The Muslim and His Friends and Brothers

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He does not forsake or abandon his brother

The true Muslim who understands the teachings of Islam knows that the religion that calls for love, continued contact and mutual affection, also is the religion that has forbidden brothers in faith to hate or abandon one another. Islam has explained that two people who truly love one another for the sake of Allah will not be separated by the first minor offence that either of them may commit, because the bond of love for the sake of Allah is too strong to be broken by such minor matters. The Prophet (s) said:

´No two people who love one another for the sake of Allah, or for the sake of Islam, will let the first minor offence of either of them come between them.'5

Note: 5. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

Islam does not ignore human nature; it recognizes that anger may strike in moments of weakness, but it puts a limit on the length of time that anger may prevail, and forbids Muslims to continue a dispute beyond this time without one or both of them bringing about a reconciliation. The Prophet (s) said:

´It is not permissible for a Muslim to be estranged from his brother for more than three days, both of them turning away from one another when they meet. The better of them is the one who is first to greet the other. (Bukhari and Muslim)

The true Muslim who has studied these definitive hadiths will not be able to bear having a dispute with his brother and being estranged from him, no matter what the reason. Rather, he will hasten to bring about a reconciliation, because the better of the two is the one who is first to give salaam. If the other returns the greeting, both of them will have a share of the reward for the reconciliation, and if he does not return it, then the one who gave the greeting will be absolved of the sin of forsaking his brother while the one who refused to return the salaam will have to bear the burden of that sin alone. This is made clear by the hadith in which Abu Hurayrah (r) said:

´I heard the Prophet (s) say: 'It is not permissible for a man to be estranged from a believer for more than three days. If three days have passed, then he should go and give Salaam to him; if he returns the Salaam then both of them will have a share in the reward, and if he does not respond then the one who gave Salaam will be absolved of the sin of estrangement.'6

Note: 6. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

The longer the estrangement lasts, the greater is the sin and the more severe is the punishment that will befall the two who are split by the dispute. The Prophet (s) said:

´Whoever is estranged from his brother for a year, it is as if he has shed his blood.'7

Note: 7. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

The Islamic system of education is based on mutual love and affection, and ongoing contact. Therefore mutual hatred and envy should have no place in the life of the true Muslim. How could he allow such bad characteristics when he knows the teachings of the Prophet (s) which enjoin morals and manners the like of which have never been known since man first walked on the face of the earth? The Prophet (s) said:

´There should be no breaking off of ties, no turning away from one another, no hating one another, and no envying one another. Be brothers, as Allah has commanded you.' (Muslim)

´Beware of suspicion, for speaking on the basis of suspicion is the worst kind of lie. Do not seek out one another's faults, do not spy on one another, do not compete with one another, do not envy one another, do not hate one another, and do not turn away from one another. O servants of Allah, be brothers. (Bukhari and Muslim)

´Do not envy one another, do not outbid one another (in order to inflate prices), do not hate one another, do not turn away from one another, and do not enter into a transaction when others have already entered into it. O servants of Allah, be brothers. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He does not oppress him, humiliate him or look down upon him. Taqwaa is here' - and so saying, he pointed to his chest three times - ´It is evil enough for a man to look down upon his Muslim brother. The whole of a Muslim's being is sacred to another Muslim - his blood, his wealth and his honour are inviolable.' (Muslim)

The Muslim who thinks deeply about this teaching of the Prophet (s) which is filled with love, affection and brotherhood, will not be able to persist in his hatred unless there is some disease in his heart or some twistedness in his nature.

Therefore Islam issues a stern warning to those hard-hearted people who are deviating from true Islam and denying its spirit of tolerance by insisting on remaining estranged. They are risking an awful fate in the Hereafter: their actions may prevent them from attaining the mercy and forgiveness of Allah, and may close the doors of Paradise to them. The Prophet (s) said:

´The doors of Paradise are opened on Monday and Thursday, and every servant who does not associate anything with Allah will be forgiven, except for the man who bears a grudge against his brother. It will be said, 'Wait for these two until they reconcile, wait for these two until they reconcile, wait for these two until they reconcile.' (Muslim)

The great Sahabi Abul-Darda, (r) used to say: ´Shall I not tell you about something that is better for you than charity and fasting" Reconcile between your brothers, for hatred diminishes reward.'8

Note: 8. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

This is deep and penetrating insight, on the part of this Sahabi whose intelligence and good sense the Prophet (s) used to trust, into the spirit of this religion which is based on brotherhood and love. He understood that hatred cancels out good deeds and destroys rewards, so reconciling the estranged Muslim with his brother is better for him than charity and fasting, because if he were to continue bearing a grudge against his brother, this would negate any reward he might receive for those acts of worship.

He is tolerant and forgiving towards them

If he becomes angry with his brother, the true Muslim restrains his anger and is quick to forgive him, and does not see any shame in doing so. Rather, he sees it as a good deed which will bring him closer to Allah and earn him His love which He bestows only on those who do good:

( ...[those] who restrain anger and pardon [all] men - for Allah loves those who do good.) (Qur'an 3:134)

A man may be able to restrain his anger, but resentment may be smouldering in his heart, and may turn into deep-rooted hatred. Open anger and rage are healthier than hidden resentment and malice.

The true Muslim whose soul has been saturated with this religion, does not harbour grudges; if he restrains his anger, he then follows that with forgiveness, and thus he will be among those who do good.

Anger is very difficult to restrain, for it is a heavy burden on the heart. But when a person forgives another, this heavy burden is lifted, freeing him, soothing him and bringing peace of mind. These are the feelings of ihsan (goodness) which the Muslim feels when he forgives his brother.

The true Muslim is forgiving towards his brother, purely for the sake of Allah. He hopes thereby to earn the honour to which the Prophet (s) referred in the hadith:

´Allah will not increase His servant except in honour. No one humbles himself for the sake of Allah, but Allah will raise his status.' (Muslim)

It is a great honour from Allah, which combines with the good characteristics of the tolerant, forgiving Muslim, so that he becomes one of those who do good whom Allah loves, and one of those honoured ones whom people love.

Resentment has no place in the heart of the sensitive Muslim who truly understands his religion. He realizes the value of forgiveness and purity of heart, and their importance if he seeks Allah's forgiveness, as the Prophet (s) explained:

´There are three sins, whoever dies free of these sins will be forgiven for anything else if Allah wills: associating anything with Allah; practising magic or witchcraft; and bearing resentment towards his brother.'9

Note: 9. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

He meets them with a smiling face

The Muslim should always be pure of heart and cheerful of countenance. He should not meet his brothers except with warmth and smiles, as the Prophet (s) said:

´Do not think little of any good deed even if it is just greeting your brother with a cheerful countenance.' (Muslim)

Having a cheerful and friendly face is a good characteristic which Islam encourages and considers to be a good deed which will bring reward, because a cheerful face mirrors a pure soul. This inward and outward purity is one of the distinguishing features of the sincere Muslim. Hence the Prophet (s) said:

´Your smiling at your brother is an act of charity (sadaqah).'10

Note: 10. Reported by al-Tirmidhi who said it is hasan gharib.

'Ali (r) said: "When two Muslims meet and converse, Allah will forgive the one who has the most cheerful face."

It was the habit of the Sahabah, who were the living example of Islam, to shake hands whenever they met, and whenever they returned from a journey they would embrace one another. These actions increase the feelings of love and friendship between the two who meet. Ibn Sa'd reports in al-Tabaqat (4/34) that al-Shabi said:

´When the Prophet (s) returned from Khaybar, Ja'far ibn Abi Talib (r) came out to meet him, and the Prophet (s) embraced him and kissed his forehead, and said, 'I do not know which gives me more joy, Ja'far's return (from Abyssinia) or the conquest of Khaybar.'" Another report adds: ´He embraced him warmly.'

Islam encourages giving salaam, and shaking hands and embracing whenever brothers meet, so as to reinforce the ties of love and strengthen the bonds of brotherhood among believers, so that the Muslim society will be able to fulfil its purpose in life.

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