Moral Teachings of Islam: Equality and Brotherhood

Islam is known for its teachings of equality, 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 these are signs for those who know”.

(Quran 30:22)

One of the greatest moral achievements of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was the establishment of the bond of brotherhood between various Muslims, even between master and slave. In his time, though not all Muslims were freemen, they were though, in a very real sense, all brothers. Many of the first Muslims were from the lowest classes of society in that era — slaves, women, and orphans — who were attracted to the Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ message of human worth and equality. The Quran records,

"The believers are brothers in religion."

The institution arose not merely from theory but also out of a concrete situation. The Prophet Muhammad and his "Companions" had been

"driven from their homes"

(59:8, 8:72

) and had taken refuge with the "Helpers," their brethren in faith in the city of Medina. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ created a temporary relationship between the fugitives and their hosts in which they shared their houses and their goods. The Helpers accepted their guests as relatives. In establishing this bond of Muslim brotherhood, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ effectively broke down the tribal system of kinship and laid the foundation for the end of slavery.

What of Muhammad ﷺ himself as a moral factor in the life of Islam? Early biographers of the Prophet Muhammad's life record that Khadija, the first and for a long time the only wife of the Prophet ﷺ, loved her husband for the beauty of his character, his honesty, and his truthfulness of speech. She became his first convert and supporter, testifying thus to her estimate of his sincerity.

In the words of E. Hershey Sneath, “His fellow townsmen, before the time of his mission, frequently applied to him the appellation of "the trusty." And later in the heat of jealousy and strife, the charges against his personal character are few and unconvincing.”[1]

Hajj is the ultimate expression of the equality of all people in the eyes of God. It is the one time and one place on earth when kings stand barefoot side by side with peasants. Looking at the pilgrims, all in their white clothes, one can hardly tell the difference among them. Worldly riches, status, family background — none matter before God, and it 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 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. Following are excerpts of his experiences and those of some others on Hajj.

Malcolm X - USA

"There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white.

You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to re-arrange much of my thought patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.

During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) - while praying to the same God with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of the blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the 'white' Muslims, I left the same sincerity that I left among the black African Muslims in Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.

We were truly all the same – brothers.

All praise is due to Allah, the lord of all the worlds."

(From The Autobiography of Malcolm X, New York, 1964).

Muhammad Asad - Austria

"...hidden from my eyes in the midst of this lifeless wilderness of valleys and hills, lies the plain of Arafat, on which all the pilgrims who come to Mecca assemble on one day of the year as a reminder of that last assembly, when man will have to answer to his Creator for all he has done in life. How often have I stood there myself, bareheaded, in the white pilgrim garb, among a multitude of white-garbed, bareheaded pilgrims from three continents, our faces turned toward the Jabal ar-Rahma - the Mount of Mercy - which rises out of the vast plain: standing and waiting through the noon, through the afternoon, reflecting upon that inescapable Day,' when you will be exposed to view, and no secret of yours will remain concealed'...

As I stand on the hillcrest and gaze down toward the invisible Plain of Arafat, the moonlit blueness of the landscape before me, so dead a moment ago, suddenly comes to life with the currents of all the human lives that have passed through it and is filled with the eerie voices of the millions of men and women who have walked or ridden between Arafat in over thirteen hundred pilgrimages for over thirteen  hundred years...I hear the sounds of their passed-away days, the wings of faith which have drawn them together to this land of rocks and sand and seeming deadness beat again with the warmth of life over the arc of centuries , and the mighty wingbeat draws me into its orbit and draws my own passed-away days into the present , and once again I am riding over the plain...

We ride on, rushing, flying over the plain, and to me it seems that we are flying with the wind, abandoned to a happiness that knows neither end nor limit ... and the wind shouts a wild paean of joy into my ears. "Never again, never again, never again will you be a stranger!"

My brethren on the right and my brethren on the left, all of them unknown to me but none a stranger; in the tumultuous joy of our chase, we are body in pursuit of one goal wide is the world before us, and in our hearts glimmers a spark of the flame that burned in the hearts of prophet's Companions. They know, my brethren on the right and my brethren on the left, that they have fallen short of what was expected of them, and that in the flight of centuries their hearts have grown small and yet, the promise of fulfillment has not been taken from them...from us...

Someone in the surging host abandons his tribal cry for a cry of faith: ' We are brethren of him who gives himself up to God!' - and another joins in 'ALLAHU AKBAR' - 'God is the Greatest - God alone is Great!'''

  1.                       “The Evolution of Ethics, as Revealed in the Great Religions.” E. Hershey Sneath. p. 339

Choose Your Language