MLK Day is not only to honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s life and his fight for social justice, but it is a stark reminder that his dream is still far from being fulfilled. Trevon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and the murders of hundreds of other Black Americans are painful reminders of that. His famous “I have a dream’ speech still resonates and still holds true.
The Day is also an opportunity for all of us- Blacks, non Blacks, Muslims, Christians, Jews and people belonging to no faith, for self-examination as individuals and as a community whether we are doing our part to fulfill Rev. Dr. King’s dream.
As a Muslim, I know Rev Dr. King’s message was completely in line with Islamic teachings on social justice, diversity, racism, love and equality for all, as we will see in some of the passages I am going to quote below.
Dr. King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech:
In his historic speech delivered from the steps of the Lincoln memorial in Washington DC on August 28, 1963, he urged all of us to end racism and fight for social justice. He wanted the color of one’s skin to be not a barrier to having equal rights.
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” in the Qur’an and Hadith
I don’t know if Rev King had ever read the Qur’an or studied the life of Prophet Muhammad, but I find a passage in the Qur’an with the same underlying message, though the words are not exactly the same.
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
In his famous last sermon at Hajj, Prophet Muhammad gave a long speech about what it takes to be a righteous person. He reminded us that whether we are black or white, we are the children from the same parents. What separates us are our piety and good deeds.
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- Prophet Muhammad
The color of our skin is actually a sign of God!
In a series of verses reminding us of many signs of God such as our creation from dust, rain fall, our restful sleeping and creation of mates and putting love between them, the following verse addresses our diversity and race directly.
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
Therefore the diversity of the color of our skin (and our languages) should not be a reason to discriminate but rather to celebrate as signs of God. If we discriminate against each other based on color of skin or languages we speak, we are really discriminating God’s creation and His creativity.
So how do we best pay tribute to the legacy of Rev Dr. King? As Muslim Americans, we should also ask ourselves whether we are truly follow the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an, when it comes to social justice and racism.
I would ask my Christian cousins, especially those belonging to the Republican party, the same question: are you really following the teachings of Rev King, or that of Jesus Christ in the matters of social justice and racism?
We should do a self-assessment when it comes to our own attitudes towards race- whether overt or subconscious, explicit or implicit.
My questions to my Muslims brothers and sisters are many: how many Blacks do we have as personal friends? 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? Why do we cringe when we see a Black family move into our neighborhood?
My questions to our Christian cousins are along the same line. When Jesus said ‘love thy neighbor’, did he put an asterisk over it?
In fact we should all ask ourselves the same questions whatever religion, race or national origin we belong to.
The change starts from within. We cannot expect the world around us to change if we do not change our own attitudes first.
Long live the memory of Rev Dr Martin Luther King. And may we see his dream get fulfilled in our life time. Ameen.
Pictures courtesy of Pixabay.com