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Al-Ikhwah (The Bonds of Brotherhood)

As Muslims, our faith is not complete, and our worship is not sufficient, until we have built the strong bonds of brotherhood amongst ourselves. This fact is frequently forgotten by many Muslims, and these bonds are broken over minor disputes and arguments. This article discusses the importance of brotherhood in Islam, with evidence from the Quran, Sunnah and the Seerah.

Most Muslims focus on the ritualistic worship aspects of Islam, while neglecting the core values that Islam promotes. Prayers, fasting, charity, hajj, remembrance of Allah (swt) and similar acts of worship form the basis of Islam. They are extremely important to firmly establish the faith of the Muslim, and to build their relationship with Allah (swt) and increase their piety.

However, Islam also teaches us another important aspect of our faith, which is the manners of how to deal with others. These manners are often neglected by Muslims. Unfortunately, it is all too common to find Muslims who perform their prayers and fasting perfectly, yet they lack the basic etiquettes taught to us by Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). We as Muslims need to perfect both our worship and our manners in order to be successful and gain the pleasure of Allah (swt).

One of the most important pillars of our dealings with others, is the concept of brotherhood in Islam. This concept is emphasized in the Quran and in the Sunnah, and through the practical actions of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). This brotherhood that is established by Islam places upon us certain rights and responsibilities that we must fulfill towards our Muslim brothers. Before we proceed any further, it must be made clear to anyone reading this that although we use the term "brotherhood" in this article, it is meant to encompass both genders, and to include sisterhood between Muslim sisters as well.

The first important point to note is that this brotherhood between believers was established by Allah (swt) Himself, in the Quran: "Believers are indeed brothers" (Al-Hujurat, verse 10). Allah (swt) revealed this verse from above seven heavens to establish this bond of brotherhood between the believers. So it should be taken very seriously.

Allah (swt) also tells us in the Quran how important this brotherhood between the believers is:

"And adhere to the Bond of Allah, together, and do not be divided. And remember the Favor of Allah that was bestowed upon you: how you were enemies, and how He united your hearts, so that by His Favor you became brothers. And how He saved you from the Pit of Fire when you were on the brink of it. And so Allah makes plain to you His verses, in order that you will be guided." (Al-Imran, 103).

This verse contains many important lessons that are relevant to our discussion. First of all comes the command from Allah (swt) for the believers to adhere closely to the "Bond of Allah" together and not to be divided. This "Bond of Allah" is the religion of Islam, and the oath that Allah (swt) has taken upon the believers, that they are brothers and that they are to love one another. It is this brotherhood, and this unity between the believers.

Allah (swt) then asks the believers to remember how they were enemies, and He united their hearts so they became brothers. Allah (swt) counts this as a great blessing and favor that He has done for the believers. This shows how important indeed this brotherhood is. It is so important that Allah (swt) is counting it as a great blessing that He bestowed about the believers!

Allah (swt) then informs us that this unity and brotherhood is what saved them from the brink of falling into the fire! Therefore, doing the contrary, which is to be disunited, to hate each other, to be divided into groups, and to lack the sense of brotherhood amongst ourselves, this will cause us to fall into the fire, may Allah (swt) save us and all the believers from it.

Allah (swt) also says in the Quran: "The believers, both men and women, are awlia (helpers, supporters, allies) to each other." (Al-Tawbah, 71)

Allah (swt) warns us against disunity, and how being divided and having disputes with each other will result in failure and loss: "Obey Allah and His Messenger and do not dispute with one another, otherwise you will fail and lose your strength. Have patience - Allah is with those who are patient." (Al-Anfal, 46)

There are many other verses in the Quran that reiterate this message of how important it is for Muslims to be united, to be brothers, friends, allies and supporters of each other, and to avoid disunity and division amongst each other. The emphasis on this concept in the Quran shows how important this issue is in the view of Allah (swt).

There are also numerous ahadith from the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) that emphasize this concept as well. The following are just a few examples.

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said: "You will not enter paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another." (Sahih Muslim). He also said: "You will not be a believer until you love for your brother what you love for yourself" (Sahih Al-Bukhari).

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) considered brotherhood between the Muslims and their love for one another to be a requirement for them to be considered believers. Without this brotherhood, they would not enter paradise, because they would not be true believers. The second hadith goes even further. It does not just require that we love our Muslim brothers. No, we must in fact love for them exactly what we love for ourselves. This is the highest level of love, that you would love that someone has all the good things that you have.

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) also told us how Allah (swt) on the day of judgement will shade those believers who loved each other only for the sake of Allah (swt): "Allah (swt) will say on the day of Judgement: Where are those who loved each other for my sake? I will shade them today, when there is no shade but mine!" (Sahih Muslim).

In fact, this feeling of love and brotherhood between the Muslims brings us joy in our life as well. It will give us this wonderful feeling of the sweetness of faith, a feeling of true pleasure and satisfaction. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said: "There are three things that if one has them, he will find the sweetness of faith. That Allah and His messenger be more beloved to him than anything else, that he love a person for no reason other than for the sake of Allah, and to hate to go back to disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown into fire." (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Our love for our Muslim brothers should extend beyond just feelings. It should be manifested in our actions as well. This brotherhood should push us to help each other in any way we can, and to push ourselves very hard to help our brothers. If we do this, Allah (swt) will reward us greatly, as Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said:

"Whoever relieves a calamity that has struck a believer in this world, Allah will relieve for him one of the calamities of the day of Judgement, and whoever makes things easy for a person in trouble, Allah will make his matters easy in this life and in the hereafter, and whoever shields the faults of a Muslim, Allah will shield his faults in this world and the hereafter, and Allah will help and support his servant as long as he is helping and supporting his brother" (Sahih Muslim)

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) also told us how to become the most beloved people to Allah (swt). Would you like to be one of them? Such that Allah (swt) loves you and in fact you become among the most beloved to Allah (swt)? The way to achieve this is to help people, bring them benefit and happiness, and relieve them of their problems:

"The most beloved people to Allah (swt) are those who help and benefit others the most, and the most beloved actions to Allah (swt), is pleasure and happiness that you cause to enter the heart of a Muslim, or to solve one of his problems, or to pay off his debt, or to prevent him from being hungry, and working to help my Muslim brother is more beloved to me than making I’tikaf in this masjid for a month, and whoever controls his anger, Allah will conceal his faults, and whoever controls his ill feelings, Allah (swt) will fill his heart with contentment on the day of Judgment, and whoever strives to help fulfill a need for his Muslim brother, Allah will make his feet steadfast on the day of Judgment, and bad manners ruin good deeds just like vinegar ruins honey." (Sheikh Al-Albani said it is a sound hadith)

In fact, adhering to this brotherhood provides safety for us as well, physically and in terms of our faith. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said: "Stay with the group (of righteous Muslims), for the wolf eats the sheep that strays away from the herd" (Ahmad and Al-Tirmidhi)

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) implemented this concept of brotherhood practically amongst the Muslims. At the time when the Muslims were being persecuted in Makkah, and they were being tortured, insulted, humiliated and attacked, for no reason other than being Muslims, the Prophet (pbuh) used the bonds of brotherhood to help them get through these difficult times. Many of the people who had entered Islam were even being attacked by their own families, and they had lost the support and backing of their blood relatives. So Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) would select individuals from Muslims and make them brothers, so that they would take care of each other and help each other during the ordeal that they were going through.

This brotherhood between the Muslims transcends all racial and tribal barriers, and it is upheld by their common faith in Allah (swt), making it stronger than any other type of relationship, even blood relationships. When we look at the Muslim community in Makkah, we see such a beautiful example of brotherhood that spans many races, tribes and languages. Hamza, the uncle of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), was an Arab. Salman Al-Farisi was a Persian. Bilal was an African from Ethiopia. Sohaib was of European origin. All these people were from different races, languages and even continents. Yet they were united as brothers by Islam! Such harmony has never been achieved by any other religion, law or nation. Even in our modern world today, we commonly hear about racism and discrimination based on ethnicity, color of skin and language. Yet Islam had overcome all of this by implementing the concept of brotherhood in Islam.

When the Muslims immigrated to Al-Madinah, the Prophet (pbuh) implemented another brotherhood, this time between the Muhajireen (the immigrants from Makkah) and the Ansar (those who lived in Al-Madinah). The Muhajireen had left Makkah with few possessions, and had to leave behind all of their wealth and belongings. They were in need of assistance in order to start their lives over again from scratch. So establishing the brotherhood between them and the Ansar was one of the first things Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) did in Al-Madinah, along with building the masjid, and it was one of the cornerstones of building a healthy, strong and successful Muslim nation.

One of the amazing stories of this brotherhood is that of Adbul Rahman ibn Awf, who was one of the Muhajireen. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) made him brothers with Sa’ad ibn Al-Rabee, who was one of the wealthiest people among the Ansar. Upon hearing that Abdul Rahman was assigned to be his brother, Sa'ad told him: "Half of my wealth is yours". Adbul Rahman replied: "May Allah (swt) bless your wealth. Is there a market where you trade?" Sa'ad led him to the market where he immediately began to work. After some time, Abdul Rahman had built his own wealth and he got married and started his life again. He never took anything from Sa’ad.

This story shows us how seriously they took their brotherhood, and how willing they were to really put themselves in hardship to help their brothers. Sa’ad was willing to give up half of his wealth in order to help his brother. How many of us do this today? When we hear about a disaster that struck a Muslim nation, or we see Muslim refugees on TV living in tents and in very harsh conditions. How many of us send half of all of our wealth to help them? Indeed, Sa'ad is an example of generosity that we need to learn from.

At the same time, Abdul Rahman didn’t take advantage of the generosity of his brother. He did not just become lazy and take the wealth and live happily ever after. He appreciated the generosity of his brother, yet he wanted to build his own wealth by his own hands. He had such an excellent work ethic that he could not just take the money without doing any work. Abdul Rahman was a good business man, and he was able to trade and support himself. So he preferred that route. Abdul Rahman was following the guidance of the Prophet (pbuh), who discouraged the Muslims from begging and taking money from others, unless one is desperate. This is because Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) wants the Muslims to be hardworking and productive, and laziness was one of the things he feared most for his nation.

So let us implement this concept of brotherhood in our lives. It is part of our religion, and it is part of our history. It is our identity that defines us as Muslims and as followers of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). Let us search for opportunities to help our fellow Muslim brothers. When we hear that one of our brothers needs help or is facing a problem, let us really push ourselves and go out of our way to help. Not just financially, because sometimes it is easy to give some money and forget about the problem. We should be willing to go out and walk with our brother to help him fix his problems and help him physically and to be there with him.

Let us implement the example of the tribe of Al-Asharieen, which the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) praised by saying: "If they go through hardship and if the food is not enough for their kids, they gather all of what they have in one place, and then they will divide it equally amongst each other. They are from me, and I am from them!"

Subhan Allah, Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) was so pleased with their actions and the way that they gather together to help each other during times of hardship, that he said they are from me and I am from them! Why don't we join them as well, and follow their example!

May Allah (swt) guide us all to implement the concept of brotherhood in our community and amongst each other, and to follow in the footsteps of the companions and the early Muslims who implemented this practically in their lives.

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