Islam is against racism and bigotry

July 25, 2013

No virtue in skin color, only righteousness 2

By Abu Amina Elias

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Islam is against all forms of racism and bigotry. Racism is the belief that one race is superior to another, or one color of skin is superior to another, or the people of one country are superior to another. Such beliefs are the characteristic of pre-Islamic ignorance (jahiliyyah). In Islam, we believe all races are equal to Allah and the only characteristic that makes someone superior to another is righteousness (taqwa).

Allah has dignified all of the children of Adam, all human beings and all races in the world.

Allah said:

وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ وَحَمَلْنَاهُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَرَزَقْنَاهُم مِّنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَفَضَّلْنَاهُمْ عَلَىٰ كَثِيرٍ مِّمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا تَفْضِيلًا

We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with definite preference.

Surat Al-Isra 17:70

Allah created different races and tribes so that different peoples would recognize each other and learn from each other, not so that the races would fight each other.

Allah said:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

O people, We have created you male and female and made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most noble of you to Allah is the most righteous of you. Verily, Allah is knowing and aware.

Surat Al-Hujurat 49:13

In fact, Allah created different skin colors and languages as a sign of His creative power.

Allah said:

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ خَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافُ أَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَأَلْوَانِكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّلْعَالِمِينَ

Among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Verily, in that are signs for people of knowledge.

Surat Ar-Rum 30:22

Abu Musa reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى خَلَقَ آدَمَ مِنْ قَبْضَةٍ قَبَضَهَا مِنْ جَمِيعِ الْأَرْضِ فَجَاءَ بَنُو آدَمَ عَلَى قَدْرِ الْأَرْضِ فَجَاءَ مِنْهُمْ الْأَحْمَرُ وَالْأَبْيَضُ وَالْأَسْوَدُ وَبَيْنَ ذَلِكَ وَالسَّهْلُ وَالْحَزْنُ وَالْخَبِيثُ وَالطَّيِّبُ

Verily, Allah the Exalted created Adam from a handful which He took from the earth, so the children of Adam come in accordance with the earth. Some come with red skin, white skin, or black skin and whatever is in between: thin, thick, dirty, and clean.

Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2955, Grade: Sahih

Righteousness is the only quality that makes someone virtuous in the sight of Allah, not race or skin color or lineage or country. This teaching against racism was delivered by the Prophet during his farewell sermon, indicating how important he believed it was to the message of Islam.

Abu Nadrah reported: I heard the farewell sermon of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and he said:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَلَا إِنَّ رَبَّكُمْ وَاحِدٌ وَإِنَّ أَبَاكُمْ وَاحِدٌ أَلَا لَا فَضْلَ لِعَرَبِيٍّ عَلَى أَعْجَمِيٍّ وَلَا لِعَجَمِيٍّ عَلَى عَرَبِيٍّ وَلَا لِأَحْمَرَ عَلَى أَسْوَدَ وَلَا أَسْوَدَ عَلَى أَحْمَرَ إِلَّا بِالتَّقْوَى أَبَلَّغْتُ

O people, your Lord is one and your father Adam is one. There is no virtue of an Arab over a foreigner nor a foreigner over an Arab, and neither white skin over black skin nor black skin over white skin, except by righteousness. Have I not delivered the message?

Source: Musnad Ahmad 22978, Grade: Sahih

Uqbah ibn Amir reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَيْسَ لأَحَدٍ عَلَى أَحَدٍ فَضْلٌ إِلا بِالدِّينِ أَوْ عَمَلٍ صَالِحٍ حَسْبُ الرَّجُلِ أَنْ يَكُونَ فَاحِشًا بَذِيًّا بَخِيلا جَبَانًا

No one is better than anyone else except by religion or good deeds. It is sufficient evil for a man to be profane, vulgar, greedy, or cowardly.

Source: Shu’b al-Iman 4767, Grade: Sahih

Abu Dharr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

انْظُرْ فَإِنَّكَ لَيْسَ بِخَيْرٍ مِنْ أَحْمَرَ وَلَا أَسْوَدَ إِلَّا أَنْ تَفْضُلَهُ بِتَقْوَى

Behold! Verily, there is no good in red skin or black skin, but rather only by virtue of righteousness.

Source: Musnad Ahmad 20885, Grade: Hasan

Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

فَيَقُولُ الرَّجُلُ لِلرَّجُلِ أَنَا أَكْرَمُ مِنْكَ ، فَلَيْسَ أَحَدٌ أَكْرَمَ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلا بِتَقْوَى اللَّهِ

A man might say to another man that I am more noble than you, yet no one is made noble except by the fear of Allah.

Source: al-Adab al-Mufrad 898, Grade: Sahih

The Prophet would rebuke his companions if they ever denigrated people because of their race.

Abu Umamah reported: Abu Dharr reproached Bilal about his mother, saying, “O son of a black woman!” Bilal went to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and he told him what he said. The Prophet became angry and then Abu Dharr came, although he was unaware of what Bilal told him. The Prophet turned away from him and Abu Dharr asked, “O Messenger of Allah, have you turned away because of something you have been told?” The Prophet said:

أَنْتَ الَّذِي تُعَيِّرُ بِلالا بِأُمِّهِ وَالَّذِي أَنْزَلَ الْكِتَابَ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ مَا لأَحَدٍ عَلَيَّ فَضْلٌ إِلا بِعَمَلٍ إِنْ أَنْتُمْ إِلا كَطَفِّ الصَّاعِ

Have you reproached Bilal about his mother? By the one who revealed the Book to Muhammad, none is more virtuous over another except by righteous deeds. You have none but an insignificant amount.

Source: Shu’b al-Iman 4760, Grade: Sahih

Boasting about lineage and ancestors is forbidden in Islam, since all people are descended from Adam and his wife. The only criterion of superiority is faith and righteous deeds.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

 إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَذْهَبَ عَنْكُمْ عُبِّيَّةَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ وَفَخْرَهَا بِالْآبَاءِ إِنَّمَا هُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ تَقِيٌّ وَفَاجِرٌ شَقِيٌّ النَّاسُ كُلُّهُمْ بَنُو آدَمَ وَآدَمُ خُلِقَ مِنْ تُرَابٍ

Verily, Allah has removed from you the pride of the time of ignorance with its boasting of ancestors. Verily, one is only a righteous believer or a miserable sinner. All of the people are the children of Adam, and Adam was created from dust.

Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 3955, Grade: Sahih

In another narration, the Prophet said:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَذْهَبَ عَنْكُمْ عُبِّيَّةَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ وَتَعَاظُمَهَا بِآبَائِهَا فَالنَّاسُ رَجُلَانِ بَرٌّ تَقِيٌّ كَرِيمٌ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَفَاجِرٌ شَقِيٌّ هَيِّنٌ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَالنَّاسُ بَنُو آدَمَ وَخَلَقَ اللَّهُ آدَمَ مِنْ تُرَابٍ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ

O people, Allah has removed the slogans of ignorance from you and the exaltation of its forefathers. The people are only two kinds: either a righteous, Godfearing believer dignified to Allah, or a wicked, miserable sinner insignificant to Allah. The people are all the children of Adam and Adam was created from dust. Allah said: O people, We have created you male and female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most noble to Allah is the most righteous of you. (49:13)

Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 3270, Grade: Sahih

Likewise, tribalism (al-asabiyyah) is forbidden in Islam, which is the fanatical adherence to ethnic loyalty even when it leads to oppression and injustice. The Prophet disavowed himself and Islam from anyone who acts according to the ideologies of tribalism.

Jubair ibn Mut’im reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَيْسَ مِنَّا مَنْ دَعَا إِلَى عَصَبِيَّةٍ وَلَيْسَ مِنَّا مَنْ قَاتَلَ عَلَى عَصَبِيَّةٍ وَلَيْسَ مِنَّا مَنْ مَاتَ عَلَى عَصَبِيَّةٍ

He is not one of us who calls to tribalism. He is not one of us who fights for the sake of tribalism. He is not one of us who dies following the way of tribalism.

Source: Sunan Abu Dawud 5102, Grade: Hasan

Malcolm X, also known as Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was a famous African-American activist who struggled with the problem of race in America. At first, he embraced a path of extremism in his confrontation with white supremacy, but his heart changed when he performed his Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. In Mecca, he saw white, black, red, and all kinds of people joining the Hajj as one brotherhood. He wrote back to his friends in Harlem, saying:

America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white, but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.

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, while 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 the words and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.

We were truly all the same, because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude. I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man, and cease to measure and hinder and harm others in terms of their differences in color.

Source: Malcolm X’s Letter from Mecca

Muslims must spread the message of Islam to the peoples of the earth who still suffer from racism and tribal bigotry. Even among some Muslims, the scourge of racism exists and causes harm among communities. The only way to completely eradicate racism is to embrace the oneness of Allah (tawheed) and to accept its logical conclusion, the oneness of humanity.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.