How The Black Lives Matter Movement Resonates With Me As a Muslim29 Jun 2020
Growing up in Britain, I frequently saw instances of racism and discrimination towards the black community. I saw it happen in front of me at secondary school, and later, as an adult too. It is an issue in our society that is in dire need of being addressed, as does the islamophobia, and all other types of racism that ethnic minorities and religious groups face.
It makes me extremely proud to see the progress that the black community has made in the battle against racism. #Blacklivesmatter is a movement that sheds light on the aggression the black community has faced in the US and around the world. It is a slogan that represents standing up against the racism that has plagued our society for centuries, in order that racial justice and equality may be achieved. Even though it is uncomfortable for some people to talk about, we must actively engage in making changes and educating the wider community, so that future generations can grow up in a tolerant, multicultural and multi-faith society.
When we look back at racism in history and how Islam has tackled it from its core in its early days, we as Muslims often think of the story of the noble companion Bilal. Some may find this nothing more than a cliché used by some Muslims to exonerate themselves from the racism towards black Muslims that exists within the community. While I do agree that it has been used as a cliche in some cases, the fact that he was such a noble figure among the companions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), and was honoured by him immensely, I find it hard not to bring up his story. His example created the foundations to eradicate the notion of racism that was widespread in early pre-Islamic Arabian society.
The Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) elevated him to one of the highest ranks among his companions. He has the honour of being known as the first Muslim to give the call to prayer. He was an example to show the people at the time that it doesn’t matter what colour or race you are, we are all creations of Allah, and nothing sets any of us above another, except piety and righteousness.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would practice justice and embodied this in his character towards people of all races and backgrounds, so that others may learn from him. To uphold justice in his time, he had to physically show new Muslims and non-Muslims that racism and discrimination, or any ignorant belief that considers some people superior to others based on the colour of their skin, the language they spoke or their social status, is unacceptable.
In his last sermon, the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave a very powerful speech to advise Muslims before he passed away. In one of his statements he told Muslims:
“O people! Your Allah is One and your forefather (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a white person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a white person, except in piety. Indeed the noblest among you is the one who is deeply conscious of Allah.”
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not just a role model for the Muslims, rather, he came to benefit the whole of humanity. We can learn a lot through him about how to tackle the issue of racism that we are encountering today. To stand up and not stand by is a step in the right direction.
When we talk about the colour of someone’s skin, disliking a certain ethnic group or forming judgements about them based on skin colour, then in my eyes, you are disliking a creation of Allah. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“No one is better than anyone else, except by religion or good deeds. It is enough sin for a man to be obscene, vulgar, miserly, or cowardly.”
So what should the #blacklivesmatter movement mean for the Muslim community? First and foremost, we must recognise that an attack on any ethnic minority or religious group is an attack on all of us. We cannot remain silent about the injustices that the black community are facing. We too, as Muslims, should stand up against the breach of any human right, as we would like others to stand up against Islamophobia. An injustice against any person or group is a step backwards for the whole of humanity, and will give rise to a future of ignorance in the generations to come. If we would like to claim to be the true followers of Islam and our Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) then we must live by his words, when he says:
“Whoever among you sees evil, let him change it with his hand. If he is unable to do so, then with his tongue. If he is unable to do so, then with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith”.
Islam forbids racism in any shape or form. One of the core purposes behind the divine creation of human beings from diverse backgrounds, cultures and languages, as mentioned in the Quran, is “that they should come to know each other” (49:13).
The Qur’an also says:
“And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colours. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.” (30:22)
When we integrate with different communities, and are open to learning about one another, it enriches our lives. It gifts us the opportunity to appreciate new cultures and traditions, and to share our heritage with others.
Hopefully, these protests against injustice towards the black community have triggered the start of a much-needed change within our society. As uncomfortable as it may be for some of us, we must slowly push forward and overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of eradicating racism amongst our own communities, and then wider society.