Thursday, November 11, 2010

Does Shee`ah Islaam Condone Racism?

Here is an article by brother Abu Abdullaah (from Shiachat):

This article is in response to an article made against some Shee’ah narrations. I will try to clear any misconceptions about these narrations through other narrations in our books, inshaa` Allaah. The word “Zanj” was translated by certain Sunnee people as “Negro”, but inshaa` Allaah I will show that this word can only be translated as “Zanj” and understood in its proper context.

There is a whole section in Wasaa’il al Shee’ah concerning this:

 بَابُ كَرَاهَةِ مُنَاكَحَةِ الزِّنْجِ وَ الْخَزَرِ وَ الْخُوزِ وَ السِّنْدِ وَ الْهِنْدِ وَ الْقَنْدِ وَ النَّبَطِ
“Chapter on the dislike of marrying the Zanj, and the Khazar, and the Khooz, and the Sind, and the Hind, and the Qand, and the NabaT”
Source: Wasaa’il al Shee’ah by Shaykh Hurr al-‘Aamilee, vol. 20, pg. 82, ch. 31

عَلِيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ هَارُونَ بْنِ مُسْلِمٍ عَنْ مَسْعَدَةَ بْنِ زِيَادٍ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ قَالَ أَمِيرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ع إِيَّاكُمْ وَ نِكَاحَ الزِّنْجِ فَإِنَّهُ خَلْقٌ مُشَوَّهٌ

“Beware of marrying the Zanj, for verily, it is a deformed creation.”

Al-Kaafee by Shaykh Kulaynee, vol. 5, pg. 352, h. 1;
Wasaa’il Al-Shee’ah by Shaykh Hurr al-‘Aamilee, vol. 20, pg. 82, h. 25088
Grading: SaHeeH by Al-Majlisee in Miraat al-‘Uqool, vol. 20, pg. 55

مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَعْقُوبَ عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ هَارُونَ بْنِ مُسْلِمٍ عَنْ مَسْعَدَةَ بْنِ صَدَقَةَ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ قَالَ أَمِيرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ع إِيَّاكُمْ وَ نِكَاحَ الزِّنْجِ فَإِنَّهُ خَلْقٌ مُشَوَّهٌ

”Beware of marrying the Zanj, for verily, it is a deformed creation.”

Al-Tahdheeb by Shaykh Al-Toosee, vol. 7, pg. 405, h. 29
Grading: SaHeeH

This hadeeth is SaHeeH because Haaroon bin Muslim is getting from the books of Mas’adah bin Ziyaad and Mas’adah bin Sadaqah, as stated by Sayyid al-Khu’ee in his Mu’jam al-Rijaal. Both are thiqah. So we have to go either with the benefit of the doubt and say it was from both of their books, or there was an error in writing the name. We believe it was an error in transcription. This is because Shaykh Hurr al-‘Aamilee puts this narration in his book under the same isnaad with Mas’adah bin Ziyaad. He says, “And the narration of Shaykh (Toosee) by his isnaad from Muhammad bin Ya’qoob (Kulaynee) likewise,” after mentioning the narration in Al-Kaafee, which is narrated by Mas’adah bin Ziyaad.

Taken from my personal copy of Wasaa’il Al-Shee’ah, vol. 12, pg. 54 - 55:

عِدَّةٌ مِنْ أَصْحَابِنَا عَنْ سَهْلِ بْنِ زِيَادٍ عَنْ مُوسَى بْنِ جَعْفَرٍ عَنْ عَمْرِو بْنِ سَعِيدٍ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ الْهَاشِمِيِّ عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ يُوسُفَ عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ دَاوُدَ الْحَدَّادِ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ لَا تُنَاكِحُوا الزِّنْجَ وَ الْخَزَرَ فَإِنَّ لَهُمْ أَرْحَاماً تَدُلُّ عَلَى غَيْرِ الْوَفَاءِ قَالَ وَ الْهِنْدُ وَ السِّنْدُ وَ الْقَنْدُ لَيْسَ فِيهِمْ نَجِيبٌ يَعْنِي الْقُنْدُهَارَ

“Do not marry the Zanj and the Khazar. Verily, for their wombs show upon other than obedience. He (عليه السلام) said: “And the Hind, and the Sind, and the Qand are not in them highbred meaning Kandahar.” 

 Al-Kaafee by Shaykh Kulaynee, vol. 5, pg. 352, h. 3
Wasaa’il Al-Shee’ah by Shaykh Hurr al-‘Aamilee, vol. 20, pg. 82, h. 25089
Grading: Da’eef

This hadeeth is highly da’eef due to Sahl bin Ziyaad, Moosa bin Ja’far, Muhammad bin ‘Abd Allaah al-Haashimee, and ‘Alee bin Daawood al-Haddaad. Sahl is weak and the other three are majhool. Since the second hadeeth is da’eef, we will focus on the SaHeeH narration, but use some of the terms in the second hadeeth as a help with the first hadeeth.

Breakdown of the word for “Zanj”:

Taken from my personal copy of William Lane’s Lexicon Dictionary, vol. 3, pg. 1256:

According to the Arabic-Lexicon Dictionary by William Lane, vol.3, pg. 1256:

“Zanj” refers to “a certain nation of blacks. The inhabitants of the country called by us “Zanguebar,” including the “Zingis” of Ptolemy, near the entrance of the Red Sea, and a large portion of inner Africa. Their country is beneath, and to the south of, the equinoctial line; and beyond them is [said to be] no habitation, or cultivation: [sometimes applied to negroes absolutely; for] some say that their country extends from the western parts of Africa nearly to Abyssinia, [comprehending the whole of Nigeria properly so called, or at least the whole of the countries of the Negroes know to the Arabs of the classical ages] and that part of it is on the Nile of Egypt.”

Now, when we dissect this “Zanj” definition we can either take it as all of Negros or as a specific group of people. Let us see how Imaam Zayn al-‘Aabideen (عليه السلام) uses it in SaHeefah al-Sajjaadiyyah, du’aa` #27:

اللَّهُمَّ وَ اعْمُمْ بِذَلِكَ أَعْدَاءَكَ فِي أَقْطَارِ الْبِلَادِ مِنَ الْهِنْدِ وَ الرُّومِ وَ التُّرْكِ وَ الْخَزَرِ وَ الْحَبَشِ وَ النُّوبَةِ وَ الزَّنْجِ وَ السَّقَالِبَةِ وَ الدَّيَالِمَةِ وَ سَائِرِ أُمَمِ الشِّرْكِ، الَّذِينَ تَخْفَى أَسْمَاؤُهُمْ وَ صِفَاتُهُمْ، وَ قَدْ أَحْصَيْتَهُمْ بِمَعْرِفَتِكَ، وَ أَشْرَفْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ بِقُدْرَتِكَ.

O Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى), include in this Thy enemies in the regions of the lands, the Indians, the Byzantines, the Turks, the Khazars, the Abyssinians, the Nubians, the Zanjis, the Slavs, the Daylamites, and the rest of the idol-worshipping nations, those whose names and attributes are concealed, but whom Thou countest in Thy cognizance and overseest through Thy power!”

As we see, that the Imaam (عليه السلام) doesn’t say EVERY Khazar and the Zanj. The Imaam (عليه السلام) says the enemies in the regions of the lands that are idol worshipping nations. It is not just the Zanj and Khazar, but many others, that the A’immah (عليه السلام) are focusing on. Nowadays, there are many Muslims in India, so we see that it would not make sense to say all of India. It would focus on the idol worshippers of India. Also, Imaam Muhammad bin ‘Alee Al-Jawaad’s (عليه السلام) mother was a slave-wife called Sabeekah, she was a Nubian. Shaykh Al-Toosee speaks about marrying the Nubian.

يكره نكاح جميع السّودان من الزّنج و غيرهم إلّا النّوبة خاصّة. و يكره التّزويج بالأكراد. و يكره تزويج المجنونة. و لا بأس بوطئها بملك اليمين، غير أنّه لا يطلب ولدها

It is disliked to marry the Sudanese from the Zanj and other than them except specifically, the Nubians. And it is disliked to marry the Kurds. And it is disliked to marry the crazy. And it is no problem to have sexual intercourse with whom your right hands possess. Still don’t demand a child from it.

Nihaayah by Shaykh Al-Toosee, pg. 464

انكحوا الأكفاء و انكحوا منهم و اختاروا لنطفكم و إياكم و نكاح الزنج فإنه خلق مشوه

”Marry qualified (people) and marry from them and choose for your sperm and beware of marrying the Zanj, for verily, it is a deformed creation.”

al-Ja’fariyaat, pg. 90

This hadeeth is also narrated in Sunnee books, but we will say that it is outright MawDoo’ according to their standards. Very similar hadeeth to the hadeeth we have above:

This is taken from my personal copy of Silsilah Ahaadeeth Al-Da’eefah wa Al-MawDoo’ah:

تخيروا لنطفكم، و انكحوا في الاكفاء ، و إياكم و الزنج فإنه خلق مشوه
“Choose for your sperm, and marry from qualified (people), and beware of marrying the zanj, for verily, it is a deformed creation.”

Silsilah Ahaadeeth Al-Da’eefah wa Al-MawDoo’ah by Shaykh Albaanee, vol. 2, pg. 159, h. 730
Graded: MawDoo’ (Fabricated)

There is also another narration which is very Da’eef that speaks about Soorah Maa`idah (5): Verse 14 and references these groups of people:

َ قَالَ لِي أَبُو عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع لَا تَشْتَرِ مِنَ السُّودَانِ أَحَداً فَإِنْ كَانَ لَا بُدَّ فَمِنَ النُّوبَةِ فَإِنَّهُمْ مِنَ الَّذِينَ قَالَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ وَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ قالُوا إِنَّا نَصارى‏ أَخَذْنا مِيثاقَهُمْ فَنَسُوا حَظًّا مِمَّا ذُكِّرُوا بِهِ (المائدة : 14 ) أَمَا إِنَّهُمْ سَيَذْكُرُونَ ذَلِكَ الْحَظَّ وَ سَيَخْرُجُ مَعَ الْقَائِمِ ع مِنَّا عِصَابَةٌ مِنْهُمْ وَ لَا تَنْكِحُوا مِنَ الْأَكْرَادِ أَحَداً فَإِنَّهُمْ جِنْسٌ مِنَ الْجِنِّ كُشِفَ عَنْهُمُ الْغِطَاءُ

Aboo ‘Abd Allaah (عليه السلام) said to me: “Do not buy one from Soodaan. Then if it was no escape then from Al-Nawbah. Then, verily they are from the people Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) said: “And with those who say, We are Christians, We made a covenant, but they neglected a portion of what they were reminded of…” (5:14). But verily they will remember that chance and exit with the Qaa’im (عليه السلام) from us a gang from them and do not marry one from the Kurds. Then verily they are a category from the jinn discover about them the covering.”

Source: Al-Kaafee by Shaykh Kulaynee, vol. 5, pg. 352, h. 2; 
             Wasaa’il Al-Shee’ah by Shaykh Hurr al-‘Aamilee, vol. 20, pg. 83, h. 25093;
             Tafseer Noor al-Thaqalayn by Al-Haweezee, vol. 1, pg. 601  

Now what does Shee’ah Islaam say about Racism?

‘ASabiyyah (Racism, Prejudice) in Islaam is 100% Haraam and is punishable by Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى):
مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عِيسَى عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ الْحَكَمِ عَنْ دَاوُدَ بْنِ النُّعْمَانِ عَنْ مَنْصُورِ بْنِ حَازِمٍ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ مَنْ تَعَصَّبَ أَوْ تُعُصِّبَ لَهُ فَقَدْ خَلَعَ رِبْقَةَ الْإِيمَانِ مِنْ عُنُقِهِ

“Whoever does prejudice or has prejudice done for him, then certainly, he removed a noose of belief from his neck.”

Source: Al-Kaafee by Shaykh Kulaynee, vol. 2, pg. 307, Chapter on “Prejudice”, h. 1
Grading: SaHeeH

عَلِيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنِ ابْنِ أَبِي عُمَيْرٍ عَنْ هِشَامِ بْنِ سَالِمٍ وَ دُرُسْتَ بْنِ أَبِي مَنْصُورٍ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص مَنْ تَعَصَّبَ أَوْ تُعُصِّبَ لَهُ فَقَدْ خَلَعَ رِبْقَ الْإِيمَانِ مِنْ عُنُقِهِ

“Whoever does prejudice or has prejudice done for him, then certainly, he removed a noose of belief from his neck.”

Source: Al-Kaafee by Shaykh Kulaynee, vol. 2, pg. 308, Chapter on “Prejudice”, h. 2
Grading: SaHeeH

عَلِيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنِ النَّوْفَلِيِّ عَنِ السَّكُونِيِّ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص مَنْ كَانَ فِي قَلْبِهِ حَبَّةٌ مِنْ خَرْدَلٍ مِنْ عَصَبِيَّةٍ بَعَثَهُ اللَّهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مَعَ أَعْرَابِ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ

“Whoever has in his heart a mustard seed of prejudice, Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) will raise him on the day of judgement with the Arabs of Jaahiliyyah (before the advent of Islaam).”

Source: Al-Kaafee by Shaykh Kulaynee, vol. 2, pg. 308, Chapter on “Prejudice”, h. 3
Grading: Muwaththaq

In conclusion, the A’immah (عليه السلام) are not going against a race or group of people just to be racist, but are making people disassociate from people of shirk. Also, these narrations show that there were specific groups in these areas that were against Islaam.


  1. Salamu Alaikom

    Very Comprehensive.
    Excellent Post.

    Thank you

    Wa salamu alaikom

  2. As-Salamu Aleikum

    Your post, though well written, has a few significant issues, and I would like you to address them.

    Firstly, you have translated "تَعَصَّبَ" as Racism, whereas it could also mean:
    1. intolerance
    2. fanaticism
    3. prejudice
    4. extremism
    5. narrow mindedness
    6. zeal

    In fact I had rarely heard that word be used in racism context, but that could just be me.

    It seems any of those other meanings would fit just as well, and the fact that you used racism may be a long stretch.

    So, 1) please indicate and show us why you chose to translate "عَصَبِيَّةٍ" to mean racism.

    Also, it seems your main point revolves around a supplication from Imam Zayn al-Aabideen (as), and you haven't even graded that supplication in terms of its authenticity.

    2) Is that the one and only clue that you have and can use to support your argument?
    If so, you need to
    a. show that it's authentic
    b. show other similar traditions (and not supplications)

    Your other support is that Imam Jawad's (As) mother was nubian. 3) This needs to be shown and supported if you are planning to use it to support your argument in this post.

    Your argument seems to have many holes and at this point, its status is weak and not convincing.

    What you could do to help is
    4) Clarify the term Zanj much more.
    5) Find a place in the tradition books, where it is not used in a derogatory way.

    This post is a good start, and the keyword is "start."
    It is by no means convincing.

    Please work some more on it to make it more convincing.

    As-salamu aleikum

  3. Wa 'Alaykumassalaam,

    Thank you for you comments, but I disagree.

    1) I said Prejudice/Racism by the word 'ASabiyyah towards the end of the article. But so that there isn't any confusion, I will change the 'racism' to 'prejudice' in the ahaadeeth, but keep the title as is. Racism is a subcategory of Prejudice. Also, some of the other ahaadeeth under this section in Al-Kaafee give an indication of racism. (e.g. story of ShayTaan and Aadam (AS))

    2) SaHeefah al-Sajjaadiyyah is one of the most authentic books of Du'aa` for Shee'ah Islaam.

    3) Shaykh al-Mufeed, vol. 2, pg. 273 speaks about the marriage with the Nubian, Sabeekah.

    4) The term 'Zanj' has already been clarified enough. The time period, in which these scholars lived, was the medieval time period. You have to know the word as is used in that time period. Here is another source you can use on top of the one I already gave you:

    It is referred to "both a certain portion of the coast of East Africa and its inhabitants"
    Source: F.R.C. Bagley et al., The Last Great Muslim Empires, (Brill: 1997), p.174

    5) You won't find a place where it isn't used in a derogatory way because at that time those people were not looked upon in a good light, by our A'immah (AS). As you can clearly see, time has changed and the whole Hind (India/Pakistan) wouldn't be included considering there are many Sayyids who live in India/Pakistan or are from there. Many ahaadeeth speak about marrying the Sayyid. Remember that back in the day Hind was all of Pakistan and India.

    Thank you again for your comment.

    Wa 'Alaykumassalaam,
    Aboo 'Abd Allaah

  4. The hadith that is graded sahih is in fact weak because it's mursal.

    عَلِيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ هَارُونَ بْنِ مُسْلِمٍ عَنْ مَسْعَدَةَ بْنِ زِيَادٍ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ قَالَ أَمِيرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ع إِيَّاكُمْ وَ نِكَاحَ الزِّنْجِ فَإِنَّهُ خَلْقٌ مُشَوَّهٌ

  5. Assalaamu `Alaykum,

    This Hadeeth is NOT mursal, not at all.

    Taken from Al-Khoei's Mu`jam Rijaal Al-Hadeeth, vol. 19, pg. 230, person # 13241 (under Haaroon bin Muslim):
    هذا و قد روى هارون بن مسلم، عن جملة من أصحاب الصادق ع، فقد تقدم روايته كتاب مسعدة بن زياد و مسعدة بن صدقة

    ^^According to this, Haaroon bin Muslim narrates a lot from the companions of Al-Saadiq (AS), and the reason he narrates directly from those companions is because "he narrates from the books of Mas`adah bin Ziyaad and Mas`adah bin Sadaqah, etc...".

    When you look at the chain it'll look mursal, but when you read the tareeq (path) that Haaroon bin Muslim gets a lot of his aHaadeeth from the books of the companions of Al-Saadiq. Since he is narrating his aHaadeeth DIRECTLY from the books, there doesn't need to be a wusta (middle) person between him and the specified companions.

    This hadeeth has a itiSal (connected) isnaad, and it isn't mursal. Al-Majlisi would've EASILY caught this and graded this mursal, but he too knew that Haaroon bin Muslim narrates directly from the 6th Imaam's (AS) companions books.

    Wa `Alaykum Assalaam

  6. I believe the wife of our 8th Imam (pbuh), and the mother of the 9th Imam (pbuh), was Nubian. I could be wrong. Can somebody verify this?

  7. Even if he narrated from a book directly then who said he got the authentic book . and as we know books were not printed at that time and only few copies were available so who gave the book of mis'adah to haroon ibn muslim?? can you prove that he got it from a trustworthy narrator ? so the tareeq to the book is not known and this is why the hadith is mursal. the only way you can prove it's not mursal is by providing authentic tareeq of haroon to mis'adah or providing the name of the person who provided haroon with the book.

    until then the hadith is mursal

  8. Assalaamu 'Alaykum,

    I understand what you are saying on the way from Haaroon to Mas'adah. I don't see Majlisee and Khu'ee going against it. My argument was never based on the isnaad, but based on the wording and how it was used and misconstrued without taking under consideration its proper context.

    I personally think this hadeeth is mursal as well. I am giving you the gradings of what Khu'ee and Majlisee have given. No Sunnee is going to take my point of view on isnaad. But they will take the point of view of Khu'ee and Majlisee. Their word is higher than mine in rijaal. So I have to refute the hadeeth's matn and show that there is a problem in thinking a certain way.

    But I totally agree with you in that there should be an isnaad for the book (tareeq) from Haaroon to Mas'adah or it would be majhool and then the hadeeth would be graded mursal.

    From what I can see, currently, I have no source where this issue is spoken about except Khu'ee Mu'jam. And it doesn't look as if he gives a chain.

    I will inshaa` Allaah give this to a scholar and ask him if he knows the way to Mas'adah. If he grades it da'eef as well and doesn't find anything (which I doubt there will be a chain), then this hadeeth is clearly da'eef (as is my current belief of the hadeeth's isnaad).

    Inshaa` Allaah I hope this helps in understanding my intention of making the article, but if I do get word from this scholar, then I will post his work on this article and make a version 2.0 of it.

    Wa 'Alaykumassalaam,
    Aboo 'Abd Allaah

  9. salam abu abdilleh

    well most of our scholars authenticate sanad where hasan ibn mahboob narrates from abu hamza thumali even though the early qommis used to mock this sanad because it's clearly mursal.

    as you said all we need now is proof that the tareeq of haroon ibn muslim to the book of mis'adah is sahih because lack of this proof will automatically mean that the hadith is mursal and thus weak.

    also ali ibn ibrahim doesn't narrate from haroon ibn muslim without wasita but this is minor problem as maybe he narrated it from his father from haroon as he did in other hadiths (but still this also is not proven and casts more doubt about the hadith! but as i said this is minor compared to the main issue)

    1. This is incorrect. Ibn Mahbub narrated from Abu Hamza. The early Qummis did not mock any chain.

  10. Bismillah,

    As Salaamu 'Alaykum,

    There is more to ahadeeth than grading them. It is highly likely and can be confirmed that a saheeh hadith can be a false hadith by its meaning. There is more to grading hadeeth as a basis to determine whether a tradition is sound or not. We are also allowed to use our intellect ('aql) as it is the best that we as human beings have.

    If you observe the first two hadeeth about the zanj, you will notice that the hadith is supposedly taken from Imam Al-Sadiq (as) from Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as). Does that not seem odd? The Zanj were known years later during the Abassids because they were taken as slaves from zanzibar. The traditions clearly claim that they are a deformed creation. The content of both these hadith are problematic let alone the chain which can be considered mursal because of the books that the narrator mas'adah supposedly is reporting from. This brings us to the point that hadith sanad is not enough, and the scholars of hadith know this. Finally, Shaikh Al Albanee was one of the best muhaditheen of the 20th century, and here he has the same narration but a different chain, and he considered it fabricated. Read about the history of the Zanj, an oppressed black people from East Africa during the rulership of the Abbasids. Tabari's tareekh has a chapter just on them.

    In my opinion, the reports listed above were created to show prejudice against the zanj, and our Aimmah (as) are far above to be connected to those narrations.

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