The Muslim and His Friends and Brothers

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He is sincere towards them

The true Muslim is sincere towards Allah, His Book, His Prophet and to the leaders and the masses of the Muslims, as is stated in the hadith:

´The Prophet (s) said: 'Religion is sincerity11.' We asked, 'To whom?" He said, 'To Allah (by obeying Him, attributing to Him what He deserves and performing jihad for His sake); to His Book (by reading it, understanding it and applying it to one's daily life); to His Prophet (by respecting him greatly and fighting on his behalf both in his lifetime and after his death, and by following his Sunnah); to the rulers of the Muslims (by helping them in their task of leading Muslims to the right path and alerting them if they are heedless); and to their common folk (by being merciful towards them). (Bukhari and Muslim)12

Note: 11. Nasihah is an Arabic word that may be translated by a number of words in English. The most common translation is "good advice," but it also carries connotations of sincerity, integrity and "doing justice to a person or situation." [Translator]

Note: 12. The explanations in brackets are adapted from those given in the English translation of sahih Bukhari by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan (Vol. 1, p. 48). [Translator]

It is no surprise, then, that the Muslim should be sincere towards his brothers and not cheat them or mislead them. Sincerity, in this sense, is one of the most basic principles of Islam, which the first believers pledged to adhere to when they gave allegiance (bay'ah) to the Prophet (s). This is confirmed by the statement of Jarir ibn 'Abdullah (r):

´I gave allegiance to the Prophet (s) and pledged to observe regular prayer, to pay zakat and to be sincere towards every Muslim. (Bukhari and Muslim)

In the hadith quoted above, we see that the Prophet (s) summed up Islam in one word, Nasihah, showing that sincerity is the central foundation of the faith. For without sincerity, a man's faith is invalid and his Islam is worthless. This is the meaning of the hadith of the Prophet (s):

´None of you truly believes until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself. (Bukhari and Muslim)

This is impossible to achieve unless one loves one's brother with all sincerity. No doubt this level of love for one's brother is very difficult to attain, but it is not impossible as long as one is constantly aware that liking for one's brother what one likes for oneself is one of the conditions of faith, and that religion is sincerity. Indeed, it is a natural attitude of the sincere Muslim who truly understands Islam. Our history is filled with many examples, ancient and modern, of how true Muslims liked for their brothers what they liked for themselves. This reminds me of the stories I have heard from my elders about the traders in the markets of Syria. In the old covered souqs, traders dealing in one commodity would be grouped together, so there would be a souq for sellers of perfumes, another for dyers, a third for tailors, and so on. When a buyer came to one of them first and bought something, if a second buyer came - and his neighbour had not yet made a sale - he would politely tell the customer, "Go and buy from my neighbour, for I have made a sale, but he has not yet sold anything."

O Allah! How joyous and delightful life appears in the shade of this brotherhood and mutual affection! How happy life would be if it were infused with the spirit of Islam and if Islamic values pervaded all its interactions. Then we would be living in a higher status that no man can achieve except in this religion which teaches him that "religion is sincerity" and that he does not truly believe until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself. On the basis of these lofty principles of love and sincerity, the great Sahabi Abu Hurayrah (r) used to say:

´The believer is the mirror of his brother. If he sees any fault in him he corrects it.'13

Note: 13. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

In these words, Abu Hurayrah (r) was echoing the hadith of the Prophet (s):

´The believer is the mirror of his brother. The believer is the brother of a believer: he protects him from ruin and guards his back.'14

Note: 14. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad

It is natural that the true Muslim should have this noble attitude towards his brother. He could not do otherwise, even if he wanted to; the person who is living on such an exalted level cannot come down to the level of individualism and selfishness. A vessel will leak whatever is in it; a flower cannot but smell sweet, and good land cannot but bring forth good produce. The poet rightly said:

´Does any plant produce large flowers but the washij (plant with spear like leaves)" / Are palm trees planted anywhere except in the soil which is suitable for them?'

He has a natural inclination towards kindness and faithfulness

Islam instils in its followers the characteristics of kindness and faithfulness towards one's friends: it even includes the parents, friends as we have already seen in Chapter 3 ("The Muslim and his parents"). Thus the true Muslim appreciates the value of faithfulness, and the value of the ties of brotherhood and friendship. The books of our Islamic heritage are filled with great examples of kindness and faithfulness, which the salaf embodied in their daily lives so that they truly were ( the best of Peoples evolved for mankind.)

An example of this is the hadith narrated by Muslim in his sahih from Ibn 'Umar (r), in which the Prophet (s) said:

´The best kind of goodness (birr) is that a man should keep in touch with and respect his father's friend."

'Abdullah ibn Dinar reported that he and 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar (r) met a Bedouin man on the road to Makkah. 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar greeted him, seated him on the donkey he was riding and gave him the turban he was wearing. Ibn Dinar said: "We said to him, 'May Allah guide you! He is only a Bedouin and the least thing would satisfy them!, 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar said, 'This man's father was a friend of 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (r), and I heard the Prophet say: "The best kind of goodness (birr) is that a man should keep in touch with and respect his father's friend."

The Prophet (s) used to nurture the souls of the Muslims and plant the seeds of faithfulness in them whenever he found an opportunity to tell them something of his guidance. A man of Banu Salamah came to him and asked: "O Messenger of Allah (s), is there any deed of kindness and respect that I can do for my parents after they die?" He said, "Yes, pray for them, ask forgiveness for them, fulfil their promises after they die, keep in contact with your relatives - for you have no relatives except through them - and respect their friends."15

Note: 15. Reported by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibban in his sahih.

The Prophet's concern for this kind of faithfulness in friendship was something that used to upset 'A'ishah, because he used to extend it to the friends of Khadijah, and 'A'ishah used to feel jealous of her. This is clear from the words of 'A'ishah:

´I never felt jealous of any of the wives of the Prophet (s) as I did of Khadijah (r), although I had never seen her. But he used to mention her frequently, and sometimes he would slaughter a sheep, butcher the meat, and send it to Khadijah's friends. One time I said to him, 'It is as if there was no other woman in the world but Khadijah' He said, 'She was such and such, and I had children by her.' (Bukhari and Muslim) According to another report: ´he used to slaughter a sheep and send to her friends a goodly amount of it.'

This incomparable Islamic faithfulness extends even to the distant friends of deceased parents and wives! So what about our own close friends who are still alive?

One of the requirements of love, sincerity, kindness and faithfulness, according to Islam, is that a man should help his brother in all circumstances. If he is in the right, then he should help him by supporting him, standing by him, and defending him; if he is in the wrong, then he should help him by rebuking him, advising him and saving him from sinking into the mire of wrongdoing. This is what the Prophet (s) advocated in the hadith:

´A man should help his brother whether he is a wrong doer or is wronged. If he is a wrongdoer then he should stop him, and if he is wronged, then he should defend him.' (Muslim)

The true Muslim does not forsake his brother, whether he is a wrongdoer or is wronged. Islam teaches him to like for his brother what he likes for himself: as long as he would not like for himself to be a wrongdoer or to do wrong, then he would not like this for his brother either. So if his brother is wronged, he stands by him, supports him and defends him, and if he is a wrongdoer he stands by him and stops him from doing wrong. This is indeed true sincerity and true kindness. These are two qualities that distinguish the true Muslim at any time and in any place.

He is kind to his brothers

The true Muslim who is adhering to the teachings and values of his religion is kind to his brothers and is good-natured and easy-going towards them. In this, he is following the guidance of Islam, which encourages good characteristics.

Allah describes the believers as being ( ...lowly [or humble] with the believers, mighty against the kafirun...) (Qur'an 5: 54). This suggests gentleness, modesty and good dealings with one's brothers in faith to an infinite degree of kindness, which is most akin to humility.

This message is reinforced by the teaching of the Prophet (s), which encourages the Muslim to be kind in a way that will add beauty to life. This is seen in the hadith:

´There is no kindness in a thing but it adds beauty to it, and there is no absence of kindness but it disfigures a thing.' (Muslim)

The Muslim sees a clear picture of the Prophet's character in his sirah, which is full of kindness, gentleness, honour and good manners. He was never known to use obscene language or to curse or insult a Muslim. Anas (r), his servant and constant companion, describes his noble character thus:

´The Prophet (s) never used obscene language, or uttered curses and insults. If he wanted to rebuke someone, he would say, 'What is the matter with him, may his forehead be covered with dust16  (Bukhari)

Note: 16. It has been suggested that what is meant by this expression is "may his sujud (prostration) increase," thus he would be guided and corrected. [Author]

He does not gossip about them

The true Muslim does not gossip or backbite about his brothers and friends, or backbite against them. He knows that gossip is haram, as the Qur'an says:

( ...Nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, you would abhor it. But fear Allah: for Allah is Oft Returning, All Merciful.) (Qur'an 49:12)

The true Muslim who is infused with Islamic teachings and manners will be horrified by the depiction given in the Qur'an of one who gossips as being like one who eats the flesh of his dead brother. This will deter him from gossiping and, if he is guilty of this sin, he will hasten to repent sincerely, as indicated at the end of the ayah quoted. He will then restrain his tongue and speak only good of his brother, remembering the words of the Prophet (s):

´Do you know what gossip is" They said, ´Allah and His Messenger know best.' He said, ´It is your saying about your brother something which he dislikes.' He was asked, ´What do you think if what I say about my brother is true" He said, ´If it is true then you have gossiped about him, and if it is not true then you have slandered him.' (Muslim)

The true Muslim avoids the sin of gossiping directly or indirectly, abhorring the idea of being one who eats the flesh of his dead brother and fearing lest his tongue leads him to Hell. This is made clear by the Prophet's warning to Mu'adh, when he took hold of his tongue and said, "Restrain this." Mu'adh said, "O Prophet of Allah, will we be responsible for what we say?" The Prophet (s) said, "May your mother be bereft of you! Is there anything that causes people to be thrown in Hell on their faces (or he said: on their noses) but the harvest of their tongues?"17

Note: 17. Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who said it is a hasan sahih hadith.

Gossip is a bad characteristic which does not befit a real man. Rather it is a feature of two-faced cowards who look like men, those who gossip to people about their brothers and friends, then when they meet them they smile warmly and make a display of friendship. Hence the true Muslim should be the furthest removed from gossip and fickleness, because Islam has taught him to be a real man, to be straightforward and to fear Allah in Allah's words and deeds. It has made him thoroughly despise hypocrisy and fickleness. The two-faced person is regarded as being one of the worst people in the sight of Allah, as the Prophet (s) says:

´You will find among the worst people in the sight of Allah on the Day of Resurrection, the one who is two faced, who approaches some people in one way and others in another. (Bukhari, Muslim, et al)

The true Muslim is straightforward, never two-faced. He meets all people with a friendly, smiling face and does not differentiate between people in the face he presents to them. For he knows that being two- faced is the essence of hypocrisy and that hypocrisy and Islam do not go together. The two-faced person is a hypocrite, and the hypocrites will be in the lowest level of Hell.

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