When my nephew was about two years old, he experienced his first meet up with a cockroach. My sister and I found him sitting very close to a cockroach, looking at it, smiling and enjoying his discovery. As soon as we saw the cockroach, we started screaming out of fear of the cockroach. In a way that the poor little kid ran away and started crying. From then on, whenever he saw a cockroach, his first reaction towards the poor insect was to start screaming and running away.
We, unwantedly, passed on our fear and hatred of the insect to that little kid. This hatred was shaped in us when we were kids and is passed on to next generations. Hostile actions are being shaped against cockroaches. Different poisons are made to destroy them. And still, they are the biggest enemies of people of some nation. The same story exists with British people and their spider enemies.
We never even start asking ourselves, if we can have a different attitude towards these insects. In our understanding, they are dirty, aggravating creatures that should be destroyed. Yet, it has happened to me to watch some well-made documentary films about insects. And think to myself why I am so ignorant and hostile towards these beautiful creatures of God.
Prejudice, as described in Merriam Webster dictionary, is a “preconceived judgment or opinion; an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.”  Prejudice is usually based on ignorance. For example, using the following phrases: ‘all men, all women, all Christians, all Muslims, all uneducated people, all youths, all poor people, all rich people, all Americans, all Arabs, etc.’ are signs of having prejudice toward a specific gender, religion, social level, or nationality.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) says: “Avoid prejudice, as it begins with ignorance and ends up in regression.” 
In this article, we are going to analyze prejudice in Islam. And find out how much the definition of Merriam Webster dictionary is compatible with Islam’s view towards prejudice.
Imam Ali (AS) states that one of the main reasons for prejudice is “ignorance”. He explains that “As for Satan, he felt proud over Adam because of his origin and taunted him about his creation since he said, "I am of fire while you are of clay." And in the same way “the rich among the prosperous communities have been feeling vanity because of their riches, as (Allah) said: And said they: "We are more (than you) in wealth and in children, and we shall not be chastised." (Qur'an, 34:35)” 
In the Arabic text, the word that is used for “vanity” is Al-asbiyyah and Al-Lijajah, which means prejudice in Islam. Indeed, most of the times it is vanity and pride that makes people think they are better than others. As a result, they classify people and discriminate between different groups of people.
Prejudice in the following cases is blamed according to Islamic teachings:
“Among His (Allah) signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors. There are indeed signs in that for those who know.” (30:22)
“Do not marry idolatresses until they embrace faith. A faithful slave girl is better than an idolatress, though she should impress you. And do not marry [your daughters] to idolaters until they embrace faith. A faithful slave is better than an idolater, though he should impress you.” (2: 221)
This verse emphasizes on the fact that the only thing that elevates people in the eyes of God and should be noticed in human classification is one’s faith and wariness of God. “Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most Godwary among you.” (49:13): unlike many people who may choose their spouse based on appearance, wealth, education, family lineage, etc.
“O mankind! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female and made you nations and tribes that you may identify yourselves with one another. Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most Godwary among you. Indeed Allah is all-knowing, all-aware.” (49: 13)
As it is clear in the above verses, that differences in nationality, race, color, or social class should not make a group of people feel that they are superior to others and that they have the right to insult or assault them.
Since prejudice is followed by mocking, insulting and humiliating others, Allah clearly detains people of such acts; “O you who have faith! Let not any people ridicule another people: it may be that they are better than they are, nor let women [ridicule] women: it may be that they are better than they are. And do not defame one another, nor insult one another by [calling] nicknames. How evil are profane names subsequent to faith! As for those who are not penitent [of their past conduct]—such are the wrongdoers.” (49: 11) and He emphasizes that “Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most Godwary among you.” (49:13)
From definitions that we usually read about prejudice, we may think that prejudice in Islam is always an indecent attitude. But, in Islamic teachings, prejudice is not always a negative manner. Rather, in some cases, it is known to be admirable.
As Imam Ali (AS) points out, people should have prejudice for “good qualities and in praise-worthy habits like the protection of the neighbor, the fulfillment of agreements, obedience to the virtuous, opposition to the haughty, extending generosity to others, abstention from rebellion, keeping aloof from blood-shed, doing justice to people, suppressing anger and avoiding trouble on the earth.” 
With what we have discussed so far, we realize that prejudice comes from ignorance. And every one of us may have a negative prejudice against some people. Simply because we do not bother to gain more knowledge about other people, other religions, other cultures, etc. If we try to know other humans better and try to put ourselves in their conditions and empathize with them, and do not judge them based on what we’ve heard about them, but expand our knowledge by the sufficient studies, then there is a chance that we can help each other in the way of growth and improvement.
Ramadan is the time when Muslims are required to fast. But we might wonder: Is our fasting accepted? Do we really observe the conditions that are essential for fasting? After all, what are these conditions? Can the fast (Sawm) of those who do not perform the prayer (Salat), talk behind other people’s back, drink Alcohol, etc. be accepted? Does it bring all the benefits of fasting on body and soul, in its real sense of the word?
Or even sometimes, some non-Muslims show interest in performing fasting (Sawm). They might want to know what it feels like to fast. To know why Muslims are so enthusiastic about this act, or as they say to put themselves in Muslims' shoes. Indeed they are welcomed to take part in this beautiful ritual. Yet, they should note that Islam has specified some conditions for fasting (Swam) to be accepted.
What Are the Conditions that Make Fasting Meaningful and Pleasurable?
Converting to Islam
Having faith in the pillars of Islam
Being in sound mind and Not being unconscious [i]
Having the intention (Niyyah) of fasting
Avoiding whatever renders fasting void
Also, the one who is traveling, a menstruating woman, and the person who would receive harm by fasting are not required to fast.
As stated earlier, fasting is not the mere act of not eating and drinking. Rather it is a multi-dimensional practice. Aside from being a bodily endeavor, fasting is the spiritual effort of Muslims to elevate their souls and reach Allah’s satisfaction. So, not eating and drinking will not necessarily bring about the many spiritual and psychological effects of fasting. It is a process that influences the manner and the soul of the person, with the passage of time.
It is a whole series of actions that are accepted only when one has embraced Islam previously, believes in the Oneness of Allah and performs other practical principles of Islam such as prayer (Salat) as well.
In other words, if there were no spiritual and divine side to this action, it would not be called fasting (Sawm) anymore. As Imam Ali (AS) puts: “It is possible that a person who fasts, does not receive any benefit from his/her fasting other than hunger and thirst” . Why would anyone want to bear hunger and thirst just for the sake of it? There must be something to motivate one going through such a challenging practice.
Intentions are the driving forces for actions, which determine their value and their expected effects. This is true for fasting as well, same as any other obligatory practice in Islam.
Fasting is first and foremost an act of worship and not a mere physical practice. Thus the first prerequisite for this act is to be done with the intention of serving Allah. There may be someone who is only interested in the health effects and physical benefits of fasting. Yet without a divine intention, his/her practice cannot be called fasting in Islam. This does not mean that you need to perform a special ritual before fasting; you should only be aware of your own will to fast and the reason why you fast.
Muslims believe that they fast for Allah [ii]. And what they have for breaking their fast is given by Allah, as a manifestation of His infinite mercy [iii]. With this in mind, Muslims feel inner joy and bliss after a long day of fasting with all its hardships. Since they find a meaning for their efforts. Then, they ask Allah to accept their act of worship [iv], regardless of its physical benefits or any other worldly attitude. At last, they whisper their needs and wishes to Allah, knowing that He is “all-hearing and all-knowing” .
We are born free, and Allah has endowed us with the power of choice. We choose to refrain from eating and drinking consciously. We choose to secure our tongue, eye, and ear from any vices. We choose to surrender to the will of Allah, and we choose to get closer to our divine Creator.
If our power of choice is undermined by any circumstances (e.g., not being mentally sound, being unconscious, not having the intention for fasting), fasting loses its meaning and necessary function. That is to emphasize human being's free will to be better, to go forward and prove his/her value.
[i] i.e., one must be aware of what he/she is doing, or be in control of his/her actions.
[ii] A Hadith from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) .
[iii] اللّهُمَّ لَكَ صُمْنَا: “O Allah: For You have we fasted” 
[iv] وَعَلَى رِزْقِكَ أَفْطَرْنَا :“and with Your sustenance have we broken our fasting” 
[v] فَتَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا : “so, (please) accept form us” .
- Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, vol.1, p.18-17.
- Nahj al-Balaghah, Wisdom no. 145.
- Dua after breaking the fast (Iftar)
“Among the faithful are men who fulfill what they have pledged to Allah. Of them are some who have fulfilled their pledge, and of them are some who still wait, and they have not changed in the least” (33:23). On the 21st night of the holy month of Ramadan, the followers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and his successors experienced another great suffering after the prophet’s death. When the first Imam, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) was martyred after he received the fatal injury over his head on the 19th of Ramadan.
But what was the reason behind deep oppositions against this pious and god-fearing man and the true successor of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP)? Why would anyone intentionally decide to deprive him of his rights, spread lies against him, harm him, or take his life? Who was Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS)?
He was the first male person who heard our dear Prophet’s recitation of the revealed words of Allah on the 27th of Rajab, known as Mab’ath Day, and accepted him as the Almighty’s true last and greatest messenger wholeheartedly when he was only ten years old.
When the Prophet (PBUH&HP) gathered the Quraish tribe to announce his message of monotheism publicly, it was the young Ali (AS) who openly testified to the Oneness of God and the mission of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), when all the others remained silent and did nothing but giving blank looks. This sowed the first seeds of evil sentiments in the hearts of polytheist Arabs against the Commander of the Faithful. They would hatch any plot against the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) including the bid to assassinate him in Mecca.
Again, there was no one but Ali (AS) who saved his leader’s life by sleeping on his bed that very night so that the ones who had surrounded them would think that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was lying in bed; as a result, the Prophet safely left Mecca. The Arab infidels also imposed several wars upon the Prophet at Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Hunayn, and Khaybar. Thanks to the flashing blade of Imam Ali (AS), the Zu’l-Feqar, all these plots were aborted as well.
Not only did Imam Ali (AS) excel on the battlefields, but he also displayed other merits, such as knowledge, prudence, wisdom, piety, courage, and generosity. It was Ali (AS) who gave his ring as alms (Zakat) while in genuflection during the ritual prayer, which brought divine approval for the Imam as the 55th verse of Maedah chapter bears testimony:
“Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakat while bowing down.” (5:55)
The feelings of hostility towards the Most Virtuous Believer, Ali (AS), reached its climax among his enemies when on God’s express command Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) publicly proclaimed Imam Ali (AS) as his successor at the historic assembly of Ghadir Khum on 18th Dhu al-Hijjah 10 AH.
“Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam as your religion.” (5:3)
But Imam Ali (AS) was deprived of his true right of political leadership for a quarter of a century. In 35 AH, when Ali (AS) took up the political rule at the desperate Muslims’ insistence, he only abode by the Holy Quran and the Prophet’s teachings (Sunnah). However, for his very insistence on spreading justice and observing the true rights of each individual, his enemies, the seditions, the pledge-breakers, and the Renegades (Khawarij) declared hostility and war against him, which later on became known as The Battle of Jamal.
The renegades, just as ISIS in our time, were appeared to be devoted to God to the extent that from their long and incessant prostrations their foreheads were covered with calluses, while they were ignorant of Islam’s truth and were unable to distinguish between right and wrong.
Finally, the Supreme emblem of Justice was struck on the head on the 19th of Ramadan, the first of the three grand nights of Qadr (Laylat al-Qadr) in prayer and worship, in the Grand Mosque of Kufa by the poisoned sword of the renegade, Ibn Muljam al-Moradi.
Despite the severity of the wound, the first phrase that came to the lips of the Commander of the Faithful was: “Fuzto wa Rabb-il-Kaaba.” It means by the Lord of the Kaaba I have succeeded.
So, the pledge made to God by Imam Ali (AS) decades ago was fulfilled in the early hours of the 21st of Ramadan as his soul flew towards the ethereal heavens. After he embraced martyrdom, the poor and homeless never again saw the man who in the middle of the night, bring food and water for them.
The orphans of Kufa could not find anyone who would kindly listen to and sympathize with their pain. When he left this earthly life behind, no ruler ever came to power who could surpass him in justice and in observing the rights of all the people, rich or poor, equally. No man ever set foot on earth who, like him, was endowed with the infinite and divine knowledge of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Prophet once said “I am the city of knowledge and Ali (AS) is the gate to this city. Anyone who is willing to enter this city must first pass the gate.” Such was the man whom we lost on the second night of Qadr.