A Shade Less – Not fair and lovely

I remember when my second daughter was born with darker skin color than the rest of the family and I was made to feel as a mother that she was somehow less than my other daughter, less lucky, less beautiful, less.

As if she didn’t deserve to wear certain colors, and I shouldn’t rejoice in her adorableness, just because Allah had chosen for her skin color to be a shade between chocolate and caramel, instead of vanilla.

I am not ashamed of loving her a wee bit extra, she reminds me of myself. Earthy.

I have always emphasized inner beauty, and never thought I would have to teach a daughter of mine the ‘value’ of outer beauty but I have to with her. I have to remind her that dark skin is beautiful, just as lovely to behold as light skin. This is how Allah the Mussawir chose to color her.

I don’t want her to ever feel like she has to hold back and not follow her dreams because she is made to feel less.

She is a beautiful little girl, effervescent, funny and filled with love, with a propinquity towards the dramatic. Its only on days that she is made to feel less that she visibly withers. On days when a new family will meet us and say in front of her “My! Your other three look alike and she is so …. different”.

After I posted this on my Facebook page, I received many messages of people sharing their own stories, but the most depressing one was from a young sister who was told repeatedly by her own mother that she would never get married because of the color of her skin. Having to be consistently rejected by potential suitors, because ‘rang kam hai’ (trans: her color is less). That term doesn’t even make sense to me shouldn’t it be your color is more, but I digress.

I have a friend who is a make up artist. She recently had a client with dark skin walk out on her without paying because she didn’t make her light enough for her wedding day. I felt sorry for the client- imagine being raised with such self loathing that you can’t bear your own skin color. That on the biggest day of your life, the day of your wedding, you want to be painted several shades lighter to feel worthy enough to be your husband’s bride.

The micro-aggressions pile up. “If she is dark, she is dark, it’s not like I am lying,” said a relative when I asked her not to harp on my daughter’s skin color.

“Micheal Jackson,” teased a cousin as she tans easily in the summer and loses it in the winter. My issue wasn’t with her being called dark, but with the comparisons, the anti-Black innuendos, and the constant reminders of her skin color so much so that I would see her comparing her arms with her brothers, with her sister.  It became a topic in my house, in my house.

The negative effects of skin color bias were leading to self-hate.

Home remedies were suggested the day she was born. You would think that we live in the West where the typical social advantages of light skin would be a non issue but no, it is just as much a problem here.  I have had young women I know giving up on marrying anyone from their own ethnicity and have turned to non-South Asian men who appreciate their skin color. A stunning sister I know, sick of being rejected, is dating a person of another faith who thinks she is God’s gift to him.

The colorism has become a part of the language. In Urdu and Hindi, the words for light skin are saaf rang meaning clean/pure whereas dark skin to referred to as maylawhich translates into dirty. Light skin is so valued that it is the first ‘quality’ sought in a woman. Who set this standard?

Remnants of the Raj…

“Kali ho jao gi” You will turn black, like it is a something bad, is something every South Asian women hears. I am sure there are other communities who deal with the exact same issue. Don’t go out in the sun, you will get dark.

I just attended a mental health forum where the counselor said that not enough sun exposure can cause depression. She urged everyone to sit outside for a good twenty minutes every day, especially if you have dark skin.

Imagine that.


My daughter and I, we often read the Shamail Muhammadiyah together.

Regarding the Prophet Muhammad , Al-Tirmidhi, in his Jami’ al-Sahih (VI:69 no. 1754), reports on the authority of  Anas b. Malik :

The Messenger of Allah was of medium stature, neither tall nor short, [with] a beautiful, brown-complexioned body (hasan al-jism asmar al-lawn). His hair was neither curly nor completely straight and when he walked he leant forward.

There are many other narrations of RasulAllah’s  being abyad[1]. There is also much discussion on the meaning of asmar and abyad in Arabic [2] and on the color of the Prophet’s  blessed skin, but all I know is that reading this puts a smile on her face.


1. Humayd said, he heard Anas  saying:
“And he was white (abyad), his whiteness leaning to be tan (bayaduhu ilas-sumrah).” (Dala’il al-Nubuwah 1/204)

2.Imam Shāms al-Dīn Abū `Abd Allāh al-Dhahabī (d. 1348), in his Siyar a’lām al-nubalā’

إِنَّ العَرَبَ إِذَا قَالَتْ: فُلاَنٌ أَبْيَضُ، فَإِنَّهُمْ يُرِيْدُوْنَ الحِنْطِيَّ اللَّوْنِ بِحِلْيَةٍ سَوْدَاءَ، فَإِنْ كَانَ فِي لَوْنِ أَهْلِ الهِنْدِ، قَالُوا: أَسْمَرُ، وَآدَمُ، وَإِنْ كَانَ فِي سَوَادِ التِّكْرُوْرِ، قَالُوا: أَسْوَدُ وَكَذَا كُلُّ مَنْ غَلَبَ عَلَيْهِ السَّوَادُ، قَالُوا: أَسْوَدُ أَوْ شَدِيْدُ الأُدْمَةِ

“When Arabs say; So and so is ‘abyad’, they mean a wheatish complexion with slight darkness (hintiy al-lawn bi-hilyatin sawda). And if it is the complexion the People of India they say, ‘asmar’ and ‘adam’. And if it is of Toucouleur Negroes (sawad al-Takrur) they say ‘aswad’ and likewise everyone whose complexion is overwhelmingly black; they call, ‘aswad’ or ‘shadid-ul-udmah’.” (Siyar ‘Alam al-Nubula 1/39 & 3/448, Darul Hadith, Cairo 2006)

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Source article: http://muslimmatters.org/2014/05/07/shade-less-not-fair-lovely/


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4 Responses

  1. Nur says:

    As a convert I can tell you most Muslims are prejudice and racist not limited bro but including black ones and ignorant the children and the families need to cut off umbilical cords and get over themselves and their own racism cards and egos and materialism and stop treating marriage like the be all and end all and let thier children marry whom they choose who are mostly grown adults that could have many children get married to Muslims regardless of cast or tribe or wealth and stop this foolish behaviour I’ve witnessed and come across. Most Muslims are content commiting haram but the minuite it’s time for a Nikah for guys or girls it’s like a whole different story we need to shift our narrow minded mentalities if people are to marry and ultimately learn to put other people before our own Walt Disney reality we’ve been fed with, it’s very pathetic but the situation of marriage with so many thinking they are all that especially women, but also guys but really they have little to offer and we know put their priorities in everything but marriage or deen and have a warped view of both the afformentioned in my observations and then have the audacity some families and girls to Judge a convert that has become Muslim of theirs own accord and to slate them as they may feel they aren’t Muslim enough or as religious enough those Muslims should be ashamed of attaching themselves to that label of bieng a Muslim because that’s all it is the funny thing is most people that judge this way are just going by thier own version of faith and rose tinted glasses whether it be racism colour wealth cast hieght or lack of and frankly we all have preferences but how did Muslims, Arabs, Black & Pakistani South Asian mentalities become so muddied and polluted with these ideals which have no place in our faith and ethical historic narrative of examplified bieng the Prophet?

  2. But these days this is true, the lighter you are the better!? Don’t worry I’m not light skinned, my whole family is I ended up being darker skinned and in life I know because of my skin colour it has made a massive impact on my life, my confidence and people in my life.my brother Is one year younger than me I he is fair skinned we near enough look the same but I’m always the one who is “black” I would go to my brothers work and when introduced its “you look the same but he’s black” general banter but it’s a mild way of doing it, the girls are more attracted to my brother and everywhere I go it’s about my skin colour, I’d go to friends house and their parents would refer to me if they haven’t seen me in a while “where’s your Khala(dark) friend, it’s the worst thing, everyone says embrace it but their not the ones who to deal with it, it’s like having crooked teeth it someone would turn around and say at least you got teeth but it’s still it the bit where it’s unattractive, they try to take the bad out of it with a silly positive, dark skinned people in Asian backgrounds always get put down,I’m quite clued on I know what’s going on I’m really self conscious and that’s because of people and their judgment,I heard it all, I’ve had the phrase er no he’s too dark, so I know colour of your skin plays a major role in life from family to friends to work, the darker you are the less fortunate, this is coming from a darker skinned persons experience of life.by all this I’m unhappy with my colour and feel the need to look for lightening creams, I go through phases where I get dissapointed and would try anything to be lighter. A little while ago I joined an app to find a spouse, a normal picture with no filters just me my true colour, I got turned down 90% of the time, ended up deleting it, a week later got it back and stumbled across filters and got the same picture lightened the tones so I look fairer and the same people who rejected me when I was a darker complexion liked my profile pic and and wanted to know more. This proved 100% skin colour is important, fairer you are the better you are

  3. Abdel salam says:

    The sad reality of Muslims today. Culture over religion, no amount of verses or Hadith can take racism out of Muslims. Their taqwa stops when it comes skin color, that they rather follow their own culture than the message of God. Very unfortunate!

  4. Faisal says:

    Hw r you all I m looking serious and niece woman for merried if anybody interested or you know someone
    Please contact me at my mobile
    00447446822472 thanks and jazakallah

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