In Surah tul Baqarah, ayah 213, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says:
كَانَ ٱلنَّاسُ أُمَّةً۬ وَٲحِدَةً۬ فَبَعَثَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ مُبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنذِرِينَ وَأَنزَلَ مَعَهُمُ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ بِٱلۡحَقِّ لِيَحۡكُمَ بَيۡنَ ٱلنَّاسِ فِيمَا ٱخۡتَلَفُواْ فِيهِۚ وَمَا ٱخۡتَلَفَ فِيهِ إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُوهُ مِنۢ بَعۡدِ مَا جَآءَتۡهُمُ ٱلۡبَيِّنَـٰتُ بَغۡيَۢا بَيۡنَهُمۡۖ فَهَدَى ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لِمَا ٱخۡتَلَفُواْ فِيهِ مِنَ ٱلۡحَقِّ بِإِذۡنِهِۦۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَهۡدِى مَن يَشَآءُ إِلَىٰ صِرَٲطٍ۬ مُّسۡتَقِيمٍ (٢١٣)
”Mankind was one nation (having one religion – later when people invented other religions) So Allah appointed Prophets as bearers or good news and warnings; and revealed to them the Book wit the true Guidance, to settle the matters of dispute between mankind but the very people to whom it was given started disputes after the clear arguments had come to them because of rivalry between one another. Allah has guided the believers by His Will to the truth in those matters in which they had differences. Allah guides whom He pleases torwards the straight path.” (2:213)
The word Ummah comes from the root hamza, meem, meem, and can mean 4 different things:
A group of living beings.
A time period.
Here, it refers to a group of one religion – number 2. So, let’s get the picture in our heads: Mankind was of one religion, Islam. Of course, nothing is perfect, so mankind differed and some went astray and other religions came up. Then, Allah says, He sent Messengers to give good news (glad tidings of Jannah, etc) and to warn (consequences of sin, etc). The Messengers didn’t come empty handed – they had The Book with them. This was sent with the truth, to settle the difference between the people.
Even so, the People of the Book began differing subhanAllah. The word used for ‘rivalry’ is baghyan, which comes from the root ba, ghayn, ya. The root means to desire and hostility/transgression/rebellion. What do those have in common? In obtaining our desires, we become hostile or transgress. Why would someone rebell? Out of jealously or animosity. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala goes on to say that only He guides the believers, only with His permission.
Something interesting my tafseer teacher said was ‘Ikhtilaaf is a test of using ‘aql properly.’ SubhanAllah, what happens when we differ? We get mad, move away, do our own thing. We let our petty differences lead ourselves to punishment.
Another interesting point is that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guides whom He wills. He gave everyone in that area hidaya irshaad – the Qur’an. They were given the instructions, however, not everyone was given the tawfique, the means, to follow through. We should make du’aa for both, because we need both for our success in this life and the next. If we are not of those whom Allah guides, it will be the biggest loss for each one of us.
You know, it’s only Shaytaan who comes along and creates exploits those differences. Each one of us was made differently – Allah swt says so Himself in the Qur’an, but the problem is when those differences become life or death (of course, I’m talking about the little things, not huge ‘aqeedah matters) and in turn, seperate this Ummah into little groups. The thing that unites us is our deen – everything else should take a back seat inshaAllah.
Most importantly, it starts with us – you and me – are we seperating ourselves based on little things that Islam told us not to? Look to yourself again. These stories and parables are supposed to be lessons for us to implement inshaAllah. One step at a time, we can bring back the One Ummah 🙂