On Brotherhood and Unity

Prophet Muhammad (saws) is a ‘Mercy to the Worlds.’ His teachings are a blessing for the whole of mankind. But since the community which believes in him as the Divine Apostle and follows the religion brought by him has, by Allah’s command, been cast into a religious brotherhood, through a common spiritual bond, and, now, it has to function, till the Last Day, as the deputy and representative of the holy Prophet, we have to realize that  this is possible only when its members behave like a fraternity, bound together by ties of religious solidarity, brotherly love and kindly feelings. The Prophet (saws) has himself attached great importance to it as the following traditions show.

(1)  It is related by Noman bin Bashir that the Apostle of God said: “In kindliness and affection, the Muslims are like a single body. If any part of it is stricken with disease, the whole body develops fever and feels restless.” – Bukhari and Muslim

Commentary

It tells that the Believers should feel for each other so strongly that if anyone of them was afflicted with grief, they considered it their own and were ready to share his misfortune.

Forbidding mutual hatred, jealousy and fault-finding

In the same way, the holy Prophet (saws) has condemned mutual suspicion and mistrust, contemptuous upbraiding, scandal mongering and backbiting, and warned his followers earnestly against the painful sequel of these habits.

(2) It is related by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “Do not be suspicious, for suspicion is the height of falsehood, nor bear a grudge or enmity against each other, nor be jealous of each other, nor indulge in back-biting, nor pry into the secrets of one another, nor try unreasonably to excel one another, nor turn your faces against each other, but O bondmen of God! Live like brothers as the Lord has commanded.” – Bukhari and Muslim

Commentary

The evils mentioned above are highly detrimental to the growth of good and friendly relations. They cause ill-will and produce bitterness in the hearts. The Prophet (saws) has, first of all, spoken of suspicion which is a form of unfounded fear and misdoubt, and whoever has a suspecting nature sees viciousness in everything a man does with whom he has the least difference, and his attitude towards him is, naturally, influenced by it. The other person, too, reacts and an atmosphere of sullen malice and ill-will is created between them. The same is the case with the other habits indicated in it. They breed hatred and enmity and leave no room for goodwill and fellowship to develop which the common religious tie demands.

Warning against envy

(3) Abu Hurairah relates that the Apostle of God said: “Guard yourselves against envy, for envy eats up good deeds as fire eats up wood.” – Abu Dawood

Commentary

When the fire of envy burns in anyone’s heart, he misses no opportunity to hurt or harm the person at the sight of whose excellence or success he feels discontented, and, if nothing else, he seeks satisfaction by slandering him and speaking ill of him behind his back, and, as we learn from other Traditions of the Prophet, the lowest penalty the envious are going to pay in future existence is that their good deeds will be alloted to those against whom they have sinned, It will, perhaps, explain what is meant by the eating up of good deeds by envy, as stated in the above narrative.

The curse of maliciousness

(4) Abu Hurairah related to us, saying that the Apostle of God said: “The deeds of men are produced (before God) on two days each week: Monday and Thursday,-and the decision of forgiveness is taken for (all) Believers except the two who bear malice against one another. As regards them, the command is given to leave them out i.e., not to write about them that they have been forgiven until they have cleaned their hearts of ill-will.” – Muslim

Commentary

It is corroborated by another Tradition quoted by Imam Munziri, on the authority of Tabrani. It says: “The (record of the) deeds of all men is placed before God on each Monday and Thursday, Whoever has begged forgiveness from the Lord is forgiven, and whoever has offered sincere repentance, his repentance is accepted, but the deeds of those who bear malice against each other are returned to them. (The decision of forgiveness is not taken about them and their repentance is not accepted until they have given up the sinful habit)”. Some other Traditions, also, are of an identical nature and they, all, go to show that a Muslim who bears malice against a Muslim brother will not be deserving of the mercy of the Lord as long as he does not purge his heart of it.

Rejoicing at the misfortune of others

(5) It is related by Wasila bin el-Asqa that the Apostle of God said: “Do not rejoice at the misfortune of a brother. (It is quite possible) that, (as a result of it), God delivered him of his misfortune and afflicted you with it.” – Tirmizi

Commentary

Like envy, the vicious habit of taking delight in the loss or suffering of anyone, too, is highly repugnant to God, and, sometimes, He inflicts punishment for it, even in this world, by removing the other man’s distress and sending it down on those who rejoice at it.

Mildness and affability

Mildness, lenity and readiness to oblige and put others at ease are virtues of the highest order in the Islamic design of morality.

(6) It is related by Ayesha that the Apostle of God said: “God is compassionate and likes toleration and forbearance. (He wants the bondmen to be kind and gentle to each-other). He grants more to the kind-hearted and the tolerant than to those who are harsh and severe”. – Muslim

Commentary

Some people are ill-tempered and harsh in their behaviour, while others are mild and good-natured. A common misconception is that people who are ruthless and unrelenting are more successful in life. The above Tradition dispels it.

First of all, it draws attention to the virtue of kindheartedness and amiability, and says that it is a Divine Attribute, and the Lord wants His bondmen to be mild and sympathetic in their dealings with one another. It, then, goes on to assure that success or failure depends on the Will of God, and whatever takes place in the world is at His command. The practice of the Lord is that He gives more on kindliness and good nature than on severity and sternness. In fact, God does not grant as much on anything else as on warm-heartedness and compassion. It is, thus, in one’s own interest to be kind and considerate to others in social behaviour as well as monetary dealings. In other words, whoever wishes God to be compassionate to him and fulfil his wants should show compassion to others and make tolerance the rule of his life.

(7) Jarir related to us, saying that the Apostle of God said: “Whoever is devoid of kindness is devoid of all virtue.” – Muslim

Commentary

It shows that kindheartedness is such a noble quality that whoever does not possess it, has, as one would say, no virtue in him. Or, to put it differently, many good and commendable human qualities have their roots in kindheartedness, and a person who is not blessed with it has very little of goodness in him.

(8) Abdullah bin Masud relates that the Apostle of God said: “May I tell you of the man who is forbidden to the Fire of Hell, and the Fire of Hell is forbidden to him? (Now, listen): (The Fire of Hell is forbidden to him) who is not harsh of temperament, but mild and gentle, and feels warmly for others.” – Abu Dawood and Tirmizi

Commentary

It tells that a person who is soft-hearted and has a sympathetic nature and is friendly and sociable, and the others, too, feel drawn to him shall go to Heaven. As it has been explained, over and over again, since the Companions had realized fully from the commandments of the, Qur’an and the teachings of the holy Prophet, and those who possess some knowledge of the Faith know it clearly even today, that happy tidings, like it, appertain only to people who believe and observe the principal religious duties, it was, generally, not found necessary to mention it, in so many words, every time such tidings were given. But, we must always keep this elementary condition in the mind. It is a fundamental principle of Islam that without Faith, deeds and morals have no value in the sight of God.

(9) It is related by Harisah bin Wahb that the Apostle of God said: “A rude and ill-tempered person shall not go to Heaven.” – Abu Dawood

Commentary

In order to emphasize the foulness of a deed and to discourage men from acting that way, it is, sometimes, said that whoever will do so or behave like it shall not enter Heaven. The aim, simply, is to indicate that such an act or habit is not worthy of a Believer, and is likely to prove a hindrance in his progress towards Paradise. True Believers and earnest seekers of salvation should, therefore, keep away from it. The essential meaning of Hazrat Harisah bin Wahb’s narrative, too, is the same.