As many of you will have seen or read in the news, the Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has been banned from playing football (soccer across in the US!) for eight matches because the Football Association (FA) ruled that he abused the Manchester United Defender Patrice Evra on the basis of his race. Similarly, the Chelsea captain, John Terry, is facing criminal charges in February for allegdedly racially abusing the QPR defender, Anton Ferdinand. The attitudes of ‘some’ football fans towards race was then made frighteningly clear by Stan Collymore, the ex-Liverpool and England striker, who retweeted and favourited dozens of shocking racist tweets written by fans who sought to defend Luis Suarez by racially abusing Patrice Evra on twitter.
You are perhaps thinking: that’s really out of order, but why on earth are you writing about it, and on this blog of all places? There is a connection, I promise you. As I was reading the filthy tweets collated by Collymore, I noticed that some of the tweeters had Muslim names. One person stood out in particular, an individual who offended me the most, due to his first name being ”Muhammad.” I have from time to time come across some Muslims who choose not to name their children ”Muhammad” in case, as has occured here, the name would be associated with acts or words not befitting of the blessed originator of that name, the Holy Prophet of Islam (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Whilst I do not subscribe to that line of thinking myself, I have, after reading the said tweet, developed a new respect for people who make such a choice. Anyhow, I digress. I felt compelled to write a few words about the attitude of the real and most illuminated Muhammad (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) towards issues relating to race.
Racism and class divides represented one of the main challenges faced by the Holy Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), both in Makka and Madina. Black slaves were not only traded as comodities between those who could afford them, but, on a far deeper psychological level, were considered sub-human and inferior to the Arab man. Almighty Allah charged the Holy Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) with a powerful tool to tackle this problem, namely: the Qur’an. More specifically, one verse in particular established that men/women are in fact NOT equal, but some are greater or lesser than others. What would distinguish superiority, however, was not related to one’s gender, race, or creed, but solely on the basis of a person’s righteousness. The superior man thus became he/she who excelled, for the sake of Almighty Allah, in kindness, mercy, peace, love, valour, and each of the other countless qualities which establish righteousness. Addressing man, Almighty Allah stated:
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 honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware.
Therefore, any person who calls himself a Muslims and then distinguishes between others on the basis of race is acting against the teachings of the Qur’an. In this case, the tweeter’s message was directly in conflict with his name and instantly manifested his Hypocrisy.
The Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was surrounded by men of varying races and backgrounds. One of his most honoured and trusted Companions, Hadrat Bilal (radi Allahu ‘anhu) was a black man heralding from the great country of Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia). Referring to him, Hadrat ‘Umar (radi Allahi ‘anhu), the second Caliph of Islam, said: ”Bilal is our master.” He said this because it was accepted that Hadrat Bilal (radi Allahu ‘anhu) had excelled in each of his righteous qualities. He has since become a hero to every God fearing Muslim and someone about whom many a book and couplet have been penned.
Echoing the above verse, in what is perhaps his most famous sermons, the Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) stated in his ”Farewell Address,”:
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 honoured among you in the sight of God is the most righteous among you…
Another one of the many black men who remains a hero to every Muslim was Hadrat ‘Usama b. Zayd (radi Allahu ‘anhu). Despite being a young man, he was one of the most trusted Companions of the Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and appointed leader of the Muslim Campaign in the then Byzantine occupied Syria. This was despite there being a number of capable and far more experienced military commanders ready and willing to serve in this capacity.
These are just a few examples of the position of Islam vis-a-vis racism. Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that racism still exists, particularly in the troubled hearts and minds of some Muslims out there. I call upon each person reading this post to set aside a prayer dedicated to this subject and the removal of racism and prejudice from the hearts and minds of all those carrying this affliction of the heart, Amin. I would also like to remind each of us that our tongues will offer an account on the Day of Judgement as to what they were made to utter.
The following story, by the South American football writer ”Tim Vickery,” raises some important questions about attitudes towards race in countries outside of the United Kingdom. He suggests that the removal of racism rests in education rather than castigation. In that regard I agree with him and feel that racism would reduce considerably if more people were taught the above mentioned verse of the Holy Qur’an and the beautiful spirit behind it. News Item