I have recently found myself caught up in a lot of thinking about the concepts of race and identity and so on, perhaps due to being bombarded with a lot of news and events that centre on these issues. Not infrequently, I wondered where I could place myself in the mesh of labels that exist, because codifying my existence in such specific ways within the human race is “important”, apparently.
Yesterday, after neglecting to pick up the Qur’an and recite from its passages for a while (May Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala forgive me, please don’t do this, dear readers) I decided to do just that.
I was reading passages from Surat Aali-‘Imran, where many figures from Islamic tradition were mentioned, such as Maryam (Mary) radi Allaahu ‘anha (May Allaah be pleased with her), her parents Radi Allaah ‘anhum (May Allaah be pleased with them), Prophet Zakariyyah (Zachary) ‘alayhis-salam (peace be upon him) and Prophet ‘Easa (Jesus) ‘alayhis-salam (peace be upon him).
My mind wandered into the concept of identifying with figures in Islamic tradition based on geographical region. I knew that this was a flawed approach, even while engaged in thought. Then, thought about the fact that in Islam, labels like that don’t mean anything, and that human diversity was created by the will of Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala and was a sign from Him, as He tells us in the Qur’aan:
“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colours. Verily, in that are indeed signs for men of sound knowledge.” [30:22]
“O mankind! We have created you from male and female and have made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Indeed the most noblest of you with Allaah is the one who has the most taqwaa.” [49:13].
It felt refreshing to (re)realise that what ties people with the figures that we revere in Islamic tradition is not any of the worldly things such as ethnicity, colour, wealth, tribe or social status, but it’s the belief and the acceptance of the message with which they came. That is where brotherhood in Islam comes from, nothing else.