Few could have predicted that a relatively unknown merchant from Arabia in the seventh century who would experience sudden visits from an "outside" entity and the few scraps of writing that he and his small group of companions would diligently memorise and preserve, would transform such vast quantities of the human species, indeed transform the known world civilisation(s). Within a hundred years of the Prophet's (peace be upon him) death, Islam had spread militarily from India in the East to Spain in the West, creating a global caliphate remembered for its tolerance and good treatment of its religious minorities, despite the episodic mistreatment that resulted from public unrest and civil as well as national crises. The vast military expansion was followed by a slow process of conversion of the native Zoroastrian, Christian, Buddhist, Sabean, Magian, Jewish religions, mostly the result of the peaceful preaching of charismatic Muslim leaders and scholars. The Muslim community, or ummah, was no longer a local group of believers situated in Arabia but an extensive global network stretching many thousands of miles.
Today, Muslims form strong and vibrant communities in almost all countries of the world. The Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) strongly impress on Muslims the imperative to maintain unity, the need to overlook differences of birth and the ethos of equality and justice before God. The Qur’an states “O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of God, is the best in conduct. Lo! God is Knower, Aware.” (49:13). Elsewhere it emphasises the ties created by the “wombs” and the common origin of man and woman from an undifferentiated “single soul” (Qur’an 4:1); stressing this equality the Qur’an states “And whoso doeth good works, whether of male or female, and he (or she) is a believer, such will enter paradise and they will not be wronged the dint in a date-stone” (4:124) and emphasizing the superiority of justice over birthright or wealth the Qur’an says “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” (4:135). The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) made it clear that racism has no place in Islam. In his Farewell Sermon at Mecca he said “No Arab is superior to a non-Arab and no non-Arab is superior to an Arab. No black man is superior to a red man and no red man is superior to a black, except through taqwa (fear of God). Indeed the noblest among you is the one who is deeply conscious of God.” (Sahih Ibn Hibban)
Muslims must also relate on peaceful, amicable and respectful terms with their non-Muslim neighbours who are not hostile to them. “God does not prevent you”, the Qur’an says, from “dealing kindly and with justice” with those “who do not fight you nor drive you out of your homes” for “indeed, God loves the equitable” (60:8). Al-Bukhari, a renowned collector of hadith, reports that a sheep was slaughtered for 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr (a companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him)). He asked his slave, “Have you given any to our Jewish neighbour? Have you given any to our Jewish neighbour? I heard the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, say, 'Gabriel kept on recommending that I treat my neighbours well until I thought that he would order me to treat them as my heirs.'” (al-Adab al-Mufrad). As for international relations between Muslim and non-Muslim governments, the Qur’an commands Muslim nations to “incline to (peace)” if the opposition “incline to peace” (8:61) and “if they hold aloof from you and wage not war against you and offer you peace, God alloweth you no way against them” (4:90). The Muslim “mission” following the example of the Prophet involves “bearing witness” by establishing Islam in our lives collectively as a “middle ummah” between the extremes of life (2:143) and in calling to God with “wisdom, beautiful exhortation and good arguments” (16:125).