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Liberation of the Slaves

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During the times of Abu Bakr, slavery was a deep rooted institution, and was a conspicuous feature of Makkah. Most of the Quraish were slave owners and thus in the society of Makkah there was a considerable sprinkling of slaves. These slaves were the victims of exploitation, and were treated in an inhuman way by their masters. Many of the slaves were attracted by Islam, for in its teachings lay a charter of freedom for the distressed humanity. Islam preached the cult of equality. It stipulated that all persons were the slaves of God, and no person could be the slave of another person. When many slaves accepted Islam, the slave owners of Makkah felt much concerned, and considered such conversions as a threat to their economic interests.

Persecution of the slaves.

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Of all the persons who became Muslims, the slaves were the most vulnerable. These men of the Quraish who were converted to Islam continued to enjoy the protection of their respective tribes. The slaves enjoyed no such protection. In order to arrest the progress of Islam among the slaves, the Quraish accordingly resorted to a campaign of persecution and torture against the slaves who professed to be Muslims.


Bilal, an Abyssinian who later became the ‘Muadhdhin’ of Islam was a slave of Umayyah bin Khalaf. Bilal accepted Islam and thereupon his master subjected him to great torture. Umayyah would make Bilal lie down on the burning sand, and would place a huge block of stone on his chest. Umayyah would then ask Bilal to give up Islam, or he would be tortured to death Umayyah would ,sometimes tie a rope round the neck of Bilal, and had him dragged in the streets. Sometimes Bilal was made to put on steel armor, and stand in the hot sun for hours. In spite of these tortures and threats, Bilal remained firm and steadfast in his faith in Islam. The condition of Bilal excited the pity of Abu Bakr. He purchased him from his master and set him free.

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Abu Fakih.

Abu Fakih was a slave of Safwan bin Umayyah. Abu Fakih accepted Islam, and when Safwan came to know that Abu Fakih had become a Muslim, he subjected him to great torture. He would bind him with a rope, and drag him on the burning sand. Abu Fakih was asked to worship the idols, but he said that he would worship Allah alone. His master put a very heavy stone on his chest which brought out his tongue. In spite of these persecutions, the faith of Abu Fakih in Islam did not waver. When Abu Bakr came to know of the pitiable condition of Abu Fakih, he purchased him from his master and set him free.


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Lubaynah was a slave girl of Umar. She accepted Islam, and Umar who had not accepted Islam by that time would beat her mercilessly until he was tired. He would then say, “I have only stopped beating you, because I am tired.” She would say. “May God treat you in the same way”. He asked her to renounce Islam, but she stuck to her faith. When Abu Bakr came to know of her sad state, he paid for her, and set her free.

Al Nahdiah.

Al Nahdiah and her daughter who became Muslims were the slaves of a lady of Bani Abdul Dar. Their mistress subjected them to great torture when she came to know that they had accepted Islam. Abu Bakr remonstrated with the lady at the treatment she meted out to her slaves. The mistress said, “You have corrupted them; you may free them if you are so sympathetic to them.” Abu Bakr paid the price asked for, and liberated the women.

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Umm Ubays and Zinnira.

Abu Bakr also liberated two women slaves, Umm Ubays and Zinnira. Abu Jahl beat Zinnira on her conversion to Islam to such an extent that she lost her eye sight. When she lost her eye sight the Quraish said that she had lost her sight because of the curse of Al Lat and Al Uzzah. She was asked to recant, but she remained steadfast in her faith in Islam. She prayed to God, and miraculously her eye sight was restored. Abu Bakr paid for these women and set them free.

Slaves liberated by Abu Bakr.

Abu Bakr purchased the freedom of eight slaves-four men and four women. The men were Bilal, Abu Fakih, Ammar, and Abu Fuhayra. The women were: Lubaynah, Nabdiya, Umm Ubays, and Zinnira.


Abu Bakr’s father’s reaction to the liberation of slaves. Most of the slaves liberated by Abu Bakr were either women or old and frail men. The father of Abu Bakr said to him, “Son, I hear you are freeing old and weak persons; why don’t you free healthy and strong persons who could be a source of strength to you?” Abu Bakr replied that he was freeing the slaves for the sake of God, and not for his own sake.

Divine approval.

The Holy Prophet of Islam was all praise for Abu Bakr for his generosity in purchasing the freedom of slaves who were tortured on the ground that they had accepted Islam.

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The conduct of Abu Bakr was approved by God in the following verses of the Holy Quran: “He who gives in charity and fears Allah And in all sincerity testifies to the Truth; We shall indeed make smooth for him the path of Bliss” {92:5-7}

“Those who spend their wealth for increase in self-purification; And have in their minds no favor from any one For which a reward is expected in return, But only the desire to seek the Countenance, Of their Lord, Most High; And soon they shall attain complete satisfaction.” {92:8-21}

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