A man from Ahl as-Sawad [people in Southern Iraq with dark skin] clung on to Ja’far as-Sadiq and was upset. Upon being asked why, the man said that a Nabeti man [Nabetiyya being in modern day Lebanon] was constantly desiring to put him down.
Ja’far as-Sadiq replied, “The foundation/roots of man is his intellect, his pedigree is his deen, his honor is his taqwa, and people are equally from Adam.”
Taken from Siffah as-Safwah by ibn al-Jawzi, page 357.
Some lessons to be derived:
1) Racism and colorism are nothing new among Muslims. The man in the narration came from the approximate area in Iraq where Muslims rose up against the chauvinism of Bani Abbas; it’s called Thawrah az-Zanj (Negro revolution) in Islamic history books.
2) People of Lebanon were Arabized over centuries after Islam came to them. Nabeti was a language, culture and ethnic identity separate from Arabness. It took awhile for that to be amalgamated into Arabness.
3) It is important to show empathy and to affirm the worth of people who are constantly put down due to their ethnicity and/or skin color.