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Racism: How Islam Abolished It

The Arab world of the seventh century was one of tribal loyalties and conflict. Lineage was everything and a person was known by his tribe and genealogy before he was known as an individual. Loyalty to ones tribe was paramount with wars between tribes being frequent and fundamental.

A similar picture could be seen in many parts of the world including Africa, Europe and Asia. In Britain, the seventh century saw the invasion of the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes each taking different parts of the country. Kings of different regions were expected to be constantly at war. Their power was only as strong as their abilities in battle. Thus, there were kings of Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria to name but a few. Ultimately, they were invaded and conquered by the Vikings and the Normans. Modern day nationalism and national identity is really just an extension of this tribal mentality. Two world wars and colonial competition to this day bear testomony to the willingness of Western nations to put the interests of their nation above all else.

It was in such a tribal society that Islam emerged. It rapidly gained followers from different tribes and different races, each adopting the new Islamic identity that overtook tribal allegiances. Tribes that had for years been at war with each other embraced the new religion . Old feuds were abandoned in the spirit of brotherhood. Over just 20 years from the emergence of Muhammad as a Prophet, almost all the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula had been united as one nation. Within 100 years this unity had extended to India, Africa, central Asia, China and Europe. This melting pot of tolerance was governed by statements from the Quran and The Prophet s example, in particular his last sermon before he died, in which he stated:

"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."

These words are sacred to Muslims.

Article Contents:
But weren't Muslims complicit in selling slaves to the West? ^
Unfortunately there were some Muslims involved in the slave trade. However, Islam began the movement to liberate slaves by making it praiseworthy to free slaves and compulsory in some cases.

Slavery in the Arab world was very different from that in Western Europe and North America. The image of the slave trade portrayed by Alex Haley in Roots of poor illiterate black men being whipped while picking cotton or laying down railways while their women were raped and abused, is a real experience. But, slavery existed in the Arabian peninsula, as elsewhere in the seventh century, but was not necessarily an issue of racial discrimination. Arabs enslaved Arabs, Romans enslaved other Europeans.

Islam approached it in a completely different way. At the time of The Prophet Muhammad people freed their slaves and later these slaves married their old masters own daughters! Imagine a white farmer during the times of Western slavery freeing their slave and marrying them to their daughter. This was happening in Islam more than 1000 years ago. Moreover, being from a slave background did not place one in a social class restricting ones opportunities once freed. There were freed "slaves" in the Islamic lands who were generals of armies or even political leaders.

But, if Islam unites people, why is there so much division within the Muslim World? ^
It is sadly true that today, the Muslim world is divided and, in many cases, there is distrust and conflict between Muslims of different regions. This is due to the influence of nationalism and secularism, not Islam. It is, infact, the remnants of Islam still existing within these countries that bridge the divisions that have crept in.

During the Islamic era, Arabs settled in Zanzibar, Tanzania, Central Asia and India. People intermarried and there was certainly no question of double standards between people of different races. Compare this with the lack of integration and later massacres when the French landed in Algeria, the Italians in Libya and the British in India, bringing with them a secular, nationalistic culture.

Categories: Challenging Myths, | Tags: slavery, racism,

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Cached: 21/8/2009 at 11:24