Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and the most honorable prayer and peace be upon the master of the first and the last, our master, Muhammad, the chosen, the trustworthy, and upon his pious and pure family, his faithful companions, and those who followed them in goodness until the Day of Judgment, may Allah Almighty be pleased with them all.
Racism is the belief that another person is less than human, because of skin color, language, customs, place of birth, religion or any factor that supposedly reveals the basic nature of that person. Islam being a religion of justice and equality, however, states that all human beings are equal, as they were born from one source as Allah says in the Qur’an, “O people, fear your Lord, who created you from a single soul. From it He created its spouse, and from both of them scattered many men and women. Fear Allah, by whom you ask one another, and (fear) the womb (lest you sever its relationship). Allah is ever watching over you” (surah 4, ayah 1). There is no difference therefore, in Islam, between an Arab and non-Arab, except in piety and closeness to Allah. Since Prophet Muhammed peace be upon him was an Arab, and people may think that Arabs are superiors to others, he declared it clearly saying: “There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a white over a black or a black over a white except by piety, people are from Adam, and Adam was created from dust.” (sharh al-tahawiyyah, 361). There is also no room in Islam for positions, and there is no room in Islam for fanaticism of race and lineage, or of homeland or place of birth, or of language or dialect, or of gender, or of color, be it white, black or red. These diversities were made by Allah for one purpose only, to know each other, as Allah says in the Qur’an, “People, we have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you might know one another. The noblest of you before Allah is the most righteous of you. Allah is the Knower, the Aware” (Surah 49, ayah 13)
Even when there were slaves in the beginning of Islam, the Prophet, peace be upon him, urged Muslims to free them and declared that they are our brothers. Once a companion of the Prophet named Ma’rur Bin Suwaid said, ‘We went to Abu Dharr (Ghifari) (who was also a famous companion of the Prophet, peace be upon him), in Rabadha (a small city to the east of Medina) and Abu Dharr had a mantle over him, and his slave had one like it. We said: Abu Dharr, had you joined them together, it would have been a complete garment (meaning that he had deprived his slave of a full garment). Thereupon he said: there was an altercation between me and one of the persons among my brothers. His mother was a non-Arab. I reproached him for his mother. He complained against me to Allah’s Apostle, peace be upon him. As I met Allah’s Apostle peace be upon him he said: Abu Dharr, you are a person who still has (in him the remnants) of the jahiliyyah (days of Ignorance). Thereupon I said: Allah’s Messenger, he who abuses (other) persons, they abuse (in return) his father and mother. He (the Holy Prophet) said: Abu Dharr, you are a person who still has (the remnants) of Ignorance in him, they (your servants and slaves) are your brothers. Allah has put them in your care, so feed them with what you eat, clothe them with what you wear and do not burden them beyond their capacities; but if you burden them (with an unbearable burden), then help them (by sharing their extra burden) (sahih Muslim, book 27, hadith 60).
Islam also teaches us that engaging in the feeling of superiority is evil, as it was the first sin in creation committed by Iblis, or Satan. Allah says in the Qur’an, “We created you, then We shaped you, then We said to the angels: ‘Prostrate yourselves before Adam. ‘ They all prostrated themselves except Iblis. He was not among the prostrated. He (Allah) asked: ‘What prevented you to prostrate, when I commanded you? ‘ ‘I am better than he, ‘ he replied. ‘You created me of fire and You created him of clay. He (Allah) said: ‘Descend from it! This is no place for you to be arrogant. Begone, you are of the humiliated” (surah 7, ayah 11-13).
Pride begets arrogance. Arrogance is the inevitable result of supremacy, and arrogance is regarded is the sin which prevents anyone from entering Paradise for we should take our pride in our creator, not ourselves. Prophet Muhammed peace be upon him said, “He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enter Paradise” (sahih Muslim, book 1, hadith 173). In another hadith, Prophet Muhammed peace upon him said, “Allah, the Exalted, says: ‘Ultimate honor is My Izar (wrapper) and Pride is My Cloak. Whoever vies with Me regarding one of them, shall be tormented” (Riyadh al-salihin, 617). In this figurative hadith we clearly see that these two attributes, mainly ultimate honor and pride, are attributes of Allah, and no one ever should claim to have these attributes. Let us now examine some practices which prove that pride and arrogance were not encouraged in the Islamic community.
Ali bin Abi Talib, the second Caliph who was then the Commander of the Faithful (the head of the state), had a dispute with a Jew over a shield, which Ali bin Abi Talib claimed was his shield and that he had lost it at night, so they appealed to Judge Shuraih, who said: “O Commander of the Faithful, is there any evidence?” He said: “Yes, al-Hasan, my son testifies that the shield is my shield.” Shurayh said: “O Commander of the Faithful, the testimony of a son is not permissible.” Ali said: “Glory be to God, a man from the people of Paradise whose testimony is not permissible?” Judge Shuriah answered him, “O Commander of the Faithful, that is in the hereafter. As for this world, it is not permissible for a son to testify on behalf of his father.” Ali who did not resort to pride, despite his exalted position humbled himself and said, “You are right, the shield is for the Jew.” The effect of this humility in accepting the judge’s words so moved the Jew that he in turn expressed his amazement with the justice in Islam: “The Commander of the Faithful presented me to his judge, and his judge will judge him! I bear witness that this religion is true, and I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and that the shield is your shield, O Commander of the Faithful, it fell from you at night.” Even though his shield was rightfully returned to him, the Commander of the Faithful again humbled himself and gave him (the converted Jew) the shield as a gift. This man then served in the army of Ali Bin Abi Talib and was killed when Ali was fighting the Khawarij in Nahrawan. (al-sunan al-kubra, 10-136).
Another proof that slavery does not belong in Islam is the hadith concerning a Copt from Egypt who came to Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab (the second Caliph), may Allah be pleased with him, in Medina and said to him, “Oh Caliph, we rode horses in Egypt, and there was my horse and the mare of Muhammad bin Amr bin Al-Aas your ruler of Egypt. When my horse outran his horse and people witnessed it, he started hitting me with a whip and saying: Take it, and I am the son of the most generous”. When Omar Ibn Al-Khattab heard the story, he got angry and sent for Amr Ibn Al-Aas and his son Muhammad, and when they came before him, he called to the Copt and said to him: “Here, take my staff and hit ‘the son of the most generous’ with it.” So, he beat him until he recovered and was satisfied, then Omar said to him, “Now hit his father, for I swear by Allah, he did not hit you except by virtue of his authority”, but the Copt said to him, “O Caliph, I have done justice to myself and have hit the one who hit me, and I have no need for anything else.” Omar Bin al-Khattab then turned to Amr and said his famous saying: “O Amr, when did you enslave people when their mothers gave birth to them free?” (futuh Masr wal-Maghrib). As we can see our sacred scriptures teach us to be humble before Allah who is the only one to be exalted and to respect the freedom of all.
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all creations