Precedence of Arabs and Quraysh vs. equality of all people
Fatwa No: 313588

  • Fatwa Date:15-2-2016 - Jumaadaa Al-Oula 7, 1437
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Question

Assalaamu alaykum. I heard a shaykh say that having the lineage of Quraysh give's one excellence over another, which I found conflicting with what I was always familiar with in Islam; that all humans are from Adam, may Allaah exalt his mention, and that Adam is from dust. Then I saw the same principles of equality on your website, but afterwards I saw another fatwa staying that the Arabs have precedence over non-Arabs. This confuses me because I know Islam to be the religion of truth and logic. How could an Arab be better than a non-Arab when the decision to be Arab or not does not lay in one's hands? It seems illogical and contradictory to the Quran (Surah Al-Hujurat) and the final sermon of the Prophet, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam; and how could Arabs have a higher ranking than non-Arabs when many of the worst of kuffar (disbelievers) were Arabs (Abu jahl, Abu Lahab)? According to my knowledge, one could only be superior to another only by piety. This causes me lot of confusion. May Allah reward you.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger. 

Firstly, we would like to commend your keenness to ask about the religious matters about which you are confused. This is a correct approach that each Muslim should adopt; Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {...So ask the people of the message if you do not know.} [Quran 16:43]

It is also the correct approach that the Muslim bases his beliefs on the divine revelation. He must believe in whatever is evidenced by the texts of the divine revelation (i.e. the Quran and Sunnah). In principle, the Muslim must submit to the decrees of Allaah whether he is aware of the wisdom behind them or not. Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {But no, by your Lord, they will not (truly) believe until they make you (O Muhammad) judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in (full, willing) submission.} [Quran 4:65]

He also says (what means): {It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allaah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should (thereafter) have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allaah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error.} [Quran 33:36]

If he becomes aware of the wisdom behind the divine decrees, then this is good; otherwise, he must submit to the Will of his Lord, question his own understanding and submissively entrust his affair unto Him.

It should be noted that some authentic religious texts stated the precedence of Arabs in general and Quraysh in particular, as you have read; therefore, it is incumbent on the Muslim to accept this and believe it because Allaah, The Exalted, informed us of it, and His speech is definitely true and cannot be questioned. You can refer to fatwa 89988 about the virtues of the Arabs and Quraysh.

There are certain points that should be highlighted in this regard:

Firstly, such precedence of the Arabs and Quraysh does not contradict the verse in Soorah Al-Hujuraat or the instructions in the Sunnah in the speech of the Prophet, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, during the Farewell Hajj. The reference to this came in a specific context, which is the boasting of one's descent or rank to declare himself superior to others and degrade them; so they were forbidden to do this. This is why the religious texts underlined that all people are created equal and that boasting of one's lineage and ancestors is one of the evil practices of the pre-Islamic era.

Secondly, the Arabs or Quraysh are not superior to non-Arab Muslims merely on account of their lineage; the disbelievers and transgressors from among the Arabs and people of Quraysh are also not superior to the Muslims, even if they are not Arab. The disbelievers are the worst living creatures, as indicated in the verse that reads (what means): {Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allaah are those who have disbelieved, and they will not (ever) believe.} [Quran 8:55]

Moreover, this is further emphasized by the fact that Abu Lahab ʻAbd Al-ʻUzza ibn ʻAbd Al-Muttalib was the uncle of the Prophet, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, and Allaah, The Exalted, revealed a whole chapter in the Quran informing that he is among the people of Hellfire. Being an Arab from Quraysh availed him nothing. The sole criterion by which people are regarded as superior to others in Islam is taqwa (fear of Allaah, piety); Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allaah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allaah is Knowing and Acquainted.} [Quran 49:13]

Thirdly, with great honor comes great responsibility; such an honor bestowed upon the Arabs comes with a set of responsibilities and obligations. If any of the Arab Muslims commits a misdeed, he may bear a graver sin compared to non-Arab Muslims because Allaah, the Exalted, revealed the Quran in their language, sent them an Arab Messenger from among themselves speaking their own language, and rendered their land the chosen place to send down revelation. Therefore, they have been educated beyond any possible excuse, more than non-Arabs; Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {And We did not send any messenger except (speaking) in the language of his people to state clearly for them, and Allaah sends astray (thereby) whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.} [Quran 14:4]

Dr. Naasir Al-ʻUmar compiled a book entitled Arabian Peninsula: "Honor and Responsibility" and underlined the following therein:

"With great honor comes great responsibilities. This is why Allaah, The Exalted, concluded the verse with the reference to reckoning and questioning. Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {And indeed, it is a remembrance for you and your people, and you (all) are going to be questioned.} [Quran 43:44] This means that people shall be questioned about this Quran and whether they acted upon it and implemented its teachings or not. Those who are able to understand the Quran the best must be the keenest to uphold its teachings and act upon them; the best among the early Muslim generations and those who follow their example did so ... Whoever shoulders the consequent responsibilities and obligations earns such an honor. On the contrary, whoever rejects the divine message and fails to shoulder the trust faces the consequences of failure to shoulder the required responsibilities and is subject to reproach and punishment..." [End or quote]

Fourthly, this precedence does not relieve them from answering for their own actions and shouldering the consequences of their evil deeds in the worldly life or the Hereafter. This is evidenced by two ahaadeeth:

Firstly, ʻAa'ishah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  her narrated that the Qurayshi people were quite concerned about the Makhzoomiyyah woman who had committed theft. They said, "Nobody can speak (in her favor) to the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, and nobody dares to do that except Usaamah, who is the favorite of the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam." When Usaamah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him spoke to the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, about that matter, he, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, said, "Do you intercede (with me) to violate one of the legal punishments of Allaah?" Then he, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, got up and addressed the people, saying, "O people! The nations before you went astray because if a noble person committed theft, they used to leave him, but if a weak person among them committed theft, they used to inflict the legal punishment on him. By Allaah, if Faatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, committed theft, Muhammad would cut off her hand.!" [Al-Bukhari]

Secondly, Abu Hurayrah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him reported:

"When this verse was revealed to him: 'Warn your nearest kinsmen,' the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, said, 'O people of Quraysh, save yourselves from the punishment of Allaah; I cannot avail you at all against Allaah. O sons of ʻAbd Al-Muttalib, I cannot avail you at all against Allaah; O ʻAbbaas ibn ʻAbd Al-Muttalib, I cannot avail you at all against Allaah; O Safiyyah, aunt of the Messenger of Allaah, I cannot avail you at all against Allaah; O Faatimah, daughter of Muhammad, ask me whatever you like, but I cannot avail you at all against Allaah.'” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Allaah knows best.

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