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Quranic Wisdom on Overcoming Prejudice

Quranic Wisdom on Overcoming Prejudice

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Understanding Prejudice: The Enemy Within

Prejudice is an emotional response towards a person, group, or community which is mostly based on false beliefs or distorted assumptions. It creates negative thoughts and attitudes that can result in unfair treatment, violence, or harm. The root causes of prejudice are varied and complex, and can be linked to factors such as language, culture, economic conditions, and historical backgrounds. However, the Quranic viewpoint strongly asserts that the source of all prejudice and actions against other human beings is due to the involvement of evil in people’s souls. The Quran (Al-Ma’ida 5:60) explains, “Say: O people! Truly I am a Messenger of Allah unto you, [bearing] glad tidings and warning; therefore, let us dispute no more, after Allah hath brought the matter to a decisive end. And I (stand) not here to revile (other) messengers before me, or to cause you rage against them; but I invite unto Allah (Island) an acceptance of (His) truth, and to follow the religion of Abraham, a man obedient to Allah, and he was not of the polytheists.”

Recognizing Our Own Prejudices

Muslims must learn how to acknowledge and identify their own prejudices before they can tackle others’ prejudices. According to the Quran (Al-Hujurat 49:13), God instructs believers to say, “Unto you, your religion; and unto me, my religion.” This line highlights the concept of freedom of religion, which is a central tenet of Islam’s teachings. The Quran emphasizes that every individual should respect others’ faith as long as their practices do not harm others. Consequently, Muslims must teach this value to their children to engender the habit of respecting others’ values and beliefs, while fostering a healthy mutual respect and tolerance. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him speak good or remain silent,” as a call to Muslims to think before speaking and to avoid making stigmatizing comments. In essence, Muslims must learn to balance criticism and tolerance by carefully weighing the benefits and drawbacks of both approaches in any given context. Additionally, we must be extra vigilant in mitigating socially destructive prejudices such as anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of extreme religious hatred.

The Quran and Overcoming Prejudice

The Quran provides a foundation for Muslim civilization’s efforts to eradicate prejudice. Its teachings advocate for the creation of a fair and equitable society, where all human beings enjoy social and economic equality. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) explained, “God judges people through the same (criteria) which they use to judge others” (Muslim, “Book 1, Number 169”). As such, we are encouraged by the Quran (Al-Baqarah 2:177) to maintain equity, promote social harmony, love kindness, and reject prejudice in our respective communities. Therefore, when engaging with others, we should approach them with compassion and mercy, as the Quran (Ash-Shura 42:36-37) reminds us, “Let not the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness… But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah; for He is One that hears and sees (all things).”

Building Empathy and Understanding

The Quran underlines the significance of fostering mutual empathy and understanding through dialogue and communication. According to the Quran (Ash-Shura 42:38), “Allah will not call you to account for that which is futile in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for its expiration, feed ten poor men feeding alike: this, that Allah may make it fair for you and may rid you of some of your sins: for Allah hast power over all things.” This exhortation highlights the benefits of charitable giving and communal outreach as a means to promote mutual understanding and build bridges between different communities. Consequently, Muslims should strive to collaborate with people from different backgrounds and religions in various aspects of life, from business to charity, and from education to sports. As explained by the Quran (Al-Baqarah, 2:213), “Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye swerve or withdraw yourselves (from the truth), truly Allah will be your enemy: For He must certainly give you provision from Himself, and (yet) will surely cause you to suffer stark destitution, and will replace your persons, and render you humble. Shame will cover them, and they will have nothing to submit to Allah save that Allah shall will.”

Actively Challenging Prejudice

The Quran (Al-Hujurat 49:11-12) recommend that Muslims should promote harmony and minimize animosity between different communities: “Allah forbiddeth you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just. Allah forbiddeth you only regards those who fight you for (your) Faith, or drive you out of your homes, or support (others) in driving you out,: from taking friendship (Ainii) with them, secretly or openly, if they believe in the revelation or ascribe (themselves) to the apostles. He forbiddeth you to take the Jews and the Christians for your friends; and caution you you (should) have against them resentment; but unto them bear (and) convey that which is communicated unto you; (Tartilu) Allah both enjoin justice, the doing of good, and giving unto kinsfolk: and He forbiddeth indecency, and transgression and wickedness: He admonisheth you that in His sight He heareth and knoweth all things.” Muslims should actively reject anything that constitutes an infringement on other people’s dignity, as highlighted by the Quran (Al-Ma’ida 5:8), “Allah command Christ (saying): ‘Judge not between man and woman in deciding an Orphaned property, save that which his near Relatives, or his heirs, or his parents, or the near Relatives of (such as) his wife, or weighet (the evidence) (And command) and establish Salat, and pay Zakat: and this is the right Religion.” Therefore, Muslims should endeavor to uphold principles of equality, justice, and equity in their interactions with other people, and should strive to promote tolerance, kindness, and respect in their communities.

The Role of Religion in Overcoming Prejudice

Religion can play a crucial role in helping to mitigate prejudice. As explained by the Quran (Ash-Shura 42:39-40), “Allah will not call you to account for that which is futile in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for its expiration, feed ten poor men feeding alike: this, that Allah may make it fair for you and may rid you of some of your sins: for Allah hath power over all things. And Allah will enrich you with His bounty, if He will: for Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.” This verse highlights that faith provides people a chance to rectify their mistakes, get closer to God, alleviate their spiritual hardships, and repent from wrongful actions, like taking oaths that entail breaking existing agreements or social obligations. Similarly, the Quran calls on people to treat believers like themselves, regardless of their ethnic or cultural background. As explained by the Quran (Al-Mujadila 58:14), “Unto you your religion: and unto me my religion.” Lastly, the Quran asks Muslims to develop a sustained and honest dialogue with adherents of other faiths (Al-Ma’ida, 5:85-89), “…Say: O People of the Book! Come ye to an agreement between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lities or (places of) worship over which the sun or moon may shine; nor we set up, besides or Lord, any Oriental temple for Him.”

Making Positive Changes in Society

We can all promote positive social change by taking practical steps to lessen prejudice. As the Quran (Al-Ma’ida, 5:68) notes,”Fight Against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, (4) and defend not the Religion of Truth (i.e. Islam)with all of its authorities, (5) from the People of the Book (Christians and Jews), (6) until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” Accordingly, such measures would include eliminating laws entailing blatant societal or religious inequalities. As the Quran (Al-Ma’ida, 5:8) states, “Allah command Christ, saying: ‘Judge not between man and woman in deciding an Orphaned property, save that which his near Relatives…” Consequently, we should strive to encourage policies and enact laws in favor of enhancing social justice and promoting human rights for all. The Quran (Al-Mai’da, 5:8), “Allah command Christ, saying: ‘Judge not between man and woman in deciding an Orphaned property, save that which his near Relatives…” As the Quran encourages people to observe social justice and avoid extremity of religious beliefs. As the Quran (Al-Mujadila, (58)11), “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans whereinver ye find them: an seize them nominally, (and afterwards) literally: and lay siege, and shut them up, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent, and establish worship, and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free: Verily Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” The challenges of opposing religious extremism must be complemented at a material and spiritual level.

The Blessing of Diversity and Tolerance

The Quran (Hud 11:118-119) recognizes the importance of respecting and valuing others’ differences, “Allah will not leave the believers in the state in which ye are until He distinguish the bad from the good. Nor allow Badhā (evil whispers, etc.) to survive in the land after ye are gone, nor leave in your hearts any discontent. It is but Little that ye are distressed, if ye follow (the right guides), for God is Aware of (the wrong) that ye do. And be sure We shall try you with something of fear, hunger, some loss of wealth, lives, and fruits; but give glad tidings to Asbāh (a group of believers) (A Book) guarding against evil; and fear Allah and Allah will grant (you) a provision (wherein) ye shall not sorrow. And He will guard you from the evil of the folk as long as ye believe in Allah and spend (freely) in His Cause, and (Allah) will not put to

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