Where did Islam come from?
|Where did Islam come from?Part 6(Letter to Charlene Law - continued)
like to believe that slavery was a passing thing and that humanity has
outgrown it. Don’t be so sure. We have definite archeological evidence
for slavery going back to 8,000 B.C. and at the date of the present
writing, there are numerically more slaves than at any other time in
As we enter the 21st century there are perhaps 20 to
30 million slaves in the world. Historically there are a few ways to
become slaves. One can be born into slavery be enslaved as a captive of
war or kidnapping, be enslaved as a punishment for crime or be enslaved
for non-payment of debt. All these forms of enslavement, though
universally outlawed are practiced at the present time. Governments
turn a blind eye to the problem throughout the whole world, including
the U.S. Government.
The U.S. does not permit
slavery. It simply allows the import of the labor of slaves.
There are slaves who are forced to work sugar plantations in Haiti, the
Dominican Republic and Brazil. There are thought to be as many as
10,000 slaves in the United States, mostly held against their will for
purpose of prostitution. There are at least a few hundred thousand
slaves in India, principally children who are locked in factories.
There are prisoners in China forced to work as slaves as well as
outright human trafficking, but the great majority of modern slaves are
found in Islamic countries, principally the Sudan. (Black African
Christians captured in war).
In Bangladesh, one of the world's
poorest countries, indentured servitude, (also called bond slavery or
enslavement for debt) is common and Bangladeshi slaves are found as far
away as Yemen and Malaysia. And of course our friend and ally, Saudi
Arabia denies that it permits slavery, but I know all sorts of people
who have relatives and friends, especially Filipinas, who have gone for
work in Saudi Arabia only to find that they are not allowed to leave
and are at the whim of their Saudi master. Our other friend and ally,
Pakistan, is one of the great slave holding countries of the modern
world. The estimates of the number of child bond slaves in Pakistan is
anywhere from 2 million to 20 million. They are forced to make things
as diverse as carpets and surgical instruments for export. A Pakistani
child is thought to be able to stitch three footballs a day.
is a chance that your carpets, your expensive designer athletic shoes,
your sporting goods, your tables and chairs, your clothes, the sugar in
your coffee are made by modern slaves, often children, most of them in
the Dar al Islam, the World of Peace. So friends, you and I mustn’t
feel too enlightened or superior. We are no better than slave holders.
We are too arrogant to have slaves ourselves. We simply enjoy the cheap
luxury goods that are made with their sweat, their blood and
There is a very subtle and very important
difference between Christianity and Islam regarding slavery. Both
religions assume that slavery is a natural phenomenon.
actually discourages slavery, and the freeing of slaves is considered a
meritorious act. Muhammad freed 67 of his own slaves. He did however
seem to have kept some women slaves as concubines. No Muslim can have
relations with a woman to whom he is not married, except with a
concubine who is, in fact, a slave. There is no penalty for relations
with an enslaved woman, either for her or for the man involved. (Koran
33:50) “O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou
hast paid their dowries; and those (slaves) whom thy right hand
possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee.”
And we read in the Hadith (Bukhari 34:351) “A man decided that a slave
of his would be manumitted after his death and later on he was in need
of money, so the Prophet took the slave and said, ‘Who will buy this
slave from me?’ Nu'aim bin 'Abdullah bought him for such and such price
and the Prophet gave him the slave.”
So Muhammad both owned
and sold slaves. Still, he freed many slaves and in Islam no free
born Muslim can be enslaved. One born as a slave, even though a Muslim,
doesn’t have to be freed, and anyone captured in battle can be
enslaved. A person who is not in one of the permitted religions faces
death, slavery or conversion as the only possible options if captured
in Holy War. In short, the freeing of slaves is meritorious but not
At first glance Christianity seems to have very
little to say about slavery. It is acknowledged as legal, but in his
letter to Philemon, Paul urges his friend to free the slave, Onesimus,
which Philemon apparently did. Onesimus is thought to be the third
bishop of Ephesus. St. Callistus (217 - 222) the 16th pope, started out
life as a slave at a time when the Roman world believed slavery was an
indelible blot on the character, even if the slave were eventually
freed. Slavery in the ancient world was part of the social
contract. “You should have fought harder in the battle and rather have
been killed than captured.” “You shouldn’t have put yourself and you
children up as collateral for a debt.” The free man would respectably
kill himself rather than be enslaved.
So you see, if you were
a slave it was your own fault and the fault of your slavish
nature. Still, slavery was not an impediment to St.
Callistus’ election as bishop of the growing Roman Church, because in
the Church all were slaves and none were slaves. (Gal.3:28) The
title “slave” (Greek: “doulos”) was an honor among Christians. The
Blessed Mother and St. Paul both call themselves slaves. Jesus himself
is called a slave in St. Paul’s letter to the Phillipians “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”“(Jesus),
being in very nature of God, did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very
nature of a slave.” (Phil. 2:6,7)
though diminished in the Byzantine, Eastern Christian empire. It
continued, but was very actively discouraged in western Europe, only to
be replaced by serfdom. Slavery in early medieval Europe was still
common enough that the Roman Catholic Church repeatedly prohibited it,
especially the sale of Christian slaves to non-Christian lands.
Non-Christian slaves taken in war were permitted with the exception of
enslavement for reasons of race or nationality which were expressly
forbidden first in 1435 by Pope Eugene IV regarding Guanches, the
indigenous inhabitants of the Canary Islands and by Pope Paul III
(1534) in reference to the indigenous inhabitants of the newly
discovered Americas. Ultimately, slavery has largely disappeared where
Christians are the majority, but it continues and seems to be growing
in parts of the Muslim world.
The ending of slavery in the
Christian world is a good window into one of the prime differences
between Christianity and Islam. Some Christians speak of the
development of doctrine. Most Catholics prefer the term, the
“unfolding” of doctrine. Understanding and applying the teaching
of Jesus and the meaning of His words in new situations is an integral
part of Christian life. Take, for example, the phenomenon of WWJD
bracelets, the letters standing for “What Would Jesus Do.”
A traditional Christian may just as easily ask “What Does Jesus Want Me
to Do?” The visionary experience is alive and well in the Christian
world, believing that the Holy Spirit still speaks, not giving new
revelations, but reminding believers of what has been revealed and
applying that revelation to the present situation.
There is a
saying among Muslims, that “the gates of Ijtihad are closed.” Ijtihad
is the making of a decision in Islamic law by an individual. For most
Muslims, the revelation and the interpretation of that revelation is
absolutely complete as of around 900 AD. There can be no new law or new
interpretation. This is much more significant than it first appears.
Christianity has nothing to compare with the structure of Islamic law.
Islamic law dictates what one wears, what one eats and drinks, whom one
marries and just about every other area of life. Islamic law is
revealed and is divine in its inspiration. Christian law is much less
detained. It is limited to certain moral principles and must be fleshed
out in the societies where the Christian finds himself. There are basic
laws and principles, but most Christians cannot be known by what they
eat, by what they wear, or how they look. Even the extensive
codes of Canon Law, common in Western and Eastern churches, are
commonly reworked and changed. It is human law based on the need of the
church in a particular era. It is not thought to be divine in its
The closing of Ijtihad has to do with the nature of
both Muhammad and the Koran. The Koran is the unchanging, infallible
word of God. It is not the expression of a man, but of Allah. It cannot
be questioned or changed in anyway. In fact, most Muslim scholars are
uncomfortable even with its translation into modern languages. To
translate something is to change it. Allah did not say anything in
English or French or even modern Arabic. He said it in classical Arabic
and to translate even into a more contemporary Arabic is to change it,
and thus it is impossible to have a real understanding of divine
revelation if one does not take the trouble to learn classical
Muhammad is the perfect man, Al-Insan
Al-Kamil. To do what Muhammad did is always moral. The content of
Islamic faith and law cannot be changed in any way since the beginning
of the Islamic era. It cannot be improved on, or restated or
accommodated in any way. What Muhammad did, the Muslim should do. As
Muhammad prayed, the Muslim should pray. As Muhammad fought, the Muslim
should fight. As Muhammad lived, so the Muslim should live. And so on.
Muhammad is worthy of imitation in all things. It is impossible to
absolutely change things like child marriage, concubinage, slavery and
religious war. They may diminish, but they cannot be outlawed, because
to do so would be to impugn the perfection of the prophet of Allah.
With the exception of more than four wives at one time and the
authoritative speaking of inspired revelation, all that he did the
Muslim man may and should do.
There is still one more
implication of the perfection of the Koran and its prophet and the
closing of Ijtihad that is very much misunderstood by the liberal
governments of the West. Heaven knows that at different times and
places in the West, there have been slavery, child brides and religious
war, and these things are not what separates the West and the Islamic
world absolutely. The most difficult thing for Westerners to understand
is that, in a fully Islamic society, an elected legislature is morally
wrong. No such thing existed in Islam until the arrival in the East by
the liberal ideas of the French revolution.
always had a balance between election and delegation. Abbots, abbesses,
popes and bishops are all chosen by a process that involves both
election and delegation. They, in turn, make the changeable laws of the
Church and apply unchangeable divine law to the current need. The
Church is not much concerned with civil law, unless that law demands
that the believer violate divine law. In Islam, civil law is religious
and religious law is civil. Muhammad was a ruler of an earthly state,
and his Successors followed his example.
Here is the point: As
far as the Muslim is concerned, no elected body can make law! Only
Allah can make law and he has done so in the Koran. These laws were
fleshed out by the first four, or rightly guided Caliphs (Successors)
and to attempt to make new law and new interpretation is blasphemous.
Our attempts to impose Western style democracy on an Islamic world are
utterly futile. Law is made only by Allah and its interpretation is a
theological task, not a civil or secular one. The governments of
America and Europe are fooling themselves to think that Islam is
modernizing. If it modernizes it ceases to be Islam. The depth of
understanding of Islam by most Western leaders is so shallow as to be
laughable. The belief that, “Muslims are really just like us and want
what we want” is both absurd and insulting to Muslims.
To be continued......
Here To Ask The Reverend Know-It-All A Question
Where did Islam come from?