The Official Website of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi Releases His Eminance's Views on Racism

The Official Website of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi Releases His Eminance's Views on Racism

From a religious perspective, the only criterion for the superiority of one person over another is the level of their faith in Allah and the amount of their good deeds based on that faith.‌

Exploring the Roots of Racism

Based on the Viewpoints of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi




The Nature of Racism

Racism and the Fight for Supremacy

Racism, the bitter Fruit of Arrogance, Bigotry, and Bellicosity

Racism wrapped in Nationalism

Aristocratic Intellect and Racism

The Role of Social Darwinism in the Emergence of Racism

Conclusion: Valuing Human Beings and Piety by rejecting the Concept of the Superior Race



A survey of human societies in the world of today reveals that problems such as racism and discrimination, which belonged to the pre-civilized human societies, still exist in this modern era of human civilizations. Though they were practiced differently in the old times, racism and discrimination are being practiced in other different forms in the world of today.[1]

The catastrophic consequences of racism have plagued the world and have deeply hurt the feeling of many human communities.[2]

It comes as no surprise, however, that this grim reality and moral vice of the human world has not been eradicated effectively. This is because as long as the roots and origins of this lingering crisis of the human world have not been properly explored, it will be impossible to effectively fight it.[3]

It is basically through the same kind of exploration that the roots of all the challenges of the modern world can be found and clarified for everyone.[4] The importance of this issue lies in the fact that, in order to properly tackle problems such as racism, one first needs to raise public awareness regarding them.

Moreover, the means which is necessary for getting at the roots of such global problems is an advanced array of human sciences. Therefore, the development of human sciences is a prerequisite to the exploration of the roots of racism and other challenges of the human world.[5]


The Nature of Racism

Racism is the belief in the superiority of one race over another which often results in discrimination and prejudice towards people based on race, ethnicity, or geography. In racism, skin color, ethnicity etc. form the basis of division between human beings while they should, in fact, focus on their human commonalities.[6]


This has brought many different peoples from different corners of the world to believe that they are the superior race. Unfortunately, the remnants of such beliefs continue to exist in some communities in the present, modern era.[7]

This problem, which stems from a spirit of domineering, arrogance, prejudice, and obstinacy, ultimately leads to the rising of racists to power in the world despite their lack of competence.[8]

Moreover, racism and other sorts of irrational prejudice veil man’s power of reason and hinder his sound judgment, preventing him from making the right decision.[9] Moreover, this unjust approach to human merits has allowed for unfair judging of human beings based on their race, ethnicity, and social class, while disregarding their human virtues and personal merits.[10]


Racism and the Fight for Supremacy

Moral vices such as self-importance, egocentrism, egotism, fighting for supremacy, and ostentation are all manifestations of racism.[11] Self-importance, on the one hand, makes one believe himself to be superior to all others and, on the other, egocentrism brings one to fight for supremacy in all social undertakings and endeavors.[12]

Moreover, a selfish person only thinks about himself in all aspects of his life; therefore, when a problem arises, such a person cares only for his own interests and does not have the slightest regard for other people’s interests.[13]

In final stage of racism, one will try to subjugate all other people, based on his domineering attitude, through more wealth, more power, or simply by calling his race the superior race![14]

Although the above-mentioned moral vices have different forms and manifestations, they have a common root, i.e. racism.[15] It is worth noting that selfishness and the hunger for supremacy and power prevent one from accepting logic and submitting to the truth. This is why a selfish person who seeks to gain dominance and power over others will finally fall into racism.

Given this view of racism, perhaps the first racist being was Satan himself; he was the first being who defied the command of Allah because of his racist feelings. When he was commanded by Allah to prostrate himself to man, he refused to do so as he considered his race, who was created from fire, superior to man’s race, as he was created from clay.

This comparison between the origin of his own material aspect with that of man brought him to conclude that, since fire was superior to clay in some aspects, he was superior to man in all aspects.

However, what he neglected was that fire and clay were only the material aspects of the two beings and their spiritual aspects and qualities were more important. Therefore, disregarding man’s spiritual superiority, and basing his judgment on his apparent physical superiority to man, he concluded that he was superior to man and he even disobeyed Allah’s command due to his racist feelings.[16]

Therefore, Satan’s arrogance and his disobedience to Allah’s command to prostrate himself before man created a veil between him and the truth, preventing him from grasping the true realities of the world. Moreover, as he was now unaware of many realities, he thought himself superior to man and said to Allah: “I am better than him, for You created me from fire and him You created from clay!”[17]

This rebellious streak in him together with his arrogance brought Satan to even question and defy Allah’s command, something that caused him to fall into disbelief and be cast out of heaven.[18]

This indicates that the root of racism is conceit and egotism which are realized in the form of bragging and boasting and gradually grow into bigger problems including extreme arrogance and fighting for domination and supremacy.[19]



Racism, the bitter Fruit of Arrogance, Bigotry, and Bellicosity   

Arrogance is defined as an extreme sense of self-importance, and bigotry as an irrational and inordinate adherence to someone or something and intolerance toward anyone who thinks differently.[20] 

Bigotry is the fruit of ignorance, narrow-mindedness, and conceit because a person who is self-conceited usually strives to show himself better or superior to others by elevating anyone and anything that is related to him. He will do this by overlooking the weak points of the people who are related to him and exaggerating their strong points, if they have any, so as to be able to boast about them.[21] 

A detailed investigation of the spiritual and physical effects of arrogance and bigotry on human beings, as well as their effects on man’s personal and social life reveals that none of the moral vices is more destructive for man’s life than arrogance and bigotry.[22]

Moreover, it is worth noting that when arrogance and bigotry become the common character qualities of a community, they will then merge into what is known as racism. This is because these negative character qualities lead the members of such communities to consider themselves, or more accurately their race, better than all others.[23]

Clearly then, such racist inclinations have been the origin of the majority of social disorders, wars, colonial occupations, and supremacy battles.[24] These adverse consequences of racist bigotry and arrogance have plagued the human world since the pagan eras up to the present modern era.[25]

All throughout history, some nations would consider themselves superior to other nations and races, due to these same false opinions and inclinations, thus they felt that they were entitled to enslave other nations whom they considered inferior! Such baseless feelings of superiority had even brought the most backward and barbaric Arab people of the pre-Islamic era to consider themselves the “superior race”![26]

The more recent examples of such racist supremacy were the false belief of the Nazi Germans that the German race was superior to all others. Similarly, the Zionists believed in the superiority of the Jews to all other people and the Apartheid system believed in the so-called white-supremacy.  

Each of these racist movements caused much suffering to humanity, some of which were responsible for terrible world and regional wars. Nonetheless, all of these movements had a common root: they were based on racial supremacy, bigotry, and arrogance.[27]

Racist powers have always sought to colonialize and extort other nations, as they considered themselves the “superior race”; therefore, they have started expansionist wars in order to occupy other nation’s countries and dominate them.[28]

According to the historical evidence regarding the pre-Islamic pagan Arabs, the Arab tribes had two major and bloody wars with one another before the advent of Islam. More recent consequences of racism are the two world wars which occurred in the twentieth century, leaving millions of people dead and tens of millions wounded, and caused massive destruction to a large number of countries in Europe and other parts of the world.

Today, the Israeli atrocities committed against the Palestinian people are another terrible example of racism. These atrocities are committed because of nothing but racial supremacy and religious bigotry which have led the Zionist to believe that they are the “chosen nation” and superior to all others.[29]


Racism wrapped in Nationalism

Indeed, all the people love their native land, race, and ethnicity. This must not be taken as a negative thing; the love for one’s native land and ethnicity can be a constructive factor which incentivizes one to collaborate in different social undertakings.

However, if this feeling is taken to an extreme it will turn into a destructive, and even disastrous factor which can endanger the whole of mankind.[30] This is because nationalism is strictly limited to the boundaries of a certain country and sometimes to a certain ethnic group. Naturally then, it is imbued with racist feelings and ideas as it is restricted to a certain geographical location and a certain ethnic group which inhabit that place.[31]

Radical nationalism can be considered one of the greatest mistakes of mankind and a sort of retrogression to the mindset and belief-system of uncivilized people of distant past[32]. In its extreme form, nationalism leads any given ethnic group or the followers of any given religion to work hard to empower themselves and to create its history based on its own set of beliefs in a certain geographical location.[33] Finally, when they turn into a nation, they try to separate themselves from the rest of the world by drawing up borders around themselves and protecting them with military power.[34]

One thing that should not be forgotten is that the obstinate and blind defense of one’s own ethnicity, race, and nationality has been the root of many wars. It has also been a factor for passing down superstition and wrong traditions from generation to generation under the name of tribal and ethnic traditions.[35]

Such irrational defense of one’s own ethnicity and nationality might bring one to try to justify the most terrible wrongdoings of the worst person in one’s own country while, at the same time, denouncing the good deeds of a good person who belongs to another nation and country. The same goes for the good and bad traditions and customs; from the viewpoint of an extremist nationalist, the negative customs and traditions of his nation might look justifiable while the positive traditions of other nations might be deemed reprehensible.[36]  

Under such conditions, racial prejudices will take the place of true humanism, leading to disputes and wars between nations, making them forget the fact that, before anything else, they must be united as human beings. Additionally, nationalist and racist inclinations constitute a major obstacle to the promotion of justice.[37] [38]

It is due to these negative inclinations that human governments have always had racist, ethnic prejudices, or were at least inclined toward their specific political party despite constantly making the false claims striving to promote human rights.

Such governments are, in effect, the guardians of the interests of a few powerful people. Toward this end, the western governments pursue certain policies which clearly aim at reviving the local nationalist and racist movements in order to break up different countries in order to dissolve and wipe out their culture.[39]

Undoubtedly, self-centeredness of some nations and their attempt to subjugate other nations whom they consider inferior disrupts the order of the human community and will destroy the amity between different nations, causing wars to break out between them.[40] [41]

An example of such wars is the WWI and WWII which were provoked partly because of the racist inclinations of the Nazi Germans.[42] It should be noted that when nationalism is taken to an extreme, it is capable of sparking even world wars.

In other words, extremism in supporting a certain ethnicity, language, or country is a divisive factor that can divide human societies and estrange human beings from one another. The Nazi Germans, who, in their self-conceit, thought the German race was the superior race, sparked the most terrible wars of the twentieth century, destroying all the economic and cultural achievements of many nations.[43]

The problem of racism still lingers in the human world while the key to the development of all nations is the embracing of all different ethnicities and classes of people in the community in order to benefit from their potentials. Such a society will undauntedly develop rapidly in every aspect, including economic, political, cultural, and even military.[44]  

From this point of view, all races and ethnicities must be viewed as equal and no ethnic group must be privileged over the others merely because of their race, just as all human beings, regardless of their ethnicity, are equal in the sight of Allah (swt).[45]

Perhaps the one thing that can keep nationalist feelings in check and bring them to reasonable and rational levels is religion. This is because religion is transnational in nature hence it considers all human beings equal, regardless of their skin color and ethnicity.[46]

Therefore, the religion is the single unifying factor in all societies which can eliminate borders and unite all human beings with different languages, races, and nationalities under a single banner.[47]


Aristocratic Intellect and Racism

The aristocratic intellect, i.e. the viewpoint of the well-off and the powerful, considers the middle class and anyone who has less wealth and power than them inferior.[48]

This perspective is utterly oblivious to the lofty virtues of individuals and takes only the amount of wealth, properties, appearance, and power as the criteria to assess the worth of a person.

From this perspective, righteousness, piety, and human virtues are taken for nothing and instead expensive houses, cars, and clothes are valued. This perspective has brought about a drastic change in the human community, separating the people from human virtues and leading them to the abyss of materialism.[49]

Today, the overbearing wealthy ridicule the underprivileged as lowly and contemptible people. They disrespect them only because they do not have much wealth or power, no matter what great ideas or ideals they might have in mind. Therefore, regardless of their value as capable human beings, the underprivileged are being treated contemptuously because of their lack of wealth and power.[50]

But this modern-day racism is not the only or the worst case of racism, practiced by the well-off against the underprivileged people. A quick glance at the era of slavery reveals that that dark era of humanity had emerged as a result of the same perspective which was supported by the wealthy and the powerful.[51]

This is because capitalism is a system designed for the wealthy to get wealthier and, in order for that to happen, some people need to be enslaved and exploited in order for the wealthy to get wealthier.[52]

Moreover, in order to enslave the minds of other nations, the western writers created myths indicating that the white people of the west are the superior race as they are more intelligent and powerful than other nations! This myth has been a product of the self-centered minds of the western writers, invented in order to enslave the minds of other nations.[53]

However, like any other unjust system, these economic and political systems which are constructed based on racism or class-related privileges will not last long. Today, people are rising up every now and then in different corners of the world against racial and class discrimination.

These uprisings can be considered a reaction by the people’s common sense against the aristocratic intellect of the wealthy and the powerful.[54] Another instance of such uprisings is the full-scale fight of the free-spirited people of the world against discrimination leveled upon the so called people of color by the racist white people.[55]

It is worth noting, long before the rise of Nazism and Fascism and long before Hitler began his quest to subjugate the whole world to the superior German race, killing millions of people in WWII, the American and British writers wrote of the superiority of certain classes over others, facilitating racism and other sorts of discrimination.[56]

It seems that the Nazi's only followed the lead of such skin color racism prevalent amongst intellectuals and thinkers of the time in the west. Therefore no wonder if Hitler said: “The blood of the black people stinks and the amalgamation of their blood with that of the fair-skinned Europeans will contaminate the pure European race!”

Many might think that these remarks belong to the past and are now obsolete; yet, a glance at the conditions in the US indicates that the same perspective still exists in the most advanced country of the world where the white look down on the colored people and the wealthy look down on the underprivileged.[57]

Racist inclinations are so powerful in the US that the racist white people even put a bounty on the head of one of the moderate leaders of the black Americans whose motto was “non-violent movement to promote the rights of the black people”.[58]

Similarly, many eastern tourists and students who visit Europe have experienced racist slurs having been thrown at them; these slurs are the products of liberalism used for people whom the liberals consider inferior to themselves.[59]

Meanwhile, it should be kept in mind that the reason why the western nations seek to make other nations believe that they are the superior race in intelligence and power is to suppress their common sense and their power of reason. This way, other nations would be dissuaded from making any attempts to develop and progress and will forever remain subjects to the more powerful western nations.

However, the claims as to the superiority of the European race have no basis in fact as there is not a single historical, logical, or scientific piece of evidence to support them.[60] 

Despite the claims of the west regarding human rights, the problem of racism still lingers in the most advanced western countries including the US. In the US for instance, the racist attitudes against the African-Americans is still a major problem; the African-Americans are still suffering from institutionalized racial discrimination in the American society, a problem which has worsened over time.[61]



The Role of Social Darwinism in the Emergence of Racism

During the late 19th century and early 20th century, social Darwinism paved the way for the development and growth of racist inclinations and imperial expansion in the world.

In a sense, social Darwinism can be considered the key factor in the emergence of fascism and imperialism. This is because, based on this theory, any sort of racism and imperialism is justifiable on the grounds that the superior races and ethnicities must be allowed to subjugate and eliminate the weaker ones in order to move the society toward perfection.[62]

Clearly, social Darwinism is in sharp contrast with moral principles and social justice because, based on this theory, all sorts of wars and bloodshed in the world can be justified based on the law of “the survival of the fittest”. From this perspective, all ethnic disputes and wars are considered natural and in accordance with the law of nature and evolution![63]

Social Darwinism is a theory which holds that war and conflict must constantly exist in the human world, because the lack of war means lassitude and degradation of the society. This, the proponents of this social theory claim, causes mankind to retrograde.

The proponents of social Darwinism claim that constant war and dispute, on the other hand, ensure that the powerful survive and the weak are wiped out, hence the law of the “survival of the fittest” is abided by.[64]

It is needless to say that the result of such a social theory would be racism, because every ethnicity would consider itself the fittest in order to ensure its survival. Therefore, they would strive for more power and wealth in order to subjugate other nations, and as they gain more power, they work toward destroying other, weaker nations as they consider it an inevitable law of nature![65]

According to social Darwinism, in the constant battle between different races, only the more powerful races which are also more familiar with the conditions of their surroundings and are equipped with more advanced means will survive. The natural result of this process will be the subjugation and the ultimate annihilation of the weaker races whose place is then occupied by the conquering races.

The conquering races will then pass their dominant genes down generation after generation of their offspring and, gradually, evolution of the races occurs.[66]

The fact of the matter is that the generalization of the law of the survival of the fittest and its application on mankind is only an imperial plot made by the capitalist sociologists in order to justify the sort of racism practiced by the imperial powers.

Therefore, this theory has been developed as a weapon for the imperialists in order to justify their heinous and inhuman acts of racism and discrimination as a natural law which is necessary for the development and growth of the human society. This way, they will have no problem justifying their terrible racist crimes as they have science on their side![67]



Conclusion: Valuing Human Beings and Piety by rejecting the Concept of the Superior Race

The belief in a “superior race” is closely related to the idea that there is a “chosen people” whose sinners will not face punishment except for a short time after which God’s eternal Paradise will be theirs for eternity! These fairy tales are only an indication of some people’s arrogance and self-importance.[68]

This pursuit of exclusive privileges by those who claim to be the superior race is by no means justifiable or logical. There is no difference between human beings regarding the reward and punishment they will receive in the hereafter for their good and bad deeds. That is to say, the people’s ethnicity plays no role, whatsoever, in determining their otherworldly reward and punishment; the only important factor in this regard is the people’s own deeds.[69]

Meanwhile, according to humanism, the human is the center of all things and is, hence, the creator of all values and his judgment is the criterion for distinguishing good from evil.[70]

Humanism has had such adverse effects on the entire human world that now avarice, extreme pleasure-seeking, struggling for supremacy, fighting for one’s selfish interests, and inordinate consumption have turned into norms while, on the other hand, piety, human virtues, moral values, and philanthropy are dismissed as meaningless concepts.[71] 

We are now faced with a tree whose roots are pleasure-seeking, whose trunk is the pursuit of selfish interests, and is watered with racial boasting and consumerism. Naturally, then, such a tree will not yield any fruit except racial and class discrimination and all sorts of social problems. Moreover, such a tree cannot be expected to yield justice, philanthropy, morality, and spirituality.[72]

In such a society slavery and racism takes on a new form; with regard to this issue, Henry Miller writes: “when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation we thought we had ended slavery, but what actually happened was that we created white slaves in addition to the black ones: all were slaves of the machine era.[73] [74]

Self-centeredness and racial prejudices brings some to accept their likes and reject others.[75] Based on the humanistic ideology, man is credited based on his blood, nationality, ethnicity, wealth, status, and properties.[76]

In contrast to humanism, religion fights all sorts of classification of human beings based on their skin color, ethnicity, and social class. Religion considers all human beings the servants of Allah and all regions the land of Allah; it, therefore, considers all human beings equal in the blessings they receive from their Lord.[77]

Given this fact, all of the myths which are created by the followers of certain religions, indicating that certain bloodlines or followers of certain religions are the “chosen people” are totally baseless.

The connection of the people with Allah, through His prophets, is only possible through unshakeable and true faith in Him and through following the prophet’s religions.[78]

Therefore, from a religious perspective, the only criterion for the superiority of one person over another is the level of their faith in Allah and the amount of their good deeds based on that faith. Obviously then, based on this perspective neither age, nor ethnicity, nor gender, nor social class are considered a criterion for the superiority of one person over another.[79]

The only factor that can make one person superior to another is, therefore, something that emits from his spirit and mind, i.e. piety, God-weariness, purity, righteousness, and other similar human virtues.[80]

Researched and edited by: the news editorial of the website of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi’s office.



[1] The Secret behind the Underdevelopment of the East, p. 44.

[2] Ibid.

[3] In Search of God, p. 144.

[4] The Message of the Quran, vol. 3. P. 77.

[5] Great Leaders, p. 157.

[6] Islam in a Glance, p. 80.

[7] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 22, p. 198.

[8] Ethics in the Quran, vol. 3, p. 20.

[9] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 15, p. 354.

[10] The Message of Imam Amir al-Mu’minīn (‘a), vol. 7, p. 105.

[11] Ethics in the Quran, vol. 2, p. 46.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid, vol. 3, p. 23.

[17] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 6, p. 103.

[18] Ibid, vol. 11, p. 399.

[19] Ibid.

[20] The Message of Imam Amir al-Mu’minīn (‘a), vol. 7, p. 398.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ethics in the Quran, vol. 2, p. 60.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 3, p. 414.

[25] The Message of Imam Amir al-Mu’minīn (‘a), vol. 7, p. 398.

[26] The Beams of Guidance: a Series of Ethical Discussions. P. 592.

[27] Ibid.

[28] A Selection of Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 2, p. 77.

[29] The Message of Imam Amir al-Mu’minīn (‘a), vol. 7, p. 399.

[30] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 15, p. 353.

[31] The Secret behind the Underdevelopment of the East, p. 190.

[32] Our Creed [Aṣl al-Shi‘a], p. 43.

[33] Islamic Ethics as Reflected in Nahj al-Balāghah [based on the Muttaqīn sermon], vol. 1, p. 278.

[34] How to Gain Knowledge of Allah, p. 89.

[35] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 15, p. 353.

[36] Ibid, p. 354.

[37] Al-Mā’idah, 8.

[38] The Aims of Imam al-Husayn’s uprising, p. 53.

[39] The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 1, p. 546.

[40] Islamic Ethics in Nahj al-Balāghah [based on the Muttaqīn sermon], vol. 1, p. 139.

[41] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 15, p. 353.

[42] Ethics in the Quran, vol. 2, p. 152.

[43] Ethics in the Nahj al-Balāghah [based on the Muttaqīn sermon], vol. 1, p. 140.

[44] The Secret behind the Underdevelopment of the East, p. 190.

[45] The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 1, p. 546.

[46] How to gain Knowledge of Allah, p. 89.

[47] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 2, p. 99.

[48] The term “Aristocratic” is used here to refer to the way the ordinary people are looked down on by the wealthy and the powerful [The Message of Imam Amir al-Mu’minīn (‘a), vol. 11, p. 20]. 

[49] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 21, p. 86.

[50] A Selection of Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 3, p. 382.

[51] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 9, p. 91.

[52] Guidelines of Islamic Economy, p. 39.

[53] The Secret behind the Underdevelopment of the East, p. 164.

[54] The Worldwide Government of Mahdi (‘a), p. 27.

[55] Ibid.

[56] The Secret behind the Underdevelopment of the East, p. 164.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid, p. 165

[59] Ibid.

[60] Ibid, p. 167.

[61] The Worldwide Government of Mahdi (‘a), p. 45.

[62] False Philosophers, p. 147.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 2, p. 248.

[65] False Philosophers, p. 147.

[66] Ibid, p. 136.

[67] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 2, p. 249.

[68] Ibid, vol. 1, p. 322.

[69] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 1, p. 322.

[70] The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 1, p. 550.

[71] Ibid, vol. 2, p. 57.

[72] Ibid.

[73] The Materialistic Civilization of Us the Westerners, p. 53.

[74] The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 57.

[75] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 1, p. 468.

[76] Ibid, vol. 22, p. 199.

[77] Islam in a Glance, p. 19.

[78] Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 2, p. 607.

[79] A Selection of Tafsīr-i Nemūneh, vol. 2, p. 598.

[80] Islam in a Glance, p. 20.