Abolishing Racism

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Islam is a universal religion; its message is for all mankind. Under Islam, all men (a term inclusive of women) are equal regardless of their race or origin. The only thing that sets them apart is the level of their piety. No race, color of skin, or faith makes anyone special. The Holy Qur’an acknowledges,

“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 the one who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware” (1). 

Since the message of Islam was not confined to one nation or one country, the Messenger of Islam was not confined to one nation or country either. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) was sent for the whole of humanity. His teachings were not just limited to the Arab world. He is named as the mercy for all peoples:

“And We have sent thee not but as a mercy for the universe” (2). 

At the time of the advent of Islam, Arabs considered themselves superior to the rest of the world. They looked down upon other races and call them Ajami (mute) out of a sheer sense of superiority based on their eloquence. The very fabric of Arab society was weaved with the thread of racial discrimination and a sense of false pride. Arab tribes would fight over petty differences and would not recognize anyone’s authority. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) abolished all discriminatory practices. He laid the foundation of a compassionate and loving society where all were treated justly, as equals. It was a society where no one could be persecuted based on race, religion, or class. He started a new era in which the only recognition of superiority was based on piety. In his famous sermon at Mount Arafat, he completely abolished the false standards of discrimination.

The life of the Holy Prophet (sa) was a testimony to these principles. He always extended his hand to the lowly and oppressed. At no point did he ever allow prejudice and discrimination to influence his dealings and decisions. That is why society’s weaker and victimized factions embraced Islam first when the Holy Prophet (sa) started preaching Islam. It was because Islam and the very personality of the Holy Prophet (sa) appeared as a savior to them. The enslaved individuals were of various ethnicities. One of his companions, Hazrat Bilal (ra), was very dear to him. Hazrat Bilal (ra) was a black slave of Abyssinian descent. He belonged to the section of society which was looked down upon due to race and status. His master tortured him severely to make him recant, but all kinds of cruelties proved futile as he remained firm on his faith, Islam, and was later purchased and freed by Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra). After migration to Medina, when Muslims were free to practice Islam, the Holy Prophet (sa) appointed him as the first Muezzin (the one who calls to prayer). Hazrat Bilal (ra) was of African descent and could not pronounce the “sh (as in she) sound properly, and other Muslims would laugh at this apparent shortcoming. The Holy Prophet (sa) expressed his displeasure and said that Bilal (ra) was dearer to God because of his steadfastness in the face of persecution (3).

In Madinah, the Holy Prophet (sa) established a community based solely on love for Allah and love and compassion among believers. The Holy Prophet (sa) knew that those who migrated to Madinah had to leave everything behind, and the local Madinites had better financial positions. To remove this discrepancy and to abolish any feelings of superiority that could arise, he established a bond of brotherhood between one migrant and one Madinite. It united them in an intricate bond of kinship and closed all doors that could lead to discrimination or superiority based on race or status differences.

At the time of the conquest of Makkah, no blood was shed, and the Holy Prophet (sa), excepting a few criminals, granted a universal pardon. At that time, the Holy Prophet (sa) gave the flag of Islam to his companion, Abu Ruwaiha (ra), who was the brother of Hazrat Bilal (ra) through the bond of brotherhood. The Holy Prophet (sa) asked Hazrat Bilal (ra) to walk in front of Abu Ruwaiha (ra) and inform people that they would be granted forgiveness if they came under the flag of Islam that was carried by Hazrat Ruwaiha (ra). It must have been a uniquely moving scene. Hazrat Bilal (ra), who had been beaten and dragged in the alleys of Makkah on account of his acceptance of Islām,, gave protection and peace to those perpetrators of torture. It was a scene that had never been witnessed on earth before.

The Holy Prophet (sa) performed Hajj (the Islamic pilgrimage) shortly before his death and delivered a sermon at Mount Arafat. He said:

“All Muslims are as brethren to one another. All of you are equal. All men, whatever nation or tribe they may belong to, and whatever station in life they may hold, are equal – raising his hands and joining the fingers of one hand with those of the other, he added – even as the fingers of the two hands are equal, so are human beings equal to one another. No one has any right, any claim to superiority, over another. You are as brothers. O men, your God is One, and your ancestor is one. An Arab possesses no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab. A white man is in no way superior to a black nor for that matter, is a black man better than a white, but only to the extent to which he discharges his duty to God and man. The most honored among you in the sight of God is the most righteous among you. Even as this month is sacred, this land inviolate, and this day holy, so has God made the lives, property, and honor of every man sacred. To take any man’s life or his property, or attack his honor, is as unjust and wrong as to violate the sacredness of this day, this month, and this territory. What I command you today is not meant only for today. It is meant for all times. You are expected to remember it and to act upon it until you leave this world and go to the next to meet your Maker. What I have said to you, you should communicate to the ends of the earth. Maybe those who have not heard me may benefit from it more than those who have heard” (4).

This sermon provides a complete charter of life. Today, the world is racially divided, and nations are prejudiced against one another. The notion of white supremacy is getting stronger and stronger. The color of one’s skin is still a dividing factor in the advanced society of the United States of America. Despite tremendous scientific and industrial progress, Western societies have not been able to establish the simple rule of equality and availability of equal opportunity and justice for all. Even though governments have passed laws, and even as social and print media condemn racism, it still penetrates deeply into the fabric of society. If the sentiments of the last sermon delivered by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) are fully promulgated and implemented, all racial and social divides that we see in society will be abolished, and a just society as compassionate and strongly bonded as that of the Madīnah of the Prophet’s (sa) time will be established.


  1. The Holy Qur’an (49:14)
  2. The Holy Qur’an (21:108)
  3. Mahmuda Amatus Sami Wahab, 1989, Sayyedna Bilal, [Accessed December 27, 2022] https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Sayyedna-Bilal.pdf
  4. Musnad Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal, Hadith no. 19774

Last modified: September 2023

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