Appendix 4: The Fabled “Farewell Sermon”
There is a myth that during this particular speech, MoM decried racism, as if he were using the occasion to make a clarion call for racial equality. This is complete farce. One of the mythical statements attributed to the “Seal of the Prophets” in Islamic apologetics is something along the lines of: “Arabs are not above non-Arabs, nor non-Arabs above Arabs; light-skinned people are not above dark-skinned people [“zanj”], nor dark-skinned people above light-skinned people. All are to be judged only according to their Faith and good deeds.” This is entirely made up.
According to ONLY ONE version of the sermon, there was an oblique reference to race; but only insofar as piety was to be extolled irrespective of whether a Muslim was Arab or not. This version was recounted in the “Kitab al-Hayawan” [“Book Of Animals”] by Abu Uthman Amr ibn Bahr al-Kinani of Basra (a.k.a. “Al-Jahiz”) in the 9th century. According to Al-Jahiz, at one point MoM said: “The noblest of you in god’s sight is the most god-fearing: Arab has no merit over non-Arab, other than being god-fearing.” In other words: Piety is pre-eminent among all considerations, even with respect to race.
Al-Jahiz was notable in that he wrote favorably about the Zanj—arguing that, contrary to popular belief, their dark skin was NOT a disfigurement. It is no surprise, then, that this particular point of contention crops up in HIS fanciful version of the sermon.
For more on the Farewell Sermon, see Appendix 4 of my essay: “Genesis Of A Holy Book”.