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)
elaborating more on this issue, we’d like to cite for the following:
“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. Insurat 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.”
To shed more light on this, here are excerpts from “How Islam Denounces Racism in Tone, Vocabulary, and Substantive Principle” Dr. Taha Jaber Al-`Alwani, president of the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences and president of the Fiqh Council of North America, with slight modifications:
“Racial discrimination can be looked at in different ways. It can be used as a kind of preference among people on the basis of law and transactions. The matter extends to encompass blood relations as well as biological characteristics related to racial groups.
the Glorious Qur’an asserts that all people come from the same soul. Allah Almighty says: ‘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. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bare you). Lo! Allah hath been a Watcher over you.’ (An-Nisa’: 1)
Furthermore, all people are alike in origin, nature, reason for existence, and morality. The Qur’an states: ‘We have created you from a male and a female, and we have made you into nations and tribes to get to know one another.’ (Al-Hujurat: 13)
the Qur’an asserts that differences in race, color, and language exist and must be a vehicle for friendship and harmony. In doing so, all will cooperate to establish God’s message on earth, build civilizations, and utilize the world’s resources for the betterment of humanity.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) stated in his Farewell Sermon: ‘O people, our father is one, and our God is One; We are all from Adam, and Adam is from dust.’
the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asserted that the only criterion for being better than another is character. We must compete in behaving better with others and helping all of humanity. Allah says, ‘The most valued of you in Allah’s Sight is the most God-conscious.’ (Al-Hujurat: 3)
the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also stated, ‘There is no higher status of an Arab over a non-Arab except through God-consciousness.’
the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught that religions have the same origin, the whole earth belongs to us all, and we must work together to establish peace and justice for all. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stated, ‘The earth has been made a place of worship for me, and a pure place.’ The whole earth must be protected and respected, and everything and everyone on it.
Positive Means to Overcome Racism:
We must increase awareness in schools and media outlets regarding the evils of racism and discrimination, which is akin to a disease that destroys un
ity, disrupts civilizations, and leads to conflicts and war.
Winning Allah’s pleasure is not due to color, race or language; but rather to the degree that man tries to help others. This is the fundamental religious value that establishes brotherhood in humanity, and it should be promoted in the workplace at all levels.
We must be honest in stating that racism played a great role in encouraging conflict and war (such as the American Civil war, Turkish-Kurdish conflict, the Serb-Croat conflict, and the Tamil-Sri Lankan).
We must sponsor studies of previous civilizations, to show the role of racism in their decline and fall.
We must reform the field of sociology and anthropology, which have a history in spreading racism. A new vision to the oneness of humanity and a shared fate need to be promoted in these fields.
The Affirmation of Basic Religious Values:
as Muslims, we do affirm the worth of every person, emphasize the need for compassion, join in the call to reconciliation, and assert the desirability of cooperation. Differences between us should be the reason we come together, rather than the reason we drift apart.
So based on this, if anyone happens to be a victim of racism or discrimination, this shouldn’t drive him to have mistrust of the well-established rule due to an individual case. It should be well-ingrained in his mind that, according to what is mentioned above, Islam is totally against giving privilege to someone or some people due to color or race.
By this, if one notices contravention of the above-mentioned rule in any place, it doesn’t mean that the same is expected to take place elsewhere. This also should not be taken as a pretext to nullify the whole system, the Divine Legislation, which stipulates that all human beings are equal before the law, and in the Sight of Allah, save the privilege one enjoys for being pious and righteous in the true sense.”