The Qur'anic phrase "those whom your right hands possess" (Arabic: مَا مَلَكَتْ يَمِينُكُمْ) refers to slaves or captives of war. It appears in several verses in the Qur'an, including Surah An-Nisa', verse 36:
"And serve Allah and do not associate anything with Him and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful."
This verse emphasises the importance of treating slaves with kindness and compassion, and not to be proud or boastful towards them. It also places slaves in the same category as other disadvantaged groups, such as orphans and the needy, indicating that they should be treated with the same level of respect and care.
It is important to consider the historical context in which the Qur'an was revealed in order to understand the meaning of this phrase. At the time of the revelation of the Qur'an, slavery was a common practice in the Arabian Peninsula and in other parts of the world. Slaves were often captured in wars or raids, or they were bought and sold as property. The Qur'an contains several verses that address the rights of slaves and that aim to improve their status. For example, in Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 177, it states:
"Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves."
This verse highlights the importance of caring for slaves and of freeing them if possible.
There are also several hadith (sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad) that provide guidance on the treatment of slaves. For example, in one hadith, the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said:
"Your slaves are your brothers and God 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."
The phrase "those whom your right hands possess" refers to slaves or captives in war (i.e., prisoners of war) in the early Islamic community. The Qur'an and hadith emphasise the importance of treating these individuals with kindness, compassion, and respect, and not to be proud or boastful towards them. Slavery was eventually abolished in the Muslim world, and it is now generally considered to be a violation of Islamic teachings.
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