The Muslim and His Friends and Brothers

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He avoids arguing with them, making hurtful jokes and breaking promises

Among the good manners of the true Muslim are: he does not exhaust his brothers and friends with futile arguments, he does not annoy them with hurtful jokes, and he does not break a promise that he has made to them. In this way, he follows the guidance of the Prophet (s):

´Do not argue with your brother, do not joke excessively with him, do not make a promise to him then break it.'18

Note: 18. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

This is because arguing does not bring any benefits; hurtful jokes often lead to hatred and loss of respect; and breaking promises upsets people and destroys love. The true Muslim should be above all of that.

He is generous and prefers his brothers over himself

The true Muslim is generous, and spends freely on his brothers and friends. Naturally his brothers and friends should all be righteous believers, as the Prophet (s) said:

´Do not take for a friend anyone but a believer, and do not let anyone but a righteous person eat your food.'19

Note: 19. Reported by Abu Dawud and al-Tirmidhi with a hasan isnad.

The true Muslim understands where and when to be generous, and why. He does not waste his money or spend it on anyone but his righteous, believing brothers. He does not let himself become a milch-cow for worthless renegades as a means to protect himself from them or to earn their favour if they are in power. Those are people who do not hesitate to take advantage of simple-hearted, generous religious folk; you may see them eating at their tables whilst inwardly laughing at this simple-hearted, misplaced generosity.

The true Muslim is generous, but only when it is appropriate to be so. Generosity is a basic Islamic characteristic that elevates the one who possesses it and endears him to people. This virtue was deeply rooted in the Sahabah (r), and was one of the dearest of righteous deeds to them. This is seen in the statement of 'Ali (r):

´Having a small group of my brothers come and eat a little food with me is dearer to me than going out into your market to buy a slave and set him free.'20

Note: 20. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

This kind of friendly gathering to share food strengthens the love between brothers and reinforces the spirit of human affection between friends. This is something which has been lost by modern, materialistic cultures, whose people now are concerned only for themselves and their own interests, and hence are suffering from a sense of spiritual emptiness and emotional dryness. The result is a deep feeling of being deprived of sincere friendship and true friends. These people devote themselves to caring for their dogs, to make up for the lack of human emotional warmth drained from them by the materialistic philosophy which they have taken as a religion governing all aspects of life. A French report states that there are seven million dogs in France, a country whose population is fifty two million. These dogs live with their owners like one of the family. It is no longer strange in French restaurants to see a dog and its owner eating together at the same table. When an official of the animal welfare organization in Paris was asked, "Why do the French treat their dogs like they treat themselves?" he answered, "because they want someone to love, but they cannot find any person to love."21

Note: 21. Prof. Wahid al-Din Khan, Wujub tatbiq al-shari'ah al-Islamiyyah fi kulli zaman wa makan ("The necessity of applying Islamic Shariah in every time and place"), in al-Mujtama', No. 325, Kuwait, 24 Dhu'l-Qi'dah 1396/16 November 1976.

The materialistic man, whether in the West or in the East, can no longer find a true, sincere friend in his own society on whom to bestow his love and affection. So he turns to these animals in whom he finds more gentleness and faithfulness than in the people around him. Can man become any more emotionally degenerate than this extreme love for animals when he has lost the blessing of faith and guidance?

This emotional degeneration from which Westerners are suffering and which has dried up the human feelings in their souls, is one of the first things that attracted the attention of emigrant Arab writers, both Muslim and non-Muslim. They noticed that the materialistic lifestyle which has overtaken western societies has made men into machines who know nothing in life but work, productivity and fierce competition, who do not know what it is to smile warmly at a friend. They are overwhelmed by the haste and crowds of this machine-like existence. Seeing all of this alarmed those Arab writers, who had grown up in the Islamic world and breathed its spirit of tolerance, and whose hearts were filled with brotherly love. So they began earnestly calling the Westerners towards the values of love and brotherhood. One of them was Nasib 'Aridah, who raised the banner of this humane call to the Westerner whose heart was stained with materialism and who had been blinded and deafened by the roar of the machines: "O my friend, O my companion, O my colleague, my love for you is not out of curiosity or a desire to impose on you./ Answer me with the words 'O my brother!, O my friend, and repeat it, for these are the sweetest words./ If you wish to walk alone, or if you grow bored of me, / then go ahead, but you will hear my voice, calling 'O my brother,' bearing the message,/ and the echo of my love will reach you wherever you are, so you will understand its beauty and its glory."

The burden of materialistic life in the West became too much for Yusuf As'ad Ghanim to bear, and he could no longer stand this life which was full of problems and sinking in the ocean of materialism, and was devoid of the fresh air of spirituality, brotherhood and affection. So he began to long for the Arab countries of the Islamic world, the lands of Prophethood and spirituality, the home of love, brotherhood and purity. He wished that he could live in an Arab tent, and leave behind the civilized world with all its noise and glaring lights: "If I were to live a short life in any Arab land, I would thank Allah for a short but rich life in a world where He is loved in the hearts of its people. I got so tired of the West that tiredness itself got bored of me. Take your cars and planes, and give me a camel and a horse. Take the Western world, land, sea and sky, and give me an Arab tent which I will pitch on one of the mountains of  my homeland Lebanon, or on the banks of Barada or the shores of the Tigris and Euphrates, in the suburbs of 'Amman, in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, in the unknown regions of Yemen, on the slopes of the Pyramids, in the oases of Libya... Give me an Arab tent, and I will weigh it against the entire world and emerge a winner..."

Many writings by emigrant Arab authors share the same tone, but it is sufficient to give just a few examples here. All of their writings express the emigrants, longing for the emotional richness that they missed when they came to the West, an experience which awoke in them feelings of longing for the East where Islam had spread love, brotherhood, mutual affection and solidarity. Islam encourages its followers to meet their brothers and compete in generosity that will strengthen the ties of brotherhood among them, because generosity to one's brothers is viewed as a basic characteristic that is required of the Muslim. Islam made accepting a Muslim brother's invitation a duty in which he must not fail. The Sahabah used to accept their brother's invitations, because they saw this as their brother's right and their own duty; failing to do so would be a sin. This is seen in the hadith narrated by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad from Ziyad ibn An'am al-Ifriqi, who said:

´We were waging a campaign by sea at the time of Mu'awiya (r). Our ship came alongside the ship of Abu Ayyub al Ansari (r). When it was time for lunch, we sent for him and he came to us and said, 'You called me while I was fasting, and I had no choice but to answer you, because I heard the Prophet (s) say: ´The Muslim has six duties towards his brother: he should greet him with Salaam when he meets him; accept his invitation; bless him22 when he sneezes; visit him when he is sick; attend his funeral when he dies; and give him advice when he asks for it.'·'

Note: 22. By saying "yar­amuk Allah" (may Allah have mercy on you). [Translator]

Indeed, the Sahabah thought that if a Muslim rejected his brother's invitation for no good reason, he was committing a sin against Allah and His Messenger. The Prophet (s) said:

´The worst of food is a meal which is cooked for guests, to which those who would come are not invited, whilst those who would reject it are. Whoever rejects an invitation with no good reason has disobeyed Allah and His Messenger.' (Muslim)

The brotherhood of faith is not just the matter of empty slogans to be shouted. It is a sacred bond that has its own commitments, duties and rights. The one who truly believes in Allah and the Last Day, and who follows Islam, knows this, and does his best to fulfil the duties of Islam. We see evidence of that faith and devotion to Islamic duty in the deeds of the Ansar who set the highest example of selfless love towards their Muhajir brothers who had emigrated for the sake of their religion and arrived in Madinah possessing nothing. The Ansar offered them everything, to the extent that one of them told his Muhajir brother: "This is my wealth: take half of it. And these are my two wives: see which one is more pleasing to you and tell me, so I will divorce her and she can become your wife after she has completed her 'iddah." The Muhajir responded to his brother's kindness and affection with something even better. He told him: "May Allah bless your wealth and your wives for you. I have no need of them. Just show me where the market is so that I can work."

An Ansari welcomed his Muhajir brother as a guest when he had no food in his home except what was just enough for his children, but he preferred his brother over himself and his family, so he told his wife, "Put your sons to bed and extinguish the lamp, then offer what you have to our guest. We will sit with him at the table, and make him think that we are eating, but we will not eat." So they sat at the table, and the guest alone ate, while the couple stayed hungry all night. The next morning, the Ansari went to the Prophet (s) and told him what had happened. The Prophet (s) said: ´Allah is pleased with what you have done for your guest this night. (Bukhari and Muslim)

The selfless attitude of the Ansar towards the Muhajirin and their willingness to support them with their wealth reached such an extent that they asked the Prophet (s): ´Divide the date palms between us and our brothers.' He said, ´No.' So they said to the Muhajirin, ´Help us to tend the trees, and we will share the crop with you.' The Muhajirin said, ´To hear is to obey.  (Bukhari)

The Muhajirin greatly appreciated the good deeds of their Ansar brothers, and told the Prophet (s): "O Messenger of Allah, we have never seen anything like this people to whom we have come: if they have a little, they are still willing to help, and if they have plenty, they are most generous. They have supported us and shared their wealth with us, so much so that we feared that they would receive all the reward." The Prophet (s) said: ´No, not so long as you praise them and pray to Allah for them.'23

Note: 23. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad, and by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi and al-Nisa'i. Its isnad is sahih.

 It was sufficient for the Ansar that Allah praised them and commended their good deeds. He revealed an ayah of the Qur'an which would be recited, and the story of their unique selflessness would be told, for all time, and would serve as a realistic and vivid example of how people can break free from selfish greed:

( But those who before them, had homes [in Madinah] and had adopted the Faith - show their affection to such as had come to them for refuge, and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the [latter], but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their {own lot}. And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls - they are the ones that achieve prosperity.) (Qur'an 59:9)

Whenever people are called upon to make sacrifices and be generous, this Qur'anic description of the Ansar will remain forever a beacon of guidance and a shining example to mankind who is lost in greed and covetousness.

The Ansar understood the meaning of the brotherhood of faith when the Prophet (s) established the ties of brotherhood between them and the Muhajirin. They were true believers who liked for their brothers what they liked for themselves, as they had learned from the Prophet (s). They did not withhold any of their worldly goods from their brothers, but they willingly offered them half of what they possessed. At the beginning of the hijrah, they made the Muhajirin their heirs, to the exclusion of their own relatives, in order to fulfil the duties of brotherhood which the Prophet (s) had taught them. This is seen in the report narrated by Bukhari from Ibn 'Abbas (r), who said: ´When the Muhajirin came to Madinah, a Muhajir would inherit from an Ansari to the exclusion of his own relatives. When the ayah: ( '. . . But kindred of blood have prior rights against each other . . .') (Qur'an 8:75) was revealed, this inheritance was abrogated, but the duties of support, help, selflessness and beneficence remained.'

He prays for his brothers in their absence

The sincere Muslim who truly likes for his brother that which he likes for himself does not forget to pray for his brother in his absence, which is a practical demonstration of his brotherly love and care. He knows that this is the prayer which is most quickly answered, because it is characterized by sincerity and purity. The Prophet (s) said:

´The quickest prayer to be answered is a man's supplication for his brother in his absence.'24

Note: 24. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

Hence the Prophet (s) asked 'Umar (r) to pray for him, when 'Umar came and sought permission to perform 'Umrah. 'Umar (r) said:

´I asked the Prophet (s) for permission to perform 'Umrah. He gave me permission and said:

'Do not forget us in your prayers.' He told me something that meant more to me than the whole world.'25

Note: 25. Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who said it is a hasan sahih hadith.

The Sahabah understood this and used to ask their brothers to pray for them whenever they were in a situation where their prayers would be answered. Men and women alike shared this virtue, which is indicative of the high level of the entire society during that golden period of our history. Bukhari reports, in al-Adab al-Mufrad, from Safwan ibn 'Abdullah ibn Safwan, whose wife was al-Darda, bint Abil- Darda,. He said: "I came to visit them in Damascus; I found Umm al-Darda, in the house, but Abul- Darda, was not there. She said, 'Do you want to go to hajj?, I said, 'Yes., She said, 'Pray for me, for the Prophet (s) used to say, "The Muslim's prayer for his absent brother will be answered. There is an angel at his head who, whenever he prays for his brother, says 'Amin, and you shall have likewise."" He (Safwan) said, "I met Abul-Darda, in the market and he told me something similar, reporting from the Prophet (s)."

The Prophet (s) taught his Sahabah team spirit and the importance of caring for others. At every opportunity he would direct them towards a true understanding of brotherhood, so that there would be no room for the selfish individualism which makes eyes blind and seals hearts.

An example of the way the Prophet (s) instilled the spirit of brotherhood in people's hearts and removed the seeds of selfishness is his words to the man who prayed, "O Allah, forgive me and Muhammad only." He told him, "You have denied it to many people." Thus he taught him that Islam forbids a Muslim to seek good only for himself, even if the Prophet (s) is included in that. The believer must love for his brother what he loves for himself.

Such is the true Muslim, who loves for his brother what he loves for himself: he is sincere towards his brothers; he safeguards their reputation, honour and wealth both in their presence and in their absence; he prefers them to himself; he is tolerant and forgiving of their faults and mistakes; he is gentle, kind and humble towards them; he is decent in his dealings with them, in word and deed. He is generous, not miserly; truthful, not a liar; friendly, not hostile. He is reliable and trustworthy and does not betray them; he is straightforward, not two-faced. It is no wonder that the true Muslim is like this, for this is the miracle that Islam has wrought in man's characters. This is the Muslim as Islam meant him to be.

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