Allah Ta’aala says:
“0 mankind, We have created you from a male and a female and made you into races and tribes, so that you may identify each other. Surely the noblest of you, in Allah’s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” [49:13]
All of Mankind are the Children of Aadam and Hawwa’ Alaihimas Salaam
In the preceding verses, six social evils in connection with human and Islamic rights were prohibited, and principles of good manners were laid down to be observed in social life. The current verse proceeds to set down the basis of an all-comprehensive and all-pervading principle of human equality. It has firmly laid the axe at the false and foolish notions of superiority, born of racial arrogance or national conceit.
All men have been created from a single male [‘Aadam] and a single female [Hawwa’] as human beings. Therefore, all people are the descendants of ‘Aadam and Hawwa’ and have been declared equal in the sight of Allah. No one is allowed to take pride nor to degrade others on the basis of pigment of his skin, the amount of wealth he possesses or by his rank or by his social status, descent or pedigree, but by his moral uprightness and the way he discharges his obligations to Allah and man. The entire human race is but one family. Division into nations, tribes and sub-tribes of all sizes, and races is meant only to give a better identification of one another.
Circumstances of Revelation
This verse was revealed on the occasion of the conquest of Makkah Mukarramah. When it was time for prayer, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam asked Sayyidna Bilal Radiallahu Anhu to call the adhan. One of the pagan Quraish cynically remarked: “Thank God that my father died before this happened, and he did not have to see this bad day.” Harith Ibn Hisham remarked: “Could Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) not find anyone better than this black crow to sound the adhan in the Sacred Mosque!” Abu Sufyan (Radiallahu Anhu) said: “I do not wish to utter anything for fear that the master of the heavens will inform him.
Thus Jibrail Alaihis Salaam came down and informed Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam about this conversation. Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam called them and asked them about it. They admitted. At this, the current verse was revealed.
Taqwa of Allah is the basis of Honour
This verse made it plain that human beings can earn honour on account of their faith and righteousness. The immediate application of the verse was to Sayyidna Bilal Radiallahu Anhu, and therefore Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said to those people: “You are empty (i.e. you have no moral leg to stand on.) Sayyidna Bilal Radiallahu Anhu, on the other hand, is equipped (with high moral qualities); and he is better and more honourable than any of you.” [Baghawi, as cited in Mazhari].
Sayyidna ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar Radiallahu Anhu reports that on the day when Makkah was conquered, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam performed tawaaf (circumambulation of Ka’bah) in the state of riding on his she-camel, [so that all the people could see him]. Then having completed his tawaaf, he delivered a sermon in which he said:
“0 people! Allah has removed from you the pride of jaahiliyyah and its arrogance. People are of two types: a man who is righteous, fearful of Allah and he is honourable to Allah; or a man who is sinful, wretched, and he is disgraced and little to Allah.” [Timidhi and Baghawi]
Then he recited the current verse. Sayyidna Ibn-‘Abbas Radiallahu Anhu says: For people “honour” lies in wealth, whilst in the sight of Allah it lies in righteousness. Analysis of Important Words in the Verse The word Shu’ub (races) is the plural of Sha’b which refers to a large group of persons of the same origin, (like a nation). Then it consists of clans and tribes. The largest group in this arrangement is called sa’b, and the smallest is called ‘ashirah. Abi Ruwiq says that the words Shu’ub and Sha’b refer to non-Arab nations whose lineage is not preserved, whilst qabil refers to Arabs whose lineage is well-preserved. The word asabt is used to refer to the children of Israel.
Lineal, National and Linguistic Division of Mankind
The Underlying Divine Wisdom is identification The Qur’an in this verse has made it clear that Allah has created all mankind from a single mother and a single father, and made them into a single brotherhood. But he has divided them into different tribes, nations, races, lineage and language-speakers/linguistic groups. The underlying Divine wisdom in such a division is mutual identification. For example, if there are two persons bearing the same name, they could be differentiated by family name. It can also show the near and remote relations. Their Shar’i rights can be fulfilled on the basis of near and distant lineage. It is incumbent to determine the near and remote agnate heirs when applying the law of succession or dividing the estate of a deceased. In short, reference to one’s lineage for the purpose of identification is not deemed to be pride and conceit.
Source: Maariful Quraan