I now know what “wheat colored” is! Yes, it was pretty exciting for me to make the connection. People here really do come in a full spectrum of shades just like back home, but here they are almost all entirely Moroccan. Though I know this, it is still hard for my brain to accept it. My brain questions what I am seeing on the furthest ends of the spectrum. For instance, when people would tell me “we have people like you here” I didn’t believe them. Being fair is very popular here, so I thought tis was some kind of wishful thinking, astagfirAllah, I was so wrong. We recently visited a mostly Berber city and sure nuff, I saw people like me who are Moroccan. And now that I am a hijabi sometimes people talk to me in Berber.
A few years back I believe I mistakenly thought that the darkest of Moroccans were Sub-Saharan Africans. Now my brain tends to identify well-dressed dark-skinned Moroccans as British! At least I find my subconscious amusing, but that is some serious Orientalist thinking there. Then we have lighter skinned peoples who would be considered Black in the states based on the one drop rule. But what are they here? I’m not so sure, but I know that back home we (the white peoples) don’t talk much about these things. So my pastry lady (yes, I go to the bakery that much that I have a pastry lady and she shares a name with one of my sons!)–so I was thinking about how back home my pastry lady would be called “black” even if she was Chicana or Moroccan. But she is so not black. She is wheat! Which I have peripherally heard before but sure didn’t know what that was!
Since I have become fairly addicted to race (and I am so not alone), I have been thinking about Surah 49: Al-Hujratt (The Private or Inner Apartments)
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).
I know that when I originally read this, my feeling about it was that it meant to embrace diversity as a way to discover new things. This would mean a way to improve cultures and technologies, such as borrowing good innovations from other tribes/cultures. When I hear people say “well, that’s the way we do it” as an excuse for doing something really stupid (not different, but stupid) , not only do I want to stab myself in my eardrum, but I also think of this surah.
I would imagine that it is not uncommon for new Muslims to struggle with the literalness of the Quran. Though I wasn’t raised Christian, I had a vague understanding that the Bible wasn’t meant to be taken literally, which I now understand that for some people it is literal. I believe this affected how I originally read the Quran and even hadith.
But what about the literal meaning? Tafsir Ibn Kathir:
(that you may know one another.) refers to one’s saying, “So-and-so the son of so-and-so, from the tribe of so-and-so.” Sufyan Ath-Thawri said, “The Himyar (who resided in Yemen) dealt with each other according to their provinces, while the Arabs in the Hijaz (Western Arabia) dealt with each other according to their tribes.