Sunday, May 31, 2020

Beyond Racism

Racial Egalitarianism in Islam

What makes Islam exceptional in its potential to address the race problem, as Malcolm and Gandhi seem to believe? Indeed, the racial egalitarian teachings of Islam can be traced directly to the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muĥammad ﷺ. The Qur’an invites us to reflect on the brotherhood of all humanity, saying,
O mankind! Verily, We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you would come to know one another. Verily, the most noble of you in God’s estimation is the most conscientious among you. Verily, God is knowing, aware. (49:13)
On numerous occasions, the Prophet Muĥammad ﷺ challenged the racial bias expressed by some of his Arab companions.12 When some complained that Bilāl, an Ethiopian, was chosen to summon the faithful to prayer, the Prophet ﷺ rebuked them, saying, “Men are of two types: those who are pious and conscientious, whom God considers precious, and others who are wicked and wretched, who are insignificant in God’s estimation. You are all from Adam. And God created Adam from dirt.” On another occasion, he scolded his companions for not awakening him to conduct the funeral rites for Umm Miĥjan, an oft-neglected African woman who kept the mosque clean.13 When Arab women belittled the Prophet’s Jewish wife, Śafiyyah, he told her, “Why don’t you tell them: ‘My husband is Muĥammad. My father is Aaron. And my paternal uncle is Moses.’”14 And in one popular account—considered spurious by Muslim traditionalists—some of the Arab men present at a gathering the Prophet ﷺ attended objected to the presence of Bilāl (the aforementioned Ethiopian); ¢Abd Allāh, a Jew; Salmān, a Persian; and Śuhayb, a Roman.15 The Prophet ﷺ responded, “Verily, the Lord is one. The father is one. And the religion is one. Arabic is neither a father nor a mother. It is nothing more than a language. And whoever speaks Arabic is an Arab.”16
The Qur’an and the example of the Prophet ﷺ teach that each person has the right to be treated well by others. The Qur’an describes the believers as brothers (ikhwah), warning, “And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell. God is also angry with him, damns him, and has prepared for him an enormous chastisement” (4:93).  The Qur’an also teaches, “Worship God, ascribe no partners to Him, and show goodwill to parents, relatives, orphans, the poor, the neighbor who is kin, the neighbor next door, the companion at one’s side, the wayfarer, and slaves.17 Verily, God does not like any boastful snob” (4:36).
In addition, the Prophet ﷺ said, “[The archangel] Gabriel counseled me about the neighbor so much so that I thought he would assign to him a portion in inheritance.”18 He also said, “You see the believers in their mutual compassion, affection, and sympathy like the body. If one part of the body falls ill, the rest of it reacts with insomnia and fever.”19 Other teachings of the Prophet ﷺ include “Each one of you is a mirror to his brother”20 and “One believer to another is like a single edifice. Parts of it reinforce others.”21
It is unlawful in Islam to refer to another pejoratively or by reference to racial slurs: the Qur’an says, “O you who believe! Let not some men mock others. Perchance they are the better of them. Nor are women to [mock other] women. Perchance, they are the better of them. Do not attack the honor of one another. Nor assail one another with names. Wicked is the name of iniquity given after faith. And whoever does not repent, those are the unjust” (49:11).

Race and Racism in Muslim History

These teachings about racial egalitarianism not only represent the ideals but also the lived reality during some periods in Islamic history. Nevertheless, the Islamic tradition has allowed a degree of sociopolitical privilege for select family members and even certain Arab tribes. For example, members of the Quraysh tribe and the descendants of the Prophet’s daughter Fāţimah from his cousin ¢Alī were given default leadership in early Islamic history.22 Naturally, if families can treat their kinfolk with preference, members of a race can prefer members of their own ethnic group over others. Still, Islamic teachings—and most Muslims—emphasize the importance of fair, if not completely equal, treatment of all believers. Islamic teachings do not tolerate prejudice, oppression, belittlement, ridicule, or disparagement of any person on the basis of race or color.  
 The early Muslims struggled with the transition from an identity based on patrilineal associations to one based on faith. Many scholars—including many Persians and other non-Arabs—acknowledged the sociopolitical privilege and favor (fađl) of Arabs as a matter of orthodoxy.23 When disaffected Persian Muslims in the ninth century rejected the notion of Arab superiority and launched a social equality movement (ĥarakat al-taswiyah) demanding equal treatment with Arabs, mainstream scholars dubbed the dissenters Shu¢ūbiyyah,24 a negative term placing them with the shu¢ūb (peoples) mentioned in the Qur’anic verse “We made you peoples and tribes in order that you know one another” (49:13). At the time, a number of exegetes posited that the “peoples” mentioned in this verse are a super category of non-Arabs, while the “tribes” (qabā’il) are a reference to Arabs, who receive preferential treatment from God.25 Not surprisingly, neither the Shu¢ūbiyyah nor many other exegetes agreed with such an interpretation.26
One might argue that Arab discrimination against Persians is not a valid example of racism because Persians are white, and ample evidence exists that Arabs preferred white over darker skin colors.27 But, as mentioned earlier, race in the premodern world was not determined by skin color but by shared cultural identifiers, such as language and custom. Victims of xenophobia in those times included foreigners who looked the same but did not share the same culture. The Umayyads levied higher taxes on Persians even after their acceptance of Islam, an early example of institutional racism.
East Africans suffered mistreatment at the hands of Iraqi Muslims in the ninth century, which led to the eruption of a fourteen-year rebellion known as the Zanj Slave Revolt (869–883).28 The first year of this revolt came on the heels of the death of Jāĥiż (d. 869), the great rationalist and writer, and a pioneer of what can be called “Islamic Pan-Africanism.” Jāĥiż authored many important writings, including Fakhr al-sūdā¢alā al-bīđān (Boast of the Blacks Over the Whites). 
Approximately three centuries later, another scholar in Iraq, Ĥanbalī ¢Abd al-Raĥmān b. al-Jawzī (d. 1200), reintroduced the genre into the Muslim cultural archives with Tanwīr al-ghabash fī fađl al-sūdān wa al-ĥabash (Illuminating the Darkness Concerning the Virtue of the Blacks and Ethiopians). Then, after another three centuries, the polymath Imam al-Suyūţī (d. 1505), while expressing his indebtedness to Ibn al-Jawzī (but not Jāĥiż), wrote a similar work vindicating Blacks, titled Raf¢ sha’n al-Ĥubshān (Elevating the Stature of the Ethiopians).
The Zanj revolt was eventually put down, but Muslims in Iraq apparently continued to entertain negative views about the black East Africans living in their midst. This may be why Ibn al-Jawzī felt sympathy for the Blacks in Iraq, whose alleged sadness over their own Blackness inspired him to write his book.29 Anti-black sentiment intensified under Abbasid rule in Iraq (750–1258), and one can reason that it did not abate when the Abbasids transferred their capital to Egypt after the Tatar invasion (1261–1517). Sufficient evidence exists to conclude that the Abbasid caliphs favored a whitening of their population in Iraq. The custom for most of Abbasid history in Iraq of passing rule onto the son of the caliph’s concubine clearly suggests a whitening of the Arab archetype, as most of the concubines who birthed future caliphs came from regions typified by the white skin of their inhabitants.30 The evidence is less explicit, however, about whether Abbasid anti-black sentiment transferred from Baghdad to Cairo or had its own local genesis in Cairo. But the fact that scholars wrote works defending Blacks, which were not typical of the religious canon, suggests that Blacks living in Abbasid capitals faced discrimination.
Other examples that deflate the ideal of Muslim colorblindness throughout history include the Mālikī school’s classification of black women and unappealing non-Arab women as “ignoble” women (daniyyah) who were allowed to bypass normal standards for marriage in light of their “undesirability” and consequent compatibility with “any man.”31 Key Egyptian scholars writing during the European Enlightenment reinforced presumptions of black ugliness and white beauty,32 in addition to the idea that brown was the natural color of slaves.33 Another example is the history of the slave trade and abolition in the Muslim world, with countries such as Sudan and Mauritania not legally abolishing slavery until the late twentieth century,34 as well as the prevalence of almost exclusively African eunuchs to guard the harems and Circassian slaves from Russia during the Tanzimat period of Ottoman rule.35
The anti-African and anti-Persian sentiment in Muslim lands undermines claims of a colorblind Muslim empire, as do the official policies that disadvantage certain populations on the basis of ethnicity.36 If we expand the definition of racism to include cultural and political domination, we see examples of that in the premodern Muslim world. Furthermore, if we see ethnocentric bias as a form of racism, then we must say that racism was not only prevalent among premodern Muslims but arguably constituted a small part of the Islamic legal and theological canon.37
We know that xenophobia was not unique to premodern Muslim society. However, skin color was a secondary factor to language and custom in group identity, and Arabs, for instance, had little reason to devalue brown complexions, because most Arabs were either light or dark brown, according to scholars of Arab history. In rare cases, Arabs had white skin. Many did, however, succumb to the apparently transhistorical and ubiquitous disdain for jet-black skin. These attitudes may have developed after black Axumite neighbors across from their western coast invaded and ruled parts of Arabia. The Arabs also disdained white skin—at least during the prophetic era—which may have originated from the fear of a type of skin ailment38 or from unpleasant encounters with their lighter Persian and Byzantine neighbors.
As for the phenomenon of black slavery in the Muslim world, unlike Europeans, Muslims never accepted the Hamitic curse as an orthodox narrative. Islam did not tolerate any overt or official policies of ethnic-based slavery, and no Muslim regime cited scriptural or legal support for the preponderance of Blacks among slave populations; most slaves in ninth-century Baghdad and during the late Ottoman period were African. The enslavement of black Africans can be attributed to Muslims who abandoned their religion’s ideals. Islamic teachings do not allow Muslims to enslave other Muslims, nor do they permit mutilating the body of any human—especially the removal of the male penis and testicles.39
Also, unlike in Europe, neither Blacks nor former slaves were officially barred from upward mobility, for the most part. On the contrary, the eunuchs of the Ottoman harems were known to be influential and enjoyed privileges not available to most Ottoman Turks.40 In the earlier Abbasid period, royal concubines had a limited freedom that almost paralleled the limited freedom enjoyed by free noble women, and reflected a broader premodern phenomenon: free women on society’s lower rungs enjoyed more freedom of movement but less protection than did noble women or concubines. However, some concubines could look forward to influencing the decisions of their sons, who were slated to rule the caliphate upon the demise of their fathers.
The trajectory of many former black slaves, as documented in biographical dictionaries by Muslim scholars, shows their rise to fame, wealth, and status due to their knowledge, piety, and leadership ability. In particular, the Mamluk and Ikhshidid dynasties of Egypt provided considerable agency to former slaves.41 And even though non-Arabs were barred from holding the high office of caliph, so were Arabs who were not members of the Quraysh tribe or descendants of the Prophet’s daughter Fāţimah and his cousin ¢Alī. In other words, this restriction was not contingent only upon race.

Abdullah bin Hamid Ali

Zaytuna College

1 Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (New York: Ballantine, 2015), 347.
2 The Hamitic curse is the story, taken from exegetical works on the Old Testament, that alleges that the descendants of Ham, the son of Noah, were cursed to be slaves of the descendants of Noah’s other sons, Sham and Japheth, because of Ham’s failure to cover his father’s nakedness after discovering him in a drunken state. Though the Bible has nothing to say about Ham’s color, certain exegetical works claim that he was black and is the progenitor of all people with black skin. This story was adopted during the transatlantic slave trade to justify exclusive black bondage to Whites.
3 Richard L. Johnson, ed., Gandhi’s Experiments with Truth: Essential Writings by and about Mahatma Gandhi (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006), 116.
4 Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 16. In the words of the scholar Bernard Lewis, “Sometimes, the term 'race' was used in a broader and looser sense, to denote a group of people, speaking related languages. It was in this sense that philologists and ancient historians spoke of the Semites, the Indo-Europeans, and other linguistically defined families of peoples.”
5 Muĥammad b. Aĥmad b. ¢Uthmān al-Dhahabī, Siyar al-a¢lām al-nubalā’ (Jordan, Saudi Arabia: Bayt al-Afkār al-Dawliyyah, 2004), 1/2084. The famed Muslim historian and hadith specialist Ĥāfiż al-Dhahabī (748/1348) said: "The reds (al-ĥamrā’) according to the people of the Hejaz are the pale Whites (al-bayđā’ bi shuqrah). But this [complexion] is rare amongst them (i.e. the Arabs). An example of this from the hadith is, '… a red man resembling one of the clients (mawālī).' The speaker meant that he was the color of the clients who were captured among the Christians of the Levant (Shām), Byzantium (Rūm), and the Persians (¢ajam).”
6 See Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race (New York: Verso, 1994) and similar books, such as Noel Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White (New York: Routledge, 1995).
7 The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). 
8 Critical race theory (CRT) is an analytical approach employed by certain activist scholars, such as CRT’s intellectual father, Derrick Bell, professor of law at New York University. CRT theorizing started during the mid 1970s. Its main goal is to transform the way race, racism, and power in Eurocentric cultures interact. CRT is concerned with creating an egalitarian sociopolitical, cultural, and economic order, while taking direct aim at white cultural imperialism and deconstructing its philosophical foundations. CRT builds on the efforts and insights of a number of minority civil rights activists; critical legal studies; radical feminism; and European philosophers, such as Antonio Gramsci and Jacques Derrida. For more information, see Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory (New York: New York University Press, 2001). 
9 Audrey Smedley, Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a World View, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2012), x. Anthropologist Audrey Smedley had the following to say: "Events of September 11, 2001, and the wars in the Middle East have generated a high level of fear and even panic among many Americans, who now respond negatively to anyone who appears to have an 'Arab' phenotype. As a consequence, many black and Hispanic American men have found themselves being viewed suspiciously because of their physical resemblance to Middle Eastern men. Some have been harassed or attacked on the assumption that they are 'Arabs.'"  
10 See Sherman Jackson, “Muslims, Islam(s), Race, and American Islamophobia,” in John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin, eds., Islamophobia: The Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011), 95.
11 Muĥammad Nāśir al-Dīn al-Albānī, Ghāyat al-Marām: Takhrīj aĥādīth al-ĥalāl wa al-ĥarām (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islāmī, 1980), 188n308.
12 This is not to say that Arabs were more racist than others. Xenophobia was the norm in the premodern world, and any person or people finding themselves residents of a land whose people practice unfamiliar customs would likely be subjected to derision, belittlement, mistreatment, and discrimination.
13 Yaĥyā b. Sharaf al-Nawāwī, Sharĥ Muslim (Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 1995), 4:1/23. The narrator of the report states, “It was as if they minimized her value.”
14 Hadith 3892 in Muĥammad b. ¢Īsā al-Tirmidhī, Jāmi¢ al-Tirmidhī (Riyadh: Dār al-Fayĥā’ and Dār al-Salām, 1999), 877.
15 See Ibn al-Athīr al-Jazarī, Usd al-ghābah fī ma¢rifat al-śaĥābah (Beirut: Dār Ibn Ĥazm, 2012), 574. Śuhayb was the child of Arab parents. His father and paternal uncle served as governors for the Persian king. Śuhayb was kidnapped by the Romans when he was a little boy and was raised in Rome. Consequently, he developed a stammer in his pronunciation of Arabic. After he was returned to Arabia, he was referred to as “Śuhayb the Roman.”
16 See Muĥammad Nāśir al-Dīn al-Albānī, Silsilat al-aĥādīth al-đa¢īfah wa al-mawđū¢ah wa atharuhā al-sayyi’ fī al-ummah (Riyadh: Maktabat al-Ma¢ārif, 1992), 3:325n925. This tradition is compiled by the twelfth-century scholar Ibn ¢Asākir (d. 1175) as well as by the sixteenth-century traditionist ¢Alī al-Muttaqī al-Hindī (d. 1567). The twentieth-century Salafist traditionist Nāśir al-Dīn al-Albānī (d. 1999) grades this report as “very weak.”
17 The only way a person was legitimately enslaved was through captivity in war.
18 Hadith 6014 in Muĥammad b. Ismā¢īl al-Bukhārī, Śaĥīĥ al-Bukhārī (Damascus: Dār Ibn Kathīr, 2002), 1509.
19 Hadith 6011 in al-Bukhārī, Śaĥīĥ al-Bukhārī, 1508.
20 Hadith 1929 in Muĥammad b. ¢Īsā al-Tirmidhī, Jāmi¢ al-Tirmidhī (Damascus: Dār al-Fayĥā’), 1999, 449.
21 Hadith 481 in al-Bukhārī, Śaĥīĥ al-Bukhārī, 128.
22 For Sunnis, the Quraysh tribe has been given the special right to occupy political leadership of the community since the formative period. While other tribes and non-Arabs were allowed to participate in government as well, the exclusive post of caliph was reserved for members of the Quraysh. The committee members involved with selecting the caliph during the early post-prophetic era were all from the Quraysh tribe. Similarly, for Shiites, the descendants of the Prophet Muĥammad ﷺ, through his daughter Fāţimah and ¢Alī, were viewed as the legitimate temporal leaders of the Muslims.
23 See Maĥmūd b. ¢Umar al-Zamakhsharī, Asās al-Balāghah, ed. Muĥammad Bāsil (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-¢Ilmiyyah, 1998), 509. The renowned Mu¢tazilite exegete al-Zamakhsharī (d. 1143) says in Asās al-Balāghah, “They are those who belittle the stature of the Arabs and see no superiority of them over others.” Ibn Taymiyyah has, perhaps, the most to say about the merits of the Arabs in Iqtidā’ al-śirāţ al-mustaqīm bi mukhālafat aśĥāb al-jaĥīm [The Demands of the Straight Path by Opposing the Companions of Hell] (Riyadh: Maktabat al-Rushd, n.d.).
24 Muĥammad b. Aĥmad al-Qurţubī, al-Jāmi¢ li aĥkām al-Qur’ān wa al-mubayyin li mā tađammanahu min al-sunnah wa āy al-furqān (Beirut: Mu’assasat al-Risālah, 2006), 19/415. The famed lexicographer al-Fayrūzābādī (d. 1414), while defining the Shu¢ūbīs, says, “The shu¢ūbī…is one who belittles the affair of the Arabs.” Al-Fayyūmī, Aĥmad b. Muĥammad, al-Misbāĥ al-munīr (Beirut: al-Maktabah al-¢Aśriyyah), 164. The exegete al-Qurţubī (d. 1273) speaks of them as “a faction that does not acknowledge virtue for Arabs over non-Arabs.”
25 Muĥammad b. Aĥmad al-Qurţubī, al-Jāmi¢ li aĥkām al-Qur’ān wa al-mubayyin li mā tađammanahu min al-sunnah wa āy al-furqān (Beirut: Mu’assasat al-Risālah, 2006), 19/416. According to Imam al-Qurţubī, “Ibn ¢Abbās says in one rendition, ‘The ‘shu¢ūb’ are the clients (mawālī), and ‘qabā’il’ are the Arabs.’ Al-Qushayrī says, ‘Accordingly, the ‘shu¢ūb’ are those who are not known to have an origin or pedigree, such as Indians, Ethiopians, and Turks. The ‘qabā’il’ are the Arabs.’”
26 See al-Qurţubī, al-Jāmi¢ li aĥkām al-Qur’ān, 19/414–16. One distinction posits that the shu¢ūb are the head tribes (ru’ūs al-qabā’il) as in the family from which the qabā’il originate. This makes the former word a genus under which the latter is subsumed. Another view is that the shu¢ūb are the Qaĥţānī Arabs of Yemen, while the qabā’il are the Arab descendants of ¢Adnān. A third view is that the shu¢ūb are those who are identified by the regions (nawāĥī wa al-shi¢āb) where they live, while the qabā’il are those who identify patrilineally (ansāb).
27 Muĥammad b. Bakr b. Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Akhbār al-nisā’ (Beirut: Dār Maktabat al-Ĥayā’, 1986), 11–12. The Umayyad caliph ¢Abd al-Malik b. Marwān is recorded as having preferred and encouraged Arab men to seek Persian women for procreation, Berber women for sexual gratification, and Roman (or Greek) women for domestic service. In one counsel offered by the Prophet ﷺ to his companions, he advised them to remain conscious of God and to “hear and obey, even if a slave is given command over you.” In another variant of this hadith, he is reported to have said “an Abyssinian slave.” Yet another version has the addition “an Abyssinian slave whose hair is [crinkled] like a raisin,” referring to the crinkled hair of some Blacks; see hadith 7142 in al-Bukhārī, Śaĥīĥ al-Bukhārī, 128. Some scholars argue that the hadith emphasizes the importance of obeying public authority by referring to the social bias of some Muslim Arabs who had only recently converted to Islam and still adhered to ignorant Jahili prejudices, especially toward people of sub-Saharan ethnicity. Although this report suggests that non-Arabs are allowed to hold the high office of caliph, Muslim jurists generally object, arguing that the Prophet’s reported mention of an “Abyssinian slave” was mere hyperbole to emphasize the importance of obedience to one’s commanders. According to these jurists, it was as if the Prophet ﷺ were saying that even if an office is given to one you consider the least among you, you must obey him. Some jurists who depart from the historically orthodox view restricting the office of caliph to Qurayshī Arabs—allowing for non-Qurashites and non-Arabs to be caliph—read the tradition as elevating the status of Blacks rather than as referring with the alleged addition of “his hair [crinkled] like a raisin” to the Arab stereotype of Ethiopian slaves to emphasize obedience. In one instance, when a woman seeking a divorce from her Arab husband was asked by the Prophet Muĥammad ﷺ about the grounds for her request, she said, “I lifted the curtain and saw him approaching in a group [of men]. I noticed that he was the blackest, shortest, and ugliest of them.” Abū al-Fidā’ Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qur’ān al-¢ażīm (Mu’assasat al-Kutub al-Thaqāfiyyah, 1996), 1/260.
28 Ronald Segal, Islam’s Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora (New York: Farrar, Staus and Giroux, 2001), 42–46.
29 ¢Abd al-Raĥmān b. al-Jawzī, Tanwīr al-ghabash fī fađl al-sūdān wa al-ĥabash (Riyadh: Dār al-Sharīf, 1998), 29. Ibn al-Jawzī said at the start of his book in vindication of Blacks, “I noticed a group of decent Ethiopians distraught over the blackness of their skin. So, I told them that consideration is given to beautiful acts, not to beautiful forms. And, I composed this book for them regarding mention of the virtue of many of the Abyssinians and Blacks.”
30 ¢Abd al-Raĥmān al-Suyūţī, Tārīkh al-khulafā’ (Cairo: Dār al-Fajr li al-Turāth, 2004.) When Baghdad was the center of power, close to fifty of the Abbasid caliphs were the offspring of Berber, Greek, Turkish, and Persian concubines. 
31 Abū ¢Umar Yūsuf b. ¢Abd Allāh b. Muĥammad b. ¢Abd al-Barr al-Qurţubī, al-Kāfī fī fiqh ahl al-Madīnah al-mālikī (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-¢Ilmiyyah, 1992), 234–35. The Andalusian scholar Ibn ¢Abd al-Barr is among those who expressly stated about this sort of woman, “And the [blood] guardian has no prerogative [to annul the marriage] because any man is compatible with her.”
32 Shaykh Ibrāhīm b. Mar¢ī al-Shubrakhītī, al-Futūĥāt al-wahhābiyyah bi sharĥ arba¢īn ĥadīthan al-Nawawiyyah (Egypt: Maktabat Muśţafā al-Bābī al-Ĥalabī wa Awlāduhu, 1955), 288. This view is expressed by the seventeenth-century Egyptian scholar Shaykh Ibrāhīm.
33 See Aĥmad b. Muĥammad al-Śāwī, Kitāb sharĥ al-Śāwī ¢alā jawharat al-tawĥīd (Damascus: Dār Ibn Kathīr, 2009), 278. Shaykh Aĥmad al-Śāwī (1761–1825) of Egypt asserts that slaves have brown skin in his commentary on Shaykh Ibrāhīm al-Laqqānī’s Jawharat al-tawĥīd.
34 Ronald Segal, Islam’s Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora (New York: Farrar, Staus and Giroux, 2001), 199–225.
35 Ehud R. Toledano, Slavery and Abolition in the Ottoman Middle East (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1998), 41–53, 81–111.
36 See ¢Alī al-Sa¢īdī al-¢Adawī, Ĥāshiyat al-¢Adawī ¢alā sharĥ Abī al-Ĥasan al-musammā kifāyat al-ţālib al-rabbānī li risālat ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawānī (Casablanca: Dār al-Ma¢ārif, 1998), 2:46. This is like the view held by a number of Mālikī jurists that allows for sub-Saharan and unappealing non-Arab women to ignore the wishes of marriage guardians who object to them marrying certain men, thereby hindering their clansmen’s ability to protect them from the exploitation of certain suitors. This is all due to the idea that sub-Saharan and unappealing non-Arab women are “undesirable,” “ignoble,” “of reduced value,” and “compatible” with “any” man. 
37 A number of prophetic traditions are reported to disparage Blacks. The Ĥanbalī scholar Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah declares all of them to be spurious. That notwithstanding, some scholars, such as al-Bayhaqī, apparently held some of them to be sound.
38 See Ibn Manżūr al-Ifrīqī al-Miśrī, Lisān al-¢Arab (Beirut: Dār Śādir, 1882), 209. To call someone “white” (abyađ) was so offensive to the early Arabs that they referred to those with pale and pasty white skin as “red” (aĥmar). Contrary to common understanding, Arabs did not see themselves as a white race during the formative period of Islam. Most were, in fact, light brown or dark brown in complexion. White Arabs were a rarity. Consequently, to call someone “white” meant they suffered from the skin ailment known today as vitiligo (baraś), wherein those afflicted lose their pigmentation in white patches or spots. The famed Arabic linguist Tha¢lab of Kufa was asked, “Why has the word ‘red’ (aĥmar) been given special treatment as opposed to the word “white” (abyađ)?” He said, “Because the Arabs don’t say that someone is White due to the whiteness of their skin. Rather, the one they consider to be White is the one who is pure and free of blemish. So whenever they mean that someone is white-skinned, they call him red (aĥmar).”
39 Hadith 5075 in al-Bukhārī, Śaĥīĥ al-Bukhārī, 1294. Imam al-Bukhārī reports that the companion Ismā¢īl b. Qays said, “We used to take part in sorties with God’s messenger ﷺ nothing [of women’s comfort with us]. So, we said, ‘Shouldn’t we have our testicles removed?’ But he forbade us from doing that.”
40 Ehud R. Toledano, Slavery and Abolition, 27.
41 Ronald Segal, Islam’s Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora (New York: Farrar, Staus and Giroux, 2001), 31–34, 52–54.
42 “Black Iraqis Claim Discrimination,” Al Jazeerah, last modified January, 11, 2010,
43 “Power and People: Tunisia’s Dirty Secret,” Al Jazeerah, last updated March 17, 2016,
44 “When they call you 'Negro': Egypt’s Sudanese are prisoners of racism,” Middle East Eye, last updated April 21, 2017,

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