Ethnic Diversity Tolerance in Islam

When I was preparing the material of this chapter, I knew it would be the shortest, having no much debate on Islamic ethnic and racial tolerance, apart from the Zionistic claims of anti-Semitism of Quran, which we will embody its righteous answer in the course of this chapter. We understand that Islamic ethnic diversity tolerance is not debatable among non-Muslims in today's world, as it is not debatable among Muslims in first place. Knowing that Apostle's direct disciples belonged to many cultures and ethnicities enables us to understand why the matter was not debatable.

Among first line disciples, i.e. those who were contemporary to Muhammad we have Bilal ibn-Rabbah, a prominent disciple, and an early adopter of the new faith during Mecca opposition period. He was black from African roots. He was the 2nd generation in slavery descending from Rabbah who was a slave of Umayyah ibn Khalaf. Worthy to mention that Bilal was the most prominent, but not the only disciple who was black African. Then, we have Salman the Persian, who was overtly a Persian, of an Indo-Aryan race. Similarly, he possessed a closed position to Prophet Muhammad, proved with a narration wherein prophet said, "Salman is one of my direct kinships". Here, we did not mention among them Sohaib who was called 'The Roman' as he was not really a Roman, but an Arab who was raised as a war-prisoner in Rum domains.

Moreover, when Islamic Empire expanded beyond the borders of Arabia,
we find many prominent social, religious and political leaders of Persian, African, Barbaric and Asians, all equally presented in the Muslim society. Exceptionally the Umayyads dynasty has an Arabistic notion that was not before it, and did not last after it. From the eminent figures we have among non-Arabs we can brief some hereunder;

Razi (865-925 AD):
Muhammad ibn Zakariya Razi was a Persian scientist who excelled in medicine and was an early supporter of experimental medicine. Encyclopedia states him as the early father of pediatrics medicine.

Khwarizmi (780-850 AD)
Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, who was a brilliant mathematician and the founder of Algebra science when he composed a book carrying the same name “Algebra” studying linear and quadratic equations. Like Razi, Khawarizmi was a Persian Muslim scientists who had the opportunity to excel in an ethnically diversified Islamic pot.

Geber (721-815):
The founder of Chemistry science as we know it today, taking it out from alchemic era to the enlightenment of modern chemistry, inventing methodologies for acid preparation, distillation and crystallization. Geber ethnicity is highly debatable between Arab and Persians. A matter that manifest how secondary was it to know the ethnic roots of celebrities in early Muslim societies.

Tabari (838-870 AD):
Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari, who was the mentor of Razi, an Iranian descendant of a Jew family, flourished during Abbasid era, wherein the Persian nation in general found an unlimited ground of opportunities.

Ibn Battuta (1304-1368):
The Berber celebrity explorer and chronicler who traveled throughout the three well known continents by his time

The list of non-Arabs who excelled and realized premium role and status in the Arabic Muslim monarchies from the 8th century onward is lengthy, including the Afghani Farghani, the Turkish Farabi and many others. All pioneered hand by hand with their Arabic pears. Which stands as a solid proof of ethnic tolerance in the early Muslim states.

Having no much of debate on ethnic tolerance in Islam, we will start answering the claimed anti-Semitic discrimination, and then discuss the doctrinal proofs of diversity tolerance from Quran and Sunnah.

The Legend of Anti-Semitic Semitics
No, there is no printing defect here, claiming Muslims, namely Arab Muslims to be anti-Semitic is as nonsense as saying Semitics are anti-Semitic. Simply, because Arabs racially are classified as Semitics themselves. Worthy to say the term Semitic in its original meaning refers to the groups of nations speaking the Semitic tongues, the earliest records of it, are found in Acadians and Amorites writings form the 3rd millennium BC, while the Semitic speaking nations in later stages were extending from Syria and Iraq in the north to Yemen in the south. Today, the vivid Semitic languages are Arabic, Hebrew, Neo-Aramaic, Syriac, and Amharic. Moreover, the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, been all originated from Semitic speaking nations, frequently referred-to as Semitic Religions.
Racially, modern ancestry chromosomal studies of Middle and Near East regions, showed a degree of similarity among the Semitic speaking nations including Arabs and Sephardim Hebrews. Nonetheless, it showed also high degree of similarities between Arabic and non-Arabic nations in Levant and Iraq on one side and Anatolian, Indo-Iranian and Caucasian races on the other side.

While Judaism according to their Scriptures, classifies these groups to Semitics who are the descendants of Shem son of Noah, and Canaanites who are the descendants of Hem son of Noah also. Needless to say, these are baseless fiction tales, stands with no scientific or historical evidence supporting it.

To conclude, the Middle East had been always a region of ethnic tolerance, as it was the central zone of the old world, whereby all the trade lines cross, and where the ongoing inter-marriages diluted the racial identities of the major groups. This leaves no room for anyone speaking about Anti-Semitism in Middle East. First, because almost all Middle East inhabitants can be classified as Semitics based on the spoken language roots as well as the common religions. Second, because this Semitic race is hard to distinguish from other racial mixes in this geographical and historical hot pot, and Jews are not exception from this role.

Israelites in Quran
Theologically, many Jews scholars state Quran to depict Israelites in degrading depictions. Exploring Quranic verses where Jews or Israelites were mentioned, we find it confined to the following depictions,
- Story of Moses and the Exodus e.g. the verses in Cow, The Heights, Jonah, Tâ Hâ, The Poets, Crouching, The Prostration, Smoke and The Transferal.
- Story of Israelites with Jesus Christ e.g. The Emrans
- Other Prophecies among Israelites, other than slaying some of their prophecies, crimes that Quran condemned the Jews who committed it e.g. The Emrans and Table Spread
- Statements about Moses laws and doctrines e.g. Table Spread.
- Their claims to be the favored nation by God. Whereon Quran commented this claim to be wishful thinking e.g. Table Spread.
- Statements about the numerous blessings God granted to Israelites, and blames they kept not a gratitude to these blessings and grants e.g. Cow
- Their comments on Christians and Muslims to be of baseless faiths, Quran stated this claim also to be wishful thinking e.g. Cow and Table Spread
- Their hatred toward Muslims in Medina, which is limited to the Jews contemporary to the early Muslims society with conflicts escalated to military antagonism. Like the depictions in Table Spread.
- Quran anticipated Jews to adopt an unflagging xenophobic attitude against Muslims, based on the fact that Jews have always been a closed sect with little interest to consort with others and integrate socially with the other nation. This remains a fact until present time, based on the classical Judaic perception of others as Goyem.

As we can see from the list above, it lays all within the same framework we can find in the Holy Book itself, adding to it temporal commentaries relating to their attitude toward the growing Muslim community in Medina. On the other hand, categorically, Jews were treated and perceived as good as Christians whether in perception or in the roles of social tolerance we explained before. I believe it is only the common frictions with Jews in Medina wherefrom originates the numerous verses in Quran about them, is the cause of this misperception. While comparing the Islamic and Judaic doctrines, we find it very closed


Islam was first found in the Arab peninsula, wherein, fanatic tribalism existed, and it was focused on abolishing this form of micro-racism from the society. This is why we will find more focus in Islamic Scriptures whether in Quran or Sunnah against tribalism, more than what we have against racism. Moreover, the overt diversity among Muhammad's disciples including whites and blacks, Rums and Persians…etc. make it an out-of-questioning subject in Islam. This is why-in our perception- we do not find a plenty of teachings in relation to racism and its abolition. However, we have a couple of direct and inclusive Scriptures, a verse from Quran and a teaching of Muhammad, these are over and inclusive enough to compensate the numerical scarcity of teachings.

Quranic Verse Supporting Ethnic Diversity

"O mankind, We created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may exchange knowledge with each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he, who is the most righteous of you"
In this verse, we find an overt explanation of the diversity and its prosperous role in mankind development, through cultural exchange. The verse excluded any possibility of racial superiority whatsoever, and affirmed the righteousness of behavior to be the exclusive divine parameter of honor and superiority of a man over another.

Apostolic Teaching Supporting Ethnic Diversity

"O' People, one God you have, and from one ancestor you all have descended, no privilege an Arab holds over a non-Arab, neither a white over a black nor a black over a white, spare the privileges of righteousness"
Indexed by: Ahmed

Long before Islam, a competent slavery foundation was found in Arab peninsula. Sources of slavery were mainly cross-tribal war prisoners, plus abducted children from the shores of Africa, it was a much relied-on system in animal husbandry activities, trading, pilgrimage services plus the minor agricultural activities in some areas of the Arabian desert. The commonality of African rooted slaves created a low status of blacks in Arabia like everywhere else in history.
We do have a fact of history, neither Islam nor Christianity and Judaism had prevented slavery in the ancient times. It was not before the 18th century, when the talks about freeing slaves became strong and noticeable. Why?

Anti-Slavery Association started to be reputed, and then the Second American Revolution lead by Abraham Lincoln put an end to the matter in the westernmost side of the globe. On the other side, in the old world, France abolished slavery in 1794, and freed all enslaved people in her colonies. Then by time, slavery became part of the past in most of the globe.

When we talk about terms like war prisoners’ ransom today, it will look very odd, but it was a regular practice in the medieval chivalric world in Europe. Capturing war prisoners to be released against a sum, usually paid by the prisoners’ tribe or family was also known and practiced in Arabia, and whoever will not be released, shall be enslaved. It was the ancient world daily bread though it looks strange today.

Islam, only likely to all other religions, did not try to denounce slavery abruptly, as it was essential to maintain production economics in that time in the 7th century. This we think was the same reason called Judaism and Christianity to tolerate slavery for centuries. However, Islam had developed several temporal regulations to limit slavery and to improve living conditions of the poor humans who were trapped as slaves. We dare to claim Islam had developed organized quantitative limitations as well as some qualitative limitations to slavery and its suffering.

Quantitative Limitations to Slavery
- Granted to war prisoners –as the first source of supply- different options to avoid being enslaved. First was ransom, second was social performance (e.g. educating a group of illiterates like the case of Badr war prisoners). Third was converting to Islam.
- Prevented capturing children as the second major source supplied slaves.
- Freeing a slave as a repentance condition for many sins like accidental murders, preaching an oath …etc.
- Entitled the female slave who gives birth to a child for immediate freedom. Also mandated her husband to consider her as a free wife. This regulation was behind a great misperception of Islamic attitude against family planning and contraceptives. When a group of men came to Apostle of God, informing they practice coitus interruptus with their slave girls, then apostle prevented them doing so. It was perceived by many jurists as rejection of family planning. While it was about disarming these people from the trick they used to keep enslaving their girls, preventing them from the right God granted to them when they conceive. Therefore, Muhammad rejected these trials. We support our understanding with what Omar said, when he was once asked about coitus interruptus with wives for family planning, he replied confirming it was used freely during apostle’s life with wives.

The overall purpose of these quantitative limiting factors to slavery was to keep it as minimal as possible under the social circumstances of the 7th century that prevented sudden abolition.

Qualitative Limitations to Slavery Morbidities
- Instructed the living conditions in terms of food, clothing and shelter to be relative to their masters’ socio-economic status. Advising masters to treat their slaves in the same manners they would like to be treated if they were enslaved themselves.
- Prohibited employment of slave-girls in prostitution.
- Encouraged Muslims to marry their slave girls even before they give birth as proven by apostolic teachings.

Based on what we listed here, we can say; Yes, Islam tolerated slavery system as a necessity in the seventh century, and applied regulations to decrease the magnitude of suffering of slaves. However, from the general direction of Islam, we can also affirm its support to the total abolition. Would the prophet or one of his direct disciples contemporized the conditions of the 18th century, he would have supported slavery abolition to the fullest extent. Therefore, attention should never be given to the heresies spoken by some Muslim imams today, claiming that slavery is still an option!


Amre El-Abyad said...

There are two historical mistakes in the post:

regardingh Al-razy, hs lineage was not certain, he lived in Persia at time whn many Arabs were living there. What couints is that Al-Razy wrote in Arabic and c arried an Arabic name and swore alegiance ot the Arabi caliph.Still he might have had a Persian slave as his mother or so.

so even Al-Tabary's lineage was not known. They all spoke Arabic and wrote in Arabic and lived under Arabic systems. So the were Arabised Arabs

However, the Persian dirt try to mess with that so as to give themelves some credit in civilsation.Their hearts are being eaten away because of the Arab upper hands over them.

regarding Geber, there is no doubt tha he was also an Arab with thelineage.

Ibn El-Nadeem, in his well known reference "El-Fehrest"- which is one
of the most reliable sources about the works and biographies of Arab
scientists and celebrities- mentions that his full name is Jabir Ibn
Hayan Al- Kufi as he was born, according to many sources, in Kufa in
the south of Iraq of an Arab lineage. Yet, some other sources cite
different locations for his place of birth, but what is certain is
that his father was an Iraqi man from Al-Kufa who might have fled
Kuffa by the end of the Umayyid era only to return with the
Abbassyids ascending to power, because he was known for his support
of the Abbasyid revolt.

Will Durant mentioned in "history of civilisation" that Jabir Ibn
Hayan Al-Kufi had preceded Francis Bacon by 500 years in
establishing the foundations of modern experimental science, since he
was the first to apply the empirical methodology in chemical
research. Ibn Al-Nadeem quoted, in Al Fehrest, Jabir emphasizing
that experiment which [he] called "Al-Derbah" from the Arabic
word "Al-Tadreeb" or practice in English is the only way to learn
about the characteristics and properties of substances. Francis Bacon
mentioned there that he is " the first tutor of chemistry in the
world". Since there is a wide agreement among many European
historians and orientalists that Arabic chemistry was the first
branch of science where experimental methodologies were utilised,
then no wonder the English philosopher Bacon - who is considered
the pioneer of empiricism and experimental science- cites Jabir.

On a different note, while browsing the net I fell upon the following
Wikipedia article on the definition of culture: "
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture". They included two pictures
representing Persian "civilisation" and Pharoanic culture. Yet,
nothing was added regarding the Iraqi civilisation which is older
and more influential than the so called Persian one.

I suggest that some one would pick out a Babylonian monument and post
it under the title, Semitic (or Arab) Iraqi civilisation.

Amre El-Abyad said...

Also the Ummayid dynasity especially when the great pious Muslim Al-Hjaja ibn YOussif Al-Thakfy was alive, was the greatest Muslim Caliphate. for hadn't it been for th eUmmayads , Islam would have been wipe out.

Frankly speaking, I think that Hajaj should have been caliph instead of both Ali and Moaawiyah.

We have all seen what the dirty Persian barabrians did to the great Arab civilisation as to when they manipulated the Arab tolerance and started to indflitrate intot eh core of th Arab state