Today we find many Orientalist/missionaries attempting to link Islam with racism by saying that language from passages of the Quran are racist when in fact they take something that is clearly allegorical and impose a reading upon it that is undeniably subjective and informed by their 21st century prejudice and biased motives. 

Their choices are also always selective and never wholistic seeing the undeniable positive associations in other places. I want to demonstrate, however in a small way how this is extremely faulty and the deeper truth is that His Word is the most balanced and far away from any such charges.

Let us take the verse which states that “On a day when some faces will be whitened and some faces will be blackened: As for those whose faces will be blackened (it will be said to them) ‘Did you disbelieve after you believed, so taste then the torment of that with which you disbelieved. As for those whose faces will be whitened then they will be in the Rahma of Allah: they will be therein forever'”  (3:106-07). Some take this verse as some how promoting whites over blacks when in fact what actually is being relayed as is clear from the verses is that this is allegorical. 

Zamakhshari, in his Al-Kashaaf states that, “Whiteness is in reference to Nur (light), and blackness to darkness, so whomsoever was from the Companions of Light and Truth they are branded with the color of whiteness and shining and radiance, and their pages will be whitened and they will illuminate, and their light will be striving from between their hands and on their right side.”  So here this is not in reference to any race or ethnicity as claimed by some but rather is highlighting that those who were truthful and accepted guidance will be radiating with light, shining.

On the other hand the rejecters of truth and faith will be in a darkened state.  “And whomsoever was from the Companions of Darkness and Falsehood are branded with the color of blackness and gloominess and sadness, and their pages would be blackened and darkened, and they would be encompassed in darkness from every side.”

Furthermore the verse goes on to explain that the ones in utter darkness are those who disbelieved after belief.  Zamakhshari states that, “What is apparent from this is that it is referring to the People of the book, and their denial after belief by belying the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) after they came to know him and acknowledge him before he came (i.e. in their scriptures). And on the authority of ‘Ata: Whitening the faces refers to the Muhajiruun (the ones who immigrated with the Prophet from Mekkah) and the Ansaar (those who helped immigrants in Medina) and the blackening of the faces is in reference to the tribes of Bani Quraydha and Nadhir (Jewish tribes who sided with the Polytheists and broke their treaty). And it is said that they are the Murtadoon (renegades from Islam). And it is said that they are Ahl bida’ and hawa, People of Innovation and Desires. And on the authority of Abi Umamah, ‘They are the Khawarij.’ And when he saw them hanging on the entrance of Damascus his eyes teared up and he commented, ‘Dogs of the Fire!, the worst killed under the cover of the sky. The best of the killed ones under the sky are the ones they killed. Abu Ghalib said to him, ‘Is this something from your own opinion or something you heard from the Messenger of Allah(pbuh). He said, ‘No, but I heard it from the Messenger of Allah many times.’ And so he said, ‘What is it with you then that makes your eyes teary?’ He said ‘It is Compassion for them. They were from the People of Islam and then they rejected Islam and then he recited the (above) verse and then he said Verily on Your earth there are a lot of them and I seek protection with You Allah from them.”

To further the point let us look at 20:102. In which Allah says, “On the day that the trumpet will be blown, we will gather the wrongdoers with blue eyes.”  On the face of it, it seems that this verse is saying that all those with blue eyes will be gathered up and they are called wrong doers. Is this some negative attribute for all times for people with blue eyes?  Or a negative association? No again it is allegorical though interestingly enough it seems there was an opinion that associated it with the Romans. Zamakhsari states, “It has been said that there are two opinions regarding “AlZurq” (blue). One of the two is that verily blueness is the most hated thing from the colors of the eyes amongst the Arabs because the Romans are enemies and they have blue eyes, and for that reason they say in regards to the attributes of an enemy: ‘Black Liver(soul is dark), extremely red mustache/hair, extremely blue eyes.’ And the second saying is that it is related to the disease of the eyes because verily when the pupil loses its light of its sight it becomes blue (cataracts).”  This last opinion is the agreed upon opinion and makes sense in light of the verses, basically stating that on the day of judgment these wrongdoers will be raised up blind, just as they were blind to the truth in this world. 

So we see clearly that there are verses in the Quran that are allegorical and metaphors that try to explain something deeper. Issues of faith versus disbelief, of a state of goodness versus darkness and wrongdoing.  Furthermore it provides a vivid picture of such things and if we see contextually provides us with knowledge that we can comprehend.  We already know the positive connotations of blackness in Islam such as the black stone, the black cloth covering the ka’ba, the beauty of black hair (hadith of Jibril), black seed, black turban of the Prophet, black standard of the Prophet, black clay with which Adam was made and we can go on and on. Sherman Jackson relays some interesting facts about this in an article of his entitled, “Islam and the Black American: Black Orientalists” or the article by Zaid Shakir “Islam, the Prophet, and Blackness.”

Islam is a universal faith and if we let a Quranic/Sunnic understanding and pedagogy guide our psychology it will free us from racism, ethnocentrism and other man made ideologies that mentally put us in bondage. In the end as the Quran says it is about your deeds and your piety, “Verily the most noble amongst you with Allah are those who are most God conscious!”