As we prepare for the Martin Luther King Day in a couple of days, the Muslims need to use this as an opportunity to reflect upon Dr. King’s legacy as well as Islam’s teachings on race and diversity. Even though Dr. King was an ordained Christian minister, his views and teachings on love, race, justice and diversity are practically the same as Islamic teachings, as I explained below.
Dr. Martin Luther King not only fought for racial equality, he also preached for love and social justice for all. He was vocal on the issues of social justice and reminded everyone that remaining silent in the face of injustice is not an option.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, followed by some passages from the Qur’an on the same issues.
“I have a dream” speech:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
“I have a dream” concept in the Qur’an and Hadith
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (the one) best in conduct (most righteous). And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)… The Quran: 49:13
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.
Islamic teachings on justice and diversity:
O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of any-one lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do. The Qur’an 5:8
O you who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, though it may be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin (relatives), and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both… The Qur’an 4:135
And among His [God’s] signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge. The Qur’an 30:22…..to each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single community (“Ummatan Wahida”), but (His plan is) to test you in what He has given you: So vie one with another in good works. Unto Allah you will all return, it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which you dispute.” — The Quran 5:48
All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white – except by piety and good action- Hadith of Prophet Muhammad
So the question to all of us is simple: As Muslim Americans, as Christian Americans and as African Americans, as we pay tribute to Dr. King, are we actually following on his foot steps or are we only giving lip service to his legacy?
As Muslims, are we really following the teachings of the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad when it comes to race relations and discrimination, love and hate?
And the question to my Christian cousins is the same: are you following the teachings of Rev. King (and Jesus) when it comes to loving thy neighbor and race relations?
I have the same question to my African American friends: as you fight for social justice and equal rights, are you following Dr. King’s message on non violence and love?
As Muslims, how many times we have found ourselves reaching out to our pockets or looked around when a young African American enters an empty train we are riding? (as opposed to , say a white Caucasian)
How often do we fear for our safety when an African American solicitor rings our doorbell?
And by the way how many African American friends do we have visiting our household?
What would MLK do?
I often wonder how would Dr. King react to today’s climate of hateful rhetoric and the divisive politics.
What would he say about building the border wall?
What would he say about the immigrants’ rights and those crossing the border illegally? How would he treat the families, including women and children?
How would he react to the misogyny,profanity, and the language ranging from racially biased to racially insensitive coming from the White House?
Should we work towards tolerance?
We hear the word “tolerance” quite a bit during MLK Day celebrations as well as during interfaith activities. I personally do not like to use this word.
We develop tolerance to something like Opioids or Benzos and alcohol.
Imagine if I came home one day and told my wife, ‘honey, I have been bad lately but from now on, I will have a lot of tolerance for you”.
I don’t know about you, but if I said that, I would be sleeping under the sky that night, probably hearing my wife say, ”how are you tolerating the cold night, honey?”
We do not “tolerate” diversity, we cherish it! We celebrate diversity, we do don’t “tolerate” it!