Really, it’s saddening to hear and witness all forms of racism widespread all over the world, posing a flagrant violation to all the norms and principles that call mankind to respect each other, and to let love and mutual altruism prevail in the society. This is the message of Islam to the world; that every member of human race has been accorded honor and dignity by Allah Almighty Who says in the Qur’an: “Verily we have honoured the Children of Adam. We carry them on the land and the sea, and have made provision of good things for them, and have preferred them above many of those whom We created with a marked preferment.” (Al-Isra’: 70)
“What does ‘Racism’ mean? The definition of this term in Webster’s New World Dictionary is: ‘A doctrine or teaching without scientific support, that claims to find racial differences in character, intelligence, etc., that asserts the superiority of one race over another or others, and that seeks to maintain the supposed purity of a race or races. It also includes any program or practice of racial discrimination or segregation based on such beliefs.’
As a matter of fact, when some nations practiced racism this only brought about destruction and war. Take the Nazi racism and what followed it. In fact it destroyed the claimants of superiority, namely the Nazis in the first place.
The world today still suffers from racism, which continues to exist on different human levels. Let us now see what Islam has to say on this issue and how it solved it for good.
The Glorious Qur’an has abolished racism in a clear-cut categorical manner. In surat Al-Hujrat, verse 13, we read: ‘O mankind! We have created you from a single male and female and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other. The most honorable of you in the sight of Allah are surety the righteous.” (Al-Hujurat: 13)
Allah also says in the Qur’an: “O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women.” (An-Nisa’: 1)
According to these Qur’anic verses, Islam stressed the absolute unity in variety of the human race. In his famous Farewell Pilgrimage sermon, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) declared: “O people! You are all to Adam and Adam was made of dust. No Arab is to be preferred over a non-Arab except by virtue of his piety.” In another hadith, he (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Allah does not look at your images or your colors but He looks at your hearts (intentions) and your deeds. Creatures are the dependants of Allah and the closest among them to Allah are indeed the most useful to His dependants.”
In practice, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) had among his closest Companions Salman the Persian, Suhaib the Roman, and Bilal the Ethiopian. Two of the three Companions were ex-slaves who were liberated after embracing Islam, namely Salman and Bilal. Despite this, and in spite of the black complexion of Bilal, he was chosen by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as the first muezzin to prayer, a position coveted by many. As a matter of fact, senior Companions like Abu Bakr and `Umar used to call Bilal ‘our master’, and the Prophet himself used to say: ‘Salman is a member of our family.’
It was not, however, an easy task to cancel racism in Islam. But every time it rose its head the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to give the Muslims an important lesson. Thus when his Arab Companion Abu Dharr called Bilal ‘son of the black woman’, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) got angry and told him: ‘You are a man who has ignorance in him.’ Abu Dharr felt such a great remorse that he put his cheek on the ground and asked Bilal to tread on his other cheek if he’d like to.
Time and again the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to stress the unity of the human race in Islam. Suffice it to mention one hadith. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) once said: ‘Listen and obey even if your ruler was an Ethiopian slave whose head looks like a raisin.’ On another occasion when al-Aws and al-Khazraj, the two main Muslim tribes of Madinah were about to fight each other as they used to do before Islam, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) rebuked them saying: ‘Do you still cultivate the call to ignorance even though I am in your midst?’ Hearing this, they restored their solid unity and fraternity.
This is how Islam cancelled racism in theory and practice. It set the best example for humanity to follow.”