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racialequality

Probably one of the most wonderful things about Islam is that it’s history is rich with the representation of many races. In Islam, no race ever had to fight for equality. No matter where you go in the world, Muslims of all races and colors stand shoulder to shoulder in prayer as equals. Despite all the politics and culture, when it comes to Islam, we all pray together in the same row. This is especially apparent in Hajj where people from all over the world stand together.

In Islam, the people who are considered more superior or higher in rank or level are those with the most Taqwa (piety) and knowledge. In the Quran it says,

{Verily the most honorable of you with Allah is that [believer] who has Al Taqwa} (Quran 49:13)

During the Prophet’s (PBUH) farewell speech, he said,

“People come from Adam and Adam came from dust. There is no superiority of an Arab over non-Arab, or of a white person over a black, except in terms of piety (Taqwa).”

And realize that this superiority is not the type in which people exercise today, one of showing off or being self righteous, but it was something completely normal and these people of greater Taqwa are those that also live humbly among the people.

We have so many examples of this equality in our history. On the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet ﷺ  commanded Bilal (who was Ethiopian) to climb on top of the Kabba and give the call to prayer. Before Islam, the Kabba was a place of honor and a sanctuary for the Arabs but between the Muslims no one saw anything wrong in a black person stepping on it with his feet. This act by the Prophet ﷺ  1400 years ago was more of a statement of human dignity and an affirmation of Bilal deserving this honor to make the call to prayer because of his faith and knowledge regardless of his skin color.

One day the Prophet ﷺ  heard Abu Dharr saying to a man, “Oh son of a black woman!” The Prophet ﷺ  immediately rebuked him saying, “Are you insulting his mother?!? Verily you are a man in whom there is ignorance.” This statement by the Prophet ﷺ  is a strong statement implying that it is ignorance that leads to racial discrimination and there is a clear line between knowledge and ignorance in an Islamic civilization.

There was another story when the Muslims went to conquer Egypt and they were able to reach Babylon. The ruler, Al Muqawqis, was willing to negotiate with the Muslims and requested a delegation from them to be sent to him. Amr ibn Al Aas, the leader of the Muslims, sent a delegation of ten men and put Ubadah ibn  Al Samit as the delegation spokesperson and leader. Ubadah was a very tall, very black man and upon looking at him, Al Muqawqis, became scared of his blackness. “Keep this black man away from me and let someone else speak to me,” said Al Muqawqis. All of the men of the delegation said, “This black man is the best among us in wisdom and knowledge (taqwa); he is our leader and the best among us. We all refer to his opinion, and our leader (Amir) has issued instructions to him and not to us, and has commanded us not to go against what he says. “How can you be pleased that this black man is the best among you; rather he should be the least among you,” replied Al Muqawqis. “Not at all!” said the Muslims. “Even though he is black as you can see, he is one of the highest in position among us; he is one of the earliest Muslims, and one of the best in wisdom and knowledge. Blackness is not something that is despised among us.” So Al Muqawqis looked at Ubadah and said, “Come forward, O black man, and speak to me kindly, for I am afraid of your blackness and if you speak harshly you will make me even more afraid.” Ubadah, seeing that he scared al Muqawqis said to him, “Among our army are a thousand black men who are even more black than I am.”

Here is another story. Abdul Malik ibn Radwan made a declaration during Hajj that no one was allowed to issue any fatwas to the people except Ata ibn Abi Rabah who was the Imam of the people of Mecca, a scholar and faqih (jurist). Ata was also a black, one eyed, flat nosed, crippled man. Can you think of any other civilization throughout history that gave such an honor to a man despite his color and physical condition? This was over a thousand years ago and Ata was so honored, loved and revered and so many thousands of white men graduated from his teachings at his school.

Our history is flooded with stories like these. Of black people and those of other races who were scientists, literati, respected source of Islamic Jurisprudence, etc. Another example was Kafur Al Ikhshidi who was the black slave who ruled Egypt in the fourth century hijri and who was written about and praised by the poet Al Mutanabbi. Many people don’t know that Imam Muslim and Bukhari were not Arabs. Some say they were Persian others say they were from somewhere near Russia. But they were skilled in the Arabic language and were able to understand the Quran and Hadith and are till today respected sources of knowledge.

Its funny how today the most racial discrimination is found in the most advance and prominent countries. Even history is made to seem that it was the white man who did anything and everything. However, Islamic history gives credit where it is due and we are indebted to all people, blacks, whites, Arabs, Persians, Turks and all other races for helping our religion grow and prosper. And it is the only civilization that is also rich with prominent women from the beginning and to the present day.

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*Subhannallah, it is so wonderful that Islam used knowledge to elevate a person because no matter what, education and knowledge is something that you can give but no one can take away from you. It bothers me when people say that education is not important or when people don’t put any effort to increase their knowledge, whether in deen or dunya. There is a universal recognition of respect to those who are more knowledgeable. I encourage every Muslim to increase their knowledge of Islam. (And that includes learning Arabic. This has nothing to do with any race, Allah chose for Arabic to be the language of the Quran and all of these scholars who were of many different races throughout history were all fluent in Arabic and could understand the Quran and Hadith in its original context. It makes all the difference. A teacher that teaches Arabic gets the same amount of good deeds as one who teaches Islam or does dawa.) Don’t ever underestimate the power of education. Our religion emphasizes this point so much all throughout the Quran and Hadith and our society today is one that talks more and learns less. Everyone has an opinion but rarely do people truly speak from sound sources. People always complain about judging and discrimination but these are all problems that stem from ignorance as the Prophet ﷺ  said and these are issues that can be solved with increased knowledge and education.

 

What are your thoughts on this topic?

 

Sibāʻī, Muṣṭafá. Civilization of Faith: Solidarity , Tolerance and Equality in a Nation Built on Shari’ah : A Journey through Islamic History. Riyadh: International Islamic House, 2005. Print.

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Comments

  1. […] Islam is the most tolerant of other religions and its history proves that. It not only recognizes racial equality but it follows principles of religious tolerance-two concepts that did not exist in ancient […]

  2. […] Islam is the most tolerant of other religions and its history proves that. It not only recognizes racial equality but it follows principles of religious tolerance-two concepts that did not exist in ancient […]

  3. […] Islam is the most tolerant of other religions and its history proves that. It not only recognizes racial equality but it follows principles of religious tolerance-two concepts that did not exist in ancient […]

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