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 Social Justice in Islam    by Professor A. R. Momin

Egalitarianism

The unity, equality and brotherhood of mankind, regardless of the distinctions of birth, class or caste, are among the cardinal principles of the Islamic faith. The universal appeal of these principles has drawn and continues to draw hundreds of thousands of people from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds across the world to the fold of Islam. In spite of occasional deviations from the ideal, the principle of egalitarianism has remained a beacon of inspiration for generations of Muslims across the world.

According to the Islamic view, all human have been created from a single primordial pair (Quran 49:13) and are therefore equal. In the Islamic view, the distinctions of birth, lineage, class, wealth or caste are inconsequential. The only worthwhile distinction or honour is piety and moral virtue. Thus the Quran says: "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may know each other. Verily the most honoured amongst you in the sight of God is the one who is the most righteous of you" (Quran 49:13). In his sermon during the Last Pilgrimage, the Prophet declared: "O people! Verily your Lord is One and your father (Adam) was one. Verily an Arab is not superior to a non-Arab nor is a red-skinned person superior to a dark-skinned person, nor is a dark-sinned person superior to a red-skinned person, except in respect of piety and righteousness. All Muslims are brothers unto each other."

One of the priceless gifts of Islamic civilization to humankind is that it flung open the doors of knowledge and learning to all and sundry, men and women, rich and poor, high and low. This revolutionary democratisation of knowledge served as a great social leveller. Slaves and their descendants as well as people of humble social and occupational background emerged as touch bearers of learning and scholarship.

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