Principle of equality in Islam: Are all men equal?


One basic element in the value system of Islam is the principle of equality or, better yet, equity. This value of equality is not to be mistaken for or confused with identicalness or stereotype. Islam teaches that, in the sight of God, all men are equal, but they are not necessarily identical. There are differences of abilities, potentials, ambitions, wealth and so on. Yet none of these differences can by itself establish a status of superiority of one man or race to another. The stock of man, the color of his skin, the amount of wealth he has, and the degree of prestige he enjoys have no bearing on the character and personality of the individual as far as God is concerned. The only distinction which God recognizes is the distinction in piety, and the only criterion which God applies is the criterion of goodness and spiritual excellence. In the Qur’an, God says: “O mankind, verily We have created you from a single (Pair) of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous.” (49:13).             

The difference of race, color, or social status are only accidental. They do not affect the true stature of man in the sight of God. Again, the value of equality is not simply a matter of constitutional rights or gentlemen’s agreement or condescending charity. It is an article of faith which the Muslim takes seriously and to which he must adhere sincerely. The foundations of this Islamic value of equality are deeply rooted in the structure of Islam. It stems from basic principles such as the following: (1) All men are created by One and the Same Eternal God, the Supreme Lord of all. (2) All mankind belong to the human race and share equally in the common parentage of Adam and Eve. (3) God is just and kind to all his creatures. He is not partial to any race, age, or religion. The whole universe is His dominion and all people are His creatures. (4) All people are born equal in the sense that none brings any possession with him, and they die equal in the sense that none brings any possession with him, and they die equal in the sense that they take back nothing of their worldly belongings. (5) God judges every person on the basis of his own merits and according to his own deeds. (6) God has conferred on man; man as such, a title of honor and dignity.             

Such are some of the principles behind the value of equality in Islam. When this concept is fully utilized, it will leave no place for prejudice or persecutions. And when this Divine ordinance is fully implemented, there will be no room for oppression or suppression. Concepts of chosen and gentile peoples, words such as privileged and condemned races, expressions such as social castes and second – class citizens will all become meaningless and obsolete.

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– Rauf ‘Seyi Owoyomi

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