What’s Islam’s View of Racism?

08 August, 2020
Q Dear scholars, as-salamu `alaykum. As we see nowadays various forms of racism being displayed worldwide, especially in Western countries, despite of the hoax claim of being the advocates of democracy. My question is: What does Islam say about racism?

Answer

Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.


In this fatwa:

1- It is saddening to hear and witness all forms of racism widespread all over the world, posing a flagrant violation to all the norms and principles that call mankind to respect each other, and to let love and mutual altruism prevail in the society.

2- The Quran has abolished racism in a clear-cut categorical manner.

3- Islam teaches that every member of human race has been accorded honor and dignity by Allah Almighty.

4- Islam stressed the absolute unity of the human race.

5- Prophet Muhammad had among his closest Companions Salman the Persian, Suhaib the Roman, and Bilal the Ethiopian.


Elaborating more on this issue, we would like to cite for you the following:

What does ‘Racism’ mean?

The definition of racism in Webster’s New World Dictionary is: ‘A doctrine or teaching without scientific support, that claims to find racial differences in character, intelligence, etc., that asserts the superiority of one race over another or others, and that seeks to maintain the supposed purity of a race or races. It also includes any program or practice of racial discrimination or segregation based on such beliefs.’

As a matter of fact, when some nations practiced racism this only brought about destruction and war. Take the Nazi racism and what followed it. In fact, it destroyed the claimants of superiority, namely the Nazis in the first place.

What Islam has to say about racism

The world today still suffers from racism, which continues to exist on different human levels. Let us now see what Islam has to say on this issue and how it solved it for good.

The Glorious Quran has abolished racism in a clear-cut categorical manner. In Surat Al-Hujrat, we read: {O mankind! We have created you from a single male and female and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other. The most honorable of you in the sight of Allah are surety the righteous.} (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

Allah also says in the Quran: {O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women.} (An-Nisa 4:1)

Unity of human race

According to these Quranic verses, Islam stressed the absolute unity in variety of the human race.

The message of Islam to the world is that every member of human race has been accorded honor and dignity by Allah Almighty Who says in the Quran:

{Verily we have honoured the Children of Adam. We carry them on the land and the sea, and have made provision of good things for them, and have preferred them above many of those whom We created with a marked preferment.} (Al-Isra 17:70)

In his famous Farewell Pilgrimage sermon, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) declared: “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 virtue of his piety.” 

In another hadith, he said: “Allah does not look at your images or your colors but He looks at your hearts (intentions) and your deeds.” (Muslim)

How the Prophet Honored His Ex-Slave Companions

In practice, Prophet Muhammad had among his closest Companions Salman the Persian, Suhaib the Roman, and Bilal the Ethiopian. Two of the three Companions were ex-slaves who were liberated after embracing Islam, namely Salman and Bilal.

Despite this, and in spite of the black complexion of Bilal, he was chosen by the Prophet as the first muezzin to prayer, a position coveted by many.

As a matter of fact, senior Companions like Abu Bakr and Umar used to call Bilal ‘our master’, and the Prophet himself used to say: ‘Salman is a member of our family.’ (Majma al-Zawaid)

It was not, however, an easy task to cancel racism in Islam. But every time it rose its head, the Prophet used to give the Muslims an important lesson.

Thus, when his Arab Companion Abu Dharr called Bilal ‘son of the black woman’, the Prophet got angry and told him: ‘You are a man who has ignorance in him.’ Abu Dharr felt such a great remorse that he put his cheek on the ground and asked Bilal to tread on his other cheek if he’d like to.

Time and again the Prophet used to stress the unity of the human race in Islam. Suffice it to mention one hadith. The Prophet once said: ‘Listen and obey even if your ruler was an Ethiopian slave whose head looks like a raisin.’ 

On another occasion when al-Aws and al-Khazraj, the two main Muslim tribes of Madinah were about to fight each other as they used to do before Islam, the Prophet rebuked them saying: ‘Do you still cultivate the call to ignorance even though I am in your midst?’ Hearing this, they restored their solid unity and fraternity.

This is how Islam cancelled racism in theory and practice. It set the best example for humanity to follow.”

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.