What is the Islamic View Towards Casteism & Racism?
Islam provides a perfect harmony between the individual and society. Racism is defined as ‘poor treatment of people because of their race’ while casteism is a ‘blind group loyalty towards one’s own caste or sub-caste, which does not care for the interests of other castes, and seeks to realize the social, economic, political and other interests of its own group’. Where racism leads to suppression of people because of their physical characteristics, casteism leads the members of one caste to exploit the members of another caste for their vested interest in the name of superiority or inferiority.
Interestingly, modern world has become concerned about such issues in the 20th century, but Islam has given a sense about it 1400 years ago. Moreover, one of the things that facilitated the spread of Islam in the world with such startling speed was its focus on equality amongst humankind in a place where the caste and race system was particularly oppressive.
Islam protects honor. In Islam, insulting others or making fun of them because of caste, creed, race, etc. is not permitted. Merciful Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Truly, your blood, your property and your honor are inviolable” (Al-Bukhari). The life, property and honor in an Islamic state and Islamic concept are considered sacred irrespective of your race and caste.
In Islam, there is no such merit for a certain race. Allah says: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well-acquainted” (Quran 49:13)
Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “Your God is one and your ancestor (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab. And a red (white tinged with red) person is not superior to black and black is not better than red, except in piety” (Bukhari, Musnad Ahmad). Islam gives a clear message, that God created human beings as equals, who are to be distinguished from each other only based on faith and piety and this categorical message eradicates the concept of racism and casteism.
History has witnessed the era when Abubakr (r) and Bilal (r) used to sit side by side in the same row and same place in Mosque of Medina. History has also been evident, when all people, Arabian or non-Arabian, rich or poor, Master or Slave, used to assemble at the same place, sit in the same row and used to perform Salah (Prayer) behind the same leader (imam) and that will continue until the Day of Judgment.
Prophet (ﷺ) denounced and opposed the concept of racism and casteism, not only vocally, but practically too and furnished honor to a number of occupations (upon which castes are based) that people treat inferior to practice.
When we look at the biography of Holy Prophet (ﷺ), we find him repairing his sandal himself (Adab ul Mufrad). Prophet (ﷺ) also reared goats and milked his goat (Musnad Ahmad), just to teach the people, not to consider these jobs inferior or bad.
It has been the job of the sublime person about whom Allah says, “We have sent you not but as a mercy for the World” (Quran 21:107). In nutshell, Biography of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) provides ample evidence that he was first anti-racist & anti-casteist.
You may see that the community gives special position and respect for people with names like Sayd (Sayyid), Thangal, etc. They are claimed to be the successors of the Prophet. Islam, however, denies such privileges since Islam does not give any significance for anyone through his birth.
For those who would like to know more about Islam:
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