(6) A Muslim vis-à-vis Other Muslims

If one were to ask many today as to what the strongest bond there could possibly be among people, most of them would probably answer something like blood relationship, ethnic origin, nationality and so forth. Actually, the Quran shows that these types of bonds are not that strong if the foundation behind them is weak. In the Quran, Allah gives the examples of Cain and Abel, who were two brothers yet one killed the other, as well as the example of the brethren of Joseph, who cast Joseph into a well. Those were all blood relatives; however, they put this world above their relationship with others. Such is occurring today throughout the world. The ties between the people are subservient to their desires, goals and wants of this world. Many individuals are quickly and easily willing to sell out their own kith and kin to get ahead in this world or to get something they want in this world.

All of this demonstrates one thing: When the ties between people are based on worldly considerations, even if they are originally blood ties, then those ties are given up when the worldly considerations so demand them to be given up. Hence, those are not the strongest ties that can be built among people. The strongest ties that can achieved between people are the ties of Islam and true faith. These are the bonds forged between people that are solely the result of their belief in Allah and their love for Allah. This was clearly pointed out by Allah in the Quran when Allah stated, “And He has united their (believers’) hearts. If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allah has united them. Certainly, He is All-Mighty, All- Wise” (8:63). Allah also says, “And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah’s favor on you, for you were enemies and He joined your hearts together, so that by His grace, you became brethren and you were on a brink of a Pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes clear His signs to you, that you may be guided” (3:103). The Quran and the Sunnah show that the bond of faith is the strongest of all bonds. It represents humans from all over the world coming together for one purpose only: to establish the worship of Allah alone. To achieve that goal, Muslims work together and help one another in compassion mercy and love.

There are actually numerous texts of the Quran and hadith that demonstrate beyond any doubt that Muslims are to form one universal, international brotherhood and sisterhood.302 For the sake of brevity, only a few examples of those texts will be presented here:

Allah says, “The believers, men and women, are auliyaa (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another, they enjoin what is good and eradicate what is evil. They offer the prayers and pay the Zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. Surely, Allah will have His Mercy on them. Surely, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise” (9:71). Another verse reads, “The believers are nothing else but brothers” (49:10). Allah also says, “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are severe against disbelievers and merciful among themselves” (48:29). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “The believer with respect to another believer is like a building, one portion strengthening the other.”303 Another hadith states, “The parable of the believers with respect to their love, mercy and compassion for one another is like that of the body: if one of its limbs is hurting, the remainder of the body is afflicted by sleeplessness and fever.”304

But this great brotherhood of Islam is not something theoretical. It is, in fact, well defined. It has certain basic components to it and specific rights and obligations that are spelled out in the Quran and Sunnah. These rights and obligations are due to every Muslim, of every time and place.

One of the necessary aspects of this brotherhood is love. That is, it is an obligation upon all Muslims to love their brother Muslims. In fact, they should love them in a manner similar to the way they care for themselves. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”305

A second necessary aspect of this brotherhood is mutual support, aid and assistance. When his brother is being oppressed or wronged, he comes to his aid and assistance with his wealth and soul, if possible. This is described, for example, in the following verses: “And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women and children, whose cry is, ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors, and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help’” (4:75).

A third essential aspect of this Islamic brotherhood is mercy and tenderness between the believers. This goes beyond a simple love for one another but it means that each brother feels in his heart for what his brother is going through. The Prophet (peace be upon him) described the Muslims in the following fashion, “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of a body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches due to fever and sleeplessness.”306

A final necessary component of our brotherhood is common acts of courtesy. True brotherhood has to be put into practice; it cannot simply be a statement of the tongue. One amazing and beautiful aspect of Islam is that it does not leave matters at a hypothetical level with each individual attempting to figure out how goals can possibly be achieved. Thus, for example, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has detailed specific acts that one has the right to expect from one’s brother and which one should also perform towards one’s brother. Thus, among those common obligatory acts of courtesy are the six mentioned by the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Six are the rights of a Muslim over another Muslim.... When you meet him, offer him greetings; when he invites you to a feast, accept it; when he seeks your sincere counsel, give it to him; when he sneezes and says, ‘al-hamdulillah,’ say, ‘May Allah show mercy to you’; when he falls ill, visit him; and when he dies, follow his funeral bier.”307

Beyond these six well-known practices, Islamic Law guides Muslims to many other practices that help gender love and closeness between the believers, which is an obvious goal of the Law itself. Thus, for example, if a Muslim loves another Muslim for the sake of Allah, he should inform the other individual of that feeling. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explained the reason for doing so when he said, “If one of you loves his brother for the sake of Allah, he should inform of that as this will make the bond longer lasting and the love more confirmed.”308

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also said, “By the One in whose hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise until you believe. And you do not believe until you love one another. Certainly, let me inform you of that which will establish such for you: spreading peace among yourselves.”309 This hadith could mean the spreading of the greetings of peace or doing actual deeds that bring about peace and togetherness.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also noted the importance of giving gifts to one another. He said, “Exchange gifts and you will love one another.310

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also encouraged Muslims to visit one another. He stated, “Visit one another occasionally and love [between you] will increase.”311

In addition to all of these positive acts, when one avoids the forbidden acts, the results will also be positive for interpersonal relationships. In other words, when one avoids backbiting, slandering, lying, cheating, spying and so forth, nothing but good will result from the avoidance of these evil practices that Islam has clearly forbidden.

In sum, if Islam is truly applied, a Muslim will be a brother/sister to all the Muslims in the world and would do nothing but good toward them and would expect nothing but good in return from them.

302 It is important to realize that this brotherhood is founded upon a common faith. In fact, blood relationships come to an end because of differences in religion. Allah says about Noah and his son, “[Noah said,] ‘O my Lord, verily my son is of my family! And certainly your promise is true, and You are the Most Just of the judges.’ He [Allah] said, ‘O Noah! Surely he is not of your family, his work is unrighteous’” (11:45-46). Hence, non-Muslims fall outside of the fold of this brotherhood. They are more than welcome to join this brotherhood by embracing Islam, as this brotherhood is not based on race, ethnicity or nationality. Otherwise, by their choice of religion and belief they have opted to remain outside of this brotherhood. As shall be discussed later, the Muslim still has some obligations toward such non-Muslims though.

303 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

304 Recorded by Muslim.

305 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

306 Recorded by Muslim.

307 Recorded by Muslim.

308 Recorded by ibn Abi Dunya in Kitaab al-Ikhwaan. According to al-Albaani, it is a good narration. See al-Albaani, Saheeh al-Jaami al-Sagheer #280.