What’s Islam’s Viewpoint of Discrimination?

16 June, 2020
Q As-salamu `alaykum. Why don't foreign sisters give or return salam (saying As-Salamu `Alaykum) to American sisters? Do the foreign sisters feel that black women are beneath them? Is that the reason why they don't return the salam? What’s Islam’s viewpoint of discrimination?


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- Discrimination among people on account of their color, race, etc. has become widespread these days, and unfortunately it has affected the Muslim Ummah.

2- Contrary to the principles and teachings of Islam, people have adopted certain grounds for distinction and discrimination. This is, in fact, in sheer contradiction to Islam and its teachings.

3- Discrimination is a form of dehumanization, an act that can never be tolerated in any divine religion. It’s completely abhorred by Islam for it disunites Muslims and hinders them from working together to achieve the goals of Islam.

4- Whoever does not return the salam to the Muslim is really sinful.

In response to your question, Sheikh Hamed Al-Ali, Instructor of Islamic Heritage at the Faculty of Education, Kuwait and Imam of Dahiat As-Sabahiyya Mosque, states:

What you have mentioned in your question is a sheer ignorance of Islam and is just a characteristic of the Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic Period). One of the basic principles of Islam is to unite people under one banner; that is why all Muslims are considered as brothers and sisters.

Islam does not make any distinction between an Arab and non-Arab; the only difference between people is due to their level of taqwa (consciousness of Almighty Allah) and good conduct. Allah Most High says: {Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.} (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

One of the great companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), Salman al-Farisi (may Allah be pleased with him), was better than the whole earth filled with people like Abu Lahab the Prophet’s uncle, yet Salman was Persian.

Also, when Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) called a black Muslim, “O son of the black woman”, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) rebuked him saying: “You are a man who still has characteristics of the Jahiliyyah.” (Muslim)

It is even obligatory to return the salam to the Jews if they said it clearly and with no ambiguity. Therefore, whoever does not return the salam to the Muslim is really sinful.

Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad said: “Whoever has an atom of pride in his heart will not enter Paradise.” (Muslim)

Pride means boastfulness, rejecting the truth, and looking down on people. So, anyone who looks down on the American Muslim sisters and brothers because they are black has pride in his/her heart, which will prevent him/her from entering Paradise unless he/she repents and regrets the sin he/she is committing.

Furthermore, whoever does this is indeed giving a negative and terrible impression about Islam, in addition to the sin of not returning the salam.

Shedding more light on the issue, Dr. Su`ad Salih, Professor of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) at Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt, adds:

Islam is a religion of unity; it unifies its followers under one nation. Allah the Almighty says: {You are the best community that has been raised up for mankind. You enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency; and you believe in Allah.} (Aal Imran 3:110)

Allah the Almighty has made the criterion of distinction among people in the Hereafter according to their degree in consciousness of Almighty Allah. Allah Most High says: {Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.} (Al-Hujuraat 49:13)

And the Prophet stressed this fact by saying: “There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab except due to their consciousness of Allah; and people are as equal as the teeth of a comb.”

Therefore, making discrimination and distinction among people on account of their color, race, etc. has no basis in Islam. It leads to the disintegration and disunity of the Ummah. It also contradicts the command of Allah the Almighty to Muslims in the Quran: “And hold fast by the covenant of Allah all together and be not disunited.” (Aal Imran 3:103)

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Almighty Allah knows best.

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

About Dr. Su`ad Salih
Professor of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) at Al-Azhar University