Freeing slaves as an expiation
Fatwa No: 143305

  • Fatwa Date:22-11-2010 - Thul-Hijjah 16, 1431
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Question

Assalamu Alaykum, In the Holy Quran, one of the ways of expiation is to free a slave. As I've read, there was a resolution to abolish slavery by a United Nations act in 1953. However the illegal trade in Humans for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor is prevalent by methods of debt bondage, forced labor, or sex trafficking. I've read that it's tied with the illegal weapons trade as the second largest criminal industry in the world after drugs. Many of these people are helpless women and children (a number of these people could possibly be people of the book or even Muslims) who are forced into this industry. So my question is, if a Muslim were to help free a person such as this from their captivity would this act count as expiation?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

 

A serious threat is confirmed in the authentic Sunnah for whoever enslaves a free person, and the scholars considered this as a grave major sin. Indeed. enslaving free people is one of the greatest forms of injustice and this is worse than stealing money and the like. Therefore, if a person knows that there is such an injustice on a particular person, whether he is a Muslim or a non-Muslim, he should endeavor as much as he can to repel this injustice as this is an act of forbidding evil. Besides, whoever spends some of his money, in order to free someone who was unjustly enslaved, then he is doing good, without doubt, and thus he is doing a great act of getting closer to Allaah for which he is expected to be rewarded in the Hereafter.

As regards whether or not this act is sufficient for expiating for an oath and other matters for which it is legislated to expiate by freeing a slave, then the answer is no, because this person whom you want to help is not a real slave in terms of Sharee’ah; whereas freeing a slave is only sufficient for expiation if the freed person is Islamically proven to be a slave. Hence, if someone does not find a slave whose freeing is Islamically ordained, then he should do other valid alternatives, like feeding poor people or clothing them or fasting.

Here, it should be mentioned that the slave that should be freed as an expiation must be a Muslim as it is not sufficient to free a non-Muslim in regard to expiations according to the view of the majority of the scholars  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  them whereas Abu Haneefah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him took the opposite view. For more benefit, please refer to Fataawa 83687 and 84431.

Allaah Knows best.

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