Racism and ethnocentrism are closely linked to the sense of superiority that lies within every human being. This issue has a long history - as long as human life, and is still an ongoing behavior that causes serious problems among human beings.
Racism is an important issue that Islam has considered; the issue whose history dates back to nations existed long before the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). This unequal treatment was so weaved into people’s lives which they didn’t even realized its vile nature. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), also, lived in a society where racism was very common. The situation became even harder when people started to follow the religion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). That was when racism out of tribal prejudice was extended to segregation based on religion, and many people who followed Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) were driven from their homes or hometowns.
The specific conditions of the era in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) lived, as well as the deep roots of this wrong attitude in the history of humankind, were the main reasons why Allah (SWT) makes many recommendations about racism in the Quran. The Prophet of Islam (PBUH&HP), also, worked really hard to clear the minds of people from tribal, religious, and any other types of racism.
During the Arab ignorance, privileges such as lineage, race, wealth, number of children, and affiliation with a powerful tribe were considered the criteria of superiority over others. The verses of the Quran indicate that the number of children and folks were so important to them that in some arguments they even went to a cemetery and started to count the number of their dead ones:
“Rivalry [and vainglory] distracted you until you visited [even] the graves.” (102: 1-2)
It should have been hard for people of that mindset to accept that their lineage, children, tribe and wealth is of no importance in the eyes of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). According to an account, he said, “All the people, from the past or at present, are as equal as a comb’s teeth; therefore neither Arabs are superior to non-Arabs, nor white people to blacks. You are only distinguished by your piety and righteousness” .
However, although the Quran was revealed in such an environment that was limited in various ways and had a limited connection with the world outside the island, and the issue of ethnicity, race, and tribal life prevailed in all its aspects, it did not take on such a color at all. Allah addresses people in the Quran using the following phrases: "O children of Adam," "O people," "O you who believe," or "O you who have faith." The Quran removed racial privileges in that racist environment, and with the beautiful logic of "you are all children of man and were created from one parent," Allah declared them all brothers and sisters belonging to the same family:
“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 God wary among you. Indeed Allah is all-knowing, all aware.” (49:13)
As the verse above implies, One’s character and status are only measured by the level of submission to Allah and following His commands, not social or financial conditions.
Apart from racism based on lineage, race, wealth, etc. people before and at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) believed that religious beliefs gave them superiority over others.
Based on that belief, people of different faiths were always conflicting with each other, instead of having sound arguments about different issues. Therefore, religious discriminations had been severely condemned by Islam, emphasizing that belonging to the followers of religion does not make people good or bad. But, it is their actions and their level of obedience toward Allah that give them superiority:
“The Jews say, ‘The Christians stand on nothing,’ and the Christians say, ‘The Jews stand on nothing,’ though they follow the [same] Book. So said those who had no knowledge, [words] similar to what they say. Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that about which they used to differ.” (2: 113)
The issue of fairness and justice among human beings is so important in Islam that the Quran has taken care of all different aspects in which people may act unjustly toward each other. Apart from racial issues that have been ongoing for ages, the issue of undermining and suppressing women in different domestic and social aspects, and depriving them of their rights had been a challenging issue in most parts of the world.
The Quran condemns this segregation and states that men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah:
“Whoever acts righteously, [whether] male or female, should he be faithful, We shall revive him with a good life and pay them their reward by the best of what they used to do.” (16:97)
Also, the necessity of observing women’s rights had been emphasized in many narrations from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and his progeny. Imam Ali (AS), says in an account, “Women are Allah’s trusts upon you, do not hurt them, and do not put pressure on them” . Therefore, men should be careful with their manners in treating women whether in family or in society.
To conclude, the only thing that gives superiority to people is their piety and faith. Looking at the issue like this makes people closer to each other and all differences in color, race, ethnicity, shape, wealth, etc. create no distance between people. People gather around based on their spiritual interests and try not to judge each other, since the only one who is aware of the most faithful is Allah (SWT):
“… And be wary of Allah. Indeed Allah knows best what is in the hearts.” (5: 7).
- Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid, Al-Ikhtisas, p.341.
- Muhaddith Nuri ,Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol.2, p.551.
Nowadays, we hear every day that our earth is becoming more and more polluted and that a day will come that our life on this planet will be no longer possible. This is undoubtedly the result of our negligence toward the blessing that God had granted us, the blessing of nature and a clean environment: “It is He who created for you all that is in the earth…” (2:29). We are responsible for whatever is going on in our surroundings and at the same time dependent upon it to be able to live.
It is important to note that at the time of the emergence of Islam, people did not face such complex environmental issues and thus this matter has not been dealt with in depth in Islam. Nevertheless, Islam has emphasized the significance of preserving the environment and provided us with guidelines that help us find solutions for such complexities through the narrations and actions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) as well as the twelve infallible leaders (AS). This article is an attempt to summarize these matters for you briefly.
The answer is quite simple, and it reveals the direct correlation between human beings and their surroundings. Preserving the environment equals our own physical and mental wellbeing. Our immediate surrounding is where we are always in touch with, and its quality will inevitably affect our mind and soul. Moreover, we are the ones who make use of the environment to fulfill our needs, and the way we use it will ultimately determine our condition of life.
On the other hand, Allah has made this world in perfect equilibrium and human’s excessive exploitation of natural resources will result in damaging this balance: “And We spread out the earth and cast in it firm mountains, and We grew in it every kind of balanced thing” (15:19). When the balance is disturbed, the result will be the many environmental crises that we are faced with nowadays. These include pollution, global warming, natural resource depletion, waste disposal, climate change, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, ocean acidification, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, water pollution, etc. .
The problems mentioned above are the result of our irresponsibility toward the blessing of the environment, and this is we that should compensate for it. What follows are some Islamic guidelines for us to observe in our treatment of the environment:
When you make excessive use of natural resources such as water or what is produced by water such as electricity, the paper that is made through cutting trees, fossil fuels, etc., you put the environment in danger and threaten its durability. Quran also emphasizes the necessity to be moderate in using God’s blessings in this world: “… Eat and drink, but do not waste; indeed, He does not like the wasteful” (7:31).
Moreover, our environment is not restricted to our use only but is a public possession from which every human being has the right to benefit. Therefore, we should be careful not to violate other people’s rights in having a share in the environment through our extravagant exploitation of its resources.
There is a general rule in Islam that bids Muslims not to “cause harm or return harm” , meaning that they should act in a way that neither brings inconvenience for others nor undermines their situation. Through wastefulness we bring injustice to both ourselves and other human beings; we consume their share in the environment and damage God’s blessing that was given to us to sustain our livelihood. So, respect yourself as well as your fellow human beings through respecting your surroundings.
Think about the environment as your home and keep it clean as you like your home to be neat and tidy. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) says in a narration that: “Allah is pure and likes purity and cleanliness… therefore, keep where you live in clean” . As it was mentioned above, pollution is one of the most pervasive environmental issues in today’s world; this includes air pollution, water pollution, as well as the excessive amount of waste produced on a daily basis.
Those who have faith in Allah and consider His satisfaction in every instance of their lives must be much more cautious regarding their own or their environment’s cleanliness since as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) puts: “Cleanliness roots in one’s faith” .
Air, water, and soil are the three elements that are the source of life on the earth, which has been mentioned in the Quran as well as narrations [i]&[ii]. It is all the matter of your choice. Keep the air you breathe in clean by choosing to take a walk or public transportation instead of using your car. Preserve the water fresh and pure by avoiding throwing waste in the water, urinating in it, and producing waste water excessively; Imam Ali (AS) emphasizes that water has some inhabitants, so we should not harm them through polluting it .
Even at the time of war, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) forbade his soldiers to pollute or poison their adversary’s city . So, let the soil from which your food is provided remain unpolluted by not throwing waste, especially those that do not dissolve in the environment such as plastic waste, etc.
Plant a tree or bring awareness to people about the environment and the natural crisis that is threatening the earth and its inhabitants. There are many narrations from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) that highlight the necessity of planting trees. For instance, he says: “If a Muslim plants a tree and a bird, human or another creature eats its fruit, it will be considered as an act of charity from him [by Allah]” .
Also, Imam Sadiq (AS) considers planting trees and agriculture as the occupations which bring lawful (Halal) earning for the person performing them . When your surrounding is green, your life will become lively and energetic [iii], and you will become more efficient in your performance.
Finally, it all depends on you and how you want your future to be like. A green and lively environment is the result of our endeavors to preserve it and to give our posterity the opportunity to enjoy the blessing of God. The message of Islam in this matter is again that of moderation and responsibility which guides human beings to live in perfect equilibrium with the environment.
[i] (25:54), (23:12), (24:45), (30:24), (21:30)
[ii] Imam Sadeq (AS) said: “life in a land where is devoid of these three essential factors is highly difficult and challenging: clean air, fresh and plentiful water, as well as fertile ground” .
[iii] Imam Ali (AS) said: “looking at the green nature causes freshness, liveliness and vitality” .
- Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili , Wasail Al-shia , vol. 18, p.32
- Muhammad ibn Hassan Sheibani, Al-Jame Al-Saghir, vol.1, p.267
- Muhammad Baqir Majlisi ,Bihar al-Anvar, vol.59, p. 291
- Ibn Shu'ba al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-Ughul, p.320
- Muhammad ibn Ali Al-Ehsaei, Avali al-Leali, vol.2, p. 187.
- Mirza Hussain Tabarsi , Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 13, p.26.
- Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni al-Razi , Usul al-Kafi, vol.5, p.260
- Shaykh as-Saduq,Uyun Akhbar ar-Reza (AS), vol.2, p. 40
Fasting is one of the most important rituals of Islam, and Muslims are required to fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
“O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be God wary” (2:183).
Now, as Ramadan is around the corner and the novel Coronavirus is continuing to spread globally, many Muslims worldwide are wondering if fasting could pose a higher risk of catching the COVID-19 virus, due to dehydration. They may raise some more questions, as is it safe to fast during this global pandemic? Doesn’t it weaken our immune system? And some wonder if they could be exempted from fasting to prevent catching this disease and remain healthy.
Let’s have a look at this question -to fast or not to fast? - from two different aspects: Science-based and religion-based.
According to the WHO and health experts’ recommendations, people are advised to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and stay healthy. Still, it will not prevent anyone from catching the new Coronavirus.
“Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-diseases expert at Vanderbilt University, said the claims are incorrect. While medical professionals typically recommend keeping up fluid intake, Schaffner said drinking more water will not keep anyone from catching the virus. “We always caution anyone healthy and people who are sick to keep up the fluid intake and keep mucus membranes moist,” he said. “It makes you feel better; there is no clear indication that it directly protects you against complications.” 
No, in fact, many scientific studies have shown the wide-ranging health benefits of intermittent fasting in boosting our immune system and living a longer life. The New England Journal of Medicine has recently published a review of research on the beneficial effects of intermittent fasting on health, aging, and disease:
“Evidence is accumulating that eating in a 6-hour period and fasting for 18 hours can trigger a metabolic switch from glucose-based to ketone-based energy, with increased stress resistance, increased longevity, and a decreased incidence of diseases, including cancer and obesity.” 
Even more interestingly, although some study claims that prolonged water fasting could have a slightly detrimental effect on the immune system, it also shows that immunity returns to a better state soon after eating and drinking again. 
First of all, the obligation of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is an individual duty, and anyone who has the conditions to do so must fast, regardless of whether it is obligatory for others or not. According to Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani, one of the well-known Islamic jurists, if a Muslim fears that he/she will catch Coronavirus, even if he/she takes all precautionary measures, he/she will be relieved of the obligation for each day he/she remains in fear of catching the disease – if he/she were to fast. However, if he/she can reduce the probability of catching the disease so that it becomes reasonably insignificant – even by staying at home and not mixing closely with others, using a mask, medical gloves, frequent disinfection and so on – such that it does not cause unbearable difficulties for the individual, his/her obligation to fast is not waived. 
Another Islamic jurist follows the same line and adds that if a doctor forbids someone from fasting, due to the high risk of getting this virus, that person is not allowed to fast. But this should not lead to disrespecting others that fast and eating in public . Many other Islamic jurists also confirm the fact that one should decide if fasting is risky for him/her or not. If “an individual has a reason to believe that fasting will cause illness, intensify or prolong an illness, or delay one’s recuperation,” he/she is not obliged to fast. But he/she should make up for the missed fastings later in the year . However, some other Islamic jurists consider fasting an obligatory practice whose obligation is not lifted in this period, except if one thinks there is a high probability of getting the disease by fasting .
After all, it is essential to note that fasting in Islam is expected of those who are healthy enough to do so: “Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you” (2:185)
And sick people who fear that fasting may make them worse, risk their health or slow down their recovery are permitted not to fast:
“But should any of you be sick or on a journey, let it be a [similar] number of other days. Those who find it straining shall be liable to atonement by feeding a needy person” (2:184).
In conclusion, regarding the feedback received from the World Health Organization, fasting has nothing to do with the possibility of an increased risk of catching coronavirus. On the other hand, it is not easy to say for sure whether fasting offers some level of protection and immunity against the COVID-19 virus during this global crisis, so we’d better stick to the things we know would work: social distancing, avoiding gatherings, performing rituals separately, hand-washing, hygiene, and self-isolation.