March 3, 2001

Brotherhood: The Missing Foundation

 

Glory upon He who
created the heavens and the earth. Glory upon He with whose Name do we quench
our thirst; and may the blessings and mercy of Allah be showered upon our
Prophet, and his Ummah, both past and present.

 

The society we live
in today is characterized by something that was never present in our Prophet’s
Ummah – loneliness. This loneliness manifests itself in division and secularism,
slowly decaying and destroying our society. The relationships we share with our
family and friends can be at best described as an abstract mosaic, devoid of
life and intensity.

 

Meaning

 

“Brotherhood”,
the term upon which much of the first Muslim state was built on no longer has
the same meaning and strength. Now it relates to your friend, your mate, the
people in your group or gang. A very narrow definition indeed.

 

One of the greatest
blessings of Islam is it’s admirable success in creating strong, warm, rich and
durable bonds of love and brotherhood between man. It is this blessing of love
and brotherhood which is the greatest source of sustenance and nourishment for
man, but few of us can honestly say that we have experienced true brotherhood.

 

The brotherhood that
I am talking about is the brotherhood that can become a permanent basis for
social organization in Islam, and this is confirmed by the directives of the
Qur’an itself: “Surely believers are but brothers unto each other, so make
peace and reconciliation amongst your brothers,” (49:10). In Islam, faith
is the cornerstone of brotherhood. It keeps Muslims close to each other in a
fraternal relationship. This relationship is based on each brothers submission
to Allah. Islamic brotherhood is a bond of faith as mentioned in the following
saying of the Prophet: “the strongest relationship is built on loving for
the sake of Allah and becoming angry for the sake of Allah” [Bukhari].

 

Importance

 

The importance of
brotherhood is highlighted by the institution of this by the Prophet in his
first state in Medina. As many Muslim emigrants were without means of
livelihood, the Prophet laid the obligation of supporting them on the Ansar. The
institution of brotherhood in its case was not simply a short term measure
designed to deal with an immediate economic crisis but a major and permanent
feature of the new social order that was emerging under the Prophet. It
represented a deliberate choice in favor of a collective, co-operative spirit,
over individualism and competitiveness. It was not an abstract unity. It was a
real life organic unity that bound all Muslims. The Prophet has described it as
such: “You find the Muslims in their mutual love and compassion, like one
body, should any organ of it fall ill, the rest of the body will share in the
fever and sleeplessness that ensues” [Bukhari].

 

Rights
and Responsibilities

 

The bond of
brotherhood is like a contract, because it confers certain rights and
responsibilities between brothers, and Islam has laid down these rights and
responsibilities. In all these comprise of six duties.

 

The first duty is to
render personal aid in the satisfaction of needs, as indicated by the Prophet
(saw): “If one of you goes with your brother to help him fulfill his duty,
and then the Prophet made a small sign with his fingers and added, that is
better for him than making a i’tikaf in my mosque for two months”
[al-Hakim].

 

A Muslim in the
early days would see to the maintenance of his brothers wife and children after
his bothers death, attending to their needs, visiting them daily, inquiring on
what they needed. This is how brotherhood and compassion is shown. If a man does
not manifest compassion towards his brother in the same degree as to himself,
then there is no good in it. The Prophet (saw) has said: “those who help a
Muslim in hardship in this world, will be protected by Allah from suffering
hardship in the Hereafter… Allah will help his servants as long as they help
their fellow Muslim brothers” [Muslim].

 

The second duty
concerns the tongue, which should sometimes be silent and at other times speak
out. As for silence, the tongue should not mention a brother’s faults in his
absence. Rather you should feign ignorance. You should not dispute nor argue
with him, you should not criticize him, accuse him of anything or quiz him about
his affairs. You should not be suspicious, for suspicion is the most untruthful
report and suspicion leads to prying and spying.

 

On the authority of
Abu Huraira (ra) it is noted that the Prophet (saw) said: “Let him who believes
in Allah and the last day either speak good or keep silent, and let him who
believes in Allah and the last day be generous to his neighbor” [Bukhari].
Also on the authority of Abu Huraira, the Prophet (saw) has said: “Beware
of suspicion for suspicion is the worst of false takers, and don’t look for the
faults of others and don’t spy, and don’t be jealous of one another; and O
Allah’s worshippers! Be brothers (as Allah has ordered you)” [Bukhari].

 

The third duty
relates to the forgiveness of your brother’s mistakes and failings, and helping
him overcome his shortcomings. Anas ibn Malik relates that the Holy Prophet
(saw) said: “Help your brother whether he is an oppressor or an oppressed
person. A companion asked: “Messenger of Allah, I will help him if he is an
oppressed person, but please tell me how I am to help if he happens to be an
oppressor”. The Prophet (saw) answered: “Check him from doing
injustice, because preventing him from committing aggression is a help to
him”. Also, Abu Huraira relates that the Holy Prophet (saw) said, “One
who covers up the failings of somebody in this world, will have his shortcomings
covered by Allah on the Day of Judgment”.

 

True Muslim
brotherhood implies that you should pray for your brother and want for him what
you would want for yourself, and this is the fourth duty. You should pray for
him as you pray for yourself making no distinction at all between you and him.
You should pray during his life and death that he may have all he might wish for
himself, his family and his dependents. The Prophet has said: “The
supplication of a Muslim for his brother without his knowledge is an accepted
supplication and will be rewarded by the presence of an angel at his side. Every
time he supplicates for his brother the angel will say: Amen and the same for
you too” [Muslim]. On the authority of Anas ibn Malik, it is noted that the
Prophet (saw) has said: “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his
brother what he wishes for himself” [Bukhari].

 

The fifth
responsibility
concerns remaining loyal, truthful and sincere to your brother.
The meaning of loyalty is steadfastness in love and maintaining it to the death
with your brother. The Prophet (saw) has said: “If one of you defends the honor
of his brother, Allah the Almighty, will keep the hellfire away from his face in
the Hereafter” [Muslim]. Loyalty also concerns not befriending the enemies
of your brother, because if your friend obeys your enemy then they share enmity
towards you. Loyalty and sincerity also includes love and co-operation, the
Prophet (saw) said: “Do not end a friendship, do not turn your back, do not
hate each other, and don’t envy each other. As a servant of Allah, maintain
brotherhood. Two Muslims may not remain on non speaking terms with each other
for more than three days” [Malik].

 

We now come to the

sixth and final responsibility
of brotherhood. This relates brotherhood as a
communal responsibility with many duties. Abu Huraira relates the Prophet (saw)
as saying: “There are six duties of a Muslim to another Muslim: when you
meet him you should say salaam, when he invites you, you should accept his
invitation, when he advises you should also advise him, when he sneezes and says
al-hamdulillah, you should reply yarhamakullah. When he is sick you should
visit him and when he passes away you should accompany his dead body to the
cemetery” [Muslim].

 

These are the six
very simple responsibilities of brotherhood. Insha-Allah, by doing these Allah
will unite our hearts and have mercy upon us and make our lives easy and full of
blessing.

 

O Allah! Forgive us
and all the believing men and women and unite their hearts with mutual love and
set aright their mutual affairs and help them against your and their enemies. My
brothers and sisters in Islam. We have all heard and seen the words of Allah and
our beloved Prophet Mohammed (saw). We are not friends or mates unto each other
but we are brothers unto each other, forming the same body, but unfortunately
this single body of ours is in need of much spirit, faith, Iman and Taqwa which
has been missing in recent years and insha-Allah we are granted this by Allah
the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth.

 

(courtesy of
http://www.islam.org.au
)

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