I seek refuge in Allah from the outcast Satan,
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
“And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves.” [Surah Ale Imran: 103]
“There was no Racism between the Companions of the Prophet (SAW), for they all believed in the principle that the most honourable amongst them was the one with the most Taqwa.” [Shaykh Saleem Dhorat Saheb, IDA, Leicester.]
From the title, you may already have figured out the contents of this article are going to be pretty hard-hitting, straightforward, straight to the point, somewhat bitter and a bit of a rollercoaster ride for those of us who are not accustomed to listening to the truth.
Out of the many problems we see in society, Racism is one that is still prevalent in our societies.
However, Racism is an issue that is still one that is not something that we see commonly discussed; not in the Mosques, not on the pulpits, nor do we often hear talks and lectures on this topic, why is this the case?
Is it because we feel hypocritical talking about it?
Is it because we don’t think we can eradicate Racism from our communities, that the problem has gone too far?
Is it because we are proud of being Racists?
Or is it simply, we just don’t find anything wrong with Racism, because we have normalised it within our homes, within our towns, within our cities, it has become so main scale in everyday society now?
Whatever the reason is, it is not a justified one!
“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” (1)
[Prophet Muhammad Sall’Allahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam]
Racism should be a key area of concern within our communities if we truly believe in the principles of justice, fairness and equality.
After having lived in a small town in the North West of England, (Blackburn), for the last 30 years, I have seen and heard enough comments and remarks made in this small community, to muster up the courage In Sha Allah, and write this as a response to ‘all that goes on’ behind closed doors.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) dealt with these issues of Racism 1400 years ago. When Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) addressed to Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him) with, “You son of a black woman!” and Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him) got insulted, he went to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
He told the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) “O Messenger of Allah, … this is what Abu Dharr has said to me.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) called Abu Dharr and said, “O Abu Dharr you are a man who still has the traits of ignorance in him! I am equally the son of a black woman, as I am the son of a white woman.” (This is because He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was breastfed by a black woman).
In another narration, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “You are a man who calls to Jahiliyyah, whoever calls to the call of Jahiliyyah, he will be in the fire of Jahannam!” And the Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them) asked, “What if he prays and fasts?” He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Even if he prays and he fasts.”
This was simply because Racism was prevalent amongst the Arabs before Islam, but after Islam, it was successfully eradicated.
Some of us are impressed and inspired and even enthralled by the colour of people’s skin, this demonstrates just how shallow, we as Muslims have become.
Look around the world and you will see how, in particular countries, there are two individuals of equal education, two employees doing the same job, but one is paid more than the other!
Simply because one is white and one is of a darker complexion!
This is our state, we are mesmerised by the colour of a person’s pigmentation.
Now let’s look at how deeply these traits are entrenched within us…
We don’t need any interference from the US or anyone else to destroy us or disunite us – we do too good a job of it ourselves! If we delve deeper in to the history of how many states across the globe ‘achieved’ so-called ‘independence’ as a separate entity in itself as a ‘new’ country, just look at any one of these countries, be this the abolishing of the state formerly known as ‘Hindustan’, the regions within the Yugoslav area, or even as recently as a few years ago when Sudan was split in to two, North Sudan and South Sudan. The reason why these countries separated and new border lines were created was simply because of the inherent preference of tribalism and ancestral pride, over the call of ‘La Ilaha Illa Allah!’
Isn’t this what we see everywhere in the Ummah, around the globe, in the UK and right here in Blackburn? All we see is people defending their ‘own’ – how often do we hear the following statements on our very own streets?
“My country is the best!”
“My tribe is the most honoured!”
“My family has more prestige and honour than yours!”
We see Arabs who think that they are more superior than non-Arabs, Indians thinking that they are better than Pakistanis, and Somalis thinking that they are higher than Sudanese people.
IT NEVER FINISHES!
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve – an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black, nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” This was stated in the Prophet’s SAW last sermon on the Ninth Day of Dhul-Hijjah, 10 A.H. in the ‘Uranah valley of Mount Arafat in Makkah. He SAW further added:
Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer for your deeds. So, beware: do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone. (2)
Closer to home, all we hear is:
“I’m a Bharuchi!”
“I’m a Surti!”
“I’m a Raja!”
“I’m a Chaudhary!”
And calls of “We are better than you!”
“Our Masjid is better than yours!”
“Our Madrasah is bigger than yours!”
What a pitiful state we find ourselves in, how low have we stooped since the golden days of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) when individuals were brothers by faith, not by tribalism, pigmentation, wealth or status.
Brothers and Sisters, by Allah!
When we are lowered into our graves, Allah is not going to ask us, if we were a Surti or a Bharuchi, rather Allah will ask us if we divided the Ummah with our words. You will be asked, “Who is your Lord?” “Which is your religion?” “Who is your Prophet?” You will NOT be asked, “Which country are you from?”
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him ) said, “He is not from amongst us, who fights for Nationalism.”
How many times do we see sisters failing to get married, because although they may have found a suitable brother to marry, but he wasn’t from the same country as she was, or from the same village as their family in India, they remain unmarried? We would apparently rather deprive our daughters of a good life, of a happy life, simply because our pride gets the better of us? How selfish and proud have we become? How blinded by nationalism and tribalism have we become?
I say to my Bharuchi brothers and sisters, as well as Surti brothers and sisters – you only have ONE bridge that separates you in Gujarat. Why are your hearts divided? You hate each other as though you are enemies! And now for my Indian Muslims and my Pakistani Muslims, you are only separated by ONE border, but the Kalimah unites you – remain united.
On a positive note, it is nice to see inter-racial marriages, Indians marrying Pakistanis, Bharuchis marrying Surtis and Bengalis marrying Pakistanis. I believe this was the practice in Ancient Arabia to defuse friction between clans. But, having said that, we still find some parents very staunch – Allah purify our hearts. Ameen.
“If there comes to you one whose religious commitment and attitude pleases you, then marry [your female relative who is under your care] to him, for if you do not do that, there will be tribulation on earth and much corruption.” (3)
We must remember that every race and nation has its good qualities and its bad qualities.
What follows is something I wasn’t going to include in this post, but just to open our minds a little, so that we can look ‘beyond our noses’ – below is my opinion on the khayr and goodness in some races:
Generally, as an Asian myself, I find that as Asians we look down on Arabs because of their outer appearance (dhahir) doesn’t look ‘Islamic’. Although the Hadith clearly states that Allah looks at the heart, not the outer look (albeit identity is important in my opinion), Arabs are at the top of the list when it comes to generosity and hospitality. Which nation can we say supersedes us all in certainty and yaqeen? In firmness and conviction?
I have always found Bengalis to be the most humble and open-hearted of people. We don’t have as many in Blackburn but sadly, it seems that they are looked down upon wherever they are situated.
As a Gujarati myself, I find that it is difficult to deal with your own ethnic group impartially. It is difficult to deal with your own whilst being fair. I believe that Gujaratis are known for their Islamic productivity – they are well advanced and are usually ahead of everyone else when it comes to building Islamic schools and Madrasahs. Gujaratis educate their sons and daughters thoroughly in terms of the deen, and produce Hafidh and Alim(ahs) in abundance – although, at times, this sometimes leads to their haughtiness.
Who else can we find that fight for causes of justice and stand up for the Ummah more than Pakistani men and women?
Who else can we find with pure hearts, sincerity and honesty more than Pakistanis?
Who else can we find with more Gheerah/Ghayrat (protective jealousy) than Pakistanis?
Unfortunately, Pakistanis are judged by the actions of a few ignorant ones and thus they are deemed to be one and the same.
The respected and honourable Malcolm X (Allah have mercy on him) a Muslim Human rights activist once said. “That it would probably do America well to study the religion of Islam and perhaps it could drive some of the Racism from this society as it has driven Racism from the Muslim society”.
How far have we drifted from this? From the equality that Islam has delivered to us.
Let us take a look at our Masajid, places that are meant to be places of worship and places for devotion and acquiring the Love of Allah, in Islam we call them the ‘Houses of Allah’. But how many of these Masajid do we know that have constitutions that are built on Racism! I am no great scholar, but just as Alcohol is Haram, Fornication is Haram, Murder is Haram, similarly, Racism is also Haram.
Let alone the same country, if you are not from ‘our village’ in India you cannot be a member of our Masjid. And it doesn’t end there, we don’t allow Non-Indians to become members of our Masajid, so we charge their children extra fees in the Madrasah.
How is that even remotely fair, when an Indian child and Pakistani child receive the same level of education?
Why the discrimination?
Simply because his father is from Pakistan?
To be judged on ethnicity? Something we cannot choose, something that Allah has chosen for us!
Shame on such Masajid and shame on such racist committees. I have always wanted to ask one question to such people,
“Why do you take Lillah (charity) money off Pakistanis and Bengalis to use in the Masjid?”
The position I hold is if they can’t be members, then equally refuse their Lillah donations. But no we won’t do that, we quickly and greedily take their money! Other Masajid, on the other hand, will not even give Ghusl (ritual bath for the deceased) if the deceased is a Pakistani. La Hawla Wa La Quwwata Illa Billah!
I won’t stop there, in the United Kingdom we have certain graveyards where only people from a certain province/state in India can be buried there. One wonders how do such committee members sleep at night, and more importantly, once they sleep in their graves how will they answer to Allah on the Day of Judgement?
I remember in high school my Science teacher once said, “I don’t know if there is a God but he sure did make a mistake creating everyone different colours!” At that time I was highly offended and did not have an answer, later in life, however, I did Alhumdu Lillah. So this is for him and all those who fail to understand why Allah made everyone from different tribes and nations:
“O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honoured of you in God’s sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (3)
Do we not recall how the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) were of different skin colours, different cultures, varying races yet they loved each other more than blood brothers.
Bilal Ibn Rabah, Wahshy Ibn Harb, Sumayyah bint al-Khayyat, Usama Ibn Zayd (Allah be pleased with them) were all from Ethiopia or surrounding areas.
Salman Abu Abdullah and Fayruz al-Daylami (Allah be pleased with them) were from Persia.
Suhaib Ibn Sinaan (Allah be pleased with him) was from the provinces of Rome, Abu Dharr (Allah be pleased with him) was from Gifar, Al-Najashi was an Abyssinian King who converted to Islam, Maryah (Allah be pleased with her) the Copt was the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
The differences in language, colour and race were not considered as levels of quality or degrees of superiority but rather as an expression of diversity and richness in Humanity.
We loudly and proudly attribute ourselves to Islam and its teachings, but we fail to practise upon what Islam really says. We narrate stories to our children in Madrasah of how Bilal Ibn Rabah (Allah be pleased with him) suffered in the streets of Makkah and how his rank was elevated to that of the Mu’addhin (caller to prayer) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), despite formerly being a slave and despite being from Ethiopia. We have numerous Masajid named after Bilal (Allah be pleased with him), absolutely beautiful Masajid costing over a million pounds, ‘MASJID BILAL’, but if Bilal (Allah be pleased with him) was alive today, would he even be allowed to become a member of your Masjid? We all know that his descendants are refused.
I personally have had my own experience, where I have walked into a Masjid and been made to feel unwelcome. Simply because I do not share the same village in India. For the record, I am neither a Surti nor a Bharuchi, nor does it matter. Neither should I feel the need to state what I am. My belief is that we should judge people by their words and actions, not stereotype people and look at the village they are from or where their ancestors descend from. I humbly request some of these racist, xenophobic, ethnocentric and nationalistic brothers and sisters to remove the pride and the prejudice from their hearts. Islam is not JUST about Salah and Sawm, it is also about the purity of the heart. A biased and racist person can never have a clean heart. Imam Ibnul Qayyim (Allah illuminate his grave) used to say, “If you want to get a taste of a person’s heart look at his tongue.”
Finally, I would like to end something which might seem slightly off topic, but I feel that it is related to the issue of ‘Unity’.
As we see the Ummah divided from every angle, in every shape and form, it is quite evident that it is not just race and nationality that divides us. We see different sects of the Muslim Ummah fighting and bickering over Fiqhi and sometimes hair-splitting issues; the mind boggles… I wish to elaborate more on this in a future blog In Sha Allah, but for the benefit of readers I will start with a quote that dates back to 1920, Shaykhul Hind Mawlana Mahmoodul Hassan (Allah sanctify his secret) was only 69, not only was he one of the most distinguished scholars of his time, he had also spent a lifetime in political struggle. His audience was a gathering of Ulama, eager to hear the lessons of a lifetime of study, struggle and reflection. His conclusion: “Our problems are caused by two factors; abandoning the Qur’an and our infighting.” He spent the few remaining days of his life addressing these causes. (4)
The reasons Shaykhul Hind (Allah sanctify his secret) are as valid today as they were then. They are also related; the second being caused by the first. The Qur’an had declared us as one Ummah and had warned us against infighting. We have ignored those teachings and the billion-strong Ummah has turned into an Ummah fragmented into a billion segments.
Some people blame the four madhabs for the disunity. but if we look at each of the four Imams and their biographies we will see, not once did they promote this sort of sectarianism. Fiqh is fiqh, it is not Aqeedah/Beliefs.
As Ahlus Sunnah Wal-Jama’ah our roots and fundamentals are the same,
One Allah, One Prophet, One Qur’an and one Qiblah, why are we not ONE Ummah?
Jannah has room for everyone! We seriously need to be careful before we declare people ‘Kafir’. It doesn’t matter if you are a Barelwi, Deobandi, Mawdoodi or a Salafi – Jannah certainly has room for us all, why do we choose to narrow the mercy of Allah? Why do we choose to divide on Fiqhi issues? Don’t get me wrong – debates and discussions are a good thing, when done sincerely, not merely for argument’s sake. The problem rather occurs when we overstate these differences. There was a difference of opinions in Fiqh amongst the companions, the Successors and great Mujtahideen. They disagreed but did they not turn these into fights. They disagreed but they maintained respect and love for each other.
The Brotherhood remained intact.
They had tolerance for the other view.
As I follow the Deobandi school of thought, I talk to my own first – because I believe that is the Qur’anic principle “Rectify your own first.” It is easy to get defensive and blame others, and I know amongst us Deobandis we have many people who harbour hatred, hate mongers and those that divide and cause disunity intentionally. Many claim that their organisation is doing the task that is the most important, and the work which is the only work of the Prophets (peace and blessings be upon them). A simple answer to those dear brothers, Jannah has eight doors, not one! People were created for different purposes, some preach, some teach and some are busy writing books, Allah accept one and all.
I end with a quote from Brother Malcolm X (Allah have mercy on him), “Our people have made the mistake of confusing the methods with the objectives. As long as we agree on objectives, we should never fall out with each other just because we believe in different methods, or tactics, or strategy.”
Ismail Ibn Nazir Satia (One who is in dire need of Allah’s Forgiveness, Mercy and Pleasure).
20 Rabeeul Thanee 1436
An article written on the completion of reading the biography of Malcolm X RH. I believe he was a man of courage and strength, a man who stood up for his people. Such men are rare to be found, we have a LOT of males, but very few men. One of his famous quotes, “To come right down to it, if I take the kind of things in which I believe, then add to that the kind of temperament that I have, plus 100% dedication that I have to whatever I believe in, these are ingredients which make it just impossible for me to die of old age – I know these societies have often killed the people who have helped to change those societies. And if I can die having brought any light, having exposed any meaningful truth that will help to destroy the Racist cancer that is malignant in America – then all credit is due to Allah. Only the mistakes have been mine.”
Malik al-Shabbaz (Allah illuminate his grave)
(1) – (Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi)
(2) – (Bukhari, Muslim)
(3) – (Tirmidhi)
(4) – (Hujurat:13)
(5) – (Adapted from a talk in 1963 by Mufti Muhammad Shafi, the late Grand Mufti of Pakistan which was published in the booklet ‘Wahdat e Ummat’)