Equality and Tolerance
Islam is known for its teachings about the equality of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or linguistic background. Muslims regard the diversity of life as a sign of the beauty of Allah's creation: “And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors. Verily in that are signs for those who know” (Qur'an 30:22). Many of the first Muslims were from the lowest classes of society — slaves, women, and orphans — who were attracted to Muhammad's message of human worth and equality.
The Golden Rule, “do unto others as you do unto yourself,” is a universal value in all major faiths, and Islam is no exception. Muhammad once said, “Not one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.”
Arrogance of Satan
Indeed, Satan's first major sin was arrogance — his belief that he was better than Allah's other creation, the human being (the story of Satan's insubordination is described in Chapter 16). Arrogance and pride led to Satan's fall and will be the cause of suffering and destruction in the world if left unchecked. When we devalue others because of the way Allah created them, we question Allah's judgment and wisdom.
The Lessons of the Hajj
Hajj is the ultimate expression of the equality of all people in the eyes of God. It is the one time and place on earth when kings stand barefoot, side by side with peasants and artisans. Looking at the pilgrims, all in their seamless white clothes, one would not be able to tell the difference among them. Worldly riches, status, family background — all are erased in the eyes of God, and they should be so in our own eyes as well.
Renowned activist Malcolm X had a life-changing experience in 1964, when he traveled to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the annual pilgrimage. He was especially struck by the true sense of brotherhood and the absolute love between all those assembled, which challenged his previous beliefs that equality among the races was impossible to achieve. He wrote about his experience in a letter, which was later published in The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Tolerance of Diversity
Diversity in Allah's creation is not only in colors and languages, but also in ideas and ways of life. The Qur'an makes clear that Allah intentionally did not create us all as carbon copies of each other. We have the opportunity to learn from each other and gain a new perspective, particularly when learning about people who are different from ourselves. As the Qur'an proclaims, “Oh mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in God's sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware” (Qur'an 49:13).
There are places in time and history when Muslims were known to be the most tolerant nation on earth. Unfortunately, there are also many examples of Muslims who have allowed arrogance, pride, and greed to get the better of them.