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Books Section > The Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Chapter 3: The Oneness of Humanity


Chapter 3:
The Oneness of Humanity:

The idea of the oneness of humanity is the Prophet's unique contribution to human civilisation, and it came as a natural sequel to that foundation-stone of his teachings, the Unity of God. A perusal of world history shows the idea of the whole of humanity being a single nation as first dawning upon the Prophet's mind. It was a revelation from on High in the truest sense of the word. No country was more unsuited than Arabia, either to give birth to such an idea or to see its accomplishment. The whole country was rent into innumerable petty states, each clan forming a separate and independent political unit. Each tribe had its own chief who would lead it in battle against a hostile tribe. The tribes and clans which inhabited that desert land were as loose as the sands of the desert. They were in the grip of unending feuds. The smallest thing served as a match to set ablaze the flames of war which lasted for years and years. There was wholesale bloodshed and destruction. Exhaustion would lead to forced treaties, but old grudges which kept smouldering would flare up again, and once more the country would find itself in the flames of war. The whole people were on the verge of being consumed to ashes by these flames of warfare:

You were on the verge of a fiery abyss. (3:103)

Here dawned the idea for the first time in human history, not that the Arabs were one nation, but that the whole of humanity was a single nation:

And people are naught but a single nation but they disagree. (10:19)

And this your community is one community and I am your Lord, therefore have regard for your duty to Me. But they became divided among themselves into parties, each party rejoicing in that which is with them. So leave them in their overwhelming ignorance till a time. (23:52-54)

This your community is one community only and I am your Lord, therefore serve Me. And they cut off their affair between them; to Us shall all come back. (21:92, 93)

All people are a single nation; so Allah raised prophets (among all) bearing good news and giving warning, and He revealed the Book with truth. (2:213)

It was not the momentary idea of a visionary thrown out in a passing ecstasy; it was a principle of action worked out in all its details in the revelations and practice of the Prophet. The division of humanity into tribes and families was recognised, but the object of this division was also the ultimate unification of humanity:

O you men! We have created you of a male and a female and made you tribes and families that you may know each other. (49:13)

The differences of colour and language were due to diversity in nature:

And one of His signs is that He created you from dust, then lo! you are mortals who scatter. (30:20)

And one of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colours; surely there are signs in this for the learned. (30:22)

Whatever the country in which a people lived, whatever the language they spoke, whatever the colour of their skins, they were all recognised as one family living under one roof -- the canopy of heaven, and all enjoying equally the benefits of nature:

O People! Fulfil your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single being and created its mate of the same kind, and spread from these two many men and women. (4:1)

And He it is Who made the stars for you that you might follow the right way thereby in the darkness of the land and the sea ... And He it is Who has brought you into being from a single soul, then there is for you a resting-place and a depository ... And He it is Who sends down water from the clouds, then We bring forth with it the buds of all plants. (6:98-100)

O men! Serve your Lord Who created you and those before you so that you may guard against evil, Who made the earth a resting-place for you and the heaven a canopy, and Who sends down rain from the cloud then brings forth with it subsistence for you of the fruits. (2:21,22)

The physical laws of God, it was thus taught, worked equally for the whole of humanity and God was recognised as the Nourisher of all; He was the Nourisher equally of the believers and of the unbelievers:

Do you dispute with Us about Allah, and He is our Nourisher and your Nourisher, and we shall have our deeds and you shall have your deeds. (2:139)

If the whole of humanity was one, because it enjoyed equally all the benefits of nature, it was also one in receiving the spiritual benefits of God. Prophets had been raised in every nation for their spiritual welfare:

There is not a people but a warner has gone among them. (35:24)

And every nation had a messenger. (10:47)

And every nation had a guide. (13:7)

And certainly We raised in every nation a messenger, saying, Serve Allah and shun the devil. (16:36)

To every nation We appointed acts of devotion which they observe. (22:67)

For every one of you did We appoint a law and a way. (5:48)

And finally there was but one law by which all people were to be judged; it was the law of deeds, every one being recompensed according to what he did:

He who has done an atom's weight of good shall see it. And he who has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it. (99:7, 8)

Say, O unbelievers! ... You shall have your recompense and I shall have my recompense. (109:1,6)

And if they call thee a liar, say: My work is for me and your work is for you; you are clear of what I do and I am clear of what you do. (10:41)

I believe in what Allah has revealed to me of the Book, and I am commanded to do justice between you; Allah is our Lord and your Lord; We shall have our deeds and you shall have your deeds. (42:15)

A greater achievement of the Prophet than the laying down of the above noble precepts relating to the oneness of humanity is their translating into practice. This was a very tough job. The Arabs had as strong race and colour prejudices as any modern white nation, and a far stronger language prejudice. To all non-Arabs they gave the name 'Ajam, which meant a mute people, or a people who could not express themselves well, and 'ajma meant speechless animal or brute. Thus all non-Arabs were looked down upon as more or less mute like animals, and unable to express their ideas in good language. Notwithstanding the fact that Arabia was partly under the heel of the Romans and partly under the heel of the Persians, the Arabs regarded themselves as a much superior race. As regards the Negroes, they did not recognise them except as slaves. The immediate task before the Prophet was therefore to blot out the race, colour and language prejudices from the Arab mind, as the Arab was to be the torch-bearer of the light to the rest of the world. The Muslims met together five times daily in prayer, and it was here that the levelling influence of Islam was first brought to bear. Among the first Muslims were the members of the noblest Quraish families as well as a goodly number of Negro slaves, and in the place of prayer and in the Prophet's company no difference of status was recognised between the two. From standing side by side in the ranks of prayer, the next step was a mere corollary: they mingled freely on terms of perfect equality on all other occasions. Service to God was thus the door through which the fraternisation of humanity was effected. The Quraish would not sit in the Prophet's company because, they said, he mixed freely with what they considered lower strata of society. It was the Prophet's story that was being related in the story of Noah:

We do not see any have followed thee but those who are the meanest of us at first thought. (11:27)

I am not going to drive away those who believe; surely they shall meet their Lord; but I see that you are an ignorant people. (11:29)

Nor do I say about those whom your eyes hold in mean estimation that Allah will not grant them any good -- Allah knows best what is in their minds -- for then surely I should be of the unjust. (11:31)

The Prophet himself is thus addressed:

And withhold thyself with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, desiring His good will, and let not thine eyes pass from them, desiring the beauties of this world's life; and do not follow the desire of him whose heart We have made unmindful of Our remembrance. (18:28)

Thus the Negro slaves and the noble Quraish were made to meet together on terms of equality in prayer and in religious gatherings. They were all equal before God, it was thus impressed on their minds, and this they could easily understand. Life once moulded on these lines led to the natural consequence that the Negro slaves and the noble Quraish enjoyed equal status in society, and therefore both respected each other. The principle was further laid down that no one was to be honoured because he belonged to a particular race or a particular family or spoke a particular language or had a particular colour; honour was due to him who had the greatest regard for his duty:

O you men! We have created you of a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other; the most honourable of you with Allah is the one among you who has the greatest regard for his duty. (49:13)

The Imam or the spiritual head of a congregation was to be chosen not because he belonged to a particular family but because he had a greater knowledge of the Holy Quran. The Prophet said:

The man who knows most the Book of Allah shall act as Imam of the people. (Mishkat, 4:26)

The most virtuous among you shall deliver the adhan and those having most knowledge of the Quran shall act as imams. (Mishkat, 4:26)

A Negro slave, Bilal, was chosen by the Prophet himself to deliver the adhan/azan [call to prayer] in his own mosque, he himself being the Imam. Thus of the two office-bearers of the mosque, the Prophet himself was one, the other being Bilal, a Negro.

Inter-dining and inter-marriages between Arabs and non-Arabs, even Negroes, were commonly resorted to, and the crowning act leading to the oneness of humanity in practice was that even a Negro could be placed in authority over the Arab. The Prophet said:

Hear and obey, though a Negro whose head is like a raisin is entrusted with authority. (Bukhari, 10:54)
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Books Section > The Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Chapter 3: The Oneness of Humanity

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