Editors’ Note: This post was originally published in January 2012, and is part of our #ThrowbackThursday series, in which we will highlight articles from One Voice’s previous print issues.
“Sister, let me tell you something. Please don’t ever do business with people from Country A because time and time again, they’ve proven to be extremely untrustworthy.”
“We can’t let our daughter marry that brother. He’s from Country B and they’re known for being so aggressive and ill-mannered towards their wives.”
“You can’t hire him. Everyone knows that people from his country are careless procrastinators who aren’t very reliable or punctual.”
“I can’t stand those girls from Country C. They’re so condescending and their fathers do nothing but spoil them rotten.”
Do any of these sound familiar? No matter what type of a life you lead and who you interact with, I’m sure you are no stranger to these types of conversations which are heavily laced with discrimination, racism, and prejudice. We, as Muslims, have fallen into the trap of this ugly disease of the heart and the tongue and it is an issue plaguing our communities for years. It has become so invisible that our own souls seem to disregard it as a sin and we carry on harboring these silent prejudices in our hearts and minds. As a result, many members of our ummah bear negative feelings and perceptions regarding one another and this is leading to intolerance, favoring certain groups of people over others and making distinctions which lead to treating people unfairly.
To have a prejudice means to entertain unreasonable feelings, formed without proper knowledge, especially of a hostile nature, towards a certain group, whether it is racial or ethnic. To discriminate means to act upon your prejudices; since when did our beautiful religion allow this type of behavior? How can we overlook the fact that holding a prejudice and talking about it counts as diseases of the heart such as arrogance, pride and backbiting? What does Islam tell us about harboring these types of attitudes?
Here are a few reminders from the Qur’an and Sunnah so that we can help remedy this problem of harboring prejudices towards each other.
Allah subhana wa ta’ala says (the meaning of which is),
“O mankind! We have created you from male and female and have made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Indeed the most noblest of you with Allah is the one who has the most taqwa.” — Surah al-Hujuraat, Verse 13
When Allah tells us that He made us into nations and tribes so that we may know one another, why is it that we do the exact opposite? Instead of getting to know that brother or sister who comes from a different ethnic background, we make false assumptions and categorize people unjustly. How will we ever get to know one another if we cannot get past the stereotypes we ourselves created?
The Prophet Muhammadﷺ said:
“Indeed Allah has revealed to me that you should have humility, and that no one should act proudly and oppressively over anyone else, nor should anyone boast over anyone else” [Muslim].
He ﷺ also stated in his final sermon,
“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 a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.”
In yet another example, Allah subhana wa ta’ala says (the meaning of which is),
“O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.” — Surah al-Hujuraat, Verse 11
To avoid committing any form of injustice towards anyone, remember to seek refuge with Allah from the evils of Shaytaan and to have an open mind toward your brothers and sisters in Islam. Avoid jumping to conclusions or rushing to stereotype someone simply based on their ethnic or racial background. And, finally, remember that Allah is The One who created us and to Him is our return.