Islam and the Race Question

by Paul Hardy, Ph.D

Found at the excellent website of Mas’ud Ahmed Khan.

This is an excellent article outlining the concept of race in Islam. It primarily focuses on the beautiful Ayat of Quran 49:13:

“O Humankind! We have created you from male and female and have made you into peoples (shu‘ub) and tribes (qaba’il) that you may know one another; truly, the noblest (akram) among you before God are the most pious (atqa) among yourselves; indeed, is God the All-knowing, the All-seeing.”

Also discussed in the article is the following incident related in hadith:

when some disagreement occurred between Abu Dharr and Bilal, the former said to the latter: “You son of a black woman!” The Messenger of God—on him be blessing and peace—was displeased by Abu Dharr’s comment and he rebuked him by saying: “That is too much, Abu Dharr. He who has a white mother has no advantage which makes him better than the son of a black mother.” The Prophet’s rebuke deeply affected Abu Dharr and he immediately threw himself to the ground, swearing that he would not raise it until Bilal had put his foot over his head.

Ma’ashallah, Quran and Hadith are our sources, but there is no way to fully understand the topic without the elucidation of scholars. So go read the article! I can’t figure out how to link directly to the article, so, from the front page, click Misc. Articles and scroll to the very bottom, Heading 4, Other.

Ma’ashallah, while Islam is indeed free from the awful racial concepts we find persisting in the states, Islamic societies are not entirely colorblind. In India and Malaysia, at least, fair skin is generally considered an attractive attribute, the way large eyes or high cheekbones or some other physical characteristic may be. When I first encountered this attitude, it was a little off-putting, since here it is un-PC to consider skin tone at all when assessing a person. But I’ve come to understand it. It doesn’t function much differently than preferring curly hair to straight or a sturdy frame to a thin one. Nobody would dream of thinking less of somebody’s capabilities or individual nature based on it.

And God knows best…


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