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Islamic Q and A ( 21 Oct 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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What does Islam say about Racism, Prejudice and Discrimination?

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

21 October 2020

There is no justification for racism in Islam. All human beings are created equal in their basic humanity and have the shared lineage and dignity of Allah’s creation. Discrimination directed to a person due to his or her race, sex, colour, class, region or language is strongly forbidden in Islam. Allah Almighty says,

The Quran accords all human beings with equal honour.

“Certainly, 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 conferred upon them an appropriate excellence over most of those whom We have created” (Quran: 17:70)

This verse implies that all the Children of Adam are honourable. It is an undeniable truth for most religious people that all human beings are the Children of Adam (peace be upon him). This is also a fact that all Muslims and Non-Muslims are included in the list of human beings. All this leads to the general Muslim belief that, in accordance with the Quran, both Muslims and non-Muslims, as human beings, are equally respectable.

God Almighty has honoured all the human beings by blessing them with numerous attributes and authority over other creatures. The attributes given uniquely to human beings include their powers of intellect, insight into good and evil, ability to think and know God Almighty, extraordinary knowledge and other worldly blessings that the animals or other creatures have not been similarly blessed with.

Allah Almighty says,

“O mankind! Fear your Lord Who created you from a single person, and from him He created his mate, and from them both He created men and women” (4:1)

The phrase ‘fear your Lord’ is a divine call directed to all human beings. The word ‘Ittaqu’ translated here as ‘fear’ means ‘fear acting against your Lord’.  Allah is the Lord Who created all human beings from a single soul, that is the Prophet (Adam peace be upon him) and made for human beings ‘mates from men and women’. This is how He Almighty tied all human beings in a strong bond of brotherhood.

This verse indicates a progression in human creation from singularity to duality and then to multiplicity of men and women. This divine message could also be used to consolidate brotherly and sisterly relationship between all human beings and discourage  boasting about one’s race, colour, caste, or ancestral legacy, as all of them are ultimately of common parentage. This bond of brotherhood also requires that rights of humanity—of mutual sympathy and collective goodness—be fully maintained regardless of racism.

The beloved Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said,

“O Mankind! Your Lord is One. Your father is one. All of you belong to Adam (peace be upon him) who is created of soil. Truly the most honourable person in the Sight of your Lord, the Almighty Allah, is the most pious among you. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab. There is no superiority for a red (race) person over a white person. Likewise there is no superiority of a white over a red (race) person, except for the piety and God-consciousness” (Hadith reported by Ahmad, No 411)

According to Islam, all human beings have one original source, so how can some exploit others by claiming superiority or special privileges on the basis of racism? False pride in lineage and social status is extremely prohibited in Islam. The Messenger of Islam (peace be upon him) said,

“The Almighty Allah has removed the false pride and arrogance which was practiced in the pre-Islamic period wherein individuals took false pride in their ancestors. All mankind belongs to Adam (peace be upon him). And Adam is created of soil.” (Hadith reported by Dawood, No 5116)

Islamic injunctions eradicate any misguided basis of racism. For example, one of the Sahaba (the companions of the Prophet) i.e. Abu Dharr, once said to a black slave, “O the son of the black lady!’ Upon hearing this, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) turned to Abu Dharr and said to him,

“Are you insulting this man with his mother? Truly, you possess some of the qualities of the era of Ignorance (pre-Islamic times). That time is finished and over. There is no virtue or merit for the son of the white woman over the son of the black woman, except through piety and righteousness, or by good deeds and actions.” (Hadith reported by Imam Ahmad 4/145)

It is reported that Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) upon hearing the comment of the Prophet (peace be upon him), put his head down on the ground in humility for the slave to come and step with his foot on his head, as an expiation for his misdeed, although the Prophet did not command him to do so. Hazrat Abu Dharr wanted to discipline himself by humiliating himself in this way so that he would never repeat such a sin in the future.

All human beings in Islam are completely equal as humans before Allah. They are equal in terms of the obligation to perform various worships to Allah. The only difference between people is on the basis of deed they perform, as indicated in several verses and Ahadith that the most noble is the most righteous and most sincere and steadfast in worship and good deeds. For example, Allah states in the holy Quran:

“Verily the most honoured of you in the Sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you” (49:13).

 “Whoever works righteousness benefits his own soul; whoever works evil, it is against his own soul: nor is Your Lord ever unjust (in the least) to His slaves.” (41:46).

The Prophet of Islam said,

“Allah does not look at your bodies and your colours but at your acts and your hearts (i.e. outward deeds and inward intentions and sincerity). (Hadith reported by Imam Muslim in his Sahih)

 The afore-mentioned proofs must be enough to derive the idea that Islam does not approve racism. On the contrary, to this, Islam encourages all human beings to remember their bond of brotherhood in terms of fulfilling one another’s rights and not to develop any prejudice and distinction on the basis of race, class and caste.


A regular Columnist with, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator.


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