It might seem that if we separate the races, the problem of racism would go away. This is an idea that many Americans have had. However, what American history has shown us is that even when people were not being racist against other races, they found ways to be racist within their own race (1). For example, among white people, there were eras in American history when Irish people were considered intellectually inferior (2), and Southern and Eastern European immigrants, particularly Italian and Polish, were also considered inferior (3). The influxes in immigration to the United States gave rise to racism against different types of white people who came from Europe. This pattern of behavior is not unique to white people, it can be found in all races.
The reality is that when a person is racist, he finds a way to redefine races to be racist against his own race.
The root cause of racism is something far deeper than just skin color. The root cause is arrogance. As long as arrogance exists, we shall always have people trying to find a new category by which to consider others inferior and to consider themselves superior. As long as arrogance exists, it is impossible to have brotherhood. Even if someone gets rid of all the races they do not like, they will find a way to be arrogant against different subgroups within themselves.
Islam has taught that the key to solving racism is brotherhood, which requires humility.
The Holy Prophet (sa) said:
“Be you, O slaves of Allah, as brothers. A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim; he neither oppresses him nor does he look down upon him nor does he humiliate him. Piety is here (and he pointed to his chest three times). It is enough evil for a Muslim to hold his brother Muslim in contempt” (4).
When we believe that we have One Supreme Creator and that we are all the creation of the One Creator, that is when the love for that Creator automatically extends to the rest of His creation. When we see ourselves as humble in front of the Creator, we are also humble and kind to His creation. We do not look down on it. As stated, the problem of racism is rooted in arrogance. Islam addresses the underlying problem that racism is a symptom of.
The Holy Qur’an says:
“O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognize one another. Verily, the most honorable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware” (5).
The word “recognize” (ta‘ārafū) in this verse is interesting because we only recognize people if we have seen them before. When we see them again, we recognize something we are familiar with. Similarly, when we recognize ourselves in the people of other races who are different from us, we can create brotherhood.
The source of many conflicts is our inability to recognize ourselves in other people. For example, many of misunderstandings between husbands and wives come about because we do not recognize ourselves in the other person. When we do not empathize by putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes, misunderstandings will arise. However, when we recognize ourselves in our partner and see the same emotions, needs, hopes, and aspirations in our partner that we have, it is the foundation of a mutually understanding relationship. Similarly, when someone is able to recognize their own self in a person of a different race, they look past all the superficial differences of color or appearance or culture, and they recognize themselves in that person, simply another human being. Allah Almighty created this diversity in our races so we can broaden our minds with the knowledge of other cultures and religions and widen our circle of empathy.
The World Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Fifth Khalifa (Caliph) to the Promised Messiah (as), Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), said: “This is the time that they [the racist people]should change their mind and instead of being racist and showing [so-called] supremacy of their color and race, they should rather do justice. This is how we can tell the people that we are your real sympathizer. We want you to change your mindset and now live together amicably with all other races. Now, America is a multinational country. There are South Americans, Eurasians, Asians, Africans there, and white Americans, so now we should respect each other and live amicably in the country. Otherwise, we are going to doom our nation and our country” (6).
- “Eugenics in the United States,” Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics_in_the_United_States [Accessed: Jan 1, 2023]
- “Anti-Irish sentiment,” Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Irish_sentiment#19th_century [Accessed: Jan 1, 2023]
- Racism in the United States, European Americans, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism_in_the_United_States#European_Americans [Accessed: Jan 1, 2023]
- Sahih Muslim, Book 45, Hadith 40 (Sahih Muslim 2564a)
- The Holy Qur’an (49:14)
“Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya USA have Honour of Virtual Meeting with World Head of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community” March 19, 2022. https://www.alislam.org/press-release/majlis-khuddamul-ahmadiyya-usa-have-honour-of-virtual-meeting-with-world-head-of-ahmadiyya-muslim-community-3/ [Accessed January 5, 2023]
Last modified: September 2023