Friday, May 06, 2005

racial equality

…When Muslims conquered Egypt and advanced to the Fort of Bablion, Muqauqis the ruler of Egypt sent a delegation to speak to Muslims to find out what they wanted. He also expressed a desire to receive a delegation of Muslims. Therefore `Amr ibn al-`As sent a delegation comprising ten people. This delegation was led by `Ubada ibn Samit, and he alone was authorized to talk to Muqauqis. `Ubada was tall and very black, and when this delegation approached Muqauqis to speak to him, he was struck by his appearance alone, and he said to the members of the delegation, “Keep this black person away from me, and bring forward somebody else to speak to me.” The members of the delegation unanimously said to him, “He is superior to us in intellect, knowledge, opinion, insight and in every other way. He is our leader. We all turn to him for his opinion and advice. Moreover, our governor has given him some particular instructions, and has ordered us not to go against him in any manner whatsoever.” At this, muqauqis said to the delegation, “How could you agree to make him your leader and superior, whereas he ought to have been your subordinate?’” To this the delegation replied, “No, despite the fact you see him as black, he is the best among us in knowledge, in nobility, in intellect and opinion, and we do not look down upon the black man.” Muqauqis said to `Ubada, “Come forward, O black [man] and speak to me gently for I fear your color, and if you were to talk to me in a harsh tone, my distress shall be all the greater.” `Ubada, noticing Muqauqis’ fear of black people, said, “We have in our army a thousand people darker than me.” …

`Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan used to order someone to declare, at the start of season of Hajj, that none should be allowed to give legal opinions except `Ata ibn Abi Ribaah – the leader, scholar and jurist of Makkah. Does anyone know what `Ata looked like? He was black, one-eyed, flat-nosed, lame and curly haired. When he was sitting in front of his students it appeared as if a black bird was sitting in a field of cotton. However, it was this person whom the Islamic Civilization made a leader and a person to whom people turned for legal opinions. He was a school of thought in his own right and thousands of students (of all races and hues) graduated from his school. His students upheld him in honor, love and respect.

In Islamic Civilization there have been several scholars of African origin and this did not prevent them from making headway in the field of knowledge and literature. It did not prevent them from becoming men of letters associating with Caliphs as poets, or jurists writing books that were considered to be references in Islamic Law. Examples are `Uthman ibn `Ali al-Zayla`i, who wrote a commentary on Kanz al-Daqaa`iq, a book of Hanafi jurisprudence, and al-Hafiz Jamaluddin Abi Muhammad `Abdullah ibn Yusuf al-Zayla`i (d.762) who wrote Nasab al-Rayah. Both of them were African and, specifically, from Zayla in Abyssinia. Kafur al-Akhshidi is also a well-known person. He was a dark-skinned freed slave who ruled Egypt in the fourth Islamic century and whose name has been immortalized by the famous poet Mutanabbi through his eulogy…

The famous American economist Victor Barlow once said, “The venom of racial discrimination has spread the length and breadth of the country, and has seeped into American life to such an extent that the common people have now become used to the fact that no opportunity should be lose in debasing and humiliating the African-Americans and other minorities.” …

… A black girl named Fartuna wrote a letter to the Caliph `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz that the boundary wall of her house was very low and the poachers scaled the wall and stole her hens. `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz wrote back to her saying that the governor of Egypt had been ordered to have the wall of her house raised and to undertake other necessary repairs to the house also. He wrote to the governor of Egypt Ayyub ibn Sharhabil, “Fartuna the freed slave girl has written to me complaining that the boundary wall of her house is so low that thieves enter at night and steal her hens. She wants it to be raised and reinforced. When you receive this letter go to her house and in your own presence have the wall raised and properly strengthened.” When Ayyub ibn Sharhabil received the letter he went out in search of Fartuna and found her to be a poor black woman. He informed her of what the Amir al-Mu’miniin had written and he himself raised and strengthened the wall.

Dr Mustafa Siba`i
(Chapter 4: Racial Equality)


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