The shari’a and teachings of the Prophet (saw) regarding the relationship between brothers and sisters in Islam is vital for creating a spiritually, physically, psychologically, economically and environmentally healthy and stable environment. The key to establishing any stable society is family life. In Islam the family unit is based on males and females living together as husband and wife, as a “garment” to one another, following a code of ethics divinely prescribed for us. Similar codes of ethics apply outside of our family environment and extend to our sisters and brothers at large.
N'uman Ibn Bashir (ra) relates that the Holy Prophet (saws) said,
"The Muslims (in their mutual love, kindness and compassion) are like the human body where when one of its parts is in agony the entire body feels the pain both in sleeplessness and fever". (Bukhari and Muslim)
Hand on heart how many of us can honestly say they lose sleep thinking about others’ problems or hardships, let alone feeling any emotional pain on another’s behalf. We are living in a climate where we barely say salaam to one another or perhaps we don’t even know if our neighbours are Muslim or not. Using an extreme but realistic example there are even some Muslim who justify the taking of life of their Muslim brother or sister.
Ibn Umar (ra) relates that the Holy Prophet (saw) said,
"A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. He does not harm him nor does he hand him over to his enemy. One who fulfils the need of another Muslim, Allah (swt) will fulfil the former's need. One who fulfils the need of another Muslim, Allah (swt) will remove one of his troubles on the Day of Judgment. Similarly, one who covers the faults of another Muslim, Allah (swt) will cover the former's faults on the Day of Judgment". (Bukhari and Muslim)
Anas Ibn Malik (ra) relates that the Holy Prophet (saw) said,
"Help your brother whether he is an oppressor or an oppressed person". A companion asked, "Messenger of Allah (saw), it is true that I will help him if he is an oppressed person, but please tell me how I am to help him if he happens to be an oppressor"? The Holy Prophet (saw) answered, "Check him from doing injustice, because preventing him from committing aggression is a help to him". (Bukhari)
Such beautiful words of wisdom from the greatest ambassador of true peace, if only we would act upon them! The Prophet (saw) encapsulated the true essence of brotherhood and by his mere presence cleansed the hearts of those around him who may have been harbouring ill or negative feelings. The Prophet (saw) spent his entire time attempting to bring people together using only words to describe others which would be pleasing and honourable to those in his blessed company. How many situations have we found ourselves in whereupon a brother or sister is being discussed in such a way which conjures up negative thoughts or feelings? How would this situation promote brother/sisterhood? This is only one small aspect of the role of brother/sisterhood; as you will see from the following Hadiths it extends itself to every aspect of life on both a practical and personal level.
Abu Hurairah (ra) relates that the Holy Prophet (saw) said,
"Do not be envious of other Muslims. Do not overbid at auctions in business against another Muslim. Do not have malice against a Muslim. Do not go against a Muslim and forsake him. Do not make another offer during his pending transaction. O’ servants of Allah! Be like brothers with each other. A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. Do not hurt him or look down upon him or bring shame on him. Piety is a matter of heart. It is enough evil for a person to look down upon his Muslim brother. The blood property and honour of a Muslim is inviolable to a Muslim." (Muslim)
The Prophet (saw) demonstrated beautifully the importance of brotherhood and sisterhood on his arrival into Madinah. He paired off each Muslim muhaajir (emigrant) from Makkah with an ansar (“helper”) from Madinah in mu’aakhaah, or brotherhood. Each was to support the other with shelter, material help, education, companionship and advice. They came to form a vigorous and caring society and the best example of brotherhood.
When Hadhrat Zayd ibn Haarithah, a true servant of the messenger was killed at the battle of Mu’tah, the Prophet (saw) said, “Zayd strove in the path of Allah sincerely as he should. Today he has met his Lord and he is serene.” Hadhrat Zayd’s daughter found the Prophet (saw) weeping over the corpse of her father and said, “What do I see?” The noble Prophet (saw) with tears in his eyes, replied, “A friend weeping for a friend.”
Abu Hurairah (ra) relates that the Holy Prophet (saw) said,
"A Muslim has five duties to another Muslim: reciprocating his salutation, paying him a visit when he is sick, accompanying his funeral procession, accepting an invitation from him, and upon sneezing respond to his 'Al Hamdulillah' with 'Yar Hamuk Allah' (Allah have mercy on you)." (Bukhari.
In a narration from Muslim, the following duty is added: when he solicits your advice, advise him sincerely).
The Prophet (saw) even prescribed to us the rights of our neighbours these are:
- Give him a share when you buy fruits, and if you do not give him, bring what you buy quietly and let not your children take them out to excite the jealousy of his children .
In Islam, a neighbour is not only the person living next door but also a fellow student, a colleague, or fellow traveller, and in terms of priority it is the person living closest to you. When it comes to the basic human rights and needs of neighbours, there is no discrimination or distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim.
Being human we know that friendships are not always trouble-free disagreements and arguments can and do arise. This can sometimes put a strain on the most well-intentioned persons. However, if such a situation should arise, there are procedures in Islam that make reconciliation easy. For example, the noble Prophet (saw) told us:
“It is not permissible for a believer to keep away from a believer for more than 3 days. After the lapse of this period, he should go and meet him and greet him with salaam. If he returns the salaam they will be sharers in the merit of reconciliation. If he does not return the salaam, he will be guilty.”
As in every aspect of Islam there are lessons to be learnt for all of us. It would be more beneficial if we applied these lessons and put them into practice as opposed to viewing them as a mere academic or intellectual exercise. We could start by sitting quietly for a few minutes to consider how we treat our brothers and sisters (or neighbours). Perhaps if we know of someone whom we are not talking to due to an argument or disagreement we could be first to greet him or her with a salaam for the sake of Allah (swt) remembering if they reply we are both rewarded for this and if they choose to abstain both actions are accounted for.
We pray that Allah (swt) show us the right path insha’Allah and open our hearts to fulfil the rights of and duties towards our brother and sisters in Islam. Ameen.
By Khadija Atkinson