Someone told Junaid al-Baghdādī (q.s):
“We don’t see real brotherhood anymore. What happened to the old brotherhoods?” Junaid (q.s) replied:
“If you are looking for a brother who will endure your problems and take care of your needs you cannot find him in this age; but if you are looking for someone whom you will help, and will endure his problems for the sake of Allah, there are many of them.”
The Prophet (pbuh) says that:
“A believer is someone who is nice to people and people can be sociable with him. There is no good with those who are not nice to others and with whom nobody can get on.” (Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, II, 400; V, 335; Ḥākim, I, 73/59)
Therefore the first condition of being brothers in Islam is to abandon to be a burden. In other words it means to try not to be an unnecessary burden upon his brother in Islam; on the contrary it requires trying to lighten the brother’s weight.
There are some conditions of Muslim brotherhood, which must be observed. These are the rights of our Muslim brothers upon us. Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) summarizes these rights as follows:
“Six are the rights of a Muslim over another Muslim. It was said to him: Allah’s Messenger, what are these? Thereupon he said: When you meet him, offer him greetings; when he invites you to a feast accept it. when he seeks your council give him, and when he sneezes and says: “All praise is due to Allah,” you say Yarhamuk Allah (may Allah show mercy to you); and when he fails ill visit him; and when he dies follow his bier.” (Muslim, Salām, 5)
“Spread greetings among you, feed the poor and the needy, and thus become brother as you are ordered by Allah.” (Ibn Mājah, Aṭ’imah, 1)
Our horizon should be very wide in respect to the requirements of brotherhood; because our level of brotherhood shows our level of maturity.
1. A wealthy believer’s help to his needy brothers is the first step of brotherhood. It is stated in a verse: “… do-good (to others) as Allah has done good to you…” (28; 77)
2. The second step is to comprehend the meaning of the verse “…you can recognize them by their mark…” (2; 273) and take care of the needs of the poor without even waiting them to ask. This verse indoctrinates us to reach the spiritual level with which we can recognize our needy brothers who cannot tell their needs because of their modesty. This is a very high state of brotherhood.
Our Ottoman predecessors used to offer meals at the caravanserais, guesthouses, and soup kitchens to all of the visitors. Travelers could stay there for three days and when they were leaving, they would be given a new pair of shoes if they were old.
Wealthy people used to visit jails and save the people who were sent to jail because of their debts. Wealthy members of the Ottoman society used to go to a grocery store, and randomly select a page from the grocer’s loan book. Then they would pay people’s debts on that page without even knowing their names.
Thus they would help people just for the sake of Allah. With this consciousness of brotherhood, endowments covered all parts of the Ottoman society like a spider web.
There were more than 26 thousand endowments established during the period of Ottomans, which is a nice proof to show their sensitivity in regards to social brotherhood and solidarity. For instance, Bezmiâlem Vâlide Sultan’s endowment in Damascus is a remarkable one.
The object of this endowment was to compensate the damages caused by the servants in order to protect their dignity. It is very hard for today’s self-seeking societies to comprehend the sensitivity of our predecessors in this respect.
3. The third step of brotherhood is to achieve the level of birr that means to desire for your brother the things that you desire for yourself. In fact the Prophet (pbuh) stated that “None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself.” (Bukhārī, Kitāb al-Imān, 7)
One of the best examples in this regard is presented by Uthmān (r.a). When there was a shortage of water in Medina, he bought the well of Rūmah for a big sum of money and endowed it for the use of believers. According to the records, he used to wait in line with other Muslims in order to get water from this well.
During the Ottoman period, people put a red flower in front of the houses where there was a sick person, so everybody passing by knew that they should keep quiet so not to disturb, and also to respect the rights of the home.
4. The highest step in the brotherhood of Islam is the state of i’sār, which means to prefer the needs of a brother in Islam over your own needs. It means to be content with self destitution, and try to solve the problems of your brother when it is necessary. This is the characteristic of righteous, pious, truthful, and upright believers and it is the highest level of brotherly love.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would think about his people before considering his own needs. He would not eat or feed his family before his companions ate. Whatever he had, he would give to the poor. Sometimes he would not have a warm meal or even a piece of bread for days.
Abū Hurairah (r.a) narrates that:
“By Allah except whom none has the right to be worshipped, (sometimes) I used to lay (sleep) on the ground on my liver (abdomen) because of hunger, and (sometimes) I used to bind a stone over my belly because of hunger. One day I sat by the way from where they (the Prophet and his companions) used to come out. When Abu Bakr passed by, I asked him about a Verse from Allah’s Book and I asked him only that he might satisfy my hunger, but he answered my question and passed by; but he did not satisfy my hunger. Then Omar passed by me and I asked him about a Verse from Allah’s Book, and I asked him only that he might satisfy my hunger, but he passed by without doing so, because both of them did not have anything to give. Finally, the Prophet (s.a.w) passed by me and smiled when he saw me, for he knew what was in my heart and on my face. He said, “O Aba Hirr (Abu Huraira)!” I replied, “Labbaik, O Allah’s Apostle!”
He said to me, “Follow me.” He left and I followed him. Then he entered the house and I asked permission to enter and was admitted. He found milk in a bowl and said, “From where is this milk?” They said, “It has been presented to you by such-and such man (or by such and such woman).” He said, “O Aba Hirr!” I said, “Labbaik, O Allah’s Apostle!” He said, “Go and call the people of Suffa to me.” These people of Suffa were the guests of Islam who had no families, nor money, nor anybody to depend upon, and whenever an object of charity was brought to the Prophet, he would send it to them and would not take anything from it, and whenever any present was given to him, he used to send some for them and take some of it for himself. The order of the Prophet upset me, and I said to myself, “How will this little milk be enough for the people of al-Suffa?” thought I was more entitled to drink from that milk in order to strengthen myself, but behold! The Prophet came to order me to give that milk to them. I wondered what will remain of that milk for me, but anyway, I could not but obey Allah and His Apostle so I went to the people of al-Suffa and called them, and they came and asked the Prophet’s permission to enter. They were admitted and took their seats in the house.
The Prophet said, “O Aba-Hirr!” I said, “Labbaik, O Allah’s Apostle!” He said, “Take it and give it to them.” So I took the bowl (of Milk) and started giving it to one man who would drink his fill and return it to me, whereupon I would give it to another man who, in his turn, would drink his fill and return it to me, and I would then offer it to another man who would drink his fill and return it to me. Finally, after the whole group had drunk their fill, I reached the Prophet who took the bowl and put it on his hand, looked at me and smiled and said. “O Aba Hirr!” I replied, “Labbaik, O Allah’s Apostle!” He said, “There remain you and I.” I said, “You have said the truth, O Allah’s Apostle!” He said, “Sit down and drink.” I sat down and drank. He said, “Drink,” and I drank. He kept on telling me repeatedly to drink, till I said, “No. by Allah Who sent you with the Truth, I have no space for it (in my stomach).” He said, “Hand it over to me.” When I gave him the bowl, he praised Allah and pronounced Allah’s Name on it and drank the remaining milk.” (See. Bukhārī, Riqāq, 17)
Again, the following incident from the Battle of Khandaq is a very exemplary one. It is narrated by Jabir (r.a):
We were digging (the trench) on the day of the Battle of Trench and we came across a big solid rock. We went to the Prophet and said, “Here is a rock appearing across the trench.” He said, “I am coming down.” Then he got up, and a stone was tied to his belly for we had not eaten anything for three days. So the Prophet took the spade and struck the big solid rock and it became like sand. I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Allow me to go home.” (When the Prophet allowed me) I said to my wife, “I saw the Prophet in a state that I cannot treat lightly. Have you got something for him to eat?” She replied, “I have barley and a she goat.” So I slaughtered the she-kid and she ground the barley; then we put the meat in the earthenware cooking pot. Then I came to the Prophet when the dough had become soft and fermented and (the meat in) the pot over the stone trivet had nearly been well-cooked, and said, “I have got a little food prepared, so get up O Allah’s Apostle, you and one or two men along with you (for the food).”
The Prophet asked, “How much is that food?” I told him about it. He said, “It is abundant and good. Tell your wife not to remove the earthenware pot from the fire and not to take out any bread from the oven till I reach there.” Then he said (to all his companions), “Get up.” So the Muhajirn (i.e. Emigrants) and the Ansar got up. When I came to my wife, I said, “Allah’s Mercy be upon you! The Prophet came along with the Muhajirin and the Ansar and those who were present with them.” She said, “Did the Prophet ask you (how much food you had)?” I replied, “Yes.” Then the Prophet said, “Enter and do not throng.”
The Prophet started cutting the bread (into pieces) and put the cooked meat over it. He covered the earthenware pot and the oven whenever he took something out of them. He would give the food to his companions and take the meat out of the pot. He went on cutting the bread and scooping the meat (for his companions) till they all ate their fill, and even then, some food remained. Then the Prophet said (to my wife), “Eat and present to others as the people are struck with hunger.” (See. Bukhārī, Maghazī, 29; Waqidī, II, 452)
Ibn Omar (r.a) explains the self-sacrificing for the sake of a brother in Islam and people’s spiritual maturity at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) as follows:
“We lived in such times that nobody would think that he was worthier for gold and silver than his brother in Islam; whereas today people love worldly possessions more than their Muslim brothers.” (Haythamī, X, 285)
This scene becomes more serious in societies in which the balance of the matter and spirituality is destroyed in favor of the matter. For little matters and worldly interests, believers get angry to each other and their hearts get broken. As a result of ignorance, selfishness, and heartlessness Muslim brotherhood gets weakened.
Whereas the Prophet (pbuh) orders his followers to love their brothers and prefer them over their own needs. Thus he orders them to establish a society of sincere love.
However love cannot be just an empty claim. We cannot talk about real love without sacrifice, sharing the pains, forgiving mistakes, and altruism. In this regard brotherhood in Islam should be lived in actions and should not be just in words.
Perfect believers, who have attained the real love, will be the brother’s of the Prophet (pbuh) in the Hereafter.
One day the Prophet r said:
“I love to see my brothers.”
The Companions said:
“Aren’t we your brothers- O Messenger of Allah?”
He said: “You are my companions, and our brothers are those who have, so far, not come into the world.” (Muslim, Ṭahārah, 39: Faḍāil, 28)
In order to deserve to be a brother of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), we need to share the problems of the believers and work to solve their problems. Because serving the servants of Allah has the same value to serve Him; and serving the followers of the Prophet is similar to serving the Prophet (pbuh) himself.
May our Lord make us one of His happy servants who observe the requirements of brotherhood and pass the trial of responsibilities of brotherhood. May he fill our heart with the love and blessings of brotherhood in Islam.