All the time, human beings develop a sense of belonging. It is natural for one to incline to people who have the same line of thought, behaviors, attitudes, interests, etc. The real problem occurs when a group of people who share the same thoughts, culture, language, etc. think that they are better than and superior to another group, or even to the whole human race. With the passage of time, these feelings of supremacy become stronger and are transmitted from one generation to another until they clearly appear in the behaviors of individuals of the racist groups towards other people.
Islam pays great attention to this problem. Therefore, the Qur’an confirms from the very beginning that all people are equal before Allah, Glorified is He, as they all were created from the same father and mother, Adam and Eve, only to get to know one another (The Qur’an 49:13). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also confirms that all people are on equal footing and that there is no supremacy whatsoever for one to another except with piety and good action. During his only and last pilgrimage, he (PBUH) gave a sermon in which he confirmed this fact. He (PBUH) said, “O people, verily your Lord is One and your father is one. Verily there is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab or of a non-Arab over an Arab, or of a red man over a black man, or of a black man over a red man, except in terms of taqwa (piety and righteousness). Have I conveyed the message?” They said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) has conveyed the message.” (Musnad Ahmad, 22978)
Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), one of the five pillars of Islam and an annual act of worship, is considered a powerful weapon against racism. Millions of Muslims of different colors and races gather every year to perform hajj. They all are obliged to do the same rituals; take off clothes, wrap up in a white sheet of cloth, circumambulate the Ka’ba, stand on the mountain of Arafat, make Sa’i (going between the two mountains of al-Safa and al-Marwa. None of them is given distinction over another.
This is why this great journey has a profound impact on people. Malcolm X (1925–1965), an American black man who joined the Nation of Islam (NOI), can be quoted as an illustrative example in this regard. The NOI is an African American political and religious movement, founded in Detroit, Michigan, United States, by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad on July 4, 1930. Its main and extremist principles are as follows: black people are the original people of the world; white people are "devils”; blacks are superior to whites, and the demise of the white race is imminent. Malcolm X adopted these racist beliefs and was one of the advocates of this group for about twelve years. However, when he travelled to Saudi Arabia in 1964 to perform hajj, he was astonished by seeing this mixture of all races and colors in one gathering and one place. He found that white people were mangling with black people; all of them share food, exchange views and help each other. He reflected his thoughts about his extraordinary encounter which he never experienced before in a letter he wrote after completing his hajj.
He wrote, “There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.” For him, this new experience motivated his reconsideration, for the first time in his life, of the beliefs of the Nation of Islam that ‘blacks are superior to whites’. Furthermore, it led him to come up with a solution to the race problem in the USA. He adds, “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.”
The scene of Muslims performing hajj embodies the basic principles of Islam that all Muslims are equal in the Sight of Allah, regardless of their race, background, color, ethnicity, nationality, etc. All people wear the same clothes, do the same rituals and have the same status. Distinguished are only those who are more pious and more righteous.