What the Hinduja family could learn from Islam

Daniyal Kahlon, Missionary, UK

The Hinduja family – the UK’s richest family – has been under legal scrutiny over their treatment and exploitation of their domestic staff and servants.

The family was exposed to be spending more money on their pet dog than the servants in their employment. (“Britain’s richest family Hindujas ‘spent more on dog than they paid servant’”, www.independent.co.uk)

Servants were brought over from India, had their passports confiscated and made to work for extremely low wages – £6.20 for 18 hour work-days, seven days a week. This is a great contrast in comparison to what they spent on their pet dog annually, which was revealed to be £7641.

These horrendous conditions are what people are facing in this modern day and age, after slavery, at least legally, has been abolished in most of the world. If this is the treatment that ‘free’ people face, slaves must have been through a lot worse over the centuries.

Where does Islam stand on this issue? And how could the Hinduja family and their likes – be they individuals or clans or nations – benefit from the teachings of Islam and the example of the Noble Prophet Muhammadsa?

At a time when slavery was a common practice not just in Arabia, but across most of the world, many unfortunate people were enslaved and treated as commodities as a result of war and a lack of law and order. There were no rules and regulations on how to treat a slave or servant, and as such, the master of a slave could do whatever he wanted with him or her. No basic human rights were given to them, and they were sometimes treated worse than cattle and animals.

With regards to slavery, the Holy Quran laid out a flawless strategy to abolish that practice without causing any unintended consequences.

وَالَّذِیۡنَ یَبۡتَغُوۡنَ الۡکِتٰبَ مِمَّا مَلَکَتۡ اَیۡمَانُکُمۡ فَکَاتِبُوۡہُمۡ اِنۡ عَلِمۡتُمۡ فِیۡہِمۡ خَیۡرًا ٭ۖ وَّاٰتُوۡہُمۡ مِّنۡ مَّالِ اللّٰہِ الَّذِیۡۤ اٰتٰٮکُمۡ

“And such as desire [a deed of manumission in] writing from among those whom your right hands possess, write it for them if you know any good in them; and give them out of the wealth of Allah which He has bestowed upon you.” (Surah An-Nur, Ch.24: V.34)

In this verse, Allah the Almighty has clearly given slaves the right to ask their masters for a deed of manumission – which is a method of working to earn their freedom. This way the slaves were able to learn to earn for a living, so that by the time they had earnt enough to buy their freedom, they’d be able to enter society as free men in a functional manner, where they wouldn’t end up homeless or dependent on anyone, rather they’d be able to use the skills and trade that they learnt and find some work.

This method is far superior to the industrial era approach where slavery was suddenly abolished, since those slaves were not able to function in a free society properly without the necessary experience and skills. They were suddenly freed, and found themselves in a difficult position, unable to stand on their own feet.

The Holy Prophetsa  always encouraged freeing slaves whenever possible and for those that could afford to do so. He himself set an example in this regard, which his companions followed. 

As for the treatment of slaves and servants, the Holy Prophetsa always encouraged kindness towards them and fulfilling their basic rights. In one narration, the Prophetsa is reported to have said:

إِخْوَانُكُمْ خَوَلُكُمْ، جَعَلَهُمُ اللَّهُ تَحْتَ أَيْدِيكُمْ، فَمَنْ كَانَ أَخُوهُ تَحْتَ يَدِهِ فَلْيُطْعِمْهُ مِمَّا يَأْكُلُ، وَلْيُلْبِسْهُ مِمَّا يَلْبَسُ، وَلاَ تُكَلِّفُوهُمْ مَا يَغْلِبُهُمْ، فَإِنْ كَلَّفْتُمُوهُمْ فَأَعِينُوهُمْ

“…Your slaves are your brothers and Allah has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity (power) and if you do so, then help them.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-iman, Bab al-ma‘asi min amri l-jahiliyyah, Hadith 30).

This narration outlines the basic freedoms every slave was entitled to, that is to say, the same dignity and treatment as the master would like for himself. The Prophetsa himself acted upon his teachings, as can be deduced from the fact that he freed his slave, Hazrat Zaidra bin Haritha, and adopted him as his son.

In another narration, the Holy Prophetsa is narrated to have said:

‏ إِذَا أَتَى أَحَدَكُمْ خَادِمُهُ بِطَعَامِهِ، فَإِنْ لَمْ يُجْلِسْهُ مَعَهُ فَلْيُنَاوِلْهُ أُكْلَةً أَوْ أُكْلَتَيْنِ، أَوْ لُقْمَةً أَوْ لُقْمَتَيْنِ، فَإِنَّهُ وَلِيَ حَرَّهُ وَعِلاَجَهُ

“When your servant brings your food to you, if you do not ask him to join you, then at least ask him to take one or two handfuls, for he has suffered from its heat (while cooking it) and has taken pains to cook it nicely.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-at‘imah, Bab al-akli ma‘a l-khadim, Hadith 5460)

This hadith also portrays the kindness one should show to their servants. 

The kind treatment of slaves and servants was constantly on the mind of the Noble Prophetsa, so much so that according to one narration by Hazrat Alira, the final words of the Prophetsa before he drew his last breath were:

الصَّلاَةَ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ

“The prayer; and those whom your right hands possess.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Kitab al-wasaaya, Bab hal ausa rasulullahi sallallahu alayhi wa sallam…, Hadith 2698)

These beautiful teachings are in no way redundant in this modern day and age, and there are many more verses of the Holy Quran and narrations of the Holy Prophetsa that address this issue . 

Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, the current head and fifth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, has spoken on the issue of slavery, especially in the modern day context, in his speech to the Pan African Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, on 23 November 2013:

“Based upon Islam’s true teachings, we [Ahmadi Muslims] strive and work towards the achievement of universal independence and self-determination, with the ambition that every single person in the world is able to live autonomously. All people should have fundamental freedoms, such as religious, political, national and civil freedom.

“The powerful nations take advantage of the weaker nations and dictate their own preferred policies and so, in this way, they have practically enslaved the developing countries. Sadly, the major powers take benefit and advantage of the natural resources of the poorer nations and do not give what is the due right of the weaker nations in return.” (“Africa’s True Independence”, www.khalifatulmasih.org)

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