Racism, Casteism and Islam
By Zeeshan Rasool Khan
Racism and Casteism are the evils that repeatedly try to engulf society. Racism and Casteism are not newly coined terms as people have been facing these two issues from time to time. Racism is defined as ‘poor treatment of people because of their race while as Casteism is a blind group loyalty towards one’s own caste or sub-caste, which does not care for the interests of other castes, and seeks to realize the social, economic, political and other interests of its own group’.
While racism leads to suppression of people because of their physical characteristics, casteism leads the members of one caste to exploit the members of another caste for their vested interest in the name of superiority or inferiority. Where Nelson Mandela is considered a symbol of struggle against racism in Africa and is familiar throughout the world B.R Ambedkar is credited to have played a key role in the abolition of Caste System (Casteism) in India.
With the rapid growth of these problems, some countries and organizations amended their constitutions and charters to deal with these growing menaces. Many countries have mentioned their national books to provide equal rights to citizens. It is a secondary question that their implementation is considered necessary or not? Nevertheless, these attempts deserve applause.
Interestingly, modern world has become concerned about such issues in the 20th century, but our religion has given a sense about it 1400 years ago. If I would say Islam is first religion that has uprooted and objected such evils, it would not be wrong.
Islam protects honor. In Islam, insulting others or making fun of them because of caste, creed, race etc has not been permitted. Merciful Prophet (pbuh) says; truly, your blood, your property, and your honor are inviolable (Al-Bukhari). The life, property, and honor in an Islamic state and Islamic concept are considered sacred irrespective of your race and caste.
Prophet (pbuh) says; Your God is one and your ancestor (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than non-Arab and non-Arab is not better than Arab. And a red (i.e white tinged with red) person is not superior to black and black is not better than red, except in piety (Musnad Ahmad). Islam gives a clear message, that God created human beings as equals, who are to be distinguished from each other only based on faith and piety and this categorical message eradicates the concept of Racism and Casteism.
History has witnessed the era when white-faced ‘Abubakr (R.a)’ and Black Faced Bilal e Habshi (R.a)’ used to sit side by side in the same row and same place while in Mosque of Medina.
History has also been evident, when all people, Arabian or non-Arabian, rich or poor, Master or Slave, used to assemble at the same place, sit in the same row and used to perform Salah behind the same leader (imam) and that will continue until judgment day.
On this AllamaIqbal said: Aek Hi Saff Mein Khade Ho Gaye Mehmood o Ayaz: Na Koie Banda Rahaaur Na Koie Banda Nawaz (King and slave are in the same row, bowing before one God, under the leadership of one Imam, Now there is hardly any difference between the two).
Apart from this, Prophet (pubh) denounced and opposed the concept of Racism and Casteism, not only vocally, but practically too and furnished honor to a number of occupations (upon which castes are based) that people treat inferior to practice.
Let me cite a few facts in this regard:-
Cobbling is nowadays considered low-grade occupation and people practicing it are commonly called Cobblers. However, when we look at the biography of Prophet (saw), we find Prophet (pubh) repairing his sandal himself. (AdabulMufrad) .
A common person confuses, besides having thousands of companions, ready to sacrifice everything, even life for him; why beloved Prophet (PBUH) cobbles his sandal himself.
In fact, Merciful Prophet (saw) conveys the message that after my era; Elites may deprecate and offend shoe shiners & repairers, but they need to remember it has been the profession of Leaders of Thousands, The Muhammad (Pbuh). Had this been a low quality profession, Leader of Ummah would not have practiced it. Authentic ahadith are testimony; Prophet (saw) dignified Goat farming, by practicing it. Prophet (Pbuh) reared goats and milked his goat (Musnad Ahmad), just to teach the people, not to consider this job inferior. It has been the job of the sublime person ‘about whom Allah says: We have sent you not but as a mercy for the ‘Alameen (Mankind, Jinn and all that exists). (Qur’an: Sura Al-Anbiya).In nutshell, Biography of Prophet (saw) provides ample evidence that prophet (saw) was first anti-Racist & anti-casteist.
To summarize, Islam provides a perfect harmony between the individual and society holding both in concert with each other, which lays the foundation of a new religious aspect ‘Islamic Sociology’
The need of the hour is to be obedient to Allah and Follow Teachings and way of Beloved Muhammad (pbuh) that is only the solution to present-day problems. Let’s pledge to be faithful to Allah and promote and propagate the true message of Islam (based on loyalty, love, peace compassion and affection) , which is being demonized on every platform.
(The views expressed by the author are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)