Equality in Islam is a dynamic and equitable concept whose postulates are determined by God alone. No matter how much critiques criticize it and haters hate it, the fact remains unblemished that Islam emphatically proclaims the equality of humankind and denounces race, caste and bloodline based superiority of one man over the other in clear terms in several of its verses. Quran provides that Allah has bestowed his bounties on everyone without any discrimination and that he created humankind from a single pair of male and female and dispersed them into several tribes and nations so that they may know each other and not hate each other. Implicit in this verse is the mandate of diversity and inclusivity and not homogeneity. Apart from majestic principles of egalitarianism, Islam also provides for compulsory charity and wealth redistribution. It envisaged a dignified life for everyone and on that account laid great stress on manumission and freeing of slaves and bondsmen. Prophet Muhammad (s) even commanded Muslims to give their allegiance to slaves and follow them if they become or are appointed as their leaders (Political or Religious) and abide by the book of Allah in leading/governing them. And all this is evident in several Quranic verses, sayings and actions of the Prophet (s), Khulafa Rashidun (r) and other Muslims.
- Al Quran 17:20 Of the bounties of thy Lord we bestow freely on all. These as well as those. The bounties of thy Lord are not closed to anyone. Subhanallah!
- Al-Quran 4:1- O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;- reverence Allah, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (That bore you): for Allah ever watches over you.
- Al-Quran 49:13– O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).
- Al-Quran 5:48-To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute;
- Al-Quran 2:213- Mankind was one single nation, and Allah sent Messengers with glad tidings and warnings; and with them He sent the Book in truth, to judge between people in matters wherein they differed; but the People of the Book, after the clear Signs came to them, did not differ among themselves, except through selfish contumacy. Allah by His Grace Guided the believers to the Truth, concerning that wherein they differed. For Allah guided whom He will to a path that is straight.
- Al-Quran 2:179- In the Law of Equality there is (saving of) Life to you, o ye men of understanding; that ye may restrain yourselves.
- Al-Quran 3:103- And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favour on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided.
- Al-Quran 42:13- The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah – the which We have sent by inspiration to thee – and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things than Allah, hard is the (way) to which thou callest them. Allah chooses to Himself those whom He pleases, and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him).
- Al-Quran 2:177 Virtue does not consist in whether you face towards the East or the West; virtue means believing in God, the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the prophets; the virtuous are those who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travelers and those who ask for charity, and to set slaves free, and who attend to their prayers and pay the alms, and who keep their pledges when they make them, and show patience in hardship and adversity, and in times of distress. Such are the true believers; and such are the God- fearing.
- Al-Quran 68:35-39 Should We treat the true believers and the wrongdoers alike? What ails you? How ill you judge! Have you a Scripture that tells you that you will be granted whatever you choose? Or do you have Our solemn oaths, binding upon Us till the Day of Resurrection, that you shall have whatever you yourselves decide?
- Al-Quran 41:34 Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate!
- Sahih at-Tirmidhi, Ahmad (22978) narrated from Abu Nadrah- Someone who heard the sermon of the Messenger of Allah on the second of the days of at-Tashreeq told me that he said: “O people, verily your Lord is One and your father is one. Verily, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” They said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) has conveyed the message.
- Miskat-ul Masabeeh 3662- It has been narrated by Umm Hussain (r) that Prophet (s) said- “If any slave is appointed as your Imam and he rules and leads you according to the book of Allah then listen to him obediently and act on it.”
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 89, Hadith 256, Narrated Anas ibn Malik-Allah’s Messenger said, “You should listen to and obey, your ruler even if he is an Ethiopian (black) slave whose head looks like a raisin.”
- Miskat-ul Masabeeh 5178- It has been narrated by Ibn Masood (r) that Prophet (s) said- “Don’t indulge in feudal practices on earth and if you do so, you shall be engrossed in this world only.”
- Riyadh-as-Saliheen Volume 1, Hadith number 7 “Allah does not look at your bodies nor your forms but He looks at your hearts and your actions.”
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol 8, Book 73, No. 224: Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “The most awful name in Allah’s sight on the Day of Resurrection, will be (that of) a man calling himself Malik-al-Amlak (Shahanshah or the king of kings).”
- Sahih al-Bukhari Vol 8, Book 76, No. 526 Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “Allah will take the whole earth (in His Hand) and will roll up the Heaven in His right Hand, and then He will say, “I am the King! Where are the kings of the earth?”
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 89, Hadith 285, Narrated Abu Musa: The Prophet (s) said, “Set free the captives and accept invitations.“
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 654: Narrated ‘Umar:
- I heard the Prophet saying, “Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a Slave. So, call me the Slave of Allah and His Apostle.“
- Sahih-al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 655: Narrated Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari: Allah’s Apostle said, “If a person teaches his slave girl good manners properly, educates her properly, and then manumits and marries her, he will get a double reward. And if a man believes in Jesus and then believes in me, he will get a double reward. And if a slave fears his Lord (i.e. Allah) and obeys his masters, he too will get a double reward.”
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 65, Number 286: Narrated Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari: The Prophet said, “Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom).“
Now as far as the practices of Muslims are concerned, we can see instances of both deviation and adherence but comparatively the marginalised sections have seen greater ascendence as Muslims if compared with other societies. A suggestive list of famous and influential Muslims who came from very humble background can be accessed from this post.