by Ijaz Ahmed
“A white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except in piety and good action.” These words seem as if they were uttered by a human rights activist entrenched in a battle to establish racial equality in the society. This person clearly judged others by their good actions and character rather than the color of their skin.
Undoubtedly, this individual recognized the challenges we face every day when it comes to racism and humbly provided a simplistic direction towards equality of all men. The words were originally spoken by the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Although these words are 1400 years old, the connotations of the message are unfortunately still relevant today. Since the Prophet Muhammad’s profound statement, leaders from all walks of life have fought for racial equality across the world. In the United States, leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. have left a great legacy for which future generations still follow.
Born on January 15th, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. would grow up to be one of the most influential figures of American history. His advancements in civil rights through the use of non-violent civil disobedience were based on his Christian beliefs. His peaceful nature and the role he played to establish equality and rights for people of color are comparable to the actions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad.
Dr. King famously said “I look to the day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Fourteen hundred years ago, Prophet of Islam not only preached a similar belief, but practiced it as well. After all, it was Prophet Muhammad who made the decision to have a dark-skinned Ethiopian named Bilal deliver the first ever Islamic call to prayer.
In addition, the Holy Qur’an advises “O mankind, We [i.e. God] have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes for the sake of easy recognition. Verily, the most honorable among you, in the sight of God, is the most righteous among you. Surely, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Qur’an 49:14). This verse abolishes any notion of superiority, born of racial arrogance or national pride, by stating that all men are equal in the sight of God. The value of man cannot be determined by his race, wealth, social status, or pedigree, but by his moral deeds and contributions to society.
MLK Jr. was an excellent orator and his famous quotes are echoed all over the globe. He was a champion of civil rights and his efforts to bring American citizens together were unmatched. MLK Jr. was compassionate and always preached non-violence. He once wrote how almost invariably “the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.” In a similar fashion, the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad never preached violence and firmly condemned the killing of innocent civilians. The wars fought during the Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime were all defensive in order to protect the freedom of religion.
As it states in the Qur’an that if the Prophet Muhammad had not taken up arms, “there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated.” (Qur’an 22:41) MLK Jr. advocated peace, love, respect, and equality. These are values that all people, regardless of race, religion, or background can get behind. As an American Ahmadi Muslim, I believe it is our duty as fellow citizens to reflect on the importance of world leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Prophet Muhammad. We should make an effort to follow in their footsteps by removing misconceptions about each other and instead embrace our similarities.