“America needs to understand Islām, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.” – Al-Ḥajj Malīk al-Shabbāẓ (Malcolm X) [may Allāh have mercy on him]
It is one of the mercies of Allāh that after creating us He did not leave us to use our intellect to guess at how we should live. Rather, Allāh dispatched intelligent, upright prophets and messengers to explain to us how to be humans. Bereft of that Divine guidance, humanity will behave worse than animals and oppress one another, even though they claim to be the flag bearers of basic human rights and the champions of the underprivileged.
Before the deputation of our Prophet ﷺ the world was drowning in massive oceans of darkness and oppression due to straying from the prophetic teachings brought by past messengers. Jacfar ibn Abī Tālib, may Allāh be pleased with him, described the horrendous state of the Arab in particular when he was speaking to the Najāshī of Abyssinia:
“We were a people who were ignorant,” He explained when the delegation from the Quraish came seeking the return of the Muslims who had made hijrā and sought asylum in Abyssinia from religious persecution, “We worshipped idols, ate carrion, perpetrated all types of foul deeds, severed the ties of kinship, and treated our neighbors badly; the strong amongst us consumed the weak.”9
Through Islām, Allāh gave honor to the Muslims. Through it, He raised forth people from pits of degradation, humiliation, and lowliness to high pulpits of honor and respectability; criminals became people of immense piety; people considered the lowliest members of society became the leaders of the ummah of the beloved of Allāh. Dignity and humanity were given back to the children of Ādam.
On the historic visit of cUmar, may Allāh be pleased with him, to Baiṭ al-Maqdis in order to accept the surrender of its people, he told one of the Companions, “You were the most humiliated, despicable, and insignificant of people, and Allāh gave you honor through Islām.” He then said, “Whenever you seek honor by means of something other than Islām, Allāh will abase you.”10
Commenting on the verse, “Honor belongs to Allāh, and His messenger and the believers,”11 cAllāmah Ālūsī, may Allāh have mercy on him, writes that the honor which Allāh has bestowed upon the Messenger ﷺ is by means of the noble function he has been given, while that of the believers is due to their imān.12 The scholar then goes on to quote a pious woman who said, “Am I not in the state of Islām which is such an honor that there is no disgrace with it and such a wealth that there is no poverty with it?”13
While we are in need of Allāh and His Dīn to succeed both in this world and the one to come after this one. He, pure is He from all defects, is not in need of us, nor is His Dīn in need of us. He, glorified be His mention, has stated in the Qur’ān: “And if you turn away, He will replace you with another people, and they will not be like you.”14 Ibn Kathīr, may Allāh have mercy on him, elaborates on this verse, stating, “And if you turn away from His obedience and following His sharicah, He will replace you with another people who will not be like you, rather they will listen to Him and obey His commands.”15
The great Ḥanafī scholar, Mullā cAlī al-Qārī, may Allāh have mercy on him, details who these substitutes are: “They are the Persians, because he, peace be upon him, was asked about them while Salmān, may Allāh be pleased with him, was sitting by his side. He struck [Salmān’s] thigh and said, ‘This one and his companions.’”16 Allāh will bestow His Dīn on whomsoever He likes, and will use whomsoever He likes to spread it, regardless of their nationality, mother tongue, or skin color.
An Arab does not have a monopoly on Islām because he is an Arab, and the same goes for a non-Arab. In Islām there is no special claim of superiority for anyone on the basis of worldly connections. Even if one comes from a pious family, this familial tie is not a substitute for one’s own actions. It is not enough to have family members and ancestors who have ṭaqwā, we must also have it. May Allāh make the author and the readers amongst the people of ṭaqwā.
Allāh has made ṭaqwā (i.e. one’s compliance with the commands and prohibitions of Allāh) the sole criterion by which superiority and virtue is gauged. Didn’t our Prophet ﷺ inform us that Allāh does not look at our outward forms nor our wealth, but He looks at our hearts and our actions?17 All humans are equal in their humanity, and the extent one’s piety exceeds that of another human is a matter known only to Allāh, thus there is no reason for an individual to consider themselves better than anyone else.
Moreover, on the day Makkah was conquered, the Prophet ﷺ addressed the people, saying, “O mankind, Allāh has erased the arrogance, pride, and mutual boasting [of the Days of Ignorance]. Mankind is of two types: a righteous individual with ṭaqwā [for whom it is not fitting that they behave arrogantly towards anyone since the pivot on which imān rests is one’s end, and Allāh knows best who has more ṭaqwā], and a disobedient individual who is wretched and despicable in the sight of Allāh. Mankind are all the children of Ādam, and Allāh created Ādam from dirt. Allāh says: O mankind, indeed, We created you all from a male and female and made you into [near and distant relations] so that you might recognize one another; without a doubt, the most honorable of you in the sight of Allāh is the one with the most ṭaqwā; indeed, Allāh is All-Knowing, Well-Informed.”18
Bringing our attention to His perfect power in His creation of differing varieties from one thing, Allah mentions in ṣūrah al-Fātir, “Have you not considered that Allāh sends down water from the heavens and We take out by means of it fruits of differing colors [i.e. green, red, yellow, etc.], and amongst the mountains are tracks, white and red, of differing colors, and extremely black.”19 Elucidating the last section of this āyah, Ibn Kathīr writes, “And He created the mountains in a like manner of differing colors, as is witnessed as well, white and red. And in some of them are paths that are also of differing colors.”20
Allāh continues in the following āyah, “And among mankind, animals, and cattle are differing colors in a like manner.”21 That is, living things like human beings, animals, and cattle differ in a similar manner. Amongst mankind are the Berber, Abyssinian, and [other] non-Arab22 who are extremely black; the Sicilians and Romans who are extremely white; the Arab who are in between, as well as the Indians [who are slightly lighter than the Arab].23
These differing colors and complexions apparent on the skins of human beings, are not a cause of boasting or pride, but a sign of the immense power of Allāh, as He says, “Amongst His signs [i.e. of His massive power] are the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and complexions; indeed, in that are signs for the people of knowledge.”24
To say nothing of our pious predecessors, the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ were cosmopolitan in makeup, some hailing from different parts of the earth (e.g. Suhaib al-Rūmī, Abū cUqbah al-Fārsī, Anjasha al-Habashi, etc.), some coming from tribes that had long running blood feuds (e.g. The Aws and Khazraj of Madīnah), but through the blessing of Islām they became brothers and sisters of one another. Any notion of tribal or racial superiority was cut out from its root.
This is not surprising since Allāh mentions, ”And remember the favor of Allāh upon you when you were enemies then He joined your hearts together and, due to His grace, you became brothers; and you were on the brink of a pit of the Fire but He saved you from it, like that Allāh makes clear his āyāṭ to you all so that you may be guided.”25
Commenting on this āyah, Mufṭī Shafīc writes, “In other words, by erasing … deep-seated enmities going back … centuries, [Allāh] Almighty made them brothers to each other through the benediction of [Islām] and the noble Prophet [ﷺ]. This made their life worth living, materially and spiritually, establishing between them such exemplary friendship that even their enemies found it awesome.”26
It is within this milieu, unburdened by the fallacious Hamitic hypothesis and the oppression of institutional racism, that a large contingent of Companions of African descent earned distinction and were included amongst those whom Allāh has referred to when He mentions, “The forerunners from among the Immigrants and the Helpers, and those who follow them in goodness, Allāh is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him; He has prepared for them gardens under which rivers flow, which they will dwell in forever. That is the supreme success!”27
Below is a list of just a few of those blessed individuals who were selected by Allāh to accompany His beloved: