Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) delivered his last sermon (Khutbatul Wada’) on 9 Dhul Hijjah 10AH (9 March 632) at Mount Arafat. One of the most important messages he delivered on that blessed day is to emphasise that Islam is fundamentally against any sort of racial discrimination, regardless of if they are Muslims or not;
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 does a black have any superiority over a white, except by piety and good action. [Al-Bukhari, 1623, 1626, 6361, Muslim 98, Imam al-Tirmidhi 1628, 2046, 2085, Imam Ahmed Hanbal, Masnud 19774]
The prophet’s message essentially underscores verses in the Quran which points out that all human beings as creatures with dignity [17:70] and are intentionally created of various colours [35:27-28].
One of the most popular stories in Islamic tradition is the story of Bilal ibn Rabah (580-640 AD). Born into slavery and dark Abyssinian in appearance, racism and sociopolitical statutes of Arabia at the time had prevented his family from gaining any social eminence.
Nevertheless, Bilal eventually raised to become one of the most trusted and loyal companions of the Prophet. The Prophet even handpicked Bilal to be the first muezzin in Mecca, clearly showing that race is not a factor of importance in the eyes of Islam.
While the Holy Quran had been revealed to Muslims as rahmatan lil mukminin (mercy for the believers) [27:77] [17:82], the Prophet Muhammad has been sent by Allah (s.w.t.) as a rahmatan lil alamin (21:107) which refers to mercy for ALL the worlds.
It is in this light that we must accept that the message of anti-racism, which was carried by the Prophet, encompasses every walk of life for all humankind. In upholding the principles practiced by the Prophet, it must, therefore, be an obligation for all Muslims to denounce racism, and accept that the most noble of us, in the sight of Allah, are the most righteous amongst us (regardless of tribes or race) [49:13].
The fact that most of the Muslim majority countries of the world, including OIC countries, have ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) clearly shows that the convention does not contradict nor threatens the sovereignty of Islam.
In fact, Article 11 (A) of the OIC Charter 1972 clearly identifies its primary institutional objective as “to eliminate racial segregation and discrimination.”
There is a clear line between one’s chosen faith and the race into which one is born into, and we must be careful not to dilute one concept into another. Islam is a religion which is racially blind, as there are Muslims from just about every race there is on earth.
In ratifying the ICERD, Malaysia not only reflects its commitment to a harmoniously diverse community but also celebrates the fact that Islam is the official religion of this country – and Islam is against racism.