Quranic Reflection No. 426. Ayat 30:22 – Differences in creation of human beings

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ خَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافُ أَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَأَلْوَانِكُمْ
Wamin āyātihi khalqus-samāwāti wal-ardhi wakhtilafu alsinatikum wa-alwānikum
Among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the difference of your languages and colors.
(Sūrat al-Rūm, No 30, Āyat 22)

Social equality is an important issue discussed in the Quran. All people are created by Allah ‘azza wajall and given different qualities. According to this verse the differences in human beings is a sign of the greatness of Almighty Allah. That is per the plan of God. Differences between human beings facilitates recognition and distinction and helps build the fabric of society. Tafsir-e Namūne quotes from Fakhruddin al-Rāzī who said that recognition of differences between human beings can be by the eyes through distinct faces, colors, and appearances, and by the ears by distinguishing voices and tones. The ears also distinguish the different languages spoken by human beings.

There can be no merit for superiority for the human being in something that Allah subhānahu wa-ta‘āla has designed and in which he himself had no role to play. Race, color, ancestry, etc. have no basis for superiority over others. The Holy Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālhi wasallam taught Muslims to consider everyone to be equal. The Arabs during his time had a lot of pride in their ancestry. People would boast about being from a branch of one of the well-known tribes such as that of the Quraysh. The Prophet (s) told them: O Mankind! Surely Allah has removed the pride and conceit that existed within you during the days of Ignorance in relation to your forefathers. Surely all of you are from (Prophet) Adam and Adam was (created) from mud. Surely the best servant of Allah is that servant who has consciousness of Him. (al-Kāfī, v.8, p. 246)

The Arabs at that time thought they were better than other races. The Prophet (s) explained to them: Now then, surely your being Arab is not the basis for your personality nor a part of your essence, rather, it is the language which you speak. So, then whosoever is negligent in his actions then the pride that he has from his father (being an Arab) will not help him in the least and will not make up for the defects in his actions. (Ibid)

The Prophet (s) also said: Surely all of mankind – from the time of Adam until our time – are like the teeth of a comb (all equal to one another) and there is no greatness for an Arab over a non-Arab and no greatness for a red-skinned person over a black-skinned person, except due to one’s consciousness of Allah. (Ikhtisās, p. 341; Bihār v. 22, p. 347)

This is also true for all communities today. No one community is better than another. Each has their strengths and weaknesses and only Allah (swt) knows who is better than the other. Superiority is based on the inner hearts and their actions which is only completely known only to God. Many of the acts of worship in Islam are meant to remove racism and promote equality. These include the congregational prayer, the Hajj, etc. Muslims from all walks of life, regardless of their social and financial status, perform these acts together. The letter of Malcolm X when he went for Hajj explains how Islam removed racism from the hearts of its followers through these acts.

Do not let different appearances and languages becomes a basis for superiority or inferiority of others. Let this verse remind you that these differences are signs to remind you of Allah, the Originator and Master Planner of these differences. It is cause for wonder and reflection.

Sources: ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh