Makkah, Jerusalem and Slavery

02 October, 2016
Q 1.Abraham and Isma`il built the Ka`bah. Thereafter came Moses and Jesus. I wonder why none of these prophets ever visited the Ka`bah and made tawaf (circumambulation)? What intrigues me, all the decedents of Isaac (Moses, David, Joseph, Jesus....) never visited the Ka`bah? Why this spot was totally ignored for thousands of years until Muhammad (peace be upon him) was chosen by God to deliver the message and cleanse the Ka`bah? 2.Muslims claim that al-masjid al-Aqsa (or the tomb of rock) in Jerusalem is a 3rd holy place after Makkah and Medina. This is as the Prophet (peace be upon him), in his dream, performed salah (prayers) with other prophets and then ascended to heavens above and communicated with God. If this is so, why this important event is not covered anywhere in the Holy Quran? Also, if this was such an important site, why did Prophet Muhammad not ever visit this place in person to signify its importance?3.Human slavery is the filthiest act of mankind on the face of this earth. In the US, after 400 years of slavery, finally it has been abolished. I wonder why in the Quran, nowhere slavery is made haram (forbidden). Rather, in some sections, as repentance towards some wrong deed, 'freeing' of a slave is mentioned. Where "pig/swine" and "interest" is made haram, why not "slavery"?


Salam Dear Noshir,

Thank you for your questions and for contacting Ask About Islam.

I pray to Allah to help me do my best to clarify some of the issues that you have raised in your questions.

I- The Ka`bah

It is true that Allah commanded Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Isma`il (Ishmael)to build al-Ka`bah. It is also true that from the lineage of Isaac (the second son of Ibrahim) came a large number of prophets and messengers who never visited the Ka`bah. However, there are logical explanations as to why they did not visit the Ka`bah. It was not simply out of carelessness or ignorance. The following are reasons, which hopefully will clarify this issue.

First of all, we should clearly understand that Islam is the only real religion. Allah says:

{The Religion before God is Islam (submission to His Will)…}* (Aal-`Imran 3:19)


Muslims believe that Islam is the religion of all prophets and messengers of Allah. That is from Adam up to Muhammad (peace be upon them all):

{The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah – the which We have sent by inspiration to thee – and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein …} (As-Shurah 42:13)

Yet, we should comprehend the difference between deen (religion) and Shari`ah (law). Deen (religion) is one; it is the essence of the message of all of the prophets, it is the belief in the oneness of Allah- al-tawhid. This was the call of every prophet and messenger. Shari`ah (the law) on the other hand, differs from time to time and from one nation to another. Allah says:

{…To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way…} ( Al-Ma’idah 5:48)

The only Shari`ah, which is valid throughout time and space is the shari’ah revealed to Mohammad (peace be upon him). Obviously, the messages of Moses, Jesus, and others were limited to their people, their time, and their space. Hajj to Makkah and making Tawaf (circumbulation) is in the Shari`ah of Muhammad (peace be upon him) but they were not required in the Shari`ah of Moses and Jesus. Therefore, the prophets and messengers between Ibrahim and Muhammad were not commanded by Allah to visit Makkah.

In addition, Muslims do not make pilgrimage to Makkah because it was the birthplace of the Prophet (peace be upon him), or the place in which he received the revelation. Rather, it is a command from Allah to pray in the direction of that particular place and to make the pilgrimage to it as a clear indication of the unity of the deen of Allah (religion), as well as the universality of the final message.

II- Al-Masjid al-Aqsa

Regarding your question about this issue, there are a few points, which need to be clarified:

  1. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not travel to Al-Aqsa mosque in his dream, as you mentioned in your question. The truth of the matter is that he traveled there in reality, for the Quran says:

{Glory to (God) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things).} (Al-Israa 17:1)

Also, if it was a dream, why, then did the non-believers argue with him on this issue? Haven’t they made fun of him and even went to Abu-Bakr to convince him that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was lying? Everyone dreams of traveling to far away places on earth and beyond! Thus, the significance of the reaction of the non-believers proves the event to be reality, not a dream.

  1. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not just pray with other prophets and messengers, but according to the authentic hadith, he lead them in prayer. Leading the other prophets and messengers in prayer clearly indicates that religion is one, Islam is the final message, and Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the seal of the prophethood.
  2. The event of Al-Israa’ (traveling in the night to Al-Aqsa mosque) and Al-Mi`raj (the ascent to the heavens) were mentioned in the Quran in the quote above (Al-Israa`17:1). As for Al-Mi`raj, Allah says:

{Will ye then dispute with him concerning what he saw For indeed he saw him at a second descent, Near the Lote-tree beyond which none may pass: Near it is the Garden of Abode.} (An-Najm 53:12-15)

The Quran did not go into the details of Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raj, because the Quran is not a book of history, rather it is a guidance and a constitution for life. Thus, the Quran described these two events to the extent by which it would benefit people, strengthen their faith, and straighten their path.

It is also necessary, in this respect, to bring to your attention that revelation is not the Qur’an only; it is the Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah and Hadith (traditions and sayings) of the Prophet (peace be upon him). In the Sunnah, Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raj were described in great detail in more than one authentic Hadith.

III- Slavery in Islam

When Islam was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), slavery was a worldwide common social phenomenon; it was much older than Islam. Slavery was deeply rooted in every society to the extent that it was impossible to imagine a civilized society without slaves. In spite of this social fact, Islam was the first religion to recognize slavery as a social illness that needed to be addressed.

Since slavery was deeply rooted in the society, Islam did not abolish it at once. Rather, Islam treated slavery in the same manner it treated other social illnesses. Islam followed the same methodology of gradual elimination in dealing with this social disease as it did with other social illnesses, for example: the prohibition of alcohol in three steps.

From the early days of the message, Islam declared the equality of all human beings, including slaves; equality in origin, equality in values, equality in destiny. Under this declaration, for the first time ever, slaves became brothers and sisters of their masters in the Islamic Ummah (community). In al-Bukhari, it was reported that the Prophet said:

“Your servants and your slaves are your brothers. Anyone who has slaves should give them from what he eats and wears. He should not charge them with work beyond their capabilities. If you must set them to hard work, in any case, I advise you to help them.”

Islam forbade the traditional practice of enslaving free individuals by capturing them and selling them into slavery. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“There are three categories of people against whom I myself shall be a plaintiff on the Day of Judgment. Of those three, one is he who enslaves free men, then sells him and eats this money…”

Islam established rules, which leads to the eventual freedom of slaves. It declared the act of freeing slaves as a good deed, which is tremendously rewarded by Allah. Therefore, Muslims were encouraged to participate in freeing slaves. The freedom of slaves was also encoded in the legal system of Islam by requiring it as part of the penance for sins and as the punishment for criminal acts. Islam listed freeing slaves as one of the eight elements for which zakah (state collected alms money) could be used.

In addition, Islam established many other ways by which slaves could easily gain their freedom. For example, a baby born from a slave and her master is not only considered free, but also guaranteed the freedom of his mother. A second example is that if a slave was physically tortured by his master, he automatically becomes a free man! A third example is that slaves were allowed to buy their freedom from their masters, and are allowed to seek financial help to do so. Actually, you can find many other examples in the fiqh (Islamic law) books.

Eventually, through this systematic plan of gradually freeing the slaves and making them accepted in the society, the idea of eliminating slavery became powerful enough that after Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) died, the freed slaves remained free and not one of them was ever enslaved again. Also, within the times of the prophethood and the rightly guided caliphate (the first four caliphs) there were 320 slaves who were freed! See the book: Subul al-Salam of al-San’ani.

The final word is that although Islam did not abolish slavery, Islam was directing the Ummah toward it. In other words, it was Islam, which paved the path toward abolishing slavery.

Allah knows the best. We hope this answer would be sufficient and if you have any other inquiry, please don’t hesitate to send us again. Keep in touch and have a nice day.