The researcher who studies our civilization and its impact cannot help but notice the humane tendency which distinguishes our civilization from all others. For it brought mankind from an atmosphere of rancor, hatred, division, and prejudice into an atmosphere of love, tolerance, cooperation, and equality before Allah and before the law. It created a society in which all were equal and there was no room for one race or group to claim superiority over another. This humane tendency is manifested in the principles and laws of our civilization, and in its day-to-day life. The humane tendency in its principles can be seen in the fact that Islam declares all people to have been created from a single soul.
O’ mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person [Adam], and from him [Adam] He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both He created many men and women … (Qur’an 4:1)
The human origin of all of mankind is one and the same. No matter how much they split up after that into nations, tribes, countries, and races, that is simply like the division of one family, like the sons and daughters from one father and one mother. This being the case, the differences in race and country of origin should lead to their cooperating and getting to know one another in good ways. Hence there emerges the eternal human principle:
O’ mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another… (Qur’an 49:13)
Some individuals may be raised high in this life and others brought low; some groups may be rich and many may be poor; some may rule and some people may be subjugated; some people may have white skins while other nations have black skins. This is the way of the world; indeed, it is a system that never changes. But that does not mean that those who are in higher positions should discriminate against those who are beneath them, or that those who are rich should discriminate against those who are poor, or that rulers should discriminate against their subjects, or that those with white skins should discriminate against those with black skins. Rather all are equal. They are all equal before Allah in their humanity and none of them are distinguished except in terms of piety (taqwa):
…Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that [believer] who has most Taqwa [i.e. he is one of the Muttaqoon (the pious)] … (Qur’an 49:13)
They are also equal before the law, to which they must submit equally; no distinctions are made except on the basis of truth.
So, whosoever does an atom’s weight of good shall see it. And whosoever does an atom’s weight of evil shall see it. (Qur’an 99: 7-8)
They are equal within the framework of society, so the strong may be influenced by the weak, and all of them may be influenced by the actions of a few. “The likeness of the believers in their mutual love and compassion is that of a single body. If one part of it suffers, the rest of the body will join it in fever and staying awake”
Hence, Islam continued to proclaim the unity of mankind, like siblings from one father and mother. Social unity in the community is like a tree, all of whose branches bend in the wind, with no difference between the upper branches and lower branches. It is useful here to note that the Qur’an frequently addresses mankind in words that make them feel that they have a common human origin: “O’ mankind …” “O’ sons of Adam…” And it addresses the followers of the single religion by saying, “O’ believers…”, without addressing its words to any nation or group to the exclusion of another.
With regard to the humane tendency in the laws of our civilization, you can see that clearly in any aspect of its legislation. In the prayer, the people stand together before Allah, without allocating any special place to a king, great man, or scholar. In fasting, all the people feel the same hunger, with no favors shown to a ruler, rich man, or noble. In Hajj the people all wear the same clothes, they stand in one place and they do the same rituals. No distinction is made between one who has come from afar and one who lives locally, between one who is strong and one who is weak, between the nobility and the common folk.
If we move from that to the issue of civil law, we will see that truth is the foundation of the laws that regulate the relationships between people, that justice is the purpose behind the legislation, and that warding off wrong is the banner which is carried by the law so that everyone who is persecuted and oppressed will come to it. Moving on to the area of criminal law, we note that the punishment is the same no matter who has committed the crime. Whoever murders is to be killed, whoever steals is to be punished, whoever transgresses is to be disciplined. It makes no difference whether the murderer is knowledgeable or ignorant, whether the victim was a prince or a peasant. It makes no difference whether the transgressor was the ruler of the believers or a weaver of cloth, or the one whose rights were transgressed was a non-Arab or an Arab, an easterner or a westerner. All of them are equal before the law.
O’ you who believe! Al-Qisaas [the Law of Equality in punishment] is prescribed for you in case of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female … (Qur’an 2: 178)
The shari’ah (Islamic Law) attained an even higher level than this when it affirmed the human dignity of all people, regardless of their religion, race, or color. Allah, the Almighty, All-Glorious, says: And indeed, we have honored the Children of Adam and carried them on the land… (Qur’an 17: 70). This dignity is what guarantees the rights of all people to life, freedom of belief, and education. This is for all people, and one of the duties of the state is to guarantee those rights to all people on an equal footing without any exceptions. But shari’ah goes even further than that, to the sublime and humane level that determines reward and punishment for people, not on the basis of their outward deeds, but on the basis of their intentions.
“Allah does not look at your outward appearance, rather, He looks at your hearts.”
It is the intention for which one will be rewarded or punished: “Actions are but by intention and each person shall have but that which he intended.” The intention which is acceptable to Allah, the Exalted, is the good intention that seeks to benefit people and to please Allah, with no materialistic purpose or hope of benefit in trade.
… And worship your Lord and do good that you may be successful. (Qur’an 22: 77)
If you do a good deed for the sake of Allah, you cannot expect any favor in return from the person to whom you did that good deed.
And they give food, in spite of their love for it [or for the love of Him], to the Miskeen [the poor], the orphan, and the captive, [saying]: ‘We feed you seeking Allah’s Countenance only. We wish for no reward, nor thanks from you.’ (Qur ‘an 76: 8-9)
And shari’ah reached the pinnacle of humane tendencies when it declared the oneness of all worlds, human, animal, plant, inanimate, earth, and stars in their enslavement to Allah and their submission to the natural laws of the universe. How marvelous are the words which the Qur’an requires the Muslim to recite in every rak’ah (unit of prayer) of his prayer:
All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the ‘Aalameen [mankind, jinn and all that exists]. The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. (Qur’an 1: 2-3)
It is essential for the Muslim to remember that he is a part of the universe which is the creation of One God to Whom is ascribed the attribute of ultimate and comprehensive mercy. So the Muslim who lives in this world and is in need of his Lord should be an example of that mercy which is an attribute of Allah Who has no need of the world.