Surah 24:33 – Obligatory To Enter Into A Contract To Free A Slave?

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Madinan verse (Mawdudi, Dr. Muhammed Asad and Ibn Kathir)

Analysing Verse

“But let them who find not [the means for] marriage abstain [from sexual relations] until Allah enriches them from His bounty. And THOSE WHO SEEK A CONTRACT [for eventual emancipation] from among whom your right hands possess – THEN MAKE A CONTRACT WITH THEM if you know there is within them goodness and give them from the wealth of Allah which He has given you. And do not compel your slave girls to prostitution, if they desire chastity, to seek [thereby] the temporary interests of worldly life. And if someone should compel them, then indeed, Allah is [to them], after their compulsion, Forgiving and Merciful.” – Quran 24:33

The ruling in regards to this verse (Surah) pertains to the command of Allah to the master, to free slave(s). It is stated in the Surah that if any good is found in slaves and they ask for their freedom they should write a contract in order for the slave to obtain his freedom. The contract (Kitaba) would have been written between the master and slave, they would have to agree between each other the sum that is paid. Once the contract is signed, the Muslim treasury was ordered to take money from the Zakat funds to the master in order to free the slave, 1300 years ago. Scholars below will explain in more detail. [1] [2]

Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi:

“279. i.e., shall practice continence and never seek to gratify their passions outside wedlock. And this is by no means impossible of attainment. ‘Personal purity,’ says Sir William Osler, one of the most distinguished physicians of the mdern times, ‘is the prophylaxis which we, as physicians, are especially bound to advocate. Continence may be a hard condition (to some harder than to others), but it can be borne, and it is our duty to urge this lesson upon young and old who seek our advice in matters sexual.’ (Osler, Principles and Practice of Medicine, p. 278) ‘In all normal conditions abstinence from sexual intercourse is not harmful to a young man’s health.’ (Scott, Sex Problems and Dangers in War Time, p. 47).
280. i.e., a written instrument allowed the slaves to redeem themselves on paying a certain amount. THIS DOCUMENT OBLIGES THE MASTER TO SET HIS SLAVE AT LIBERTY on receiving a certain sum of money which the latter collects either by his labour or by receiving gifts from well-to-do Muslims.
281. i.e., any chance of bettering their positions.
282. (that they may liberate themselves the sooner). Note that this is addressed not to the masters but to the Muslim community in general, thus RECOMMENDING IT TO THEM TO ASSIST THE SLAVES BY PAYING THEIR RANSOM.” (Tafsir-Ul-Qur’an – Translation and Commentary Of The Holy Qur’an [Published By Darul Ishaat Urdu Bazaar Karachi: Pakistan] by Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, volume 3, page 226 – 227)

George Sale commentary:

“S Whereby THE MASTER OBLIGES HIMSELF TO SET HIS SLAVE AT LIBERTY, on receiving a certain sum of money, which the slave undertakes to pay.
T That is, if ye have found them faithful, and have reason to believe they will perform their engagement.
U Either by bestowing something on them of your own substance, or by abating them a part of their ransom. Some suppose these words are directed, not to the masters only, but to all Moslems in general; recommending it to them to assist those who have obtained their freedom, and paid their ransom, either of their own stock, or by admitting them to have a share in the public alms.”
(George Sale commentary, online commentary, online source )


“55 Mukatabat as a term means a deed of emancipation between the owner and the slave entitling the latter to earn his or her freedom after payment of an agreed sum of money in a certain period. This is one of the methods laid down in Islam for the slaves to attain their freedom. It is not essential that the slave must always pay in cash; he can also earn his freedom by rendering some special service to the owner, provided that both the parties agree. Once the agreement is signed, the owner is not entitled to put any obstacles in the way of the slave’s freedom. He will have to provide opportunities to enable him to earn for his emancipation and shall have to free him when the agreed amount has been paid in time. In the time of Hadrat ‘Umar, a slave entered into such an agreement with his lady owner, but managed to collect the amount in advance of the time limit. When the amount was offered to the lady, she refused to accept it on the ground that she would like to have it in monthly and yearly installments. The slave complained to Hadrat ‘Umar who ordered that the amount be deposited in the state treasury and the slave be set free. The lady was informed that her money lay in the treasury and she had the option to take it in a lump sum or in yearly or monthly installments. (Daraqutni).
56A group of jurists have interpreted the words “execute the deed of emancipation with them” to mean that it is obligatory for the owner to accept the offer of a slave to earn his emancipation THIS IS THE VIEW OF ‘ATA’, ‘AMR BIN DINAR IBN SIRIN, MASRUQ, DAHHAK, `IKRIMAH, THE ZAHIRIYYAH AND IBN JARIR TABARI, AND IMAM SHAFI’I ‘ALSO FAVOURED IT in the beginning. The other group holds that it is not obligatory but only recommendatory and commendable. This group includes jurists like Sha’bi, Muqatil bin Hayyan, Hasan Basri, ‘Abdul Rahman bin Zaid, Sufyan Thauri, Abu Hanifah and Malik bin Anas and Imam Shafi`i later on also had adopted this view. The first view is supported by two things:
(b) Authentic Traditions contain the incident that when Sirin, father of Hadrat Muhammad bin Sirin, the great jurist and traditionalist, made a request to his master, Hadrat Anas, for a deed of emancipation, the latter refused to accept it. Sirin took he matter before Hadrat `Umar, who whip in hand turned on Anas, saying: “ALLAH’S COMMAND IS THAT YOU EXECUTE THE DEED.” (Bukhari). From this it has been argued that it was not a discretionary and personal decision of Hadrat ‘Umar but it was taken in the presence of the Companions and none expressed any difference of opinion. This therefore should be taken as an authentic interpretation of the verse.
The other group argues that Allah does not merely say: “Execute the deed of emancipation with them”, but adds: “. . . provided that you trod some good in them.”…
57″Good” implies three things:
(a) The slave must be capable of earning his emancipation money through hard work and labor. The Holy Prophet has said: “Execute the deed when you are sure that the slave can earn the required amount of money; do not let him go about begging the people for it.” (Ibn Kathir).
(b) He should be honest, truthful and reliable for the purposes of the agreement. He should nuke the best of the opportunities and should not waste his earnings.
(c) The owner should make sure that the slave has no immoral trends and does not harbor feelings of enmity against Islam or the Muslims, nor should there be any apprehension that his freedom might prove harmful to the interests of the Muslim society. In other words, he should prove to be a loyal and faithful member of the Muslim society and not a fifth columnist. It should be noted that such precautions were absolutely necessary in the case of the prisoners of war taken as slaves.
58 This Command is general and is addressed to the owners, the common Muslims and the Islamic government.
(a) The owner is instructed that he should remit a part of the emancipation money. There are traditions to confirm that the Companions used to remit a sizable amount of the emancipation money to their slaves. Hadrat ‘Ali used to remit a quarter of the amount and exhorted others also to do the same. (lbn Jarir).
(b) The common Muslim is instructed that he should extend liberal help to all such slaves who asked for help in this regard. One of the heads of Zakat expenditure as laid down in the Qur’an is “the ransoming of slaves”. (IX:60) In the sight of Allah “freeing of slaves” is a great act of virtue. (XC :13). According to a Tradition, a Bedouin came to the Holy Prophet and requested him to instruct him what he should do to earn Paradise. The Holy Prophet replied “You have asked about the most important thing in a most concise way. You should free the slaves and help them to earn their freedom, If you present a head of cattle to somebody, present such a one as gives plenty of milk. Treat your relatives kindly even if they treat you unjustly. If you cannot do all this, you should feed the poor, give water to the thirsty, exhort the people to do good and forbid them to do evil. If you cannot do even this, you should restrain your tongue: if you have to speak, speak something good, otherwise keep quiet”‘. (Baihaqi).
(c) The Islamic government is advised to spend a part of the Zakat collections on the emancipation of slaves.
Here it should be noted that slaves in the ancient times were of three kinds: (i) Prisoners of war, (ii) Free men who were captured and traded as slaves, (iii) Hereditary slaves who did not know when their ancestors became slaves and to which of the above categories they originally belonged. Before the advent of Islam, Arabia as well as the outside world abounded in all kinds of slaves. The entire social and economic structure of society depended more on slave labor than on servants and wage-earners. The first question before Islam was to tackle the problem of the hereditary slaves, and secondly, to find a solution to the entire problem of slavery for all times to come. In tackling the first problem, Islam did not abruptly abrogate the ownership rights in respect of the hereditary slaves as it would have completely paralyzed the entire social and economic system, and involved Arabia in a far more destructive civil war than the one fought in America, leaving the problem where it was as it is in America, where the Negroes are still facing humiliation and disgrace. Islam did not follow any such foolhardy policy of reform. Instead it generated a great moral movement for the emancipation of slaves and employed inducements, persuasions, religious injunctions and legal enactments to educate and motivate the people to free the slaves voluntarily for earning their salvation in the Hereafter, or as expiation of their sins as enjoined by Islam, or by accepting monetary compensation. To set the pace the Holy Prophet himself freed 63 slaves. One of his wives, Hadrat ‘A’ishah, alone treed 67 slaves. The Holy Prophet’s uncle, Hadrat `Abbas, freed 70 slaves. Among others, Hakim bin Hizam freed 100 slaves, ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar 1,000, Zulkal’a Himyari 8,000, and ‘Abdur Rehman bin ‘Auf 30,000. The other Companions among whom Hadrat Abu Bakr and Hadrat ‘Uthman were prominent also set a large number of slaves free. The people, in order to win Allah’s favor, not only emancipated their own slaves, but also bought them from others and then set them free. The result was that in so far as hereditary slaves were concerned, almost all of them had been freed even before the righteous Caliphate came to an end.
As for the future, Islam completely prohibited free men from being kidnapped and traded as slaves. As for the prisoners of war, it was permitted (not commanded) that they might be kept as slaves so long as they were not exchanged for Muslim prisoners of war, or freed on payment of ransom. Then, on the one hand, the slaves were also allowed to earn their freedom through written agreements with their masters, and on the other, the masters were exhorted to set them free just like the hereditary slaves, as an act of virtue, to win Allah’s approval, or as expiation of sins, or by willing that a slave would automatically gain his freedom on the master’s death, or that a slave girl would be free on the master’s death if she had borne him children, whether he had left a will or not. This is how Islam solved the problem of slavery. Ignorant people raise objections without trying to understand this solution, and the apologists offer all sorts of apologies and have even to deny the fact that Islam had prohibited slavery absolutely.” (Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi – Tafhim al-Qur’an – The Meaning of the Qur’an, online source )

Malik Ghulam Farid:

“2046. Mukatabah (deed of manumission) is a written contract by means of which a slave could earn his or her emancipation, independently and irrespective of the fact whether his or her master likes it or not. According to this contract a definitive amount of money or labour is fixed as the price of the freedom of the slave.” (The Holy Qur’an – Arabic Text With English Translation & Short Commentary by Malik Ghulam Farid, page 720)

Tafsir Al-Jalalayn:

“And let those who cannot find the means to marry be continent, [those who do not have] the bridal money or the means for financial support needed for marriage, [let them restrain themselves] from fornication, until God enriches them, [until] He improves their means, out of His bounty, and they marry. And those who seek a written contract [of emancipation], from among those whom your right hand owns, of male slaves and female slaves, contract with them accordingly, if you know in them any good, such as trustworthiness and the ability to earn [income] in order to fulfil the amount stated in the written contract, which might be worded for example thus: ‘I contract you for [the amount of] two thousand to be paid over a period of two months, at one thousand a month, and if you fulfill this, you are a free man’, and the other would say, ‘I accept’; and give them — this is a command for the [slaves’] owners — out of the wealth of God which He has given you, in the measure that will help them to fulfill their commitment to you (the action of ita’, ‘giving’, here suggests that some of the amount to which they have committed themselves should be waived). And do not compel your slave-girls, your handmaidens, to prostitution, fornication, when they desire to be chaste, to abstain therefrom (this ‘desire’ is the cause of the [act of] ‘compulsion’, so that the statement is not properly a conditional), that you may seek, through such compulsion, the transient things of the life of this world — this was revealed regarding ‘Abd Allah b. Ubayy, who used to force his slave-girls to earn money through fornication. And should anyone compel them, then surely God, after their compulsion, will be Forgiving, to these [slave-girls], Merciful, to them.”
Tafsir al-Jalalayn on Surah 24:33, online source )

Muhammad b. al-Sa’ib al-Kalbi (d. 146/763):

“(And let those who cannot find a match) those who are unable to marry (keep chaste till Allah give them independence by His grace) until Allah gives them sufficiency from His provision. THIS WAS REVEALED ABOUT HUWAYTIB IBN ‘ABD AL-‘UZZA who refused to agree to give one of his slaves a chance to buy out his freedom. (And such of your slaves as seek a writing (of emancipation)) to buy out their freedom, (write it for them if ye are aware of aught of good in them) if you know they are righteous and keep their promise, (and bestow upon them) upon all people (of the wealth of Allah which He hath bestowed upon you) so that they can make an agreement for their emancipation; it is also said that here the master is encouraged to forgive a third of what has been agreed upon with his slave who wants to buy out his freedom. Then the following was revealed about ‘Abdullah Ibn Ubayy and his host because they used to force their female slaves to commit adultery in order to earn money from them and have more slaves as result of the children they bore as a consequence, and so Allah forbade them from doing this and made such an act forbidden: (Force not your slave girls to whoredom that ye may seek enjoyment of the life of the world) from what they earn from working as prostitutes and also from the children they give birth to, (if they would preserve their chastity) if they want to remain chaste. (And if one force them) and if one force these slave girl to commit adultery, (then (unto them), after their compulsion) and repentance, (Lo! Allah will be Forgiving) He forgives them, (Merciful) and He will show mercy towards them after they die.” (Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas on Surah 24:33, online source )

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi:

“(And such of your slaves as seek a writing (of emancipation), write it for them…) [24:33]. This verse was revealed about a slave of Huwaytib ibn ‘Abd al-‘Uzza who was called Subayh. The latter asked his master for a writing of emancipation but he refused. When Allah, exalted is He, REVEALED THIS VERSE, HUWAYTIB AGREED TO WRITE A LETTER OF EMANCIPATION in exchange for a hundred pieces of gold. Out of this sum, he offered him twenty pieces of gold which he paid. But he was killed in war at the Battle of Hunayn. (Force not your slave-girls to whoredom that ye may seek enjoyment of the life of the world, if they would preserve their chastity) [24:33]. Ahmad ibn al-Hasan al-Qadi informed us> the chamberlain of Ahmad al-Tusi> Muhammad ibn Hamdan> Abu Mu‘awiyah> al-A‘mash> Abu Sufyan> Jabir who said: “‘Abd Allah ibn Ubayy used to say to a slave-girl of his: ‘Go and earn something for us from whoring’, and so Allah, glorious and majestic is He, revealed (Force not your slave-girls to whoredom) up to His words (Allah will be Forgiving, Merciful!)”. Narrated by Muslim from Abu Kurayb from Abu Mu‘awiyah. Al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Farisi informed us> Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hamdun> Ahmad ibn al-Hasan al-Hafiz> Muhammad ibn Yahya> Isma‘il ibn Abi Uways> Malik> Ibn Shihab> ‘Umar ibn Thabit who related that the verse (Force not your slave-girls to whoredom) was revealed about Mu‘adhah, the slave-girl of ‘Abd Allah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul. And through this chain of transmission> Muhammad ibn Yahya> ‘Ayyash ibn al-Walid> ‘Abd al-A‘la> Muhammad ibn Ishaq> al-Zuhri> ‘Umar ibn Thabit who said: “Mu‘adhah was Muslim as well as being the slave-girl of ‘Abd Allah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul. The latter used to force her to whoredom, and so Allah, exalted is He, revealed (Force not your slave-girls to whoredom) up to the end of the verse”. Sa‘id ibn Muhammad al-Mu’adhdhin informed> Abu ‘Ali al-Faqih> Abu’l-Qasim al-Baghawi> Dawud ibn ‘Amr> Mansur ibn Abi al-Aswad> al-A‘mash> Abu Nadrah> Jabir who said: “‘Abd ibn Ubayy used to have a slave-girl by the name of Musaykah whom he forced to whoredom. And so, Allah, glorious and majestic is He, revealed (Force not your slave-girls to whoredom) up to the end of the verse”. The commentators of the Qur’an said: “This verse was revealed about Mu‘adhah and Musaykah, two slave-girls of ‘Abd Allah ibn Ubayy, whom he used to force to whoredom and tax them for it.” (Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi – on Surah 24:33, online source )

Tafsir Ibn Kathir:

“The Command to grant Slaves a Contract of Emancipation
(And such of your servants as seek a writing (of emancipation), give them such writing, if you find that there is good and honesty in them.) This is a command from Allah to slave-owners: if their servants ask them for a contract of emancipation, THEY SHOULD WRITE IT FOR THEM, provided that the servant has some skill and means of earning so that he can pay his master the money that is stipulated in the contract. Al-Bukhari said: “Rawh narrated from Ibn Jurayj: `I said to `Ata’, “If I know that my servant has money, is it obligatory for me to write him a contract of emancipation” He said, “I DO NOT THINK IT CAN BE ANYTHING BUT OBLIGATORY.” `Amr bin Dinar said: “I said to `Ata’, `Are you narrating this from anybody’ He said, `No,’ then he told me that Musa bin Anas told him that Sirin, who had a lot of money, asked Anas for a contract of emancipation and he refused. So he went to `Umar (bin Al-Khattab), may Allah be pleased with him, and he said, `Write it for him.’ He refused, so `Umar hit him with his whip and recited, (give them such writing, if you find that there is good and honesty in them.) THEN HE WROTE THE CONTRACT.” This was mentioned by Al-Bukhari with a disconnected chain of narration. It was also narrated by `Abdur-Razzaq who said Ibn Jurayj told them: I said to `Ata’, “If I know that my servant has some money, is it obligatory for me to write him a contract of emancipation” He said, `I do not think it can be anything but OBLIGATORY.”’ ﴿ It was also said by `Amr bin Dinar who said, “I said to `Ata’, `Are you narrating this from anybody’ He said, `No.”’﴾ Ibn Jarir recorded that Sirin wanted Anas bin Malik to write a contract of emancipation and he delayed, then `Umar said to him, “You should certainly write him a contract of emancipation.” Its chain of narrators is Sahih. Allah’s saying: (if you find that there is good and honesty in them.) Some of them said (this means) trustworthiness. Some said: “Honesty,” and others said: “A skill and ability to earn.” (And give them something out of the wealth of Allah which He has bestowed upon you.) This is the share of the wealth of Zakah that Allah stated to be their right. This is the opinion of Al-Hasan, `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam and his father and Muqatil bin Hayyan. It was also the opinion favored by Ibn Jarir. (And give them something out of the wealth of Allah which He has bestowed upon you. ) Ibrahim An-Nakha`i said, “This is urging the people, their masters and others.” This was also the view of Buraydah bin Al-Husayb Al-Aslami and Qatadah. Ibn `Abbas said: “ALLAH COMMANDED THE BELIEVERS TO HELP IN FREEING SLAVES.”
The Prohibition of forcing One’s Slave-Girls to commit Zina 257
Allah’s saying:
(And force not your slave-girls to prostitution…) Among the people of the Jahiliyyah, there were some who, if he had a slave-girl, he would send her out to commit Zina and would charge money for that, which he would take from her every time. When Islam came, Allah forbade the believers to do that. The reason why this Ayah was revealed, according to the reports of a number of earlier and later scholars of Tafsir, had to do with `Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul. He had slave-girls whom he used to force into prostitution so that he could take their earnings and because he wanted them to have children which would enhance his status, or so he claimed.
Reports narrated on this Topic
In his Musnad, Al-Hafiz Abu Bakr Ahmad bin `Amr bin `Abd Al-Khaliq Al-Bazzar, may Allah have mercy on him, recorded that Az-Zuhri said, “`Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul had a slave-girl whose name was Mu`adhah, whom he forced into prostitution. When Islam came, the Ayah (And force not your slave-girls to prostitution…) was revealed.” Al-A`mash narrated from Abu Sufyan that Jabir said concerning this Ayah, “This was revealed about a slave-girl belonging to `Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul whose name was Musaykah. He used to force her to commit immoral actions, but there was nothing wrong with her and she refused. Then Allah revealed this Ayah: (And force not your slave-girls to prostitution,) until His saying; (But if anyone compels them, then after such compulsion, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.)” An-Nasa’i also recorded something similar. Muqatil bin Hayyan said, “I heard — and Allah knows best — that this Ayah was revealed about two men who used to force two slave-girls of theirs (into prostitution). One of them was called Musaykah who belonged to ﴿the Ansari﴾, and Umaymah the mother of Musaykah belonged to `Abdullah bin Ubayy. Mu`adhah and Arwa were in the same situation. Then Musaykah and her mother came to the Prophet and told him about that. Then Allah revealed: (And force not your slave-girls to prostitution), meaning Zina. (if they desire chastity,) means, if they want to be chaste, which is the case with the majority of slave-girls. (in order that you may make a gain in the goods of this worldly life.) meaning, from the money they earn and their children. The Messenger of Allah forbade the money earned by the cupper, the prostitute and the fortune-teller. According to another report: (But if anyone compels them, then after such compulsion, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) meaning, towards them, as has already been stated in the Hadith narrated from Jabir. Ibn Abi Talhah narrated that Ibn `Abbas said, “If you do that, then Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful, and their sin will be on the one who forced them to do that.” This was also the view of Mujahid, `Ata’ Al-Khurasani, Al-A`mash and Qatadah. After explaining these rulings in detail, Allah says: (And indeed We have sent down for you Ayat that make things plain,) meaning, in the Qur’an there are Ayat which are clear and explain matters in detail. (and the example of those who passed away before you,) means, reports about the nations of the past and what happened to them when they went against the commandments of Allah, as Allah says: (And We made them a precedent, and an example to later generations.) ﴿43:56﴾; We made them a lesson, i.e., a rebuke for committing sin and forbidden deeds. (for those who have Taqwa. ) meaning, for those who remember and fear Allah.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir – on Surah 24:33, online source )

Maulana Muhammad Ali:

“33a. The words translated as those who cannot find a match may also mean those who cannot find the means to marry. Marriage thus becomes an obligatory institution in Islam, only those being excused who cannot find a match or who lack the means to marry. Marriage, in fact, affords the surest guarantee for the betterment of the moral tone of society.
33b. The word kitab, translated writing, as used here, stands for mukatabah, which is an infinitive noun of kataba, signifying he (a slave) made a written (or other) contract with him (his master), that he (the former) should pay a certain sum as the price of himself, and on the payment thereof be free (LL); also he (a master) made such a contract with him (his slave). It was called a kitab (or writing) because of the obligation which the master imposed on himself. The money was paid in two or more instalments. Thus every possible facility was afforded to the slave to earn his freedom. Though the practice of the master making such a contract with the slave prevailed before the advent of Islam, the important reform introduced by Islam was that, when a slave desired such a contract to be made, THE MASTER COULD NOT REFUSE IT. Twelve centuries before any attempt was made by any individual or community to legislate for the liberty of slaves, a dweller in the Arabian desert had laid down this noble institution, that, IF A SLAVE ASKED FOR A WRITING OF FREEDOM, HE WAS NOT ONLY TO BE GIVEN THAT WRITING BY THE MASTER, BUT HE WAS ALSO TO BE PROVIDED WITH MONEY TO PURCHASE HIS FREEDOM, the only condition being if you know any good in them, i.e., if he is fit for work and able to earn his livelihood. And, in addition, the duty was imposed upon the State of spending a part of the collection of the poor-rate for this object, as stated in 9:60.
33c. It is related that ‘Abd Allah ibn Ubayy, the leader of the hypocrites, kept slave-girls for prostitution (Rz). Prostitution, which seems to have prevailed before the advent of Islam in Arabia, is condemned here. But this curse has obtained an incredible prevalence in the whole of Christendom, and is legalized in many countries of Europe as a necessary evil, while in others it is openly connived at.” (The Holy Quran Arabic Text with English Translation, Commentary and comprehensive Introduction [Year 2002 Edition] by Maulana Muhammad Ali, page 706 – 707)

Commentary On The holy Qur’an by Zohurul Hoque & Hussan Nuri:

“24:33 Those who cannot find a match should restrain their passion until they could be engaged in marriage. The message reiterates the ruling given in v. 2 and clearly prohibits premarital sex. By implication, those who have attained marriageable age, yet, due to pressure of, say, study, unemployment or other constrains, cannot engage in marriage, they must restrain their sexual urges ( cf. 23:5). In order to facilitate slaves to redeem their freedom, THE MASTER IS REQUIRED TO GIVE THEM ASSURANCE IN WRITING, IMPLIED BY THE WORD KITAB (LIT. BOOK, WRITING), THAT THEY WOULD BE FREED after paying redemption money to the master. The verse further requires the master to pay the redemption money to his slave in the form of charity or zakat to enable him or her ‘earn’ redemption money. The only condition being the master must ascertain the salve would be able to earn and maintain livelihood in an honest way upon setting free, implied by the clause if you know any good in them. Continuing with the rulings on slaves, the verse prohibits forcing women, particularly slave girls, and, by implication, other women caught in financial or societal constrains, into prostitution.” (Commentary On The holy Qur’an by Zohurul Hoque & Hussan Nuri, online source )

Dr. Muhammad Asad:

“44 I.e., because of poverty, or because they cannot find a suitable mate, or for any other personal reason.
45 Lit., “whom your right hands possess”, i.e., male or female slaves.
46 The noun kitab is, in this context, an equivalent of kitabah or mukatabah (lit., “mutual agreement in writing”), a juridical term signifying a “deed of freedom” or “of manumission executed on the basis of an agreement between a slave and his or her owner, to the effect that the slave undertakes to purchase his or her freedom for an equitable sum of money payable in instalments before or after the manumission, or, alternatively, by rendering a clearly specified service or services to his or her owner. With this end in view, the slave is legally entitled to engage in any legitimate, gainful work or to obtain the necessary sum of money by any other lawful means (e.g., through a loan or a gift from a third person). In view of the imperative form of the verb katibuhum (“write it out for them”), the deed of manumission cannot be refused by the owner, the only pre-condition being an evidence to be established, if necessary, by an unbiassed arbiter or arbiters – of the slave’s good character and ability to fulfil his or her contractual obligations. The stipulation that such a deed of manumission may not be refused, and the establishment of precise juridical directives to this end, clearly indicates that Islamic Law has from its very beginning aimed at an abolition of slavery as a social institution, and that its prohibition in modern times constitutes no more than a final implementation of that aim. (See also next note, as well as note 146 on 2: 177.)
47 According to all the authorities, this relates (a) to a moral obligation on the part of the owner to promote the SLAVE’S EFFORTS TO OBTAIN THE NECESSARY REVENUES BY HELPING HIM OR HER TO ACHIEVE AN INDEPENDENT ECONOMIC STATUS AND/OR BY REMITTING PART OF THE AGREED UPON COMPENSATION, AND (B) TO THE OBLIGATION OF THE STATE TREASURY (bayt al-mal) to finance the freeing of slaves in accordance with the Qur’anic principle – enunciated in 9:60 – that the revenues obtained through the obligatory tax called zakah are to be utilized, among other purposes, “for the freeing of human beings from bondage” (fi ‘r-riqab, an expression explained in surah 2, note 146). Hence, Zamakhshari holds that the above clause is addressed not merely to persons owning slaves but to the community as whole. – The expression “the wealth of God” contains an allusion to the principle that “God has bought of the believers their lives and their possessions, promising them paradise in return” (9:111) – implying that all of man’s possessions are vested in God, and that man is entitled to no more than their usufruct.
48 Lit., “so that you might seek out” or “endeavour to attain to”.
49 Lit., “if they desire protection against unchastity (tahassun)”, i.e , through marriage (cf. the expression muhsanat as used in 4:24). Most of the classical commentators are of the opinion that the term fatayat (“maidens”) denotes here “slave-girls”: an assumption which is fully warranted by the context, Hence, the above verse reiterates the prohibition of concubinage by explicitly describing it as “whoredom” (bigha’).” (The Message of The Quran translated and explained, byDr. Muhammad Asad, page 762 – 763, online source )


Shaykh Ashiq Ilahi Madni:

“’Durrul Manthur’ (v. 5 p. 45) reports that a slave by the name of Subay was refused Kitabah by his master, Sayyidina Huwaytib bin Abdil Uzza. It was then that the above verse was revealed viz. ‘You should enter into the contract of Kitabah, with those slaves of yours who desire to enter into it…’

This is also been reported in ‘Ma’alimut Tanzil’ (v. 3 p. 342) with the addition that the master then stipulated a sum of a hundred dinars, twenty of which he later remitted. The slave Subay was also a Sahabi and was martyred in the battle of Hunain.

Since the verse contains a command to contract the deal, Sayyidina Ata and Umar bin Dinar, say that IT IS COMPULSORY FOR THE MASTER TO ENTER INTO THIS CONTRACT WHEN THE SLAVE REQUESTS TO BE FREED for a sum that is equal to or more than his price. However, THEY SAY THAT THE MASTER IS NOT OBLIGED TO ENTER INTO THE CONTRACT WHEN THE SLAVE WANTS FREEDOM for a sum that is less than his or her purchase price. …

Allah adds the condition ‘if you know of any good in them.’ About the meaning of ‘any good’ Durrul Manthur’ has reported from Abu Dawud and Bayhaqi that the Holy Prophet interpreted this phrase as ‘any skill.’ This means that if the master knows that the slave knows any skill by which he can earn, he should be permitted to do so. He should not be permitted to beg from people.
‘Durrul Manthur’ also reports that Sayyidina Abdullah bin Umar did not make a certain slave of his a Mukatab until he was capable of earning. He used to say, ‘(If I were to let him earn while he was incapable of earning) I would be eating the filth of people (i.e. what the slave got by begging from people).’

The Hadith has already been mention which states that Allah will certainly assist the Mukatab to pay his debt. He should therefore earn only what is Permissible (Halal).

Others have interpreted ‘any good’ to mean that the master is sure that, after freedom, the slave will not be a burden and menace to society. He should only be made a Mukatab when the master is certain of this that the slave poses no threat to society. [‘Ruhul Ma’ani’ v. 18 p. 155]

‘Give them from Allah’s wealth, which He has given to you.’ ‘Ma’alimut Tanzil’ has reported that, according to Sayyidina Ali, Sayyidina Uthman, Sayyidina Zubair, and Imam Shafi’I, this means that the master must remit a portion of the Mukatab’s debt.

Sayyidina Ali says that he must remit a quarter of it, while Sayyidina Abdullah bin Abbas says that it should be a thid. Imam Shafi’I and others say that the master has the choice to decide how much he wants to remit.

Sayyidina Abdullah bin Umar remitted 5000 Dirhams from his Mukatab’s original sum of 35 000. Sayyidina Abdullah bin Umar used to remit a fixed portion from the instalments of his Mukatabs and then remit an unspecified part of the final instalment.
Another interpretation of the above verse is that it is addressed to all the Muslims, not only to masters of slaves. This means that all Muslims should assist Mukatabs to pay off their debt.

Sayyidina Bara bin Azib reports that a villager once requested the HOLY PROPHET TO INFORM HIM OF A DEED THAT WOULD ADMIT HIM INTO HEAVEN (JANNAH). The Holy Prophet replied, ‘Free a soul or a neck.’ The person asked, ‘Are these two not the same?’


‘And do not force your slave women into prostitution when they wish to remain chaste, merely to seek the commodities of this world.’ ‘Ma’alimut Tanzil’ reports that people were accustomed to the vile trade of prostitution during the period of ignorance. There were numerous brothels and women used to become very wealthy plying this trade.

Many people forced their slave women to become prostitutes, thereby earning the money paid to these women. However, Islam forbade prostitution and the money received from it [Muslim]. ‘Durrul Manthur’ (v. 5 p. 46) reports several narrations about how the leader of the hypocrites, Abdullah bin Ubayy, was averse to this law because of his deep involvement in prostitution.
When the law prohibiting adultery was revealed, some of his slave women refused to continue as prostitutes for him, after which he savagely beat them up. It was then that the above verse was revealed.

Although the verse says that these women cannot be forced to be prostitutes ‘when they wish to remain chaste,’ it does not mean that they can be forced to do this when they do not wish to be chaste.
Islam forbids all types of fornication, even if both parties are willing. These words are included in this verse because it referred to the incident of Abdullah bin Ubayy, who claimed to be a Muslim.
‘Whoever forces them, then, after his duress, Allah is certainly Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ This part of the verse means that Allah will forgive those slave women who are still forced by their masters and cannot resist them.
‘We have surely revealed clear laws to you, some narratives of those who passed before you (so that you may take a lesson from these), and advice for those who have piety (taqwa)’ Although the Qur’an has been revealed for all people, those who have piety (taqwa) will benefit the most from it.”(Illuminating Discourses on the Noble Quran – Tafseer Anwarul Bayan – by Shaykh Ashiq Ilahi Madni, volume 3, page 590 – 592)

Scholar Abdullah Yusuf Ali

“2990 A Muslim marriage requires some sort of a dower for the wife. If the man cannot afford that, he must wait and keep himself chaste. It is no excuse for him to say that he must satisfy his natural cravings within or outside marriage. It must be within marriage.
2991 The law of slavery in the legal sense of the term is now obsolete. While it had any meaning, Islam made the slave’s lot as easy as possible. A slave, male or female, could ask for conditional manumission by a written deed fixing the amount required for manumission and allowing the slave meanwhile to earn money by lawful means and perhaps marry and bring up a family. Such a deed was not to be refused if the request was genuine and the slave had character. Not only that, but the MASTER IS DIRECTED TO HELP WITH MONEY OUT OF HIS OWN RESOURCES IN ORDER TO ENABLE THE SLAVE TO EARN HIS OR HER OWN LIBERTY.
2992 Where slavery was legal, what is now called the “white slave traffic” was carried on by wicked people like ‘Abd Allah ibn Ubayy, the Hypocrite leader at Madinah. This is absolutely condemned. While modern nations have abolished ordinary slavery, the “White Slave Traffic” is still a big social problem in individual States. Here it is absolutely condemned. No more despicable trade can be imagined. (R).
2993 I have translated “in” (literally, “if) by “when” because this is not a conditional clause but an explanatory clause, explaining the meaning of “force”. “Forcing” a person necessarily means that it is against the wish or inclination of the person forced. Even if they were to give a formal consent, it is not valid because the persons concerned are in (legal, or now) economic slavery.
2994 The poor unfortunate girls, who are victims of such a nefarious trade, will yet find mercy from Allah, whose bounties extend to the lowest of His creatures.” (The Meaning of The Noble Qur’an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, page 237, online source )

Ali Unal:

“33. Let those who cannot afford to marry keep themselves chaste until God grants them sufficiency out of His bounty.20 And if any of those whom your right hands possess desire to enter into a contract with you to purchase their freedom, make this contract with them if you know that they are honest (and able to earn without begging and be good, free citizens).21 Help them out of God’s wealth which He has granted you. And do not compel your slave-girls to prostitution in order to seek the (fleeting) benefits of the life of this world while they desire to remain chaste. If anyone compels them to prostitution, then God will be All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate to them after they are subjected to such compulsion.
20. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, said: “O young people! Those among you who can afford to marry should do so, for it will help you to keep your gaze averted and enable you to preserve your chastity. Whoever cannot afford to marry, let him fast; for fasting blunts sexual passion” (al-Bukhari, “Kitab an-Nikah.” 2) He also said: “There are three types of Muslims whom God binds Himself to help: he who marries to preserve his chastity; he who enters into contract to purchase his freedom and sincerely intends to pay the amount; and he who goes out on God’s way for jihad” (at-Tirmidhi, “Fadail al-Jihad,” 20).
21. Such type of agreements also pertain to prisoners of war.
Here I deem it useful to quote from Fetullah Gülen concerning the outlining aspects of an Islamic social system:
What is of great significance in such commandments is that the duties entrusted to modern states are those that Islam refers to society and classifies, in order of importance, as “absolutely necessary, relatively necessary, and commendable to carry out.” The Qur’an includes the following passages: O you who believe! Come in full submission to God, all of you (2: 208); O you who believe! Spend (in God’s cause) out of the pure, wholesome things you have earned, and of what We have produced for you from the earth (2: 267); Such of your women as have committed indecency (adultery), you must have four male witnesses of you who (having seen them in the act) will testify against them (4: 15); God commands you to deliver trusts (including public and professional duties of service) to those entitled to them; and when you judge between people, to judge with justice (4: 58); O you who believe! Be upholders and standard-bearers of justice, bearing witness to the truth for God’s sake, even though it be against your own selves, or parents or kindred (4: 135); And if they (the enemies) incline to peace, incline to it also, and place your trust in God (8: 61); O you who believe! If some transgressor brings you news (that requires taking action), verify it carefully (before you believe and act upon it), lest you harm a people in ignorance and then become regretful for what you have done (49: 6); If two parties of believers fall to fighting, make peace between them (and act promptly) (49: 9). In short, the Qur’an addresses the entire community and assigns it almost all the duties that are entrusted to modern states.
People cooperate with one another by sharing these duties and establishing the essential institutions that are necessary to perform them. The government is composed of these institutions. Thus, Islam recommends a government that is based on a social contract. People elect the administrators and establish a council to debate common issues. Also, the society as a whole participates in auditing the administration. Particularly during the rule of the first four Caliphs (632–661), the fundamental principles of government mentioned above were fully observed. The political system was transformed into a sultanate after the death of ‘Ali, the fourth Caliph, due to internal conflicts and the global conditions of the time. Unlike during the caliphate, power in the sultanate was passed on through the sultan’s family. However, even though elections were no longer held, societies maintained the other principles.
Islam is an inclusive religion. It is based on the belief in one God as the Creator, Lord, Sustainer, and Administrator of the universe. Islam is the religion of the whole universe. That is, the entire universe obeys the laws laid down by God, so everything in the universe is “Muslim” and obeys God by submitting to His laws. Even a person who refuses to believe in God or follows another religion has perforce to be a Muslim as far as their physical existence is concerned. Throughout their entire life, from the embryonic stage to the body’s dissolution into dust after death, every tissue of their muscles, and every limb of their body, follows the course prescribed for each by God’s law. Thus, in Islam, God, nature, and humanity are neither remote from each other nor are they alien to each other. It is God Who makes Himself known to humanity through nature and humanity itself, and nature and humanity are the two books of creation through which each word of God is known. This leads humankind to look upon everything as belonging to the same Lord, to whom it itself belongs, so that it regards nothing in the universe as alien. (A Muslim’s) sympathy, love, and service do not remain confined to the people of any particular race, color, or ethnicity. The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, summed this up with the command, “O servants of God, be brothers (and sisters)!”
A separate, but equally important point is that Islam recognizes the Divinely-inspired religions that predated it. It accepts all the Prophets and Books sent to different peoples in different epochs of history. Not only does it accept them, but it also regards belief in them as being an essential principle of being a Muslim. In this way, Islam acknowledges the basic unity of all religions. A Muslim is at the same time a true follower of Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and of all the other Hebrew Prophets, upon them all be peace. This belief explains why both Christians and Jews enjoyed their religious rights under the rule of Islamic governments throughout history.
The Islamic social system seeks to form a virtuous society and thereby gain God’s approval. It recognizes right, not force, as the foundation of social life. Hostility is unacceptable. Relationships must be based on belief, love, mutual respect, assistance, and understanding instead of conflict and the pursuit of personal interests. Social education encourages people to pursue lofty ideals and to strive for perfection, not just to run after their own desires. The pursuit of what is right demands unity, virtues bring mutual support and solidarity, and belief secures brother- and sisterhood. Encouraging the soul to attain perfection brings happiness in both worlds. (A Comparative Approach, SAIS Review, vol. XXI, no. 2, 136–137)” (The Qur’an With Annotated Interpretation in Modern English by Ali Unal, online source )

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[1] It was obligatory for the master to enter into an agreement if the slave sought for his freedom. The incident of Huwaytib, Ibn Sirin with Umar, Ata and Amr Ibn Dinar all say it is obligatory to enter into an agreement in order for the slave to buy his freedom. This was one of the reasons the Zahiri school also made it obligatory (wajib) to enter into an agreement (Kitaba) in order for the slave to be freed once the payment was paid:
“Among the well-known issues in this category is their disagreement about the contract of Kitaba, whether it is obligatory (wajib) or recommended (mandub). The Jurists of various regions said it is recommended, while the Zahirites said it is obligatory. They argued on the basis of the words of the Exalted, ‘And such of your slaves as seek a writing (of emancipation), write it out for them if ye are aware of aught of good in them’, saying that the command (amr) here implies an obligation. When the majority considered the principle that no one is to be forced to emancipate his slaves, they interpreted the verse to indicate a recommendation, so that it would not conflict with this principle.” (Bidayat al-Mujtahid wa Nihayat al-Muqtasid, Ibn Rushd, volume 2, page 453)
“…such an arrangement was obligatory for the master, is recorded in particular from Ata (and, later, the Zahiris) and is the overt import of a report that Umar made Anas enter into a Kitaba arrangement with a slave of his called Sirin.” (The Origins of Islamic Law: The Qur’an, the Muwatta’ and Madinan Amal [RoutledgeCurzon, 2002] by Yasin Dutton, page 89)
[2] (3) Chapter: Allah’s Saying: “And Force Not Your Maids To Prostitution”
Jabir reported that ‘Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Salul used to say to his slave-girl:
Go and fetch something for us by committing prostitution. It was in this connection that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, revealed this verse:” And compel not your slave-girls to prostitution when they desire to keep chaste in order to seek the frail goods of this world’s life, and whoever compels them, then surely after their compulsion Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” (xxiv. 33). (Sahih Muslim Book 43, Hadith 7180, online source )


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