Racism is to treat someone badly or to think that you are better than them, just because they are of a different race or skin colour to you. Racism is something that has unfortunately always existed and is still around today and is a very sad and terrible thing to experience.

Islam teaches that it isn’t what you look like, or where you are from that matters, but rather what kind of person you are on the inside.  You are not judged on who your father may be or what colour skin he has, but what is in your heart and how you behave towards others.

In Muhammad’s last sermon he addressed the people saying “O People! Your God is one; your father is one…there is no preference of an Arab over a non-Arab or vice-versa; nor for a white person over a black person or vice-versa…” Thus Islam made a strong point of the equality of all people regardless of their wealth, race, colour or status.

Islam taught the people of Makkah, (who were extremely racist at that time) that racism was a horrible and dreadful thing. This encouraged people to realise that it is unfair and wrong to judge and look down on people because of things such as their skin colour.

There is a famous story from the early history of Islam that shows how the people of Makkah were encouraged by Muslims to move away from their racist ways. This story involves a man called Bilal, a Muslim who came from Africa (and was black) and Abu Dhar, an Arab Muslim.

Bilal was a slave to one of the biggest leaders in Makkah. He was often mistreated because of his colour. Like some others around him, Bilal became a Muslim after he heard the teachings of Muhammad. When his masters found this out, they beat him and tried to force him to give up his faith.

The Prophet heard that Bilal was being beaten for becoming a Muslim and wanted to stop this. He bought Bilal from his masters and then freed him. Years later when the Muslims were in a neighbouring city, Medina, Abu Dhar a leader of one of the tribes was speaking with Bilal. Their conversation turned into an argument and in anger Abu Dhar blurted out ‘You cannot comprehend this, you are the son of a black woman!’ Abu Dhar accused Bilal of not being clever enough to understand something because of his colour.

As we said earlier, Islam came to stop all kinds of racism, so Bilal was very upset with what Abu Dhar had said. When the Prophet heard of this, he too was upset and he called Abu Dhar and said to him:

“I have been told that you addressed Bilal as ‘the son of a black woman’,” Abu Dhar was very embarrassed and said nothing. The Prophet continued to explain to him why this was wrong and that he had behaved in an unacceptable way. “This means you’re still hanging on to the ways of the pre-Islamic days of ignorance. Islam has gotten rid of all those wrong ways of judging people by family, fame, colour or wealth. It has established that the best and most honourable of men and women is the person who is the most moral and upright in their behaviour. Is it right to insult a believer just because he is black?”

Abu Dhar felt very ashamed and went straight to Bilal’s house and putting his head on the floor, said: “This head will not rise from here until the blessed feet of Bilal tread on the face of the foolish, impolite Abu Dhar,” but because Abu Dhar had realised his mistake and was sorry, Bilal said: “That face deserves to be kissed, not trodden upon”, and forgave Abu Dhar.