Status of the Arabs in Islam

- “O `Ata’! Do you know anything about the foremost `Ulema in the world?” – “Yes, Commander of the Believers.” – “Who is the Faqihh of Ahl al-Madina?” – “Nafi` the Mawla of Ibn `Umar [most likely a Persian according to al-Dhahabi].” – “Was he a Mawla or an Arab?” – “A Mawla.” – “Then who is the Faqih of Ahl Makka?” – “`Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah.” – “Was he a Mawla or an Arab?” – “No! A Mawla.” – “Then who is the Faqih of Ahl al-Yaman?” – “Tawus ibn Kaysan.” – “Was he a Mawla or an Arab?” – “No! A Mawla.” – “Then who is the Faqih of Ahl al-Yamama?” – “Yahya ibn Abi Kathir.” – “Was he a Mawla or an Arab?” – “No! A Mawla.” – “Then who is the Faqih of Ahl al-Sham?” – “Makhul.” – “Was he a Mawla or an Arab?” – “No! A Mawla.” – “Then who is the Faqih of Ahl al-Jazira?” – “Maymun ibn Mihran.” – “Was he a Mawla or an Arab?” – “No! A Mawla.” – “Then who is the Faqih of Ahl Khurasan?” – “Al-Dahhak ibn Muzahim.” – “Was he a Mawla or an Arab?” – “No! A Mawla.” – “Then who is the Faqih of Ahl al-Basra?” – “Al-Hasan and Ibn Sirin.” – “Were they Mawlas or Arabs?” – “No! Mawlas.” – “Then who is the Faqih of Ahl al-Kufa?” – “Ibrahim al-Nakha`i.” – “Was he a Mawla or an Arab?” – “An Arab!” Hearing which, Hisham said: – “Had you not said an Arab I think I would have expired on the spot.”

Mawla is one of the addad in Arabic- words referring also to their opposites – and can mean the slave-owner, as illustrated by `Ali’s word to the Ansar: “How can I be your Mawla [=owner] when you are all Arabs [= free men]?”. Narrated by Ahmad with a chain of sound narrators as per al-Haythami in Majma` al-Zawa’id (9:128-129 #14610).

In this sense, what al-Shafi`i meant by his fatwa was that it is disliked for a free woman to marry a slave because it is preferable for her to bring free men and women into the world, and Allah knows best.

Innallah hina khalaqani ja`alani min khayri khalqihi… ” “When Allah created me He made me the best choice of His creation, and when He created tribes He made me come from the best of tribes, and when He created souls He made me come from the best of souls, and when He created clans He made me come from the best of them.” Al-Tirmidhi and al-Bayhaqi.

The Prophet (saws) also emphasized, although his tribe and clan are the best and they are the Arabs, that being related to him, in fact, consists in obeying Allah, not in being the son of so-and-so among his relatives: “Inna Bani fulanin laysu li bi awliya, innama waliyyi Allah.” “The sons of So-and-so are not (necessarily) my relatives. Allah is my Patron, and (so are) the righteous believers.”  This is part of emphasizing the worth of non-Arabs. The Prophet (saws) similarly emphasized that Salman al-Farisi (r), a Persian, was related to him.

Another hadith reads: “Hubb al-`Arab min al-iman“, “The love of Arabs is from belief.” But this is forged (mawdu`) according to Abu Hatim, Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Dhahabi, and others.

The hadiths which emphasize that a non-Arab can achieve higher status than an Arab, are the two sayings related to Salman, although the first clearly applies to his particular person only: first, that he is of Ahl al-Bayt, second, that some Persians would reach knowledge even if it were at the Pleiades.  This is in reference to the words “Wa akharina minhum…” “And other than them (the Arabs)” in the verses “He it is Who hath sent among the unlettered ones a messenger of their own, to recite unto them His revelations and to make them grow, and to teach them the Scripture and Wisdom, though heretofore they were indeed in error manifest, Along with others of them who have not yet joined them” (62:2-3).

And Allah knows best.


Peace and Blessings upon the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions

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