In surah Fatiha’s tafseer and in other instances, Nouman Ali Khan talks about the relationship of Master and slave—Allah is Rabb, we are ‘abd—and that really in all other places, slavery is associated with oppression. In Islam though, when referring to the Muslim’s relationship with his Lord, slavery is the ultimate liberation.
This realization comes from the very acknowledgement that while Allah is Rabb: The Owner, The Sovereign, it is critical to internalize that He is also Rabb: The Cherisher, The Caretaker, The Grantor of all Favors.
Let’s take the example of the sun. The sun provides light and warmth, but extended exposure can also result in sunburn or dehydration. Water has much benefit—it cleanses, it quenches thirst, it provides relief, yet at the same time a tsunami can wipe out an entire coastline. This duality is a wondrous attribute of creation. Things have benefit, but at the same hold the potential for harm.
So when Allah forbids something, is that oppression?
Let’s take alcohol as an example. It’s strictly forbidden in Islam. So is pork. Two very common, well known restrictions. I’ve personally never encountered anyone relating the health benefits of bacon, but alcohol yes. People do bring about information about what benefits alcohol has. And it may have them. However, its harm is much greater than its benefit.
In matters where our judgement is open to risk and may not resolutely stay with us, Allah has ordained laws because He simply cares too much about us.
In the example of alcohol, we are liable to harm ourselves, those around us, those we don’t know. Allah doesn’t want that. The command of Allah is not a restriction, but actually His Favor. He doesn’t want us to do harm or be harmed.
And so in this slavery, it is the Master who relieves the slave of oppression itself.