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Kitaab At-Tawheed, Chapter: 52

One Should Not Say: "My Slave," or: "My Slave-girl)

It is authentically reported on the authority of Abu Hurairah (ra ) that the Messenger of Allah (saas ) said: "None of you should say: "Feed your Rabb," or: "Help your Rabb in performing ablution," but instead he should say: "My master," or: "My guardian," and none should say: "My slave," or: "My slave-girl," but instead he should say: "My lad," or: "My lass," or: "My boy." 1

Because Rabbship and worship necessitate glorification - and none should be glorified but Allah (swt ), Almighty All-powerful - the Messenger of Allah (saas ) forbade referring to a slave-owner as Rabb or to a bonded slave as `abd, 2 since this suggests some kind of partnership with Allah (swt ), when in fact, we are all His slaves and He is the only Rabb. Then the Prophet (saas ) guided us to that which is better and does not connote Rabbship of the slave-owner or worship on behalf of the slave, which is to say: "My lad," or: "My lass," or: "My boy." This is better and safer for those whom Allah (swt ) has tested with the responsibility of slave-ownership or the burden of being a slave.

Benefits Derived From This Hadith

1. The obligation to block all roads to Shirk.

2. That Ar-Rabb is one of Allah's Names which it is forbidden to ascribe to any other unless it is linked with something without sense, such as: Rabbul Bait (Owner of the House) or Rabbud-Daabbah (Owner of the beast).

3. The forbiddance of calling the slave `abd or the slave-girl amah.

4. The permissibility of referring to the slave-owner as master or protector.

Relevance of This Hadith to the Subject of the Chapter

That it prohibits calling the slave `abd and the slave-girl amah.

Relevance of This Hadith to the Subject of Tawheed

That the Hadith forbids calling the slave `abd and the slave-girl amah, because this is Shirk in matters of worship.

Important Note

(a) There are those who have claimed that it is permissible to call the slave-owner Rabb and that there is no restriction on this; as proof, they have cited the Words of Allah (swt ), Most High:

" Mention me to your lord" (Qur'an 12:42)

And the words of the Messenger of Allah (swt ): "...and the amah will give birth to her rabbah." The answer to these claims is that in the Qur'anic verse, the reference is to a time before the Messengership of Muhammad (saas ), when such terminology had not been forbidden. As for the above-mentioned Hadith, what is mentioned here is rabbah, which is the feminine form of the word rabb, and as such, does not connote Rabbship; rather, the word would mean mistress or lady.

(b) In this Hadith, the Prophet (saas ) has permitted reference to a slave-owner as mawlaa, while in another Hadith, he has forbidden it. It may be that the way to understand both of these Hadith without refering any contradiction, is to say that, while it is permissible to do so, it is preferable not to; this would be particularly so in the case of those people who refer to their scholars or sheikhs as Mawlaanaa (our Protector) - for Allah has so described Himself in Qur'an Al-Baqarah, where He tells us to address Him thus:

" You are Mawlaanaa [our Protector] so give us victory over the disbelievers" (Qur'an 2:285)


1. Narrated by Muslim.
2. While it is true that the word 'abd means slave, it also connotes worship and submission, thus it is not permissible to say, e.g.: "'Abd Ahmad," meaning the bonded slave of Ahmad. Thus, Allah (swt) refers to His slaves in the Qur'an as 'Ibadullah (the slaves of Allah swt).

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