1. As long as history can tell, there have been three main causes for slavery: wars, forceful domination, and being in a position of authority, like the authority fathers have over their children. Islam accepted enslavement in wars, rejected enslavement by forceful domination and moderated enslavement due to having authority. As a result, insofar as children are at young age, fathers have the custody of them. They also have certain duties with regard to their children. But as soon as they become mature, they are free to make decisions and act accordingly. The first cause of enslavement, i.e., wars is in line with man’s nature since no individual or group of people can leave the enemy free to conspire evil plots against them. Secondly, no society believes in absolute freedom of its subjects. Even in societies that advocate human rights, there are rules that limit people’s freedom.
Having said that, Islam was the first advocate of emancipation of slaves. One of the compensations for many some sins was emancipation of slaves. Also, great reward was promised for freeing slaves. This approach taken by Islam had no precedence in other parts of the world. The infallible Imams and many other prominent figures did their best to emancipate slaves. Some of them used to free a number of slaves each year. On the other hand, in middle age Europe it was usual for slaves to die of the tortures inflicted by their masters. Compare this with the fact that the Prophet’s mu’azzin was not only black but also a slave. The mothers of several Imams were slave women. The Imams themselves used to sit and dine with slaves. According to Islam a free man is not better than a slave. The yardstick for being better and having more value is piety. In contrast, the forefathers of today advocates of human rights used to place their pet dogs in warm places while their slaves were accommodated in barns and sometimes had little or no shelter from rain or snow. In order to understand what hardship the slaves went through, you can read the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and other similar books.
Eventually, with the help of the approach taken by Islam, slavery was abolished much sooner than it was in the west and among those who claimed to be human rights advocates. In England for example, it was abolished apparently in 1833. In most European countries slavery was practiced as late as 1772. You have to note that what was abolished in Europe and America was the apparent form of slavery but they turned to collective slavery. Their dominance on other nations in the form of mandate states or other forms of exploitation and the atrocities they committed in Algeria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and other countries should not be forgotten. It should also be noted that slogans such as human rights and the like are used as means to change Muslims’ culture and identity and we should do our best to maintain our culture and identity.
2. The Quran is a book of guidance not a book of science. A book of guidance is not expected to deal with such issues. Nevertheless, there are verses in the Quran indicating the spherical shape of the earth one of which is 39:5 saying, “He wraps the night over the day and wraps the day over the night”. According to this verse, day and night are constantly present on the earth, that is, at any given minute half of the earth is day while the other half is night. There is no hour or time when all of the earth is night or day. This means that the earth is spherical. Had it been flat, all the earth had to have been day when the sun was in the sky and all of it had to have been night when the sun was not in the sky. While the verse explicitly asserts that day and night are both present on the earth, the point is, it is day on half of the earth and night on the other half of it. In other words, the sun shines on half of the earth and since it is spherical and revolves on its axis, the other half of the earth is dark and as a result, day and night occur one following the other as the earth turns on its axis. Also, chapter 7 verse 54 which says, “He covers the night with the day” and other similar verses indicate the same thing. Aside from all these, scholars and scientists like Avicenna, Al-Farabi and others believed in the authenticity of the Quran and considered it a divine miracle. It was their knowledge and expertise that lead them to having such belief since the more erudite one is and the more he studies about the Quran, the stronger his belief in it becomes.
3. As for difference between man and woman it should be said that discrimination is not accepted and there is no discrimination in the Quran between man and woman. According to the Quran both genders are equal in terms of human values. There are women who are better than most men as the Muslim scripture introduces the wife of pharaoh as a role model for all. Difference between man and woman is natural. If in the Quran the inheritance of woman is half of that of man that is because due to his different physical and emotional features man has been put in charge of the family and the maintenance of the wife and children are upon him as well. If woman is expected to obey him that is because man has physical strength and ability to defend the family and take care of its matters. In sum, criticizing delegation of different responsibilities to men and women is not in favor of women in the end. Had they equal rights and responsibilities men would have had the right to protest why women should not provide maintenance for men or women could protest why don’t men become pregnant? Dear brother, all these differences are based on God’s wisdom in creation. Were it not for their natural differences and as a result different responsibilities, there would not have been stability in the family and in the society, which is the case in many societies who deviated from the teachings of divine religions.