Islamic Perspective (40th WRC)

Combating Racism

Islamic Perspective
by Imam Nabil Ahmad Mirza
Missionary Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Montreal

 

Abstract of Theme Speech

In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

Assalamo Alaikum, may the peace and blessings of God be upon you all.

Brought up in the United States; Malcom X had seen and suffered from the systemic racism against African American all his life. Soon he became a prominent leader of the black separatist movement. He believed that white people could never be allies of black people in their struggle for Justice. Yet when he went to Hajj (the muslim pilgrimage), his perspective on racism changed.

He writes in his famous letter from Mecca :

“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 (brothers). Because their belief in one God had removed the “white “from their minds, the “white” from their behavior, and the “white” from their attitude.

Here what he means by “white” is the racism he strove against in his life. The racism that was prevalent in his day.

He writes “I could see from this, that perhaps if white American could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could in reality accept the Oneness of Man – and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their “differences” in color.

So the wisdom and the idea that God is one is a statement of the fundamental nature of humanity.

If God is one, then we all share the same origin and no one can claim superiority over another.

This statement finds its greatest manifestation in the last sermon of the prophet Muhammad delivered on the 6th march 632 CE where he said:
“You are all brothers and are all equal. None of you can claim any privilege or any superiority over any other. An Arab is not to be preferred to a non-Arab, nor is a non- Arab to be preferred to an Arab; nor is a white man to be preferred to a coloured one, or a coloured one to a white, except on the basis of righteousness” Hanbal V, p. 411

Islam is hence the religion of brotherhood, par excellence. It uproots the very notion of racism.

The concept of Tawhid in Islam, the Oneness of God also establishes that God has no body, shape or form. As god says Himself in Chapter 112 that “There is nothing like unto Him.”

The moment God manifest himself in any shape, form or human being, then He is not God. Why? Because if God for example chooses to manifest Himself as a human being then He will have to choose a colour and that colour will automatically be considered superior than others. Hence, this will become the prime cause for racism to flourish.

Islam on the other hand presents a God who is the one and only, the independent and besought of all. He begets not, nor He is begotten. And There is nothing like unto Him. (Chapter 112)

The Holy Quran states further :

“O mankind, 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 honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware.”(49:14)


We are certainly different in terms of how we look, how we speak or in terms of our different nationalities or our social status but these differences are not a means of superiority neither inferiority.

“Almighty God has made it clear in this verse that our nationality and ethnic background acts as a means of identity. They do not entitle or validate any form of superiority of any kind.”
The only criteria for superiority is righteousness.

And righteousness is something which only God can evaluate. It is above the realm of any human being to know how pious or sincere another person is.

God then goes even further and says clearly :

“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colours. In that surely are Signs for those who possess knowledge.” (30:23)

The diversity of tongues and colours have been called signs of God. Which means that all the different languages and different skin colors are to be respected at all cost. If we mock people based on how they speak or how they look, we will be rejecting the signs of God.

But Islam did not only rely on verbal declarations but also implemented practical steps such as Salat, the Islamic prayer.

It doesn’t matter if you are in a mosque in America, Australia, Canada, Pakistan or any part of the world for that matter. If there are multiple nationalities, they will all be standing in one row. There won’t be any distinction that the rich should be in the first and the middle class in the second and the poor in the last one. Everybody will stand in the same row. And it could also be that the boss and the worker are standing together or that the worker is in the first row and the boss is in the last one or that the guy who works for you is leading the prayer and you are praying behind him.

Such is the beauty of the Islamic prayer that removes all sorts of racism and practically reminds every believer five times a day. 

Muhammad (pbuh) the prophet of Islam exemplified these teachings in his very life.

Nowadays, we hear many hurtful comments with regards to immigrants. We often call them the foreigner, the outsider. But let me show you, how Muhammad (pbuh) took great care of them.

Hazrat Salman the Persian : a non-Arab companion Muhammad (pbuh)

Majority of the Sahaba were Arabs, Hazrat Salman, the Persian (ra) was was an outsider, a foreigner, an immigrant. During the battle of the trench, Muslims dig a trench which was not in their habits and this suggestion and recommendation was given by him. When they decided to dig the trench, the holy prophet (pbuh) for every 40 meters, made groups of ten companions to dig the trench in that area and he organised the groups according to families. Salman the Persian needed also to be put in a team. Now the issue came up as to where is Salman going to go to. Everyone wanted him to be part of their families but Muhammad (pbuh) said that Salman is part of my family and that he will dig with my family members.

That’s the attitude Muhammad (pbuh) taught us.

Regardless of your social status Muhammad (pbuh) gave high positions to many of his companions.

Hazrat Usama (ra) a freed slave, was made a leader and commander of an army under whom many prominent companions were serving.

Hazrat Bilal ibn Rabah Bilal was a black slave from Habasha, Modern day Ethiopia. Once freed, the Prophet Muhammad appointed him to serve the mosque by using his melodious voice to call the believers to prayer.

He was a black man and for some, his blackness made him unfit for such an honor. On one occasion a companion of the prophet, a man named Abu Dhar disparagingly said to Bilal “you son of a black woman”.
Muhammad swiftly rebuked him by saying “ Are you taunting him about his black mother? There is still some influence of ignorance in you.
The ignorance the prophet identified was rooted in the misguided view that a person’s race reflect his or her moral character or social status

Abu Dhar after being rebuked by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) went looking for Bilal, he put his head on the ground and said to Bilal. O Bilal, I am not going to lift my head until you don’t step on me. Bilal very lovingly kissed his forehead and said how can I step on a head which only bows down to God.

Islam is hence a religion which completely rejects the very notion of racism.

At the end I finish with an extract of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, The Promised Messiah (as) Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) :
“My countrymen, a religion which does not inculcate universal compassion is no religion at all. Similarly, a human being without the faculty of compassion is no human at all. Our God has never discriminated between one people and another. This is illustrated by the fact that all the potentials and capabilities which have been granted to the Aryans have also been granted to the races inhabiting Arabia, Persia, Syria, China, Japan, Europe and America.

 


 


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