All praise be to God, the Lord of all the worlds, the Creator of the heavens and earth and all creatures living in them. May God grant peace and blessings to Prophet Muhammad s, God’s final Messenger, whose message brought mercy to all mankind. May He also give His blessings to all the prophets and messengers whom He sent to guide mankind out of darkness and into light.
Islamic culture, firmly rooted in equality and brotherhood, stands in the light of history as a way to Peace, both in this world, and in the world to come.
At the Osoul International Centre for Islamic Advocacy, every new release that we produce gives us a great opportunity to interact with our readers. All our releases have the same overall objective; to present Islam to mankind, as it truly is. We aim to make people aware of Islam’s fine aspects and profound teachings and to show clearly that it is the only faith that provides practical and effective solutions to all the problems faced by humanity. Islam gives clear and solid answers to all of the questions that have troubled people over many generations, such as: How did we come into existence and why do we exist? Where do we go from here? Furthermore, Islam is the only religion that requires its followers to love and respect all the prophets God sent, particularly Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them both).
We take great care to provide solid and rational proofs for our arguments, so as to give our readers the reassurance they need, and our releases also refute the accusations levelled against Islam and provide clarification to people’s misunderstandings of Islamic teachings.
By God’s grace, Islam is the fastest growing religion in our time, as confirmed by a study undertaken by the Pew Research Center (“The Future of the Global Muslim Population”, Pew Research Center, 27 January 2011), and our motive is to make this great divine faith known to all people.
This book, Bilal the Abyssinian: One Light, Many Colors, outlines the history of Bilal ibn Rabah, a former slave from Abyssinia, who became a companion of the Prophet. Islam elevated his status and the Prophet s gave him the happy news of being destined for heaven in the life to come.
Bilal was one of seven of the Prophet’s companions who publicly declared their acceptance of Islam at a time when Muslims were subjected to great persecution. He suffered a great deal of torture, inflicted on him by the Quraysh, yet he continued to declare “God is One; God is One”. At the Battle of Badr, the first major confrontation between the Muslims and their enemies, the Prophet adopted this slogan as the rallying cry and the battle ended with a great victory for the Muslims. During the battle, Bilal overpowered Umayyah ibn Khalaf, his former master, at whose hands he had suffered greatly.
The book explains in detail Islam’s attitude to racial discrimination, highlighting significant events that show that the Prophet took good care of many of those who were subjected to persecution, protected them and gave them their rightful status in the Muslim community. For example, Bilal was the first of the Prophet’s companions to call for prayers. We hope that readers will find this book useful in adding to their knowledge and understanding of Islam.
Basil ibn Abdullah al-Fawzan
Medieval Europe needed Muslims to kick start their science, art and culture, much as today they may need Islam to avert their rather advanced moral and spiritual decline.
Hypocrisy is alive and well in the West. How else does one explain the demonization of Islam, a culture of peace, piety and enlightenment, by cynics in the Occident? While many western societies found escape from tyranny through pitched warfare and violent revolution, they have been quick to decry the use of even vaguely similar remedies to liberate oppressed peoples throughout the world and have, in fact, supported the politics, policies and methods of criminally repressive regimes to their own selfish ends. The tragic irony is that Muslims have suffered exponentially at the hands of westerners, whose marauding 12th century ancestors found escape from the Dark Ages only through gifts bestowed on them by Muslim scholars, scientists, artisans and theologians. The genius of Muslim polymaths, from Al-Farabi to Ibn Sina, Al-Kindi to Ibn al-Haythem, and Ibn Rushd to Al-Ghazzali are precious drops of water in an ocean of Islamic scientists and philosophers whose ideas, quite literally, swept a stagnant, reactionary Europe into its much cherished Renaissance.
Keystone methods and modes of thought as well as institutions, libraries, hospitals, and universities flourished in Europe after being introduced by Muslims. As a result, Europeans incurred a cultural debt to Islam that they have been loath to repay. Instead, they have chosen instead to slant, distort, or ignore Islamic influences in their great revival rather than embracing this fundamental truth - medieval Europe needed Muslims to kick start their science, art and culture. And today, they may need Islam yet once again to avert their rather advanced moral and spiritual decline.
One of the hallmarks of western repression is the illusion that “race”, supposedly expressed as physical characteristics like skin color, eye shape, and hair, among other traits, confers superiority or inferiority on individuals. They believe that this renders them ripe for systematic, generational exploitation, sometimes even with the blessing of religious authorities. The Church has sadly sanctioned racism, validated the Crusades, and underwrote Columbus’s brutal genocide of native populations in the New World. It also provided the template for future conquests and for the scourge of imperialism. Christian missionaries, who gave dark people their Bibles in exchange for their lands, were both shock troops and spiritual tricksters who prepared native populations to accept lingering colonialism as salvation. Church chapels were integral to the slave castles that lined the Gulf of Guinea, so segregation and apartheid both enjoyed church support in America as well as South Africa. Secular Israel defiled Judaic tradition with deadly intent in the Holy Lands. In western hands, religion has often been a bludgeon supporting the murderous hypocrisy of racial supremacy and its destructive global reach.
Historically, the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have insisted on the indisputable Oneness of the Creator, of creation and of humankind. Yet, Islam is foremost among them in its historical demonstration of social and ethnic equality from the time of our Noble Prophet Muhammad s till very recently. While the ordering of societies along supposedly “racial” lines has sullied the very heart and soul of western cultures, the timeless message of Islam, articulated on the tongue and in the life of the Prophet s, brought the legislation of equality to the Muslim faithful. They in turn introduced it, through faith and practice, to the world. No better example of brotherly love’s transcendence over socio-ethnic differences exists than that of the virtuous Prophet of Islam’s long and fruitful relationship with an Abyssinian slave he chose as the first Muslim mu’adth-dthin, or caller to prayer, Bilal Ibn Rabah. It is to this storied bond between the Prophets and a most faithful Believer that our noted scholar and beloved teacher, Dr. Abdur-Rahman Al-Sheha, turns his attention to illuminate the braided strands of Muslim law and pristine Islamic practice. The result is a memorable narrative as bountiful in its assembly of Quranic and Traditional proofs of Islamic equality and tolerance, as it is in establishing the ascension and triumph of the African Bilal over incipient Arab racialism and bigotry.
Dr. Al-Sheha’s reverent examination of the life of the virtuous Bilal is buttressed by wholly engaging, scholarly commentaries on equality in Islam and the unity of humankind. His writing is made more attractive by the power of simplicity, as he deftly makes the liberating point, citing copious evidence from the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of our Honorable Prophet s, that piety, or its lack, confers either honor or dishonor on each of us. Expanding on this encompassing theme of equality, he firmly underscores both the necessity and the responsibility of equality under law(Shari’ah) which rewards and punishes in equal measure, sanctifies the life of the Muslim, and grants equal access to Allah ’s y bounties and rites of worship. These principles, so firmly rooted in Islamic culture, are bedrock to the faithful and provide a tangible framework for the poignant story of Bilal, the model of faith and forbearance. Bilal, the calm, the resolute; Bilal, the companion of the Holy Prophet; Bilal, the bane of Bani Jumah and Umayyah ibn Khalaf; Bilal, whom Dr. Al-Sheha reminds us, “honored not only Islam, but all of humanity”. And of whom ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, when speaking of Abu Bakr, would say, “Abu Bakr is our master and the emancipator of our master”. These sentiments, among countless others affirming and reaffirming them, conferring the title of “Master” on a former slave, cast the notion of equality - in living form - within the Muslim community. So that Islam, unlike other world religions, has not suffered the divisive contradiction of segregated worship, as is clearly witnessed daily in masajid, or mosques worldwide, where the ranks of prayerful believers assemble without regard to “race,” class, or caste. Or where the annual hajj, or pilgrimage to the Muslim holy sites, the largest annual pilgrimage in the world, is a viable, vital testimony to the strength and beauty of Muslim equality, unity, and faith.
With this outstanding treatment of the life and social significance of Bilal Ibn Rabah’s position within the Prophet’s contemporaries, even the most cynical of critics are quieted by Sheikh Al-Sheha’s spirited accounts of the devotion to inclusion exemplified by Muhammad s and his Companions. This is made even clearer yet as they established the first Islamic Republic based solely on the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet s, traditions which are firmly in place today and give lie, in the most basic and fundamental of ways, to crass charges of Muslims as “terrorists,” “Europhobic,” “misogynists,” and “tyrants”. On the contrary, Islamic culture, firmly rooted in equality and brotherhood, stands in the light of history as a way to Peace, both in this world, and in the world to come.
Truth is the enemy of hypocrisy. This latest work by Dr. Al-Sheha, in casting light on the exemplary, humble life of Bilal Ibn Rabah, honorable friend of the Prophet Muhammad s, lends itself to the continuing global dialogue to uphold the dynamic elements of the world’s fastest growing religion, and breathes life into the idea of piety as an achievable and modern way of life.
Professor Kamal Hassan Ali
Westfield State College December 30, 2009