speak.
In other cases it’s clear Mohammed presumes Muslims do have slaves, and therefore endorses the practice of slavery. There can’t be so many occasions when being nice to slaves, or even freeing them, or marrying them, is possible if you don’t have slaves in the first place, and if you don’t expect them to be owned, over many verses, and so over the many occasions when the verses were supposedly revealed.
Nowhere does Mohammed say, “Muslims, slavery is bad. Free all your slaves now, and take no others! Oh, and you shouldn’t have been using them for your own sexual gratification.”
You’d think an almighty deity could have given Mohammed a very clear message in that regard. But, no,or course not, because Mohammed was a man of his time; and so (if you can believe Mohammed was the source of any of the Quran) the best he can do is be a bit nicer to slaves and maybe free some now and again. It’s not like Romans didn’t occasionally dole out freedom – this wasn’t Mohammed coming up with some unique for the times socially woke policy, as many Muslims would have you believe.
Nevertheless, many modern Muslims will try to convince you that Mohammed was basically an Abraham Lincoln, or a Martin Luther King Jnr., so keen was he to set slaves free. This is the sort of verse they use to try to convince you:
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.Quran 2:177
They neglect to point out all the other verses where Mohammed clearly has in mind that Muslims do actually own slaves.
Here’s an analogy of the duplicitous move Muslims make in declaring Mohammed opposed slavery …
Believer in a fictitious holy book (not the Quran in this case): Hey guys, my holy book opposes slavery. It says you should not take slaves! Look at verse X “You must not take slaves at the weekend.”
Non-believer reads the holy book: Hold on, verse Y says you can take slaves on weekdays. You’re a fraud.
In 4:24 we see the phrase “those your right hands possess“, which usually means slaves, and is understood to mean slaves by many scholars. Clearly, this verse would be meaningless if Allah had banned slavery. You are not prohibited from marrying slaves, even if they are already married. You are only prohibited from marrying believing women married already (could also meaning chaste women, but that’s thought to mean married women anyway).
And [also prohibited to you are all] married women except those your right hands possess. [This is] the decree of Allah upon you. And lawful to you are [all others] beyond these, [provided] that you seek them [in marriage] with [gifts from] your property, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse. So for whatever you enjoy [of marriage] from them, give them their due compensation as an obligation. And there is no blame upon you for what you mutually agree to beyond the obligation. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.Quran 2:24
In 4:25 there’s a clear link between being a slave girls and the phrase “whom your right hand possesses” – this is clear that the phrase does mean slaves. And here, again, slavery is clearly presumed, because if you can’t afford to marry a free believing woman, you can marry a believing slave.
And whoever among you cannot [find] the means to marry free, believing women, then [he may marry] from those whom your right hands possess of believing slave girls. And Allah is most knowing about your faith. You [believers] are of one another. So marry them with the permission of their people and give them their due compensation according to what is acceptable. [They should be] chaste, neither [of] those who commit unlawful intercourse randomly nor those who take [secret] lovers. But once they are sheltered in marriage, if they should commit adultery, then for them is half the punishment for free [unmarried] women. This [allowance] is for him among you who fears sin, but to be patient is better for you. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.Quran 2:25
In 4:92 it’s again specifically believing slaves – not non-believing slaves? So, implicit here is that you can own non-believing slaves, and believing slaves.
And never is it for a believer to kill a believer except by mistake. And whoever kills a believer by mistake – then the freeing of a BELIEVING slave and a compensation payment presented to the deceased’s family [is required] unless they give [up their right as] charity. But if the deceased was from a people at war with you and he was a believer – then [only] the freeing of a believing slave; and if he was from a people with whom you have a treaty – then a compensation payment presented to his family and the freeing of a believing slave. And whoever does not find [one or cannot afford to buy one] – then [instead], a fast for two months consecutively, [seeking] acceptance of repentance from Allah . And Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.Quran 4:92
Moving on, in 24:33 Mohammed talks about “your slave girls” again. I guess while it’s okay for you to have sex with them, prostituting them out is a bit much, even for a slavery endorsing warlord. So thoughtful.
But let them who find not [the means for] marriage abstain [from sexual relations] until Allah enriches them from His bounty. And those who seek a contract [for eventual emancipation] from among whom your right hands possess – then make a contract with them if you know there is within them goodness and give them from the wealth of Allah which He has given you. And do not compel your slave girls to prostitution, if they desire chastity, to seek [thereby] the temporary interests of worldly life. And if someone should compel them, then indeed, Allah is [to them], after their compulsion, Forgiving and Merciful.Quran 24:33
Again, in 58:3, you can’t free slaves you don’t have. Mohammed clearly expects slaves to be owned.
And those who pronounce thihar from their wives and then [wish to] go back on what they said – then [there must be] the freeing of a slave before they touch one another. That is what you are admonished thereby; and Allah is Acquainted with what you do.Quran 58:3
These are just a few examples that show that Mohammed didn’t have a problem with slavery as such. Perhaps he recited verse 2:177 on a weekend.
The Last and Missing Revelation?
Even in the last verses revealed there’d have been the opportunity to to make adjustments, for an almighty deity that’s keen on revealing inerrant and final truths for all time.
Oh, yeah, Mohammed, slipped my mind, but I notice you guys still have slaves. Let me make it clear, when Allah said free them, he didn’t mean just now and then. He meant free them all, and take no more.
But, you said he said we could marry slaves, and use them as currency to pay debts of honour, or for piety bonus points. How can we do that if we don’t have any slaves? What’s the point of those revelations?
Oh, yeah. Let me get back to you on that. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation.