49 - Al Hujraat (The apartments)

4 Tafsir(s) related to verse 49.13

Al-Jalalayn

O mankind! We have indeed created you from a male and a female, [from] Adam and Eve, and made you nations (shu‘ūb is the plural of sha‘b, which is the broadest category of lineage) and tribes (qabā’il, which are smaller than nations, and are followed by ‘amā’ir, ‘tribal districts’, then butūn, ‘tribal sub-districts’, then afkhādh, ‘sub-tribes’, and finally fasā’il, ‘clans’; for example Khuzayma is the sha‘b, while Kināna is the qabīla, Quraysh is the ‘imāra, Qusayy is the batn, Hāshim is the fakhdh, and ‘Abbās is the fasīla) that you may come to know one another (ta‘ārafū: one of the two tā’ letters [of tata‘ārafū] has been omitted), that you may acquire knowledge of [the customs of] one another and not to boast to one another of [whose is the more] noble lineage, for pride lies only in [the extent to which you have] fear of God. Truly the noblest of you in the sight of God is the most God-fearing among you. Truly God is Knower, of you, Aware, of your inner thoughts.

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi

(O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female") [49:13]. Said Ibn 'Abbas: "This was revealed about Thabit ibn Qays when he made a remark about the man who did not make room for him to sit: 'What, the son of so-and-so [referring to his mother]'. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: 'Who mentioned that woman?' Thabit stood up and said: 'I did, O Messenger of Allah!' The Messenger said to him: 'Look at the faces of those present'. And when he looked, he asked him: 'What do you see?' He said: 'I see white, red and black people'. The Prophet said: 'Well, you are not better than any of them unless it be through [the good practice of] religion and God-fearingness'. Allah, exalted is He, then revealed this verse". Muqatil said: "On the day Mecca was conquered, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, ordered Bilal to climb on the roof of the Ka'bah and perform the call to prayer. 'Attab ibn Asid commented on this: 'Praise be to Allah, that Allah has taken my father to Him and made that he did not see this day'. Al-Harith ibn Hisham said: 'Did Muhammad not find any other caller to prayer except this black raven?' Suhayl ibn 'Amr said: 'Allah willing, he will change him'. Abu Sufyan, on the other hand, said: 'I am not going to make any comment; I am afraid that the Lord of heaven will divulge what I say!' Gabriel, peace be upon him, went to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and informed him about what they said. The Prophet summoned them and asked them about what they said and they admitted it. Allah, exalted is He, then revealed this verse warning them against boasting about their lineages and abundance of wealth and against looking down on the poor". Abu Hassan al-Muzakki informed us> Harun ibn Muhammad al-Istrabadhi> Abu Muhammad Ishaq ibn Muhammad al-Khuza'i> Abu'l-Walid al-Azraqi> his grandfather> 'Abd al-Jabbar ibn al-Ward al-Makki> Ibn Abi Mulaykah who said: "On the day Mecca was conquered, Bilal climbed on the roof of the Ka'bah and performed the call to prayer. One person said: 'O servants of Allah! How can this black slave be allowed to perform the call to prayer on top of the Ka'bah?' Another man said: 'If Allah is displeased, He will change him'. Allah, exalted is He, then revealed this verse (O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female)". Yazid ibn Shajarah said: "One day, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, passed by some of the marketplaces of Medina and saw a black slave standing while his seller was crying: 'This is for sale for whoever wants to offer more!' The slave kept repeating: 'I have a condition for whoever wants to buy me'. He was asked: 'What is your condition?' He said: 'He should not stop me from performing the five prescribed prayers behind the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace'. A man bought him on this condition. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, saw him at each prescribed prayer until he failed to see him one day. He asked his owner: 'Where is the slave boy?' He said: 'He has fever, O Messenger of Allah!' The Prophet said to his Companions: 'Let us go and visit him'. They went and visited him. After a few days, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, asked his owner: 'How is the slave boy?' The man said: 'O Messenger of Allah, the boy's lips have turned dark'. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, went and entered in on the boy. He found him feverish and he died in that state. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, took charge of his washing, shrouding and burial. His Companions were horrified and became greatly disturbed. The Emigrants said: 'We have left our homes, wealth and family, but none of us has seen in his life, sickness or death what this slave boy has'. The Helpers said: 'We have received him in our homes, helped him and consoled him with our riches but he preferred this Abyssinian slave over us'. Allah, glorious and majestic is He, then revealed this verse (O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female), i.e. you are the children of one father and one mother, and He showed them the merit of God-fearingness by His words (Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah")".

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

In the preceding verses the Muslims were addressed and given necessary instructions to safeguard the Muslim community against social"evils. In this verse the whole of mankind bas been addressed to reform it of the great evil that has always been causing universal disruption in the world, that is, the prejudices due to race, color, language, country, and nationality. On account of these prejudices man in every age has generally been discarding humanity and drawing around himself some small circles and regarding those born within those circles as his own people and those outside them as others. These circles have been drawn on the basis of accidental birth and not on rational and moral grounds. In some cases their basis is the accident of being born in a particular family, tribe, or race, and in some particular geographical region, or in a nation having a particular color or speaking a particular language. Then the discrimination between one's own people and others is not only confide to this that those who are looked upon as one's own people are shown greater love and cooperation than others, but this discrimination has assumed the worst forms of hatred, enmity, contempt and tyranny. New philosophies have been propounded for it, new religions invented, new codes of law made and new moral principles framed; so much so that nations and empires have made this distinction a permanent way of life with them and practiced it for centuries. The Jews on this very basis regarded the children of Israel as the chosen people of God and even in the practice of their religious rites looked upon the non-Jews as inferior to the Jews in rights and rank. This very discrimination gave birth to class distinctions (varnashrama) among the Hindus according to which superiority of the Brahmins was established, all other human beings came to be regarded as inferior and unclean and the shudras cast into the depths of disgrace and degradation. Every person can see for himself even in this 20th century what atrocities have been committed against the colored people in Africa and America on account of the distinction between the white and the black. The treatment that the Europeans meted out to the Red Indian race in America and to the weak nations of Asia and Africa had the same concept underlying it. They thought that the lift and property and honor of all those who had been born outside the frontiers of their own land and nation were lawful for them and they had the right to plunder and take them as their slaves and exterminate them if need be. The worst examples of how the nationalism of the western nations has turned one nation against the others and made it their bloodthirsty enemy have been seen in the wars of the recent past and are being seen even in the present time. In particular, if what was manifested by the racism of the Nazi Germany and the concept of the superiority of the Nordic race m the last World War is kept in view. One can easily judge how stupendous and devastating is the error for whose reform this verse of the Qur'an was revealed.

In this brief verse, Allah has drawn the attention of all mankind to three cardinal truths:

(1) "The origin of all of you is one and the same: your whole species has sprung up from one man and one woman: all your races that arc found in the world today are, in fact, the branches of one initial race that started with one mother and one father. In this process of creation there is no basis whatever for the divisions and distinctions in which you have involved yourselves because_ of your false notions. One God alone is your Creator. Different men have not been created by different Gods. You have been made from one and the same substance; it is not so that some men have been made from some pure and superior substance and some other men from some impure and inferior substance. You have been created in one and the same way; it is not also so that different men have been created in different ways. And you are the offspring of the same parents; it is not so that in the beginning there were many human couples which gave birth to different populations in the different regions of the world.'

(2) "In spite of being one in origin it was natural that you should be divided into nations and tribes. Obviously,. all the men on the earth could not belong to one and the same family. With the spread of the race it was inevitable that countless families should arise, and then tribes and nations should emerge from the families. Similarly, it was inevitable that after settling in different regions of the earth, there should be differences of colors, features, languages and ways of living among the people, and it was also natural that those living in the same region should be closer in affinity and those living in remote regions not so close; but this natural difference never demanded that distinctions of inequality, of high and low, of noble and mean, should be established on its basis, that one race should claim superiority over the other, the people of one color should look down upon the people of other colors, and that one nation should take preference over the ocher without any reason. The Creator had divided the human communities into nations and tribes for that was a natural way of cooperation and distinction between them. In this way alone could a fatuity, a brotherhood, a tribe and a nation combine to give birth to a common way of life and to cooperate with each other in the affairs of the world. But it was all due to satanic ignorance that the differences among mankind created by Allah to be a means of recognition, were trade a means of mutual boasting and hatred, which led mankind to every kind of injustice and tyranny.

(3) The only basis of superiority and excellence that there is, or can be, between man and man is that of moral excellence. As regards birth, all men arc equal, for their Creator is One, their substance of creation is one, and their way of creation is one, and they are descended from the same parents. Moreover, a person's being born in a particular country, nation, or clan is just accidental. Therefore, there is no rational ground on account of which one person may be regarded as superior to the other. The real thing that makes one person superior to others is that one should be more God-conscious, a greater avoider of evils, and a follower of the way of piety and righteousness. Such a man. whether he belongs to any race, any nation and any country, is valuable and worthy on account of his personal merit. And the one who is reverse of him in character is in any case an inferior person whether he is black or white, born in the east or the west.

These same truths that have been stated in this beef verse of the Qur'an, have been explained in greater detail by the Holy Prophet in his addresses and traditions. In the speech that he made on the conquest of Makkah, after going round the Ka'bah, he said:

'Thank God Who has removed from you the blemish of ignorance and its arrogance. O people, men are divided into classes: the pious and righteous, who arc honorable in the sight of Allah, and the sinful and vicious, who arc contemptible in the sight of Allah, whereas all men are the children of Adam and Adam had been created by Allah from clay." (Baihaqi, Tirmidhi).

On the occasion of the Farewell Pilgrimage, in the midst of the Tashriq days, he addressed the people, and said:

'O people, be aware: your God is One. No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, and no non-Arab any superiority over an Arab, and no white one has any superiority over a black one, and no black one any superiority over a white one, except on the basis of taqwa (piety). The most honorable among you in the sight, of Allah is he who is the most pious and righteous of you. Say if I have conveyed the Message to you?" And the great congregation of the people responded, saying: Yes, you have, O Messenger of Allah." Thereupon the Holy Prophet said: "Then let the one who is present convey it to those who are absent," ( Baihaqi)

In a Hadith he has said: "You are all the children of Adam, and Adam was created from the dust. Let the people give up boasting of their ancestors, otherwise they will stand more degraded than a mean insect in the sight of Allah." ( Bazzar)

In another Hadith the Holy Prophet said: "Allah will not inquire about your lineage on the Day of Resurrection. The most honorable in the sight of Allah is he who is most pious. "(Ibn Jarir)

In still another Hadith he said: "Allah dces not see your outward appearances and your possessions,but He sees your hearts and your deeds." (Muslim, lbn Majah).

These teachings have not remained confined to words only but Islam has practically established a universal brotherhood of the believers on the basis, which does not allow any distinction on account of color, race, language, country and nationality which is free from every concept of high and low, clean and unclean, mean and respectable, which admits all human beings with equal rights, whether they belong to any race and nation, any land or region. Even the opponents of Islam have had to admit that no precedent is found in any religion and any system of the success with which the principle of human equality and unity has been given practical shape in the Muslim society, nor has it ever been found. Islam is the only religion which has welded and combined innumerable races and communities scattered in all corners of the earth into one universal Ummah.

In this connection, a misunderstanding also needs to be removed. In the case of marriage, the importance that Islamic law gives to kufv (likeness of status) has been taken by some people in the sense that some brotherhoods are noble and some mean, and matrimonial relations between them are objectionable. But this, in fact, is a wrong idea. According to the Islamic law, every Muslim man can marry every Muslim woman, but the success of the matrimonial life depends on maximum harmony and conformity between the spouses as regards habits, characteristics and ways of life, family traditions and economic and social status, so that they may get on well with each other. This is the real object of being equal and alike. Where there is unusual difference and disparity between the man and the woman in this regard, lifelong companionship will be difficult. That is why the Islamic law disapproves of such intermarriages, and not for the reason that one of the spouses is noble and the other mean, but for the reason that in case there is a clear and apparent difference and distention in status, there would be a greater possibility of the failure of the matrimonial life if the marriage relationship was established.

That is, "This is only known to Allah as to who is really a man of high rank and who is inferior in respect of qualities and characteristics. The standards of high and low that the people have set up of their own accord, are not acceptable to and approved by Allah. Maybe that the one who has been regarded as a man of high rank in the world is declared as the lowest of the low in the final judgment of Allah, and maybe that the one who has been looked upon as a very low person here, attains to a very high rank there. The real importance is not of the honor and dishonor of the world but of the honor and dishonor that one will receive from Allah. Therefore, what man should. be most concerned about is that he should create in himself those real qualities and characteristics which make him worthy of honor in the sight of Allah."

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

(O mankind!) This was revealed about Thabit Ibn Qays Ibn Shammas who said to a man: "You are the son of so-and-so" in reference to his mother; and it is also said that it was revealed about Bilal the muezzin of the Prophet (pbuh). When Bilal gave the call to prayer in Mecca after its conquest, a group of men from Quraysh, among whom were Sahl Ibn 'Amr, al-Harth Ibn Hisham and Abu Sufyan Ibn Harb, said: "Did Allah and His Messenger not find anyone to call to prayer except this raven". In response, Allah said: (Lo! We have created you male and female) from Adam and Eve, (and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you) in the Hereafter, (in the sight of Allah) on the Day of Judgement, (is the best in conduct) in the life of the world; which in this case is Bilal. (Lo! Allah is Knower) of your status and lineage, (Aware) of your works and standing in His sight.