Can't you see? It is all black and white!
I was amazed. Amazed at the number of people that told me – by email or on the telephone or in person – that the hajj experiences of Maulana Cassim Fakude were not unique, that they had also experienced or witnessed such during their hajj or back home.
The comments had started coming in after my article about the maulana’s khutbah (in this issue of Al-Qalam) was emailed to some people.
I was a fool; I should not have been amazed. After all, I know this Muslim community enough to know that racism exists, that it has been a problem for a long time and that it continues to be a problem.
Perhaps it is shocking to know these things happen during hajj, when the perpetrators are in ihram and not allowed to harm even little insects. (I wonder what this means for the acceptance by Allah of their hajj.)
Of course, this kind of thing should not happen. And we pray it never happens again. But let us not get stuck on hajj stories. The problem is bigger than the disgusting behaviour of this or that mufti in Makkah. It is, more importantly, about all of us Muslim men and women and what we do here, at home, in South Africa. This is the real problem.
I remember how we used to talk in the past about racism – when we were talking about the sins of apartheid. Perhaps we should recount some of that now – as we talk about our own sins.
When I was growing up, one of my favourite stories from the sirah was about an exchange between two well-known sahabah: Abu Dharr and Bilal.
In the heat of an argument, Abu Dhar referred to Bilal as ‘you son of a Black woman’. The Prophet (s) heard about this and said: ‘That is too much, Abu Dhar. He who has a white mother has no advantage which makes him better than the son of a black mother.’ But the matter didn’t end there. Abu Dhar was so ashamed that he put his face on the ground and refused to lift it until Bilal put his foot on it.
This is the example we are called on to follow, those of us who call ourselves Muslims. I wonder how many of those men and women that insulted Maulana Cassim and Sumayyah are prepared to put their faces in the dirt and demand that Cassim puts his foot on them. I wonder. (I’m assuming, of course, that Cassim will be magnanimous enough to allow his foot to touch the skin of one who has humiliated him so sordidly.)
For all of our claims that we follow the sunnah of our Nabi Muhammad (s)… Surely the Abu Dhar-Bilal story has more right to our adherence than all the suggestions about wearing short trousers, using a miswak, wearing a beard and using kohl in our eyes. Surely the humiliation of the servants of Allah is more deserving of our attention than our personal beautification. Or perhaps I am the one that has his priorities messed up?
Of course, the issue is not just about Muslims who are lighter or darker skinned. It is about the way we Muslims treat darker skinned people in general.
Do I need to talk about how domestic workers are treated in our kitchens (those of us who can afford to have kitchens and to employ domestic workers)? About how they are referred to as ‘my girl’ (or ‘my boy’) even when they are old enough to be grandparents (and probably are)? About how some have to work for upto 14 hours a day – including weekends? About how some get treated worse than the slaves did in the days of the Prophet (s)?
Clearly, apartheid is not dead in South Africa. And, clearly, it is alive and well in the Muslim community. Those who doubt that should read, reread and then stick on their fridges the article about Cassim and Sumayyah.
Why is it that some people think they can pray alongside someone of a different ‘race’ in the masjid but are able to treat that person like stinking dirt afterwards. Are our lives in the masjid separate from our lives as human beings? Of course, this could easily degenerate into a situation where people get told, as Cassim was, ‘you are here for salah, forget about everything else’.
In Darfur, Western Sudan, there is a genocide taking place. The victims are Sudanese, mostly Muslims. The perpetrators are Muslims too. They regard themselves as ‘Arabs’ and the people they are massacring as ‘Africans’ – even though their skins are the same complexion and an outsider would not know the difference. Why? Because those ones have some ‘Arab blood’ and those others are… well… kariahs, I guess!
‘We created you from a single (pair) of male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know and recognise each other. Verily the most honoured of you in Allah’s sight is the most righteous of you,’ Allah says in the Qur’ān, 49:13.
How many times have we not heard this verse recited to us? How many times has it not been used to encourage us to treat each other with dignity? And how many times have we subverted this verse and the rest of the Qur’ān by deciding that the ‘best among you’ is, in fact, the fairest among you or the richest among you or the man among you?
It is clear as black and white. Racism is unIslamic and racists cannot be Muslims! Are we so blind that we cannot see? Or do we just refuse to?
We in this Muslim community, having emerged from apartheid, need to re-examine ourselves and our iman. We need to atone for these evil actions which we continue to perpetrate on our fellow human beings and fellow Muslims.
Where is the foot of Maulana Cassim Fakude? And where are all our faces?
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