One of the foundations of this unified community is a brotherhood amongst the believers, which has also been encouraged by the infallible leaders of Islam as well as Allah in the Qur’an. The meaning of Islamic brotherhood is loving our brothers and sisters, aiding them financially, standing by their side when they are being dealt an unjust blow, wanting for them what we want for ourselves, and overlooking their mistakes while remembering their good qualities.
The social aspect of Islam is one of its most important aspects. Islam teaches us the importance of an Islamic community and how to achieve an Islamic community.
Some of the verses of the Quran in this regard will be listed:
“Do not be like those who became divided [into sects] and differed after manifest signs had come to them.” Here we are being warned to remain unified and not divide ourselves up into sects or any other divisions. Allah is commanding us to have a unified community.
“Indeed, those who split up their religion and become sects, you will not have anything to do with them. Their matter rests only with God.” Again, Allah is commanding us to leave sectarianism and remain unified – to safeguard our unified community.
“The faithful are indeed brothers. Therefore make peace between your brothers, and be wary of God, so that you may receive [His] mercy.” Here, the issue of brotherhood is raised, which is the main topic of this paper, and the issue of making peace between Muslims in dispute. This is pointing to a unified community once more.
“And obey God and His Apostle, and do not dispute, or you will lose heart and your power will be gone.” Here, Allah is mentioning the result of dispute and disunity – a loss of power and strength, which is once more pointing to the need of unity.
“There has to be a nation among you summoning to the good, bidding what is right, and forbidding what is wrong. It is they who are the felicitous.” Here, Allah is referring to a nation, a community that is doing what they are supposed to do – enjoin the good and forbid the evil. The result of this is that they will become felicitous, so one has to form a community and make that community do the right things to become felicitous.
What does this all mean? It means that we must form unified communities. How do we do that? One of the most basic methods of doing this is caring for our Muslim brothers. It is narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) said: “One who starts his day without caring (about) the affairs of Muslims is not a Muslim.”
One of the verses that were quoted at the beginning of this paper was the 10th verse of the 49th chapter of the Holy Qur’an, stating that the faithful are indeed brothers. Brotherhood is a very important concept in Islam and is one of the foundations of the Islamic community to which Allah has given great importance. This is clearly understood by those who have experienced real brotherhood.
Brotherhood is something that has been encouraged and explained by the infallible Imams. For instance, it has been narrated from Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him): “Seek nearness to Almighty Allah through helping your (Muslim) brother.”
There will even by rewards for such actions in this world, as has been narrated from Imam Ali (peace be upon him): “Helping the brothers-in-Allah increases sustenance.”
I will conclude this paper by mentioning some of the aspects of an Islamic friendship between two brothers in faith. The Imams have made many statements about what it means to be a friend and how we should treat other believers. I will only mention a few of them.
First, it has been narrated from Imam Ridha (peace be upon him): “It is the duty of a believer towards another believer to have his love in his heart, to assist him with his wealth, and to stand by his side against one who does injustice to him.” In this tradition, we are ordered to love other believers, to aid them with our wealth, and to stand by their side when injustice befalls them. Do we actually do this? When one of our brothers hits a financial low, do the members of our community run to give him financial aid? When the police wrongfully accuse and arrest one of our brothers for terrorism, do we stand by his side, or do we distance ourselves from him in hopes that a similar situation would not befall us?
There are two more traditions that I want to narrate from the books Risalat al-Haquq (Charter of Rights), which is attributed to Imam Zainul Abideen (peace be upon him):
“The right of the companion (Sahib) is that you act as his companion with bounty and in fairness. You honor him as he honors you, and you do not let him be the first to act with generosity. If he is the first, you repay him. You wish for him as he wishes for you, and you restrain him from any act of disobedience he might attempt. Be a mercy for him, not a chastisement. And there is no strength, save in God.” This tradition alludes to the famous saying: want for your brother what you would want for yourself. If we apply this saying in our friendships, we will be the best friend that anyone could have.
Another tradition from this famous Charter of Rights is in regards to people with whom one is sitting. The reason I am mentioning this is because the manners that are encouraged for one to have with a person who sits next to him are definitely encouraged for one to have with a friend as well.
States the Imam, “The right of your sitting companion (Jalis) is that you treat him mildly, show fairness toward him while vying with him in discourse, and do not stand up from sitting with him without his permission. But it is permissible for him who sits with you to leave without asking your permission. You should forget his slips and remember his good qualities, and you should say nothing about him but good.”
The end part of this tradition is interesting to me. We should forget about whatever mistakes a friend of ours makes, and we should only remember his good qualities. This would both protect and improve our friendship.
Therefore, Allah has shown us the importance of a unified community in the Qur’an. One of the foundations of this unified community is a brotherhood amongst the believers, which has also been encouraged by the infallible leaders of Islam as well as Allah in the Qur’an. The meaning of Islamic brotherhood is loving our brothers and sisters, aiding them financially, standing by their side when they are being dealt an unjust blow, wanting for them what we want for ourselves, and overlooking their mistakes while remembering their good qualities.