No place for racism in Islam

Updated 31 March 2016

No place for racism in Islam

Islam with its universal concept of brotherhood rejects all artificial and man-made marks of distinction.
When listening to the radio, reading newspapers, surfing the Net or watching television, we are confronted daily with the same sad news: Violence, crime, wars and disasters.
This constant awareness of fear and tension should make us think what has triggered such violence and what can be done to end it. Any sensitive and compassionate person might question seriously the progress of our modern world.
One of the main factors producing the differences between cultures and cultural attainment in the world is history rather than race.
If racial superiority is only a myth why then has race in the past played and continued to play a large part in world conflict today?Why in some areas do people argue that others are biologically inferior to them?

What is racism?
Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another; that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. It is the belief that different races should remain segregated and apart from one another. Such racist attitudes are abhorred and condemned in Islam.
Allah says: “...We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you.” (Qur’an, 49:13)
In reading this verse we understand that this message is not just for Muslims only because God is addressing all of humanity. As Muslims we are taught that we are one brotherhood, which is part of a larger brotherhood of humanity.
Islam with its universal concept of this brotherhood rejects all artificial and man-made marks of distinction.
No one can claim any superiority over the other based on race, color, language or wealth and this is emphasized in the last sermon of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) showing high regard of humanity irrespective of color or race: “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 does a black have any superiority over a white except by piety and good action.”
A man once visited the Prophet’s mosque and saw a group of people including Salman (from Persia), Suhaib, a Greek, and Bilal, an African. The man said: “If the (Madinan) tribes of Aws and Khazraj support Muhammad, they are his people. But what are these people doing here?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) became angry when this was reported to him. He went to the mosque and summoned people to prayer where he addressed them saying: “O people know that the Lord and Sustainer is One. Your ancestor is one, your faith is one. The Arabism of anyone of you is not from your mother or father. It is no more than a tongue (language). Whoever speaks Arabic is an Arab.”

Racism is ugly
As Muslims, it is fundamental we believe that discriminatory exclusion based on race is alien to the spirit of our faith and in turn we should raise our children with this belief. We should instill in them that there are no excuses or reasons for racism. It’s just wrong.
Racism divides people into ‘us’ and ‘them,’ based one’s color and caste. And it happens when people feel that it’s acceptable to treat others badly as they go about their daily lives.
God created us from a man and a woman meaning then that we are all the same. Moreover we are created through the same process, not in a manner in which some are created with a better mechanism than others.
We must understand that God made human beings into different groups and people. These differences are not wrong, but rather a sign from God. God says in the Qur’an: “And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors. Verily, in that are indeed signs for those who know.” (Qur’an, 30:22)
We notice that not one word equivalent to race is used in this or any other verse of the Qur’an. Islam, however, limits the purpose of these distinctions to differentiation and knowing each other. This is not meant to be a source of beating each other down with an attitude of my group is better than your group or false pride as is the case with tribalism, nationalism, colonialism, and racism.
Of the many problems we face today, some are natural disasters, while others unfortunately are of our own making, created by misunderstanding, arising from the conflict of ideologies, where people fight each other for petty ends, losing sight of the basic humanity that binds us all together as a single human family. These however can be corrected.
We must remember these differences are meant for human beings to achieve progress attaining happiness through the process. We must not lose sight of this fundamental goal and at no time should we place means above ends; the supremacy of humanity over matter and ideology must always be maintained.
There are two things important to keep in mind: Self-examination and self-correction. We should constantly check our attitude toward others, examining ourselves carefully, and we should correct ourselves immediately when we find we are in the wrong.
One individual who is higher in piousness, more conscious of his Creator and is staying away from the bad and doing the good is better, no matter what nation, country or caste he is part of. Individual piety is the only thing that makes a person better and greater than the other one.
It is fortunate that the only criterion of preference mentioned is not measurable by human beings. We should leave even this criterion to God to decide instead of human beings judging each other.

Racism in the West
Racism still there. Even today, as I write this article, violence because of race is taking place. Take for instance the riots in the US after the police there killed a black young man, or the latest advertisement where the so called Israeli state will racially segregate kindergartens. How these actions by supposedly democratic countries promote progress I have no idea. This stands against all that I had been raised on, against any of Islam’s beliefs and against anything I teach my children.
I’ve learned that if something is to be funny all present should laugh at it. It’s not funny if we hurt somebody’s feelings.
To achieve such goals I learned it is necessary to develop a sense of universal responsibility, a deep concern for all irrespective of creed, color, sex, or nationality.
The Prophet teaches: “Whoever has arrogance in his heart equal to an atom’s weight shall not enter Paradise. A man inquired about a person who likes to wear beautiful clothes and fine shoes, he answered: ‘God is beautiful and likes beauty’ and explained pride as rejecting truth because of self-esteem and looking down on other people.” (Muslim, 65)
We learn that the idea of universal responsibility is the simple fact that, in general terms, all others’ desires are the same as mine. Every being wants happiness and does not want suffering.
If we, as intelligent human beings, do not accept this fact, there will be more and more suffering on this planet. If we adopt the racists’ self-centered approach to life and constantly try to abuse others for our own self-interest, we may gain temporary benefits, but in the long run we will not succeed in achieving even personal happiness, and world peace will be completely out of the question.

Courtesy: onislam.net


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016

The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.