Verily, the diversity of ethnicity and way of life, difference in opinion, and cultural clash amongst mankind are from the fitrah (natural disposition) of the creation of mankind itself. Such diversity must be governed and administered in an intelligent manner. This is the great challenge in which the failure to preserve such diversity leads to conflict and war.
Diversity in ethnicity and culture is actually important for the wellbeing of this earth. When they are combined with the spirit of mutually aiding one another, tolerance, and sacrificing for the nation’s success, then human lives will remain peaceful and prosperous. Therefore, Allah reminds us to live on earth with harmony, helping and respectful of one another, and celebrating diversity. Islam prohibits mankind to distinguish one another based on race, lineage, and skin color. On the contrary, Islam evaluates one’s nobility based on the level of Imaan (faith) and taqwa of Allah. This is clearly mentioned in al-Qur’an in verse 13 of Surah al-Hujuraat:
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the noblest of you in the Sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” [Al-Quran, Surah al-Hujuraat, verse 13].
This verse explains that even though a Muslim may hail from various ethnicity, the reality is that they are all one Ummah (nation), equal and brethren, firmly tied by the bond of Tawheed (monotheism) that is sacred and significant in the Sight of Allah without diminishing one’s ethnic identity by a tiny bit. This was proven when Abu Bakr as-Siddiq who is from the Arabs, Bilaal bin Rabah from the Abyssinians, Salman al-Faarisi from the Persians, and Suhayb from the Romans were all united as one Muslim Ummah that is upright due to their Imaan and Islam.
Indeed, diversity in ethnicity and nation amongst mankind is not an obstacle in living united. Islam affirms that differences are a reality that is wajib (obligatory) to be accepted and viewed in a positive light. Every creation of Allah has its own hikmah (wisdom) and benefit. What is important is that ethnic diversity and cultural differences must be dealt with intelligently and with wisdom, consistent with human nature that is in need of each other. Considering the human fitrah with cultural variety and ethnic diversity, Islam has outlined several ways to accelerate unity and relationship. Among them:
First: We must identify the commonalities and guard the limits of dispute whenever there arise differences. For example, all nations love mutual aiding of one another, preserving one’s honor, and friendliness. So, let us trigger such environment for it can unite the hearts of mankind and create harmony
Second: We must become individuals that initiate the culture of smiling and spreading salaam (greeting) to anyone that we encounter. It is a special kalimah (words) that is to be disseminated and spread according to Islamic teachings, which loves peace and harmony. Such was the advice of the Prophet to the Ansaar and Muhaajireen, when he first arrived in Madinah, as mentioned by ‘Abdullah bin Salaam, stating:
“When the Rasulullah arrived in al-Madinah, the people came out to meet him. It was said that Rasulullah had arrived, so I went among the people to get a look at him. When I gazed upon the face of the Messenger of Allah, I knew that this face was not the face of a liar. The first thing that he spoke about was that he said: ‘O you people! Spread the salaam, feed (others), and perform salaah while the people are sleeping; you will enter Paradise with (the greeting of) salaam.’” [Narrated by at-Tirmidhi].
It must be known that a diverse society is nothing new within the Muslim world. A plural society has existed for many centuries. It cannot be denied factually that mankind lived in peace when ruled by a just ruler on earth. Allah firmly asserted that harmony can only exist when the nation’s leadership is committed to upholding justice and equality that are espoused within Islamic teachings. Allah mentions in verse 8 of Surah al-Ma’idah:
“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.” [Al-Quran, Surah al-Ma’idah, verse 8].
Based on this verse, it is very clear that upholding justice is greatly demanded in Islam. Justice that is meant is not equality as espoused by the West, but justice according to Islam is granting rights upon those deserving of it. Allah has commanded us to be compassionate and humane upon those that are weak and in need of assistance.
And Allah knows best!