The Quran about servants

In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.

Behind any verbal expression there is a certain meaning. In the vocabulary of believers, the epithets “slave of Allah” and “slave of God” are firmly entrenched.

In Islam, traditionally the word slave is a translation of the Arabic “abd“, which also has meanings: slave, servant. In turn, the “abd” is formed from the root “abad“, which means: to serve, worship, bow, adore. Proceeding from all the meanings, two basic concepts of this word appear: servant and slave. Perhaps, to some people the difference in the semantic load of these words will seem insignificant, however, having analysed them, we can lean towards one meaning of the word.

The word slave is usually associated with lack of will, lack of freedom, choice, and insignificance. A slave is a person deprived of rights and is the property of the owner.

The servant is also associated with certain dependence, but, in comparison with the slave, he has more freedom and rights. A servant can hope for an increase in the reward for a good job, which the slave does not have. Servant is a person in the service of someone. He, who gives himself to the service of something, works for the sake of something.

Turning to the Quran, we find two additional meanings of the word slave – “rikaabun” and “malyakat ayman.”

Rikaabun” is plural form of the word “rakabatu“, which means: neck, slave. Its root meaning is the word “rakaba” and translates as: to follow, observe, control.

Malyakat Ayman” consists of two words: “malyakat” – to own, “ayman” – right hand.

In the context of using the words “rikaabun” and “malyakat ayman” it is clear that they show people dependent on other people.

Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west. But righteous is the one who believed God, in the last day, in the maintainers, in the Prescription, and in the prophets, the one who gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask, deprived (rikaabun), – those who establishes prayer and gives purifying expenditure, those who fulfil their obligations when they are oblige to; who are patient in adversity, in harm and in hardship. Those are the ones who have been truthful, and they are those who are circumspect! (2:177)

And never is it for a believer to kill a believer except by mistake. And whoever kills a believer by mistake – then the freeing of a deprived (rakaabatun) believer and a ransom to his owner, unless he counts it as charity. But if the deceased was from a people at war with you and he was a believer – then the freeing of a deprived (rakaabatun) believer. If he was from a people with whom you have a covenant – then the freeing of a deprived (rakaabatun) believer and a ransom to his owner. And whoever does not find a ransom – must fast for two months consecutively, as repentance before God. And God is ever Knowing and Wise! (4:92)

God will not impose blame upon you for repeal of your oaths, but He will impose blame upon you for complication of oaths. So its expiation is the feeding of ten needy people from the average of that which you feed your families or clothing them or the freeing of a deprived (rakabatun). But whoever cannot afford it- then let him fast three days. That is the expiation for oaths! Guard your oaths! Thus does God make clear to you His signs that you may be grateful! (5:89)

Indeed, God intended alms only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect them, those whose hearts joined with them, deprived (rikaabun) and for those in loss in the way of God and for the traveler. God is Knowing and Wise! (9:60)

And those who declare their wives in such way and then make a custom on what they said – then the freeing of a deprived (rakabatun) before they touch one another. That is what you are admonished thereby! God is Acquainted with what you do! (58:3)

What do you know about the steep uphill?

It is the freeing of a deprived (rakabatun) or feeding a close orphan or an impoverished one in a day of hunger! (90:12-13)

And if you fear that you will not be balanced to the orphans, then live an intimate life with those that pleasant to you of female orphans: two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then be contented with one or the one dependent on you (malyakat aymanukum). That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice. (4:3)

Serve God and ascribe no partner to Him. Do good: to parents, to close relatives, orphans, the needy, close relative in the neighbourhood, alien neighbour, accompanying stranger, the traveler, and those dependent on you (malyakat aymanukum). Indeed, God does not love those who are proudly boastful! (4:36)

God has favoured some of you over others in provision. But those who are favoured would not hand over their provision to those dependent on them (malykat aymanukum), so they would be equal to them therein. Then is it the favour of God they reject? (16:71)

The word “abd” is mainly used for the messengers and free among people.

And We gave Moses the Prescription and made it a guidance for the children of Israel, descendants of those We carried with Noah that they not take other than Me as trusted. Indeed, he was a grateful servant! (17:2-3)

The child replied, “Indeed, I am the servant (abd) of God. He has given me the Prescription and made me a prophet! (19:30)

And to Dawud (David) We gave Sulaiman (Solomon). He is an excellent servant (abd)! Indeed, he is repenting! (38:30)

Indeed, he is not but a servant (abd), upon whom We bestowed favor, and We made him an example for the children of Israel. (43:59)

Indeed, when the servant (abd) of God stood up calling to Him, they were almost ready to surround him.” (72:19)

 

Of course, all people depend on God, but the Most High granted us freedom of choice. Never will people put a slave as their vicegerent, but our Creator has placed Adam as a vicegerent on earth.

Understanding the word “abd” as servant makes the meaning of it more qualitative.

And I did not create the unseen and mankind except to serve (abuduna) Me! (51:56)

 

In this place, the word “abuduna” is used, the root of which is “abd“. However, translating it as cringing would not be right. This word basically translates as “worship”, but this understanding narrows the field of human activity to ordinary ritualism. The meaning of the word “serve” reflects a wide range of activities of a believer. After all, common human’s associations about the believer are connected more with the worship, and to a lesser extent with public activities, public service, science, medicine, law and order, etc. But believing people are obliged to influence society, establish justice and stop impiety.

And thus we have made you as a head centre that you will be witnesses over the people and the messenger will be a witness over you… (2:143)

And let there be from you a headship calling to good, commanding the approved and detaining from the hated. (3:104)