Article in brief: The author explains how working with different people creates fertile ground for prosperity. He continues to show that the differences between the native and expatriate communities can possibly hurt this path to prosperity and explains possible ways of avoiding it.
From the days of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the courts of Baghdad during the reign of the Abbasids to the plazas of the grand mosque in Cordoba in Muslim Spain, successful Muslim nations were governed by religious Islamic teachings. Teachings that allowed different people of different creeds and races to live side by side, work together, and achieve great goals. Teachings that preserved the rights of individuals and provided justice for all people. Teachings that promoted not only peaceful co-existence but also the prosperity of minority groups within its reign.
During those times, Muslims and the people within their territories flourished in science, philosophy, and technology. A common theme that existed was the acceptance of working together with people of different creeds and races towards a good cause whether it be in the advancement of knowledge or the betterment of the economy or society.
There are numerous accounts of poetic recitals, ideology debates, and scientific writings and discoveries that are indicative of an open dialogue between the different people who lived within “Islamic” territories. Not only did these empires give birth to Muslim Scholars such as Al Khawarizmi (the father of algebra), Ibn Hayyan (father of chemistry), Ibn Hazm (the polymath from Andalucía), and Ibn Rushd (Averroes), but they also allowed the prosperity of non-Muslim scholars. Some examples include the non-Muslim scholars of Baghdad who conveyed philosophical and scientific writings such as Aristotle and principles of chemistry to Christian Europe and the rise of Mosheh Ben Maimon (Maimonides) who played a very important role in Jewish philosophy.
Using the above examples and comparing them to today’s world, I believe the closest to such societies under an Islamic influenced judiciary/social system is the modern day Dubai. However, what makes Dubai distinct is that its native population constitutes a minority of the total population. I believe that the exchange of talent and ideas that occurs between the expatriates and natives is mostly healthy. In my opinion, Dubai may not sustain its economic development without the presence of both the expatriate and the Emirati. Since there isn’t any formal direct taxation or permanent residence, a set of workplace politics and social politics is born that can sometimes cause tension between the two parties and have a negative impact on general prosperity.
A European friend of mine once correctly stated, “I believe Emiratis in Dubai live in a dilemma, such that they want to learn and benefit from the expatriates who make up the majority of the population yet they do not welcome the dilution of their culture, an inevitable outcome if expatriates are present.” Due to that enigma, and transgression of boundaries between the two groups sometimes occurs which I fear may hurt the dynamics of the cooperation between the different groups and in turn could hurt the positive trajectory of economic growth which results from working together. The question then becomes: how do we maintain a healthy cooperation between the groups to ensure great outcomes?
For us Emiratis, hospitality is not only a trait we picked up from our forefathers, which deemed us humble. Our wise hospitality welcomed people of different faiths and races to Dubai, which largely contributed to our growth. However, let’s look at it from the Islamic perspective and see what it prescribes for peaceful coexistence:
First, Islam calls for uniting towards causes which lead to overall good and that do not transgress the boundaries of Islam. Additionally, Islam prohibits uniting towards evil causes which lead to overall harm and resentment.
“Help ye one another in righteousness and piety, but help ye not one another in sin and rancor” – The Holy Quran [5:2]
Second, Islamic teachings oblige all Muslims to be just and fair towards all people regardless of their religion or race. This comprises interactions in the workplace, with neighbors, in road manners and many more. Examples of justice within the context of such interactions include honoring agreements, rewarding hard work, penalizing misconduct, etc. This should all be done without prejudice.
(Please refer to Prophet Muhammad’s interactions with the Jews of Madina, and the justice stories of Umar Ibn Al Khattab in whose era Islam prospered)
Third, Islam calls for the maintenance of good conduct in interactions. It is important that we respect all individuals regardless of their religion or race. It is important to use kindness, gentleness, and civil behavior. It is important to not yell or shout or use any form of coercion when dealing with others.
“The heaviest thing that will be placed in a person’s Balance on the Day of Resurrection is good behavior, and Allah hates the obscene immoral person.” – The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) – Tirmidhi
From a guest perspective, all the rules above also apply. Another good angle to see this from is managing your host’s expectations. As with any hospitable host, it’s polite, most respectful, and common sense to play by the house rules so long as you are in the common areas.
I believe that Dubai has the capability to recreate the fertile grounds for advancement of science, philosophy, and technology such as the early Muslims, Abbasids, and Muslim Andalusians. By being mindful of the above points, I think we can sort out any potential minimal issues we are having. I aspire to see the day in which the peaceful coexistence and cooperation between the people here will give birth to such scholars that will resonate throughout history.
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.