Friday, February 27, 2009

Racial Equality

Racial Equality

Source: Jamiatul Ulama (KZN) & Jami'yyatul Ulama Canada (CCMT)

Throughout history mankind has always been plagued with problems and arguments based on the principles of social classification. We have always been trying to find a concrete platform on which to base social classification and merit. Many have opted for lineage and some for financial standing to classify people into different brackets. Perhaps the most hurtful and shameless has been the common tendency to classify people on the basis of colour or race with one race being regarded as superior to the other. In essence, the overriding point of the matter is that whatever means of social classification and distinction were derived by man, they lead to nothing but strife, hatred and generations of bitter conflict.

Such tendency towards discrimination was also very prevalent amongst the Arabs in the time of Rasulullah (saw). The blacks were generally regarded as inferior and fit only to be slaves, while social pride and standing based on which tribe or lineage an individual belonged to was something synonymous with the Arabs who very often made such fickle and petty grounds the basis for years of bloodshed and killing.

Islam being the only code of conduct and mode of lifestyle which would enable mankind to exist in perfect harmony and peace has beautifully addressed this burning issue and thus emancipated mankind from the shackles of racial discrimination.

In order to fully understand the Islamic viewpoint on this issue, let us briefly reflect on one or two incidents of the period of Rasulullah (saw). After the conquest of Makkah, Rasulullah (saw) gave Hadhrat Bilal (RA) the singular honour of climbing onto the Kaabah and calling out the Adhaan for the first time. Till Qiyaamat nobody else was ever going to be given the distinction of being allowed to stand on the roof of the Kaabah to call out the Adhaan. The choice of an individual who was black and a former slave for this position of tremendous merit and prestige was like a slap in the face for the disbelievers of Makkah, in whom the fire of racial and class discrimination burned so strongly. It was not surprising that one of them passed the comment, 'I offer thanks to Allah Taãla that my father passed away without having to witness this disgraceful day.' Harith bin Hishaam retorted, 'Could not Muhammad (saw) find anybody else besides this black crow to call out the Adhaan?' Such was the divine rejection of such ignorance that Jibraaeel (AS) was sent to the Prophet (saw) with the following revelation:

'O People! Verily We have created you from a man and woman and we made you into various tribes and creeds for the purpose of mutual recognition (not discrimination and racial pride). Verily the most prestigious and honoured amongst you is he who fears Allah Taãla most. Verily Allah Taãla is all Knowing. All Aware' (Surah 49 : 13)

On that same day, having completed his Tawaaf, Rasulullah (saw) addressed the people saying, 'O People! Allah Taãla has abolished all forms of discrimination based on lineage or creed, etc. There are only two categories and classes of men. A pious and God-fearing individual is honoured in the sight of Allah Taãla while a disobedient and sinful individual is debased and valueless in the sight of Allah Taãla.' Thereafter he recited the abovementioned verse clearly illustrating the Islamic concept that the only basis of distinction and honour is the piety of an individual. (Tirmidhi; Baghawi)

So firmly was this concept entrenched practically into the Sahaaba (RA) that once Rasulullah (saw) overheard Abu Dharr (RA) addressing a black Sahaabi with whom he was arguing as 'O son of a black slave'. He was severely rebuked and reprimanded by Rasulullah (saw) who said to him, 'You are a person in whom the remnants of ignorance still remain.' The lives of Sahaaba are replete with incidents enunciating the beautiful principles and guidelines given by Islam on this matter. In essence, all men have originated from Aadam (AS) who was himself made from sand. Hence, how can these frivolous things ever form the basis of social distinction?

This concept is further supported by the Hadith of Rasulullah (saw), wherein it is reported, 'No Arab holds greater esteem over a non-Arab; nor a Black person over a red person; except on the grounds of the one having greater Taqwa than the other.' (Tirmidhi)


Cooperation and solidarity among humans. Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an: “Cooperate in (what is) virtue and piety but not in (what is) sin and aggression”. (Al-Ma’idah: 2)

Humility and humbleness. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) upon him says: “Allah has revealed to me (to tell you that) you should humble yourselves until none wrongs none and none takes pride over none”. (Saheeh Muslim)

Mercy and compassion toward humans. The Prophet (pbuh) says: “He who has no mercy on humans, Allah has no mercy on him.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

Prohibition of injustice and aggression.
Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an: “And do not commit aggression for Allah loves not the aggressors.”

Prohibition of envy and hatred.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) says: “Do not hate each other, do not envy each other, do not turn your back (in hostility) to each other, do not sever ties between you, and be, o servants of Allah, brothers.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

Prohibition of ridicule, contempt, backbiting, and offensive name-calling.
Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an: “O you who believe, let not some men among you laugh at others; it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor let some women laugh at others; it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other. Nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames; ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed. And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong.” (Al-Hujurat: 11)

Prohibition of arrogance, self-admiration and showing off. Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an: “And swell not your cheek (for pride) at men. Nor walk in insolence through the earth: for Allah loves not any arrogant boaster.” (Luqman: 18)

Source: Jamiatul Ulama (KZN) & Jami'yyatul Ulama Canada (CCMT)

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