Brotherhood: The Missing Foundation

The society we live in today is characterised 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 many of us share with our family and friends can often be at best described as an abstract mosaic, devoid of life and intensity.

“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 just to your friends or your mates. 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/sisterhood. It is this blessing of love and brotherhood which is the greatest source of sustenance and nourishment for people, but sadly only a 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 organisation 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 (peace be upon him):

“The strongest relationship is built on loving for the sake of Allah and becoming angry for the sake of Allah”. [Al-Bukhari]

The importance of brotherhood is highlighted by the institution of this by the Prophet in his first state in Madinah. 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 favour of a collective and 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 described it as such:

“You find the Muslims in their mutual love and compassion, like one body. Should any organ fall ill, the rest of the body will share in the fever and sleeplessness that ensues”, (al-Bukhari)

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 which comprise of six duties:

The First Duty

The first duty is to render personal aid in the satisfaction of needs, as indicated by the Prophet (peace be upon him):

“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 (peace be upon him) 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 & Abu Dawud).

The Second Duty

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 criticise 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 Hurairah it is noted that the Prophet (peace be upon him) 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 neighbour”, (Muslim & al-Bukhari).

Also on the authority of Abu Hurairah it is noted that the Prophet (peace be upon him) 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. O worshippers of Allah! Be brothers (as Allah has ordered you to be).” (Bukhari).

The Third Duty

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 (peace be upon him) 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 answered, “Stop him from doing injustice, because preventing him from committing aggression is a help to him.”

Also, Abu Hurairah relates that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

“One who covers up the failings of (his brother) in this world, will have his shortcomings covered by Allah on the Day of Judgment.”

The Fourth Duty

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 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, ‘Ameen and the same for you too.'” (Muslim)

On the authority of Anas ibn Malik, it is noted that the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said:

“None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself,” (al-Bukhari)

The Fifth Duty

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 (peace be upon him) has said:

“If one of you defends the honour 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 (peace be upon him) 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,” (narrated by Malik).

The Sixth Duty

We now come to the sixth and final responsibility of brotherhood. This relates to brotherhood as a communal responsibility with many duties. Abu Hurairah relates the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying:

“There are six duties of a Muslim to another Muslim: when you meet him you should give him Salaam, when he invites you, you should accept his invitation, when he advises you should also advise him, when he sneezes and says ‘Alhamdulillah,’ you should reply, ‘Yarhamukallah’. When he is sick you should visit him and when he passes away you should accompany his 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 blessings.

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  enemies.

My brothers and sisters in Islam. We have all heard and seen the words of Allah and our beloved Prophet, Mohammed (peace be upon him). 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. We pray that we are granted this by Allah the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth.

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