The Final Sermon: True Rank

The words of our beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) are full of rich lessons. Among them is his address during the farewell Hajj. This is the tenth in a series of articles on The Prophet’s Last Sermon, Lessons for Humanity.

“The noblest of you in Allah’s sight is the most godfearing. Arab has no merit over non-Arab other than godfearingness. Have I given the message? O Allah, be my witness. – At this, they said yes.”

The rank and honor that matters is the ultimate standard, which is mindfulness (taqwa). This is of course also mentioned in Sura al-Hujurat. 

We also see there is no place whatsoever for racism. Rather, uphold the Adamic quality of humility.

Two Types of Identity

The scholars tell us very insightfully that there are two types of identity. There is a negative identity, where your sense of who you are is used to say, “We are better than them,” and to look down on others. That is from the misgivings of Satan. 

But, there is a good sense of identity and it has three key elements. A good sense of identity is when you recognize your family background, ethnic background, racial background, and linguistic background as a gift from Allah. 

It is Allah out of his wisdom and mercy who has placed you in the family He has placed you, in the community He has placed you, in the society He has placed you, in the ethnic background He has placed you, in the linguistic background that He has placed you. 

If you have multiple backgrounds, all of those are from Allah’s wisdom and His mercy. Have gratitude for those things. Appreciate the blessings and opportunities for good in it. Be thankful to Allah. 

Recognize Virtue

It is an embarrassment for a believer not to know about their background. Who is your father and who is your grandfather? We are believers. Every family of believers, if you go back some generations, you will find in it righteous people, learned people, and good people. Even if your family converted at some time, who made the act of conversion? 

If they do not have faith, maybe they have virtue, you recognize those virtues. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) recognized the virtues of many of the people of ignorance (Jahiliyya). Have gratitude for those and try to uphold those good qualities. See the opportunities for good in the background that you are in.

In recognizing your identity, you see your self-identification as a means of good relations with others. 

وَجَعَلْنَـٰكُمْ شُعُوبًۭا وَقَبَآئِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوٓا۟ ۚ

“And but made you peoples and major tribes to know and appreciate your own kindred ties with each other” [Quran, 49:13; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

Appreciate the good of others. Some of the early Muslims said, “Love of one’s homeland is from faith.” This is not from the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). They say that this is referring to the ultimate homeland, which is the hereafter. Your homeland is paradise. 

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) loved Makka.

Value your Identities

Identity is recognized, even in battle, in how the Muslim armies were arranged at Badr and Uhud, the army was divided into two halves, the Muhajirin and the Ansar, the Makkans and the Madinans.  

Furthermore, they were broken down then into their clans, because they knew each other. The Makkans were broken down into their clans, and the Madinans were broken down into the Aws and the Khazraj, but they all fought together, and they all supported one another.

That is how we are supposed to be concerning our multiple identities.