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Islam And The Civil Rights

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The civil rights era and movement is a much praised movement and moment of history, during the civil rights movement, people fought and campaigned against discrimination and racism. The civil rights movement and era must be praised indeed, but what many people don’t often realize, is that modern day civil rights era, was preceded by another civil rights era more than 1400 years ago!

For example take a look at this statement made by a certain someone more than 1400 years ago:

“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 black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.”

A very powerful statement isn’t it? Now remember, this message was uttered more than 1400 years ago, this wasn’t a message or speech given by Martin Luther King, or Malcolm X, or any other civil rights leader. So who was the one that made such a powerful statement? A statement that has often been used in our modern era, such as the saying that it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white etc.

The above statement was made by none other than the Prophet Muhammad, The Prophet Muhammad made the statement during his final sermon to the Muslims in what is often called his farewell speech, this was the last and final sermon the Prophet gave to his people, which makes his speech even more powerful as this was one of the last things he left them with, to make sure that they understood that the Religion he brought had no place for racism or discrimination amongst others based on the color of your skin, or your ethnic origin.

The Noble Quran itself also has a lot of important things to say regarding our diversity in terms of skin color, and ethnic origin:

And one of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your tongues and colors; most surely there are signs in this for the learned. (30:22)

The above passage is talking about the signs of God, as in signs that point to him, and evidence for a creator etc. Amongst those signs that are listed, are the differences in our languages, and our different colors, so according to the Quran, our different skin colors, whether you be white, black, or brown, is a sign from God in the different ways he made us. So if God made us in different colors as a sign, then obviously one mustn’t look down upon someone else for the color of their skin, as the varying different colors of people’s skin is a sign from God himself! Just think about how powerful that message is in terms of a civil rights movement, according to the Quran, different skin colors are a sign of God, it is something divinely ordained as a sign to point to him!

 

The famous and well known Quranic commentator Ibn Kathir writes the following about the verse: 

 

So, we see that some speak Arabic, and the Tatars have their own language, as do the Georgians, Romans, Franks, Berbers, Tou Couleurs (of Sudan), Ethiopians, Indians, Persians, Slavs, Khazars, Armenians, Kurds and others. Only Allah knows the variety of languages spoken among the sons of Adam. And the difference of their colors mentioned here refers to their appearance, for all the people of this world, from the time that Allah created Adam, and until the Hour begins, each of them has two eyes, two eyebrows, a nose, a forehead, a mouth and two cheeks, but none of them looks like another; there is bound to be some difference in posture, appearance and speech, whether it is apparent or is hidden and can only be noticed with careful observation. Each face has its own characteristics and does not look like another.

 

Another Quranic verse that points to our diversity as a good thing is the following:

Mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in God's sight is that one of you who best performs his duty. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (49:13)

So according to this passage, we as humans were made into different peoples and tribes, we were made to be diverse, hence diversity amongst people isn’t something to be shunned upon, or looked down upon, rather it is something that should be embraced. As the passage also says, we were made into different peoples and tribes so that we come to know one another, Ibn Kathir explains:

 

Allah the Exalted declares to mankind that He has created them all from a single person, `Adam, and from that person He created his mate, Hawwa'. From their offspring He made nations, comprised of tribe, which include subtribes of all sizes. It was also said that `nations refers to non-Arabs, while `tribes refers to Arabs. Various statements about this were collected in an individual introduction from the book, Al-Inbah, by Abu `Amr Ibn `Abdul-Barr, and from the book, Al-Qasad wal-Amam fi Ma`rifah Ansab Al-Arab wal-`Ajam. Therefore, all people are the descendants of `Adam and Hawwa' and share this honor equally. The only difference between them is in the religion that revolves around their obedience to Allah the Exalted and their following of His Messenger . After He forbade backbiting and belittling other people, alerting mankind that they are all equal in their humanity.So in essence diversity amongst mankind in terms of our skin color, our different languages, or different cultures, and our different ethnic backgrounds, was all intentionally made that way by God, and it wasn’t done as something bad or negative, rather it was done as a positive thing, as a sign, and so that we may know one another, and learn from each other and so forth.

So while the civil rights movement was an excellent movement, it was preceded by a far more powerful civil rights movement 1400 years ago, through the advent of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, both teaching that our diversity was due to the divine, now how much more powerful can it get than that?

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