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Beyond Black Victim Status: Slaves Are Superior


“We were of the most disgraced of people, and Allah granted us honor with this Islam.  Now, whenever we seek honor in other than that which Allah honored us with, Allah shall disgrace us (once again).”

—‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭāb


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“Black people in America can never be Muslim,” he said to me as I stood next to his desk.  I stared at my teacher with an expression that must have conveyed very little of what I felt right then.  I didn’t know what to say.  I studied his eyes, slightly enlarged by the thick glasses he wore.  The deep olive of his Arab complexion was nearly the same as my American brown.  We even shared the same hair texture—though my hair was covered right then.

But, even so, to an outsider looking in, he could have easily been my father. And given that he was the only Muslim teacher I had at the high school, I should have at least shared with him the commonality of “brother and sister” in Islam. But that, I knew, was impossible to this man.  He was Arab.  I was American—and “Black” at that.  He wanted to make sure I understood this impossibility.  I did.

I continued standing where I was only because I was waiting for my teacher to mention the reason he had called me to his desk.  The other students were at their seats working, some looking up curiously every now and then, wondering what it was our teacher wanted from me.  Naturally, like most students would, they imagined I’d gotten myself in trouble somehow, and they didn’t want to miss the action.  I waited only because I didn’t want to miss his point.

The teacher’s matter-of-fact expression as he blinked back at me confused me only momentarily.  I hesitated for only a second after the realization, mostly out of respect, and I made an effort not to display disdain for my elder as I excused myself and returned to my seat.  But it was impossible for me to concentrate after that.  I was genuinely perplexed.

“In life,” my father told us once, “you’ll meet many people who’ll say al-salāmu ‘alaykum, but they’re not really Muslim.”  He shook his head.  “No, I don’t mean they’re not Muslims to Allah.  I mean they’re not living Islam.  They have no idea what this religion means.”

I thought of my Arab teacher.

“Beauty is in carrying yourself like a Muslim,” my parents would say.  “Beauty is in living Islam.”

I stood browsing the shelves of the modest store—“the Sooq”—adjacent to the prayer area of the Islamic center I liked to attend in suburban Washington, D.C.  I did a double take before picking up the small box.  I stared at it a moment longer, realizing my eyes hadn’t been mistaken at all.  The skin-bleaching cream—manufactured in a Muslim country—did indeed say what I thought it said.

The solution to pollution.

Next to this tagline was the image of two faces, one brown (incidentally very close to my own skin tone) and the other white—the “before” and “after” of this product.  Disgusted, I returned the box to the shelf and left.

“And here we have a black woman,” the Muslim lecturer told the audience, his voice rising to reflect the sincerity of his message as he shared the famous ḥadīth about the black woman afflicted with seizures, a story he hoped would encourage his Muslim sisters to take ḥijāb more seriously,  “a black woman who wanted to guard her modesty.   So she asked the Prophet, ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to invoke Allah so that she wouldn’t become uncovered.   Sisters, this was a black woman…”

“My father would never let me marry a Black man,” my friend from Trinidad told me as we chatted one day.  She laughed and shook her head.  I couldn’t help noticing that her skin was a much richer brown than my own.  “He told me, ‘You can marry whoever you want, but don’t ever marry a Black man.’”

“I must admit,” a sister from Somalia said after meeting me for the first time.  We were at a book event for my novels held at an Islamic convention. “I’m really surprised you’re Black.”  As we talked, she apologized for her prejudice:  She had been unable to fathom that such “well-written” books could come from a Black American.  Later at the same convention, a fellow American said something similar—but in different words.  “And she’s really intelligent,” he said as he introduced me to his wife.  His voice was between disbelief and awe.  I smiled as I reached out to shake the hand of a woman who studied me with a sense of uncertainty that strangely mirrored her husband’s shock at my brain’s capacity.  I read the question in her eyes.  Really?  Are you sure?

I could say that these experiences scarred me for life, that I went home in tears, and that these people’s bigotry incited within me that horrible inferiority complex due to my “Blackness” and my utter inability to be accepted not only by “White America” but also by the “real” Muslims of the world.

But I won’t.  That would be dishonest.  Truth is, I felt sorry for these people.

When I was still in high school, I would come home and recount such stories to my younger sister, and like myself at the time, she would become perplexed.  And to be really honest, we would even laugh at times—not with the quiet, hesitant giggle most appropriate for our “lowly” status, but with the thunderous throw-your-head-back laugh that makes your stomach hurt and tears sting your eyes.  This was how we dealt with much of the bigotry we witnessed in life.

Perhaps I am an exception.  I can’t be sure.  But I didn’t reach adulthood thinking I was less than anyone else.  I didn’t shrink in the face of those deemed above me—whether Muslim or non-Muslim—and demurely accept their “superior” status.  Quite frankly, I didn’t know they had one.  Yes, I knew about those suffering from a tragic sense of insecurity, which made it necessary for them to release “statistics” about others’ intellectual abilities (or lack thereof) or call a student to their desk to say she couldn’t be Muslim.

Or to believe, perhaps, that those who aren’t Black are actually inferior.  But, alḥamdulillāh, I didn’t go through any of that.

Yes, in childhood, I was mistreated—by non-Muslims mostly due to my Islam and brown skin and by Muslims mostly due to my “lack of Islam” because of my brown skin.  And yes, it hurt.  And yes, I cried from time to time.  And no, I didn’t always feel confident in my Muslim headscarf and brown skin.  And, naturally, I didn’t reach adulthood without insecurities (if such a thing is possible).

But, by Allah’s mercy, I also didn’t reach adulthood insecure. My self-image and self-esteem centered around one thing: my Islam.  So when I picked up a “Muslim” magazine and happened upon the matrimonial section, it didn’t even occur to me that I should feel slighted or offended when I read dozens of ads by men looking for “fair” wives.  I had a good laugh.  And my sister did too.

“I’m Whiter than You”

I flipped back to the page of Al-Jumuah Magazine I had just seen.  For a moment I just stared at the title.  I couldn’t imagine what the article would be about.  If there was a turning point in my youthful naïveté, reading this article was probably it—though I was a wife and mother at the time I came across this piece.

To the author’s credit, the article was well-written and reflective.  She was a White American who had accepted Islam and, due to her (apparently) being the recipient of superfluous praise for her appearance, she wished to let us know the downside of having white skin—sunburns and the like.

What was life-changing about this for me was two-fold:  that the author had been inspired to write it in the first place and, what’s more, that a reputable Muslim magazine had seen value in printing it.

I sat still for quite some time.  I wasn’t hurt.  I wasn’t indignant.  I was…confounded.

And concerned.

When I was in high school, a local radio show held a citywide essay contest, and contestants were to write about the hero in their lives.  The winning piece would be read live from the Indianapolis radio station and broadcast for all the city to hear.  As I contemplated whom I would write about, many personalities crossed my mind.  Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks…  But in the end, I chose my father.  And, to my surprise, I won.

I stood before the microphone as the radio host looked on, and I shared with the world my honest testimony of what I felt right then—that my father was my hero in life.  It wasn’t because he was a well-known community activist or because I’d grown accustomed to seeing his name in the newspaper or his face on television.  It wasn’t even because he was the spiritual advisor to the famous boxer Mike Tyson.  It was because, despite the many obstacles he faced in life and despite his being a rather ordinary man, he managed to instill in me, as well as my siblings, a love for the lives that Allah gave us.  And never once did he make me or my siblings believe that our worth (or beauty) could be measured by—or limited to—our bodies or skin.

In a word, he taught us…truth.  Today, I find it truly heartbreaking that of the more than one billion Muslims in the world, so few of them could say the same of their parents.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, Muslims—whether “fair” or “dark,” Arab or non-Arab, Black or White—seek honor in lifestyles and values that are far removed from Islam.

“Is it honor you seek among them?  Nay, all honor is with Allah.”

—Qur’an (Al-Nisā’, 4:139)

While in truth, we should seek honor in only one lifestyle:

That of being slaves.

Not to our country, skin color, tribe, or family name.  And not even to our “victim status” as oppressed people of the world.

But to Allah, our Creator.  Who has given us Islam.

If we don’t seek honor through this religion, we will continue to live in humiliation and make utter fools of ourselves.  Not only through revealing our tragic colonial mentality in racist comments, ridiculous matrimonial ads, and bizarre articles in magazines.  But through our sullied souls when we die and meet Allah.

For to our Creator, there is but one measure of human beauty and worth:  Being Allah’s slaves on earth.  And these superior slaves are not distinguished due to their bodies or skin.  But due to their pure hearts and righteous deeds…

And through having in their breasts not even a grain of pride when they are buried in the dirt from which they were created.

So as we take pride in the color (or lack thereof) of our fleshy dirt,

Tell me, O child of Adam…

Are you amongst these honored slaves?

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Daughter of American converts to Islam, Umm Zakiyyah, also known by her birth name Ruby Moore and her "Muslim" name Baiyinah Siddeeq, is the internationally acclaimed, award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including novels, short stories, and self-help. Her books are used in high schools and universities in the United States and worldwide, and her work has been translated into multiple languages. Her work has earned praise from writers, professors, and filmmakers. Her novel His Other Wife is now a short film. Umm Zakiyyah has traveled the world training both first-time authors and published writers in story writing. Her clients include journalists, professional athletes, educators, and entertainers. Dr. Robert D. Crane, advisor to former US President Nixon, said of Umm Zakiyyah, “…no amount of training can bring a person without superb, natural talent to captivate the reader as she does and exert a permanent intellectual and emotional impact.” Professor K. Bryant of Howard University said of If I Should Speak, “The novel belongs to…a genre worthy of scholarly study.” Umm Zakiyyah has a BA degree in Elementary Education, an MA in English Language Learning, and Cambridge’s CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults). She has more than fifteen years experience teaching writing in the United States and abroad and has worked as a consultant for Macmillan Education. Umm Zakiyyah studied Arabic, Qur’an, Islamic sciences, ‘aqeedah, and tafseer in America, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia for more than fifteen years. She currently teaches tajweed (rules of reciting Qur’an) and tafseer. In 2020, Umm Zakiyyah started the UZ Heart & Soul Care community in which she shares lessons she learned on her emotional and spiritual healing journey at Follow her online: Website: Instagram: @uzauthor Twitter: @uzauthor YouTube: uzreflections



  1. Amatullah

    September 9, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    First and foremost, welcome to MM sister! We are so happy to have you on board and I’m looking forward to your future contributions inshaAllah.

    This article has left me speechless! An amazing article mashaAllah! Thank you for writing it so beautifully and tackling this huge issue.

  2. Not saying

    September 9, 2011 at 1:18 AM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    I’ve never said this before so just a piece of advice. Don’t fall into riya/enjoying peoples praise.

    Yes, my God it was that good.

  3. Mohsin

    September 9, 2011 at 1:24 AM

    sA very inspiring words! jazakAllah khair. We really have to get our act together and stamp out the racism in our own communities before leading our country and the world out of darkness.

  4. Wael Abdelgawad

    September 9, 2011 at 1:41 AM

    What a stunning article. My eyes were glued to the page from start to finish. African-Americans sometimes tell me that other Americans have no clue how much discrimination they experience… and to have experienced it at the hands of Muslims… how disappointing, perplexing, ridiculous and shameful.

    I so admire the way you were able to laugh it off. I have come to that point as a Muslim, when faced with anti-Islamic bigotry, but it’s taken me a long time. For many years I was angry. I would cut people off for saying the wrong thing, tell them off, feel hurt and victimized. Somehow in the last several years I’ve come to a place where I can laugh at it. I don’t know why. Maybe my time in Panama, I don’t know.

    So the fact that you were able to do that even when you were young is amazing, ma-sha-Allah.

    You’re right, honor is with Allah. Nowhere else can it be found. If we cannot live up to what He has given us, He’ll find someone who can.

  5. Halima

    September 9, 2011 at 2:08 AM

    I love this article! I love you for writing this sister! MM is very lucky to have you as a writer. Wow this piece is amazing! Every incident of racism or discrimination you mentioned is really on point. How many times have I seen or heard a sister getting her skin bleached? Or how many times have I come across some super naive and ridiculous fellow Somali girls who think they are not black and therefore put down other black sisters. What they fail to realize is that their skin is black as well! Just because you claim to have some “mixed Arab ancestry” does not mean you are “less black”?! By the way Arabs well not generalizing-but lots of Arabs look down upon many of us Somali’s. So how’s that for you… Pure stupidity and ignorance! Swear I feel like slapping some Somali’s like us more of a bad name we already got. But on another note how much times have I seen the common requirement of “fair skin” from some brothers on some matrimonial sites. They should just clearly put it out there “white woman” in clear print lol. And don’t even get me started on how many times I have seen those white people who make it out to seem like any smart minority out there is some kind of thing to just awe and show shock at….sigh. Lots of things that I wish could be highlighted before have been highlighted here! Thank you so much for writing this! You are the definition of awesome right now lol! PEACE :D

  6. Muslim Stranger

    September 9, 2011 at 2:34 AM

    Excellent Article !!!
    Inspirational !!!
    May Allah increase u in knowledge & good deeds.

  7. UmmHasan

    September 9, 2011 at 2:35 AM

    Subhan’Allah i didn’t even read who the author of this was and half way through it I was thinking I wonder if the author is ummzakkiyah. Alhumdulillah I am so elated to know you will be contributing to MM insha’Allah. What a beautiful post. May Allah guide us all to that which is pleasing to Him, ameen.

  8. Fartoon

    September 9, 2011 at 2:44 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum

    Masha’Allah! This was the best article I’ve read for a while! I mean, the truth behind a piece like that shows so much about your character and your skills in writing and in life! Wallahi as I was reading this I was reminded of several instances when people of my culture looked down upon others, as if they had a higher place in society. I mean, get real people! I can’t believe that we live in the 21st century and there are still some who try and brand others as if the color of our skin is the only real clue as to our intelligence or our worth, or even worse, our deen! Living in a community such as mine, I am often surrounded by people of such ridiculous beliefs and it really makes me wonder about their lives and I pity them.

    On a brighter note, it’s amazing to see that someone is finally bringing forth the truth about such a problem in our Muslim communities. Some forget that Islam teaches you every aspect of life, including character. Insha’Allah all prejudiced persons will realize the truth and awaken from the sleep of ignorance that they are in.

    Insha’Allah sis you’ll be posting often, because your writing is beyond amazing! Love it!


  9. Danii ali

    September 9, 2011 at 5:35 AM

    Subhana’ Allah I totally know where ur coming from. Masha’ Allah. I love it!

  10. Umm Sulaim

    September 9, 2011 at 5:50 AM

    In my experience, it is the racist who has an inferiority complex; I see that in my present community – who are Muslims, but of a different tribe – and online among some whites.

    My adherence to the Sunnah drives the former up the wall and the latter are stunned at their inability to spell.

    Being me,
    Umm Sulaim

  11. Rosa Tantau

    September 9, 2011 at 5:53 AM

    As-salamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa brakatuhu sister,
    I already discovered your valuable articles some time ago, translated couple of them to my own language as I found them deeply moving my heart and mind and wanting to share with others, at this one…i cry. May Allah bless you and may I see many precious articles from you. Pls never give up, as you have a blessing from Allah.

  12. victoria

    September 9, 2011 at 6:28 AM

    assalamu alaikum, discrimination and prejudice due to skin colour is rife in the muslim community, and i find it disgusting. I am a revert and I am mixed race but could pass for somali, or pakistani, a lot of black muslims seem to think that i am not black enough (comments such as, you don’t act very black) and those that think i am asian and start talking to me in urdu or any other language from asia, seem uncomfortable to discover that i am mixed race and have black heritage.

    It affects me a lot because being mixed race means that i have never felt like i belong to any one group, but then being muslim gave me that, until i discovered that not every muslim follows the no arab is superior to a non arab, no white man is superior to a black man… except in matters of piety etc.

    • Umm Sulaim

      September 9, 2011 at 7:18 AM

      As-Salam alaykum, Victoria.

      Please do not let such treatment affect your comfort in Islam.

      Try having a smart response ready for them, such as ‘how does one act black?’ or ‘I’m not Asian’. It works for me; now no one dares make such tribal comments to me.

      Umm Sulaim

    • Ghazi

      September 9, 2011 at 9:50 AM

      Hold on steadfast to this thought as you will find it a life long challenge as I see the same for the future generations to come when we start mixing even more.

  13. Lavonda Hazaimh

    September 9, 2011 at 6:56 AM

    Subhanallah, what a beautiful article. This is a valueable. I too have faced many looks and stares by my own people. I once spoke to a Muslimah in the grocery store and she turned her head. She was very fair- skinned. But regardless of that did she not realize we are all sisters of Islam. I guess some people may read the Quran but do not live it. In the Prophet’s last sermon: All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.Read it know it and live it. Mashallah UMM ZAKIYYAH,we love you:)

  14. Sadaf Farooqi

    September 9, 2011 at 8:53 AM

    I always love your riveting articles, Umm Zakiyyah.
    May Allah increase you in all kinds of khair, in both worlds. Ameen.

  15. UmmSarah

    September 9, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    “We were of the most disgraced of people, and Allah granted us honor with this Islam. Now, whenever we seek honor in other than that which Allah honored us with, Allah shall disgrace us (once again).”

    This quote of Umar RA shakes me to my core. It has been seen and proven over and over again . . . yet we persisit in the same rebelious behaviour. All honor truly belongs to Allah, people who seek it anywhere else, may them be poor or rich, individual or a nation, unless the aim is Allah and His pleasure,
    humiliation will be their destiny.
    I absolutely loved this article.

    • Mrs Shabazz

      September 9, 2011 at 6:00 PM

      I liked that quote as well. Very true, and a great reminder.

  16. Ghazi

    September 9, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading the article. I’ve seen it happen at our local masjid a few times where everyone segregates and eventually the reverts find their way else where.

    We’re all applauding this article but how many of us would marry or give away our own in matrimony to someone of “colour”?

    • June

      September 10, 2011 at 11:12 PM

      “We’re all applauding this article but how many of us would marry or give away our own in matrimony to someone of “colour”?”

      – This reminded me of an argument me and my husband had early in the relationship. I really wish this didn’t need to be said but due to the nature of this article I feel it sort of needs to be mentioned. I’m a “white” American and he’s Uzbek. The argument was that if any of the children we will have insha Allah will want to marry a black Muslim. For a long time my husband had this ridiculous reasoning that he wouldn’t allow it because future generations (grand children and onward if no other black Muslims are married into the family) could end up with “white” parents having a “black” child and people in the community would question the virtue of the woman. (I read another comment further down of someone who apparently did have a child with a darker complexion than either parent and has experienced difficulties for it.) I kept explaining that was not a good enough reason to deny a son or daughter marriage if the brother or sister is good in their deen. I told him outright that denying marriage due to skin color was clearly not a sharia compliant reason and I WOULD tell our son or daughter to seek a different wali. Masha Allah, I don’t know what changed his mind but he eventually did admit he was wrong and has gradually put less of an emphasis on a person’s skin color (at least when it comes to fellow Muslim.)

      I did read the author’s response to this as well little further down. And she’s also right that sometimes it really is due to cultural differences and not differences in skin color (and culture differences just happen to also come with color differences too sometimes.) I know, being in and intercultural marriage, that this IS true. We’re both “white” but we can still really clash in or views sometimes. So who’s to say (if we have children insha Allah) that one of our children wouldn’t get along better with a black American Muslim than a “white” Muslim from a completely different culture.

  17. Cartoon Muslim

    September 9, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    I’m sorry you had to go through all of that sis, but it’s really cool how you didn’t let it get to you, mashAllah. I’m getting angry just reading about the incidents you mentioned.

  18. Michael Scott

    September 9, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    mA! so eloquently said!

    Welcome to Muslimmatters. Looking forward to reading more of your articles.

  19. Good Guy

    September 9, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    What are the downsides of having white skin? (You seem to move abruptly from there).

    What are ridiculous matrimonial ads?

  20. Yasmin

    September 9, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    Mashallah, very eloquent and well written post! I eally look forward to reading more of your posts and the books that you have written, Inshallah!

  21. Sara A. K.

    September 9, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    mashallah! may Allah reward you for tackling such an important issue in such a beautiful manner!

  22. Mohammad

    September 9, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    Mashallah, it is a wonderful post. I love the style, language, and stories. And also the beautifully delivered message.

  23. Sofia

    September 9, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    I enjoyed reading this and am going to find your books and read them Insha Allah. Your words are going to help so many sisters. Thank you for sharing. Asallam Alaikum

  24. UmmBelal

    September 9, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    mashaAllah love this article.

  25. ummu muteeah

    September 9, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    Allah musta’an

  26. Umm Zakiyyah

    September 9, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, everyone.

    Thank you for your welcomes, support, feedback, and du’aa. They are greatly appreciated. I’m grateful that Allah allowed you to take time to read my blog and take time to comment. JazaakumAllaahukhairan.

    @Not Saying, jazaakAllaahukhairan for the reminder of striving to keep a pure heart when Allah endows us with the ability to do good. This is a much-needed constant reminder, and I ask Allah to help me in this regard. Please keep me in your du’aa.

    @victoria, barakAllaahufeek, I can relate to your experiences. I’ve been told very often that I don’t talk or act like a Black person, and this is always so deeply offensive. These comments not only are unjust to us personally but are unjust to entire races of people, whom we so often classify by the most negative traits and then when Allah gives us signs that our prejudices are wrong (by having us meet someone who doesn’t fit the stereotype), we respond to this sign from Allah not thru repenting and correcting our thinking but by adding yet another prejudice to our record of sins. May Allah guide us and forgive us.

    @Ghazi, these words are so true and beneficial, barakAllaahufeek: “Hold on steadfast to this thought as you will find it a life long challenge…” So often we forget that battling these outer (and inner) “demons” is never finished, and we all have to continually confront our weaknesses and prejudices throughout life, and Allah’s help is sought.

    And more profound is this “We’re all applauding this article but how many of us would marry or give away our own in matrimony to someone of “colour”?” This is a question so many of us have to answer. But I certainly think that cultural differences should always be taken into consideration regardless of one’s skin tone, as interracial/intercultural marriages are not easy and should not be “advertised” as preferable to everyone. It is not always racism guiding our hesitance; it is sometimes simply wisdom.

    @Good Guy, I really can’t tell you all the “downsides” of having white skin (or even “dark” skin). Allah knows best, but I believe the author of “I’m Whiter than You” meant well and wanted us to know “all is not good on the other side” due to the reality of her facing envy and exaggerated praise b/c of a relatively insignificant trait as one’s skin color. And this is a noble deed, may Allah accept it from her.

    My trouble with this as a publication is that one has to be dangerously isolated from intelligent reality to imagine that one’s own beauty is so “all encompassing” that a national magazine article about the negatives should be written, the obvious underlying assumption being that we (readers) all believe that your particular physical traits are beautiful.

    MaashaAllah, I myself have been thought attractive by people who are White, Black, Arab, Desi, etc. but it never crossed my mind that I should write an article entitled “I’m Browner than You” nor did I imagine any perceived attractiveness on my part could be narrowed down to a single trait, as beauty is holistic and in the eyes of the beholder. And I certainly do not have such a remarkable imagination to think I am beautiful to everyone or even to the vast majority of people. That she imagined she was is cause for serious concern…for her and the Al-Jumuah Magazine editors who had been as secluded (or deluded) as she.

    Regarding “ridiculous matrimonial ads,” I am of the belief that any ad that is meant to give a potential mate a quick snapshot of what is desired in a lifelong mate then the traits published represent what is of chief importance to the one posting the ad. If I read an ad that says “Looking for full lips, small waist, and curly hair,” I’d find it ridiculous…and I’d have a good laugh, even if “fair skin” isn’t mentioned. And I don’t know a solitary woman in my close social circle who would answer such an ad…or post one.

    Yes, we all have the right to have any physical traits we want in a spouse, but having a sense of shame is a part of emaan. When we lose that sense of shame (and priority in what’s important in marriage) such that we don’t mind publishing to the entire world that of all the traits I want in a wife, her waist size, lip shape, hair texture, or skin color is what is foremost in mind…this is a problem. To me, at least.

    But I understand we all have different views. I may be an anomaly (I certainly hope not), but this isn’t the type of ad I can imagine either publishing or responding to.

    And Allah knows best.

    Again, thank you for commenting. May Allah bless and preserve you all, and may He forgive our sins and make us better.

    Umm Zakiyyah

    • Umm Ousama

      September 9, 2011 at 11:41 PM

      I have to answer to the following:

      My trouble with this as a publication is that one has to be dangerously isolated from intelligent reality to imagine that one’s own beauty is so “all encompassing” that a national magazine article about the negatives should be written, the obvious underlying assumption being that we (readers) all believe that your particular physical traits are beautiful.

      MaashaAllah, I myself have been thought attractive by people who are White, Black, Arab, Desi, etc. but it never crossed my mind that I should write an article entitled “I’m Browner than You” nor did I imagine any perceived attractiveness on my part could be narrowed down to a single trait, as beauty is holistic and in the eyes of the beholder. And I certainly do not have such a remarkable imagination to think I am beautiful to everyone or even to the vast majority of people. That she imagined she was is cause for serious concern…for her and the Al-Jumuah Magazine editors who had been as secluded (or deluded) as she

      My daughters have been described “beautiful” just because their skin is white. They have been stared at until the eldest had to wear niqab. She sat one hour in an office at school to remove her “coloured lenses” because her eyes are blue. My other was asked to “remove her kohl” while she was wearing none. They have been to make feel “You are white, therefore you shouldn’t mix with the Somalis” at school (by the teachers BTW). They were made to feel “You are better than them” because their skin is white. So, in a way, they have been discriminated and that discrimination is no better than the other one and thus, yes, it can lead to publish an article when one is faced with that constantly. So I supposed (I didn’t read the article), her intention was to tell people not to judge by the colour of their skin.

      And I would also not answer an ad that ask for a “fair” wife, nor would any of my friends.

    • Yahya Ibrahim

      September 10, 2011 at 6:15 AM


      I enjoyed reading this personable article.
      Islam zeros us all to the base reality of servitude to the Al Mighty. I am happy to echo your message and the examples you shared about the Imam narrating the hadeeth was interesting and important.

      I would like your thoughts on a couple of issues (maybe in future articles if you have the time):
      1- Hip hop culture and the Thug life desired by many muslims and non. – How does that fit into our modern Islamic context?
      2- I would love to read about your father more insha Allah. As man leading a young family of three children under five, I was inspired by your memories. It reminded me of my father, Allah ye barik feeh. Please share.

      I pray that Allah honours you and your family in this dunya and Akhira.

      Yahya and

      • Umm Zakiyyah

        September 11, 2011 at 6:52 AM


        Thanks for taking time to read and comment. I found the Imam incident quite interesting myself. It’s quite sad, naturally, but ultimately I feel more sorry for the imam than for the black listeners. I often cringe when I hear speakers and “imams” advertise to the world their own personal weaknesses and actually imagine these as norms (or worse “Islamic”). May Allah guide us and forgive us and give us knowledge and wisdom.

        JazaakAllaahukhairan for the article suggestions. Regarding the “Hip Hop culture” and “Thug Life” culture, I’m assuming you mean what has been popularized (and commercialized) in the music industry and “sold” worldwide? If so, from my studies of Islam and the Sunnah, music is not something that has any genuine Islamic context (assuming we’re speaking of “music” as songs and raps having musical accompaniment).

        However, if what you mean by “Hip Hop culture” and “Thug Life” is a lifestyle specific to a group of people and may or may not have aspects evident in the music industries by the same names, then I think scholars and students of knowledge well-versed in that culture (from years of real life experience as well as detailed study of Islam) are the best to write on this. I myself was part of neither culture growing up though, like most Americans, I liked much of the popular hip hop music before I read the Islamic ruling on music. However, I have no experience whatsoever in Thug Life culture and was never a fan of the commercialized “thug life” rap industry even when I listened to music. So I wouldn’t be the best person to write on that. And Allah knows best.

        BarakAllaahufeek. I definitely intend to write more about my family, including my father, mother, and siblings. I learned so much from my parents that I really need to sit down and write a memoir, may Allah preserve them. Thanks for the idea.

        And may Allah bless and preserve you always and give you Jannah without account.

        Please keep me and my family in your du’aa.

        Umm Zakiyyah

    • Siraaj

      September 12, 2011 at 8:15 PM

      My trouble with this as a publication is that one has to be dangerously isolated from intelligent reality to imagine that one’s own beauty is so “all encompassing” that a national magazine article about the negatives should be written, the obvious underlying assumption being that we (readers) all believe that your particular physical traits are beautiful.

      MaashaAllah, I myself have been thought attractive by people who are White, Black, Arab, Desi, etc. but it never crossed my mind that I should write an article entitled “I’m Browner than You” nor did I imagine any perceived attractiveness on my part could be narrowed down to a single trait, as beauty is holistic and in the eyes of the beholder. And I certainly do not have such a remarkable imagination to think I am beautiful to everyone or even to the vast majority of people. That she imagined she was is cause for serious concern…for her and the Al-Jumuah Magazine editors who had been as secluded (or deluded) as she.

      Salaam alaykum Umm Zakiyyah,

      If you like, I can put you in contact one of the editors of Al Jumu’ah magazine if you’d like to speak directly with the author to clarify. In my own experience (growing up desi), the fairer the complexion, the higher the status.

      It may not be that all people perceive white as beautiful, but within the Muslim community, there are ethnic groups which hold strong cultural prejudices favoring fair-skinned individuals over darker-skinned individuals as a marker of beauty.


      • Umm Zakiyyah

        September 12, 2011 at 11:45 PM

        Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, Siraaj

        Thank you for the kind offer. However, I don’t think contacting the editors of Al Jumu’ah or the writer is the solution in this case. Al Jumu’ah is not the problem; this single article was just a very small manifestation of a narrow psychology that pervades the thinking of even the otherwise most kind and intelligent of Muslims who wish to follow the Sunnah. Personally, I love Al Jumu’ah Magazine, which is one of the main reasons this article stuck out to me. I expected more of them (may Allah have mercy on them and make their publication a cause for them to enter Jannah without account). But we’re all human, and I believe they’re sincere (and only Allah knows hearts). My prayer, however, is that this sincerity will move them and others to continuously work to stamp out racism and colorism in the ummah.

        One small step in the right direction could be for Al Jumu’ah not to write a clarification on what they intended (as this was for the most part self-evident by the article’s publication itself) but for them (and all of us) to do serious introspection and devise practical solutions to reach out to all readers.

        “It may not be that all people perceive white as beautiful, but within the Muslim community, there are ethnic groups which hold strong cultural prejudices favoring fair-skinned individuals over darker-skinned individuals as a marker of beauty.”

        This was precisely my point. It defies human reason to think all people perceive any singular color as beautiful.

        And yes, I am all too aware of this strong cultural prejudice amongst Desis and Arabs (hence my blog itself). They have a “right” to their prejudice, but not to using Muslim publications and pulpits to spread it.

        May Allah guide us to what is correct.

        Umm Zakiyyah

        • Siraaj

          September 13, 2011 at 12:19 PM

          Salaam alaykum Umm Zakiyyah

          I understand your point about perpetuating wrongful stereotypes, but i would imagine

          1. That was not the intent of the article and
          2. You can (and often should) address issues that affect a sizable demographic in the audience.

          For example, in your own article, you share your views on the undercurrents of color bias in the muslim community. Is it true of all muslims? No. Should one imply from the article that all muslims have some level of bias. Not at all. But is it a problem affecting a sizeable portion of the community? Absolutely.

          Please do let me know if you change your mind, im sure the author meant no harm and would likely be thrilled to receive your constructive criticism, inshallah :)


          • Umm Zakiyyah

            September 13, 2011 at 1:24 PM

            Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, Siraaj

            I myself said that was not the intent of the article. The problem was never with the intent; the problem was with the assumptions…and repercussions (as is so often the case when “well-meaning” good-intentioned people cause so many problems in the world).

            “For example, in your own article, you share your views on the undercurrents of color bias in the muslim community. Is it true of all muslims? No. Should one imply from the article that all muslims have some level of bias. Not at all. But is it a problem affecting a sizeable portion of the community? Absolutely.”

            Ummm… :) All people have some level of bias. This bias can take the form of prejudice based on color, race, nationality, ethnicity, wealth, class, gender, family name, etc. In any case, my article would be relevant to each and every single human on this earth, much less every Muslim.

            And even if it were not relevant to all Muslims (supposing that a perfect, bias-free Muslim exists as you imply), there is no comparison whatsoever between commanding the good and forbidding the evil and speaking with an assumption of superiority over others.

            Furthermore, it’s quite telling that the “sizeable portion of the community” that you refer to here (i.e. the only part of the Muslim community that often “really matters” or exists to this “majority”) almost never includes the views or standards (beauty or otherwise) of the single largest group of indigenous Muslims in this country: Black people.

            Also, by your focusing on a single example (Al-Jumu’ah Magazine), you’re missing the point.

            But for the record, I have no problem conversing with the editors or the author.

            However, your asking me to take the first step in solving a problem they created has many implications that I can’t go into right now, but it’s something very common in these sorts of dialogues.

            And even if I should be the one taking that step, I did. By writing this piece. Now, the ball’s in their court, so to speak (if you wish to reduce this vast issue to a single article published by this magazine).

            But here’s my suggestion: Give them my e-mail. If they’d like to talk, I’m happy to respond, dialogue, etc.

            In the meantime, I’m working on my next blog inshaaAllah. :)

            Thanks for commenting. Reading your words has given me that much needed inspiration to get to typing. So much to cover, so little time…

            And Allah’s help is sought.

            Umm Zakiyyah

          • Siraaj

            September 13, 2011 at 3:08 PM

            Walaykum as salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuhu Umm Zakiyyah,

            Excellent, jzk for the time, greatly appreciated =)


  27. Abu Yusuf

    September 9, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    Salaam Alaykum,

    Fluid article, evocative.

    I enjoyed viewing the YouTube trailer of Hearts We Lost, the link to which the author places at the bottom of the article. Therein, I was transfixed by the sight of the nose piercing of the young south asian lady who is being berated by her mother. Are nose piercings going out of fashion? It is an incredible article of jewelry that ought to be resurrected amongst the south asian diaspora.

  28. mohammadi murtuza

    September 9, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    Simply stunning! What a beautiful (if this adjective can be used ) article, MashaAllah.

    Congratulations to MM for having such a great writer. I pray to Allah to Protect Umm Zakiyyah from all riya; to Bless her parents for such a good upbringing; to Bless her and her family. aamin.

    Jazaakumullahu khairan

  29. broAhmed

    September 9, 2011 at 8:22 PM

    But I understand we all have different views. I may be an anomaly (I certainly hope not), but this isn’t the type of ad I can imagine either publishing or responding to.

    No, you’re not an anomaly. There are plenty of men who find those ads ridiculous too.

    Amazing article, masha’Allah tabarakAllah. Don’t stop writing!

  30. Umm-Imaan

    September 9, 2011 at 10:41 PM

    MashaAllah an article worth reading came after a long long time and I must add UmmZakiyyah’s addition to the team has take the entire blog to a different level.

    Please do keep writing.

  31. chuck hird

    September 9, 2011 at 10:50 PM

    Beautiful essay.

  32. Farhan

    September 10, 2011 at 12:29 AM

    I didn’t even know this was a problem, until I started to hear about it from my black friends. I’ve seen those ridiculous matrimonial ads, but I always laughed them off. Now I’ll think twice…

  33. Farhan

    September 10, 2011 at 12:40 AM

    I didn’t even know this was a problem, until I started to hear about it from my black friends. I’ve seen those ridiculous matrimonial ads, but I always laughed them off. Now I see them differently…

  34. umm_ismael

    September 10, 2011 at 2:28 AM

    Asslam u alaikum wr wb,
    Brilliant jazakillah khair mashaALLAH. So true- I never experienced bigotry until the birth of my second son Esa. Both my husband and I are fair and by ALLAHs Will my son is dark – quite dark in skin colour very different from the first one. I have lived in Karachi where there are multiple communities so skintone has never been a noticeable factor. But since esa was born (living in Lahore), I find people looking at him with disdain and relatives here often questioning me : who does he resemble (like hes not a human child astaghfirullah). Initially i was shocked at such prejudices but they run very deep. When my eldest was born, my husband told me :people are attracted to skin colour and i would shrug him off saying ; who cares about skin colour in babies- babies are just cute because they are babies but with esa in our lives , i have been taught much. Now i calmly reply he looks like esa (as) (who will be wheatish as ahadith tell us). The apparently religious keep quiet at this comment but the others go on. Sad so sad – I tell them just pray he is a good person and a good slave and they just keep quiet. I am reminded of the hadith time again: indeed ALLAH does not look at your faces and your wealth but He looks at your hearts and your deeds.

    • Sadaf Farooqi

      September 10, 2011 at 3:43 AM

      I think your son Esa is beautiful, masha’Allah. :)
      I had no idea you had faced this kind of reaction from local people. Sad.

    • shahgul

      September 17, 2011 at 5:22 AM

      Assalamu alaikum, sister,

      I have two beautiful sons too, one darker than the other (with sharper features). I am angered when women from the middle east make remarks about one of my sons being good looking. Even if they consider him good looking, they can keep their mouth shut before calling my other son ugly, just because he is a couple of shades darker than his brother.

      What really ticked me off was a sister who’s husband does not strike me as a particularly good looking man. She told me her husband is good looking, he does not look like a Pakistani man.

      I don’t blame these people for their perception, only for being so quick with their tongues as to be oblivious of other people’s feelings.

      I remember Alex Haley stating that the a white woman had the color of the ‘underbelly of a lizard.’ That was the most disgustingly offensive comment I have read about a human’s physical appearance. May Allah protect us from mocking his creation, Ameen.

  35. Hena Zuberi

    September 10, 2011 at 4:42 AM

    Jazakillah Khayr Umm Zakiyya for writing this, I am honored to work with you, may Allah SWT give you tawfique and grant barakah in your time.

    JazakAllah Khayr to our readers for appreciating MuslimMatters’s efforts to start discussions on these pertinent issues. I would like to request that we take it to the next level, lets not leave it to just reading this post and moving on. Lets start dialogues about it in our communities. Ask you khateeb to address these issues during Jumu’ah Khutbahs. What else can we do today to bring change?

    May Allah SWT make us all worthy of being called the Ummah of the Rasul SAW.

    • Umm Sulaim

      September 10, 2011 at 5:07 AM

      I am glad someone has finally said that; Muslims do not have to put up with it.

      I have had a running battle in my community for five years over my tribe, prompting Imams to preach against the locals telling them Igbos too can be Muslims.

      But, it starts with those Muslims who suffer such racism or tribalism, if they bear it silently, I doubt any one will speak out against it. Each time I hear the locals grumble over my identity, I tell them loud and clear, “I am Igbo 100% and that is not about to change”.

      The Igbo Muslim Woman,
      Umm Sulaim

      • ummsulaym

        September 14, 2011 at 1:33 AM

        Reading this gave me a sense of deja vu. I once met a muslim Igbo lady called Umm Sulaim. Did you by any chance ever visit O.A.U?

  36. Amad

    September 10, 2011 at 5:39 AM

    I didn’t know you, sister Umm Zakiyyah, until we brought you onboard on MM and didn’t know how you wrote until I read this. And now I can understand what all the fuss is about :)

    A long, long time ago I had written a short series on this issue… I am not sure how much I understood it all then, so it probably misses a lot of the reality

    pt 1
    pt 2
    pt 3

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      September 13, 2011 at 1:54 PM

      Thanks, Amad, for taking time to comment and share your feedback and support, barakAllaahufeek.

      Also, thanks of sharing your short series. It’s indeed heartwarming to find that at least small steps are being taken, but unfortunately not enough.

      This part of your blog really stuck out to me:

      As I started living and breathing America, at first I picked up the stereotypes that were prevalent in the FOBs and even some second-generation immigrants. Now, interestingly, these stereotypes were not that different from what many ‘red-necks’ also believed in. This is how it usually went: “Blacks don’t know how good they have it for them in America. Look at us, we made it, didn’t we? We came here to the land of opportunity, and we are taking it in, and we are living the American dream. But, look at those losers. All they do is bum around, they are responsible for most of the crimes, they are always on TV for the wrong reasons. Look at what the ‘3rd wards’ are filled with? Blacks, who else? And of course, be careful of ‘them’. Don’t get lost in one of ‘their’ neighborhoods.” And the typical “The black guy driving the nice car is of course a drug-dealer, no ifs and buts about it” was a common feeling as well.

      I remember even being somewhat open to the opinion that African-Americans just didn’t have the brains developed enough, that it wasn’t meant to be for them. We were kinder, of course, in our thinking about the black converts. After all, they had some brain to figure out the truth, in what we thought about as the exceptions.

      Things changed, they had to change. Life’s experiences have a way of teaching lessons. And fortunately for me, it happened sooner than later.

      I’m without words… I’ll just save my thoughts for my next blog inshaaAllah.

      Again, thanks for your honesty…with yourself more than with me. The former is more important, as being honest with others can never occur until we know our own selves…in the most uncomplimentary of terms.

      May Allah help us.

      Umm Zakiyyah

      • Amad

        September 13, 2011 at 2:09 PM

        thanks for dusting that old article up… that was 4 years old and the initial perception you quoted dated back to the early 90s…

        the best part is that not only changing the perception in your own mind and heart, but to be offended when others voice that. I think that is the point when someone has REALLY made a change.

  37. Majida

    September 10, 2011 at 6:04 AM

    BarakAaLLahu feeki Umm Zakiyyah!!!

    Always loved your articles, very realistic and thoughtful.

    May Allaah forgive and guide all us to the Straight Path and make us better practicing Muslims! aameen

  38. Aly Balagamwala

    September 10, 2011 at 7:02 AM

    Jazak’Allah Khairin for this beautiful piece and welcome to MuslimMatters!

  39. Umm Yaseen Monge

    September 10, 2011 at 8:00 AM

    Asalamu Alaikum,

    I loved reading this article. I’m part desi part central american married to a black muslim venezuelan brother. When i told my father the news that I didn’ t want to marry a Desi man, i shocked him…I told him that i was attracted to black men…masha’Allah he went looking for a Black Convert and found a brother from USC working on his PhD. LOL! I love u daddy!!! :-D (***we never got married but it was a funny story****)

    —–>I’m here to *****requests duas****** for a dear sister of mine, Umm Gibreal. I kindly ask that you please keep her in your duas. She’s going through some rough times in life, maybe insha’Allah through your duas Allah can facilitate a way for her to find ease and patience through her struggles…jzk! <——-

  40. Nadia

    September 10, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    Jazakillah khayr for your thought-provoking insights. Indeed sister, you are lucky to have parents who didn’t stray from the true teachings and values of Islam in their upbringing of you despite so the many obstacles that society and surrounding cultures can create, mashallah, and that truly does seem to be the foundation for the strength and firm faith you seem to have today. I look forward to reading more of your articles in the future.

  41. Saeed

    September 10, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    Asalaam aliekum,

    I cannot explain how humbled I feel by reading this piece. Subhan Allah!

  42. Siraaj

    September 10, 2011 at 10:52 AM

    Salaam alaykum,

    Matrimonial ads are always hilarious, especially the ghetto hand-written ads posted on masjid bulletin boards:

    “Parents seeking brother for daughter who is tall, slim, fair, best of east and west. M.D. only please.”

    It’s like, if your daughter is all that and a bag of chips, why are you marketing her alongside tacked up business cards for Muslim insurance agents and realtors? Shouldn’t all the M.D.s be knocking down your door to hook up with Miss Fair (likely with a dash of bleach cream) and Lovely?

    Jzk for the reminder that our true value is our value with Allah,and that is not based on color (or gender, or any other trait we received via genetics or land of birth), but our relationship with and obedience to Allah (SWT).


    • Umm Sulaim

      September 10, 2011 at 11:28 AM

      And don’t you make me put my own matrimonial ad on MM. Naaa!

  43. Salaad

    September 10, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    I have seen this in so many Muslim communities. What surprises me is when African muslims look down on African American muslims. This is completely unacceptable and it is time to confront it head on.

    • ummsulaym

      September 14, 2011 at 1:37 AM

      I think there are no levels of racism. Whether it’s whites and blacks or Africans and Africans, one is not more unacceptable than the other but I totally understand what you mean.

  44. Almas Shamim

    September 10, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    Assalam alaykum and Jazakallah Khair for this post…
    Am an Indian and I can very well understand the demand for a ‘fairer skin’….. in fact, to be true, am also a victim of this demand….
    A very sad reality that ppl feel that only the beautiful can be intelligent.

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      September 11, 2011 at 7:00 AM

      Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, Almas

      BarakAllaahufeek. Thanks for your honesty. I think many people are a victim of this demand. However, there is nothing wrong with someone preferring white, brown, or black skin and thinking this as particularly beautiful; and they certainly don’t have to love all colors equally as far as personal preferences in marriage go. We’re human and have our unique desires, and this is only natural.

      The problem is when we make these into “norms” such that we teach generation after generation that anything other than our preference is “ugly.” This is unjust and false.

      “A very sad reality that ppl feel that only the beautiful can be intelligent.”

      :) I think you mean that it’s very sad that people feel that only “white” can be intelligent. Beauty comes in all shades, not only “white.”

      Thanks for commenting.

      Umm Zakiyyah

  45. Ahsan Arshad

    September 10, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    I enjoyed reading your article…
    I live in Pakistan and being a muslim it is scary to know the reality that our community judges alot by skin color…it is not considered rude rather it is normal for people here to make negative comments about people with black skin…I just hope that through islamic education such thinking is made unacceptable.

  46. dallasmuslimah

    September 10, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    Thank you, for writing this. I want to read those novels.

  47. Abez

    September 10, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    MashaAllah! I enjoyed this immensely and am very much looking forward to more. Welcome to MM sister. :)

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      September 11, 2011 at 7:02 AM


      Thanks for the warm welcome. …btw: Are you going to publish a novel? I hope so. BarakAllaahufeek.

      Umm Zakiyyah

  48. Abu Musa

    September 10, 2011 at 5:56 PM

    Excellent article!

    I enjoyed the article, especially the part where you mentioned that Muslims feel that the only way the can get ’izza is not through Islam, but the way of life of Non-Muslims. Which is a point most of the people missed.

    Unfortunately, in today’s world, Muslims—whether “fair” or “dark,” Arab or non-Arab, Black or White—seek honor in lifestyles and values that are far removed from Islam.

    “Is it honor you seek among them? Nay, all honor is with Allah.”

    —Qur’an (Al-Nisā’, 4:139)

    and I’ll add
    ….To be your deen, and me my deen.

    —Qur’an( Al-Kafirun, 109:1-6 )

    An example you see in the past year throughout the Middle East such as Egypt, Libya, Syria, Palestine, the people are calling for democracy rather than calling for Islam.

    Not to say that Democracy does not have any good aspects to it, but so did the system of life that the Qurash had (such as Al Fudoul Confederacy) , yet the Prophet did not adopt their way of life.

    I hear people make excuses for the Muslims calling for democracy by saying they only what freedom, and better economic conditions etc. , but does Islam(Sharia) not offer the same.

  49. Hassan

    September 10, 2011 at 7:54 PM

    The writing style and content exceeds my intelect and attention span. But since everyone is saying excellent article, I am convinced it is.

  50. Muhammad1982

    September 10, 2011 at 10:30 PM

    Masha Allah very well written. Our Ummah is far far away from the teaching of our Holy Prophet (PBUH). Now, a person is judged on the basis of their skin colour, racial background more rather than their character, taqwa and intelligence.
    Sister, stay strong and keep going. The first person to enter Jannah will be Hazrat Bilal (RA) a black freed slave (I read it somewhere). What more one can say:). May Allah (swt) have mercy upon our Ummah and bless us with the people who can unite the people on one platform which is our deen rather than further division. (Amin).


  51. Mr Black in Indian skin

    September 11, 2011 at 12:47 AM

    The results of your personal struggle will depend entirely on your niyyah (intention).Otherwise it do more harm than good. Good reading mashaAllah.

  52. Azra Banu

    September 11, 2011 at 1:18 AM

    Dear sister
    You have so cleverly and effectively woven your thoughts, experiences & emotions on a subject we all need to deal with, racism. Thank you so much. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this & as a volunteer teacher at an Islamic school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, do my best in combating the ugly head of racism.

    Your father sounds like an inspirational man. May Allah continue to inspire him & may Allah grant you guidance always.

    Azra Banu

  53. Fauzia

    September 11, 2011 at 6:25 AM

    Ma sha Allah. This is a succinct and well written article that is relevant in our time.

  54. Pingback: Beyond Black Victim Status: Slaves Are Superior - Umm Zakiyyah

  55. MJ

    September 11, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    Interesting article I keep hearing about black muslims being racially abused. As a Black muslim I haven’t seen this, but I am very worried I will see this very soon as I am becoming more and more religious so will soon go to religious talks, visit muslim countries and have muslim friends.

    Is there any advice people who have suffered this can give me? How will i be treated differently? or people will act towards me?

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      September 12, 2011 at 5:26 PM


      Thanks for reading and taking time to comment. It’s very fortunate that you haven’t seen this, maashaAllah, barakAllaahufeek. May Allah ever surround you with the Saaliheen who are ever engaging in jihad al-nafs to root out the diseases of the heart.

      Allah knows best. But I don’t think it’s worth stressing over if it is not in your life at this time (overtly, that is). However, chances are that you will run into it. In this so-called “post-racial” American society (assuming you’re in the US), much of what you’ll face will likely be covert and become serious only over time.

      My suggestion is to study a lot about both Islamic history and Black history (particularly in the US); interestingly, there are some parallels to how Blacks were treated historically by Whites and how they are treated by immigrant Muslims.. This knowledge should equip you with the self-assurance and esteem necessary to carry yourself thru the trials, bi’idhnillah, and to educate and help others. (Many people guilty of racism are not even aware of their prejudice and need outside help to see it).

      Unfortunately, most masjids and schools run by non-Americans are not open to even considering that the problem of racism exists amongst them, no matter how “sincere” and “we follow the Qur’an and Sunnah” the community may be. And when you point out any problem, you’re the problem.

      I plan to blog on my personal experience with this soon inshaaAllah.

      May Allah increase you in beneficial knowledge and make the path to Paradise easy for you.

      Umm Zakiyyah

      • MJ

        September 12, 2011 at 10:41 PM

        Asalaam alaikum Umm Zakiyyah

        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to me, I just saw your interesting post and I’m veyr pleased you replied to me. I will definitely follow your blog inshaaAllah is it this website? or do you have another blog site?

        Amiin thanks for the dua sis I hope too to not experience this.

        I live in the UK actually sister, and here in the UK every nationality of muslims exists here and so there isn’t much racism thankfully. The UK is used to seeing all sorts of muslims from every background there isn’t a particular race seeing this as there home or our masjid thank Allah.

        Here in the UK we don’t have much of black history, racism is not very very common thankfully as the whole country is very very multicultural maybe only in exclusive white cities far north you will encounter racists.

        The only racism that occurs is whites and a few others against muslims not skin colour, also against immigration which they blame muslims again.

        I’m not sure how common immigrant muslims would treat black muslims, as they will be in the same position as them. I think all of this will die down as black muslims are equal to other muslims in many ways. Maybe only when we go to a muslim country as immigrants we will be looked down upon but for sure in the UK other muslims don’t look down on muslims thankfully.

        So there is no need to really discuss as the problem is very small scale so we should just look at all muslims as equal and carry this on and not look for any differences. As skin colour is not important.

        May Allah increase you in beneficial knowledge and make the path to Paradise easy for you.
        I hope we can forget about looking at our skin colour and how we are treated for it, and look at we are muslims and how we are treated for being muslim.

        JazakAllah khair.

        • Umm Zakiyyah

          September 12, 2011 at 11:54 PM

          Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

          BarakAllaahufeek. I don’t have a single blog. I blog for different sites. You can keep up with my blogs by joining my Facebook page. The full url is here:

          “I’m not sure how common immigrant muslims would treat black muslims, as they will be in the same position as them. I think all of this will die down as black muslims are equal to other muslims in many ways. Maybe only when we go to a muslim country as immigrants we will be looked down upon but for sure in the UK other muslims don’t look down on muslims thankfully.”

          I hope you’re right.

          Ameen. BarakAllaahufeek.

          Umm Zakiyyah

  56. Laraib

    September 11, 2011 at 5:43 PM

    I am always blown away by the beauty of Islam shining in faces that are dark, white, caramel, chocolate, olive, peach, tanned, or gold. JazakAllahkhair for this article. Sister, you are so talented, MashAllah :)

    p.s. I knew you were a Black Muslim the second I opened your novels “If I Should Speak” and later, “Hearts We Lost”…I was not a bit surprised. Please keep inspiring us.

    Your sister,

  57. love4ddeen

    September 11, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh….

    One word : deep
    One aya : Q49:13
    One du’a : rabbana atina fiddunya hassanatan wa fil akhirati hassanatan wa qina azaban nar!

    jazakAllahu khairan. I remain truly inspired by your work.

  58. Aisha

    September 11, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    I am a new revert and go to a Mosque in Baltimore city on Howard st. The Islamic community in that area are mostly black. I love all the sisters there. I did not know racism was rife in Islam. Thank Allah. Alhumdullilah! Allah knew I wouldn’t have reverted. The sister who gave me my shahida is black and a good friend now. My daughter is mixed as all my children are. Thank you for this article. I have read the Quran quite a few times and skin color does not come into it except when being burned in hell fie. It is descriptive of all who are burned. Racism is a worldwide issue and those who practice racism are not practicing Muslims following their deen. Allah is great and he created each human on this planet for a purpose. Alsalaaam Alaikum. Keep writing. There is power in the pen. I’ll pray for you.

  59. Abu Muhammad

    September 11, 2011 at 11:22 PM

    Jazak’Allah khair Umm Zakiyyah for this awesome article. Your writing style is very engaging. Please say salaam to your husband from me as he knows me well, I hope :-).

  60. جميل نيكلسون (Jameel)‏

    September 12, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Asalaamu alaykum wa rahmatuillah wa barakatu, sister…

    I thought about what you’ve written, and am trying to channel the reaction it has elicited in a coherent manner. I wholeheartedly agree with you, and then some. A mixture of disdain, elation, and intellectual eagerness.

    I am a convert (the only Muslim in my entire family), and come from an African-American, Native American, Central American, and Irish ethnic background. I have been mistaken for Moroccan to Sri Lankan. I have also felt the sting of being too “Black” for Asians, Indo-Pakistani, Whites, Hispanics, Somalis (particularly troubling), etc…and not Black enough by other Africans, and many African-Americans. I live here in Jordan, and have noticed that many of the local Arabs do not greet me or shake my hand at the masjid, and this is a conservative religious community – in a Muslim country, at that. I shrug it off. SubhanAllah, others here have sincere eeman, and really have a sense of “brotherhood”.

    Not to ramble off-topic…I am very very thankful to Allah SWT that He inspired you to address this problematic issue so eloquently. I’m sure many people do not realize the subconscious prejudices that they harbor when it comes to race/nationality/skin color, even though they may openly believe in equality. Also what darker-skinned people face from their fellow Muslims. Like GHAZI said earlier – how many would marry their daughter/sister to a Muslim who wasn’t so “fair”? Allah in His Infinite Wisdom creates – I had no control whatsoever over my racial mixture or nationality, and to condescend someone for such a thing is manifest error, and really no better than Shaytaan himself, because you know better. How despicable an attitude for any human being, much less a Muslim! Obviously, the concept of preserving one’s “race/culture” is absurd (often used as a justification), since that is inapplicable to me, every culture has historically interacted and changed when in contact with others (esp with the spread of Islam), and we are all children of Adam (aws):

    O Mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most Righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well-acquainted (with all things). – Surah Al-Hujurat 49:13

    However, we do have this problem, and we need to address it. It starts with oneself – asking Allah to remove our own personal prejudices, and applying this ayah to our personal lives directly. Break outside of the comfort zones, and cultural cubbyholes and actively seek out sincere Muslims (marginal ones reinforce poor stereotypes) from a variety of distinctly different backgrounds than our own. Inshah’Alllah then we can appreciate the diversity of the ummah, and value Turkish solidarity, Malay creativity, Arab hospitality, British stoicism, etc. Finnish Muslims are no more and no less physically beautiful people than Ethiopians. Black people are no more/less sophisticated, articulate, or intelligent than any other group. This post-colonial “tribal” mentality is a major part of the problem. If I’m not mistaken, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf described it beautifully: “Nobody has a right to be proud of their race, language, or culture. You didn’t create anything; you only inherited what came before you, through no merit of your own.” “Anyone who elevates themselves without the permission and blessing of Allah, He will debase them”.

    1) Yes, matrimonial ads seeking superficialities over deen are ridiculous.
    2) When people tell me I’m not Black enough, or are astonished someone like me can read/write/speak articulately and intelligently, it’s offensive, yet pitiful on their part. On that note, as a young African-American male, I feel that Hip-Hop culture is a serious detriment and a scourge that must be condemned. (perhaps another blog?) That sort of music is definitely haram, and glorifies an un-Islamic, materialistic, misogynistic, self-indulgent lifestyle fueling the negative stereotypes that most Black people are morally and intellectually bankrupt, leading to the aforementioned statement.
    3) All people are beautiful. Period. Anyone who believes that only fair is beautiful lacks appreciation for mankind, and likely has cobwebs in their passport.
    4) Only our Islam will endure. Our nations, languages, cultures Allah will obliterate on the Day of Judgement, and make our forms anew. No value in what has been clearly scheduled for annihilation. Prioritize taqwa and Islam, within the heart, not just on the tongue.

    Everything I have said was in earnest, but is my personal (unscholarly) opinion. May Allah forgive me for anything that is erroneous.

    JazakAllah khayr for writing such an insightful article. May Allah SWT continue to empower you to enlighten others, invigorate positive discussion in our community, grant you a multitude of blessings in the akhira, as well as this life, and keep you on the Straight Path.

    Asalaamu alaykum wa rahmatuillah wa barakatu

  61. Halimah Harlaho

    September 12, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    JazaakumAllah Khairun, thank you for creating this article may Allah continue to increase you in knowledge.

  62. Sarah S.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    I was absolutely blown away by this piece masha’Allah. I am really looking forward to reading your future works, Umm Zakiyyah!

    Being of mixed Arab and European descent, my skin color has allowed me to mix in with quite a few groups but in many cases I’ve received comments from both sides… my European relatives used to comment on the darkness of my skin when I was young and my Arab relatives still ask me what they can do to get skin as white as mine (I can’t even express the disgust I feel whenever I see commercials for Fair & Lovely).

    Your piece truly resonated with me because, up until recently, I had never really paid attention to the repercussions of one’s skin color amongst Muslims… having grown up in the public school system of NY, I never really experienced barriers based on skin color. Unfortunately my first true exposure to this type of racism came when I began attending the MSA at my college and skin color seemed to be an ordinary topic of discussion.

  63. Pingback: Posts I’m Reading This Week | Muslimah Beauty

  64. I love Colours

    September 12, 2011 at 9:14 PM

    asalaamu alaikum :)

    this is an AWESOME piece masha’Allah! one of the best articles I’ve read in a long time! I really feel for you and others who are victims to prejudice from non-Muslims and Muslims alike. its a sad disease which never seems to get cured subhaan’Allah! I myself am a dark skinned too alhamdulillah (I love it! I cant imagine my beard looking this cool if my skin tone was as fair as my siblings and the rest of the family :P ) and I’ve experienced a fair bit of insults coming from family members or siblings who are lighter skinned, almost TOO light for a South Asian… but what you said is spot on:

    “Being Allah’s slaves on earth. And these superior slaves are not distinguished due to their bodies or skin. But due to their pure hearts and righteous deeds…”

    many of us have yet to realise this, our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us brotherhood, and Allah speaks of it in the Qur’aan:

    O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allâh is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa. Verily, Allâh is All-Knowing, All-Aware.”

    but we have abandoned these teachings and let our ignorance take lead. I remember one of my female relatives married someone outside the culture, people in my family were making stupid comments like “why did she marry him, if she had stuck to marrying someone from the same race it would’ve looked more nice…” subhan’Allah?! my own mother spoke to me about marriage saying that I’m free to marry any girl of my choice so long as she’s a Muslim who is of the same race as us. its very sad. personally I wouldn’t mind marrying a White, Asian, African, Spanish, Peurto Rican, French, Chinese, Indian, or Arab girl so long as she is a Muslim who is firm in her belief and practise. because that is the overriding factor that matters to Allah.

    I see humanity as one gigantic colourful organism, our differences in skin colour is just an example of how beautifully Allah created the human race. it makes me amazed how He, The Creator made us into different nations, cultures and colours, so that we may unite under one cause – to be Muslims. thats why I LOVE COLOURS!!!! :D Alhamdulillah

    I think people should research on Malcolm X’s story and how he went from racist to a inspiring Muslim, because it was through his views I became more open minded on this issue too, Alhamdulillah, may Allah bless him and guide us all :)

    once again, masha’Allah for this article!

  65. Ibn Muhsin

    September 12, 2011 at 10:58 PM

    Assalamualikum wa rahmatullah,

    Jazak illah khairan for this most eloquent and much needed reminder (and for the amazing books, mashAllah). I myself have been looking for something similar: articles that portray the real situation about such discrimination in our own communities and the fair & lovely culture. I’ve been wanting to share something similar with my parents and friends to show how we desis discriminate, in an attempt to convince them let me marry an African sister.

    May Allah bless you, make your affairs easy for you and accept your deeds and purify your intentions.


  66. Abu Zakariyya

    September 13, 2011 at 12:54 AM


    Excellent article. MashaAllah very well written

    I do want to make one comment about the cream. In some muslim countires, there is really a lot of pollution that the face does end up getting covered with dust ( even if one has a dark skin). So perhaps that was the intent of that ad but i guess i can understand how that could look very negative in US.

    But this problem of fair skin is truly a problem at least in the desi community. May Allah guide us all.

    Wa salam

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      September 14, 2011 at 3:49 AM

      Wa Salaams, Abu Zakariyya

      “I do want to make one comment about the cream. In some muslim countires, there is really a lot of pollution that the face does end up getting covered with dust ( even if one has a dark skin).”

      :) lol.

      Skin bleaching cream as (literally) “the solution to pollution,” eh? Ummmm… that’s called soap.

      lol. :)


      Now, that made my day. I think I’ll be having random bursts of laughter in serious meetings now.

      too funny.

      Umm Zakiyyah

  67. joel "jibreel" miang

    September 13, 2011 at 5:31 AM

    Assalam Alaikum my Dear Sister Umm Zakiyyah!

    Well said Sister. What a shame for those muslims who harbor bigotry towards his Bros. & Sis. May Allah (swt) guide them to the straight path and may He as well Bless you and your Sister with more power and guidance. Jazak Allah Khairun!


  68. Iesa Galloway

    September 13, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Masha’Allah Sister this is a GREAT piece. As a father it hits home, as a activist it hits home as a husband it hits home.

    When I read this piece it reminds me of my problems with the current model of most American Muslim advocacy … it seems based on a group mentality and identity politics in an un-healthy way.


  69. Dreamlife

    September 14, 2011 at 5:14 AM

    JazakAllah for a great article. That “And she’s really intelligent,” bit stood out for me – in the sense of that kind of prejudice being passed down via the societies and families we live in. Here in South Africa, racism was institutionalized via the former government’s apartheid system. Growing up in the last decade of that system, I kind of had this kind racial hierarchy in my mind – which I think obviously came from the racial hierarchy of apartheid. And unfortunately, it infiltrated my thinking and affected me back then – and still to this day, even though apartheid is long gone. I think the legacy of it lives on in the lives of many South African nowadays – even those who were born post-1994.

    As a muslim community in South Africa, we still have those hierarchies to some degree. The thinking still remains. In many of our ‘Indian’ communities (i.e. of IndoPak origin), black people are still looked down on; and black Muslims probably aren’t considered as equals.

    In theory, we know that there is no superiority other than taqwa – but our historical background often overpowers that thought; and our actions reflect the ugly face of racism.

    I think one of the most powerful ways to break those attitudes – especially among the older generations who lived most of their lives under those racially-polarised conditions – is reading and hearing from people like you: ‘black’ people who are excelling in the intellectual and artistic fields; and especially ones that can write such powerful and beneficial stories.

    Keep on with it, and may you always be an inspiration to helping people see past colour – and into the true criteria of Allah; which is taqwa.

  70. greenpen

    September 14, 2011 at 12:10 PM


    Thank you Umm Zakiyyah for writing this article. It struck several chords of the racist attitudes rampant in our communities. It immediately brought to mind an article I had recently read titled “Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk Awkwardly About Race”

    It was very interesting because I could see exactly what the author was trying to convey only because it is so often mirrored within the Muslim American community – the concept that people will say they aren’t racist but act in an opposite manner.

    One time at a predominantly desi, slightly arab Muslim summer camp, they had a workshop on racism within the Muslim community. There were 3 to 4 african-americans present (and they were all counselors). The african americans were asked to leave the room so the kids could talk candidly about race. What was funny was the brothers forgot one of the african americans was on the sisters side, and didn’t ask her to leave – so she didn’t. The comments, questions, and discussions that came from the kids were not intently racist but revealed very racist undertones that were built into their mindsets. My friend and were both just laughing awkwardly because all that was happening was the kids referencing their favorite pop culture stereotypes as their only connection with African American culture.

    And when our communities do realize there is a cultural divide, the outreach is extended as “Our African American Brothers & Sisters Desperately Need Our Help Because We Know Islam Better”. But really? It seems like Arabs and Desis need to start having meetings titled “Deeply Embarressed Arabs & Desi’s Talk Awkwardly about Race”.

    I am not sure completely if this is what it would take to get our communities to be honest with themselves or not, and I would love to get your take on this.

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      September 14, 2011 at 7:36 PM

      Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, greenpen,

      It was truly a joy reading your comments. Incidentally, the points you make are ones that are very similar to the ones I plan to cover in my next blog on race. BarakAllaahufeek.

      The article you shared reminded me of the book White Like Me by Tim Wise. Have you read this?

      I was very pleased to hear about this workshop in a Muslim summer camp. MaashaAllah! This is the first time I ever heard of a non-predominately Black group address this issue in this way. If you can send me more info on this camp, I’d love to hear about it. My email is

      Yes, and I’ll add, we need meetings titled “Deeply Embarrassed Muslims Talk Awkwardly About Themselves.”

      Being honest with ourselves in a part of tazkiyyatul-nafs. And we need so much more of it.

      Thanks for sharing.

      May Allah help us.

      Umm Zakiyyah

  71. Abu Muhammad

    September 14, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    I have been following the feedback that has generated over the course of the last few days and just wanted to put in a few points of my own as well. Racism is not just an European, Asian, Middle Eastern or even a Muslim problem. It is a worldwide issue and goes back to Adam AS whose son Qabil murdered his own brother Habil, not to mention the famous sahabi Abu Dhar Al-Ghifari RA calling Bilal Ibn Rabah RA, “You son of a black woman”, in an argument and of course, being a sahabi, he rectified his sin by making tauba and even telling Bilal RA to push his head in the sand.
    Muslims today of course are nowhere close to these great sahaba and I am not trying to justify their behavior, however they are also victims of colonization and racism brought on by the Europeans. When I was growing up as a young kid in my native country, our parents wouldn’t even let us go out in the afternoon to play fearing that we would get dark, hence the “fair and lovely cream” concept. They were even harder on the girls as they have to get married and all.
    My POINT is that people all over the world, Muslims or Non-Muslims, are a product of their environments and it takes more than a generation for things to change. I remember as a teenager living in my native country and watching the news showing how black kids were attacking or even killing each other for a pair of name brand sneakers. Just imagine what anyone’s reaction would be in such a situation. Also, if you want exposure to the American culture and all it facets, work at a 7-Eleven. :-)
    As far as the people who have had bad experiences in the Middle East, I sympathize with you even more cos Muslims there not only have racism issue but a superiority complex as well, as they are sometime amazed when they find that, “oh, you are Mauzlim!” :-)
    Anyway, that’s the reality of the world we live in and at the risk of being roughed up, I am gonna say that a lot of what the Swarthmoor has said a lot of truth to it.

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      September 14, 2011 at 7:43 PM

      “…and at the risk of being roughed up, I am gonna say that a lot of what the Swarthmoor has said a lot of truth to it”.

      And much more falsehood than truth.

      Here I’ll just repeat something I said above:

      The righteous amongst humankind are the minority. This is a fact confirmed by the Qur’an and Sunnah. Therefore, in any group of people (Black, White, Desi, etc.), the odds are (statistically speaking), that the truly righteous will be the minority amongst these groups. Thus, whenever we look at a group, we can define them by the worst of what we see (which may actually be the majority in every group) or we can define them by the best of what we see (which may actually be the minority in every group).

      The state of our mind or heart will determine what we choose: Racists define themselves by the latter mental process, and they define the “other” by the former mental process. In both cases, they will almost always appear to be speaking the truth. most likely because, on some level, they will be. The problem lies only in the mental interpretation of those “truths.” This is where racism becomes a mental disorder. They simply “cannot” accept that these same bad “truths” can apply to them based on their cultural tendencies and the like. (For more info on this psychological phenomenon, read about “actor-observer bias“. ).

      May Allah guide us and forgive us. And may He protect us from ourselves.

      Umm Zakiyyah

  72. Umm Sulaim

    September 14, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    And let me ‘rough you up’ a bit, if you don’t mind: this whole argument is getting off-scale!

    I won’t add my views to it; I’m considered controversial enough, except to say MM is a forum not a community. One should combat racism where ever one encounters it IN REAL LIFE; MM is just to inform others.

    Umm Sulaim

    • Abu Muhammad

      September 17, 2011 at 3:18 PM

      Excuse me, Umm Sulaim. Oh my gosh! I didn’t realize that I have to politically correct here, If this is a forum, the purpose is for us to have an open mind and to learn from each other. I admit that I am not prefect, so please keep your attitude to yourself, thanks.

      • Umm Sulaim

        September 17, 2011 at 8:02 PM

        I do keep my attitude to MYSELF; I don’t need you to tell me. If you actually READ my comment, you’d have realised that.

        Political correctness is between you and MM; that term is NOT in my vocabulary.

        I can’t blame you for having mouth; Umm Zakariyah responds to repetitive regurgitations.

        I reiterate: THIS IS A FORUM: RACISM SHOULD BE HANDLED FACE TO FACE WITH RACISTS IN REAL LIFE and if they are as foul-mouthed as you all the more fun.

        And just to remind you, I have spent the last five years confronting racists, tribalists, tribal nationalists amidst death threats, intimidations, false propaganda, etc, this in an environment where murderers never face justice.

        You will not draw me into a quasi-battle here on MM.

        Kicking strong,
        Umm Sulaim

        • Abu Muhammad

          September 18, 2011 at 6:15 AM

          It’s not worth it for me to get drawn in an argument with you either. So all I will say to you is this and be done with it:

          وَجَآؤُوا عَلَى قَمِيصِهِ بِدَمٍ كَذِبٍ قَالَ بَلْ سَوَّلَتْ لَكُمْ أَنفُسُكُمْ أَمْرًا فَصَبْرٌ جَمِيلٌ وَاللّهُ الْمُسْتَعَانُ عَلَى مَا تَصِفُونَ (12:18)

          They stained his shirt with false blood. He said: “Nay, but your minds have made up a tale (that may pass) with you, (for me) patience is most fitting: Against that which ye assert, it is Allah (alone) Whose help can be sought”
          Qur’an 12:18

  73. جميل

    September 14, 2011 at 6:08 PM


    First, I’ve read all of your statements, and much of it is malignantly bigoted rubbish. However, I will agree with you about the degenerate nature of Black pop culture. I’m African-American (ish), and always thought it pitiful that people expect me to fit into certain paradigms: that I should play sports, worship athletes, have encyclopedic knowledge of music/pop culture, and have some level of familiarity with the criminal justice system. Negative. This expectation even comes from many Black people, which is truly disappointing. It is as if I’m special because I read a Kindle instead of iCrap and could care less about sports as a whole. Many Black people prefer to read the WSJ, scientific/business journals, etc. instead of Ebony and XXL. I probably hate hip-hop culture far more than you do, because it encourages people to assume that I lack the capacity to comprehend English dialogue, or simply think like you do. So, there is much merit in that small sliver of what you have said. What now passes for Black culture is an abomination devoid of intellect, wisdom, or spiritual excellence. It’s just crass materialism, blithe self-indulgence, and mediocre self-expression (at best) masquerading as a “culture”. My grandparents’ generation was just as ashamed of this development before they passed away.

    You should try to refrain from sounding so much like Uncle Rucuks. Your message would be palatable if it wasn’t so blatantly contemptuous, condescending, poorly written/structured, and un-Islamic. I know many Black people like myself who won’t fit any of your cookie-cutter perceptions, and who also aren’t “Whitewashed” at the opposite extreme. There are many colors in that spectrum; try to envision them.

    FYI, saying that you have “Black friends” is a copout. I’m well-versed in the “token Blackie” game; you’re not fooling anyone. I definitely wouldn’t keep company with people that hold opinions like yours…so either that’s false, or you only say such things in online forums.

  74. Abdul Kabir

    September 14, 2011 at 9:35 PM


    To add to what you said, that is why Islam is the only solution for the Black man.
    There is a big difference like night and day between the African American who is Muslim and African American who is a Kafir. The Muslim is more down to earth and not so superficial. The black man will soon find out that the struggling for the Akhirah rather than this dunya is his only option, because other option will get him nowhere.
    Wallahi this is the solution.

    And as for those whom you say have baby showers for illegitimate children need more time and knowledge of the deen to completely divorce themselves from that type of mentality.
    Make dua for those brothers that Allah bestows his hidiyah on them.

  75. bigahk

    September 15, 2011 at 1:02 AM

    i remember n the figh of marriage class,Bro.. Yasir was saying that not marrying from another race is permissible in islam and something about the arabs still having clans..i wonder does he hold the same opinion and wat is the daleel because he didnt get that deep into it.

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      September 15, 2011 at 2:49 AM


      I didn’t attend this class, but I have heard this point mentioned in lectures. What I understand from this “you can refuse marriage based on race” point is this:

      1. Refusing someone based on cultural or racial incompatibility is permissible in Islam just as refusing someone based on personality or ideological differences is permissible.

      2. Refusing someone based solely on cultural/racial/color differences, however, is not permissible. In other words, if a father refuses to accept the proposal of a righteous, compatible man to his daughter based solely on his personal dislike for that culture, race, or color or due to his fear of what others would think (but has no genuine objection that would make the person an inappropriate choice for his daughter) or due to his fear of having a “dark” (or “light”) child, then he has fallen into error and a Qaadhi (Muslim judge) can overrule his refusal and permit the marriage to go forth.

      3. In Islam (and in common sense amongst intelligent -thinking people), racist ideology is not recognized but racial/cultural differences are. In other words, both Muslims and people whom Allah has endowed with basic human intelligence (which reflects their pure fitrah) realize that there is no ultimate superiority of one race of people or the other (as racism is a faulty ideology that has been clearly refuted in both worldly social and psychological sciences and in evidence directly from Allah and His Messenger, sallallaahu’alayhi wa salaam). However, as Muslims (who are ultimately the most intelligent, balanced people on earth, particularly those whose lifestyle and thinking actually adhere to Islam), we do not ignore the fact that variations in cultures, outlooks, practices, marital/personal expectations, etc. exist amongst the people of the world.

      4. Muslims do not have a zealous, “we’re all Muslim” mindset when entering marriage such that we ignore obvious impediments to establishing a home wherein two people can work together to raise children and help and encourage each other throughout life. However, this issue supersedes ostensible racial differences, as people from different races (who come from similar family cultural backgrounds) are sometimes more compatible than people from the same race (who come from drastically different family cultures). Nevertheless, in many cases racial or ethnic differences also indicate cultural differences.

      In a sentence: Muslims are not racist, but they also are not racially (and culturally) blind when it comes to selecting the right marriage partner for themselves or those under their care.

      And Allah knows best.

      Umm Zakiyyah

  76. Amad

    September 15, 2011 at 8:41 AM

    What is your race, Swarthmoor, if you don’t mind me asking?

    I also wonder if you have contemplated on why the black population finds itself in the low income levels (leading to a lot of social problems)… do you think that all this just happened out of the blue? What are the chances of a black kid in an inner-city ending up at Harvard than a white kid in suburbia? Did you ever consider the paradigm of the cycle of poverty?

    As for crimes, the economic disaster that the world is facing right now (part 2 of the financial crisis) was created by mostly the white, “superior” class. A small percent of this fraud- legal (some call it “engineering”) or illegal- would overwhelm all the thefts committed by every African American over the entire history of America. I think you are suffering from the same illusion that I had (and thankfully overcame) when I landed in America decades ago.

  77. midatlantic

    September 15, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    Assalamu alaikum

    Jazakamullah khairan for addressing this issue so powerfully.

  78. جميل

    September 15, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    Bravo, sister Umm Zakiyyah. Articulate, sound reasoning in all of your statements. If Swarthy truly is (semi) African American…may Allah guide him, as well as all of us collectively.

    Asalaamu alaykum wa rahmatuillah wa barakatu

  79. Siraaj

    September 15, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    Salaam alaykum

    Does the Swarthmoor realize that Umm Zakiyyah’s article is not about ghetto culture, but the racism among Muslims in which they believe fairer skinned individuals are superior to darker-skinned individuals?

    I think the points the Swarthmoor brought are completely irrelevant to the racism that has existed among white americans since before the advent of what he termed BKGC, and I also believe East Indian and Pakistani racism towards their own darker skinned populations really renders the Swarthmoor’s points moot – even if BKGC never existed, both groups would still detest and look down upon darker skinned individuals, as they have already done so the past and in many cases continue to do so in its absence.


  80. Umm Ousama

    September 15, 2011 at 6:20 PM


    Unfortunately, there are two definitions of “black” people. The first one refers to anybody whose skin colour is black and the second one refers to “African-American” in the US or to “West Indies” in the UK. In her article, Umm Z. overlooked that difference. So, sometimes a quote means the first one and sometimes the quote means the second one. (This comment doesn’t mean I endorse what Swarthmoor means).

    Racism is everywhere and in every culture. It would have been better if Umm Z. talked to racism from every side. Some white Muslim converts have also been told that they can never been 100% Muslim because they weren’t born in the faith. Some Arabs have said in front of me that “Europeans are dirty” and then giving the example that, before Eid, they clean the house upside down (for me it is the wrong time of the year as I prefer putting my energy in worship instead of cleaning the whole house). My daughter has been told that she was Algerian (even though she is mixed Algerian/European) and thus she must follow the Algerian culture (of which she has hardly any idea). When my son was told by an Egyptian that “he changed his view of Algerian people because of him”, he didn’t take that as a racist comment, rather he said “Alhamdulillah”.

    We also have to be careful not to play the “race card” where there is none. When, 20 years ago, an Algerian stole a car in France, he was chased by a police car. Because of this, he had an accident that killed him. The day after, Algerians took up the streets asking for an end to the racism. I do not deny that there IS racism in France against Algerians BUT is this the right incident to show it? Who was the first culprit?

    When a Muslim visits a hospital in the UK, he might receive good treatment and he might receive bad treatment. If he receives good treatment, then all is well. If he receives bad treatment, some Muslims will immediately play the “anti-Muslim” card while others will say that he is just a bad doctor.

    Finally, I find that, to change racism or change how people see Muslims, … actions are much much louder than words. Yes, words are necessary to raise awareness. But being an example is more powerful. It might be that, by being an example, the person who had a bias because of previous experience or because of the TV, will change his bias. So, I think you should be proud that somebody called you “black intelligent Muslim” and, as a consequence, you changed the view of one person has of “black people” who might, in turn, change the view of his friends, …

    And what I said that is correct is from Allah and what is incorrect is from myself and from Shaytaan. Wa Allahu a’lam.

  81. Swarthmoor

    September 15, 2011 at 7:32 PM


    I try to feel people out–that’s for sure. If i am dealing with a black guy with tats on his neck, drawers hanging off his rear end, and he struggles to conjugate the verb “to be” properly, i am probably not going to treat him the same way as i treat a black man who’s a third generation Yale graduate. That’s just the Swarthmoor using common sense. As far as the Sunnah is concerned, we should deal with people with wisdom. It is wise not to treat everyone the same.

    I will say that my gut assumption is that the darker skinned people in South Asia commit a disproportionate amount of crime (because of the nature of racism and the caste system). If you ask me about blacks in America, well, i’d say that the racism argument doesn’t hold up. Fifty years ago, when blacks faced a greater degree of racism, their illegitimacy and murder rates were considerably lower. Racism is a factor in black pathology, but not the main one. The problem is immorality. You have a culture that has morally degenerated and a people who are largely comfortable with that degeneration.

    • Siraaj

      September 15, 2011 at 9:38 PM

      You misunderstand me – I’m not interested in pointing out the sources of ghetto / trash culture among black or white individuals. I’m interested in your opening statement:

      The Swarthmoor has a slightly different take on this issue. For one, people need to be honest: American racial stereotypes are not born in a vacuum. Many of the anti-black stereotypes have more than a grain of truth to them.

      By “this issue”, I assume you mean the entirety of the article which deals with racism towards individuals of a darker skin tone by Muslims. If, as you point out, you deal with individuals based on behaviorial indicators rather than their race or the worst traits found within the group, then I would imagine this is what the article is also calling for – you’re not in disagreement with the author.

      What I find strange in your statements is that in the face of a simple yet compelling question regarding south asian racism, you’ve decided to go with your gut that they are likely committing “a disproportionate amount of crime”. Having skimmed the pages of arguments you’ve been writing throughout this discussion, I was expecting something stronger (at least a google search) which would have yielded some interesting speculation. The bottom line for south asians now is that fair is considered beautiful, not-so-fair is not. In other words, were an educated, articulate black Muslim man of Yale come knocking on the door of a south asian muslim family were a fair complexioned daughter, there’s a good chance he’ll be tossed out on his ear solely due to his skin tone, not because of ghetto culture, and a dark-skinned south asian may not fair much better.

      The same is true of racist caucasion populations. The racism has always existed, even before what you’ve termed BKGC, and therefore ghetto culture really isn’t the source of racism towards darker toned individuals, it’s existence simply adds more fuel to the fire and for someone without proper perspective, may even justify it.


    • Siraaj

      September 17, 2011 at 1:49 PM

      I’ve covered your first paragraph in my last paragraph, and I think we more or less agree – those behaviors simply reinforce or justify the racism, but they are not the root of it – south asian and arab racism will exist even if all african americans had the cultural values towards education and social mobility as east and south asians (and indeed already do so with darker skinned members of their own community).

      About the suitor question, you’re comparing apples and oranges. Even a white or desi tatted suitor two weeks removed from prison has less change than the yale educated black man. Instead, make the example even poignant, make the black man john hopkins educated with an MD, and compare him to an engineer of south east asian background, or a caucasion with a similar background as the the black man, and the latter two will more than likely win in the minds of parents based on race if they haven’t any of them yet and had a chance to further inform their decisions.

      You seem to want to make this discussion about the degeneration of black american culture and that racism towards african americans is not the root of it. That’s another discussion for another time. We’re discussing another problem – racism towards darker skinned individuals (of which black americans will take the brunt of in this country, but go online and see how insecure many south east asian women are for being just a touch browner than their relatives would like to get a taste of how bad a problem we have in our community).


    • Swarthmoor

      September 19, 2011 at 12:48 PM


      Fair enough regarding the suitors. My point is that you probably aren’t going to change the heart of a person with a lot of racial gunk in it very quickly, but one can change his behavior, and if he is concerned about his class standing, he can also work on fixing that. As i said earlier i know (many of) these folks are racist, but i have not had many discussions with Arab or South Asians about race and racism. What i know is that such discussions typically make them extremely uncomfortable and are usually concluded on their end with some platitude about how they don’t understand why folks in America are so hung up on “race.” I leave it at that. (Actually, in these here parts, some of the Arab Sisters consider me to be too “pro-black” and “anti-Arab” because on occasion i interject in a lesson or speech something about race and identity in America.)

      For the most part, i sense that such people have what i call the “Indian train wreck” syndrome. Their minds seem to be a mangled amalgam of racial (and it is racial) inferiority that they’ll never be able to come to grips with, ethnic/tribal biases from the Old Country, class issues, feelings of cultural inadequacy, along with a post(?) colonial schooling that was never meant for these people to think independently and from the basis of the Religion. We saw this in what they were calling the “Arab Spring.” The other day we joked how much many of the immigrants could benefit from reading Carter Woodson’s, Miseducation of the Negro—but they would never realize how much this isn’t talking just about American blacks but it applies to them, as well. These people seem to have a difficult time identifying with black people—failing to realize that in the eyes of the people they want to accepted by (read: white folks) that they are not a whole lot different from what they might call the “Zanjis.”

      Personally, i don’t think there is a whole lot that can be done with such Muslims in this area. We can work together in matters of obedience to Allah, but their antiquated ways of thinking are going to mean that they are always going out of touch with the society. They do have some strengths that the converts of recent generations don’t have, but given their mentality, they can’t be at the vanguard of establishing a Muslim-American identity. What i would say is that if African-American Muslims were to get themselves together, they could assist the children of said folks in helping those youth navigate through the American mine/vice field so that the next generation of Muslims would have a stable Islamic identity and would be prepared for the challenges of the future.

  82. Jeremiah

    September 15, 2011 at 11:13 PM

    @ Swarthmoor. Yes, there may be truth to stereotypes, but behavior may also be modified to fit a stereotype. Have you seen the documentary http://www A Class Divided ? A young teacher demonstrated how bias can lead to a change in behavior. There are other studies that easily disprove your rather caustic analysis.

    I find it surprising that someone who suggests that he has intimate knowledge of the ‘hood’ uses a 15-16 year old as the basis to determine that Black people in the inner city do not want better.

    I do agree with your assessment of the danger of pop/hip-hop culture. I am always bewildered to see a young desi or arab kid with mohawk and ear rings or pants down to their knees.

    Sh. Abul Hussein wrote a nice article about hip-hop awhile back.

    • Jeremiah

      September 15, 2011 at 11:15 PM

      Comment posted without correct link for the documentary: Must see.

    • Swarthmoor

      September 16, 2011 at 10:56 AM


      Yes, many years ago i did see the documentary. My issue, again, with this is that the cultural Marxist will take the truth in such an experiment and twist it in an entirely different direction (which they did). The fact of the matter is that tribes of people are different (no one with decent sight confuses a native Swede for a Masai at 100 yards). We even know from the Qur’an that the Bedouin tribes were not the same as the urban dwellers of Mecca and Madinah. The Prophet praised people from certain regions and dispraised the people from other regions. Ibn Khaldun, who is considered the father of sociology, talked extensively about the factors that contribute to the differences in people. Again that is not to say there aren’t exceptions, but we also have to recognize that there are patterns of behaviors that prevail in different tribes of people.

    • Jeremiah

      September 16, 2011 at 11:40 AM


      The problem is that you are painting with too broad of a brush. Yes, some people do like the life that they are living even though others may think it is abhorrent. That is just one of the deceptions of shaitan. I have lived in the South, spent time on both coasts and now live on the South side of Chicago (Bronzeville). In general most people (rich or poor) want their children to have a better life than they do.

      We should not fall into pride, one of shaitan’s other tricks by disparaging large groups of people based on our limited personal interactions. I think that may have been one of the central themes of the original post. Jazakillahu khairan to the author for her efforts.

  83. Umm Zakiyyah

    September 16, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    “Unfortunately, there are two definitions of “black” people. The first one refers to anybody whose skin colour is black and the second one refers to “African-American” in the US or to “West Indies” in the UK. In her article, Umm Z. overlooked that difference. “

    Umm Ousama, Umm Zakiyyah did not overlook that difference; in fact I discussed it throughout the article in almost every example I gave. Re-read the article and you’ll notice that it was addressed in two ways throughout:

    1. In the use of the word black itself: In the article, the word “black” is sometimes lowercase and sometimes uppercase (“Black”). The lowercase refers to skin color, and the uppercase refers to an official race of people (i.e. Black Americans). This differentiation is becoming more and more common in social research publications and dissertations, as the generic lowercase for a race of people is at best misleading and at worst dishonest. I didn’t feel the need to state this differentiation outright for the same reason a person would feel no need to explain why they spelled “god” lowercase on some occasions and uppercase (“God”) on other occasions.

    2. In context: In the article, I discuss skin-bleaching cream, matrimonial ads for “fair” brides, and an “Im Whiter than You” magazine article. All three of these are obvious in-context examples related to the color of someone’s skin, not necessarily someone’s race. Now contrast these “skin color” examples to the discussions with the sisters from Somalia and Trinidad (who would be “black” in the general skin tone category): In both, there is obvious reference to the Black race (not dark skin); otherwise their prejudice would have been against themselve (which is certainly possible, but it is not the norm for mentally healthy individuals).

    “Racism is everywhere and in every culture. It would have been better if Umm Z. talked to racism from every side. Some white Muslim converts have also been told that they can never been 100% Muslim because they weren’t born in the faith. Some Arabs have said in front of me that ‘Europeans are dirty'”

    I agree that racism is in every culture. However, I disagree with the suggestion that I should have talked racism from “every side.” For the human being, this is not even possible. I am only one person and, as is the case with blogs, I spoke through anecedotes from my personal experience.

    When I wrote about my personal experiences, I trusted that the Islamic message at the end would resonate with all Muslims. We do not need to read specific examples of bigotry “from every side” before we can benefit from a message. We are, in general, intelligent human beings who are able to look at one scenario (and lesson) and relate it to another scenario without someone literally pointing out to us “all possibilities.”

    Verily, the reminder benefits the believer. It is my hope that this blog was a reminder to all those who are striving to enter Paradise.

    That said, I am aware of the “racism” against Westerners, particularly perpetrated by the Arab world (For the sake of brevity, we can ignore the fact that Westerners do not comprise a single “race”). I’ve lived in the Arab world and am deeply troubled by this “racism”. As I alluded to earlier, my article was not about this directly, but it certainly can be about this indirectly. And Allah knows best.

    “We also have to be careful not to play the ‘race card’ where there is none…So, I think you should be proud that somebody called you ‘black intelligent Muslim’ and, as a consequence, you changed the view of one person has of “black people” who might, in turn, change the view of his friends, …”

    This is a quizzical stance for two reasons:

    1. How do you differentiate (as a human being accustomed to racism on a regular basis and who is not privy to Divine knowledge) between mistreatment based on “genuine racism” and that based on a person simply being “bad all around” (or based on someone having a “bad day”)? Moreover, as many anti-racists have pointed out: The fact that a person has to even wonder whether or not racism was in play at all is the crime, not the victim’s (possible) mistaken interpretation in a particular situation.

    2. Faulty logic: So a Muslim who is told, “Wow! You don’t kill people!” should be beaming and proud that he is assumed to have no desire to kill innocent people while the the statement clearly implies that Muslims in general are terrorists. I’m not sure about anyone else, but to me that pride would be a bit selfish, even if I hope it can lead to better things. I can’t imagine a single Muslim in this world feeling “proud” to hear that.

    In Islam, we are an ummah, and while I as an individual can grin and rejoice at being thought “peaceful,” I find this pride defies Islamic sense, given the statement’s clear negative implications for my brothers and sisters. Likewise, I was not “proud” to be thought intelligent in that context where it was clear others like me were being assumed “dumb” or (as we’ve seen discussed on this board) assumed to have “low IQs (whatever that means).”

    Nevertheless, I was hopeful that my shocking “intelligent” image to this person who was apparently inclined to bigotry could be one step in the right direction in fighting racism. However, I can never be content and “proud” to be an “exception” when I know I am not: Muslims as a group are peaceful, and Black people as a race are quite intelligent (despite some very self-destructive and unwise choices many of them make, as is the case with all races of people). And until the world sees that, I don’t find myself able to relax because of one person’s admiration of me.

    Lastly: The degeneration of the comment section on this blog itself is testimony of the problem of “Wow, you’re intelligent” being a source of pride for me. Though I’ve lived around many intelligent Black people (and know hundreds more), we’re all supposed to ignore this powerful, authentic “Black culture” responsible for the Civil Rights Movement, the opening of jobs to various races (ironically including the Desis, Arabs, and Africans who despise so many of us), and even helped with the rehabilitation of racist Whites who turned their lives around and instead discuss a degenerate “ghetto culture” that has nothing whatsoeverto do with “Black culture” as representative of the reason (and justification) for racists (most who have little to no experience with this “ghetto culture”) continuing to fester in their disease. So, tell me, ukhti, do you not shed tears to see this sort of injustice in front of you? If you were me, would you be more concerned or “proud”?

    Also, here’s something to reflect on: People who are discriminated against (as a general rule) do not “play” the race card. This is not a game. And I have no cards to “play.” Though this is just an analogy on your part, it’s quite telling as a response to what I wrote.

    When the Companions fought persecution, were they told “Don’t play the Muslim card” and instead told they should sit and imagine that maybe they were actually being tortured because the person was just evil and hated all people (or maybe the torturers were just jealous of their strength and good looks)?

    And please give me and others a little credit here: We are fully aware that racism doesn’t explain every case of discrimination or mistreatment.

    I think what’s better is for each Muslim reader (like yourself) to assume that if I took the time to use something as an example in a blog with thousands of readers, then I’m obviously not “playing the race card” ….nor am I writing based on an overactive imagination and paranoia (as Black people are so often accused of, which in itself can be a form of racism, though I’m sure you didn’t intend it that way).

    Just like you, I have the ability to analyze a situation and decide whether there is plausible reason to believe it was due to bigotry or coincidence. My right as your Muslim sister is that you assume I did what is required of me unless you have evidence otherwise.

    But as is so often the case…

    “We leave in peace those who start the fires but molest those who ring the bell.” —Sebastian de Chamfort

    So my job, like the job of each and every Muslim who has not given himself to either self-hatred or racism or both is not even partly done.

    May Allah help us.

    Umm Zakiyyah

  84. shahgul

    September 17, 2011 at 5:01 AM

    It is natural for societies to place more value on that which is harder to come by. I grew up in desiland where more people are dark complexioned than light, so, before coming to the US, one of my favorite isms was: “A man will marry a donkey if covered with light colored hyde.” After coming to the US, it became apparent that the whiter the better was not the mantra here. People spent millions of dollars trying to darken their skins. It was fascinating to receive compliments about your dark skin.

    The point I am trying to make is, it is all right to have a preference for a skin color, or cut of nose, or texture of hair for your partner, if that is what attracts you. However, it is not right to judge people on account of how Allah made them and not their actions.

    Even that preference for looks, however, should not override other more important qualifications for a spouse. For example, I have two cousins who are real sister. One is white as milk, but not much to look at. The other is quite dark, but very attractive. When my ‘white’ cousin was getting married, her father-in-law instructed his female relatives to be careful and see that the parents don’t make the dark girl read the nikah.
    Another example was that of an African American Muslim brother, who was looking for a wife at least 5 feet, 7 inches tall, a certified teacher or registered nurse by profession and not more than 30 years old.

    All we can do is make dua for such people and brush it off. Don’t take it home with you.

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      September 17, 2011 at 8:22 AM


      Thanks for reading and taking time to coment.

      “It is natural for societies to place more value on that which is harder to come by…The point I am trying to make is, it is all right to have a preference for a skin color, or cut of nose, or texture of hair for your partner, if that is what attracts you. However, it is not right to judge people on account of how Allah made them and not their actions….Even that preference for looks, however, should not override other more important qualifications for a spouse.”

      I agree completely…

      Except for one point….

      Preference for white skin is not simply because it’s hard to come by. Finding someone who has six fingers on one hand is much harder to come by than white skin. Furthermore, albino features are much more difficult to come by than white skin alone. But what culture is prefering six fingers or albinos? It’s very rare.

      Preference for white skin, as you said, is not bad, just as preference for dark skin isn’t bad. It was never my point to criticize preference. We all have a right to our preferences (I certainly have my own). But we’re not witnessing a mere preference here. Otherwise, there would be little to no issue to write about.

      There are assumptions about a person’s inherit value, ultimate beauty (beyond personal preference and opinion), morality, and intelligence involved in this “preference”. And these assumptions are most prevalent amongst colonized people (assumptions that lead even people of brown skin to assume they are inherently infererior to those of white skin).

      But overall, I agree with what you’re saying. What we’re discussing here is colorism and racism, not personal preference for a particular color or race.

      Umm Zakiyyah

  85. Guulo

    September 17, 2011 at 11:47 PM

    powerful piece, JAK for shedding light on the colonized mind in the Muslim masses

  86. Safia Farole

    September 18, 2011 at 12:50 AM

    Umm Zakiyah, thank you so much for tacking this issue! You have done so eloquently, and I believe successfully. Issues of race definitely need to be raised in our Muslim communities – often times they are shoved under the rug, especially when it comes to issues such as marriage (as previous readers have brought up). This piece was very educational and informative, and your personal experience really helped illustrate and drive this problem home. As an MM writer, I’ve written a couple of articles on issues of race (specifically colorblind racism), and several readers didn’t receive it too well. I believe its because discussions on specific forms of racism like colorblind racism are too advanced for a community who doesn’t recognize (incidentally or intentionally) the elementary forms of prejudice. I believe you’ve approached the topic from such an angle – this discussion on race issues is gradual, and by painting your own experience, you were able to first put the readers in your shoes.

    Thanks so much again for writing this article!

  87. Marc Manley

    September 18, 2011 at 9:29 PM

    as-Salaamu ‘alaykum sister. I enjoyed reading your article. I also “enjoyed” reading your interaction with Swarthmoor, whom I see has not lost his taste for debate.

    To perhaps steer this towards another point of departure, consider this.

    Swarthmoor wrote:

    You know… and i know, that the immigrant Muslims have to be asking themselves: What in the world is wrong with these blacks?!?

    Perhaps we should not be so concerned with what Immigrant Muslims are saying to themselves but what Allah ta’ala has to say about this whole historical situation. For without a doubt, despite all of the wicked and despicable things Swarthmoor lays out, Allah has chosen to make Black folks in America the primary recipients of His mercy: the largest mass migration into Islam in the 20th century was Blackamericans moving from the NOI into orthodoxy. This cannot be seen as some cosmic mishap, but rather the fulfillment of Allah’s words: و نريد أن نمن على الذين الستضعفوا في الأرض و نجعلهم أمة و نجعلهم الورثين.

    This very fact is so worthy of our consideration. Why is it that whites, who as you say, don’t continue to breed children-of-zina, have not received the message of Islam in the way in which Blackamericans have? I do not deny the heinous crimes that Black folks perpetrate, both on one another and on their fellow non-black citizens, and yet …

    As always, we should be looking for the “middle path”, both in our lives and in the lives of others, so we may better understand that while the son of Adam may sin, he can also be redeemed by the Only One Who Redeems.

    As for the racism that Black folks [Muslims] deal with, I can vouch for its existence, as I deal with it on a daily basis. Though in the words of Magento, when spoke to Professor X: forget them, Charles. They no longer matter.

    I look forward to more of your articles,

  88. Jeremiah

    September 19, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Swarthmoor, there you go again with more wild exaggerations. This BGKC as you call it has not even been in existence for 2-3 generations. This despicable sub-culture that we both condemn is something relatively new. My father always said that when he was growing up on the South Side of Chicago even the hoodlums looked up to the ‘college boys’. There used to be a greater level of honor and respect for decency.

    You say you did intensive ‘hood dawah’ for a number of years. Really??? I find that hard to believe based on your statements in this thread. I would think you would have a bit more nuanced view. Black communities are the only communities in America that have a general respectful view of Muslims precisely because they are doing what you claim they are not.

    I personally experienced this past weekend. I stopped and talked to a group of kids at 42nd and St. Lawrence (Bronzeville, Chicago) because I thought they were taking the stop sign down. After talking for a little bit one of the girls saw my wife in the car and noticed her scarf. All the attitude I was getting from them ended completely. Subhanallah, I was amazed. Their attitude switch was not because of me personally, but the currency that has been banked by the Muslims (predominantly Black Muslims).

    Brother, you have made your point loud and clear. Some of us have disagreed. What is the point of continuing to disparage an entire race of people ? You could at least offer some solutions? What do you get out of this?

    • Swarthmoor

      September 19, 2011 at 1:51 PM

      Brother Jeremiah,

      We need to anticipate trends. Within, let’s say, the past 25 years have not the standards of normalcy and morality steadily declined in black America (America at large, as well, but that’s not what we are talking about here)? Ask yourself, when you have a culture with a 70% OOW rate (out of wedlock)—with a growing number of those children being raised by mothers in open lesbian relationships—a culture where homo-thugs are gaining wider acceptance, where convict culture is coming to define standards of behavior OUTSIDE OF PRISON, where the black non-Muslim (and Muslim) leadership is almost completely silent on the moral disintegration of black America… ad nauseum… ask yourself: where is this culture going?

      Another point is that black trends tend to come from the bottom up and not the top down. It is the people in the streets and the prisons who have come to define the “authentic black experience.” It is not the Jack and Jillers or the Boule who are “keeping it real.” You will typically find black kids on college campuses—even elite colleges—wearing rapper costumes, but you do not find many black males “prepped” out in the hood. Not only that, this gutter culture is being promoted by the social engineers through the media. So point one: we need to understand the trends and where things are going. Black America is BAD—and given its trajectory (or descent) we can only anticipate it will get A LOT WORSE.

      Point two: ask yourself where are the children and grandchildren of those African-American Muslims who embraced Sunni Islam back in the 70’s—that’s not to mention the descendants of the Nation or the W.D. community? I am not talking about that family who sent their children overseas to study; i am talking about the mass of 18-40 year old second or third generation AA Muslims. Where is their presence on the Muslim circuit? What national institutions have they built? Then consider the number in prison, on drugs, or with OOW kids. Perhaps, in Chicago, because of its long established Sunni Muslim presence (which may have been more stable than a lot of other places), it is not as bad there as it is elsewhere. The problem here lies in AA Muslims being unable or unwilling to make a clean break from this gutter culture because of some sort of misdirected ideas of tribal loyalty.

      Point three: the relatively positive reputation of Muslims have enjoyed amongst AAs who trying to improve their lives is being degraded. For one, the Yemeni guys at the corna-sto definitely have not helped. But increasingly, African-American Muslims are being associated with criminal and gang activity—ask folks who are doing work in the prisons. I am grateful that my introduction to Islam wasn’t via the crack dealers and crackheads, who in some places make up a considerable part of the Muslim community.

      An Entire Race

      Brother, i think that this is the most telling point—i am not disparaging an entire race. I am disparaging an entire culture (the BKGC). I make no choice about my “race.” But i can certainly make a choice about what culture i want to identify with. AA Muslims have not been able to divorce themselves completely from the kaafir branch of the tribe, as a result, we see many of us still suffering from the pathologies that the non-Muslims suffer from. I am an African-American… Muslim. I have nothing to do with the BKGC—other than to invite its members to Islam.

      Point three: the relatively positive reputation of Muslims have enjoyed amongst AAs who are actually trying to improve their lives is being degraded. For one, the Yemeni guys at the corna-sto definitely have not helped. But increasingly, African-American Muslims are being associated with criminal and gang activity—ask folks who are doing work in the prisons.

      My solution is simple:

      1. AA Muslims must make a commitment to acquiring traditional authentic Islamic knowledge

      2. They must implement the above.

      3. They–for their own survival—must forge a NEW IDENTITY that is not based upon outdated notions of “race” that were made for the purpose of keeping black people at the bottom of the social order.

      When we see AA Muslims make a commitment to doing the above, then, in-sha’ Allah, we will see a significant improvement in our collective condition.

      • Jeremiah

        September 19, 2011 at 2:13 PM

        As salamu alaikum Swarthmoor. Now we are getting somewhere. I have to actually do some work today. I will comment later, inshallah.

  89. Ibn Waheed

    September 19, 2011 at 5:53 PM

    Salamu Alaikum

    I pray that we see more articles on this topic from other writers Insha Allah, as this is a serious problem in our community. While the US has placed an African-American in the highest position of leadership, what does that say about how backwards we are as Muslims? My parents are from India and migrated to the US in the 70s. In our city, as was the case with many cities in the US, the only masjids in town were predominantly African-American, associated with the then Nation of Islam (Community of Imam WD Muhammad). Thus, my parents not only have been actively involved in such masjids ever since, I was also raised in a way that Alhamdulillah I did not see color…until the influx of immigrant Muslims in the 80s and 90s. We as a community have failed to give recognition to our African American Muslim brothers and sisters who have pioneered the da’wa efforts in this country with their sweat and blood. Nonetheless, as mentioned by many commentors here, Islam continues to grow rapidly in the African-American community.

    Some practical ways you can help alleviate racism in our community:

    1) Start with yourself!
    2) Begin visiting mosques that are attended by the same types of people you’re used to
    3) Invite a brother/sister to your house for dinner. This is one of the ultimate pre-tests of how you really feel inside
    4) Begin making it a priority to speak out against racism in the Muslim community. Start with your family and friends, and masjid leadership.

    • Ibn Waheed

      September 19, 2011 at 5:56 PM

      2) Begin visiting mosques that are NOT attended by the same types of people you’re used to

    • Umm Sulaim

      September 19, 2011 at 7:39 PM

      AS-SALAM ALAYKUM, my dear brother.

      Your words are golden, much better than the ridiculous complaints we have been subjected to these last few days.

      Who ever wishes to tackle racism, – victims of racism as well as others – now has very important but simple, feasible steps to follow.

      I shall only say one should also add other steps depending on ones experience. For instance, a victim constantly humiliated about ones colour or race, needs to come up with short rebuttal statements and practice such ready to give the sharp-tongued racist a test of surprise. From experience, answering racists back at least prevents them from tormenting one so freely.

      Umm Sulaim

      • Umm Sulaim

        September 19, 2011 at 7:55 PM

        Typo: A taste of surprise

  90. Hijab Al Faisal

    September 22, 2011 at 2:37 AM

    Well indeed inspiring and great words i am black women and at the some time i am Muslim too. i have ordinary face or you can in term of beautiful people i am ugly. i am not tall but with a normal small size. well my mistake is i am Muslim second i am black third i am not beautiful, fourth i am nothing but dependent on others. Simple reason behind all this things that we are giving importance to this temporary things as we have to live in this prison in this world but still if i care for ALLAH then i won’t be treated by people like that.

    • Umm Sulaim

      September 22, 2011 at 6:33 AM

      As-Salam alaykum my sweet sister.

      Those four ‘mistakes’ – I fully understand why you called them that – are not mistakes at all.

      We have three of those ‘mistakes’ in common: Muslim, African, dependent on others.

      I would rather say I’m the most beautiful woman any man will never set his eyes on! Never mind that! How you feel about yourself is very significant or people will kill you with their mouth. Not that I’m the kind of individual such persons will dare disparage. Please feel good about yourself and try to make up for whatever physical deficiency you may have; I do that.

      And if you are dependent on the right people, it is an advantage; I am and have their staunch support. If, however, you are dependent on the wrong people, please plan your exit well; I did and have no regrets.

      Umm Sulaim

  91. Marc Manley

    September 22, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    as-Salaam ‘alaykum sister.

    It is important that you continue to do what you do. I will reiterate this here for not only your sake [to encourage you to charge on!] but to drive home the point that so many have missed here: Allah does as Allah pleases. Despite the so-called dilapidated state of Blackamerican culture [this is like black exceptionalism in reverse: even though white culture is just a jacked up and dysfunctional, black culture is viewed as being even especially more dysfunctional], Islam still continues to appeal to folks of the Diaspora, that Allah’s promise continues to come true through the avenue of Blackamericans embracing Islam in numbers that far outstrip their fellow Americans [white, Asian, Latino, etc.]. Again, this is has nothing to do with black folks and everything to do with Allah “wanting to give mercy to those who were downtrodden in the earth”. For redundancy sake, despite all the horrible things that black folks do and black folks commit, God Almighty still deems Black Folks to be of value and worth redeeming. What is so wrong about Swarthmoor’s comments is not simply his racist banterings [he has a love for argumentation] but that in fact, his comments are tip-toe’ing on God sovereignty. How so you may ask? You see, value is a top-down phenomenon. It is something that God confers upon those whom He wills: not the heavens, the earth or even the mountain have had this honor [Qur’an, 33: 72]. What’s interesting about this verse is the verb that’s used: عرض which can mean to offer, confer or even to honor or dignify, which brings me back to my point: dignity comes from God, even when we don’t live up to it. Just think, where have we seen this before?

    و إذ قال ربك للملئكة إنى جاعل في الأرض خليفة قالوا أتجعل فيها من يفسد فيها و يسفك الدماء و نحن نسبح بحمدك و نقدس لك قال أعلم ما لا تعلمون

    When your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am putting a khalif on the earth,’ they said, ‘Why put on it one who will cause corruption on it and shed blood when we glorify You with praise and proclaim Your purity?’ He said, ‘I know what you do not know.’ – Qur’an, 2: 30.

    God declares that He is going to create mankind as a successor in the earth, despite the claims [be they true or not] of the Angles. In fact, the Angels make significant claims of their own: we praise and worship You, etc. But God’s final and ultimate reply is: I know something of them [despite their deficiencies!] that you do not fully comprehend. Yes, there are many disturbing things about aspects of black culture that bother me but that does not mean that all of black culture is devoid of value. Remember, the Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said he came to polish the culture of the Arabs, not condemn or destroy it. It’s this latter part that Swarthmoor [and those who share his rhetoric] lacks the ability to push forward to something positive: one must do more than deconstruct or criticize. One must build. Build, not create, for that is Allah’s domain alone. We cannot create culture, but we can modify it, we can push it through the sieve of Tradition, of morals, of ethics, of Islam. But this takes creativity, intelligence, courage, and perhaps most important, love and compassion [for people in general and black folks in specific]. Something Swarthmoor’s rant just can’t deal with.

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      September 22, 2011 at 11:50 PM

      Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

      Thanks for the encouragement and reminder. Your points are ones for us all to reflect on when we see Muslims falling into sin and error. We often forget that it is Allah who chooses Muslims (and thus confers honor upon His slaves), and He always chooses wisely, for He is Al-Hakeem.

      And it is not even guaranteed that we ourselves (even with apparently “higher morals” and “healthier cultures”) will be ultimately chosen to leave this world with emaan in our hearts. May Allah take us as believers.

      JazaakAllaahukhairan again. Truly humbling. BarakAllaahufeek.

      Umm Zakiyyah

    • Salaams

      September 23, 2011 at 4:00 PM

      As salaamu alaykum Brother Marc,

      I have a great deal of time for you because I’ve been analysing the hikmah in your site extensively for many years.

      One must build. Build, not create, for that is Allah’s domain alone. We cannot create culture, but we can modify it, we can push it through the sieve of Tradition, of morals, of ethics, of Islam.

      I get what your saying and I find it inspiring. May Allah reward you abundantly for your spiritual input.

    • Abu MU

      September 23, 2011 at 4:18 PM

      I so see shades of Dr. Sherman Jackson in your post.

  92. Eva

    September 23, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    The culture of the black people is degenerate? if it is Black, I wouldn’t know. If it is black (as in definitions) I can testify and say that compared to all the places right now in the world, Africa has the best morals whereas Arabs and Europeans are the worst. Even with religion, the Arabs get filthier by day.

    I despise racists!

  93. Ayda from down under

    October 4, 2011 at 6:11 AM

    salam alaykum….. i am so upset that you had to go through racsim at the hands of our own people. i am actually disgusted. but alhumdullilah with allah’s will you were able to overcome all that childish and ignorant talk.

    may allah only make us stronger my muslim brothers and sisters

    inshallah ta’ala.

    ayda from melbourne, australia

  94. Schvach Yid

    March 3, 2012 at 6:04 PM

     Perhaps, in addition to your experiences with Islam/Arab-bound bigotry against Black people, you might consider the bigotry imposed by Islam against Jews. A hadith in al-Bukari tells of the Prophet having to ‘answer a call of nature’, and so, with his Companion Bilal, he entered a date grove and ‘did his business’, whereupon they noticed a disturbance emanating from the ground. They then noticed that they were standing next to a grave; the Prophet declared that the deceased was in torment. The hadith concludes by telling us that the grave was that of a Jew. Get the picture?????????
    I am as appalled and disheartened by bigotry as you. As a Jew I’ve been victimized by it time and again, and like you, I’ve been offended by ‘my own’. Life is fickle; you madam, are welcome!

  95. AbuMuhammed

    March 11, 2012 at 5:29 AM


    Many of our brothers and sisters pretend it is not a problem because they don’t see it as their problem.

  96. Sylvialhorton

    April 24, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    I loved the article, so well written and so true. It amazes me how ppl can come into our country and try to be more Superior to Africa. Americans than the Whites. In case you haven’t noticed, Arabs are hated far more than Blacks. They are the lowest people on the totum pole. What kills me even more is when they have problems I. The USA, the seek the help of Black people. SMH!

  97. Sumayya

    April 24, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    MashAllah, great article!! A lot of important points were mentioned, and which are crucial: Islam crossing all boundaries, teaching that our parents give us, and unfortunately how some Muslim-born forget to live Islam! 

  98. ladan

    June 17, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    SUBHANALLAH!!! That is horrible!!!! It’s disgusting to see things like that, and worst it is comming from Muslims! Have they no shame?? Subhanallah, but always remember sis. we are all equal in the eyes of Allah, and stay strong and educate them, The prophet of Allah (saw) heard a man say something racist, and he (saw) scouled him and told him in you is ignorance. That man felt so bad after that he went to bilal, which is who he made fun of and put his head on the ground in front of him, showing his remorse and apologizing for it. And the prophet (saw) also said that who ever has an atoms wait of arrogance will not enter heaven! subhanallah, Allah help us all , ameen

  99. Felicia Nasira Jones

    June 18, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    article. I can relate so well to this. Not to mention as a revert,
    not only do I suffer ridicule, judgment and exclusion from some family
    members because of my faith, but I worry about my acceptance within the
    Muslim community where I live seeing as most of the Muslims in my area
    are either Arab or Indonesian – very few blacks. But the article does
    serve as a reminder that it is not about other people and what they may
    think, whether within the deen of Islam or not, but it is about my
    relationship with Allah (swt) and my obedience to Him.

  100. muslima

    January 13, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    SubhanAllah, Even white muslim converts face stereotyping in the masjid. We are all a trial for each other I guess.

  101. Ahmed Fuseini Alhassan

    August 27, 2013 at 5:03 PM

    here in Africa(Ghana;west Africa) and in spite of our imperfections as well ;we’re never raised up with a ‘consciousness’ of colour (as being an index) so musch so a famous soccer player remarked once on tv that “i didnt know i was black untill i went to Germany”!despite our “poverty,underdevelopment, etc” u name the stereotypes;we dont lack dignity! the only instance when our Muslim folk come home cursing(literally) at other Muslim races for disrespecting them racially is ironically after an hajj of all events!the event that famously led Malcolm x away from the Nation’s world view;the event after which the profet(SAW) delivered his famous last sermon!both event we like to hurl about in our dawah activities to show the “beauty” of Islam!even as hujjaj folks hurl the curses and insults one can sense in the “background”..”this inst islam! at the heart of this is ignorance and i believe that these jahili traits that have somehow remained ingrained among alot of muslims will eventually die out as the world gets globalised and our paths cross ;cultural (m)Islam will have to bow to the real thing inshaa Allah!
    As a person of Hausa ancestry;which means almost everything about my life is hardly not islamic I find these issues pretty strange but pretty “conversant” with the “real muslim” notion from my community towards muslims from our Ashanti hosts (here in Ghana) who hav b’com overwhelminly christian although Islam precedes christianity in Ashanti!;sometimes i think that my ancestors who came to Ghana for commerce etc didnt priotise converting their Ashanti hosts b’cos they enjoyed calling them “arna” meaning “mushriks/pagans etc” soo much so they forgot their islamic responsibility!my confusion is wether some of our ‘jahili’ ancestral pride transformed into this situation suppose its a worldwide trend?
    however without the risk of being inordinately nationalistic;i’ll like to recommend to our African American brothers esp[ecially the muslims to try to acquire a knowledge of our African muslim communities as a source of strength at least knowing how Islam is “African” (or vice versa)i believe will help to get over the issue of “real muslims” !we dont miss “other” Americans around here except African Amercans,by now our “brothers” should be over what was said about Africa’s “backwardness” so racism’ll be justified;if i can comment on article from my room then things arent as bad here as is often thought lol!.I’ve found recent visists by the likes of Dr.Bilai Philips very positive in this respect;I believe Dr.Hakeem Quick was in Nigeria also!His documentary on Timbuktu’ll sum up all that i’m saying….
    …its a often the joke around here that Allah allowed polygamy so we marry a variety of women;bodily,ethnically,etc!inspite of what the old folks say about “those people” which from our experience are not true;we should marry and link our families and races…its my estimation that colonialism in its use of devide and conquer heigthened peoples sense of race inordinately….life would have been impractical for those who had to carry this deen accross the globe if they were racist to the extent of to marrying into other nations….this the reason why Ghana compared to other African countries has not had tribally motivated civil as in other African country;intermarriages!tribal quarells come up but intertribal family ties tames itI say that i’m Hausa b’cos that what my paternal ancestors are but by inter ethnic marriages i have cousins,nephews who’re Ashanti,Fanti,Ga,Ewe etc and ancestrally dagomba as well!my folks have married anyone who’s muslim regardless of ther ethnicity.I’ll have to admitt that for say the US where people have enslaved their own children or discriminated against their racial “cousins” such may be limited but not for muslims….the deen should matter most right?”we’re all from Adam and Adam’s made from clay!”says the profet(SAW)

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