By Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam
7 June 2012
In 2003 a high-level Saudi jurist, Shaykh Saleh Al-Fawzan, issued a fatwa claiming “Slavery is a part of Islam. Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long as there is Islam.”He attacked Muslim scholars who said otherwise maintaining, “They are ignorant, not scholars ... They are merely writers. Whoever says such things is an infidel.”
Is it any wonder in this “Islamic” milieu then that stories like that of an Indian Tamil Periyasamy come to light periodically. Let us spend a few seconds listening to Periyasamy’s story and mourning his ruined life at the hands of Saudi brutes who call themselves the most pure Muslims. Let us also keep this at the back of our minds that he is one of many whose lives are being destroyed in this fashion in this holier than thou “Islamic” country. Periyasamy was just 28 when he left his decent life in Tamil Nadu and his bride on the promise of an attractive paid job of tending goats and camels for a rich Saudi Arabian landowner. But the promise of a better life made him lose 20 years of his life, his wife, and now he is in a much worse condition, physically, economically, psychologically and socially than before.
This tragic story highlights the condition of many Indian migrant workers who are lured by labour traffickers to Gulf States on the false promise of a good wage. They are not tagged as slaves but actually they are treated as one.
Most of the migrant workers are illiterate hence it is easy to fool them and they are also an easy target of labour traffickers. Such was the case of Periyasamy; he was illiterate and was tricked into signing a bond of labouring for 20 years. His passport was seized, for the next 17 years; he was paid nothing and was made to work from dawn to midnight and fed only one meal a day.
A neighbour of Periyasamy’s employer was alarmed by his falling health, and he told the local authorities, who alerted the Indian Consulate. His return was delayed because of his inability to recall the details of his village. His tears of happiness turned into tears of bitterness when he came to know that his wife, after waiting for so many years, married last year under pressure from her family, who thought he would never be able to get out of the clutches of rapacious Arabs.
Saudi Arabia- A Hub of Slavery
While slavery is formally illegal in Saudi Arabia, organized criminal gangs smuggle children, illiterate men and beautiful women into Saudi Arabia where they are enslaved, used for carnal pleasures, and forced to work as beggars. When their plight is discovered, they are deported as illegal aliens.
According to the U.S. State Department, “Saudi Arabia is a destination for men and women from South and East Asia and East Africa trafficked for the purpose of labour exploitation, and for children from Yemen, Afghanistan, and Africa trafficking for forced begging.”
Many of the low-skilled workers from around the world , especially “India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Kenya migrate voluntarily to Saudi Arabia; some fall into conditions of involuntary servitude, suffering from physical and sexual abuse, non-payment or delayed payment of wages, the withholding of travel documents, restrictions on their freedom of movement and non-consensual contract alterations”.
What does the Quran actually say?
None of this surprising in a country where the so-called Islamic scholars consider slavery as an essential part of their religion, as essential as Jihad, which they call the sixth pillar of Islam. However, whatever the teachings of Saudi Islam or Wahhabi Islam that they practice, mainstream Muslims should know that Islam does everything possible to dissuade Muslims from the practice and encourage them to free slaves and earn the pleasure of God. There are many places where the Quran speaks against slavery, freeing of slaves and humane treatment of the slaves, who were caught as spoils of war as per the prevailing custom in the seventh century Arabian desert.. There are numerous occasions where our Prophet purchased slaves and freed them. The Quran and the Hadith make it a praiseworthy for the masters to set their slaves free. Purchasing them in order to free them is Sunnat-e-Rasulullah.
Murray Gordon, who has done extensive research on this subject, says: "there was no contradiction between being a devout Muslim and a slave-owning one as well”. He is right, but in today’s world his conclusion is not applicable. Lawful enslavement was restricted to two instances: capture in war (on the condition that the prisoner is not a Muslim), or birth in slavery.
In the present scenario, it is not only unlawful to enslave any human being, it is un-Islamic.
The highest virtue in Islam, the only one that distinguishes one person from others is taqwa or righteousness. This is how the holy Quran defines taqwa. In chapter 2 , verse 177, Allah says most emphatically:
“ It is not righteous that ye turn your faces towards east or west; but it is righteousness - to believe in God and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for you kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and to practice regular charity, to fulfil the contracts which ye have made and to be firm and patient. Such are the people of truth and God-fearing”.
And in chapter 90 Allah says:
“And what will make you know the path that is steep?
It is freeing a slave, or giving food in a day of hunger.”
It is reported that by Abu Hurairah: The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Whoever frees a slave, Allah will save all the parts of his body from the Fire, as he has freed the body-parts of the slave.” (Bukhari, vol 3, hadith no. 693)
If this is the Islam that the high-level Saudi jurist Shaykh Saleh Al-Fawzan believed in, he would not have issued the fatwa calling slavery a part of Islam, a part of jihad that will remain as long as there is Islam. Nor would the Wahhabi Islam-based state of Saudi Arabia allow the practice of slavery to thrive in the country.