Islam (nay, the Almighty) teaches us that we should behave decently, be polite, be helpful to others and be gracious in forgiving others.
The Almighty loves those who forgive others and leaves the decision of right or wrong to Him. We are also taught that all mankind originated from Adam and Eve; that an Arab is not superior to a non-Arab, and a non-Arab is not superior to an Arab. A white man has no superiority over a black man and a black man has no superiority over a white man. One is better than the other only in his good deeds, kindness and forgiveness.
Equality and good character are the cornerstones of our religion. Equality was vividly described in this verse by Allama M Iqbal: “Ek hi saf men khare hogae Mahmood o Ayaz; Na koe banda raha, na koe banda nawaz. (The ruler and the slave stood together to pray; there was no sign on who was the ruler and who was the slave.)
In the following story, Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi showed the dignity of the slave (Ayaz, a slave of Sultan Mahmood of Ghazi) and his loyalty to the king. The translation is a free rendering of the translation of ‘Masnavi-e-Rumi’ by R A Nicholson, published by Darul Ishrat, Karachi (2003).
“One day, the king found all the courtiers assembled in the Diwan. He produced a radiant pearl and put it in the palm of his Vizier. ‘What is it worth’, he asked. ‘It is worth more than a hundred ass-loads of gold’, came the reply. ‘Break it’, commanded the king. ‘How and why should I break it’. ‘I am a well-wisher of your treasury. How then can I let a priceless pearl like this go to waste?’ ‘Well said’, replied the king and presented him with a dress of honour as reward.
The generous king took back the pearl but bestowed on the vizier every garment that he wore. For some time, the king engaged the courtiers in conversation concerning new events and various other topics. After some time, he placed the pearl in the hand of a chamberlain asking him what it would be worth to a would-be purchaser. ‘It is worth half a kingdom’ the chamberlain replied; ‘May God preserve it from destruction.’ ‘Break it’, commanded the king. ‘It would be a great pity to break it; let alone its value, its brilliance outshines even the daylight. How should my hand make a movement to break it? How should I be an enemy to the treasury?’ The king gave him a robe of honour, increased his stipend and then praised the chamberlain’s intelligence to all present.
After some time, the king who was conducting this trial to test his courtiers, handed the pearl to the minister of justice and then to all the other Amirs in turn. They all responded in the same way and the king bestowed a costly robe of honour on every one of them and raised their salaries. By doing so the king, in fact, harmed them because all they were doing is imitating what the vizier had said and every imitator is disgraced when put on trial.
The pearl, passing from hand to hand, finally came to Ayaz. ‘Now Ayaz, will you say how much a pearl of this splendour and excellence is worth’, the king asked. He replied to the king’s question that the pearl was more than he was able to say When he was told to break it into small fragments, Ayaz, not beguiled by the riches and increases in salary the others had received, took two stones and quickly reduced the pearl to dust, for that seemed to him to be the right course.
When he had broken the pearl, a hundred clamours and outcries rose from the Amirs. ‘What recklessness is this!’, they said. ‘Whoever has broken this luminous pearl is an infidel.’ Ayaz replied: ‘O renowned princes, is the King’s command more precious or the pearl? In your eyes, is the command of the sovereign superior or this goodly pearl? Your gaze is fixed on the pearl, not on your king and it has become an object of your desire. I will never let my gaze avert from my king; I will not turn my face towards a stone like a polytheist. Return to reality; if you are on the path of true religion, then do not be addicted to worldly valuables.’
The princes cast down their heads, craving with all their soul to be excused for that act of forgetfulness. At that moment from the hearts of each of them sighs were going up to heaven like smoke. The king made a sign to the ancient executioner as though to say, ‘Remove these people from my seat of honour.’ The king asked: ‘How are these people worthy of my seat of honour when they break my command for the sake of a stone? For the sake of a coloured stone, my command is ignored by the likes of these.’