Unity in diversity

Published June 21, 2024
The writer is an educationist with an interest in religion.
The writer is an educationist with an interest in religion.

COLLECTIVELY, we are all humans, yet we are divided in various segments. We are created by Almighty Allah from a single soul (4:1) but mutually we are different in many ways and can be identified according to many criteria.

In a family, siblings from the same parents have various physical traits distinguishing them, such as a different height, eye colour, facial structure, blood group, etc. There are also differences in their personalities, hobbies, habits and beliefs.

People have sought answers to the enigma of what makes one person open and honest, and another closed-minded. Science explains that every person has unique genetics; these together with their environment, upbringing, education and other factors impact a person’s personality. The Holy Quran says about diversity: “And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colours. Indeed, in that are signs for those of knowledge” (30:22).

Upon reflection, we find that the world is a wonderful blend of unity and diversity. Natural bodies like the earth, plants, insects and animals, etc are unique in creation, serving their own purpose; they are a part of diversity and yet don’t lose their unique identity. This is the beauty of the world that things are unique and different in their shapes and texture.

No society can achieve peace unless it embraces diversity.

Unity in diversity makes our world and relations more meaningful. Understanding helps achieve harmony among dissimilar individuals or groups. However, the lack of understanding always leads to conflict, disharmony, intolerance and disunity.

We are facing challenges in understanding diversity, especially at the national level. During the last few decades, it has been observed that the worship places of minority groups have been disrespected, they have faced violence, and overall harmony is on the decline with the rise of intolerance. There are some areas where mediaeval mindsets prevail, and human life and dignity are worth little.

In order to counter these challenges, understanding about diversity needs to be cultivated in these areas. We learn about many societies where people belonging to different faiths once lived together peacefully, yet these societies have become victims of extremism and intolerance. This has driven a wedge between various segments of society.

In order to make this world livable and peaceful, it is necessary to understand the reality that no two persons are identical, no two persons have the same level of understanding. Everybody needs to show tolerance while maintaining differences so that our society becomes more peaceful.

Similarly, at the mental level each one of us has different ways of thinking and we have a right to form opinions while others should respect them. This is essential for smooth working in society. No society can achieve peace unless it accepts and embraces the diversity of views and opinions and welcomes differences of opinion. However, no one should be allowed to force his views on others.

The Holy Quran says that all humans are one community. Thus, Islam accepts unity along with the concept of diversity. Humanity is like a tree with innumerable leaves, all different in shape, but raised from one base.

Similarly, the Muslim world consists of people with vast differences in culture, language and other demographic characteristics, but we have one base.

In Islamic history, we have the excellent example of the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) who always welcomed his companions’ views about different matters. He used to consult his companions before going to war and respected their fi­­ghting skills.

We are part of Divine creation; a multitude of colo­u­­rs, languages and cultures, yet bound to­­gether by our hu­­m­anity. We are gifted with Divine attributes; in other words, there is a Divine thr­­ead running acr­oss humanity, connecting each individual with the Creator. Everyone born in this world is human first, then takes on his family’s identity as a Muslim, Christian or a believer of any other faith. In some cases, the family’s faith takes precedence in a way that renders the person oblivious to his/her prime responsibilities as a human towards fellow beings.

The Holy Quran says: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another” (49:13).

It implies that every individual is born from a single soul. He is different from others though part of the whole, carrying a lot of potential. Every individual must make an effort to became a good human being and realise what nature has hidden in his or her personality. After all, humans have the potential to become the ‘crown of creation’.

The writer is an educationist with an interest in religion.

valianiamin@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024

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