NO DISCRIMINATION OF COLOR AND RACE
Bilal Habashi was among
the pioneers of Islam. He was a slave of Umayya ibn Khalaf,
one of the leading figures of the polytheist Quraysh. Since
he accepted Islam in its very early days, he was made to suffer
unbearable tortures. They made him lie on burning sand in
the desert and put very heavy stones on his chest, leaving
him in the sun for long periods. They also whipped him frequently
but every time he was subjected to such tortures, he declared
'One, One, God is One!' After years of torture, Abu Bakr,
may God be pleased with him, bought him from his master and
emancipated him immediately.
After the Hijra, the great migration of Muslims to Madina,
God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, made Bilal
his mu'adhdhin—the caller to prayer. He was so esteemed among
the Companions that 'Umar, the second Caliph, said of him:
'Bilal is our master and our master (meaning Abu Bakr) emancipated
The ideal of equality and human brotherhood is explicitly
enjoined in the Qur'an and discrimination on the basis of
nation or race (tribe) is explicitly rejected: O mankind!
We created you of a man and woman and made you into nations
and tribes so that you may know one another. The best and
most honoured of you in the sight of God is the most pious
and God-fearing among you. Surely God is the All-Knowing,
Abu Dharr, the leader of the tribe of Ghifar, and one who
accepted Islam in its early days, narrates:
Once I was conversing with Bilal. Our conversation gave way
to a dispute. Angry with him, the following insult burst from
my mouth: 'You cannot comprehend this, O son of a black woman!'
As Islam expressly forbade all kinds of racial, tribal and
colour discrimination, Bilal was both upset and greatly angered.
A while later a man came and told me that the Messenger of
God, upon him be peace and blessings, summoned me. I went
to him immediately. He said to me:
'I have been informed that you addressed Bilal as the son
of a black woman.'
I was deeply ashamed and could say nothing. God's Messenger
continued his reprimand: 'This means you still retain the
standards and judgements of the pre-Islamic days of ignorance.
Islam has eradicated all those false standards or measures
judging people by blood, fame, colour or wealth. It has established
that the best and most honourable of men is he who is the
most pious and upright in conduct. Is it right to defame a
believer just because he is black?'
Abu Dharr felt profound remorse. He went straight to Bilal's
house and, putting his head on the threshold, said: 'This
head will not rise from here until the blessed feet of Bilal
tread on the face of foolish, impolite Abu Dharr.'
Bilal responded: 'That face deserves to be kissed, not trodden
upon', and forgave Abu Dharr.
Zayd ibn Haritha was one of the first four people to accept
Islam. Slave traders had kidnapped him from his parents and
sold him in the Makkan market. Khadija, the future wife of
the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, bought
him and, upon her marriage, gave him to her husband as a present.
The future Prophet emancipated Zayd and adopted him as a son.
After years of search, Zayd's parents found him in Makka but
Zayd preferred to remain with the Prophet.
Zayd was also a black man. The Messenger loved him very much.
He gave Zaynab bint Jahsh, famous for her beauty and nobility,
to him in marriage. He made Zayd the commander of the Muslim
army in the battle of Mu'ta, the first encounter of Muslims
with the Romans. Zayd was martyred in this battle.
Usama was the son of Zayd. The Messenger loved him too very
much. When Usama was a child, the Prophet would sit him on
one knee, while Umama, the little daughter of one of the Companions,
sat on his other knee. During his Caliphate, 'Umar assigned
for Usama a larger stipend than for his own son, 'Abdullah,
even though there was no difference in seniority or merit
between them. 'Umar explained to 'Abdullah why he did so:
'My son! God's Messenger loved Usama more than you and his
father more than your father.'
Before his death, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings,
formed an army to dispatch against the Romans in which all
of the leading Companions including Abu Bakr and 'Umar also
participated. The Messenger appointed Usama as a commander
of that army, without considering that Usama was still a teenager,
and said: 'As his father had the necessary qualities to command
an army, Usama too is qualified to be a commander.'
The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, fell ill before
Usama's army left Madina. When the Messenger died, Abu Bakr
was chosen as the Caliph and he dispatched the army.