Discrimination of any kind is quite alien to the scheme of things in the Qur’an. In the chapter Al-Hujurat (The Apartments), the Qur’an declares that all men and women are equal before God. The translation of the relevant verse is as follows: Mankind! We have created you from a male and female and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest of you in God’s sight is the one who fears God most. God is all-knowing and all aware. (49:13)
There are obvious differences between people in terms of color, race, economic status, etc., but according to the Qur’an, the difference is simply a difference: it cannot be used as a basis for discrimination. God Almighty created man with different attributes, the difference being a part of creation. Differences exist for practical rather than theoretical reasons. Their main purpose is to enable people to recognize and distinguish one from another. In other words, differences among people are a healthy sign. It is due to these differences that we recognize each other and carry out our dealings on this basis. If there were complete uniformity—with all human beings cast in exactly the same mold—then it would be very difficult to live in a society in a normal manner.
It is a fact that difference is a part of nature. But if we were to make the difference in the sense of discrimination, that would be an unhealthy sign and would disturb the normalcy of society. So we have to learn the art of difference management, rather than look upon differences in any negative sense. Then there are other benefits of difference, due to which people take up a variety of jobs, entering different fields of activity. Difference provides the basis for the division of labor, a principle that is very important for the comprehensive development of any society. Differences among people are a healthy sign. It is due to these differences that we recognize each other and carry out our dealings on this basis.
According to the divine scheme, honor is based on merit and not on any kind of external features. The Prophet of Islam once said that, before God, red and white, black and brown, were all equal. He said: “Behold, God has removed from you the arrogance of pagan ignorance (jahiliyyah) with its boast of ancestral glories. Man is but a God-conscious believer or an unfortunate sinner. All people are children of Adam, and Adam was created out of dust.” There may be differences in color or physical features, but man is what he is in his inner being and, in this sense, everyone has the same potential.
Everyone is born with the same inner qualities, so one who discovers himself and tries to turn his potential into a reality is the one who will be successful. You are not what others think you are: you are what you prove yourself to be. Everyone has the capacity to become a self-made man. Everyone has the capacity to dispel others’ misunderstandings about him, and the Creator expects you to make use of this capacity. God has not shown any discrimination between different people. It is men and women themselves who give others the chance to discriminate against them.