Be the slave of Allah and His Rasul; that is obeying them and no one else. This squarely lays the burden at your own door. It is subservience uniquely to the Lord of the universe, subhanahu wa ta’ala, and His beloved Messenger, sallallahu alayhi wa sallim. It does not matter what anyone else says or does, you are ultimately answerable to the King and His beloved Intercessor. Do not mistake this as a call to independence of creation or rebellion against it, as there are those who are above and beyond you in service of their Lord, and your true slavery will never be in conflict with theirs.
The muttaqeen are brothers by recognition whatever their language or station among men. They do not look with the same eye as other than them and therefore apprehend and comprehend differently, that is, more clearly. It is the station of the Sahaba and all who have followed them until now.
They are socially and humanly necessary in their obedience as they hear the command and expend themselves in its fulfilment. This may be in the unequivocal establishment of Salah or in the manner of sayyidina Musa’s teacher, beyond immediate comprehension. They are the ones that Allah commands us to keep company with and what they influence brings good; what they call to is their own state of obedience as to obey them is to obey Allah and His Rasul.
All that Allah has commanded us to is the perfection of our slavery, ‘ibadah, and it is no co-incidence that the Arabic for worship and slavery come from the same root, as to worship Allah is to be His obedient slave and the questioning on the plain on the Day of Rising will relate specifically to our slavery while alive.
Do not be afraid of the word slavery, a term denigrated and made repugnant by graphic and emotional association for a very specific reason lest we realise that it describes our current society most aptly. The bestial commerce of previous centuries is clearly known and documented and a thing of the past, but what has replaced it is far more insidious and dehumanising. What can be worse than a slavery when given the key to unlock the chains is not used. This is a slavery of the heart and spirit, a hopelessness that sees no way out, indeed is not even aware of its own condition, and may even be given the name ‘freedom’. A most productive form of servitude for its masters. All slaves must receive something, even if only to keep their backs straight for the work needed; imprisonment, punishment and constant surveillance do not a productive worker make and will in the end lead to rebellion, but add some element of reward beyond compulsion and the slave is more productive and maybe even loyal.
Recognised slavery has always been about commerce and is not racially or politically motivated, although those elements existed and may have been used to maintain that condition, but there was never an intention to free slaves to merge into whatever society it was part of. The abolition of slavery, the granting of civil rights, the removal of apartheid were the releasing from iron shackles into the subjugation of false representation and economic bondage or mortgage.
Today you might be called a refugee, a sweatshop worker, unemployed, employee, voter, even a director; the difference being the length of your chain and the comfort of your collar. Subservience is rewarded; just look at the kowtowing politicians.
Slavery has always been part of human organisation since ancient times and there are many references to it, even among the prophets. It is a condition legislated by Allah and His Rasul and therefore this is an essential of its makeup. Abolishment of the abhorrent commerce from Africa was a step in enslaving society as a whole, whereas slavery among Muslims is part of society and although there is money involved, it is not a commerce and is regulated. Slaves are included in the family, and must be clothed and fed as its other members, they can be freed as a meritorious act, allowed to purchase their freedom, marry, worship as they please and they are a sign of our own slavery to Allah. They are the possession of their master with the requirement of obedience, but they are also someone of whom Allah will ask about of their master.
“How can one human being own another?” I can hear the blood boiling and the discomfort at these words, but why? I think it is because it confronts the fantasy of our ‘freedom and enlightenment’ and that we are indeed all owned by somebody else. Among Muslims slaves are not animals but human beings owned by other human beings and there are extensive rules dictating how this must be managed. There are many great Muslims who became Muslim precisely because they were captured in battle and included into society in this manner and many scholars of renown were ‘mawlas’ or emancipated slaves.
“You have to serve somebody”, the famous singer sang, “it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you have to serve somebody”. What he didn’t say is that if you don’t serve the Lord you will serve the devil. As Muslims we know he is right; slavery to Allah is hard-wired in the makeup of the human being, it is only a question of whether you know it or not, are grateful or not.
The slavery of the Europeans is not the slavery of the Muslims and neither are comparable to modern slavery, the first were directed at the body but the latter is directed at the spirit and is therefore far more pernicious. My own experience of this is from South Africa, in which I arrived before the end of Apartheid, a regime of insufferable arrogance and bloody oppression. A herded slave population of non-white human beings, with no one on their side until it became imperative for them to be included in the debt economy and the recent history of that beautiful country is none other than the transition from one form of slavery to another, despite the colourful icons of freedom paraded around the globe.
The vibrancy of an oppressed people emerges from their shared identity in struggle under a clear oppressor. They form resistance, sing and share what they have and it is in the nature of things that the oppression will be overthrown, either by their own efforts or the inevitable collapse of the imposed tyranny and more probably by a combination of both. In the case of South Africa and later Namibia, neither side looked capable of winning until the existing commercial and de facto power decided the issue. The intricate tribal cultures and their offshoots, the religiously committed groupings merged in a common struggle against white tyranny bringing into existence a new culture based upon a common enemy and a call for a new political dispensation; a system inimical to those same cultures and religions and thereby replacing them in essence and influence. Values became value, that is, the values important to those cultures and groupings were replaced with valuation in commercial terms. This is clearly demonstrated in the difference between the communities in the traditional rural areas and the modern townships. The first still live, as much as they are allowed, according to the cultural values of centuries, based upon mutual and social benefit, whereas the latter is based upon cash, which everybody needs to survive. This is the mirror image of what has been happening globally for some time, leaving traditional cultures and religions smashed and irrelevant as they do not make any commercial sense.
An obviously oppressive slavery does not destroy a people but rather brings the best to the fore in resistance as history attests. The slavery that is most difficult to overcome is that of the self and whoever offers it some form of gratification or recognition will be its master. The slave of his own passions is a slave to everything and this is fundamental to Democracy, which is fraudulently based upon promises of future benefits, this is the method used until now, although it is about to be replaced as people are awakening to the fact that they have been deceived by the politicians and ripped off by banking and commerce. This slavery is compounded as the slaves are not seeking freedom but rather a piece of the pie and are willing to accept a concept of freedom, which really only amounts to sexual license and access to the company store. This will be the test of the Occupy movement as to whether they want real freedom or not, whether they can move from reaction to implementation. They will have to endure personal difficulty for the benefit of all and they will have to accept that they are, and have been slaves to a numerical system designed to funnel wealth to a few.
The nature of our slavery has to be understood in order perfect it as it is impossible to be other than a slave; it is the reality of the human creature as well as the whole of existence and its meaning can only be understood by knowledge of the Master and His commands. This is the path from tyranny to mercy, made plain by all the prophets and messengers and most clearly and recently by Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi wa sallim. You cannot be free of your reality, therefore free yourself by knowing your reality. You are a slave of Allah.