REVIVING BROTHERHOOD

“…and do good (to others) as Allah has done good to you…”(28; 77)

Our Lord wants us to be like two hands cleaning each other, which means to take care of each other’s material and spiritual needs; to share each other’s pain and joy; to advice each other and to be able to see a brother in Islam as a better person. 

Allah the Almighty declared all believers as brothers and He made His Messenger (pbuh) the best example showing the conditions and requirements of this brotherhood. He also made the Prophet’s companions and the friends of Allah best manifestations of the spirit and conscience of brotherhood. To preserve this exceptional treasure of happiness is among the most significant duties of the believers; because such assets will not stay in hand for long if they are not properly maintained.

And keeping the essence of brotherhood depends on living it with mercy, compassion, elegance and consciousness of responsibility. Showing neglect and heedlessness in this regard means to leave ajar the door for the Devil that looks for opportunities to destroy the believers’ relationship. When the Devil gets an opportunity, it would not take long that he provokes the selfish desires of the believers and destroys their relationship.

ENCOURAGING THE MAKING PEACE BETWEEN BELIEVERS

According to Islamic principles, it is considered a great sin to have hard feelings for a Muslim brother and stay angry. In this regard the Prophet (pbuh) warns his followers saying that:

“If one keeps apart from his brother (in Islam) for a year, it is like shedding his blood.”(Abū Dāwūd, Adab, 47/4915)

“It is not allowable for a believer to keep away from a believer for more than three days. If three days pass, he should meet him and give him a salutation, and if he replies to it they will both have shared in the reward; but if he does not reply he will bear his sin and the one who gives the salutation will have come forth from the sin of keeping apart.”(Abū Dāwūd, Adab, 47/4912)

“Avoid suspicion, for suspicion is the gravest lie in talk and do not be inquisitive about one another and do not spy upon one another and do not feel envy with the other, and nurse no malice, and nurse no aversion and hostility against one another. And be fellow-brothers and servants of Allah.”(Muslim, Birr, 30)

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) as saying:

The gates of Paradise are not opened but on two days, Monday and Thursday. and then every servant (of Allah) is granted pardon who does not associate anything with Allah except the person in whose (heart) there is hard feelings against his brother. And it would be said to the angels: “Postpone their forgiveness until they reach reconciliation between them.” (Muslim, Kitāb al-Birr, 35-36; Abū Dawūd, Kitāb al-Adab, 47)

Breaking the ties of brotherhood is reported in the following verses as one of the causes of deprivation from the mercy of Allah:

“The believers are but brethren, therefore make peace between your brethren and be careful of (your duty to) Allah that mercy may be had on you.” (49; 10)

“… So be careful of (your duty to) Allah and set aright matters of your difference, and obey Allah and His Messenger if you are believers.”(8; 1)

In the above mentioned verses, believers are ordered to make peace between Muslims whose ties are severed. In other words brotherhood in Islam means to be able to forget their arguments and to make self sacrifices for the sake of brotherhood in Islam. Because continuing to be angry with a Muslim brother is disobedience to an order of Allah the Most High. And a mature believer can never intentionally disobey to a command of his Lord.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) explains the connection between faith and brotherhood in Islam as follows:

“You shall not enter Paradise so long as you do not affirm belief and you will not (fully) believe as long as you do not love one another. Should I not direct you to a thing which, if you do, will foster love amongst you: (i. e.) spread the practice of paying salutation to one another by saying as-salamu alaikum.”(Muslim, Kitāb al-Imān, 93)

Therefore to be meticulous about maintaining brotherhood in Islam and not to cause reasons for getting angry to each other is a requirement of faith. Aḥnaf b. Qays says that:

“Brotherhood is a thin and gentle matter. If you do not protect it, it would get damaged. You should always keep it so under protection by controlling your anger that those who oppress you come and apologize to you. Be contended with what you have; neither look more for yourself nor search for the deficiencies of your brother.”(Ghazālī, I, II, 466)

In a particular verse, the following is stated among the characteristics of a believer:

“…and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men…”(3; 134)

Jalāl al-Dīn Rumī points out that believer should forgive their brothers’ mistakes, do good to them, and keep their brotherhood alive in the following lines:

“When you are exposed to a suffering from your brother, remember that he had done thousands of goodness; because goodness is like an intercessor for his sins.”

It is necessary for us to remember our Muslim brother’s good deeds and forgive him when we see his mistakes instead of getting angry at him. We should also know that he needs our help more so during such times.

HATING SINS; SHOWING MERCY TO THE SINNERS

According to a narration, once there were two brothers. One of them went astray and the other one was told to abandon his brother; but he said:

“I am not going to leave my brother. On the contrary, he needs my help more now. Would not it be wrong to abandon him in such a time? Now I am going give him some advice and pray Allah to let him to find the straight path.”

Junayd al-Baghdadi had a disciple. One day the disciple was caught committing a sin. He became so ashamed that he left the convent and did not come back. After a while, Junayd al-Baghdadi ran into him while walking in the market. When the disciple saw his teacher, he felt ashamed and walked quickly away. Junayd (may Allah bless his soul) turned to the people with him and said:

“You should go, I have a bird that has escaped from home”; then he went after his disciple. When the disciple realized that his teacher was following, he began to walk faster. But he hastily ran into a dead end and accidentally hit his head. When he saw his teacher before him, he shyly lowered his head. Junayd (may Allah bless his soul) said:

“O My son! Where are you going? From whom are you running away? A teacher should help his disciple especially in such difficult times.” Then he took his disciple to the convent. The disciple asked for his teacher’s forgiveness and repented. This state is one of the blessed results of spiritual maturity in guiding people to the true path of Islam.

Brotherhood in Islam is like biological brotherhood, but even stronger. According to Islam, just as we are not allowed to abandon our relatives because of their mistakes, we should not cast our Muslim brothers out because of their sins. The right thing to do is to hold the hands of those who fell. This is why Allah the Almighty says about the relatives of the Prophet (pbuh):

“But if they disobey you, then say: Surely I am clear of what you do.”(26; 216) What is remarkable in this verse is that the Prophet is also ordered to tell his relatives “I am clear of what you do” not “I am clear of you.” In other words, the hate for the sins should not be carried to the sinners.

A believer should not tell things about his Muslim brother or sister that he would not like to be talked about, neither to his face nor behind his back. However in respect to commanding him right and forbidding the things that he does wrong, staying quiet is not allowed. In other words, sometimes it is necessary to give advice to a brother in Islam in private. At such times, it is not important whether he likes this or not; and even though our warning may look like it is hurting him, it is actually a big favor to him.

Abdullah b. Mubarak went on a journey with a bad mannered man. When their journey ended, Abdullah b. Mubarak began to cry. His friends wondered why he was crying. He replied with his eyes filled with tears:

“Even though we traveled together, I could not manage to correct my friend’s mistakes. I could not change his bad manners. Now I am thinking whether I could not be effective because of my deficiencies. If he did not find the straight path because of my mistakes, what would my situation be on the Day of Judgment?” and kept crying.

The following is stated in a hadith of the Prophet (pbuh):

“When two brothers, who love each other for the sake of Allah, meet each other, they are like two hands washing each other. When two believers come together, Allah the Almighty make one of them benefit from the other.”(Ghazālī, I, II, 394)

Our Lord wants us to be like two hands cleaning each other, which means to take care of each other’s material and spiritual needs, to share each other’s pain and joy, to advice each other and to be able to see a brother in Islam as a better person.

 To have good opinions about a Muslim brother when he is seen doing something wrong and to assume that there might be some misunderstanding or he may have good reasons for his action are also from the good manners of brotherhood. Believers should always treat each other nice; they should never look their brothers down on the contrary see them as better servants than themselves in the presence of Allah.

THE BASIC FOUNDATION OF UNITY:
ISLAMIC BROTHERHOOD

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) embraced the early believers with mercy; Arab tribes, which were once enemies, became close friends. Following verse points out to this friendship:

“And hold fast by the covenant of Allah all together and be not disunited, and remember the favor of Allah on you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts so by His favor you became brethren; and you were on the brink of a pit of fire, then He saved you from it…” (3; 103)

How nicely Jalal al-Dīn Rūmī explains Muslim brotherhood:

“The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said of the Muslims, “They are as one soul.” It was through the Messenger of Allah they became one soul; else, they were absolute enemies, every one to the other. The two tribes which were named Aws and Khazraj had a blood-thirsty spirit towards each other. Through (the preaching of) Mustafa [Muhammad (pbuh)] their ancient feuds vanished in the light of Islam and of pureness (of heart). First, those enemies became brethren like the units of (a bunch of) grapes in the garden; And (then) at the admonition given in the words, The true believers are brethren, they dissolved (and mingled) and became one body.”[1]

Arabian deserts, which had been lakes of blood as a result of oppression, disorder, ignorance, and blood feuds before the emergence of Islam, have turned into magnificent gardens of civilization through the lights of Islam. Brotherhood in Islam is our sacred heritage left from that age of happiness. By virtue of brotherhood in Islam believers have lived in peace and unity for centuries despite their differences of race, tribe, sect and understanding. To lose our social unity is the worst kind of loss both for individuals and the society. Brotherhood in Islam is the only remedy for illnesses, such as selfish desires, political fights, hate, and anger.

The real brotherhood in Islam is like two different bodies living with same heart. Allah’s mercy and blessings will be with those who stand united and stay together. Power and success are the products of unity.

The following is a well known story. A wise man called his sons when he was in his final moments in this world and asked them to bring some sticks. Then he made a bunch from the sticks and told his sons:

“Go ahead and break these sticks.” When his sons could not break them, he untied the bunch and told his sons:

“Now pick each of you pick a stick and break it.” They did their father’s request and broke the sticks. Then the wise man turned them and said:

“My dear sons! You are similar to these sticks. If you stay together nobody can beat you; but if you get separated, you would lose your fight.” In that way he advised them to be together by alive example.

Those who stay united and love each other for the sake of Allah are praised in the following verse:

“Surely Allah loves those who fight in His way in ranks as if they were a firm and compact wall.”(61; 4)

The fact that believers should stay united is expressed in the following saying of the Prophet (pbuh):

“A similitude of state of a believer to another believer is like the bricks of a wall, enforcing each other.” While (saying that) the Prophet clasped his hands, by interlacing his fingers. (Bukharī, Ṣalāt, 88; Muslim, Kitāb al-Birr, 65)

And Rumī says in this regard that: “If they (the noble) are thousands (externally), there is no more than one (in reality)…”[2]

FEELING THE SUFFERING OF YOUR BROTHER IN ISLAM

This is why mature believers become happy with the happiness of their brothers in Islam and become sad with their pains. Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) depicts this fact in his following saying:

“You see the believers as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind, resembling one body, so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness (insomnia) and fever with it.”(Bukhārī, Adab, 27; Muslim, Kitāb al-Birr, 66)

To feel the pain of a believer and look a solution for it is a type of social worship, which attracts the contentment of Allah the Almighty. This is why every believer needs to feel his brother’s sorrow in his heart.

In this respect Abū al-Ḥasan al-Ḥaraqānī’s state is a perfect example for us. He says that:

“If a finger of my Muslim brother from Turkistan to Damascus gets hurt with a thorn, I feel the pain of that thorn; if a rock hits his foot, it also hits my foot and I feel its pain. If there is sadness in a heart, that heart is my heart.”

This is how a believing heart should feel about his brothers in Islam. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) tells us that to be insensitive towards the pains of a Muslim brother does not accord with Islamic morality and says that:

“He, who goes to bed with full stomach, while his neighbor is hungry, is not one of us.”(Ḥakim, II, 15) In a similar tradition, it is stated that:

“Those who do not share the sorrow of believers are not one of us.”(See Ḥakim, IV, 352; Haythamī, I, 87)

Therefore, according to Islamic principles, to be apathetic to the problems of a believer is a great sin. In fact Sariyy al-Saqatī ÞÏÓ ÓÑå, who had once committed such a great sin because of his momentary negligence, talks about his regret as follows:

“One day Baghdad’s market got burned down. Someone came to me running and told me that: “Sir! Good news, the whole market burned down except your store.” And I said without thinking what my brothers feel about their losses: “Alamdulillah – All praise is due to Allah.” For thirty years, I have been repenting for my sin.” (Ḥaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārikh, IX, 188; Dhahabī, Siyar, XII, 185-86)

Repenting for a momentary mistake for thirty years! What a sensitive way of thinking.

Omar b. Abdulaziz’s wife Faṭimah narrates her husband’s state of heart, which was molded with sensitivity of brotherhood in Islam, as follows:

“One day I went into Omar b. Abdulaziz’s room. His hands on his cheeks, he was sitting and crying. I asked him why he was crying. He said that:

“Faṭimah! I feel the weight of my people on my shoulders. All the destitute, the needy, the sick who need remedy but cannot find it, the naked who need dress but cannot afford it, orphans, widows, oppressed, Muslim captives in the lands of unbelievers, the old who have no strength left in them to work, those families who have many members to feed…

When I think about them, I feel crushed under the weight of responsibility. Tomorrow how would I respond if my Lord questions me about them?” (Ibn Kathīr, 9/201)

The above mentioned example shows what kind of sensitivity that those who are at the administrative positions should have. However every individual believer’s heart should be with their believing brothers. One of the endless examples from the lives of the companions is as follows:

In the early years of Islam, some believers migrated to Abyssinia. There, they were met with goodness. After a while, they went back to Mecca upon the baseless news that Meccan polytheists accepted the message of Islam. When the Meccan polytheist heard that believers had been welcomed in Abyssinia, they increased their torture upon the believers.

When Uthmān b. Ma’zūn (r.a), who was under the protection of his relative Walīd b. Mughirah, saw the Meccans’ torture and oppression of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and his followers, he began to contemplate:

“By Allah, it is a big fault for me to stay under the protection of my relative Walīd and not to face the same oppression they have been facing. Allah’s protection is more dignified and secure for me.” Then he went his protector Walid and told him:

“O my uncle’s son! You took me under your protection and kept your promise very well. Now I would like to leave your protection and go to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). He and his companions are such good examples for me. Take me to the Quraish and told them you are no longer my protector.”[3]

Uthmān b. Ma’zūn (r.a) preferred to be with his brothers and share their problems. He thought that it would not be right to live comfortably while his brothers were under trouble. Because he could not do anything else, he did the only thing that he could do, which was to share their pains. Today we should shape our thinking after contemplating the states of oppressed and destitute Muslims all over the world.

A COMPANION LEFT THE WORSHIP OF I’TIKĀF TO HELP A BELIEVER

A believer searches ways to reach the pleasure of Allah through solving the problems of his brethren. In fact the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) says:

“…Allah helps a servant so long as the servant helps his brother…”(Muslim, Kitāb al-Dhikr, 37-38)

“…A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He neither oppresses him nor humiliates him nor looks down upon him. The piety is here, (and while saying so) he pointed towards his chest thrice. It is a serious evil for a Muslim that he should look down upon his brother Muslim. All things of a Muslim are inviolable for his brother in faith: his blood, his wealth and his honor.”(Bukhārī, Mazālim, 3; Muslim, Kitāb al-Birr, 58)

This is why every believer should feel his brothers’ sorrow in his heart and do whatever he can do about it. The best action which Allah has contended with is to sacrifice oneself for the sake of brothers and prefer their needs over his own needs and comfort.

Since the companions were raised by the discipline of the Prophet (pbuh), they were saved from the disease of saying “myself, myself” and reached the level of saying “my people, my people.” Here is an exemplary scene from the lives of the companions:

When Ibn Abbās (r.a) was in i’tikāf or retreat in the mosque in the Prophet’s mosque, someone came to him and greeted. Ibn Abbās (r.a) responded his greetings and said:

“Dear brother, I saw you sad and tired.”

The man replied:

“Yes, O Prophet’s cousin, I am sad. Someone has a right over me, but by Allah, I cannot pay it.” Ibn Abbas (r.a) said:

“Would like me to talk to that person?” When the man replied affirmatively, Ibn Abbas left the mosque immediately. The man shouted behind him:

“Did you forget that you were in i’tikaf” Ibn Abbas (r.a) answered him:

“No, I heard from the owner of this grave (pointing at the Prophet’s grave) that:

“Whoever follows the needs of his brother and takes care of them, this is more rewarding for him than staying in i’tikāf for ten years; and staying in i’tikāf just for one day for the sake of Allah creates three trenches between the believer performing i’tikāf and Hell. The width of every one of these trenches is equal to the distance between east and west.”(Bayḥaqī, Shu’ab, III, 424-25)

The following prophetic saying states how valuable in the presence of Allah the Almighty to take care of a believer’s needs is:

“Allah the Almighty created some people to take care of the other people’s needs. Everybody rushes to those people for their needs. They are the ones who are secure from the punishment of Allah the Almighty.”(Haythamī, VIII, 192)

DIVINE BLESSING: THE MONTH OF RAMADĀN

The days of Ramadan are unique blessings to live according to the principles of Islamic brotherhood. In such a blessed month, believers should be very sensitive about fulfilling the requirements of their brotherhood.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would become more generous and increase his worship and charity during the month of Ramadan. When he (pbuh) was asked:

“Which type of charity has greater reward?” he (pbuh) replied:

“The one given during the month of Ramadan…” (Tirmidhī, Zakāt, 28/663)

Ramadan is a season when all good deeds are rewarded many times more. Ramadan has the night of Qadr, which is better than that of a thousand months. Hence, those who properly perform the requirements of this month will receive boundless blessings. Those who are indifferent to it, on the other hand, will face dire consequences. In this regard the Prophet (pbuh) says that:

“…Angel Gabriel came to me and said “May those who reach Ramadan and are not forgiven be away from the mercy of Allah.” And I said “Amin” for his prayer…”(Ḥakim, IV, 170/7256; Tirmidhī, Da’awāt, 100/3545)

Just like April showers fell on a rocky surface would not give any benefits, it is necessary to comprehend the real meaning of the month of Ramadan in order to get the utmost benefit from it. We should consider Ramadan as an opportunity for the compensation of our year-long losses and do as much as we can to benefit from its mercy and blessings.

During the time of Ottomans, houses were especially filled with guests for iftār dinners during the month of Ramadan. Every night people from different professions used to be invited for iftār dinners. After dinner the guests were presented with gifts called “gifts/payments for the teeth.” Depending on the guests this gift sometimes was a piece of cloth and sometimes was a sum of money in an envelope. After tarawīh prayer, guests were served honey shurubs. Wealthy believers shared the problems of the needy by giving them their charity and zakāt. Thus the members of the society were embracing each other, socializing and unifying their hearts.

How happy they are those who appreciate the blessings of the month of Ramadan and deserve to be blessed with eternal salvation! And how happy they are those who consider every night as a night of Qadr and make use of all the opportunities they get!

May Allah the Almighty make us righteous believers who sincerely live and help other believers live according to the principles of brotherhood in Islam! May He bless us with a life filled with good deeds which deserve His contentment and eternal salvation!

Amin…

[1].      Mathnawī, II, 3711-3716

[2].      Mathnawī, III, 35

[3].      İbn-i İshâk, Sîret, Konya 1981, p. 158; Ḥaythamī, VI, 34.