Showing posts with label slavery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label slavery. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mauritius: Freedom from Slavery

Every year, Mauritius observes a national holiday on February 1st. For, this day marks a defining moment in the collective memory of the Mauritian people's struggle for dignity and human rights. Almost two centuries ago, it was on this day in 1835 that the abominable practice of Slavery was formally abolished in the Island State, liberating a mass of humanity from the clutches of an oppressive social order. 

The story of how Mauritius- once a virtually uninhabited Island off the southeast coast of Africa, became home to close to 1.5 million people today; professing various faiths- including Hinduism, Christianity, Islam- and speaking different languages, including Creole, French, English, Tamil, Urdu, Hindi and Bhojpuri and Chinese- is a fascinating chapter in the making of the modern world. There is little doubt that the modern identity of Mauritius as ‘a rainbow nation’ is a tribute to the cultural confluences it inherited from its complex past. 

Originally discovered by the Arabs in the 9th century; successively colonized by the different European powers from the 17th century- the Deutch, the French and the British- in the last four centuries; modern Mauritius is, in many ways, shaped by this Island nation's encounter with the different phases of global capitalism and the trajectories of the European imperial forays into Africa and Asia, including the strategic control of the Indian Ocean region for safeguarding their vital, commercial interests. The detachment of a part of the Mauritian territory- the Chagos Archipelago and offering the same on a virtual, perpetual lease to the United States by the last colonial power- Britain- before the granting of national independence to Mauritius in 1968, continue to remind all of us in the global South about the long shadows of imperial hubris that permanently scar the psyche of nations and peoples. (For a review of the continuing Mauritius-UK dispute over the Chagos Archipelago, click here).

Even as the colonial masters sought to subjugate the nations they conquered through military means, they found it politically convenient to stake the moral high ground of good governance, rule of law and human rights in the shaping of national policies. Hence, the colonial, administrative practices in the Indian Ocean region, including in relation to questions of slavery and ‘rule of law’ in the conquered territories vis-a vis the subjugated peoples, can be seen as a partial concession to the tectonic shifts in the global thinking around questions of human dignity and basic rights. The abolition of slavery in the British colonies and the introduction of the system of ‘contract labour’ with a semblance of rights and privileges for the migrant working class can only be seen against this backdrop.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Islam on Slavery and Prisoners of War

Prophets and other messengers of God come to liberate humans from their chains. Divine teachings, in their pristine essence, are designed to emancipate them from their slavish bondages.

Compared to all other religions of the past, Islam provides far more evolved teachings that are mindful of the predicament of slaves. Its teachings are designed to abolish and root out this abominable practice through radical transformation of the social order, even as it provides teachings for fair treatment of all, including in times of war to the Prisoners of War. Islam permits defensive war against the enemies of the State when it is faced with aggression by other nations and peoples. In the course of such inter-State conflicts, Muslims can capture and retain prisoners of War till the end of hostilities and thereafter, release them as a grace or for ransom.

In the history of the world, rise and fall of nations is a reality. Likewise, profound teachings get blurred in the distance of time. People forget the true traditions and invent new customs of religions, and thereby alter and reshape original teachings. Hence, though Prophets in the past never took slaves, their followers have abused that legacy of freedom and fairness.  Hence, slavery had been perpetrated also by the so called men of religion. Despite Islam’s clearest exposition on the dignity and equality and equal rights of all human beings, like Jews and Christians and the Hindus among them in society, even Muslims cannot fully absolve themselves from the stigma of practicing slavery. 

In a religious and international context, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) practices slavery against its enemies in the name of Islam, and also many other world nations permitting working/labour/social/political conditions amounting to modern forms slavery that infringes upon elementary considerations of humanity, the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius warns the world community on the need for returning to the just teachings of Islam that seek to abolish slavery and ensure fair treatment of all, including even to prisoners of war in times of hostilities.  

Reproduced below are extracts from the Friday Sermon of 05 February 2016 ~(25 Rabi’ul Aakhir 1437 Hijri):

Friday, January 30, 2015

'Show Respect for Human Rights'

On oppression and discrimination in history 

Throughout ages, history has borne witness to the inequalities which man inflicts upon himself. He callously degrades some of his identical selves (humans like himself), while elevating others. Thus, man and man got separated through the passage of time because of colour, race, creed, culture and ethnicity. Some became superiors while some inferiors. And the inferiors had to comply with the wishes and commands of those who had the upper hand upon them, for if they refuse to do so, they would be severely punished and degraded further. (Inset: Le Morne Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site- a  rugged mountain that juts into the Indian Ocean in the southwest of Mauritius. "It was used as a shelter by runaway slaves, maroons, through the 18th and early years of the 19th centuries. Protected by the mountain’s isolated, wooded and almost inaccessible cliffs, the escaped slaves formed small settlements in the caves and on the summit of Le Morne. The oral traditions associated with the maroons, have made Le Morne a symbol of the slaves’ fight for freedom, their suffering, and their sacrifice, all of which have relevance to the countries from which the slaves came - the African mainland, Madagascar, India, and South-east Asia. Indeed, Mauritius, an important stopover in the eastern slave trade, also came to be known as the “Maroon republic” because of the large number of escaped slaves who lived on Le Morne Mountain").

Spirituality and human rights

Prophets of Allah came to bring about a change in that state of affairs. The commandments of Allah came through to bring about hope in the life of those whom society viewed as inferior and as having no dignity and the freedom to express their rights as fellow human beings.

Prophets of Allah tried their best to bring about a change, but every time their heartfelt wishes were crushed until the ultimate saviour of mankind was born and promised to create a new world where every man should live as equals, for this is the absolute command of God Almighty who has created all humans alike, except in piety, for those who are truly pious, they are those who truly realise the goal of life, and that of their own creations and presence on earth. That promised hope came in such a country where hope was previously absent, where men and women were treated as the worst of animals, where it existed such a society which were devoid of human attributes.  It was in that society which Allah chose to raise His greatest and the seal of all prophets (last law-bearing prophet), to accomplish a miracle by transforming the lives of those barbarous people, and teaching them humanity, morality and spirituality.

Unfortunately, despite the clear signs of Allah, of Islam and the Holy Prophet of Islam Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh), by sending and implementing respectively the divine commandments to bring about transformation in the lives of those barbarous people, and turn them in real affectionate and compassionate human beings and servants of God, yet despite all these, Islam and its prophet are vehemently viewed as greatest promoters of terror for some ignorant people who have not studied the heart itself of the extraordinary life of the best of men and prophets of Allah.

On Islam's alleged 'tolerance' of Slavery 

In the context of the Abolition of Slavery which is commemorated in Mauritius every February 01 – and for which it is a public holiday – I have chosen to talk to you about one allegation against Islam and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It is alleged that Islam encourages slavery, but it a fact that Islam is the greatest enemy of slavery, and has put an end to all modes of reducing men to slavery which were current in pre-Islamic days. Islam forbids the reduction to slavery of men who are captured for no reason, or merely because they belong to a hostile tribe or nation, or who have been taken prisoners in worldly wars.

Friday, March 7, 2014

'Bigotry has no place in Islam'

Islam and Human Dignity

From the very beginning, Islam has strongly condemned racial discrimination and has done everything possible to remove the artificial barriers between tribes and between nations. For the first time in the history of humanity, a new standard for judging the qualities of man was stated in the Holy Quran in these solemn words:

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (49: 14)

This statement sounded the death knell for all kinds of aristocracies, whether of birth, caste or wealth. The black people found themselves on the same level as the white people. Suddenly and forever, the colour of such abominable prejudice was rejected.

Even today, with the passage of time, incidents such as those of Little Rock are hardly heard in the Islamic countries and the problems of discrimination law as before what is happening in South Africa have neither arisen in the Middle East nor the Far East.

“An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab and a non-Arab has no superiority to an Arab, you are all the children of Adam, and Adam was created from clay.”

Those are the memorable words of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) in the valley of Mina during the Farewell Pilgrimage (his first and last one). What was the result?

At these solemn words, the social pride of the Arabs was driven away. The difference between Arabs and non-Arabs, similar to that which existed between Jews and pagans, Greeks and barbarians, patricians and plebeians was brutally stripped of the halo of old antiquity. The weak and the oppressed ceased to receive alms according to the whims of the wealthy. Religion had now given them legitimate rights to the property of the rich as well as in politics. The woman, who suffered because of the weakness of her physical stature and who was simply considered as mere commodity, was put on the same footing as man.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Abolition of Slavery: Islamic Ethics

In the dark chapters of human history, social relations were characterized by exploitation, oppression, subjugation, domination and hegemony. Perhaps slavery represents the worst example of this social order. On the other hand, Islam seeks to create an egalitarian social order where traditional practices that unjustly discriminate against fellow beings will be contained and eventually abolished. Islamic teachings are, thus, designed to reduce and abolish the class differences and the institutional vestiges of inequality in society. Islam imagines a social space where diversities lead to creative ensemble and the flowering of the human spirit and not to oppression and injustice and the unjust enrichment for a few over the many. [Inset: Watercolor by unidentified artist, depicting plantation slaves dancing and playing musical instruments; banjo player and a percussion player (possibily playing a gourd) at right.  Image courtesy of The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record  ]

In his Friday Sermon of 01 February 2013 the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib (atba) of Mauritius explained the Islamic attitude towards the ancient problem of slavery. Drawing upon the express verses of the Holy Qur’an and the traditions of the Holy Prophet (sa), the Messenger of Allah of our times demonstrates the spirit of human equality and empathy for the victims of slavery apparent in the teachings of Islam. In a world characterized by neo-slavery mind-set of modern men who consider women as chattels and sexual trafficking of women and girl children are everyday occurrences, the Islamic teachings are a reminder to the oft-blaming conscience of man.  

Read the Extracts from the Friday Sermon:

The year 2013 marks the 178th year since the abolition of slavery in Mauritius. Thus, every 1st February is a public holiday in Mauritius. A section of the Mauritian population is made of African originated slaves, thus the appellation of these types of people, Creoles. But as a generality, every Mauritian is known as Creole despite his or her religious or cultural background and beliefs, and our mother tongue is Creole.