racism in Islam

The War on Racism in Islam

Recent studies show that racism is the top motivation for hate crimes. How does Islam fight racism?

    Discrimination between human beings because of their color or ethnicity is a major problem that disrupts societies nowadays. Recent studies show that racism is the top motivation for hate crimes (more than 60%). People all over the world need to unite and fight against racism if they aim for safe and stable societies.

Can the abidance by the teachings of Islam contribute to this fight? In this article, we will shed the light on this interesting topic.

The origin of racism

When do you think racism began? Two or three thousand years ago?

Actually, the Quran tells us that racism is a deadly spiritual disease that has existed since the creation of Adam. When Allah created Adam, He ordered the angels to prostrate to Adam as a symbol of showing honor to him. They all immediately followed God’s order except for Satan (Iblis). He justified his rejection by the fact that God created him from fire and created Adam from clay. In his opinion, fire was superior to clay. Therefore, this racist way of thinking caused Satan to deserve the eternal punishment of God and deprivation of His mercy. Here is the story in the chapter as mentioned in surah “Sad”:

[So mention] when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I am going to create a human being from clay. So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My [created] soul, then fall down to him in prostration.” So the angels prostrated – all of them entirely, Except Iblees; he was arrogant and became among the disbelievers. [Allāh] said, “O Iblees, what prevented you from prostrating to that which I created with My hands? Were you arrogant [then], or were you [already] among the haughty?” He said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.” [Allāh] said, “Then get out of it [i.e., Paradise], for indeed, you are expelled.” [Qur’an 38:71-78] (1)

Is arrogance acceptable in Islam?

This story tells us that there is no room for any racism in Islam and that any feeling of arrogance is completely unacceptable and can lead to severe punishment. Ibn Masood (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (ﷺ) said,

He who has, in his heart, an ant’s weight of arrogance will not enter Jannah.” Someone said: “A man likes to wear beautiful clothes and shoes?” Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Allah is Beautiful, He loves beauty. Arrogance means ridiculing and rejecting the Truth and despising people.” [Hadith] (2)

Is our difference something bad?

In the Quran, God says it unambiguously that He has created us differently. That is the undeniable fact that we all should accept and cope with. Moreover, it is something that we should ponder.

And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.” [Qur’an 30:22] (3)

In the below hadith, the Prophet (ﷺ) related the observed difference in colors and traits to the beginning of creation:

God created Adam from a handful which he took from the whole of the earth; so the children of Adam are in accordance with the earth, some red, some white, some black, some a mixture, also smooth and rough, bad and good.[Hadith] (4)

Shall our difference affect our relations?

The question now is, does such difference allow us to react in a racist way and treat one another disrespectfully? 

In these verses, Allah, the All-Wise, gives us one face of the wisdom behind such differences:

   And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Qur’an 6:165] (5)
Read this also:
   And We did not send before you, [O Muḥammad], any of the messengers except that they ate food and walked in the markets. And We have made some of you [people] as trial for others – will you have patience? And ever is your Lord, Seeing.” [Qur’an 25:20] (6)

Our difference is part of the test

Thus, this difference is an integral part of this worldly exam. Our reaction to our differences is the subject of this exam: Will the one with a blessing be thankful and not show arrogance towards others? Will the one deprived of a blessing be patient and accept the decree of God?

Read also this beautiful verse, which mentions another wisdom behind our difference:

 O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allāh is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allāh is Knowing and Aware.” [Qur’an 49:13] (7)

This verse shows how Islam encourages a meaningful dialogue between nations, based upon the fact that the only criterion for differentiating people in the sight of God is righteousness and piety. In the materialistic age that we live, people always tend to judge us by our shapes and colors but for God, things are different. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) narrated: Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said,

Allah does not look at your figures, nor at your attire but He looks at your hearts and accomplishments.[Hadith] (8)

Final comment

Malcolm X, the black American human rights activist whose heart tasted the beauty of Islam, said in his Letter from Mecca:

America needs to understand Islam because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug – while praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan, and Ghana. (9)

Isn’t it time to discover more about the beauty of Islam?


(1) Verses (38: 71-78) of Qur’an (English Interpretation of Meaning).

(2) Prophet’s Saying (Hadith).

(3) Verse (30:22) of Qur’an (English Interpretation of Meaning).

(4) Prophet’s Saying (Hadith).

(5) Verse (6:165) of Qur’an (English Interpretation of Meaning).

(6) Verse (25:20) of Qur’an (English Interpretation of Meaning).

(7) Verse (49:13) of Qur’an (English Interpretation of Meaning).

(8) Prophet’s Saying (Hadith).

(9) 7 inspiring quotes on Islam and Muslims


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About Alaa M. Abdou

Alaa Abdou is an R&D engineer and student of comparative religion. Alaa has spent years working as an R&D engineer for multinational companies to develop products that make our lives better. In addition to his engineering expertise, he is deeply involved in comparative religion studies and Quran teaching. He received Ijazah in Qirat Hafs and has studied Tafseer and theology under qualified scholars. He has continuously contributed to dawaa activities in Ahlan Organization, which operates from Egypt. Alaa holds a BSc in materials science from the German University in Cairo (GUC) and an MSc from Arizona State University (ASU) in the United States, and he is fluent in Arabic and English, with intermediate proficiency in German. Alaa Abdou loves history, football, traveling, books, and fundraising for charities.

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