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A Shade Less | Not Fair and Lovely

Hena Zuberi



I remember when my second daughter was born with darker skin color than the rest of the family and I was made to feel as a mother that she was somehow less than my other daughter, less lucky, less beautiful, less.

As if she didn’t deserve to wear certain colors, and I shouldn’t rejoice in her adorableness, just because Allah had chosen for her skin color to be a shade between chocolate and caramel, instead of vanilla.

I am not ashamed of loving her a wee bit extra, she reminds me of myself. Earthy.

I have always emphasized inner beauty, and never thought I would have to teach a daughter of mine the ‘value’ of outer beauty but I have to with her. I have to remind her that dark skin is beautiful, just as lovely to behold as light skin. This is how Allah the Mussawir chose to color her.

I don’t want her to ever feel like she has to hold back and not follow her dreams because she is made to feel less.

She is a beautiful little girl, effervescent, funny and filled with love, with a propinquity towards the dramatic. Its only on days that she is made to feel less that she visibly withers. On days when a new family will meet us and say in front of her “My! Your other three look alike and she is so …. different”.

My love… it is okay to be different. Allah created you this way. Your smile is precious. You glow like Venus when it rises in the Eastern sky, don’t sink in the glare of the morning twilight

…you are beautiful.


After I posted this on my Facebook page, I received many messages of people sharing their own stories, but the most depressing one was from a young sister who was told repeatedly by her own mother that she would never get married because of the color of her skin. Having to be consistently rejected by potential suitors, because ‘rang kam hai’ (trans: her color is less). That term doesn’t even make sense to me shouldn’t it be your color is more, but I digress.

I have a friend who is a make up artist. She recently had a client with dark skin walk out on her without paying because she didn’t make her light enough for her wedding day. I felt sorry for the client- imagine being raised with such self loathing that you can’t bear your own skin color. That on the biggest day of your life, the day of your wedding, you want to be painted several shades lighter to feel worthy enough to be your husband’s bride.

The micro-aggressions pile up. “If she is dark, she is dark, it’s not like I am lying,” said a relative when I asked her not to harp on my daughter’s skin color.

“Micheal Jackson,” teased a cousin as she tans easily in the summer and loses it in the winter. My issue wasn’t with her being called dark, but with the comparisons, the anti-Black innuendos, and the constant reminders of her skin color so much so that I would see her comparing her arms with her brothers, with her sister.  It became a topic in my house, in my house.

The negative effects of skin color bias were leading to self-hate.

Home remedies were suggested the day she was born. You would think that we live in the West where the typical social advantages of light skin would be a non issue but no, it is just as much a problem here.  I have had young women I know giving up on marrying anyone from their own ethnicity and have turned to non-South Asian men who appreciate their skin color. A stunning sister I know, sick of being rejected, is dating a person of another faith who thinks she is God’s gift to him.

The colorism has become a part of the language. In Urdu and Hindi, the words for light skin are saaf rang meaning clean/pure whereas dark skin to referred to as mayla which translates into dirty. Light skin is so valued that it is the first ‘quality’ sought in a woman. Who set this standard?

Remnants of the Raj…

“Kali ho jao gi” You will turn black, like it is a something bad, is something every South Asian women hears. I am sure there are other communities who deal with the exact same issue. Don’t go out in the sun, you will get dark.

I just attended a mental health forum where the counselor said that not enough sun exposure can cause depression. She urged everyone to sit outside for a good twenty minutes every day, especially if you have dark skin.

Imagine that.


My daughter and I, we often read the Shamail Muhammadiyah together.

Regarding the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Al-Tirmidhi, in his Jami’ al-Sahih (VI:69 no. 1754), reports on the authority of  Anas b. Malik raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

The Messenger of Allah was of medium stature, neither tall nor short, [with] a beautiful, brown-complexioned body (hasan al-jism asmar al-lawn). His hair was neither curly nor completely straight and when he walked he leant forward.

There are many other narrations of RasulAllah’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) being abyad[1]. There is also much discussion on the meaning of asmar and abyad in Arabic [2] and on the color of the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) blessed skin, but all I know is that reading this puts a smile on her face.


Follow the hashtag #NotFairandLovely for more stories about colorism in our communities






1. Humayd said, he heard Anas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) saying:

“And he was white (abyad), his whiteness leaning to be tan (bayaduhu ilas-sumrah).” (Dala’il al-Nubuwah 1/204)


2.Imam Shāms al-Dīn Abū `Abd Allāh al-Dhahabī (d. 1348), in his Siyar a’lām al-nubalā’


إِنَّ العَرَبَ إِذَا قَالَتْ: فُلاَنٌ أَبْيَضُ، فَإِنَّهُمْ يُرِيْدُوْنَ الحِنْطِيَّ اللَّوْنِ بِحِلْيَةٍ سَوْدَاءَ، فَإِنْ كَانَ فِي لَوْنِ أَهْلِ الهِنْدِ، قَالُوا: أَسْمَرُ، وَآدَمُ، وَإِنْ كَانَ فِي سَوَادِ التِّكْرُوْرِ، قَالُوا: أَسْوَدُ وَكَذَا كُلُّ مَنْ غَلَبَ عَلَيْهِ السَّوَادُ، قَالُوا: أَسْوَدُ أَوْ شَدِيْدُ الأُدْمَةِ



“When Arabs say; So and so is ‘abyad’, they mean a wheatish complexion with slight darkness (hintiy al-lawn bi-hilyatin sawda). And if it is the complexion the People of India they say, ‘asmar’ and ‘adam’. And if it is of Toucouleur Negroes (sawad al-Takrur) they say ‘aswad’ and likewise everyone whose complexion is overwhelmingly black; they call, ‘aswad’ or ‘shadid-ul-udmah’.” (Siyar ‘Alam al-Nubula 1/39 & 3/448, Darul Hadith, Cairo 2006)



Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of She is also a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. She serves on the board of the Aafia Foundation and Words Heal, Inc. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. A mom of four and a Green Muslim, she lives and preaches a whole food, organic life which she believes is closest to Sunnah. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.



  1. Avatar


    May 7, 2014 at 6:41 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wabarakatuh

    I would change the title to A Shade Less-Not Fair but no Less Lovely

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      May 12, 2014 at 9:49 AM

      JazakAllah Khayr for your suggestion. I was playing on the hashtag #notfairandlovely and left it so someone looking to buy the product may hit on this article as well :)

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    May 7, 2014 at 7:06 PM

    I’m almost happy about this – I find darker skin more attractive lol

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      May 12, 2014 at 9:52 AM

      JazakAllah Khayr for leaving that comment- hopefully it made someone’s day. It should come as no surprise that many people in the world do as well.

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    May 7, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    Thank you brother waheeb for mentioning that.
    Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Allah has created beauty in all of us, truly. Some of the world’s most famous supermodels have dark skin. (Naomi Campbell to name one!) What is attractive to one person will not necessarily be attractive to another and vice versa.
    May Allah give sisters the strength to love the skin we are blessed with for indeed we must be grateful for the gift Allah has bestowed upon us.

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      May 8, 2014 at 9:33 PM

      Wonderful message….

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        May 9, 2014 at 11:08 AM

        Thank you mr hyde :-)

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      May 12, 2014 at 10:38 AM

      I would say Alec Wek is a better example, as is Lupita Nyong’o. Naomi, while very pretty, has a pretty awful reputation for abusing people who work for her and throwing tantrums. So she’s not very pretty inside, Allahu al3am.

  4. Zeba Khan

    Zeba Khan

    May 7, 2014 at 8:08 PM

    As the undeserving recipient of all the unfair advantage that being half white and half Pakistani entails, I refuse to raise my daughters- who are a quarter white and most definitely not the same color as I am- feeling inferior for not being “fair and lovely.”

    In our house, we don’t talk about skin tone in terms of light or dark, we talk about icecream. One of my daughters is caramel, the other is mocha. My husband is Dulche de Leche. I make it a point to praise people with chocolate and dark chocolate skin not only for the beauty of the skin tone itself, but also for “ethnic” features that don’t deserve to be looked down on. Our Nigerian friend has cool pouffy hair that she puts pretty beads in. Our Somalian neighbor has cool hands- his palms are so pink they look like they’re shining light. Our Asian friends have such lovely black hair and dark, lovely eyes- it’s not that we’re ignoring the “boring” white people, but we’re praising everything that Allah made, because Allah made it all and He doesn’t make mistakes.

    Darkness isn’t a curse, it’s a beauty, and it stands equal to lightness the same way night’s beauty is equal to the day.

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      May 25, 2014 at 8:33 AM

      I LUV this!!!!!

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    John Howard

    May 7, 2014 at 8:17 PM

    Colour it seems is still an issue with muslims as well I see The comment “boring” white is also an offensive comment Might I remind you that in my race we have hair the colour of the hues something other races haven’t They are all “boring” black. Watch Al Jazeera “In the Stream” regarding the blatant racism black American muslms experience from the lighter coloured muslims

    • Abez


      May 11, 2014 at 1:37 AM

      Hi John, quotation marks around a word usually imply sarcastic or atypical usage- I do not believe white people are not boring any more than dark people are ugly.

      Some people, in the attempt to reclaim the beauty of dark skin, wander into a reverse form of racism where lighter skin is seen as bland. Had I not used quotation marks around the word boring, I can see how my statement could be misconstrued. However, I would ask that you read my entire comment for a more holistic understanding of what was meant.

      “We’re praising everything Allah made, because Allah made it all and He doesn’t make mistakes.”

      *Note to self- the internet is not a place for subtlety.

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        June 1, 2014 at 8:05 AM

        I agree almost wholeheartedly with you Sister Zeba. However, and I’m sorry to be pedantic, but “reverse racism” is a term with very little integrity. Racism for sure, does not go both ways. While coloured people can exercise PREJUDICE against white people – they cannot be oppressive, i.e.: racist. Racism is prejudice + power. (

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          June 1, 2014 at 8:07 AM

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          John Howard

          June 1, 2014 at 8:59 AM

          I totally disagree that racism is a one way street. and that whites are the only racists . Talk about victim mentality! Ask whites born and living in African states for more generations than coloured or muslims have lived in western countries what many there are now experiencing. Yes they experienced racism by whites there but the fact that whites have stayed because they believe they are as much a part of the country as the other races certainly deserve that same rights as the majority now have. You complain of racism towards you as non whites and I agree it occurs but tell me what of the reverse in your countries of origin? How would whites be treated by the majority there? Racism against white is often called cultural difference but it is still racism. The fact is that most western countries made laws to protect minorities and there is more than a strong feeling here in the west that those laws are enforced often far more leniently against minorities than the white miscreants. We don’t see the same justice towards minorities in the 3rd word as they are in the west. The huge invasion of different cultures and races in the west in the last 30-40 years has asked much of the indigenous peoples There has been a pushback against this something I am sure would occur in any country. You demand tolerance on their part well it also is expected on the immigrants parts. It is their country after all and immigrants have come to partake of the benefits that the west has to offer which is far more than their homelands. Many locals have seen their neighborhoods change dramatically and their livelihoods under threat or lost as well as their services used or abused and little benefit to their own lives. They want to see a respect for them and their society If this does not happen then expect to see the rise of the far right get even stronger and it may get very unpleasant indeed

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            June 6, 2014 at 8:19 AM

            “Victim mentality” sir? POC have the power to be racist to white people?*Sighs* Well. You obviously didn’t read what was in those links then, right? I don’t suppose you are familiar with the terms “white privilege” and “white supremacy”?
            In any case: no, whites are not the only racists. POC can be racist to other POC. But racism against whites does not happen. Racism is a system of oppression. There are no such systems in existence that actively aim to oppress white people.
            However, I don’t feel particularly compelled to argue with you since it seems you will reject whatever I say despite the integrity of my argument. You will derail and delegitimise my experiences and exclaim that white people are oppressed for the colour of their skin too. Whilst hypothetically, this is possible, in the realm of reality it is far less practical.
            (Maybe read this?

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          John Howard

          June 8, 2014 at 7:47 AM

          I would come back to the original premise Mr Geet’s statement that racism is a white only thing which again I state i find this in itself a completely racist statement. For a start the white indigenous countries have been asked to completely accept the intensive migration onto their countries without complaint or regard to the tremendous changes incurred by these totally alien cultures. Yet where in the countries of origin that these migrants come from is the tolerance to outsiders when there is large intolerance to people of a similar culture but different sects or interpretations that reside within these lands. The fact is that the west has become a huge magnet to people who can and have been intolerant to their hosts. Do not call me or my race racist when you are the visitor in my house You have to come with open hands to be accepted not a fist

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      June 8, 2016 at 8:54 AM

      I’ve seen your name pop up a few times regarding issues about race; are you just trolling? And to be fair NO ONE has boring features, we are all made to the Creator’s design.

      And to your comment about hair color or what have you, “black” people come in all shades just as varied if not more so than the hair colors that are found amidst “white” people.

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    May 7, 2014 at 8:56 PM

    First of all, well done with this article. It has been well written and highlighted such a major issue and appreciate the initiative to educate our community. That said, I would like to add something to be fair in our analysis on this issue, its not just limited to the South-asian community or just muslim community, it seems like a global human phenomenon. Let me explain what i mean.
    The whole fair and lovely obsession cannot just be blamed on “raj”. It has a-lot of “class” and “religious” subconscious roots.

    Well, pick any civilization, Persian, Egyptian or any European. Lighter skin represented the fact, whether people are labor-class or elite. Even if you study european history, their standard of “white” wasn’t even white enough. French royalty used to make their faces “chalk white” with white hair pieces (which represented wisdom)
    Queen Elizabeth, ruined her skin in an effort to “White out” her already white skin with arsenic powder which was the standard royalty fashion and make-up product.
    Persians used rice powder to make their skin white, Spanish used to combine whitening powders for skin and Belladona root(modern day atropine drug) drops for eyes, to darken the blackness of the eyes and give an enlarging effect (dilating the pupil leading to blurred vision)
    I can go on and on about it..

    Lets go back to religion:
    Yes religion! Pick any religious text. Even in Islam, whenever “hoor” are mentioned, their fairness and large eyes are traits mentioned as something humans “desire”.
    “(In beauty) they are like rubies and coral”
    [Al-Rahman 55:58]
    Ibn Zayd said concerning the words “they are like rubies and coral” it is as if they are rubies in their purity and like coral in their whiteness. So their purity is that of rubies and their whiteness is that of pearls.

    There are many other hadiths that emphasize on the “fairness” of the skin in Jannah.

    Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not defending being prejudice but I definitely feel that this craze of having a clear light skin is not just a south-asian phenomenon, its a human thing. The desire to have “large” beautiful eyes, and light skin is something which “ALL” mankind desires thus Allah mentioned it in the Quran.

    This world is a test and everyone is tested differently. We live in a world now where we have to be politically correct all the time. There is nothing wrong with being, brown beige white black purple or whatever other shade Allah has created, but desiring something which is also part of His creation is not wrong.
    Whats wrong is the way we treat people for how they are created. It is a sin to mock Allah’s creation because He didn’t create anyone without wisdom behind it.

    Now there is an emergence of desire to look “golden” hence forth Tanning salons, spray on tan, bronzers etc. Human desire is endless…

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      May 8, 2014 at 12:14 AM

      I don’t think the Hoor are like the color of coral literally; i mean are Hoors eyes supposed to be red & crystalline like rubies? I think its more metaphorical about their purity, chastity and beauty.

      I will have to do more research about this, but I think the modern craze with “white” skin came from colonialism in the 16th century, and European dominance. White Man’s burden and all of that. During the Sahaba’s time, they actually saw beauty both ways; Bilal (RA) was regarded as very handsome, Zayd (RA) married Barakah, a former Abyssinian slave, and had a son named Usama bin Zayd. Usama bin Zaid was very dark, and his father, Zayd, was very light. Usama (RA) was one of the youngest Muslim generals, and was married to Fatima bin Qays – who picked him after several men proposed to her, including Muawiyya bin Abi Sufyan (who we could assume was light in color).

      The just Abyssinian king who gave the Muslims refuge could be assumed to be dark skinned as well. People really do have different preferences.

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        May 8, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        you completely and utterly misunderstood my entire post. I never once said that color predicts/or depicts ones character. I was solely giving my analysis as a student of history, psychology and Islam that this craze cannot be blamed on British colonialism alone. This has deeply rooted social and religious subconscious desires of humankind as a whole.
        I was not talking about character or spirituality and status of people with Allah, it has anything to do with their skin tone or status.

        Please read my reply again if you still think im “defending prejudice”. IM NOT! im just implying that the desire to look white comes from a-lot of factors and it existed before the “raj” in different civilizations. Those who have studied history in depth can vouch for this fact.

        Hope I made myself clear this time. If not…oh well, i tried :)

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          May 8, 2014 at 5:57 PM

          Nope, I understood you just fine. I didn’t mention those examples because they choose each other just on the basis of character – I’m sure looks were involved!
          Even the Prophet (SAW) turned down a woman who proposed to him, because she didn’t appeal to him physically (we could assume her character was fine), but one of the Sahaba sitting right next to him found her attractive & married her! All the people I mentioned were not just married just bc of character, but also bc of a physical appeal as well.

          More research needs to be done, but here are some examples:
          Aristotle philosophized that some ethnicities are born slaves (he was referring to certain greek & other populations). In Medieval times, some Arab philosophers liked this idea, and claimed that Blacks AND Turkic peoples (fairer skinned) were meant to be slaves.
          Bernard Lewis (2003), “From Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry”, in Kevin Reilly, Stephen Kaufman, Angela Bodino, Racism: A Global Reader, M.E. Sharpe, pp. 52–8

          Arab racism, concepts of beauty in Medieval times was against people whom they had conquered and subjugated – certain African populations and the fairer Turkic, East Europeans, Persians – all who were considered a less beautiful “Swarthy” people.
          Lindsay, James E. (2005), Daily Life in the Medieval Islamic World, Greenwood Publishing Group, pp. 12–5,

          I do think occupation, physical & military prowess has a BIG part to do with concepts of beauty.

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            May 8, 2014 at 6:04 PM

            Forgot to mention – Economic prowess as well

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            May 8, 2014 at 6:35 PM

            before the british invaded India, class system already existed there Brahmans, shatris, and the bottom ones shudars (in english, the untouchables, the darkest among the other casts.)
            What each ethnic group calls “white” is not a uniform description either. The Moors in yemen are considered the top-notch class because they are, in comparison to the others, lighter.
            like Razan stated below “Part of the veneration of white skin is simply the fact that throughout many places, those who worked outdoors and tilled the land were highly tanned, whilst those who were rich and sheltered enough to stay indoors, maintained a much paler skin color ”
            hence the social root cause for the love of light skin, because the lighter you are the higher in class you must be.

            What you are stating in your example has more to do with ethnic pride than skin-color. South Asians, Indo-Pak, even though they are darker in skin and “love” to be fair and lovely, yet still aren’t comfortable marrying their daughters to non-desis.

            As far as your prophetic examples are concerned, I have no problem accepting that :)

            I think blaming “fair and lovely” on colonialism is a simpleton approach but thats just my opinion based on my knowledge of History.
            Fair skin, Large eyes and Tall stature is something ALL makind “Desire” and thus the description of Jannah confirms it.

            The “desire” to have something doesn’t negate that our attitudes towards the creation of Allah has to be kind, accepting and just!

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            May 8, 2014 at 9:31 PM

            The British were not the first “fair” skinned people to invade India – the Arabs, Central Asians (remember Timur?), the Mughals all had conquered India centuries before. There is also good evidence that an Aryan group invaded India thousands of years before. They all subjugated the darker skinned people who were living there before (the Dravidians, who were originally blacksmiths from North Africa).

            Yemen was also conquered by the British, the lighter skinned Turkish Ottomans, and later heavily influenced by Communism (Yemen split into North & South – Both controlled & funded by lighter skinned, militarily and economically more powerful countries, namely, The British, and Egypt (which itself was getting its supplies from the lighter skinned Soviet Union).

            If lighter skinned countries did Not have the economic strength they had and have, and did not have the military strength to impose their will, and did not have the resources to have to luxury of a service-based, indoor economy with plenty of nutrition for everyone, and cosmetics to make their skin shine – and a darker skinned people did – then being Dark will suddenly come into fashion. That is my theory, but with enough research, it will be a Fact.

            Declaring “Fair skin, Large eyes and Tall stature is something ALL makind “Desire” and thus the description of Jannah confirms it” with scant evidence is a pretty lousy, if not SUPER simplistic statement to make as well – especially when people tell you otherwise, and you blatantly refuse to hear them.

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            May 8, 2014 at 10:58 PM

            well now you are just becoming too defensive and throwing random facts…i don’t get the point? so now you do agree that fair and lovely craze existed before the “raj” but now you believe it were the earlier white ethnic groups who created the craze?
            ok I respect your opinion….rest my case

            (by the way you did mention on another comment whether there was a darker skinned people who ruled over lighter skin, Yes there was. The Bani Israel were comparatively lighter skin people who were enslaved by the Egyptians, the darker skin tone)

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      May 8, 2014 at 3:43 PM

      Yes there seems to be a likeness towards light coloured skin in many parts of the world through out history, not just South Asia. But I am not so sure about the reference to Hoors, it is possible that there was something lost in translation. We need to look this part up.

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        May 8, 2014 at 4:05 PM

        Part of the veneration of white skin is simply the fact that throughout many places, those who worked outdoors and tilled the land were highly tanned, whilst those who were rich and sheltered enough to stay indoors, maintained a much paler skin color – and thus ‘whiteness’ was associated with wealth/position in society. This can be seen in ancient Egyptian statues, where the male is often painted a tan color whilst the female is white, due to the difference in occupation. However, today these unhealthy venerations are definitely simply due to inferiority complexes about what constitutes ‘beauty’.

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        May 8, 2014 at 6:14 PM

        I would love to read if you find any other translation/opinion about Hoors.

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    May 7, 2014 at 11:27 PM

    Wow this was awesome specially for me since this problem has been going around in my head for quite sometime now and you really hit home with this article.
    Really the TVCs in the south east are sickening, from tag lines like ” Sanwali dulhan bani gori.” (dark skinned bride becomes fair) where the bride is all cheery cause this cream made her few tomes lighter for her wedding, to one in a which a little 10 year old walks into a wedding and points at the faireat girl saying “Cachuu gorii”,(uncle! white girl), to one where everyone is pretending like they dont know a girl and hawging their seats with their bags so she doesnt sit with them but then to her good luck some person recomends “this cream” and cut to the next scene, bees are buzzing and the world is happier place and all those people who disonwed her are now in line for her attention. Not only that but a light bulb commercial where father fixes a brighter light bulb to make his daughter seem lighter for prospectivee inlaws and the list goes on.
    Honestly most of my life i thought no one ever took them seriously and they were there to be made fun off. But then I found out that not only do people fall for them but suprislingy alot of people I know do too.
    Really its disturbing to see so many girls who are so intelligent and able in everysingle imaginable thing suffer from such low self esteem due to society, tv, relatives and most sadly their mothers, from their less able but lighter skinned counterparts. I have seen first hand how damage it has done.
    Mothers in my opinion can play a huge role by rasing daughters that are confident in their own skin and by trying to look past outer beauty when looking for daughter in laws and ofcourse being nice aunties.
    As for the commercials I dont think there is much anyone can do, except to sit back get extremely agitated as one watches them relate every remotely unrelated thing to skin color.

  8. Avatar

    The Salafi Feminist

    May 8, 2014 at 2:29 AM

    Perhaps one of the worst examples of this that I’ve experienced was when my daughter was born, and almost the first thing my in-laws had to say was “At least she won’t be as dark as her father.” (And they aren’t desi.)
    AlHamdulillah I’ve been able to protect her from being exposed to such sentiments so far, but I’ll never forget that the first thing someone had to say about her had nothing to do with her being a beautiful and innocent human being with the potential for greatness, but about something as petty as skin colour.

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    May 8, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    Well written article.
    So many times I have told elders (when they’ve made remarks about skin colour) that this discrimination is unIslamic. But it doesn’t make an affect on their mindset!

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    May 8, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    MashAllah well written article. You know one of the places where this light skin dark skin thing is an issue? Africa. Honestly it would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Skin lightening cream is a staple make up accessory for so many girls, its actually considered normal. Its so tragic when you hear AFRICAN people asking “what happened? you got darker” like its a tragedy.

    I simply cannot comprehend how anyone can see less of anyone because of the colour of their skin. And you know what, even if I could change my skin colour, I wouldn’t do it. Alhamdullillah my own family did not ever make this an issue but I know families for whom skin colour is the most important thing, ahead of character or anything else and that’s the most sad thing.

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      May 8, 2014 at 5:37 PM

      It would be interesting to find a case in history where the darker skinned people, subjugated a lighter skinned people, and see how views change.

      Can’t think of one off the top of my head – maybe Persians subjugating the greek? Or the Arabs conquering the Byzantium empire? Anyone else?

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        May 8, 2014 at 6:41 PM

        well, Waheeb, it is in the Quran. Bani Israel who were enslaved by the Egyptians, were actually lighter in skin-tone. The rulers were darker skin toned. Again, i must remind you, what we are talking about is “lighter” skin tone Within an ethnicity.
        don’t confuse “ethnic prejudice” with “skin color prejudice”
        within an ethnic group, lighter skin represents elite, people who don’t work outside in the sun and hence would have lighter skin than those doing manual/heavy labor outside.

  11. Avatar


    May 8, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Asalamu Alekum, Im Canadian. Like lots of girls her, I used to go to tanning beds a lots. Even the high risks of wrinkles and skin cancer wouldn’t stop me. Darker is more sexy, makes your skin glow and your eyes pop-out! This issue have to do with the ungratefulness of humans. Cosmetic companies take advantage of this: self-tanners for the west and whitening creams for the East…made by the same corporation! SubhaAllah!

  12. Avatar


    May 8, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    Assalamu alykum,
    Thanks for the article. It helps give me more and better ways to talk about the issue. I just can’t believe how engrained it is in people that it’s “ok” to lighten their skin.
    Even my own husband has a little bit of this prejudice (he’s Central Asian) His skin type is such that he tans very easily. He kept saying he becomes “black.” I just laughed at him and said he is nowhere close to black even when he’s at his most tan. So he’s gotten into the habit of saying his skin gets “darker” instead which is at least a less stupid thing to say but I still let him know I’m baffled as to why he reacts as if it’s a negative thing. It’s just a natural side effect of being outside. (I’m burn-after-30-minutes-in-the-sun white, lol. But after the “base” burn I tend to be ok for the summer and not burn anymore and can tan slightly.)
    I’m reminded of when I was a kid (about 4 or 5) and I would always play with my neighbor. Then one day someone told me she was black. I had no idea what this was supposed to mean or why it was even supposed to be important. I just noticed that it was something different between us but I decided it didn’t matter because she was a fun friend. To the best of my ability I have tried to keep this mentality into adulthood when interacting with people. Yes, I see the difference, but what does it matter?

  13. Avatar

    Tanveer Khan

    May 8, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    “In Urdu and Hindi, the words for light skin are saaf rang meaning clean/pure whereas dark skin to referred to as mayla which translates into dirty.”
    Dark skin is also referred to as “mayla” in bangla too. Light skin is referred to as “forishkaar” which, surprise surprise, means clean/pure just like in Urdu and Hindi.

    I’m also more darker skinned than my family (and most of my relatives now that I think about it) and when I meet new relatives, one of the first things they say is how I got to dark…. :) Fortunately, that’s the most they do and don’t repeatedly hound me over it (probably because I’m a male so good looks aren’t emphasised as much for me) and they all love and care for me lots. XD

    • Avatar

      Tanveer Khan

      May 8, 2014 at 6:24 PM

      I think my first sentence should either say “Dark skin is also referred to as “mayla” in bangla” or “Dark skin is referred to as “mayla” too”. I’m not sure why I felt the need to put “also” and “too” in the same sentence.

  14. Avatar


    May 8, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    As I was reading this well put article, I had tears on my eyes. I happen to have a beautiful, sweet and strong girl who is dark skinner then the rest of our family. My 4 boys are light skin and when ever people of our community see us they the first thing they asks me is “you made girl dark skin and the boys light skin, isn’t that suppose to be other way around?” Allah creates who ever he wants and the way he wants. Same people will always negative and judgmental, but Alhamdulillah that never ever bothered me and Alhamdulillah I taught my daughter same thing and when ever some calls her “dark skinner” she just gives that one million dollar smile and says “Alhamdulillah, Allah made me beautiful”.

    Thank you for written this wonderful article.

    • Avatar


      May 8, 2014 at 8:49 PM

      Aww, you’re daughter seems like an angel mashallah. Allah bless her.

  15. Avatar


    May 8, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    Jazak Allah Khair for this article. I always found dark skinned people to be more beautiful. Human perception of beauty keeps changing, both in the east and the west. I think there should also be an article about body size since there seems to be an obsession about being skinny, even in girls as young as 8. It’s not only bad for their physical health but also their mental health. I know of young women who are not able to get married because of their body size, even though I believe they look just fine.

  16. Avatar


    May 8, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    MashaAllah, I love that this topic is being discussed and in a way that is very accepting, alhamdulilah.
    But I’m also *very* dissappointed with *how* it’s being discussed. So far, it seems like every time skin color is mentioned, we seem to go back to the line “let’s value character!” Walahi, I appreciate this emphasis but the real question is *can/do we see dark skin as beautiful?* meaning when my child comes to me “is my skin ugly?,” telling her/him, “you know what matters is you’re character being beautiful,” this hypothetical parent’s reinforcing that dark skin is ugly bc her/his question is asking something specific. We all know character is key and no beauty can surpass internal beauty but the question here is external beauty. Please don’t take offense ladies and gents :-)
    *from dark sister who likes being dark :-)

  17. Avatar


    May 8, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    Btw, I think Henna’s approach was amazing in how indirectly reinforces that dark skin is beautiful. The prophet (saw) was known for being handsome :-). I was just disappointed with the comments :(

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  19. Avatar


    May 8, 2014 at 8:48 PM

    This isn’t only a sad epidemic in the Desi community either. I’m Somali, and dark skinned is attributed to being ugly and undesirable. That is if you’re a woman. In the Somali community women of all ages are rushing to use skin lightening creams, or “Diana”. It’s really sad. You’re made to believe light skin is the epitome of female beauty. Light skinned girls tend to be courted more as well. So all the dark sisters aren’t approached, and no one cares to make them their wives. Then these same Somali men will huff and puff when their sisters marry non-Somali men. It’s a sad cycle. Dark skin should be celebrated. It’s positively beautiful. There’s nothing defective or wrong about it. I wish more of us could realize that, and give people peace.

    • Avatar


      May 8, 2014 at 11:09 PM

      I know so many somali sisters with such beautiful features. My dad always said, “beauty is nothing but the proportionality of limbs”. Current scientific research also confirms this. The more proportional ones features are, the more attractive they look, regardless of skin color.

  20. Avatar


    May 8, 2014 at 11:09 PM

    Man, topic and especially comments at #NotFairandLovely are really depressing
    and sobering as well. I had an abstract understanding of colorism/shadism or whatever
    it’s called, but I wasn’t aware of how deep the hurt and scars from being on it’s receiving
    end can be both in the moment and over the course of a lifetime.
    Was ignorant about the emotional side of it and how lasting that
    hurt can be.

    Some of the comments were heartbreaking. Especially the one’s concerning
    children. I guess not having dealt with this personally or
    within the family is a type of luxury and privilege in this twisted world, but no excuse
    for ignorance once you’ve been made aware, so thanks for the article and opening
    my eyes to the emotional side of the discrimination so many are going through.

  21. Avatar

    Umm ZAKAriyya

    May 8, 2014 at 11:30 PM

    Am dark skinned . I remember as a kid , I would be so hurt when some other fairer skinned kids would compare our complexion while placing our hands next to eachothers. ” O she is more dark . She is more fair …”

    When people would make me feel bad about being darker than my mom & sister , my mom would tell me – Gold sparkles more against darker skin than fairer skin. You can be dark and beautiful too. Lol

    I have seen Parents usually search for husbands for their daughters who are a few shades darker than them( daughters), so they don’t feel ” inferior”.

    We have to admit that having a clear creamier/brighter complexion enhances ones beauty . Which is why all cosmetics focus on that – even skin tone and give a creamier, brighter-than-your-own complexion.

    Pale skinned people try to look creamier by tanning . Dark skinned do the same by lightening .

    We have to remind ourselves that beauty too is a test from Allah . All the actresses and models are beautiful , but how has it benefitted them ?

    If you don’t feel beautiful, just accept it . We are on earth , not in jannah.! :)

    If muslims were more practising and feared Allah . These skin colour issues would not pop up.

  22. Avatar

    Wael Abdelgawad

    May 9, 2014 at 1:11 AM

    Alhamdulillah, this has not been an issue in my family. We come in different shades and no one has ever commented on it. I think I’d be quite angry if someone implied that a child of mine was somehow less attractive because of skin color. I’d throw that person out of my house straightaway, relative or not.

    • Avatar

      Wael Abdelgawad

      May 9, 2014 at 1:13 AM

      Also, reinforcing your daughter’s self-esteem by reading about the physical description of the Prophet (sws) is brilliant.

  23. Avatar

    Mahmud B.

    May 9, 2014 at 1:22 AM

    Such a sad article…really well written and the topic deserves attention

    Brothers and sisters….hear me:

    First things first….lets stop giving children the messages that come from fairly tales and Disney princess cartoons

    If you look at the fairy tales taught to us when we were kids (in the 1980’s), they would talk about a princess who was fair

    Look at any fairy tale and Disney cartoon such as Cindrella, Snow white, sleeping beauty, beauty and the beast and many more…..the princess is always fair skinned and good and beautiful, while the evil villain is darker and unattractive and bad.

    These type of messages lead to “black and white” thinking.

    So let us stop dropping our kids in front of the TV, where they get the most damaging of messages

    Dont let TV shows like hannah montana etc babysit your kids

    Your TV is not a good babysitter.

    Its no wonder the world thinks that fair is more beautiful….because that is the message that Hollywood and tv shows and glamour magazines try to sell us…..that beauty is a woman that is fair, skinny like a twig, long neck, long flowing hair and pouty lips.

    Switch of your TV’s as a start

    • Avatar


      May 9, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      I don’t think it’s entirely the TV’s fault. It’s not just an issue of ‘fair is more beautiful’, I mean, Disney always had this reputation for reinforcing stereotypes specially back in those days when these shows were made. Although I grew up with watching TV a lot and I didn’t really pick up those kind of messages from TV shows because I had real life role models to look up to, Alhamdulilah.

      It’s not just Hollywood, the media in most countries favour the same type of women and people in general. of course there should be parental guidence when watching TV, but watching TV in itself is not a problem. The problem arises when your family, specially your parents, do not have a major role in your life and these TV shows are your only source of information.

      • Avatar

        Mahmud B.

        May 12, 2014 at 1:27 AM


        You make a really good point

  24. Avatar

    Mahmud B.

    May 9, 2014 at 1:26 AM

    This was taken from the site

    you know….in south indian communities…if you end up being fair….you can be anything you want

    You can be an actor….you can even be president…you can write your own ticket

    May Allah guide us

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  27. Avatar


    May 10, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    But I wonder which skin colour Allah will choose for us in jannah. I know that everyone will resemble the height of Adam and Hawa. I am only asking this question out of pure curiosity.

    • Avatar


      May 10, 2014 at 6:13 PM

      Everything is Jannah is ” what no eye has seen , no ear has heard “. Jannah has fruits , trees ,but very different to the ones in this world. Similarly there can be no comparison of skin colour to anything of this world. Whatever it is, its going to be amazing.

      • Avatar


        May 10, 2014 at 6:18 PM

        Woow am really looking forward to the next life in jannah. May Allah grant us paradise ameen

  28. Avatar


    May 10, 2014 at 9:27 PM

    This attitude can probably be traced back to the Hindu caste system, and it has infiltrated the Pakistani/Asian culture. I am African-American and have realized that all races are prejudice against any person with African lineage (a tool of the shaytan). However, when I became Muslim, Allah gave me and other African American Muslims this amazing inner strength to love who we are because we are Allah’s creation. Black is oh soooo beautiful! I am not angry at these people, I just feel sorry for them. May Allah guide us and forgive our sins

  29. Avatar


    May 14, 2014 at 1:52 AM

    I know I am being pedantic but I think clean in Bangla is “Porishkar”. But yes, even darker skinned Bengalis can be racist to those even darker than them

  30. Avatar


    May 14, 2014 at 3:38 AM

    Thank you for tackling such a relevant issue not just within Muslim communities, but all communities worldwide. Colorism has a long ugly history behind it, and we would do well to find out how best to combat it. For myself and my family, I always try to make my kids understand that they are beautiful just the way they are (not just in terms of skin color but in terms of all their characteristics), that Allah created beauty in many forms, and that we should never take what we see as being “normal” through the media at face value. From a very young age, I tried to limit what my kids were exposed to through the media, and that helped keep them away from internalizing colorist values. Also, I tell my kids to pay no attention to what others value when it comes to color. If someone says something bad about someone just based on their skin color, I tell my kids to teach them about how wrong it is to do that from an Islamic POV. I also try to help them make friends with as many people from as many backgrounds as possible, so that they get used to seeing the beautiful physical diversity of the human race that Allah SWT created. And of course I always pray for them never to internalize any racist/colorist values at any point in their lives.

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  32. Avatar


    June 19, 2014 at 6:32 AM

    This is a beautiful piece and I admire the way you raise your daughter.

    Now, as for everyone trying to claim reverse racism exists, let me explain what racism is and what it isn’t. Racism is a feeling of superiority, viewing others as inferior, /coupled with/ the sociopolitical power to oppress those who you see as inferior. That is why reverse racism against whites does. Not. Exist. A person of colour (someone who is “not white” ) can be prejudiced against white people, but cannot truly oppress them.

    True racism or any real -ism leads to loss of job opportunities due to preconceived notions (blacks are ignorant, hispanics are illegal and lazy, women are all too weak and emotional for this), rape (fetishization and exploitation of women and young girls of colour… see sex tourism routinely performed by white men travelling to poorer countries to sleep with underaged girls even if it’s illegal in their home country, see the way people associate wholesome and pure beauty with white skin and carnal, beastly lust with darker skin because of the dehumanizing and hypersexualized way people are conditioned to see black bodies), murder (Trayvon, Martin, and countless other youth who were murdered for doing something that would be totally ignored if done by a white boy of the same age… buying skittles, wearing hoodies, whistling at girls?), etc. all of which are common and easily recognized by anyone who reads a newspaper.

    Reverse racism leads to nothing more widespread than hurt feelings? Like why are all these people of colour talking about and praising their appearance, they’re making me feel ugly… congratulations, you just received a tiny, watered down 0.000000001% baby formula version of the micro aggressions that work together to keep racism alive and also, you’re being silly, people celebrating their usually ignored or hated appearances aren’t hurting you, just turn on a TV or go to the movies and you’re guaranteed to find most movie casts are overwhelmingly even when at the cost of characters who are meant to be another race! Oh, yeah, we know in the books, she’s black, but this white girl captured the /spirit/ of the character better than any real black girl and what do you mean “Why did you advertise Caucasian casting only?”
    Oh, but when it comes to generic and stereotypical sassy girl and overachieving nerd roles, heeeey, look at all these black and East Asian actors!

    So. Yeah.

    • Avatar


      June 19, 2014 at 6:34 AM

      Martin? I knew I shouldn’t type while hungry… I meant Emmett, Emmett Till.

  33. Avatar


    August 11, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    My cousins, my friends, my family… Black, Black,Black everywhere. I’m not completely black just wood colour, I’m the only one in my family who is not fair… I hate looking at my self in the mirror. I’m a south-indian muslim. and I hate who I am.

  34. Avatar

    Tasniya Sultana

    August 17, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    Jazak Allahu Khair for writing this article. It truly is sad that it has to be this way.. If you are anything less than a white complexion, you have to hear a lot from the community because of it.
    And to add on, it’s not just skin color but also body type. I’m a very petite woman weighing no more than 90 pounds. It’s just my genetic make up. I am not curvy. Period. But because of this, I have heard so many hurtful comments by family members and friends. This one lady asked me if my husband was feeding me properly because she couldn’t understand why I’m so “skinny” even after marriage. I was also told that my husband would come home to find a skeleton one day and leave me if I don’t fatten up.
    It’s just sad that if you don’t fit this curvy white complexion, you are deemed less by those around you.

  35. Avatar


    August 18, 2014 at 6:49 PM

    Being from a northern pakistani background my family places a huge emphasis on lighter skin. The problem is I have no idea how to explain to my parents that I am more attracted to darker skin as I feel they would reject anyone who was darker.

    • Avatar


      January 4, 2016 at 3:58 PM

      I understand so well the stress and anxiety that being rejected by your comunity brings.I have had no problems with my color in my family of origin as we are a mixed race lot. With varying skin tones and hair types,we complement each other.I have left several masjids and cut off dealing with most Muslims due to this color sickness they insist upon spreading like contagion.Desi Muslims are maybe the worst offenders .You can deal with them honestly for years and all they see is colorism they live it sleep and breathe the air as caste mined almost Hindu like in their quest to be as near white as possible.East Africans and Arabs are also extremely cruel and prejudiced toward black skinned people.If they own shops they cheat and steal from you even if you pay cash .Too many have shown dishonesty in business practices which makes me also question their characters as Muslims.They spread fitnah by insisting on marriage to light skin only.Ihave also seen evidences of white female privilege in some Masjids ,these sisters have little knowledge yet have leverage due to marriage to some well placed Desi ,Arab and sometimes an African.Muslims all over cry and complain about discrimination from whites ,yet they do the same discrimination in their countries . North Arabs don’t marry darker blacks even if they have good character.Palestinians ,Jordanian ,Egyptians, East Africans and let us not forget the very Race conscious Saudis and Syrians,now fleeing persecution.Pls I know I did not name all offenders but based on personal association these are the worst.Comments also based on my young Muslima friends ,black,brown and white living abroad in these so called bastions of dar Islam.Allah has promised to change our condition if we change our hearts Our prophet said in his last address that Arsb is not better then black or vice versa.Also our test will be the dunya love of money power position and ethnic pride.for example Muslim family reject for marriage decent working class fellows and decent girls .Now both boys and girls are marrying non believers and their children are leaving the deen.Give up what you love best for the sake of Allah.

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  37. Avatar


    June 22, 2017 at 8:00 AM

    I know this thread is really old, but I like to read it once in a while, actually quite often, reading the article and the comments from people who might be in the same situastion than me. I am pakistani, fair skinned girl. Maybe I have had some advantages being fair, but never noticed.
    Married to a man who is wheatish, we have 3 blessing, 2 boys and a girl. All of them more tanned than both of us. Grandparents are all fair or wheatish.
    My daughter 3 years is the cutest little girl, so intelligent and so funny. But her skin color besides me is not one but several shades darker. I think of this every day, why?
    I tell myself, it is because Allah (SWT) made her this way, and has better plans for her, so my anxiety and worries are not of any good, because I should have tawakkul in him, in his plans!
    Why does color matter? It is so deeply rooted in our culture and society and I admit it is because I am brought up to like light color. I have to reset my beayty perception mode!
    may Allah help me think differently, and may all this never affect my daughters self-esteem. Amin

  38. Avatar


    October 20, 2018 at 8:34 AM

    Thanks for removing my comments. Some people can’t handle the truth and criticism, but love to critique.

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MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims

The author of the MuslimARC Guide writes an introduction

Bill Chambers



“As people who are both white and Muslim, we straddle two identities -one privileged in society and the other, not. We experience Islamophobia to varying degrees, sometimes more overtly depending on how we physically present, and at the same time we have been socialized as white people in a society where white people hold more social power than People of Color (POC). The focus of the toolkit is to provide resources and information that will help guide us toward good practices and behaviours, and away from harmful ones, as we challenge racism within the Muslim community (ummah) and in society at large.” MuslimARC Guide 

As part of our mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice within the Muslim community, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) is producing a series of community-specific guides to be a resource for those who want to engage in anti-racism work within Muslim communities.

The first in this series, the Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims, has been written specifically for white Muslims, by white Muslims under the guidance of the anti-racist principles of MuslimARC. While white Muslims know that Islamically we are required to stand for justice, growing up in a society that is so racially unequal has meant that unless we seek to actively educate ourselves, we typically have not been provided the tools to effectively talk about and address racism.

The Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims is a tool and resource that speaks to specific needs of white Muslims who are navigating the process of deepening their understanding of racism and looking for concrete examples of how, from their specific social location, they can contribute to advancing anti-racism in Muslim communities. The Guide also addresses views and practices that inadvertently maintain the status quo of racial injustice or can actually reproduce harm, which we must tackle in ourselves and in our community in order to effectively contribute to uprooting racism.

The Guide was developed by two white Muslim members of MuslimARC, myself (Bill Chambers) and Lindsay Angelow. The experiences, approaches, recommendations, and resources are based upon our own experiences, those of other white Muslims we have encountered or spoken to, and research and analysis by others who have been cited in the Guide.

As white people, we are not always aware when we say or write something that reflects our often narrow analysis of racism and need to be open to feedback from Muslims of Color. My own personal process of helping to develop this Guide made me aware of the many times I was in discussions with Muslims of Color, especially women, when I had reflect better upon the privilege I experience as a white person and also the white male privilege that comes with it. It is difficult not to feel defensive when you realize you may have said too much and listened too little on a topic that is really not about you.

Talking about racism is a hard topic and we anticipate that for many white Muslims reading the Guide, there may be a feeling of defensiveness and having difficulty learning from the examples given because you feel that the examples don’t apply to you. You may feel the need to call to attention the various forms of injustice you feel you have experienced in your life, for example where you felt like an outsider as a convert in Muslim community. Our advice is to recognize that those reactions are related to living in a society where we are very much shielded from having to deeply understand racism and examining our role in it. In the spirit of knowledge seeking, critical thinking, and the call to justice communicated to us in the Qur’an as expectations that Allah has of Muslims, we must push past those reactions and approach the subject matter in the spirit of knowledge, skill-seeking, and growth.

“People, We have created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another (49:13).” One of our most important purposes is to really “get to know” one another, build just and loving communities together, all the time knowing we all come from the same source and will return together. If this Guide does anything, let it inspire a deeper understanding of our unique identity as white Muslims and how to use it to advance a more just society.

You can find the  #AntiRacismGuide for White Muslims at

Further reading:

White Activism Is Crucial In The Wake of Right-Wing Terrorism

Beyond Muslim Diversity to Racial Equity

Continue Reading


Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?

Mona Islam



High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.

Salma and Yousef: 

Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.

Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.

This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.


Sarah and Hasan:

Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.

The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.

Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:

The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.


This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:

  • The Family Unit In Islam
  • Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
  • The Nuclear Family
  • The Extended Family

Hamza and Tamika

Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The Family Unit in Islam

We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.

The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.


Layla and Ibrahim   

Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived.  Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.

As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.

Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?


The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.

How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.

Family Roles:

Each person in the family has a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.

What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.

Razan and Farhaan

Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.

Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?

Mawaddah and Rahma

The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.

Aliyaah and Irwan

Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.


Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminds us,

“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).

Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.

Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah).  Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide.  An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.

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Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change  

Imam Mikaeel Smith



Why do we consider emotional intelligence to be half of the Prophetic intellect? The answer lies in the word “messenger.” Messengers of Allah are tasked with the divine responsibility of conveying to humanity the keys to their salvation. They are not only tasked with passing on the message but also with being a living example of that message.

When ʿĀʾishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, was asked to explain the character of the blessed Prophet ﷺ, her reply was, “His character was the Qurʾān.[1]” We are giving emotional intelligence a place of primacy in the construct of Prophetic intelligence because it seems implausible that Allah would send a messenger without providing that messenger with the means necessary to exemplify and transmit the message to others. If the Prophets of Allah did not have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to successfully pass on the message to the next generation, the argument would be incomplete. People could easily excuse themselves of all accountability because the message was never conveyed.

We also see clear examples in the Qur’ān that this knowledge was being perpetually perfected in the character of the Prophet ﷺ. Slight slips in his Emotional Intelligence were rare, but when they did occur, Allah gently addressed the mistake by means of revelation. Allah says in the Qurʾān, “If you (O Muḥammad) were harsh and hardhearted, then the people would flee from you.” This verse clearly placed the burden of keeping an audience upon the shoulders of the Prophet ﷺ. What this means is that the Prophet ﷺ had to be aware of what would push people away; he had to know what would create cognitive and emotional barriers to receptivity. When we study the shamāʾil (books about his character), we find that he was beyond exceptional in his ability to make people receptive. He took great care in studying the people around him and deeply understanding them. Only after the Prophet ﷺ had exhausted all the means of removing barriers to receptivity would the responsibility to affirm the message be shifted to those called to it.

Another example of this Prophetic responsibility can be found in the story of Prophet Mūsa when he was commissioned to call Pharaoh and the children of Israel to Allah. When Allah informed him of the task he was chosen for, he immediately attempted to excuse himself because he had a slight speech impediment. He knew that his speech impediment could potentially affect the receptivity of people to the message. He felt that this disqualified him from being a Prophet. He also felt that the act of manslaughter he committed might come between the people and guidance. All of these examples show that Allah’s Prophets understood that many factors can affect a person’s receptivity to learning something new, especially when the implications of that new information call into question almost every aspect of a person’s identity. History tells us that initially, people did not accept the message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ; they completely rejected him and accused him of being a liar.

One particular incident shows very clearly that he ﷺ understood how necessary it was for him to remove any cognitive or emotional barriers that existed between him and his community. When the people of his hometown of Makkah had almost completely rejected him, he felt that it was time to turn his attention to a neighboring town. The city of Ṭā’if was a major city and the Prophet ﷺ was hopeful that perhaps they would be receptive to the message. Unfortunately, they completely rejected him and refused to even listen to what he had to say. They chased him out of town, throwing stones at him until his injuries left him completely covered in blood. Barely making it outside the city, the Prophet ﷺ collapsed. Too weak to move, he turned his attention to his Lord and made one of the most powerful supplications made by a Prophet of Allah.

اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي، وقلة حيلتي، وهواني على الناس، يا أرحم الراحمين، أنت أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي، إلى من تكلني؟ إلى عدو يتجهمني؟ أو إلى قريب ملكته أمري؟ إن لم يكن بك علي غضب فلا أبالي، غير أن عافيتك أوسع لي، أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أشرقت له الظلمات، وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والآخرة، من أن ينزل بي غضبك، أو يحل علي سخطك، لك العتبى حتى ترضى، ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بك”

“Oh Allah, only to You do I complain about my lack of strength, my insufficient strategies, and lowliness in the sight of the people. You are my Lord. To whom do you turn me over? Someone distant from me who will forsake me? Or have you placed my affair in the hands of my enemy? [2]

The Prophet ﷺ felt that he was the reason why the people were not accepting the message. His concern that “my low status in the eyes of the people,” informs us that he understood that people naturally judge the seriousness of a message based on the stature of the message bearer. The people of Ṭā’if were extremely ignorant, so much that they adamantly refused to enter into any dialogue. In reality, this was not due to any shortcoming of the Prophet ﷺ; he demonstrated the best of character and displayed extreme patience in the face of such ignorance. But the beginning of the supplication teaches us what he was focused on: making sure that he was not the reason why someone did not accept the message.

Because his message was not geographically restricted like that of other Prophets, those who inherited the message would have the extra burden of transferring the message to a people with whom they were unfamiliar. The intelligence needed to pass the message of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ around the world included an understanding of the cultural differences that occur between people. Without this understanding effective communication and passing on of his message would be impossible.

A sharp Emotional Intelligence is built upon the development of both intra- and interpersonal intelligence. These intelligences are the backbone of EQ and they provide a person with emotional awareness and understanding of his or her own self, an empathic understanding of others, and the ability needed to communicate effectively and cause change. Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior. After that this intellect, if healthy and mature, forces a person to conform to that standard. Therefore, we understand the ʿaql to be a comprehensive collection of intelligences analogous to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.

Taking into consideration the extreme diversity found within Western Muslim communities, we see how both Moral Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are needed. Fostering and nurturing healthy communities requires that we understand how people receive our messages. This is the interpersonal intelligence aspect of EQ. Without grounding the moral component of our community, diversity can lead to what some contemporary moral theorists call moral plasticity, a phenomenon where concrete understandings of good and evil, right and wrong, are lost. Moral Education (Moral Education, which will be discussed throughout the book, is the process of building a Morally Intelligent heart) focuses on correcting the message that we are communicating to the world; in other words, Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to others.

My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.”

Interpersonal understanding is the core of emotional intelligence. My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.” From the perspective of Emotional Intelligence, this statement is very accurate. The way we interpret words, body language, verbal inflections, and facial expressions is based on many different factors. The subtle power of this book lies in the simple fact that your emotional intelligence is the primary agent of change and thus the most powerful force you have. You must understand how people perceive what you are communicating to them. What is missing from my father’s statement is the primacy of Moral Intelligence. Throughout this book, I attempt to show how the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ demonstrated a level of perfection of both of these intelligences.

*With the Heart in Mind is available for pre-order at

[1]Bayhaqī, Shuʿb al-ʾĪmān, vol. 3, p. 23.

[2] Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 136.


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