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The verse says:

يا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْناكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَ أُنْثى‏ وَ جَعَلْناكُمْ شُعُوباً وَ قَبائِلَ لِتَعارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَليمٌ خَبير

"O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted."(49:13)

I want to know interpretation of this verse. What is the exact interpretation for the word "لِتَعارَفُوا "?

Why is Allah considering "made you peoples and tribes" as a tool for knowing each others?

How could differences help us to know each others?

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10 Answers 10

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For me the meaning is that we are created in our different groups so that we may better understand each other, and beyond that to understand ourselves. We all have our own cultures and traditions which seem completely natural to us until we meet someone from another culture, then we have to ask ourselves, why do we wear this or eat that, and those people do differently? How do they respect their elders and discipline their children, can we learn from them? Maybe I am overinterpreting, does ta"aarafuu mean only "recognise, identify", or can it mean "understand, know more deeply"?

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  • I don't think you are over interpreting it at all , in fact I strongly agree with your understanding of it , you may also refer to Hakim's answer which describes the same concept , albeit in different phrasing , by Abul Ala Maududi . Also as an Arab speaker , لتعارفوا is different from لتتعرفوا علي which means to distinguish/identify and I believe it implies the meaning of "understand, know more deeply" . – SongBird Nov 1 '18 at 20:13
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External differences of types are have been put in place for identification only. Imagine I look, talk, walk same as you, my father looks, talks and walks same as you father, my mother looks, sounds and walks same as your mother.

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  • The question is What does “made you peoples and tribes” mean in Qur'an 49:13? What's the answer? – Rebecca J. Stones Apr 7 '18 at 10:49
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We all look the same but also different, we got two eyes nose mouth etc, but he fashioned us differently, otherwise we were gonna be like cars with number plates to be identified, e,g imagine calling Mr Omar number 67456

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I wanted to add a comment to Jim Holloway's answer but I dont have enough points apparently.

I completely agree with this interpretation and in fact I came to this conclusion tonight, almost as a Eureka moment, while watching this lecture by Stanton Peele, an addiction specialist.

In this lecture he discusses the differences between various communities of people in different parts of the world and compares the varying results these communities have achieved with their public health policies regarding addictions.

The reason I'm even here on this forum was to confirm if this was a valid interpretation of verse 49:13 and it seems like it makes sense. The meaning of this verse has eluded me for a long time until I had enough knowledge to make the connection. We were made different communities/tribes as a way to measure our communities societal choices against other communities' choices and to learn what works best for society.

This is unrelated, but it blows my mind that the meaning to certain verses of the Quran can only be unlocked by having a certain pre-requisite level of knowledge/experience regarding specific topics.

Please correct me if I'm overreaching with this explanation.

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It was a test that was failed in the beginning of creation that led to this.

All the angels bowed down, but Iblis refused to do so. He argued that since he himself was created from fire, he is superior to humans, made from Clay-mud, and that he should not prostrate himself before Adam. As punishment for his haughtiness, God banished Iblis from heaven and condemned him to hell.

"O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted."(49:13)

So the TEST will be till the end of times separating those that will embrace equality and those who feel they are a superior being.

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There is one more point to consider. Iblis (Satan) was the first racist. He refused to bow down to mankind due to his feeling of superiority. This caused his disobedience which led to his fall from grace. The Almighty Creator made us all different and unique but with commonalities. This is one of His myriad blessings. It's a chance for us to learn from each other and to appreciate the beauty and diversity of the people of the world.

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Being from a mixed heritage, I interpret this as Allah swt creating us to know each other despite race, tribe, ethnic, tradition, culture etc. What is fundamental is not the external appearance of us, but the ones who are noble and true before God. He created a world for us to mix with each other and gain knowledge from each other, but most importantly to unite as a Muslim ummah and never to divide. In the end Allah does not see colour as we are one human nation. This Hadith explains it best. “Allah does not look at your appearances or your financial status, but He looks at your hearts and your actions.” (Al-Bukhari)

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I still dont understand the fact that we have to be different in order to unite. Coz i thought our similarities are what binds us, you know black trust black, whites will always back stab...always have alwats will. Its something we have to teach ourselves and our children. Life is short and as a black person your 1000 times more likely to die due to racism than any one else on this earth. We were the first people to walk the earth and now it just seems like we dont belong and we should just find a new planet. Am sorry if this sounds offensive but i just put out things in my own perspective

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It is because of differences we can identify(تَعارَفُو) people. That is why all our faces are looking different. Similarly people in different region have different characteristics, language etc. so that people can identify that they are from those region.

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  • This doesn't completely answer the question. – Bleeding Fingers Dec 30 '14 at 19:07
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In his tafseer, Abul Ala Maududi explains it as follows:

In spite of being one in origin it was natural that you should be divided into nations and tribes. Obviously,. all the men on the earth could not belong to one and the same family. With the spread of the race it was inevitable that countless families should arise, and then tribes and nations should emerge from the families. Similarly, it was inevitable that after settling in different regions of the earth, there should be differences of colors, features, languages and ways of living among the people, and it was also natural that those living in the same region should be closer in affinity and those living in remote regions not so close; but this natural difference never demanded that distinctions of inequality, of high and low, of noble and mean, should be established on its basis, that one race should claim superiority over the other, the people of one color should look down upon the people of other colors, and that one nation should take preference over the ocher without any reason. The Creator had divided the human communities into nations and tribes for that was a natural way of cooperation and distinction between them. In this way alone could a fatuity, a brotherhood, a tribe and a nation combine to give birth to a common way of life and to cooperate with each other in the affairs of the world.

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