Racism - Is there a Solution ?
The list of remarks which signify racism in our world, is endless. But to many people in the West, racism no longer exists. Many believe that our 'free'(?) world has eradicated this problem. The rights of homosexuals and animals are given higher priority, and people believe that the real oppression in the world lies here! Such delusion clouds the reality which we live in. Whilst animal rights activists and homosexuals march so vigorously for freedom, they seem to forget that people the world-over are continually being oppressed, simply due to the colour of their skin or the label of their race. How sad it is that the Western world conveniently chooses to ignore the devastating consequences of this problem.
According to the Oxford dictionary, racism is the: "belief in superiority of particular race; antagonism towards other races" . From such a simple definition arises so much oppression and hatred. The belief that one particular race is superior to another, has led to injustice and tyranny against fellow humans. Racism is a disease which has taken on epidemic proportions and has even become accepted in many societies, past and present. But one may well ask, where did such behaviour originate from?
The origins of racism can be found in the annals of history. However, people are often biased and very subjective in their findings. For example, a Jew may claim that racism started with the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE . An Afro-centric person on the other hand, may claim that racism originated from the European colonisation of Africa and the engagement with the slave trade. Each race can thus claim to reveal the origins of this problem according to their own historical sufferings.
Islam however, is not like this. Because Islam was not revealed for a specific set of people or for a specific period of time, it is able to answer this question in a truly objective manner. This is one of the reasons why Islam has been so successful against racism. The origins of racism, as explained by Islam, go back to the beginning of mankind's creation. Before the creation of man, Allah the Most High, had already created the Angels and the Jinn. Amongst the Angels at that time was a Jinn by the name of Iblis. Iblis had resided amongst the Angels and was very obedient to Allah. However, this was to change, as Allah then created man. This new creation of Allah was created from clay and named Adam. He was first in the line of humanity, and as a result occupies a very special place in history. From him and his wife Hawwa (Eve), the generations of humanity have descended. After his creation, Allah ordered the Angels and those with them to prostrate to Adam. The Qur'an informs us of this important event, from which we may all learn a valuable lesson:
"And (remember) when We said to the Angels: 'Prostrate yourselves to Adam', and they all prostrated except Iblis. He refused and was proud and was one of the disbelievers"
(Surah Al-Baqarah 2:34)
"(Allah) said: 'What prevented you (Iblis) that you did not prostrate?' Iblis said; 'I am better then him, you created me from fire and you created him from clay'"
(Surah Al-A'raf 7:12)
In Islam, the other name for Iblis is 'Shaytan' or the Devil. Thus, the root of racism is attributed to the Devil. Iblis's insistence on being better than Adam, aroused his arrogance and pride. And what was the reason for this insistence? Nothing more then the fact that Iblis was of fire and Adam was of clay. It was at this stage in the history of the world, that the ugly head of racism first reared itself.
Iblis, the Devil, was consequently the world's first racist! This Islamic explanation helps us to understand the reality of racism. Pride and arrogance leads to people thinking that they are better than others, simply because of their physical makeup. This pride and arrogance is truly a Devilish trait which humans have learnt from Iblis, the accursed Devil. Iblis's refusal to prostrate before Adam led to his expulsion from the company of the Angels, and he vowed to Allah that:
".. I shall indeed adorn the path of error for them (humanity) on the earth and I shall mislead them all, except Your chosen slaves among them"
(Surah Al-Hijr 15:39-40)
True to his word, the astray Devil has indeed adorned the path of error for most of mankind throughout the ages. One of these adornments has of course been the Devilish behaviour of Racism.
Ever since Iblis's refusal to bow down to Adam, the world has seen an increase in racism. Not only were people affected by this trend, but so were religions, creeds and ideologies. Before long Religions and creeds were justifying the superiority of some over others. An example of this is the religions of Judaism and Hinduism. By their very teachings, both of these ancient religions are racist. With Judaism, a person cannot become a Jew unless be/she is born from a Jewish mother. This then means that all non-Jews cannot enter Paradise, simply because they were not born into this faith! With Hinduism, not only does it degrade the Creator by representing him as a monkey, rat, cow, elephant and even the male private organ (!), but it has also created one of the worlds most ancient forms of racism - the caste system. According to Hinduism, the higher castes originate from the upper body-parts of God, such as the chest and head, whereas the lower castes come from the lower bodyparts of God such as the legs and feet! This theory of degrading the Creator then justifies the oppression which happens to the lower castes. Such is this oppression, that if a higher caste person walks through the shadow of a lower caste person, he deems himself to have become impure and consequently has to bathe himself!
Other religions such as Christianity, have often been used to justify racist ventures. During the age of exploration the European powers used Christianity to justify their own imperial ambitions. The infamous Spanish Conquistadors used Christianity as a pretext to wipe out the Inca and Aztec civilisations of Central and South America during the15 th and16 th centuries. Nations such as the Dutch and the British used Christianity to justify their horrendous treatment of native Africans. The notorious Trans-Atlantic slave trade saw one of the worst forms of racism ever implemented. This form of racism saw entire cultures wiped out and replaced with the culture of their racist aggressors. This is why even today, many of the surnames which people from the Caribbean have, are in fact the names of their ancestral European slave masters.
It is not only religion which has been gripped by this disease, but also science. By the19 th century the Western world had rejected religion and was looking towards science to provide the answers for our existence. The dominant theory at the time was Charles Darwin's theory of Evolution. However, unknown to many, Darwin's expeditions were only-funded by the British government so that a scientific base could be used for racist and imperial ambitions. The theory espoused that man evolved from apes. It then claimed that some people had not fully evolved from their primate forms, and were thus inferior to others. These inferior people were said to be the non-Europeans, and especially the Africans. Thus, on a mission to civilise these 'savages', the Europeans used Darwin's theory to oppress and destroy many parts of the world.
The 20th century has also seen attempts to justify racism and its theories. During the30 's and40 's the German Nazi regime of Adolph Hitler used the credentials of the Aryan people, to legitimise his ruthless actions. The Apartheid regime of South Africa also used racism and racial segregation to maintain its existence. This has continued until today with many groups advocating clear White supremacy over the rest of mankind. The Ku Klux Klan, the British National Party and the Aryan Nation are examples of such groups.
The faces of racism are many. It should not be thought that racism is only conducted by the Europeans or Whites. Racial superiority over Whites has also been advocated by Black people during this century. After centuries of oppression, the Black community in the Western world expressed its sentiments in an explosive way. The decade of the60 's saw many civil rights movements emerge. Along with these came all the radical movements who popularised slogans such as 'Black Power'. Before long there were many movements who openly advocated racism against White people. What made things even worse, was that some of the most vocal movements attached themselves to the religion of Islam - a religion which (as will be seen) destroys racism from its very root. Amongst these groups were the Nation of Islam and the Ansarullah. They openly advocated that the White people were devils and Black people were gods. Their open (but false) attachment to Islam helped to visualise Islam as being racist - something which could not be further from the truth.
So what is the solution for this world-wide epidemic? As Muslims we know that to defeat racism means to defeat Iblis, the Devil. Because humans are weak, it would be imperative that we adopt some, divine method in tackling this Devilish disease. This method is none other then ISLAM, the untainted and pure religion which came to benefit humanity through its teachings.
Just as Islam explains the origins of racism, it also tells us how to combat it. This is firmly expressed in the Qur'an, when Allah explains the reason for our variety as different races and peoples:
"O' mankind, We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Indeed the most honourable of you in the sight of Allah is the one with the most piety"
(Surah Al-Hujjarat49 :13)
It is clear from this verse as to how humanity should act towards one another. We have been created like one huge beautiful garden with many different types of flowers in it. Each flower is clearly distinguished from the other, yet they all belong to the same garden. This unity of the nations can only be achieved when people recognise that it is Islam which will bring the different peoples of the world under one banner. And it is within this banner that people can achieve true piety and thus excel themselves in the sight of Allah.
The teachings of Islam cut racism from its very root. By looking at the sayings and actions of the last Messenger, Muhammed (saws), we can see how racism was truly obliterated with the advent of Islam. The Prophet (saws) said: "Indeed there is no excellence for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab, nor a White person over a Black one, nor a Black person over a White one, except through piety" .A statement like this tells us that this man, Muhammed, was truly a recipient of Divine inspiration. His words were not empty like the words of so many leaders today. Rather, he was always the first to lead by example, and this is why we find that during his lifetime so many different types of people accepted Islam. From amongst the Prophet's companions we find that he had an Ethiopian companion by the name of Bilal. Bilal had been a slave before he accepted Islam, and as a result his standing in Arabian society was worse then the animals. However, upon Bilal's conversion to Islam, the force to combat the disease of Iblis, became known to all. Bilal was given a status like no Black slave had been given before. He was given the immense honour of being the first person to call the Adhaan (call to prayer) in Islam's glorious history. More importantly however, he was accepted as an equal and a brother by the Prophet and his companions.
Through its teachings and practical implementation by the Prophet and his companions, Islam has spread to every corner of the known world. You will not see a more assorted group of people than the Muslims. From China to Spain, Siberia to Australia - never has there been such a wide body of people all united under one banner - the banner of Islam.
The Prophet (saws) said: "Whosoever fights under the banner of the blind, becoming angry for nationalism or calling to nationalism or assisting nationalism and then dies, he dies the death of the pre-Islamic days". This statement of the Prophet makes it clear that the consequences of involving ourselves in nationalism (which is a form of racism), is dying upon disbelief. And whosoever dies upon disbelief will undoubtedly taste the Fire of Hell. Through such statements, Islam totally isolates all forms of racism which can occur amongst humanity. It is indeed sad, that people cannot observe such beautiful advice, for if they did then maybe all the bloodshed caused by nationalism, ethnic cleansing etc. can be avoided.
The rites and injunctions of Islam also help to overcome racism. An example of this is the prayer of the Muslims. When Muslims pray in congregation, they are commanded by Islam to join together their ankles and shoulders to those next to them. Whether a man is a king, a leader, a stave, a judge or even a beggar, this command is incumbent upon every Muslim. Thus Blacks, Whites, Arabs, Indians, Malays and all other races: are truly united by worshipping their Creator. This unity is not only confined to the prayer, but to the whole of ones life, to the extent that Muslims try to fall under the saying of their beloved Prophet who said: "The example of the believers in their mutual love and mercy is like the example of a body; if one part of the body feels pain, then all the body suffers in sleeplessness and fever ". It is evident that a Muslim follows this example set by the Prophet, when he/she feels distress at the situation of the Muslims around the world, be they from Africa, Palestine, Kashmir, Bosnia etc. Unity amongst such a wide range of people, can only be created by Islam.
Another rite which has helped so many to eradicate racism from their lives, is the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), which is obligatory upon every Muslim at least once in a lifetime. The Hajj brings together the peoples of the world, all at one time of the year, in one place. Anyone who has witnessed this annual rite of Islam, will truly testify that there is nothing quite like it. The breathtaking view of millions of people gathered together, all for the purpose of worshipping Allah, is unforgettable. It was this rite of lslam which changed the life of the famous Black nationalist-turned-Muslim, Malcolm X . Describing his experiences he said: "Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practised by people of all colours here in this ancient Holy land.... There were tens of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. They were of all colours, from Blue-eyed blondes to Black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the White and non-White. America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem".
The words of Malcolm X can be added to; it is not only America which needs to understand Islam, but rather the whole world. Islam has brought so much to the lives of so many, that it is inconceivable that racism could be defeated without it. From the moment the Prophet preached his message of unity under the worship of Allah, did the light of hope shine forth in this World of darkness. Honour has been given to all those who have entered Islam. Throughout the ages, those who normally would have been downtrodden were rescued and dignified by Islam. Today, this is still continuing. People who were clearly racist (like Malcolm X) have been humbled and overwhelmed by the truth of Islam. British National Party members, Ku Klux Klan members, members of the Nation of Islam and many others from racist organisations, have all become united under the banner of Islam. It is now up to the people of the world to choose; do they want to stay in the darkness of racism or do they want to be illuminated by the light of Islam?
Either way, Islam will still be, the ONLY solution for racism.
1Sand-Nigger: A racist term for Arabs.
2The little Oxford Dictionary -7 th Ed -1994
3In 70 CE Jerusalem was under the Roman empire. Following revolts by the Jews, the Romans expelled them and destroyed their temple. After this the Jews became widely dispersed and were oppressed greatly by the Christians. During the Middle Ages the Jews were granted sanctuary by the Muslim Empire from this oppression. This debt was paid back when the Jews came into Palestine and stole the land of the Muslims! It is indeed ironic that the same people who were once racially persecuted, have now turned racist persecutors.
4Afro-centric: One who identifies immensely with Africa as being a place of origin for the human race.
5In English he is known as 'Satan', 'Lucifer' or 'Beeizebub'
6 Aryan: Anyone who speaks an Indo-European language; However in Hitler's case it had more to do with physical characteristics, such as having Blond hair and Blue eyes.
7The founder of this freakish and unstable cult is Dwight York, who was born in 1935 in New York, USA. In 1967 he officially formed this overtly racist group. Like so many other cult leaders, York has claimed divinity and abused his power. His corruption has even landed him in jail (for tax evasion!), and his sexual promiscuity has caused rumours that he has AIDS. The group has undergone much change since its inception in the late60 's. Since then it has changed a number of times and now goes by the name of the 'Holy Tabernacle Ministry'. It has also dropped its affiliation with Islam.
8Authentic - Reported by Ahmed
9Reported by Muslim - Eng Trans. Vol. 3p.1029-30, No.4555
10Reported by Muslim - Eng Trans. Vol.4, p.1368, No.6258
11 Malcolm X was born as Malcolm Little in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. After spending time in jail he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his surname to indicate his detachment from White superiority. Malcolm's powerful oratory skills brought international recognition for the Nation of Islam. However, upon discovering that Elijah Muhammed had impregnated 2 of his secretaries, Malcolm's faith in this man who claimed to be a messenger of God, was shaken. In 1964 Malcolm made the Hajj which was to show him true Islam. He changed his name to Malik al-Shabbaz, and formally renounced the Nation of Islam. This renunciation led to his assassination in1965 .
12Taken from his biography by Alex Haley.
Source: Invitation to Islam, Issue4 , January1998 - online at www.thetruereligion.org