One only need look to the Nazis' brutal persecution of the Jews earlier this century or the more recent genocide of the Bosnian Muslims to see how ethno-religious groups can suffer so terribly at the hands of racists. Quite often however, religion is itself responsible for racist oppression.
Middle-Eastern origins aside, Judaism is regarded as a Western religion. But the almost complete assimilation of Jews into all levels of Western society actually betrays Judaism's elitist reality.
'There is no God in all the world but in Israel.' (2 Kings 5:15)
A pious interpretation of such biblical verses would be to suggest that in those days, God (Allah) was not worshipped except by the Israelites. However, even today Jews still consider themselves as the exclusively chosen race of God.
Conversely, while most Christians are overwhelmingly non-Jews, Jesus as the last of the Israelite Prophets was sent to none but the Jews. In the Bible, he is reported to have said:
'I have not been sent except to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.' (Matthew 15:24)
And likewise every other prophet was sent exclusively to his own people; every prophet that is, except Muhammad.
Say (O Muhammad): People! I am the Messenger of Allah sent to you all. (Qur'an, 7:158)
As Muhammad was Allah's final Messenger to humanity, his message was a universal one with the capacity to unite not only his own nation, the Arabs, but all the peoples of the world.
And We have not sent you (O Muhammad) but to the whole of mankind as a giver of glad tidings and a warner, but most people have no knowledge. (Qur'an, 34:28)
BILAL THE ABYSSINIAN One of the earliest converts to Islam was an Abyssinian slave named Bilal. Traditionally, black Africans were a lowly people in the sight of Arabs who thought them to be of little use beyond entertainment and slavery. When Bilal converted to Islam, his pagan master had him brutally tortured in the scorching desert heat until Abu Bakr, the Prophet's closest friend, rescued Bilal by buying his freedom. Muhammad appointed Bilal as his muezzin and the call to prayer announced from minarets in every comer of the world today echoes the exact same words proclaimed by Bilal. Thus, a onetime despised slave achieved one of the highest positions of honour in becoming Islam’s first muezzin. Although ancient Greece is accredited with being the birthplace of democracy, it was a democracy only for its Free citizens - the majority of its population, being slaves, were denied the right to elect their ruler. Yet Islam ordained that a slave could himself be ruler! The Prophet ordered: 'Stick to obedience (i.e. 'Obey your ruler) even if he be an Abyssinian slave.' (Ahmad)
SALMAN THE PERSIAN Like most of his countrymen, Salman was raised a devout Zoroastrian but after an encounter with some Christians at worship in their Church he accepted Christianity as 'something better'. As a Christian, Salman travelled extensively in search of knowledge. His journey took him from the service of one learned monk to the next, the last of whom said to him:
'O son! I do not know of anyone who is on the same (creed) as we are. However, the time of the emergence of a prophet will shade you. This prophet is on the religion of Abraham.'
The monk then proceeded to describe this prophet, his character and where he would appear. Salman immigrated to Arabia, the land of the Prophecy, and when he heard about and met Muhammad, he immediately recognised him from hi, teacher's descriptions. Salman's long search for the truth was finally over and he embraced Islam.
Salman became renowned for his knowledge and was in fact the first person to translate the Qur'an into another language, Persian. Once, whilst the Prophet was amongst his Companions, the following verse was revealed to him:
It is He (Allah) Who had sent among the illiterates (i.e. the Arabs) a Messenger (Muhammad) from among themselves ... and (also to) others (i.e. non-Arabs) among them who have not yet joined them. (Qur'an, 62:2-3)
Allah's Messenger placed his hand on Salman and said:
'Even if the Faith were near (the star of) Pleiades, a man from amongst these (Persians) would surely attain it.' (Muslim)
One such man was Imam Muhammad Isma'eeI of Bukhara (a predominately Persian city). His famous collection of hadith (narrations of the Prophet) entitled As-Sahih was unanimously declared by the scholars of Islam to be 'The most authentic book after the Book of Allah (i.e. after the Quran).'
SUHAYB THE ROMAN Blonde-haired and fair complexioned Abu Yahya SUHAYB was born into the luxurious house of his father, a client governor for the Persian emperor. Whilst still a child, SUHAYB was captured by a Byzantine raiding party to be eventually sold into slavery in Constantinople SUHAYB eventually escaped from bondage and fled to Mecca, a popular place of asylum, where he soon became a prosperous merchant nick-named 'ar-Rumi' (the Roman) due to his Greek tongue and Byzantine up-bringing. When SUHAYB heard Muhammad preach, he was at once convinced of the truth of his message and readily embraced Islam. Like the rest of the early Muslims, SUHAYB was persecuted by the idolatrous Meccans and had to trade all his wealth in exchange for safe passage to join the Prophet at Medina. When SUHAYB finally arrived at Medina, the Prophet, delighted to see him, greeted him thrice: 'Your transaction has been fruitful, O Abu Yahya. Your transaction has been fruitful.' Allah had informed the Prophet of Suhayb's exploits even before they were reunited:
And there is a type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of Allah. And Allah is full of kindness to His servants. (Qur'an, 2:207)
The Prophet loved SUHAYB a great deal and described him as having preceded the Byzantines to Islam. Suhayb's piety and standing among Muslims was so high that when Caliph Umar was on his deathbed, he selected SUHAYB to lead the Muslims whilst they were choosing a successor.
ABDULLAH THE HEBREW The Jews were another nation that the pre-Islamic Arabs held in contempt. Many Jews and Christians had been expecting a new prophet to appear in Arabia during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. Jews from the Levite tribe in particular had settled in large numbers in and around the city of Medina. However, when the much-anticipated prophet came not as a Hebrew son of Israel, but as the Arab descendant of Ishmael, the Jews rejected him. Except that is for a few like aI-Husayn bin Salam. Al-Husayn was a learned rabbi and leader of the Medinan Jews but was denounced by them when he embraced Islam. The Prophet renamed al-Husayn, 'Abdullah', meaning 'Servant of Allah' and in his own lifetime the Prophet gave Abdullah the glad tidings that he was destined for Paradise. Abdullah addressed his tribesmen, saying: 'O assembly of Jews! Be conscious of Allah and accept what Muhammad-has brought. By Allah, you certainly know that he is Allah's Messenger and you can find prophecies about him and mention of his name and characteristics in your Torah. I for my part declare that he is the Messenger of Allah. I have faith in him and believe that he is true. I recognise him.' Allah revealed the following verse about Abdullah:
... and a witness from the Children of Israel testifies that this Qur'an is from Allah like (the Torah). So he believed while (most of) you (Jews) are too proud (to believe). (Qur'an, 46:10)
Thus, in the ranks of the Prophet Muhammad's Companions could be found Africans, Persians, Romans and Israelites; representatives of every then-known continent. The Prophet said: 'Indeed my friends and allies are not the tribe of so and so. Rather, my friends and allies are the pious wherever they may be.'
(al-Bukhari & Muslim)
This point was further emphasised by the Prophet when he said: 'There is truly no excellence for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab; nor for a white man over a black man, nor for a black man over a white man; except through piety.'(Ahmad)
O humanity! We have created you from a single male and female and have made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another (not that you may have pride over one another). Verily the most honorable of you in the sight of Allah is the one most pious. (Qur'an, 49:13)
The Prophet Muhammad said: 'The parable of the Believers in their mutual love and mercy is like that of a (living) body; if one part feels pain, the whole body suffers in sleeplessness and fever.' (Muslim)
Such a universal brotherhood was championed by the' Prophet's Companions after him, including his immediate temporal successors: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (known collectively as the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs). When the Companion Ubada ibn as-Samit led a Muslim delegation to Muqawqis, the Christian patriarch of Alexandria, Muqawqis exclaimed: 'Get this black man away from me and bring another to talk to me. ... How can you be content that a black man should be the foremost among you? Is it not more fitting that he be below you?' 'Indeed no,' Ubada's comrades replied, ‘for although he is black as you see, he is still the foremost among us in position, in precedence, in intelligence and in wisdom; for darkness is not despised among us.'
Verily, the Believers are but brothers (to one another). (Qur'an, 49:10)
The spread of nationalism with its separating of Muslims along ethnic, linguistic and tribal lines is an evil and divisive innovation in Islam. Allah says in His Book:
Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your tribe, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving hard in His Cause, then wait until Allah brings about His Decision. And Allah guides not a rebellious people. (Qur'an, 9:24)
In fact, the Muslims in and of themselves constitute one nation:
Thus We have made you (Believers into) a (single) justly balanced nation. (Qur'an, 2:143)
The Prophet said: 'Whoever leaves off obedience and separates from the Jam'ah and dies, (then) he dies a death of jahiliyyah (i.e. pre-Islamic ignorance and disbelief). And whoever fights under the banner of the blind, becoming angry for nationalism or calling to nationalism or assisting nationalism and dies, (then) he dies a death of jahiliyyah.' (Muslim)
While those who disbelieved placed in their hearts pride and haughtiness - the pride and haughtiness of jahiliyyah, Allah sent down His tranquillity upon His Messenger and upon the believers. (Qur'an, 48:26)
A FINAL POINT Still repeated in some circles and perhaps one of the greatest barriers to its acceptance by Westerners is the fallacy that Islam is primarily a religion for blacks or dark skinned people. No doubt, the racial injustices against many blacks, be they Abyssinian slaves of pre-Islamic Arabia or twentieth century African-Americans, has prompted many to embrace Islam, but this is beside the point. The Prophet Muhammad was himself of pale complexion, described by his Companions as being 'white and ruddy'. And unbeknown to most people is the fact that Europe has more indigenous white Muslims than it has coloured immigrants. Albanians, for example, descended from the ancient Illyrian-Celts, are one of Europe's oldest tribes and amongst the earliest inhabitants of the Balkans. Today, 80%. of all Albanians Are MUSLIMS. In fact, the world's leading Muslim scholar, the Reviver of Islam, Champion of the Sunna (practice of the Prophet) and mountain of knowledge, Shaykh Muhammad Nasir-ud-Deen al-Albani, is, as his title suggests, Albanian. Some anthropologists believed that the Caucasus Mountain region of SE Europe was the cradle of 'the white race' and white people are still described as 'Caucasian'. Today, six of Russia's seven autonomous Caucasus republics are Muslim republics. In fact, Islam peacefully entered parts of Europe long before Christianity. Over a thousand years ago, 'In times long ago, when the Russian Slav had not yet started to build Christian churches on the Oka nor conquered these places in the name of European civilisation, the Bulgar was already listening to the Qur'an on the banks of the Volga and the Kama.' (S.M. Solov'ev, Istoria Rossis Drevneishikh Vremen. Moscow 1965, p.476)
This century too has seen large numbers of Europeans embrace Islam. In the UK alone there are estimated to be tens of thousands of reverts to Islam (mostly Anglo-Saxon and Celtic women) and within the next 20 years their number is expected to overtake the immigrant Muslim population that brought the faith here (The Times, 11/9/1993). Neither has the large awakening to Islam gone unnoticed by US administration. Hillary Rodham Clinton recently remarked: 'Islam is the fastest-growing religion in America, a guide and pillar of stability for many of our people...' (First Lady Breaks Ground with Muslims, Los Angeles Times, 5/31/1996)
Truly, We created (all) humans in the best of moulds. (Qur'an, 95:4)
Every faith besides Islam calls for the worship of creation in some way, shape or form. Moreover, race and colour play a central and divisive role in almost all non-Islamic belief systems. In Christianity, through the Prophet Jesus and the saints and in Buddhism, through Buddha and the Dalai Lama men and women of a particular race and colour are worshipped as deities in derogation of Allah. In Judaism, salvation is withheld from the non-Jew Gentile. Hinduism's caste-system likewise degrades and checks the spiritual, not to mention social, political and economic aspirations of the 'unclean' lower castes. Islam, however, seeks to unite and make one all the creatures of the world upon the Unity and Oneness of their Creator. Thus, Islam alone liberates all peoples, races and colours in the worship of Allah alone.
Verily, I am Allah - there is nothing worthy of worship but Me. Therefore worship Me (alone). (Qur'an, 20:14)
'No other society has such a record of success in uniting in an equality of status, of opportunity and endeavour so many and so varied races o mankind. The great Muslim communities of Africa, India and Indonesia, perhaps also the small community in Japan, show that Islam has still the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements Of race and tradition.'
(H.A.R. Gibb, Whither Islam, London, 193Z p. 379)
'The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding achievements of Islam and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue...'
(A.J. Toynbee, Civilisation on Trial, New York, p. 205)
,How, for instance can any other appeal stand against that of the Moslem who, in approaching the pagan, says to him, however obscure or degraded he may be "Embrace the faith, and you are at once equal and a brother." Islam knows no colour line.'
(S.S. Leeder, Veiled Mysteries of Egypt)
And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the (wonderful) difference of your languages and colours. Verily, in that are indeed signs for people of sound knowledge. (Qur'an, 30:22)
'Al-Jam'ah' refers to the group of Believers who are united upon the pure, unadulterated Islam of Muhammad and his Companions.