Li kulli qaumin eidun wa haza eiduna: 'Every community has its festival and this is ours'. This is how the Prophet of Islam established the day of Eid-ul-Fitr as the principal Muslim festival of the year. What is remarkable is how the Prophet first recognised the existence of different communities in society and their diverse festivities, before declaring Eid to be 'our' festival. This was in accord with his philosophy of societal pluralism which had found expression in his teachings and life-long practice.
Addressing mankind, the Qur'an had spoken of alwanukum wa alsinatukum - 'your complexions and your languages'. This was a clear-cut recognition of racial and linguistic pluralism. The Holy Book had also directed the Prophet to tell the followers of faith traditions other than Islam: Qul…lakum deenukum wa liya deen: 'Say! To you your religion, and to me, mine.' This was an unambiguous recognition of religious pluralism.
In his last public sermon the Prophet emphasised that all people were equal and must conduct themselves with humility: La fazila lilabyaz 'ala aswad, wa la lil-'arab 'ala 'ajam; kuulukum abna'u Adamu wa Adamu min turab. 'The white is not superior to the black, nor the Arab to the non-Arab; all of you are Adam's descendants and Adam was made of clay.'
The Prophet admitted to his inner circle of Companions people of different nationalities and linguistic backgrounds. There was indeed a spectacular scenario of trans-national fraternity in his company as it included the fair-complexioned Suhaib-e-Rumi of the Roman empire, the Persian, Salman-e-Farsi of Iran and the black freed slave, Bilal-e-Habashi of Ethiopia. Moreover, he entered into long parleys with the Christian and Jewish communities of his city-state and signed with them several agreements for a peaceful and friendly co-existence.
Today, let Eid-ul-Fitr serve us as a reminder of the philosophy and practice of the Prophet whose motto was al-khalqu 'ayal-ullah: 'Mankind as a whole is the family of God.' While enjoying Eid celebrations, let us pledge to faithfully act on his teachings on religious pluralism, universal brotherhood and complete social harmony.