A worldwide revolution against injustice and racism has taken all over. People are calling for equality, justice, and anti-racism and traits. That’s what Islam has called for and practiced more than 1400 years ago. All we need to do is to practice Islamic principles.
Islam and racism
Before Islam, slavery and racism were present at their peak, and segregation between tribes in Mecca was the norm. It was typical to own slaves and mistreat them.
Islam’s message to the world was loud and clear; that Allah the Almighty has accorded every member of the human race honor and dignity:
And We have indeed honored the children of Adam and carried them on land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.
وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ وَحَمَلْنَاهُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَرَزَقْنَاهُم مِّنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَفَضَّلْنَاهُمْ عَلَىٰ كَثِيرٍ مِّمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا تَفْضِيلًاسورة الإسراء – الآية 70
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Condemned Racism
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) condemned racism until his last breath, rooted in most early civilizations. In his famous pilgrimage farewell sermon, he said: “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 his piety.”
These simple words eloquently denounced any form of racism in Islam. Islam never focused on a person’s color but their merits.
Allah Almighty chose Bilal R.A to be the first one to recite Adhan. Adhan is a call to Muslims for prayer. Bilal R.A was a former African slave. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) chooses him to recite Adhan. Bilal R.A was entitled ‘Sayid Al Muazzin’ or ‘the master or leader of those who call others to prayer. Bilal R.A also served as Secretary of the Treasury for the Islamic State in Medina. Had racism been present in Islam, how could Bilal, a former African slave with a black complexion, have reached such heights?
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Allah does not look at your images or your colors. He looks at your hearts (intentions) and your deeds. Creatures are the dependents of Allah. And the closest among them to Allah is indeed the most useful to His dependents.” (Muslim)
In practice, the Prophet (PBUH) had among his closest companions Salman the Persian, Suhaib the Roman, and Bilal the Ethiopian. Salman and Bilal were ex-slaves who were liberated after embracing Islam.
Racism was deeply rooted in society for decades, and it was not easy for the Prophet (PBUH) to eradicate it. However, every time racism peaked, the Prophet (PBUH) gave the Muslims a valuable lesson. Thus, when his Arab Companion Abu Dharr called Bilal ‘son of the black woman, the Prophet (PBUH)) got angry and told him: ‘You are a man who has ignorance in him.’ Abu Dharr felt such great remorse that he put his cheek on the ground and asked Bilal to tread on his other cheek if he’d like to.
How Islam eradicated racism from its roots
Islam created proactive measures to defeat slavery; rather than creating a mediocre statement, we should treat all races equally. It was unrealistic to outlaw slavery altogether; thus, Islam established a system to make it impossible to treat slaves inhumanely.
Islam taught Muslims to release slaves. And slaves should be given the same clothing, food, and shelter as their Muslim hosts, or they’re treated like family. Through this progression, Islam made it possible to eradicate the system of slavery rather than recite mere slogans of equality. By eliminating the system of slavery, Islam abolished racism altogether.
The purpose of races in Islam
“O humankind, We have created you from a male and a female. And We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognize one another. Verily, the most honorable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware. “Surah Al Hujurat 49:13
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ13 الحجرات
Honor Humanity not Races
Malcolm X, who had lived a life victimized by racism, was fascinated by the idea of the world without racism. After he visited Mecca for pilgrimage, he narrated in his autobiography:
“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races, here in this Ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.
During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug. At the same time, I was praying to the same God — with fellow Muslims. Whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white? And in words and the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan, and Ghana.”
For humankind, the different tribes and sub-tribes, races and ethnicities, are means to learn. They are to recognize our collective identities to become the most righteous. Likewise, our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) spread this message more than 1400 years ago.