More Muslim than others?
difficult to see Arab racism creeping back into the psyche of contemporary "Islam"
February 10, 2005
An American college student who had just converted
to Islam, once came up to
me and asked: "Do you have to be an Arab to be a good Muslim?"
"Of course not." I replied. "Who told you that?"
"The people in the mosque give me that idea," She
"Well, knowing Arabic just gives you an advantage of being
closer to the original written sources. But that's all. There are
different schools of thought
in Islam. Some of them even believe you can pray in your own language." I
said. She seemed desperate to find her way. Obviously, I hadn't answered her
"Honestly, the Islam that's being practiced these days is kind of fucked
up," I bluntly added.
"Then what IS the true Islam?" she asked.
"Certainly not what you're seeing around today," was
my reply. I knew that she had hit an ugly and big obstacle that
Iranians had hit 1400 years ago.
How was I to help her? After all, the way Iranians solved the problem in
those days was by de-Arabizing Islam.
Iran accepted Islam, but it
changed it by making of it an international
religion and culture not wedded to Arab or bedouin customs and beliefs.
was Islam introduced to the Arabs, of all people? To save them
from their own Jahiliyah (ignorance). If it weren't for Islam,
God knows where
would have gone with slavery, burying their daughters alive, and racism.
Contrary to what many people think, conversion to Islam was discouraged,
if not actually forbidden for Iranians, in the days of early Islam. The
in fact, sought to restrict conversions to Islam only to Arabs. One tradition
even claims that he stopped the victorious Arabs from invading the Iranian
plateau after the battle of Jalula' because he did not wish to see Persians
The conquest of Persia and beyond was thus frankly
intended to raise new revenues, and the native population naturally
did not appreciate
Arab Muslims believed that Iranian converts should not clothe themselves
as Arabs, among many other forms discrimination that existed. And
I'm not even
to get into the brutal and inhumane massacres of Iranians by the Arab
forces that are well documented.
Arab racism was so apparent in the
days of Jahiliyah, that Mohammad himself is known to have said: "Oh
people! Know that Arabs are not superior to Iranians, and Blacks
superior to the Red-skinned, nor
is the opposite. The only scale is
your piety (Taqwa)."
But from the vast majority of traditions
recorded, it seems that Mohammad himself, Ali, and his progeny in
particular felt an affinity of sorts
As an example, an Arab woman once came up to Ali and protested: "Why
did you give the same amount that you gave me from the public pensions,
to an Iranian?" Ali
replied: "In the Quran, I did not find the progeny of Ishmael
(the Arabs) to be any higher than the Iranians."
even documents that speak of Mohammad conversing in Farsi in some
instances. This obviously did (and does) not go well with
thought very low
of Farsi. Mohammad reminded them: "Never recite the names
of Iranians with indignity." And he is famously known to
have said: "Tidings
to the progeny of Farrokh! For if faith and learning be tied to
the star of Sorayya, the Arab will not attain it, whereas the Iranian
Not long after, one day, while Ali was reciting a
sermon in the city of Kufah, Ash'as ebne Gheis, a commander in
the Arab army
These Iranians are excelling the Arabs right in front of your eyes,
and you are doing nothing about it!" He then roared: "I,
will show them who the Arabs are!"
Ali immediately retorted: "These
fat Arabs rest in soft beds while the Iranians work hard on the
hottest days to please God
with their efforts. And what do these
Arabs want from me? To ostracize the Iranians, and become an oppressor!
I swear by the God that splits the nucleus and creates Man, I heard
the prophet once
say: Just as you strike the Iranians with your swords in the name
of Islam, so will the Iranians one day strike you back the same
way, for Islam."
When the Iranian
city of Anbar fell to the forces of Mo'awiyeh, news reached Ali
that the city had been sacked and plundered spilling
blood. Ali gathered all the people of Kufah to the mosque, and
a fiery sermon.
After describing the massacre, he said: "If somebody, hearing
this news now faints and dies of grief, I fully approve of it!" 
It is from here that Ali is said to have had more sympathy for
Iranians while Omar highly resented
But perhaps the most touching of all these accounts is
the account of a princess, the eldest daughter of Yazdegerd III,
the armies of Omar, the second caliph of Islam.
When returning to
Madinah from their famous victorious battle against Persia, Omar's
army brought with them many prisoners. Many of them
Among the prisoners captured at Mada'en were members of the Persian
including the princess. People flocked in masses to see the captured
daughter of the fallen
mythical King of Persia.
Omar the caliph soon arrived and demanded
the daughter of the King of Persia to be shown to him. The soldiers
brought her to Omar.
her and reached out to lift her veil to see the woman. The princess
back and cried out in Farsi: "The face of Hormoz darkens from
Rooye Hormoz siyaah shod!")
Omar, thinking that the princess
had offended him, angrily shouted: "This
woman insults me!" and pulled his sword out to behead her.
Ali suddenly interrupted him and said: "You do not know her
language. She called on her ancestor, and did not insult you."
Omar then announced that he who
paid the most will have her as a slave. But Ali
again interrupted and said: "You do not have that right!" The
crowd fell silent under Ali's aura. Ali then asked the princess: "Do
you wish me to find you a husband?" The princess did not reply.
Trying to prevent the auction from taking place, Ali said: "Her
silence is a sign of approval." Facing Omar, Ali continued: "Why
don't we let HER choose a person from amongst this crowd as a husband,
and we will pay for her
dowry from the public treasury?" Omar agreed.
the crowd around her, the princess suddenly stopped and froze as
her eyes fell on a man amongst the crowd. "I
have seen this man in a dream before" she is known to have
said. Tracing her look, the entire crowd turned around and looked
at Hossein, son of Ali. Ali went up to Hossein and
said: "Oh Hossein! From this girl, the most noble of humans
shall be born."
Ali, then came up to the princess and asked: "What
is your name?" The
princess replied: "The daughter of Jahan-shah". Ali said: "and
so Shahr-banuyeh you will be called" ("the bride of the
To prevent the rest of the prisoners from being
sold as slaves in the auction, Ali then declared: "These Iranians
are respected and learned people... I, along with the Bani Hashem
decided to set them free." Omar replied: "Ali
today went forward and nullified my decision about the Iranians.
So be it."
And so during the next 300 years, the gradual
internationalization of Islam came to unfold. Henceforth, the origin
and home of an
much meaning, and the equation of Arab = Muslim was eventually
broken, and it was the Iranians who were primarily instrumental
Sadly, nowadays, there are increasing signs of the
Arab = Muslim equation re-appearing again, both by Arabs, and by
the post 9-11
view. But my point,
is that despite the claims of any Muslim you might run into these
days, it isn't
difficult to see Arab racism creeping back into the psyche of contemporary "Islam".
It seems, Jahiliyah never really died.
As for the poor American convert, she became so exposed
to the ugly side of people
proclaiming to represent "Islam", that after 6 months, she went back
to Christianity. Just as many Iranians have been trying to revert to their pre-Islamic
Persian roots and sever their ties from this mutated thing today
After all, we all know that when Mahdi finally re-appears, the faith
he will re-introduce, will sound unrecognizably alien to the followers of "Islam".
1. Tabari. Series I. p2778-9.
2. "Mohammedanische Studien" Goldziher. Vol 2 p138-9.
3. "Ansab al Ashraf" or "Fotooh al Buldan" by Baladhuri.
P417. More: Tabari. Series II p1207. More: "Tarikh e Sistan" p82.
More: "Tarikh e Qum" p254-6.
4. "Tafseer Ghartabi" Vol 9 p6161. Also mentioned in "Alghadeer" Vol
5. "Algharat" Vol 1 p70. Also "Tarikh e Yaghubi" Vol 2 p183.
Also "Bihar-ol-Anwar" Vol 41 p137.
6. "Masnad Ahmad" Vol 2 p390. Also "Sirehye Nabawiyeh Dahlan" Vol
2 p48. Also "Iranian dar Quran va revayat" by Sayyed Nureddin Abtahi.
7. "Rabi'ol Abrar Zemakhshari" Vol 1 p796.
8. "Sahih Al-Bukhari", "Sahih Tormodhi", and "Sahih
Moslem" as recounted by "Jame'ol Osul Jazri" Vol 10
9. "Tarikh Asbahan Abu Na'eem" Vol 1, p6.
10. "Safinat-ol Bihar" Vol 2p693. Also "Sharh Nahj-ul Balaghih
Ebn Abi-alhadid" Vol 19, p124.
11. "Nahj ol Balagheh". Sobhi Saleh. Sermon 27.
12. "Iranian dar Quran va revayat" by Sayyed Nureddin Abtahi. p75.
13. The following sources give similar descriptions of the same account
or parts of the same account: "Aldarajat ol Rafi'" p215.
Also: "Mo'jem ol Baladan" Vol 2 p196. Also: "Nahj
ol Balagheh" letter 45. Also: "Nahj ol Balagheh" Sobhi Saleh sermon
209. Also: "Nafs Al-Rahman" p139.
14. "Managhib ebne shahr ashub" Vol 4, p48.
15. "Islamic Iran and Central Asia". Richrd Frye. IX. p5.
.................... Spam?! Khalaas!