The next time you are in your garden or at a park, take a good look at the earth, the soil. Take some of it in your hand, feel it, look at it real close, and remind yourself that when you die that is what you will become.
So, how come then do human beings spend so much of time and energy discriminating against others who are of a different race? Take some time to think about it. If we have all descended from a common ancestor, then what makes any one of us superior to another? It does not make sense.
Racism has been the scourge of society for centuries. From the slave trade in the Arab world in ancient times through the European colonialism that pillaged most of Africa to the annihilation of native Indians by the Spanish in the Americas, racism (combined with greed for natural resources) has brutally destroyed societies and communities.
We undoubtedly see ourselves today as the most progressive and advanced generation of all times, but do we really understand the meaning of advancement? Sure we have advanced heaps and bounds in medicine, science, and technology, but if we truly did advance socially, would we still be suffering the effects of blatant and subtle racism?
In September 2007, an unfortunate incident occurred in the US in a town called Jena. Six African-American youth were charged with attempted murder of a white youth. The incident was apparently invoked by some white students who banned black students from sitting under a particular tree. It is beyond belief that such acts of racism are still common in the US even today, in a country that insists upon equality for all.
Racism, however, is not limited to the US. We see it in Europe, Asia, and Africa — in fact, all over the world. Fortunate not to have suffered under , imagine my utter disbelief and disappointment when I witnessed shocking racism that surmounts what I had personally witnessed in .
There are many people in the world who justify their discrimination toward others based on religious ideologies. In South Africa, the Christian right-wingers preached that they were sent by God to inhabit the land of South Africa and to "purify" the people of the land. Today, the Zionists justify their theft of the land of Palestine by falsely insisting that God promised the land to them.
However, when we take a look at what Islam says about people, we have to ask ourselves, why are Muslims not doing more to combat racism and promote understanding of different cultures? Furthermore, why has this not been forthcoming by the prominent scholars of Islam? Where are the voices of the Muslim Ummah when racism rears its ugly head?
Muslims are commanded by Allah to get to know one another. Surely, this is to marvel at the wonder of Allah's creation that from just one male and female, He created hundreds of nations and tribes:
[The believers are but a single brotherhood.](Al-Hujurat 49:10)
[O humankind, We [Allah] created you from a single (pair) of a male and female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he or she who is) the most righteous of you.](Al-Hujurat 49:13)
In his book Islam in Focus, Hammudah Abdalati describes the Muslim Ummah as follows:
The community in Islam is not founded on race, nationality, locality, occupation, kinship, or special interests. It does not take its name after the name of a leader or a founder or an event. It transcends national borders and political boundaries. The foundation of the community in Islam is the principle which designates submission to the will of Allah, obedience to His law and commitment to His cause. In short, an Islamic community is present only when it is nourished and fostered by Islam.
From the above, it is clear that Muslims bear a large responsibility of fostering and nurturing good relations between different races and cultures. While the great Muslims of the past were successful in doing this (as is evident in most of North Africa), the Muslim Ummah of today has fallen behind.
There is a huge responsibility on the shoulders of Muslim scholars, teachers, and parents to instill in every generation the fact that racism can never be justified. The responsibility is on the Ummah to generate and sustain harmonious relationships among different races and cultures. The Ummah has to exert itself in accentuating the virtues and uniqueness of different people.
Arrogance associated with the color of skin has to be the most vile characteristic of any human being — a detrimental waste of time. For Muslims living in multiracial and multicultural societies, it is a perfect opportunity to enforce the cited Qur'anic verse. For Muslims living in a Muslim country, the homogeneity of the social structure should not allow one to forget the extreme and dire significance of the above verse.
"Unity in diversity" has been an ongoing call in many countries. We are only cheating ourselves by not allowing ourselves to build bridges. In what is supposed to be a "civilized" world that we live in, we should hang our heads in shame that racism and racial violence — where innocent lives are still being lost — are still a norm in many societies. If we, the Muslim Ummah, were doing what Allah has asked us to do, we would be living in a far more prosperous social environment.
The next time you are about to utter a racial slur or witness blatant racism or racial violence and choose not to do anything about it, bear in mind that soil is all you will be when you die. For your actions or for your inactions, you will be held accountable to your Creator; we will all be.