Rights to Allah and fellow humans
The actions and responsibilities of man are two fold. Acts and deeds which are the obligations that are due to Allah Ta’ala. Secondly those deeds and obligations which are due to our fellow humans with whom we live and associate. Ulama commentate that while the first category is indeed important to uphold, the second category, which is rights towards our fellow humans takes precedence and is the more crucial and significant category, simply because Allah can forgive a person for failing in his duties to Him with sheer mercy. But when we hurt a slave and servant of Allah unjustly then that will not be forgiven by Allah unless the victim wholeheartedly forgives the offender. Looking at others with contempt and considering them inferior because of some exterior reason e.g. colour, race, stratus, wealth etc. is a most common form of hurt and contempt that is caused daily by Muslims. This contempt and sinful act is broadly termed as racism.
No one is superior in colour
Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) has said, “ Verily you are not superior to each other in redness or blackness, except the one who supercedes the other in Taqwa (piety)” (Musnad Ahmad)
This common form of classification in terms of colour has been with man for ages. This rotten mentality of colour superiority expounds the ego of man wanting to be superior to his fellow brother. This is the very anti thesis of humility and modesty in Islam. The Hadith refutes any thought that a person may harbour, of being better than another in terms of his colour. Colour is a pure manifestation of the Qudrat of Allah and His Beauty. An Objection to this is tantamount to objecting to Allah. Those who use this criterion to impose their superiority over others are indeed living in a world of deception and fantasy. What matters is the status and “colour” of the heart. If the heart is contaminated with ego, pride and a sense of superiority, then unfortunately the colour of such a heart is bleak and contaminated. On the other a spiritually purified heart is bright and pure.
Abu Jahl was a pure Arab with the fairest red complexion, yet his heart was filled with disbelief and hatred for Islam. It was dark and contaminated. Bilal (RA) was of African descent and outwardly black, but his heart was filled with Imaan, love of Allah, and purity. The result: Abu Jahl will be condemned to Hell eternally while Bilal (RA) will enjoy the bliss and comforts of paradise forever and ever.
Bilal (RA) on the roof of the Kabah
After the conquest of Makkah, Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) appointed Hadhrat Bilal (R.A.) for the singular honour of climbing onto the Ka'aba and calling out the Azaan for the first time. Till Qiyamat nobody else was ever going to be given the distinction of being allowed to stand on the roof of the Ka'aba to call out the Azaan. 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 embers of racial and class discrimination burned so strongly. It was not surprising that one of them passed the comment that "I offer thanks to Allah Ta'ala that my father passed away without having to witness this disgraceful day." Harith Bin Hishaam retorted, "Could not Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) find anybody else besides this Black crow to call out the Azaan." Such was the divine rejection of such ignorance that Jibraeel (A.S.) was sent to the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) with the following revelation: "O People, verily we have created you from a man and woman and we made you into various tribes and families for the purpose of mutual recognition (not discrimination and racial pride). Verily the most prestigious and honoured amongst you is he who fears Allah Ta'ala the most. Verily Allah Ta'ala is all knowing, all aware. (S.49 V .13)
On that same day having completed his Tawaaf, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) addressed the people saying: "O People! Allah Ta'ala 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 Ta'ala while a disobedient and sinful individual is debased and valueless in the sight of Allah Ta'ala. Thereafter he recited the above-mentioned Aayat clearly illustrating the Islamic concept, that the only basis of distinction and honour is the piety of an individual. (Tirmizi)
This concept is further supported by the Hadith of Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), 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." (Tirmizi)
Our common origin
As Muslims we must understand that our origin is one common parenthood. No one is born superior to anyone else. The diversity of humanity is for a definite objective and purpose – the recognition of our Creator through this diversity. Ironically, what has been made a means of our recognition, we attempt to earn from it destruction.
Unfortunately racism seems to be well and alive in our daily lives. The “holier than thou” mentality is still a sickness among many. This trend is unacceptable in Islam. As Muslims, we are dutibound to bring about reform in society starting with our own conduct and attitudes. For this, self-reformation is imperative. Reformation commences with an acknowledgement of ones weaknesses and wrongs. It is followed by sincere repentance and seeking forgiveness from those that have been hurt or harmed. Humility is of essence here. It may break ones pride, cause temporary embarrassment to the ego, but it is better now than to face the offended person in the court of Almighty, having to account for these crimes.
Tongue and Attitudes
Thereafter one has to closely monitor his tongue, attitudes and conduct. Statements of pride, arrogance, and racial connotation are prohibited and have dangerous repercussions on the hearts and minds of the victims. Such statements sow the seeds of hatred and animosity and are prohibited.
Furthermore, to enhance love and brotherhood between different race groups we should be polite and accommodative. The Ahadith advise us to make salaam in abundance. The one who makes salaam first is free from pride. We may also smile often to those whom we come into contact with, as this is a form of charity. Assisting and supporting the disadvantaged in our community is a sure way to win their hearts and effacing the monster of racism. These and other strategies could be implemented to cleanse our hearts and society of this scourge, and thereby live with each in the harmony and bliss that Islam requires from us.