Is Racism Haram in Islam?

Syed Bukhari

Updated on:

Is Racism Haram in Islam?

Racism is a complex issue that pervades societies worldwide, extending beyond social and political realms. It seeps into the fabric of communities, emotionally and mentally impacting individuals, and even influencing them spiritually. On the Arabian Tongue website, we explore the pressing question – is racism haram in Islam? By examining religious views, ethical implications and global efforts against this deep-rooted problem, we gain valuable insights.

Islam’s Stance Against Racism

Islam, as a religion, stresses equality, justice and unity across humanity. Its teachings directly condemn racism, providing guidance for Muslims combating prejudice. Here are some of the key ways Islam contributes to fighting racism:

  • Equality Before Allah: Islam says all people, regardless of race or status, are equal before Allah. The Quran emphasizes this in verse 49:13 – “Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous.”
  • Prohibiting Racism: Islam strictly forbids racism and discrimination, as the Prophet Muhammad said in his last sermon that no Arab is superior to a non-Arab.
  • Unity Above Differences: Islam encourages brotherhood amongst believers that transcends racial divides. Muslims are taught to support each other regardless of background.
  • Pursuing Social Justice: Islam mandates standing against injustice and oppression, including racial injustice. Working towards an equitable society is a religious obligation.
  • Inspiring Examples: Islamic history contains diverse, racially harmonious Muslim communities. The Prophet had close companions from varying backgrounds.
Prohibiting Racism: Islam strictly forbids racism and discrimination, as the Prophet Muhammad said in his last sermon that no Arab is superior to a non-Arab.

Quranic Verses Denouncing Racism

Several Quran verses highlight Islam’s opposition to racism and value for human equality:

  • O humankind! We created you from a man and woman and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. The noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous.” (49:13)
  • “The best provision is righteousness. So fear Me, you who are wise.” (2:197)
  • “And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Verily, Allah is ever watchful over you.” (4:1)
  • “Their Lord responded: ‘I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female – you are equal to one another.'” (3:195)

These verses make clear that piety and righteousness, not race or ethnicity, determine a person’s merit in Allah’s eyes. Islam opposes notions of racial superiority or discrimination among peoples whom Allah created.

The Ethical Dilemma of Racism

Looking beyond religious considerations, racism raises ethical issues resonating across belief systems. Discrimination’s adverse impacts underscore the ethical urgency of addressing racism. Marginalized groups facing prejudice experience reduced opportunities, poorer health outcomes, and diminished well-being. Society as a whole suffers from exclusion, mistrust between groups, and lack of social cohesion. From an ethical standpoint, these harmful consequences make racism indefensible.

Interconnectedness of Racism

Understanding racism requires recognizing its interconnections with other issues like gender, class, and cultural identity. These intersections create complex, nuanced experiences of discrimination. Acknowledging this interconnectivity paves the way for more inclusive dialogues and solutions. For instance, an affluent woman of color may still experience prejudice based on race, but have advantages related to class. Each person faces racism filtered through their unique position in society. Holistic anti-racist efforts must consider these intersecting realities.

Is Racism Haram in Islam

Why ‘Not Being Racist’ Isn’t Enough

In his final sermon, Prophet Muhammad unequivocally condemned racism, instructing Muslims to reject it completely. He proclaimed that no Arab is superior to a non-Arab, and no white person superior to a black one, except by piety. This pronouncement abolished the pre-Islamic concept of racial hierarchy, declaring all humans spiritually equal.

Though accepting this ethos, Muslims still struggle to fully live out Islam’s anti-racist principles in practice. Racism’s pervasive and corrosive effects permeate even faith communities. While renouncing racism intellectually, some Muslims unconsciously harbor prejudices that influence their behaviors and attitudes.

Anti-racism is fundamentally ingrained in Islamic teachings and values. Muslims have a duty not just to condemn racism but to actively counter it when encountered. The Islamic belief in Tawhid, the oneness of Allah, forms the basis of human equality. As the Quran states, Allah created humans from one soul, making us tribes so we may know one another, not foster division.

To uphold Prophet Muhammad’s example, Muslims must go beyond fear-based in-group preferences and approach diverse cultures with openness, not antipathy. This means engaging individuals free of prejudice rather than reacting to stereotypes. Through courage and compassion, Muslims can foster inclusion against racism’s corrosion.

Historical Examples of Islamic Anti-Racism

Throughout history, the Prophet Muhammad’s life illustrated Islam’s anti-racism values in action. He demonstrated principles of justice, compassion and human dignity, embracing people of all backgrounds. Here are some examples:

  • Bilal: An enslaved African man persecuted for becoming Muslim. The Prophet’s companion Abu Bakr freed Bilal, who became the first muezzin chosen by the Prophet for his beautiful voice.
  • Salman the Persian: A man who left Persia searching for truth, eventually becoming a close companion of the Prophet.
  • Suhayb ar-Rumi: A Greek convert to Islam who rose to prominence. His Greek roots did not impede his success.
  • Last Sermon: Muhammad declared no Arab is superior to non-Arab, and no white superior to black, except by piety. This upended social hierarchy.

These stories exemplify Islam’s message – race is irrelevant to spiritual rank, and piety reigns supreme. This resonates now amid racial tensions, providing a model for building unity.

Why We Can’t Breathe: America’s Enduring Struggle with Racism

Racism remains etched into America’s fabric, evidenced by the protests for racial justice gripping the nation. The roots run deep – from extermination of Native Americans to slavery and Jim Crow laws. Systemic inequities have locked generations of African Americans into poverty and disadvantage.

Police brutality is just the spark igniting decades of pent-up frustration over institutional racism. Though progress has occurred, anti-black prejudice persists socially, economically and politically. America remains far from the egalitarian vision of its founding ideals.

Islam’s principles of equity can help heal the racial divide. Yasir Qadhi, an Islamic scholar, said American Muslims “must fight racism, whether it is by education or by other means.” Many are protesting, guided by Islam’s opposition to racism. By returning to this ethos, perhaps some of America’s racial wounds can finally be nursed.

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Is racism only about skin color?

No, racism involves discrimination towards people based on their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion or other differences. It intersects with multiple factors beyond just skin color.

How can individuals help fight racism?

Individuals can help by educating themselves about racism, checking their own biases, speaking out against racism when witnessed, treating all people equally, and supporting organizations that promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

Does Islam explicitly prohibit racism?

Yes, Islamic teachings clearly prohibit racism and discrimination. The Quran and Hadith emphasize the equality of all people and the importance of diversity, compassion and social justice.

Are there examples of societies successfully overcoming racism?

Yes, though racism remains an issue worldwide, some societies have made significant progress by promoting intercultural understanding and passing anti-discrimination laws. Continued vigilance is needed.

Where can I learn more about anti-racism resources?

Reputable organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, NAACP, Race Forward, and the Racial Equity Institute offer excellent resources and training on combating racism.

Is it haram to be racist according to Islam?

Yes, being racist is absolutely forbidden in Islam. The Quran and Hadith explicitly prohibit any discrimination, hatred or unfair treatment towards others based on race, ethnicity or national origin. Islam emphasizes universal human dignity.

Why is racism morally wrong?

Racism is morally wrong because it leads to harm against innocent people simply because of their race or ethnicity. It goes against principles of justice, human rights and human unity that benefit society as a whole.

In Summary

Examining racism through an Islamic lens highlights profound moral and spiritual dimensions. Understanding racism’s harms calls us to actively counter bigotry, guided by principles of compassion. By working towards a just society, we actualize Islam’s egalitarian ethics. Our shared humanity calls us to build a world where people of every background are equally valued, respected and able to flourish.