One thing that’s becoming more prominent to me since leaving Islām is just how Arabocentric it is. As a muslim I’d been made to believe Islām was a universalist religion that gave no priority to any cultural/ ethnic/ national background over any other, and that Allah chose Muhammad to be his final prophet for the world because he was just the right guy for the job. Even Muhammad himself was against petty shit like racism, nationalism, xenophobia, etc. In his final sermon he told the whole ummah (muslim community):
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over a white except by piety and good action.”
-Taken from Muhammad’s farewell sermon, full text here
Likewise, one criticism Muhammad’s detractors made was that Islām was a foreign religion that went against traditional Arab ways. Or so I was led to believe. Even if it were true that they believed that, it wasn’t necessarily what was actually happening. Islām has preserved a lot of the old Sabian rituals and gave them a Judeo-Christian justification.
Which brings up the question of what traditional Arab ways were…
However, since the beginning of Islām’s spread outside of Saudi borders, muslims (who were predominantly Arab) saw themselves as culturally/ racially superior. And many peoples who came within their sphere of influence were made to see them thus too. All in all, some nations/ ethnicities who’ve been muslim for a long time try to justify their links to the faith by what I call Illustrious “Arab” Ancestry™. Yes they make up their own family trees as they go along, claiming to be descendants of really famous figures in Islāmic history or somehow linked to Muhammad’s people.
In Morocco the curriculum teaches that the Imazighen (the main ethnic group of the country) are descended from a man called Mazigh who was from what’s now Saudi Arabia. The one who told me this, a Moroccan himself, confirmed that was complete bollocks. Honestly I already knew it was bollocks from my knowledge of ‘black’ history; the Imazighen are Berbers, and as far as I can tell Berbers had nothing directly to do with Arabs before the arrival of Islām in north Africa. Their language, Tamazight, is probably unintelligible to Arabs. Even if this Mazigh guy existed, if he lived in pre-Islāmic times chances are he had no blood relations with Arabs.
In Western Sahara (as well as parts of south Asia) there are a number of people claiming to be direct descendants of Muhammad. They call themselves Sayyids. Problem is, ANYONE can say they’re a Sayyid and they won’t be questioned, critiqued or doubted in any way.
Funny enough, from the Islāmic perspective being a descendant of Muhammad is nothing special. His “specialness” is not genetic but a result of his personality, actions and character. And devotion to Allah, needless to say. Every individual person is responsible for their own selves, and on the day of judgment no-one gets perks for having prophetic ancestry. Besides, according to the faith ALL humans are descendants of a prophet – Adam! So there’s no special status there! Obviously the fact that there’s no test of proof, or even requests for proof, from Sayyid claimants makes the claims untenable.
I recently found out that 1 group in west Africa accepted Islām seemingly without a fuss as soon as they heard of it: the Soninke. According to their oral tradition, their eponymous ancestor Dinga was from the “middle east”. As I’ve pointed out in other posts, “middle east” is a vague term whose geographical range isn’t fixed so where exactly was he from (assuming he existed)? I’ve also read he & his son may have come from Egypt, which isn’t impossible since some Wafrican groups have ancient Egyptian links (as pointed out in Cheikh Anta Diop’s analysis of Medu-Neter & his language Wolof). Furthermore, I do not claim expertise but the name Dinga sounds much more like an indigenous Wafrican name than any Afroasiatic/ “middle eastern” name I’m familiar with. So I strongly doubt this claim.
According to Wikipedia, not a single modern caste system in Africa can be shown to have existed before the arrival of Islām. That means Arab muslims (and the people they conquered/ interbred with) set up an ethnic pecking order to ensure the continuation of their domination. To be counted among the “winners”, some groups, especially in Africa and Asia, claimed Arabness, hence Illustrious “Arab” Ancestry™. Not too far removed from the ancient Greeks. According to Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World, when they were conquered by Romans they consoled themselves by claiming Romans were Greeks after all.
And just in case anyone makes the mistake of assuming this racism is only a misunderstanding of the true universal message of al-Islām, some ahadiyth (denounced as weak but still accepted anyway) claim that Arabic is the language of jannah, i.e. the denizens of paradise will speak Arabic. Also, the Qur’ān explicitly states that it was “revealed” in Arabic so Muhammad’s people would understand it (12:2) and remember it (44:58), as well as to ward off claims of the new religion’s foreignness (41:44).
You’ll notice I keep putting Arab in quote marks. That’s because, as I’ve also pointed out many times in previous posts, the definition of Arab has changed drastically over the centuries. Originally it referred to a specific ethnicity (who came to the Arabian peninsula from east Africa via Yemen and remained nomadic for quite a while after other people in the region became settled), now it’s used as synonymous with must’arab (any people who’ve been culturally assimilated, willingly & otherwise, into the post-Muhammadan Islāmic sphere of influence &/or who speak Arabic as a first language. Ethnic ties to aboriginal Arabs is no longer required). Even before Muhammad’s time a number of Arab tribes were extinct, becoming extinct &/or being replaced with semi-foreigners. Not to mention most people outside the Arabian peninsula, including muslims, don’t know the difference between Arab & must’arab and don’t understand how much people have changed & migrated throughout history.
On top of that it should be remembered that Arab culture (as well as pretty much all plough-using southwest Asian/ Afroasiatic cultures) was highly patriarchal, and any children an Arab man had were considered Arabs regardless of the mother’s background, hence the aforementioned semi-foreigners. Which likely means that if Arab women had children with foreign men, those children would be seen as whatever ethnicity the father was – NOT Arab. Not to mention all the women & children Arab muslims took as sex slaves during the foundation of the Islāmic empire, from east Africa, southern Europe, western Europe, other parts of Asia, everywhere they went (though they gained a specific fascination with Turks, who were definitively ‘white’ by then). For that reason, claiming Illustrious “Arab” Ancestry™ is misleading because most modern “Arabs” (& must’arabs) are very deeply mixed-race and in denial about it, thus have largely incorrect assumptions about what those Illustrious Ancestors™ were like. Especially in appearance.
Don’t think this refers to all muslim-majority countries though. Persians (Iranians) never claim to be Arab. And back in the early years of Islām it would’ve been much harder to mistake them for each other (Arabs were still more or less ‘black’, only just becoming settled & literate, while Persians were ‘white’ and already settled & literate). Likewise Somalis don’t claim to be Arab (unless they’re unusually light-skinned in my experience) EVEN THOUGH THEY PROBABLY HAVE THE MOST RIGHT TO OUT OF ALMOST ANY MUSLIM POPULATION TODAY. To cross the Red Sea for Yemen, the aboriginal Arabs would’ve had to come from the horn of Africa, and to this day Yemenis & Somalis constantly cross each other’s borders. But Arabic has more in common with other east African languages like Amharic & Ge’ez (spoken in Ethiopia) than the Somali language, so the first Arabs likely came from further inland in east Africa. Even so, on top of being the ancestors of the ancient Egyptians & Berbers, Somalis (or proto-Somalis?) have potential legit claims to being the ancestors of the first Arabs.
Yet other people, most of whose ancestors were forced to convert to the new religion on threat of death, claim them with more fervour and more fanfare. If those kind of Arabocentric muslims were more clued up about history, they’d realise they’re basically saying, “I’m proud of the guys who raped my ancestors and I want to be as much like them as possible.”
What a world we live in.
And I’m not the only one who’s noticed. Check out Apostate Prophet’s video: