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When a Slave Defects to the Lands of Polytheists


When a Slave Defects to the Land of Polytheists

روي أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: إذا أبق العبد إلى أرض الشرك فلا ذمة له. وقال: أيما عبد أبق من مواليه فلحق بالعدو فقد كفر حتى يرجع إليهم ولم تقبل له صلاة وإن مات مات كافرا.

It is narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) said: When a slave flees towards the land of polytheism, he loses all guardianship1. He also said: Any slave that flees from his owners and joins the enemy rejects the sanctuary provided to him till the time that he returns and [during the time of this absconding,] his prayers shall not be accepted2 and if he dies [in this state], he dies a rejecter [of Islam]3.

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General Notes:

  1. As a universal principle, the political state is responsible for providing protection to the life and property of its citizens. Even though equivalent rights were generally not recognized for slaves, under the prevalent socio-political norms, Islam, as a part of its efforts to raise the social and moral standard of these slaves, had granted them certain rights and recognized for them certain guardianship privileges. In the narrative under consideration, the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said that if a slave, disregarding the blessing of God's religion, in general, and disregarding the efforts of Islam to raise their social standard, in particular, flees towards the land of the polytheists he would then lose all protection and sanctuary provided by the state of Medinah.

The Qur'an has unequivocally declared that those believers who do not migrate to Medinah and continue to live with the rejecters, the Muslims have no social responsibility towards them. The Qur'an says:

والذين آمنوا ولم يهاجروا ما لكم من ولايتهم من شيء حتى يهاجروا (الأنفال 8: 72)

And those who believe but do not migrate [to Medinah], you have no responsibility towards them till they migrate.

As a corollary of the foregoing declaration, those Muslims who return to the land of rejecters after having migrated to Medinah would also lose all guardianship privileges granted by the Muslim state after returning.

In the narrative under consideration, the Prophet (pbuh) has applied the same declaration of the Qur'an to slaves as well.

  1. A slave who prefers living as a fugitive over living under the guardianship of the Prophet has, in fact, not only disregarded all the efforts of the Prophet (pbuh) to raise the socio-moral status of slaves but has also ungratefully ignored the blessing of learning God's religion and of living in the company and guardianship of the noblest of souls that walked the face of the earth. With this spirit of ingratitude towards the great blessing of Islam and of living in the company of the Prophet of God and his blessed companions, how could he expect God to grant acceptance of his prayers?

  2. The Qur'an has declared that those who continue to avoid migrating to the Muslim state and continue to subject themselves to the persecution of the rejecters, their faith shall have no weight in the balance of the hereafter. The Qur'an says:

إن الذين توفاهم الملائكة ظالمي أنفسهم قالوا فيم كنتم قالوا كنا مستضعفين في الأرض قالوا ألم تكن أرض الله واسعة فتهاجروا فيها فأولئك مأواهم جهنم وساءت مصيرا (النساء 4: 97)

Indeed to those whom the angels cause to die in a state when they are being unjust to themselves [by continuing to live in this land of persecution], the angels shall say: Why did you let yourself remain in this [persecution]? They would say: We were weak in the land. The angels would say: Was not God's land spacious enough for you that you may have migrated in it? These are the people whose abode shall be hellfire - an evil destination.

Obviously, those who, after having migrated from the atrocities of the rejecters return to it is similar, if not graver.

In the narrative under consideration, the Prophet (pbuh) has applied the cited declaration of the Qur'an to slaves as well, signifying that the case of those slaves who choose to return to the land of rejection and persecution shall be no different than that of free men and women.

Notes on the Text of the Narrative

This narrative has been reported with some variations in Muslim (narrative no. 68, 69 and 70), Abu Dawood (narrative no. 4360), Nassaiy (narrative no. 4050, 4051, 4052 and 4053), Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (narrative no. 19178, 19232, 19245, 19262 and 19263), Nassaiy's Sunan al-Kubraa (narrative no. 3513, 3514, 3515 and 3516), Bayhaqiy (narrative no. 16652 and 16653), Musnad Humaidiy (narrative no. 806 and 807), Ibn Abi Shaybah (narrative no. 32858, 32859, 32860 and 32861).

The words "إذا أبق العبد إلى أرض الشرك فلا ذمة له" (i.e., 'When a slave flees towards the land of polytheism, he loses all guardianship') have been reported in Nassaiy's narrative no. 4051.

In some narratives, as in Ibn Abi Shaybah's narrative no. 32861, the words "إذا أبق العبد إلى أرض الشرك" (i.e., 'When a slave flees towards the land of polytheism') have been replaced with "أيما عبد أبق إلى أرض العدو". (i.e., 'Any slave that flees towards the land of the enemy') While in some narratives, as in Ibn Abi Shaybah's narrative no. 32860, the phrase "إلى أرض الشرك" (i.e., 'towards the land of polytheism') have been replaced with "إلى العدو" (i.e., 'towards the enemy'); while in some narratives, as in Muslim's narrative no. 69, the phrase "إلى أرض الشرك" (i.e., 'towards the land of polytheism') have been omitted.

In some narratives, as for example in Muslim's narrative no. 69, the words "فلا ذمة له"  (i.e., 'he loses all guardianship') have been replaced with "فقد برئت منه الذمة" (i.e., 'All guardianship privileges are removed from him'); while in Humaidiy's narrative no. 806, these words have been reported as "فقد برئت منه ذمة الله عز وجل" (i.e., 'All guardianship privileges of God Almighty are removed from him'). 

In some narratives, as in Abu Dawood's narrative no. 4360, the saying under consideration has been reported slightly differently as:

روي أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: إذا أبق العبد إلى الشرك فقد حل دمه.

It is narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) said: When a slave flees towards [the land of] polytheism, his blood loses sanctity.

Keeping the preferred text in perspective, it seems that the phrase "فقد حل دمه" (i.e., 'his blood loses sanctity') is used to imply that in case the fleeing slave is killed or injured by anyone, the Muslim state would not seek retaliation against it, as it would do if such a crime was committed against its regular citizens.

In contrast to Abu Dawood's narrative no. 4360, in some narratives, as in Nassaiy's narrative no. 4052, the phrase "إذا أبق العبد إلى الشرك" (i.e., 'When a slave flees towards polytheism') have been reported as "إذا أبق العبد إلى أرض الشرك" (i.e., 'when a slave flees towards the land of polytheism').

The words "أيما عبد أبق من مواليه فقد كفر حتى يرجع إليهم" (i.e., 'Any slave that flees from his owners rejects the sanctuary provided to him till the time that he returns') have been reported in Muslim's narrative no. 68.

The words "فلحق بالعدو" (i.e., 'and joins the enemy') have been reported in Ahmad ibn Hanbal's narrative no. 19245.

The words "لم تقبل له صلاة" (i.e., 'his prayers shall not be accepted') have been reported in Muslim's narrative no. 70.

The words "وإن مات مات كافرا" (i.e., 'if he dies [in this state], he dies a rejecter') have been reported in Nassaiy's narrative no. 4050.

(This write-up is prepared by the Hadith Cell of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi)

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 December 2010 16:45