Welcome to Ramadan. May the blessings of this month bring healing, and may our fasting be the antidote to this dreaded enemy called COVID-19. Amin.
Just before Abuja Lockdown, the Fort Royal Muslim Women Ummah, Kyami District Airport Road Abuja, invited my one-time student at Mass Comm BUK (but now my Shaikh) Imam Tamim Yusuf (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the Muslim Community Centre Jumu’ah Mosque, Wuse Zone 3, Abuja to deliver a Pre-Ramadan Lecture on ”Brotherhood and Sisterhood in Islam.” Your Columnist was there and asked the Imam to summarise it for others to benefit on this Second Day of Ramadan 1441/2020:
Islamic brotherhood (al-ukhuwwah) is an all-inclusive principle that goes beyond lineage, gender, colour, age, social status, ethnic colouration or political orientation. It brings people of different backgrounds – who ordinarily would hardly interact – into a single body under the umbrella of Islam, equal before Allah, where none is better than the other except by piety.
The Qur’an and Sunnah stress on the Islamic brotherhood and the need for Muslims to share sadness and joy of the Muslims in any part of globe as a single body. All the types of brotherhood known to mankind do not last as that of faith, which exists in this life, and extends up to paradise.
Many Qur’anic verses and Prophetic Ahadith emphasise the issue of Islamic brotherhood: “…And remember the favour of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favour, brothers…” (Aali Imran, 3:103). “The believers are but brothers…” (Al-Hujurat, 49:10). In a Hadith, “A believer to a believer is like a structure, the parts of which support each other.” (Bukhari and Muslim).
To enhance brotherhood and bind it together, Islam urges the Muslims to discharge some rights towards each other. Some of those mechanisms, as many as they are, may look insignificant, but their impacts are far-reaching in terms of creating love and neutralising barriers between people of different social backgrounds. These mechanisms may not necessarily involve money, but they do more than what money does, and speak a lot on one’s good or bad human relations.
Consider spreading the greeting of Salam and Musafaha, in the case of which the Prophet of Allah (upon whom be peace) said: “…Shall I tell you something if you put in practice you will love one another? Multiply the greeting of peace among yourselves.” (Muslim) or “When two Muslims meet and shake hands, their sins are forgiven before they part.” (Abu Dawud).
Exchange of gifts – from the rich to the poor, from the elderly to the young, and even from a Muslim to a non-Muslim and vice versa – no matter how small, is another mechanism that bridges gaps, heals discord, makes enemies friends and friends brothers. The Prophet (upon whom be peace), touched many hearts through gifts which led many to embrace Islam. He said: “Exchange gifts between yourselves; you will love one another.”
Wearing a smiling face sends a signal of welcome, care and acceptance in the mind of whom it is extended, and enhances brotherhood between the Muslims. The Messenger of Allah, said: “Do not undermine any good deed, even that of welcoming your brother with a smiling face.” (Muslim)
Similarly, showing concern in a brother’s affairs which manifests in so many ways (involving oneself in handling the other’s personal problems, caring about his progress and that of his loved ones), are just a few simple things that create everlasting love and strong brotherhood.
It is also a gateway to unity among the Ummah to know the correct name/title of a brother/sister and address him/her accordingly. Many Muslims today are guilty in this respect, as they are careless in knowing the names of their neighbours, and even that of the Imam who leads them in Salah.
Enquiry about absence and condition of both healthy and sick ones: The Prophet, said: “A Muslim owes a Muslim five obligations: returning his greetings, visiting him in sickness, following his funeral, accepting his invitation and saying ‘may Allah have mercy on you’ when he says ‘all praise is to Allah’ on sneezing.” (Bukhari and Muslim).
In addition, it is part of the responsibilities of brotherhood for each of us to offer private prayers in favour of our Muslim brothers/sisters across the globe, solicited or not, especially when one knows that one’s brother/sister faces one challenge or the other. Such private prayers are automatically answered by Allah, and also benefit he who offers the prayer.
Another strong mechanism is showing love and rendering assistance in whatever way possible with a view to solving a problem or alleviating a difficulty. One of the best ways to assist is through feeding those in need. This has been emphasised in Islam especially in this period, best described as “it’ãmun fi yaumin dhiy masghabah, “feeding on a day of severe hunger.” (Al-Balad, 90:14).
Assisting a brother/sister goes beyond the material, as it includes helping the oppressed and the oppressor (by holding his hands from oppressing others). (Bukhari and Muslim). In order to ensure that spirit of brotherhood is maintained, Allah forbids whatever breeds discord. Islam forbids envy, nursing grudges, aversion, backbiting, humiliating or looking down upon another. A man admonished Caliph Umar bin Abdul-Azeez, saying: “Treat an elderly Muslim as a father, the young one as a son, the middle-aged as a brother; who, then, would you feel comfortable to harm amongst them?”
Practicing Islamic principles of brotherhood brings about lots of benefits to individuals and the Ummah at large; satisfies an obligation of Allah and attracts His pleasure; serves as source of strength and unity for the Ummah; helps in sanitising society by facilitating a collective fight against vices; means of achieving economic empowerment and independence; improves love, understanding and peace.
Application of sincere brotherhood is the secret behind the success of the Companions of the Prophet, and is the only way we can succeed too. Promotion of sectarian divisions is destructive.
Finally, the question remains: what role are we playing in promoting brotherhood as a great unifying principle of our deen in our today’s individualistic society?