A QUESTION THE HADITH DOES NOT ANSWER: by Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed

 Hadith 1

Can the practice of slavery in the Muslim world be tolerated by Muslims? That question and the lack of a definitive answer from Muslims has caused a divide between African American descendants of slaves and Muslim communities.

Pan-Africanists, Afro-centrists, Socialists, Secularists, and African Pagan scholars who are descendants of slaves have long voiced their animosity toward Arab and Turkish Muslims because their ancestors endorsed and participated in a ruthless African slave trade for many centuries. Some of them make their arguments against Islam based upon malicious motives and feelings but the issue itself is rightly expressed and warrants a response.

It is morally imperative that Muslim scholars and jurists directly address the issue of slavery to those communities because the historical fact is that some Muslims did practice slavery and some Muslims still think that the enslavement of human beings is sanctioned by both the Quran and Hadith.  

arab_slaverholdingafricans

It is an incontrovertible fact that Black Africans were enslaved, raped, tortured, and murdered, by Sunni Arabs, Orthodox Christians, and Sunni Ottoman Turks during the rise of Islamic empires and their fall. The leaders of those empires justified the institution of slavery on one or more of the 12 or 13 Hadiths or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). But the truth is that the rich and powerful of those empires were greedy and ambitious men who had insatiable appetites for worldly luxuries and used slavery as a way to drive their economies and thereby satisfy their lusts.  But what now in the 2100 century?

I have often thought what would Malcolm X say today about the indorsement and institutionalization of slavery by Muslims in the past and present?

I think that he would argue, having been a descendent of slaves himself, that even though slavery was sanctioned as permissible (Halal) 1400 years ago by both the Quran and Hadith its place in the Muslim community has always a dubious one.

One example is prostitution. Prostitution is illegal in Muslims societies. Prostitution is an act by a male or female whereby they sell their body to another for money. Here the ‘body’ is used by a buyer for their sexual gratification. It is a kind of human enslavement. Here, the logical contradiction is clear. Some forms of slavery cannot be tolerated as moral while at the same time other forms of slavery are criminalized.

Another example can be found in both the Quran and Hadith. Both are ambiguous concerning the practice of slavery. On the one hand the Quran sanctions slavery and yet on the other hand it says the enslavement of a human being is contrary to the relation of a human creature to Allah. 

For example, the Quran lays down the fundamental premise regarding slavery: “It is unacceptable for a mortal that Allah should give him the Book and the wisdom and ‘Nabuwah’ (prophethood), then he should say to men: Be my slaves rather than Allah’s;… “.[3:79]Here, the Quran forbids slavery to Muslims, Christians, and Hebrews; and in no uncertain terms, the Quran states that all souls belong to Allah.

Clearly, a general principle in the Quran takes precedence over all particular ancient tribal customs and voids them when such practices are contrary to it or contradict it. 

We know that slavery predated the origin of Islam and its first community. We further know that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) freed slaves himself.

The practice of slavery was contradicted on many occasions when the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) freed slaves for many different reasons including to prevent crimes against humanity, for marriage, for conversion to Islam, and as a penalty against Muslim slave owners who committed acts of human cruelty.

Egyptian_Slavemaster_and_Slave

Slavery in Islam therefore was not then nor is now a doctrinal pillar of Islam nor did Islamic law legally ever qualify some human beings as being inferior by nature and thus subject to perpetual servitude.

Historically, systemic slavery was an economic innovation instituted by the Abbasid Empire (748-1258 C.E.) for exactly the same reasons the Roman Empire instituted slavery.  To generate wealth.

Arab Slavers

“As the plantation economy boomed and the Arabs became richer, agriculture and other manual labor work was thought to be demeaning. The resulting labor shortage led to an increased slave market.

It is certain that large numbers of slaves were exported from eastern Africa; the best evidence for this is the magnitude of the Zanj revolt in Iraq in the 9th century, though not all of the slaves involved were Zanj. There is little evidence of what part of eastern Africa the Zanj came from, for the name is here evidently used in its general sense. The Zanj were needed to take care of the Tigris-Euphrates delta, which had become abandoned marshland as a result of peasant migration and repeated flooding, [which] could be reclaimed through intensive [slave] labor. Wealthy proprietors “had received extensive grants of tidal land on the condition that they would make it arable.”  The rise of Shīʻa Islam [in an anti-slavery movement] also occurred around this time …”[i]

Nevertheless, the issue today is whether or not Muslim scholars and jurists can overcome their silence concerning slavery and make fatwa or opinions to the whole world against slavery in the world?

Furthermore, can Muslims engage in discussions about slavery in the Muslim world and not be charged with committing Bid’dah or harmful innovation?

I believe that Muslim scholars and jurists or ulema can come out of the deep dark intellectual hole surrounding the issue of slavery; I believe that Malcolm X would have made the argument that slavery is absolutely and categorically forbidden in Islam and that its practice is a crime against humanity.

I add that it is also necessary that individual Muslims everywhere disavow slavery. I think Muslims should because the enslavement of human beings is the practice of tyranny and oppression and Islam is against oppression. To pretend to be the master over another human being as property when Allah is the only Master over all of humanity is an act of defiance against God.

Furthermore, the practice of making people slaves voids one’s claim to be a Muslim. All the prayers of such a person will fall like lead balls onto the ground. There is a legal basis under Sharia Law to make this clear.

I have heard many Muslims argue on the basis of Hadith or the ‘Book of Sayings’ of the Prophet that slavery is justified simply because it is qualified as permissible in both the Hadith and the Quran.

If you counter their arguments for slavery then some of them go so far as to claim that you are committing ‘Bidah’ or innovation which is a change contrary to Islam or they claim that you are not Mujtahid (one qualified to give opinion on Hadith and Quran.) Then I’ve seen them walk away and instead of getting on a horse they get in their car, a bad innovation, and drive away.

They drive away without the least concern that they are tearing the ‘fitrah’ (Fitra, or fitrah, in Arabic) or fabric of creation by poisoning the environment we all depend upon to live with carbon dioxide.  

Those kind of Muslims deny any argument on the basis of ‘bid’ah hasana’. ‘Bid’dah Hasana’ means ‘good innovation’. Good innovations are permissible in Islam. Yet those same kinds of people claim to be for what is good and claim that they have faith in Allah. But the truth is, you cannot claim to fight against injustice everywhere while at the same time you preserve an unjust practice upon others in the form of slavery. Those two orientations are mutually exclusive. You either stand for justice or you stand for injustice.

According to the Holy Quran and the Hadith, the practice of taking slaves in Islam was neither obligatory in times of peace nor war. Muslims were not compelled by law to own slaves. What is not obligatory need not be practiced. Therefore, slavery can be banned in the Muslim community because it is not necessary.

Neither can it be argued rightly that the practice of taking slaves was ‘highly recommended’ or ‘Mustahabb’ for Muslims because over ninety percent of Muslims in the past did not own slaves nor aspire to do so. Nor did official policies exists as incentives to encourage Muslims to aspire to own slaves.

It can be argued that enslaving other human beings in the past was generally frowned upon. It thus could be classified as ‘offensive’, ‘detestable’, or ‘abominable’ ‘Makrooh’ (Arabic) because of the unavoidable cruelty or oppression to another human being which follows. That would have qualified Arab, Turkish or Muslim slave traders as immoral and to have been practitioners of what is evil called forbidden in Islam at that time as well as today. 

For example, countless thousands of African boys who were enslaved from southern Sudan and Congo were taken to slave markets in Cairo, Egypt. There they would be auctioned like animals to Turkish slave traders. But, before being auctioned the African boys would be castrated. Most of them would die from bleeding to death or from infection. Those who didn’t die would be auctioned to Ottoman Turks who then would assign them to the harams of rich Turks and in the palace of the Ottoman Sultan. Muslims were not alone in this barbaric practice.

Here is a scholarly account, and I quote: “The concubines were guarded by enslaved eunuchs, themselves often from pagan Africa. While Islamic law forbade the emasculation of a man, Ethiopian Christians had no such compunctions; thus, they enslaved and emasculated members of territories to the south and sold the resulting eunuchs to the Ottoman Porte.[29][30] The Coptic Orthodox Church participated extensively in the slave trade of eunuchs. Coptic priests sliced the penis and testicles off boys around the age of eight in a castration operation.[31] The eunuch boys were then sold in the Ottoman Empire. The majority of Ottoman eunuchs endured castration at the hands of the Copts at Abou Gerbe monastery on Mount Ghebel Eter.[31] Slave boys were captured from the African Great Lakes region and other areas in Sudan like Darfur and Kordofan then sold to customers in Egypt.[23][29] 

During the operation, the [Christian] Coptic clergyman chained the boys to tables and after slicing their sexual organs off, stuck bamboo catheters into the genital area, then submerged them in sand up to their necks. The recovery rate was 10 percent. The resulting eunuchs fetched large profits in contrast to eunuchs from other areas.”[32][33][34][ii]

That practice was a crime against humanity and the people who practiced it were evil and thus are not qualified to be remembered as Muslims nor Christians.

Every Muslim scholar in the United States and Jurists such as the Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb of Al-Azhar in Egypt and   the Chief Imam Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais of Masjid al-Haram in Mecca are advised to make fatwas against the practice of slavery.  Today, the Arab and Turkish world has decayed beyond regeneration. The handwriting is on the wall; when you institute mass dehumanization there are two losers. The victims and the abusers.

 

 

[i] Wikipedia

[ii] Wikipedia

IN MEMORY OF: THE MOST HONORABLE MALCOLM X, AL HAJJ MALIK AL SHABAZZ

Malcolm Lecturn

We all have dreams and aspirations to reach up for the stars. But under the stars and your dreams there are gun towers. Those gun towers cast long dark shadows on the yard to block the light of the stars from your view. They are instruments of repression which imprison you. They always have you in the cross hairs of their scope.

The towers rise high above the yard and from every corner of them extend  dark rifle muzzles  from shaded rooms behind which are nameless faceless shooters ready to take aim at any one who would have the courage to ascend the wall to take their freedom.  So we see the Michael Browns, the Eric Garners, and thousands of others like them taken down.

Sporadically, we all walk our yard and when we do we step into and out of lines of fire as do miniature figurines in a shooting gallery. 

It is a mind boggling experience to watch the endless procession of hapless men and women. We are that procession of people who continue generation after generation spewing forth from all the four horizons of the world to converge on a yard wherein we like peas in a pod live out our lives indistinguishable one from the other.

But there are deeper connections between us. We see and feel those connections every day. We are on some kind of conveyor belt a kind of assembly line.

It rolls us along a feedback loop between the prisons and our neighborhoods. It sweeps whole families away.  We are related to each other by blood and even if we are not then we are interconnected by a common subconscious mind which binds us to a network of fractured images. Such are the kinds of images which continually distort our perception of reality as would happen to one in a carnival’s house of mirrors. We see our reflections.

Faces are young and old. They play the same old roles consigned to them over and over again generation after generation. Typecast our energy is not our own it is continually sapped from us as oil is pumped from deep beneath the earth.

We are the lumpenproliteriate. The prison yard is our estate. But the illusion is such that we are not aware that the estate which we have inherited is bankrupt. We like Malcolm X have come to know that our estate is one wherein we should expect poverty. And what of the experience of our dear brother Malcolm X?

Did Malcolm X know that he was a figurine? A whatnot, a caricature of a man?  Was he such a thing having no power of self-animation? Was he a thing to be forever moved by inimical forces? The forces which giveth and taketh away?

The young Malcolm lost his civil rights and even more importantly he lost the power of his soul. Those two are the elements which great philosophers celebrate as the context of all relations between government and its citizens.

It as a way of life based upon a simple proposition. Government cannot be the context of human relations between it and the citizens who created it. Citizens don’t live in government because government is an idea in the mind of its citizens. Government, therefore, is a momentary choice citizens make about what government should be as citizens live their lives free, outside of government.

How does it happen that Malcolm X walked the yard in the line of fire? By what rule of logic does such an inversion from citizen over government to government over citizen take place? And can it be reversed?

Malcolm X must have pondered that his situation was a contradiction of all that we say is a man and woman’s inherent right. That incarcerated he could not by his free will even expand his lungs to take in fresh air.

How repressed he must have felt in that  situation.  His dawning dreams forced down to the ground and mixed with his base impulses must have caused extreme confusion in his mind.

That kind of confusion can only occur in one’s mind when the concept of freedom is turned inside out by the voice and actions of one’s fears. Such is a life lived out of misdirected attachments to what one falsely concludes are worthy objects of attraction. But if one wants to change, then a decision to change one’s life is a crisis. For an effort by anyone to replace unworthy objects of attraction is full of danger.

To self-motivate is to rise above the gun towers by spiritual force alone. It means not to fear ideas. It means not to fear the capacity to dream. It means to risk death by his choice to be free. 

It is a risk that all courageous men and women have taken throughout history and it is the greatest risk that courageous men and women take to be free today. 

Malcolm X knew that to become free he must fight. He learned that the fight would be spiritual in nature. He knew he had to fight so that he could claim and exercise his inherent natural rights against all oppressive forces.  He knew that it would take not one, two, or even 10 rounds to fight, but that it would take a life time of struggle day in and day out.

 His decision must have made him intuit that any stall or step backward in his struggle would have put him in the line of fire and trigger a shot from the gun tower. But more importantly, his fight could not be a response to fear nor could it be a fight solely in response to the power of the shooter.

Rather, Malcolm X understood his fight had to emanate from a completely transformed subconscious mind in conjunction with a clear consciousness of freedom and the price which he had chosen to pay so that he could have it. 

You are on the yard, too and you are in for the fight of your life, too.  So, prisoner, have courage and fight. 

 Malcolm X Statue2

 

 

FROM THE BOOK: THE SYLLABUS OF MALCOLM X, by Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed

malcolm2

Visions in the Darkness of the Hole

At Concord State Prison, Malcolm had what is called an epiphany. An epiphany is a moment of deep insight.  While at Concord State Prison he suddenly realized that he lacked basic academic skills in arts, letters, and science.  While looking at a letter he had written to one of his brothers he decided to compare it to an earlier one he had written and concluded that the latest letter was even more poorly written than the first letter. Malcolm had a sudden realization of truth; he needed to start the learning process. He had accepted the advice from ‘Bimbi’ (Friend), but only Malcolm could go within himself and begin the hard work of self discovery.

The kind of self-criticism which Malcolm experienced is an indicator of personal growth.  He wasn’t fearful of accepting his defects whatever they were and they were many.  It was as though Malcolm stood outside himself and looked at what he saw objectively.  With no denial response, he recognized where he needed to begin work on himself to improve himself.  That is where real lasting change begins. It begins within yourself.

Maybe for a moment Malcolm felt sad. Maybe he even felt depressed because of what he saw. What he saw in himself was a socially disabled person who was unable to live a meaningful life.  What he saw was Malcolm Little, a convict, a loser; dependent upon the state as a criminal for his food, clothing, and shelter. If you’re in prison, then right now you are a loser, too, and if you don’t change you’ll remain a loser; you’ll be dependent for the rest of your life. But despite your present conditions you can become a winner. You can become socially able to be a meaningful contributor to your family and your neighborhood.

If you’ve ever lost any contest be it a track race; a competition for a job; a competition for another person’s love; a contest with yourself to learn a skill; then you know what losing feels like. Nobody feels good after having lost a contest. Loosing is painful; in the extreme it could even result in death. But at the moment you’re feeling the pain of loss you’ve got to also feel something else; you’ve got to feel the urge to live. That urge must be greater than the impulsive fear to quit. Either you’ll never try again by wandering into a crowd never to be heard from again or you’ll find the start line and get on the mark so that you can contest again.

What is it that makes some people seemingly oblivious to the pain of loss and who despite their losses and the pains associated with loss they try and try and try again and again?  Whereas others peel over due to the pain of loss then wander into a crowd and disappear?  The answer is that the one who gets back to the start line has both love and mental calm. That one perceives correctly that one loss does not equal a lost life. Conversely, the quitter is overwhelmed by the anxieties caused by past pains he or she has experienced and looses the enthusiasm and motivation to try and try again.  They perceive their loss as total and conclusive; they run away from the field of contest in fear.

Enthusiasm, motivation, and fearlessness are the forces which drive one’s sentiment for self dignity and the will to succeed. That self dignity makes him or her act in ways which serve their best interests. One who fears will never dare to fight and one who lacks enthusiasm and motivation will lack passion for the fight.  Malcolm had enthusiasm, motivation, and fearlessness but they had been misdirected through his role as ‘Detroit Red’.  As though in a stage play, he was neither the writer of his script nor the director of his actions, but he thought he was. He thought wrong. He was making decisions but he wasn’t making good decisions.  As a consequence of thinking poorly and making poor decisions, Malcolm deteriorated both psychologically and physically. He put himself in the gutters of inner city drama and quagmires. Once there, he could not get himself out.  Malcolm was human waste.  Eventually, he was flushed out of the gutter and into the prison system.

Now, in prison, the moniker of ‘Detroit Red’ was snatched from him. With no direction, the bare naked truth stared back at him off of his cell wall. What he saw was ‘nothing’ reflected back.  He was now to play the role of convict. Instead of being known by a street moniker he would be just another number.  But his inherent fearlessness and passion spewed upward to reinvigorate his sentiment for self dignity. This time, however, he would write his own script and he would direct his actions in ways to serve his best interests. That new role for Malcolm was the role of student and his script would now be written by his own hand.

ARE YOU IN THE HOLE?

Your lives are analogous to the life of Malcolm.  Many of you reading this book have a street moniker or a nick name. It is supposed to characterize your strengths and that your game in ‘the life’ is tight. It is supposed to get respect for you.  But in reality the moniker you have is an oxymoron.  An oxymoron is a self contradictory word. Think about it.  Your moniker doesn’t characterize your true self because you don’t know your true self.  You haven’t begun to develop that which is your true self.  How can a ‘street’ name characterize your strengths as a man or woman? How can it typify your potentials as a human being?  The fact is that it can’t.

You have been acting on a very narrow stage designed by powerful institutions and people who have corralled you into limited psychological, social, and economic spaces.  All that has been made available to you are contrary and contradictory roles which ‘misfit’ you into those limited social and economic spaces.  Those conditions are meant to stunt your inner and outer growth and cause you to feel pain and maybe escape that pain through the use of narcotics, cocaine, or alcohol.

On the famous temple of Luxor in Ipet Resyt, in the country of Kemet, on the continent of Africa (Thebes, presently called Egypt) 1400 years before the birth of Jesus and a thousand years before the rise of Greek philosophy there is written in hieroglyphics: ‘Man Know thyself.’ In order for you to know yourself you must have a master teacher who turns you within and then triggers the process of learning.  True knowledge begins with an inner vision of one’s self. No human being can trigger the inner awakening to such kind of Supernatural knowledge.  Only the master teacher who is a Supernatural being can do it. That entity does it by syncing the student’s mind with the Supernatural Mind.  Was Malcolm’s mind put in synchronicity with the Supernatural Mind?

Malcolm states that he had a vision in prison. He states that when he was in ‘the hole’( solitary confinement) he would picture himself talking to large crowds. He called them pre-visions.  The Master Teacher begins the learning process of the student with inner visions.   It was a vision of the mind’s eye which Malcolm had.  Malcolm’s mind’s eye was opened by the master teacher to his true supernatural nature and thus to the truth. Malcolm thus began his long life process of unfolding his predetermined destiny into space and time by hard intellectual and physical work.  From that point onward, every word he spoke and his every act in relation to others would be a pouring forth of what was designed in the Supernatural to be acted out in a natural context.

THE MASTER TEACHER

Different cultures have had different names for the master teacher.  In Kemet, the master teacher was called Ptah. It was Ptah who opened the mind’s eye of Im-ho-Tep (2650-2600 B.C.) to mathematics, engineering and medicine. In ancient Greece, the same master teacher was called Daemon; that one was the informer of the philosopher, Socrates.  Also, the Greek noun ‘Paraclete’ is the Informing Mind, the ‘mind’ that was in the mind of Jesus of Nazareth as it was said: “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ, Jesus.” For the Prophet Muhammad Ibn Abdullah that one is called Jabril who ordered him to ‘Read’.

But the name of the Master Teacher in whatever language spoken is not important beyond what is needed to communicate the ideas to others.  Rather what is important is that the very same Informing Mind is active today in the unified human mindscape to inform you, too. For, as the natural worlds of space and time in uncountable dimensions are held in sync by the laws of physics and chemistry, so it is that The One Mindscape is held in sync with all minds by the Laws of Thought.  This is reducible to two simple premises: 1) That Mind is Truth and 2) Participation in Truth is Mindfulness.

The process of learning the truth is both exciting and frustrating. Learning the truth is frustrating because one must work against the gravity of one’s own ignorance multiplied by the ignorance of all those around you who reject the truth. That is like a heavy weight pressing against one’s body, mind, and soul. It was frustrating for Malcolm.  He says that he could not express himself clearly even though on the ‘streets’ he was articulate in slang.  But now, in prison, he realized he was inarticulate and dysfunctional when it came to communicating his ideas in a formal manner.  He was surrounded by those who spoke illogically and in slang.

But learning is also exciting. Despite all the many adversities he faced, Malcolm began to structure his thinking, writing, and speaking skills. He began with the letter ‘A’ and by the time he had finished his study of the dictionary at the last word ‘zygote’ of the letter ‘Z’ he had achieved a milestone in his quest to learn the skills necessary to become a social contributor and icon for his community.  You can do it, too. Wherever you are get a dictionary. Start copying it by hand on tablet paper.  You’ve got to start now!  Open your mind to the Master Teacher.