The Rights of Islamic Fraternity
The holy Prophet, like all the earlier Apostles, was raised up in the world with Divine Faith and Heavenly Guidance. Those who responded to his Call and accepted the Faith he had brought, naturally went to form a separate community which came to be known as the Ummat-e-Muslima or the Islamic fraternity. As long as the Prophet remained in the world, the Islamic fraternity or Ummah served as his right hand in the preaching and propagation of Faith and taking the Guidance to mankind, and, after his passing away, it had to fulfill the sacred mission till the end of time as his ‘deputy’ or ‘successor.’ For discharging the grave responsibility, it was essential that, along with possessing the qualities of firmness of belief and unflinching devotion to God, piety and righteousness, and missionary zeal and enthusiasm, the hearts of its members, i.e., of the followers of the holy Prophet, as a whole, remained united, and they acted like a single body. If, on the other hand, the Muslims were divided among themselves and, instead of unity and solidarity, there was discord and dissension in their ranks, they could not be expected to prove themselves worthy of the task. For that very reason, the Prophet also declared adherence to Islam a sacred binding-tie and took special pains to stress upon the members and different classes of the Islamic brotherhood the need to behave towards each other as brothers, helping one another and fulfilling the claims stemming from the common bond of Islam. The exhortation was all the more necessary because the Ummah included men drawn from various countries, races and social ranks, with their own ethnic, cultural, linguistic and temperamental peculiarities, and this diversity was to grow further with the passage of time.
(1) It is related by Abu Moosa Ash’ari that the Apostle of God said: “The connection between one Muslim and another is like that of a strong building, one part of which strengthens the other.” The Prophet, then, showed, by interlocking the fingers of one hand with those of the other (that the Muslims should combine and coalesce with one another like it). – Bukhari and Muslim
It shows that just as the bricks of a building become a strong fortress by uniting with one another, the Ummah, too, is a fortress of which every Muslim is a brick and there should be the same closeness and coherence among the Muslims as was found in the bricks of a building. The holy Prophet, further, demonstrated by interlocking the fingers of both hands that the Muslims ought to stick together and blend into a single body like that.
(2) It is related by Noman bin Bashir that the Apostle of God said: “All Muslims are like (the limbs of) a man. If the eye hurts, the whole body feels the pain, and in the same way, if anyone has a headache, the whole body joins in the suffering.” – Muslim
What it seeks to emphasize is the organic unity of the Muslim Millat. “All for one, and one for all” should be the motto of the Muslims. They should be ready to share the sorrow and suffering of each other.
(3) It is related by Abdullah bin Omar that the Apostle of God said: “Every Muslim is a Muslim’s brother. He should neither harm him himself nor leave him alone when others treat him unjustly, (but try to help him). Whoever will fulfill the need of a brother, God will fulfill his need, and whoever will remove the distress of a Muslim, he will find a distress of his removed on the Day of Requital and whoever will hide the shame of a Muslim, his sins will be hidden by God on the Last Day.” – Muslim
(4) It is related by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “Every Muslim is a Muslim’s brother. He should neither harm him himself nor leave him alone to be a victim of the cruelty and injustice of others.” [Abu Hurairah adds that, after it, the Apostle of God pointed towards his bosom thrice, and said: ‘This is the place of piety. For anyone, this fault is enough (to make him unworthy) that he considers a brother Muslim worthless, and puts him to shame. Everything belonging to a Muslim is sacred to the other Muslim – his life, his property and his honour.”] – Muslim
It tells that after enjoining that no Muslim should consider a Muslim base or lowly and treat him with contempt, the holy Prophet pointed at his bosom thrice and remarked that it was the place of piety. It is worth recalling that, in the judgement of the Lord, piety is the sole criterion of superiority. Says the Qur’an: “Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of God, is he who is the most righteous of you.” (49: 13)
Piety, in fact, is another name for the fear of God and earnest anxiety for the Hereafter. It, obviously, is an inner feeling and no one can know by looking at a person whether there is piety in him or not. Thus, no believing person has a right to consider a believing person base and worthless and behave towards him in a disdainful manner. Who knows that a man who appears to him to be inferior may be possessing the quality of righteousness and be honourable in the sight of God. It is, therefore, not permissible to a Believer to hold any other believing man in contempt and behave disrespectfully towards him. The Prophet warns, further, that for a man to be a sinner it is enough that he thinks contemptuously of a believing bondsman of the Lord and puts him to disgrace.
(5) Jabir bin Abdullah related to us, saying that “I had taken the pledge at the hand of the Apostle of God to observe Salah, and to pay Zakah, and to be a sincere well-wisher of every Muslim.” – Bukhari and Muslim
It shows that when Jabir took the pledge of Faith at the hand of the holy Prophet, the latter had made him promise that he will offer Salah regularly, pay Zakah and be sincere to all Muslims. We can learn from it how careful the sacred Prophet was about the mutual relations of Muslims. He took the pledge of brotherly-feeling and well-wishing towards all Muslims along with that of the observance of fundamental duties like Salah and Zakah.
(6) It is related by Huzaifah that the Apostle of God said: “Whoever does not take an interest in the affairs and problems of Muslims is not of them, and whoever’s state is such that each morning and evening, he is not loyal and earnest towards God, towards His Apostle, towards His Book, towards His Imam (i.e., the Caliph of the day), and towards the Muslims, as a whole, is not of them.” – Tabrani
It tells that it, too, is an essential condition for being a faithful Believer that one is not indifferent to the difficulties and problems of the Muslims, in general, but takes a genuine interest in them. Similarly, it is, also, necessary that he is habitually loyal and devoted to God, the Prophet, the Qur’an, the Islamic Government and the general body of Muslims.
(7) It is related by Anas that the Apostle of God said: “By the Holy Being in whose power is my life, none of you can be a true Believer unless he desires for his brother what he desires for himself.” – Bukhari and Muslim
It shows that to feel earnestly for a brother Muslim to the extent of preferring for him what one prefers for oneself is a prerequisite of Faith, and anyone who claims to be a Muslim, but is lacking in it is, in fact, unblessed with the reality of Islam.