Solving the problem of racism in the US through an Islamic lens


Originally Published in The Caludron 

Many Americans feel that our country faces an existential threat from Muslims and the entire religion of Islam.

A hard look at historical data will provide us with a different story. As a Muslim-American, I am inclined to believe that Islam is not a problem for Americans, but can actually provide a solution when it comes to one of the most difficult and pervasive issues we face — racism.

The prophet of Islam, peace be upon him, Muhammad, advocated for the end of racism from the beginning of his ministry to the end of his life when he said during his very last sermon, “There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black.”

He spent his entire life in the practice of manumission, with nearly all of the slaves he freed were people of color. While pre-Islamic Arabia, where the Holy Prophet lived, may not have been as racist as America has been at one time or another, the Islamic Arabia that was developed during the course of the Holy Prophet’s life was a tolerant one.

The Holy Prophet of Islam was able to eradicate racism in Arabia by making race irrelevant when it came to religion and spirituality, and by also understanding and appropriately responding to the economic challenges that the people of color faced, such as putting an end to usury. Americans should learn more about the life of the Holy Prophet from historical sources and should determine for themselves if how he solved the problems of his society can be applied to our society today.

America in 2018 is not the post-racial society many contend it is. We still have a long road ahead. Sunday remains the most segregated day of the week because we have white churches and black churches. If Americans integrate churches, they may see the same results that were obtained in Islamic Arabia when it comes to ending racism.

However, make no mistake and expect the Muslim world to be doing what their prophet espoused. While racism in the Muslim world is not pervasive, it is still a serious problem, and sectarianism in the Muslim world has been explosive in recent years. Muslims have tricked themselves into believing that they are following the way of their prophet, but their actions prove otherwise.

One movement that Americans can become inspired by is the Ahmadiyya Muslim movement. A largely African movement that was founded in India in 1889, the Ahmadiyya are now found in over 200 countries with concentrations in western Africa and the Indian subcontinent where they first began.

The Ahmadiyya have avoided racism, as well as terrorism, from entering their community through the leadership of their Khalifa, His Holiness (HH) Mirza Masroor Ahmad. Ahmad is a Pakistani who spent his early adult years farming in Ghana, then spent time in his homeland where he was persecuted because he was Ahmadiyya and now spends his years as Khalifa in exile.

Taking advantage of his pulpit, millions have listened and accepted HH Ahmad’s message of tolerance and pluralism.

Americans need to critically think about racism in America. We can make our society truly free and just if we strive hard enough.

The Ahmadiyya also have a rich history in America. Their missionary, Mufti Muhammad Sadiq was among the first Muslim missionaries to arrive in America.

He came to America in the early 20th century for a brief amount of time. When he came, he reached out to African-Americans and spoke out against racism, which set in motion the engagement of Muslims in the civil rights movement.

The Ahmadiyya were on par in popularity with religious organizations like the Nation of Islam. However, they are not largely remembered because their message lies somewhere between Nation of Islam’s persuasive and luring intolerant one and the black churches, which had strong roots in black communities.

Regardless, thousands of visionaries joined the movement reflecting another version of Islam that we rarely hear or see. The Black Ahmadi Americans included doctors, talented musicians such as the late Grammy winner Yusef Lateef and other countless humanitarians who had become deeply committed to tolerance and unity of humankind.

About the author

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Zohaib Zafar

Zohaib Zafar is currently a third year student at Davidson College in North Carolina. He is from the Cleveland area and is majoring in Economics and minoring in Arab Studies.

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