Whoever knows even a little bit of history, knows about the horrifying details of the life of slaves back then. This is not just about slavery of a certain era, but when nations become powerful, they usually oppress the weak ones and drench the pages of history in blood. Looking at the now civilized nations, people can’t help but say that this civility is only as long as things go as it is, more power will corrupt. And if given the chance, everyone becomes evil and selfish. Equality and justice then become only words.
If you look at it, it is kind of true. Except it is not true at all when you look at the history of Islam. No matter how much propaganda the haters do about Islam and show it to be as oppressive or violent, the facts remain and the records narrate otherwise. With the dawn of Islam, that one and only system was established which was a safe haven for every slave, every oppressed and weak person. It gave a flawless representation of harmony and justice. It was a powerful light, in the face of which no darkness remained.
Narrated `Abdullah bin `Umar:
The Prophet (ﷺ) sent an army under the command of Usama bin Zaid. When some people criticized his leadership, the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “If you are criticizing Usama’s leadership, you used to criticize his father’s leadership before. By Allah! He was worthy of leadership and was one of the dearest persons to me, and (now) this (i.e. Usama) is one of the dearest to me after him (i.e. Zaid).
[Sahih Bukhari, Book 62, Hadith 78]
Usama (RA) was the son of Zaid (RA). And Zaid (RA) was a slave, freed by the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). Usama (RA) was made the leader of an army at the age of nineteen. Under his command were people much older and learned than him, there were people with the finest lineage, respectable titles, and of great wealth. And yet the young son of a freed slave was made to lead.
And look at the one who was sent as a mercy to all mankind, defending and showing his love for the young black boy and his father. Because everyone is the same in the light of Islam, the only thing that makes one superior to another is “taqwa”* (God consciousness). And this superiority makes them equal in all other things. It is this criterion which makes everyone compete with another in a good and healthy way and yet stand together as one otherwise. No difference of race, ethnicity, colour or age matters anymore.
Zaid (RA), the freed slave, was married to Zainab (RA), the cousin of the Prophet (ﷺ) and later to Umm Aiman (RA), the woman who had taken care of the Prophet (ﷺ) when he was young. Look at the status and age difference in these marriages.
The Prophet (ﷺ) loved the little black son of Zaid (RA) as one of his own.
Narrated Usama bin Zaid:
That the Prophet (ﷺ) used to take him (i.e. Usama) and Al-Hassan** (in his lap) and say: “O Allah! Love them, as I love them.”
[Sahih Bukhari, Book 62, Hadith 83]
If only we remember these simple things taught by Islam, that strengthened their bonds and in turn their society, and led them to rise and take over the world, we wouldn’t need any campaigns for rights of this group or the other.
As Iqbal, the celebrated Urdu poet said,
ایک ہی صف میں کھڑے ہو گئے محمود و ایاز
نہ کوئی بندہ رہا اور نہ کوئی بندہ نواز
Meaning of prose: Mahmood (the leader) and Ayaaz (his servant) stood together in the same row to pray as equals. They felt no scruples despite the huge difference in their ranks.
Sadly, where do we see that legacy today in Muslims that was carried for years after the Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ)? Where are the Mahmood and Ayaaz of today standing together side by side?
*Taqwa is a term that is difficult to explain in a few words. Briefly, it is being conscious of God all the time. It is stopping from sins each time because of the fear of displeasing Allah and it is doing good deeds in the hope of pleasing Allah.
**Al-Hasan was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)