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Friday, April 09, 2004

How Muslims of the past dealt with racism and prejudice
If you think racism, as indicated by things like the 1994 O. J. Simpson trial, the 1992 race riots in Los Angeles, or the existence of the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan in America is something new, think again.
Racism existed before and during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), during the time of the Companions, and they devised strategies to combat it.
Here are some examples from the Muslims' past and present that testify to the dynamics of Islamic egalitarianism .

Who will enter the Kaba first with the Prophet (Year 629)
Ponder this: when the Muslims conquered Makkah, victorious after years of persecution, then war with the non-believing Quraysh, the Prophet went straight to the Kaba.
This was the height of the victory of Islam. He brought some other Muslims with him. He could have chosen only Muslims from the Quraysh, people of his own ethnic and tribal background. He also could have chosen only Arabs or only those of the old noble classes.
But two of the people who entered the Kaba with the Prophet were Bilal ibn Rabah and Zaid ibn Haritha. Bilal, an African and a former slave. Zaid was also not of high status from the tribal Quraysh point of view. Then entered a Qurayshi, Abdullah bin Omar, may Allah be pleased with all of them.
On this day of victory, success and happiness was for all Muslims, no matter who they were or where they come from.

This black man is our leader (Year 634)
When the Muslims conquered Egypt at the time when Omar ibn al Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) was Khalifa, a Muslim leader who happened to be a black man named Ubaydah ibn Thamit, took a party of the Muslims to meet Muqawqis, the Christian leader of Egypt.
When the Muslims came to Muqawqis, with Ubaydah in the lead, Muqawqis was frightened by the color of his skin.
‘Get this black man away from me and bring someone else,' he demanded. The Muslims refused. They insisted that Ubaydah was the best among them and was their leader who they obeyed and whose judgment they deferred to. They told Muqawqis that the color of a person does not matter to them. Finally Muqawqis had no choice but talk to the leader of that Muslim delegation.
These Muslims were practicing an Islamic principle that individual character is the base of preference not color of skin.

The Conquests of Jerusalem - a Study in Contrasts
Jerusalem and its surrounding territory were and remain holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews. It was during the Caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab (634-635) that Muslims first gained leadership of this territory.

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