What is true brotherhood in Islam and in the Sunnah, and what are its requirements?
By Abu Khadeejah ʿAbdul-Wāhid.
In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Bestower of Mercy.
The believers are brothers in Religion just as Allāh has described them in the Qur’ān:
إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
“The believers are nothing else than brothers. So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy.” (Al-Hujurāt, 10)
Abu Hurairah (radiyallāhu ʿanhu) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) said:
لَا تَحَاسَدُوا وَلَا تَنَاجَشُوا, وَلَا تَبَاغَضُوا, وَلَا تَدَابَرُوا, وَلَا يَبِعْ بَعْضُكُمْ عَلَى بَيْعِ بَعْضٍ, وَكُونُوا عِبَادَ اَللَّهِ إِخْوَانًا,
اَلْمُسْلِمُ أَخُو اَلْمُسْلِمِ, لَا يَظْلِمُهُ, وَلَا يَخْذُلُهُ, وَلَا يَحْقِرُهُ,
اَلتَّقْوَى هَا هُنَا, وَيُشِيرُ إِلَى صَدْرِهِ ثَلَاثَ مِرَارٍ,
بِحَسْبِ اِمْرِئٍ مِنْ اَلشَّرِّ أَنْ يَحْقِرَ أَخَاهُ اَلْمُسْلِمَ,
كُلُّ اَلْمُسْلِمِ عَلَى اَلْمُسْلِمِ حَرَامٌ, دَمُهُ, وَمَالُهُ, وَعِرْضُهُ
“Do not be jealous of one another, do not artificially inflate prices against one another, do not harbour hatred against one another, do not turn desert one another, one of you should not enter into a transaction when the other has already entered into it—rather be brothers one to another and servants of Allah.
A Muslim is a brother to another Muslim. He does not wrong him and does not desert him, nor despise him.
Taqwā (true piety) is found here—pointing three times to his chest—despising his Muslim brother is enough of an evil for any man to fall into.
Every Muslim’s blood, property and honour are unlawful to be violated by another Muslim.” (Reported by Muslim, see Buloogh Al-Marām, no. 1539)
Anas Ibn Mālik (radiyallāhu ʿanhu) narrated from Allāh’s Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) that he said:
لاَ يُؤْمِنُ أَحَدُكُمْ حَتَّى يُحِبَّ لأَخِيهِ – أَوْ قَالَ لِجَارِهِ – مَا يُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِهِ
“None amongst you believes (truly) until he loves for his brother” – or he said, “for his neighbour that which he loves for himself.” (Muslim, no. 45)
Imām Ahmad (12734) reported from Ibn ʿUmar (radiyallāhu ʿanhumā) from the Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam):
لا يَبْلُغُ الْعَبْدُ حَقِيقَةَ الإِيمَانِ حَتَّى يُحِبَّ لِلنَّاسِ مَا يُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِهِ
“The servant of Allāh will not reach true imān until he loves for the people the good which he loves for himself.”
Imām Muslim (1844) reported from ʿAbdullāh Ibn ʿAmr Ibn al-ʿĀs (radiyallāhu ʿanhumā) that he said: “While we were with the Messenger of Allah on a journey, we stopped to camp, and some of us were pitching tents, some were competing in shooting arrows, and some were taking the animals out to race them. Then the caller of the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) called out: As-Salātu Jamiʿah (call to prayer). So, we gathered, and the Messenger of Allah (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) stood up and addressed us. He said:
إِنَّهُ لَمْ يَكُنْ نَبِيٌّ قَبْلِي إِلاَّ كَانَ حَقًّا عَلَيْهِ أَنْ يَدُلَّ أُمَّتَهُ عَلَى مَا يَعْلَمُهُ خَيْرًا لَهُمْ وَيُنْذِرَهُمْ مَا يَعْلَمُهُ شَرًّا لَهُمْ وَإِنَّ أُمَّتَكُمْ هَذِهِ جُعِلَتْ عَافِيَتُهَا فِي أَوَّلِهَا وَإِنَّ آخِرَهَا سَيُصِيبُهُمْ بَلاَءٌ وَأُمُورٌ يُنْكِرُونَهَا تَجِيءُ فِتَنٌ فَيُدَقِّقُ بَعْضُهَا لِبَعْضٍ فَتَجِيءُ الْفِتْنَةُ فَيَقُولُ الْمُؤْمِنُ هَذِهِ مُهْلِكَتِي ثُمَّ تَنْكَشِفُ ثُمَّ تَجِيءُ فَيَقُولُ هَذِهِ مُهْلِكَتِي ثُمَّ تَنْكَشِفُ فَمَنْ أَحَبَّ مِنْكُمْ أَنْ يُزَحْزَحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَيُدْخَلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَلْتُدْرِكْهُ مَوْتَتُهُ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَلْيَأْتِ إِلَى النَّاسِ مَا يُحِبُّ أَنْ يُؤْتَى إِلَيْهِ …
“There has a never been a prophet before me who was not obliged to tell his nation of what he knew was good for them, and to warn against that he knew was bad for them. With regard to this Ummah of yours, its wellbeing has been placed in its earlier generations, and the last of them will be afflicted with calamities and things that you will hate. Then there will come tribulations which will make the earlier ones pale into insignificance, and the believer will say: ‘This will be then end of me,’ then relief will come. Then more tribulations will come, and the believer will say: ‘Surely, this will be the end of me,’ then relief will come. Whoever would like to be taken far away from the Fire and be admitted to Paradise, let him die believing in Allah and the Last Day, and let him treat people as he would like to be treated himself…”
So, these narrations show that a true believer is happy when his brother is happy and is saddened when his brother is sad. So, he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself of goodness. This is achieved when a Muslim is free from trickery, cheating, hatred, jealousy, and envy of his brothers—he does not attack his brothers or belittle them, rather he helps them, cooperates with them and makes duʿā for them. And if he is not able to do that, then at the very least he should not speak ill of them.
Jealousy and envy are wicked traits when a person hates that blessings have been bestowed upon someone else—or that someone else should have what he has. This is because he wants to be distinguished above the people with bounties—and wants to be singled out with distinction. Having īmān entails that a person wants for all the believers that they share in what Allāh has given him without there being any reduction of what he has of goodness and bounties. Perfection in īmān means that you struggle against the soul (nafs), fight the ego, and humble yourself for Allah’s sake—not think that you are better than your brothers and more deserving of bounties.
Allāh, the Most High, has praised and extolled the one who possesses these noble qualities:
تِلْكَ الدَّارُ الْآخِرَةُ نَجْعَلُهَا لِلَّذِينَ لَا يُرِيدُونَ عُلُوًّا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فَسَادًا ۚ وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
“Surely the home of the Hereafter We have made for those who do not desire exaltedness and high mightiness upon the earth nor corruption. And the best outcome is for the righteous.” (Al-Qasas: 83)
ʿIkrimah (rahimhullāh) and others said regarding this verse:
“Seeking highness in the earth is to be haughty and proud, and to seek elevation in society, and to seek a special position with the ruler—and corruption is to commit acts of disobedience.”
The believers on the other hand love their brothers and those believers who came before them:
وَالَّذِينَ جَاءُوا مِن بَعْدِهِمْ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لَنَا وَلِإِخْوَانِنَا الَّذِينَ سَبَقُونَا بِالْإِيمَانِ وَلَا تَجْعَلْ فِي قُلُوبِنَا غِلًّا لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ رَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“And those who came after them say: ‘Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who have preceded us in īmān (faith) and put not in our hearts any hatred against those who have believed. Our Lord! You are indeed full of kindness, Most Merciful.’” (Al-Hashr 59:10)
So, from the qualities of the believers is that their hearts and tongues are safe and secure from harming their believing brothers who have preceded them in īmān and their brothers who are present with them. True believers speak good of their brothers, make supplications for them that Allāh forgives them—and that He forgives them all.
This is even more so when referring to the first and foremost of believers—the Companions of the Prophet (sallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam): the Muhārjūn and the Ansār, and those who truly follow them. Whoever finds in his heart hatred for the Companions of the Prophet (sallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) or he seeks to lower their great status, then he is not truly a believer. Abu Hurairah (radiyallāhu ʿanhu) reported Allāh’s Messenger (sallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) as saying:
لاَ تَسُبُّوا أَصْحَابِي لاَ تَسُبُّوا أَصْحَابِي فَوَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَوْ أَنَّ أَحَدَكُمْ أَنْفَقَ مِثْلَ أُحُدٍ ذَهَبًا مَا أَدْرَكَ مُدَّ أَحَدِهِمْ وَلاَ نَصِيفَهُ
“Do not revile my Companions, do not revile my Companions! By Him in Whose Hand is my soul, if one amongst you would have spent as much gold as Mount Uhud in charity, it would not amount to even a handful or even half a handful of they have given.” (Muslim, no. 2540)
So may Allāh, the Mighty and Majestic, disgrace the Rawāfid who curse and revile the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (sallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam). They curse the first three Rightly Guided Khulafā’, diminish their worth, and belittle them. So, if this is how they treat the best of our brothers in īmān and best of the believers, how do you think they will treat you? If they have no respect for the best mankind around the Prophet (sallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam), his Companions and his wives, then what respect and honour will they have for the Muslims today. If they are treacherous towards the best of humanity and despise them, then how will they love you and show loyalty to you? So their claims of loving the Muslim Ummah is a lie since they cannot even find it in them to love the Companions of the Prophet (sallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam).
Allāh, the Most High, stated:
وَالسَّابِقُونَ الْأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالْأَنصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
“And the first to embrace Islām of the Muhājirūn (migrants from Makkah) and the Ansar (the people of Al-Madinah) and those who followed them truly and correctly, Allah is pleased with them as they are pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein forever—that is the supreme success.” (At-Tawbah 9:100)
Allāh, the Most High, said about the Companions:
لِيَغِيظَ بِهِمُ الْكُفَّارَ ۗ وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ مِنْهُم مَّغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا
“So that by the Companions, Allah may enrage the disbelievers. Allah has promised those who believe and do righteous deeds among them forgiveness and a great reward.” (Al-Fath 48:29)
This verse is a proof that those who harbour hatred for the Companions are not true believers in Allāh and His Messenger. As for the believers, they love the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (sallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) and his wives, and those who follow them from the early Salaf and Ahlul-Hadeeth—they take them as friends and brothers, and seek forgiveness for them, and take them as their role-models.
So the believers should love for others what they love for themselves and dislike for them what they dislike for themselves. If a Muslim sees a deficiency in his Muslim brother in terms of his religion, then he strives to rectify him, advise him, show patience, and help him. He does not backbite him and expose his shortcomings because no one would love that for themselves. Allāh, the Most High, stated:
ۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا ۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“And do not spy on each other, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate that. So fear Allah—verily, Allah accepts repentance over and over again, He is Most Merciful.” (Al-Hujurāt 49:12)
If you would not be happy that a person carries tales between you and the ones you love causing animosity, then why would you ever allow yourself the right to carry tales and sow discord between a believer and those whom he loves and respects thus causing splitting between the hearts? Allāh (the Most High) said:
وَلَا تُطِعْ كُلَّ حَلَّافٍ مَّهِينٍ
هَمَّازٍ مَّشَّاءٍ بِنَمِيمٍ
“And do not obey every person just because he takes a lot of oaths and is [in reality] worthless—a slanderer walking around with gossip.” (Al-Qalam: 10-11)
The one who walks amongst the people whispering tales, “By Allāh, I heard him say this… and I saw him do that…” They open the doors of backbiting and malicious gossip amongst the ranks of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Hadeeth.
To speak behind a person’s back knowing that he would hate it is forbidden—and we all know that. Yes, in exceptional circumstances, it may be allowed to speak about someone even if he is not present—the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam), his Companions and the early scholars made clear these exceptions, such as warning against the misguided innovators by name, or to distinguish the weak narrators and liars from the trustworthy ones in the chains of narration of ahādeeth to protect the purity of the Prophetic narrations, or to warn against the open sinners who do not hide their sins so as to protect the believers from their immorality, or the one seeking a fatwa from a scholar or a ruling from a judge even if the person he is speaking about is not present.
As for slandering, inventing stories and lying against another, and spreading malicious rumours, then this absolutely forbidden. Even against Ahlul-Bidʿah this is forbidden—we do not lie against them. Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamāʿah suffice themselves with the truth—they are not in need of lying upon anyone, alhamdulillāh.
It is reported that news reached Hudhaifah Ibn al-Yamān (radiyallāhu ʿanhu) that a certain man was carrying tales and rumour-mongering. So, Hudhaifah (radiyallāhu ʿanhu) said: “I heard Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) saying:
لاَ يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ نَمَّامٌ
“The tale-carrier will not enter Paradise.” (Muslim no. 105) He knows what he carrying will lead to hatred between the hearts of the believers, and splitting of the ranks, yet he still does it. We should all fear Allah in what we say and what we carry—and the worst of us are those who carry tales that are untrue or embellished to deliberately make one Muslim look bad in front of another, wallāhul-mustaʿān.
The Salaf would regard the tale-carrier who seeks to destroy relationships to as harmful as a magician, “What the scandal merchant achieves in a day, takes the magician a year to achieve!”
Every Muslim hates that he is mocked, ridiculed and belittled, so therefore he should not ridicule and mock others. Allāh (the Most High) stated:
وَيْلٌ لِّكُلِّ هُمَزَةٍ لُّمَزَةٍ
“Woe to every slanderer and backbiter.” (Al-Humazah: 1) And Allah (the Most High) said:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ أَجْرَمُوا كَانُوا مِنَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يَضْحَكُونَ
وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِهِمْ يَتَغَامَزُونَ
“Indeed, those who committed crimes used to laugh [when they were in the world] at those who believed. And whenever they passed by them, they used to wink one to another in mockery.” (Al-Mutaffifeen: 29-30)
Also, a believer would hate to be tricked and cheated when buying and selling, so how could he possibly trick, cheat and deceive others? A believer would hate that he be annoyed by his neighbours and harmed by them, so why would he therefore annoy his neighbours? The Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) said:
وَاللَّهِ لاَ يُؤْمِنُ وَاللَّهِ لاَ يُؤْمِنُ وَاللَّهِ لاَ يُؤْمِنُ قِيلَ وَمَنْ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ الَّذِي لاَ يَأْمَنُ جَارُهُ بَوَايِقَهُ
“By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe!” It was said, “Who O Allah’s Messenger?” He said, “A person whose neighbour does not feel safe from his evil.” (Bukhārī, no. 6016)
If a believer hates to be oppressed, then how can he find it in him to oppress others? To the point that a believer would not even propose to a woman that his brother has proposed to until he withdraws his proposal or she turns him down:
لاَ يَبِعِ الرَّجُلُ عَلَى بَيْعِ أَخِيهِ وَلاَ يَخْطُبْ عَلَى خِطْبَةِ أَخِيهِ إِلاَّ أَنْ يَأْذَنَ لَهُ
“A person should not enter into a transaction that his brother has already entered into [with someone]—and he should not make a proposal of marriage already made by his brother, until he permits it.” (Muslim, no. 1412)
In conclusion, we should constantly exert ourselves in diverting evil from our brothers and sisters just as would like it to be diverted from ourselves—and this is a beneficial comprehensive principle in establishing brotherhood and love.
If Muslims were to act upon these guidelines and admonitions, the Ummah would be in a much better condition—and more non-Muslims would adopt this faith readily because they would see the fruits of this faith in its adherents.
All praise is for Allah, Lord of all the worlds.