بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Following George Floyd’s death, many American Muslims are wondering how to deal with this incident. Looking to the scholars, people are asking: “What happened?” “Where do we stand?” “What is the way forward?” These are important questions. And it is important to start this conversation. Engaging the conversation by articulating our values is imperative as we must begin considering long-term and real solutions to the deep-rooted problems of racism, police brutality, and the undervaluing of black lives in America.
Islām’s theological foundation is structured on what we refer to as the “kalimah,” which literally means “the Word.” The Word is God’s Revelation to mankind and, along with reason, the foundation of theological truth. The Word includes, as well, God’s legal and moral directives to mankind. It was because of this Revelation that the Prophet (upon him be peace) was first subject to the brunt of the pagan Makkans’ oppression. Then, through his words and those revealed to him, the hearts of men opened until Islām spread to all corners of the world. And now, it is through the inspiration and guidance of our beloved Prophet (upon him be peace), his words, and his teachings that man must find his way.
The darkness of oppression must be extinguished by the light of guidance. To be a true human being one must acknowledge God’s Word and of that is that He created us equal. There is one Supreme Being who is sovereign over the entire universe; to Him man bows, prostrates, and submits. Standing before God, the color of one’s skin is nothing more than a manifestation of the beauty of His handiwork. God created us in different colors. We are all humans. No one color is better than another. In fact, He says that He has honored the Children of Ādam, i.e. the entirety of humanity. In the Qurʾān, Allāh says:
وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ
“Verily, We have honored the Children of Ādam.”
One of Islām’s senior theologians, Abū Manṣūr al-Māturīdī, commentated on this verse and said that one way in which Allāh honored Ādam and his progeny was by creating and fashioning them with excellence. He mentioned the verse:
وَصَوَّرَكُمْ فَأَحْسَنَ صُوَرَكُمْ
“He formed you and most excellently He perfected your forms.”
As well, Allāh says in the Qurʾān:
لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ
“Verily, We created mankind in the best of molds.”
Allāh created every single one of us. And He created us exactly how He wants us to be. With various colors and languages, He created us. Furthermore, Allāh says he honored the Children of Ādam (including how He created us). Thus, every color of man that He created is noble. Who are we then to turn around and look at others in a way that negates this honor that was divinely given?!
In the Qurʾān, our All-Wise Creator says:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
“O people! Verily, We created you from a man and a woman, and We made you as tribes and nations that you may recognize one another. Verily, the most noble of you with God is the most pious of you. And Allāh is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.”
Once, the Prophet Muḥammad (upon him be peace) cited this verse and then said:
فليس لعربي على عجمي فضل ولا لعجمي على عربي فضل ولا لأسود على أبيض فضل ولا لأبيض على أسود فضل إلا بالتقوى
“An Arab does not have superiority over a non-Arab, a non-Arab does not have superiority over an Arab, a black man does not have superiority over a white man, and a white man does not have superiority over a black man except due to piety .”
And the Prophet (upon him be peace) said:
يا أيها الناس ألا إن ربكم واحد ألا إن أباكم واحد ألا لا فضل لعربي على أعجمي ولا لعجمي على عربي ولا لأسود على أحمر ولا لأحمر على أسود إلا بالتقوى إن أكرمكم عند الله أتقاكم ألا هل بلغت قالوا بلى يا رسول الله قال فليبلغ الشاهد الغائب
“O people! Indeed, your Lord is one. Indeed, your father is one. An Arab does not have superiority over a non-Arab, a non-Arab does not have superiority over an Arab, one who is black does not have superiority over one who is red, and one who is red does not have superiority over one who is black except due to piety. Verily, the most honorable of you with God are those who are most pious. Have I communicated this message to you?’ Those in attendance replied: ‘Yes.’ To which the Prophet said: ‘Those who are here must convey this to those who are not.’”
And at the end of these advices, the Prophet (upon him be peace) added that man’s life, wealth, and honor are inviolable. No one race has superiority over another. And no man may dispossess these divine rights from another. The dispossession of these rights is oppression. And God did not create any of us to be subjugated to the oppression of others. Racial intolerance and oppression have no place in Islām.
The injustice that has been witnessed, which in our current context is George Floyd’s death, is unacceptable. Accused of a petty crime, his life was unjustly taken. Life is sacred; Islām teaches us this. No human being should be subject to this oppressive brutality. Unequivocally, what happened to him is wrong. While we do call for calm, nothing can justify what happened. The oppression committed and dealing with that must be at the forefront of this discussion.
Every instance of this that has been witnessed over the years is wrong. It must be realized that what happened to George Floyd is just one excerpt from the drama that many African Americans routinely experience. This is a systemic problem.
When the Prophet (upon him be peace) addressed his Companions in the ḥadīth mentioned above, he commanded them to convey and teach his words and instructions to those who were not present. This includes those who may have been absent at the time. As well, it includes the generations who would come after. And it includes us in this exact moment.
Our consciousness must recognize that racial inequality is wrong. The anatomy of racism is complex; it is more than this one instance of police brutality that took George Floyd’s life. Mentalities that are found in the society that we live in and the community that we are a part of must change. Our ways of thinking must conform to what the Prophet (upon him be peace) taught us. God’s Words change things. The Prophet’s words change things. Where there is darkness, these words bring light. Where there is misguidance, the Prophet’s sunnah and his way guides. We must accept that it is time for them to change us.
There is no innate superiority of one race over another. What Allāh looks at is our hearts and deeds. The Prophet (upon him be peace) said:
إن الله لا ينظر إلى أجسادكم ولا إلى صوركم ولكن ينظر إلى قلوبكم
“Allāh does not look at your bodies nor your appearances. Rather, he looks at your hearts.”
Meaning, he looks at the hearts and deeds of the Children of Ādam and the most noble of them and those closest to Him are the pious. Before God, variations in man’s external physical features do not determine his virtue. Rather, it is what is inside one’s heart and the good that one does that determines this. Before Him, men are equal. He is the creator of us, the heavens, the earth, and all it contains. He has not placed mankind in this world for some to commit injustices against others. Oppression through racial inequality is an injustice.
This issue must be addressed. And it is important that we participate in the conversation inspired by what our faith teaches us. Allāh says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ لِلَّهِ شُهَدَاءَ بِالْقِسْطِ وَلَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَى أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا اعْدِلُوا هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَى وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
“O believers! Stand firm for Allāh as witnesses for justice. Do not let the hatred of people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allāh; indeed, Allāh is well-aware of all that you do.”
Through the light of the Prophet’s guidance, implementing what he taught, and submitting to Allāh, the status quo will shift, inshāʾAllāh. Speaking up and mentioning what we believe is powerful. The Prophet (upon him be peace) stood up with words, the kalimah, and darkness turned to light. Oppression was replaced by justice. Falsehood was replaced by truth. He commanded his Companions to relate the ḥadīth mentioned above to those who were not present. They fulfilled his command, we have heard it, and it is now our responsibility to share the message with others.
 Q, 17:70.
 Taʾwīlāt Ahl al-Sunnah, 7:86.
 Q, 40:64.
 Q, 90:4.
 Q, 49:13.
 Kanz al-ʿUmmāl, 2:42; al-Muʿjam al-Kabīr, 18:12.
 al-Durr al-Manthūr, 7:579.
 Musnad Aḥmad, 38: 474.
 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 4:1986.
 Q, 5:8.