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Racism Has No Place in a Civilized Society

Selasa, 09 Juni 2020 | 20.19 WIB Last Updated 2020-06-09T13:19:25Z



By Imam Shamsi Ali* 

THE KILLING of George Floyd and some others before him by the use of excessive force by the police officers uncovered the very sickness of our society, which I call an original sin of this nation. 

Racism is in fact the very first crime committed in the history of mankind. It reminds us of the rejection of Iblis (devil) who is considered the master of all evils to prostrate to Adam to respect when he was commanded to do so by the Almighty. 

In the Holy Quran, Ch. 38: 71-76 Allah said: 

“Why thy Lord say unto the angels: Lo I am about to create a mortal out of mire.  And when I have fashioned him and breath into him of my spirit, then fall down before him prostrate. The angels fell down prostrate, every one”. 

But Iblis (the devil) rejected God’s command, as Allah continued:

“Saving Iblis; he was scornful and became one of the disbelievers”. 

God then asked him for his reason not to obey the Almighty: 

“O Iblis, what prevented you from prostrating to that which I created with my Hands? Were you arrogant (then) or were you (already) among the haughty”. 

Iblis responded: “He said: I am better than him. You created me from fire and You created him from clay”. 

This claim of superiority on the basis of physical creation and/or appearance is what we today call “racism.” Hence racism is  the very first sickness in God’s creation. 

And that is exactly the first reason why racism is fundamentally rejected in Islam. 

Secondly, racism is rejected in Islam because all human beings, regardless of their racial background  and skin color are created from the same origin. They are all created out of clay or soil. 

Allah said in Ch. 20: 55: “From the earth We created you, and into it We will return you, and from it We will extract you another time”. 

Because we have the same origin of creation, there is no reason to be considered “essentially” different. We may have many differences, but they are not essentials. 

Even when we come to our physical appearances, the difference is basically only on the surface of our skin color. Beyond that skin you will find everything else is similar to all people. Their blood, flesh and bones are all the same. 

All of this is to affirm that all people have the same origin. They are all created from the same substance, namely clay. 

Thirdly, Islam considers all human beings as one family. The human family. 

In fact, the Quran confirms that all mankind are the descendants of the same father and mother. Allah said in Ch. 49:13: 

“O mankind We created you from a male and a female (Adam & Eve), and made you into nations and tribes”. 

Allah also mentioned that all human beings came from the same soul, “min nafsin wahidah” (see Ch. 4:01). 

The concept of one human family affirms the very fundamental equality of all members of that family. You may have a different shape, inclinations such as the love for certain taste of food, different plans in life, and so forth. But you are all the same in that family as one. 

Fourthly, Islam teaches us that all human beings, regardless of their backgrounds and associations in life, are inherently dignified. This dignity is a god given dignity. And no one has any right to take it away but the Provider Himself. 

Allah says in Ch. 17:70: “And we have certainly honored the children of Adam”. 

This heavenly dignity is based on the fact that all mankind represent the “fitrah” (purity) of God. Possibly if I must borrow from our Jewish or Christian friends, we can say “that all mankind are created in the image of God.” 

Hence all humans, regardless of their physical appearances, represent that very “purity” of the Almighty. Demeaning any human is in reality to demean the dignity and purity of God, the Almighty. 

Fifthly, Islam is a religion that not only considers diversity to be a social virtue. Indeed, diversity in embraced as a part of our religious commitment. 

Allah the Almighty affirms in the Holy Quran Ch. 16:93: “if Allah had pleased He would surely have made you a single nation, but He leads whoever He wills astray, and guide whosoever he please. But you will surely be questioned about what you used to do”. 

As we mentioned previously in this verse from the Holy Quran: “and We have made you into nations and tribes” indicates clearly that being diverse is God’s wisdom and creation. Therefore rejecting the diversity of mankind in a denial of God’s sign and wisdom. 

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) fought racism 

Will all these above reasons, and many more, Islam came to abolish racism and fought against it from the very beginning of its history in Makkah. 

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from the very beginning of his prophethood (nubuwat) in Makkah, brought a very revolutionary change to the society of deep racism at the time. 

His earlier followers came from deeply diverse backgrounds. There was Bilal bin Rabaah, who was an African former slave. Ammar bin Yasir, whose parents (Yasir and Sumayya) were the first martyrs in the history of Islam. Salman Al-Farisi,  a truth seeker from Persia. And there was also Suhaeb Ruumi, who was a Caucasian from Rome. 

All those companions were treated very fair and equally to the other companions from the Arab Quraisy, such as Abu Bakar, Umar, Uthman, Ali and others (radhiyyallahu anhum). 

The Holy Quran, Ch. 49:13 said: “the best among you in the eyes of God are the most righteous of you.” 

Righteousness is not defined by any physical and material identity. It is only defined by a human’s heart and action or behaviors. 

During his last and only pilgrimage (hajj) of the Prophet, he delivered his final sermon known in the history as “khutbatul wadaa’”, in which the prophet said: 

“Verily your father is one. All of you came from Adam. And Adam was created from clay. There is no superiority of an Arab over a non Arab, nor superiority of a non Arab over an Arab except the the virtue of his piety. And there is not superiority of a white over a back, nor a black over a white except by the virtue of his piety”. 

This declaration of genuine human equality was the first ever declaration of such a kind in the history of mankind. This was a long time before the declaration of Universal Human Rights by the United Nations in Geneva. 

The prophet (pbuh) did not just deliver the message of Islam, he lived and enforced it to his own people. The following incident tells us how committed the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was to human equality. 

Once the was an argument between two companions of prophet. One was a very respectful companion from  the Arabs named Abu Zar al-Gifari and the other was Bilal bin Rabah who was a black and also a former slave. 

Because of his feeling as a native and respectful member of the Arab community, Abu Zar called Bilal “Ibnu Saudaa” which means “son of a black woman”!. 

Bilal was deeply insulted by that nickname. He reported this to the Prophet. The prophet in turn told Abu Zar: “you are a man of ignorance”. 

Here the prophet clearly and with full commitment fought against the ignorance of his companion in the form of a racist tendency. He wanted to remind him that racism is essentially a form of ignorance and evil. 

Therefore, we may conclude that racism in this so called “modern and civilized world” is deeply ignorant and evil and must be rejected and uprooted from the society. 

Especially so in the country which is known to be a superpower nation, and the country that not only claims to be a democratic country based on “Justice for all”, but also promotes this idea all over the world. It is shameful and hypocritical for this nation to continue to claim to be an exceptional nation while continuing to cling to its own evilness and ignorance. 

Let’s wake up and rise together to bring change so that we can claim to be a leader and a role model for the rest of the world!  (*)

New York City, 8 June 2020 

*Director/Imam, Jamaica Muslim Center NYC & President, Nusantara Foundation USA
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