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Paul the Prisoner of Jesus Christ





One claim Christians often put against Islam is that Muslims are called the slaves and servants of Allah:

YUSUFALI: Praise be to Allah, Who hath sent to His Servant the Book, and hath allowed therein no Crookedness:
PICKTHAL: Praise be to Allah Who hath revealed the Scripture unto His slave, and hath not placed therein any crookedness,

YUSUFALI: He said: "I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet;
PICKTHAL: He spake: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the Scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet,

Christians often object to such terms being used on God's believers saying how can we be his slave! That is to mean!

To begin with, when Muslims are called slaves/servants of Allah this is not meant to be a slur or insult, and in no way does it mean the same thing as when you talk about our modern day term of slavery etc. Many people often today confuse the word slave or servant with the common brutality of modern black slavery, and other forms of brutal slavery that have taken place. However so, there is no such connection at all when the Quran refers to Muslims as the slave of Allah, it simply means servant, we submit our will to God, follow his commandments, his rules, and so on, he is our loved and cherished master. In that sense we are his slave, his servant, not in the sense in which you imagine a group of black Africans being shipped of to Europe by White Christians.

However so, let us now turn the tables on the Christian, because once again the Christian is being very inconsistent, if the Christian has a problem with Muslims being called the slaves and servants of Allah, then they should surely have problems with Paul being called the prisoner of Jesus! :

Ephesians 3:1

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

Philemon 1:1

1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer

Lest a Christian wants to play word games and say show me that translation in Greek, then I shall happily go along, here is the word in Greek:

1 Paul, a prisoner( desmios)of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer

The word for prisoner as stated in Greek is DESMIOS, which as the Bible dictionary page says:

Lexicon Results for desmios (Strong's 1198)
Greek for 1198
Pronunciation Guide
desmios {des'-mee-os}
TDNT Reference Root Word
TDNT - 2:43,145 from 1199
Part of Speech
Outline of Biblical Usage

1) bound, in bonds, a captive, a prisoner


Authorized Version (KJV) Translation Count Total: 16
AV - prisoner 14, be in bonds 1, in bonds 1; 16


So as we can see, Paul claimed to be a prisoner of Jesus.

However so, the problem for the Christian does not end there, see whenever you are called a prisoner, it means your bound, jailed, and restricted, not something you would describe yourself with God. So why would Paul ever use such a bad term like that?!

Lest the Christian wants to counter and say 'well isn't being called a slave also bad?'

No, not really, in Islam being a slave is not the same thing as being a black slave to white racists, or Mexican slaves to white racists and so on. In Islam slaves are to be treated fairly, as your brothers, and as normal equal human beings:



Human equality and the liberation of slaves in Islam:

The sections of this article are:

1-  How does Islam view slaves?
2-  The liberation of Slaves in Islam.
3-  Can a Slave request his freedom from his Muslim owner?
4-  Conclusion.

The religion of Islam is a very beautiful religion when it comes to human equality and to liberation of slaves.  When Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him brought Islam to his people from Allah Almighty, they used to practice the Judeo-Christian and Pagan slavery.  They used to buy and sell slaves, abuse them, and flog them to death if slaves disobey.  The Muslims had fought long and bloody battles against the Pagan Arabs to liberate slaves and women.



1-  How does Islam view slaves?

Islam commands the Muslims to love and respect slaves and to treat them with kindness.

Let us look at Noble Verse 2:177 "It is not righteousness 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 your 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 practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing."  In this Noble Verse, we see that Allah Almighty orders Muslims to spend from their money and wealth and to give with love and respect the kin, orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for slaves.  Muslims have to help those who need it in their community. 

Let us look at Noble Verse 2:221 "Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters), until they believe: A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allures you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire. But God beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His Signs clear to mankind: That they may celebrate His praise."  In this Noble Verse, we see that Allah Almighty in some cases considers a slave to be better than a free human being.  Allah Almighty orders Muslims not to marry from the Pagans, and He tells us that a slave Muslim (who is owned by a non Muslim) is better than a non believer, even if that non believer was beautiful.

Let us look at Noble Verse 24:31 "And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the  slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards God, that ye may attain Bliss."  In this Noble Verse, we see that Allah Almighty orders the Muslim women to guard their modesty and not to display their beauty to strangers.  However, the Muslim women are allowed to display their beauty to their husbands, relatives, other women, and their slaves.  This Noble Verse clearly shows a full respect to the slaves by allowing the Muslim women to display their beauty to them.  


Some teachings from Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him:

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: "When the slave of anyone amongst you prepares food for him and he serves him after having sat close to (and undergoing the hardship of) heat and smoke, he should make him (the slave) sit along with him and make him eat (along with him), and if the food seems to run short, then he should spare some portion for him (from his own share) - (another narrator) Dawud said:" i. e. a morsel or two". 4097.   (Translation of Sahih Muslim, The Book of Oaths (Kitab Al-Aiman), Book 015, Number 4096)"

Narrated Al-Ma'rur: "At Ar-Rabadha I met Abu Dhar who was wearing a cloak, and his slave, too, was wearing a similar one. I asked about the reason for it. He replied, "I abused a person by calling his mother with bad names." The Prophet said to me, 'O Abu Dhar! Did you abuse him by calling his mother with bad names You still have some characteristics of ignorance. Your slaves are your brothers and Allah has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity (power) and if you do so, then help them.'  (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Belief, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 29)"

Narrated Anas: "The Prophet said, 'None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother [this includes slaves, since a slave is considered a brother as shown above] what he likes for himself.'  (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Belief, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 12)"

Narrated Abu Musa: "Some people asked Allah's Apostle, 'Whose Islam is the best? i.e. (Who is a  very good Muslim)?' He replied, 'One who avoids harming the Muslims with his tongue and hands.'  (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Belief, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 10)"

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr: "A man asked the Prophet, 'What sort of deeds or (what qualities of) Islam are good?' The Prophet replied, 'To feed (the poor) and greet those whom you know and those whom you do not Know.'  (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Belief, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 11)"


The gradual ending of slavery in Islam.



2-  The Liberation of Slaves in Islam:

The reason why Muslims had slaves is because when Islam was still weak and growing, the Arab Pagans' tribes used to launch continuous attacks on the Muslims to destroy Islam once and for all.  Muslims had entered many bloody and vicious battles against the non believers which had cost both sides many lives from the men.  When the Muslims used to enter a city after defeating its army, they would face a new dilemma.  They often meet hundreds of non believing women and young children and elderly left without any support because their men had died in the battle field.

For this reason, Allah Almighty allowed for the Muslims to take those people as slaves to help them survive.  Keep in mind that during that time, the Muslims didn't have an Islamic government and welfare system to take care of the orphans and widows from the non believers.  The Muslims had to take care of them from their own means. 

Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him ordered the Muslims to be very sensitive to their slaves.  He ordered the Muslims to buy the slave young boys and girls the same quality of clothes and gifts that they would buy for their children.  He also ordered Muslims not to hit or be violent to adult slaves.  He ordered Muslims to be loving and caring for them. 

Prophet Muhammad also urged wealthy Muslims to buy slaves from the Pagan Arabs and to let them free after that.  One of Prophet Muhammad's best friends was a slave from Africa called Bilal Al-HabashiBilal was bought from his Pagan master by Abu Baker Al-Siddeek, one of Muhammad's best friends.  After Abu Baker bought Bilal, he set him free.

Islam as I mentioned in the introduction came to fight slavery.  Allah Almighty ordered the Muslims to gradually liberate slaves and to give them their freedom in many cases.

Let us look at Noble Verse 4:92 "Never should a believer kill a believer; but (If it so happens) by mistake, (Compensation is due): If one (so) kills a believer, it is ordained that he should free a believing slave, and pay compensation to the deceased's family, unless they remit it freely. If the deceased belonged to a people at war with you, and he was a believer, the freeing of a believing slave (Is enough). If he belonged to a people with whom ye have treaty of Mutual alliance, compensation should be paid to his family, and a believing slave be freed. For those who find this beyond their means, (is prescribed) a fast for two months running: by way of repentance to God: for God hath all knowledge and all wisdom."  In this Noble Verse, we see that Allah Almighty ordered to free a believing slave if a Muslim accidentally kills another Muslim.  This Noble Verse came to encourage Muslims to liberate slaves.

Let us look at Noble Verse 5:89 "God will not call you to account for what is futile in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom. If that is beyond your means, fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths ye have sworn. But keep to your oaths. Thus doth God make clear to you His signs, that ye may be grateful."  This Noble Verse is also another proof that Allah Almighty did encourage Muslims to liberate slaves. 

Let us look at Noble Verse 58:3 "But those who divorce their wives by Zihar, then wish to go back on the words they uttered, (It is ordained that such a one) should free a slave before they touch each other: Thus are ye admonished to perform: and God is well-acquainted with (all) that ye do."   This Noble Verse is another proof that Allah Almighty did encourage Muslims to liberate slaves.

Narrated Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari"The Prophet said, "Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom).(Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Food, Meals, Volume 7, Book 65, Number 286)"

Narrated Asma: "No doubt the Prophet ordered people to manumit slaves during the solar eclipse.  (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Eclipses, Volume 2, Book 18, Number 163)"

"'Abdullah b. 'Umar reported that 'Umar b. Khattab asked the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) as he was at ji'rana (a town near Mecca) on his way back from Ta'if: Messenger of Allah, I had taken a vow during the days of Ignorance that I would observe I'tikaf for one day in the Sacred Mosque. So what is your opinion? He said: Go and observe I'tikaf for a day. And Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) gave him a slave girl out of the one-fifth (of the spoils of war meant for the Holy Prophet). And when Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) set the war prisoners free. 'Umar b. Khattab heard their voice as they were saying: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) has set us free. He (Hadrat 'Umar) said: What is this? They said: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) has set free the prisoners of war (which had fallen to the lot of people). Thereupon he (Hadrat 'Umar) said: Abdullah, go to that slave-girl and set her free.  (Translation of Sahih Muslim, The Book of Oaths (Kitab Al-Aiman), Book 015, Number 4074)"


If a Muslim beats his slave or slaps him on the face, then he must set him free:

"Zadhan reported that Ibn Umar called his slave and he found the marks (of beating) upon his back. He said to him: I have caused you pain. He said: No. But he (Ibn Umar) said: You are free. He then took hold of something from the earth and said: There is no reward for me even to the weight equal to it. I heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: He who beats a slave without cognizable offence of his or slaps him, then expiation for it is that he should set him free.   (Translation of Sahih Muslim, The Book of Oaths (Kitab Al-Aiman), Book 015, Number 4079)"

"Abu Mas'ud reported that he had been beating his slave and he had been saying: "I seek refuge with Allah, but he continued beating him, whereupon he said: I seek refuge with Allah's Messenger, and he spared him. Thereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: By Allah, God has more dominance over you than you have over him (the slave). He said that he set him free. This hadith has been narrated on the authority of Shu'ba with the same chain of transmitters, but made no mention of (these words) of his: I seek refuge with Allah, I seek refuge with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him).  (Translation of Sahih Muslim, The Book of Oaths (Kitab Al-Aiman), Book 015, Number 4089)"


More on freeing slaves:

Narrated Salamah ibn Sakhr al-Bayadi: "I was a man who was more given than others to sexual intercourse with women. When the month of Ramadan came, I feared lest I should have intercourse with my wife, and this evil should remain with me till the morning. So I made my wife like my mother's back to me till the end of Ramadan. But one night when she was waiting upon me, something of her was revealed. Suddenly I jumped upon her. When the morning came I went to my people and informed them about this matter.  I said: Go along with me to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him).   They said: No, by Allah. So I went to the Prophet (peace be upon him and informed him of the matter.  He said: Have you really committed it, Salamah? I said: I committed it twice, Apostle of Allah. I am content with the Commandment of Allah, the Exalted; so take a decision about me according to what Allah has shown you.  He said: Free a slave. I said: By Him Who sent you with truth, I do not possess a neck other than this: and I struck the surface of my neck.  He said: Then fast two consecutive months. I said: Whatever I suffered is due to fasting.  He said: Feed sixty poor people with a wasq of dates.  I said: By Him Who sent you with truth, we passed the night hungry; there was no food in our house.  He said: Then go to the collector of sadaqah of Banu Zurayq; he must give it to you. Then feed sixty poor people with a wasq of dates; and you and your family eat the remaining dates. Then I came back to my people, and said (to them): I found with you poverty and bad opinion; and I found with the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) prosperity and good opinion. He has commanded me to give alms to you.  Ibn al-Ala' added: Ibn Idris said: Bayadah is a sub-clan of Banu Zurayq(Translation of Sunan Abu-Dawud, Divorce (Kitab Al-Talaq), Book 12, Number 2207)"

Narrated Khuwaylah, daughter of Malik ibn Tha'labah: "My husband, Aws ibn as-t, pronounced the words: You are like my mother. So I came to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him), complaining to him about my husband.  The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) disputed with me and said: Remain dutiful to Allah; he is your cousin.  I continued (complaining) until the Qur'anic verse came down: "Allah hath heard the words of her who disputeth with thee concerning her husband...." till the prescription of expiation.  He then said: He should set free a slave. She said: He cannot afford it. He said: He should fast for two consecutive months. She said: Apostle of Allah, he is an old man; he cannot keep fasts. He said: He should feed sixty poor people. She said: He has nothing which he may give in alms. At that moment an araq (i.e. date-basket holding fifteen or sixteen sa's) was brought to him.  I said: I shall help him with another date-basked ('araq). He said: You have done well. Go and feed sixty poor people on his behalf, and return to your cousin. The narrator said: An araq holds sixty sa's of dates.  (Translation of Sunan Abu-Dawud, Divorce (Kitab Al-Talaq), Book 12, Number 2208)"

There are a lot more Noble Verses from the Noble Quran and Sayings from our beloved Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him that push for freeing of slaves.  The Islamic attitude toward slaves is very clear and straight forward:  All slaves are eventually to be freed!  And they were all freed during the times of Islam from the Judeo-Christian and Pagan slavery.


Again, please visit:  The gradual ending of slavery in Islam.



3-  Can a slave request his freedom from his Muslim owner?

First, it is important to know that thousands of years ago life was different than today.  Today, people wouldn't accept slavery for any reason.  The reason for this is because people are a lot more independent both financially, education wise, mentally, etc...  But people back then were different.  When a tribe or a group of people lose a major battle and their money is mostly, if not all, is taken as war booty by the other side, then people could and would accept being slaves for the following reasons:

1-  Both financial and social security.   When their country or tribe lost the war, they also lost most or all of their money as war booty.  Being out of money and food, it becomes necessary for an individual to find the means for basic survival in life.  Living as a slave would provide this.

2-  Protection from hostile individuals.   Even under the Islamic rule, you can still find hostile individuals who violate the Law and take matters into their own hands.  An enemy family can be sometime in danger if they don't have a "protector".

3-  Widows, Orphans, and the extremely poor of the enemy side need the financial and social protection from a Master.  Back then, there were no governments with good social system that protects everyone.  Slavery back then was that social system in special cases.

There are probably more points I can add, but I think these are sufficient enough.   Let us now see the Islamic System toward Slaves:


Slaves can request and get their freedom from their Muslim Masters:

Yes slaves were taken from the blood-thirsty and hostile enemies, but they were also given the right to get their freedom when ever they want.  The Noble Quran not only allows slaves to request their freedom from their Muslim masters, but also orders the Muslim masters to pay the slaves money to help them stand on their feet and to be able to face life with a good jump start.

Let us look at Noble Verse 24:33 "Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste, until God gives them means out of His grace. And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if ye know any good in them: yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which God has given to you. But force not your maids to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life. But if anyone compels them, yet, after such compulsion, is God, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (to them),"  In this Noble Verse, we see that if a slave requests his freedom from his Muslim master, then his master not only must help him earn his freedom if there is good in the Slave, but also pay him money so the slave can have a good start in his free life.

"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." [2]

Again, the Prophet peace be upon him said:

Narrated Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari"The Prophet said, "Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom).(Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Food, Meals, Volume 7, Book 65, Number 286)"


So as you can see, the Islamic concept of a slave is completely different than the typical term of a slave in the world. When people say slave, you automatically think of someone being abused, not getting equal rights, being treated as 2nd class people, or even less etc. However this is absent from Islam, and has no connection to the Islamic concept and term of slavery/slaves.

So hence in the context of Islam, there is nothing wrong with being called a slave in any sense. However so, in what sense is it good to be called a prisoner?! Does the context of the Bible on prisoners show it as something good and not degrading? The answer is NO, so Paul being called a prisoner of Jesus is something bad, and wrong, who would want to be a prisoner of God! And as the definition of prisoner showed, it meant being bound, bound in captivity by chains and so on.

Is this the relationship Christians have with God? Being a prisoner to him? Off course the Christian will now happily say 'Yes off course!'. However so, when it comes down to the Quran calling Muslims slaves and servants of Allah, Christians will stamp their feet and cry foul play from the God of Islam, such inconsistency is amazing! And once again, in the context of Islam, there is nothing degrading or bad about being called a slave, where as in the context of the Bible, being a prisoner is not something good, but rather being a prisoner is someone in captivity like a criminal.





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