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Racism: Self-Serving Prejudice

Man has evolved from a common parenthood as members of one human family, without any inherent superiority of one over the other. Mans’ evolution into nations and tribes is meant to foster individuality and facilitate mutual co-existence. It is not an appendage to determine nobility or superiority of individuals or nations. The only criterion for nobility is consciousness of Allah. Race and language are convenient labels of recognition and not the yardstick to determine nobility.

Man has evolved from a common parenthood as members of one human family, without any inherent superiority of one over the other. Mans’ evolution into nations and tribes is meant to foster individuality and facilitate mutual co-existence. It is not an appendage to determine nobility or superiority of individuals or nations. The only criterion for nobility is consciousness of Allah. Race and language are convenient labels of recognition and not the yardstick to determine nobility.

 

Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam has said: “O people, Remember that your Lord is One. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; also, a black has no superiority over a white, nor does a white have any superiority over a black, except by virtue of piety (Taqwa). Indeed the best among you is the one with the best character.” (Baihaqi)

Xenophobia:
A man once visited the masjid of Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam in Madinah. There he saw a group of people sitting and discussing their faith together. Among them were Salman (who came from Persia), Suhayb who grew up in the Eastern Roman Empire and was regarded as a Greek, and Bilal who was an African. The man then said: “If the (Madinan) tribes of Aws and Khazraj support Muhammad, (it is understood because they are Arabs like him) they are his people. But what are these (foreign) people doing here?” (Implying an obvious dislike for foreigners) Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam became very angry when this was reported to him. He went to the masjid and summoned people to prayer. Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam then addressed them saying: “O people, know that the Lord and Sustainer is One. Your ancestor is one; your faith is one. The Arabism of anyone of you is not (by virtue of the nobility of) your mother or father. It is no more than a tongue (language).” Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam further said: “Let people stop boasting about their ancestors. One is only a pious believer or a miserable sinner. All men are sons of Adam, and Adam came from dust.” (Abu Dawud)

As Muslims, we need to pioneer change beginning with our own conduct and attitude:

Acknowledgement:
We need to first acknowledge that we may have racial tendencies that are inconsistent with our faith and beliefs. There has to be a personal acknowledgement of wrongdoing and a commitment to change. The door to rectitude can only be opened with the key of confession.

Forgiveness:
If we have hurt or oppressed someone through our tongue or attitude, we need to seek Allah’s forgiveness and seek pardon from our victim. A false sense of superiority often blinds us to our own injustice and prevents us from repenting or offering an apology.

Watch your tongue:
We need to guard against making sweeping statements that smack of arrogance, pride and racism. Neither are ethnic jokes an innocent form of humour. They carry the virus of bigotry that eventually sows seeds of animosity. If you observe something wrong in some persons’ behaviour, do not generalise, nor relate it to their ethnic origins. Attribute it to the person not his race or nationality.

Challenge racism:
If someone is guilty of racist conduct in your presence, do not become a passive spectator. You are bound to invite people to good and prohibit them from all that is evil.

Learn the language of the masses:
One of the greatest impediments to racial harmony is class distinction perpetuated by language barriers.

Empathise:
Have you visited a sick colleague, or a neighbour of another ethnic group? Good relations are built not only in the good times, but during difficult and tragic moments as well. Visit the sick, console the bereaved, feed the poor, empower the destitute without reserving your compassion and generosity to those of the same skin colour as yourself.

Smile:
How often do you smile? Who do you smile at? Do you limit your grins to your own ethnic and cultural group? Smiling is charity not just to your own people. Expand your smile to all as it opens close hearts. It is not just words, but facial expressions that also indicate racial degradation and intolerance.

May Allah help us all in our personal struggle against racism and allow us to personify the noble teachings of Islam. Ameen.

Courtesy of Jamiatul Ulama South Africa

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