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Excelling through the Bond of Brotherhood

Perhaps the first thing our beloved Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) did to address the enormous challenge of establishing the first Muslim state in Madīnah was to establish impeccable, purpose-driven relationships between Muslims and Allāh and between Muslims and one another. Intrinsically linked, these two form the cornerstones to developing institutions or conducting projects, from laying the foundations of a state and forming coherent groups and societies, to carrying out small and large projects successfully.

In fact, it is due to one’s relationship with Allāh that the bond of Islamic brotherhood manages to transcend blood relationships. While the latter links siblings biologically by way of a common mother, father or both, the first links creatures by way of servitude to their Creator,

“You will not find people who have īmān in Allāh and the Last Day having love for anyone who opposes Allāh and His Messenger, though they be their fathers, their sons, their brothers or their clan…”[1]

Through this, the Prophet’s companions achieved the near impossible after a pre-Islamic era of sworn hostility for 120 years, later commanding armies westwards to Rome and eastwards into Persia and into the depths of Africa and Asia:

“…and remember Allāh’s Favour on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brethren (in Islamic Faith), and you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it…”[2]

Anything beneath the purpose it was established upon cannot break it, even the wealth of the entire world. So such a relationship could not have been developed by the wealth of the entire world,

“…and (Allāh) unified their hearts. Even if you had spent everything on the earth, you could not have unified their hearts. But Allāh has unified them. He is Almighty, All-Wise.”[3]

With these meanings in mind, and maybe a true experience, we understand the migrant (the Muhājir) ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. ‘Awf’s (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) offer from his assigned Muslim brother from the helpers (the Anṣāri) Sād b. Rabiyah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu),

“O ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, the helpers know that I am the richest one among them, here is half of my wealth, take it and I will take the other. I also have two wives, look at them and choose the one you prefer and I will divorce her and after her waiting period you marry her.” At this, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān replied “May Allāh bless your family and your wealth. I have no need for that but show me where the market is [that he may trade and earn for himself].”[4]

Everything material, upon which other relationships are established became contentedly dispensable. They saw through their ‘tribes’, social statuses and wealth, making their one aim their collective servitude to Allāh and His religion. They rushed to obey their guide, the Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and excelled together.

The intention of this article is to shed light on a single one of the many aḥadīth that the companions actualised in their successful endeavour for Allāh’s pleasure and communal success. By understanding what severs unity, we will appreciate what forms it, what parallels we can draw, and what traits we can take away.

The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:

“Do not envy one another, do not inflate prices on one another, do not hate one another, do not turn away from one another, do not undercut one another, but be you, O slaves of Allāh, Brothers. A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim, he neither oppresses him, nor disgraces him, nor does he hold him in contempt (in disregard). Piety is here [pointing to his heart three times]. It is evil enough for a man to hold his Brother in contempt…”[5]

Do not envy one another

Envy is the one illness that lurks in almost everyone’s heart and pervades some of the best Da’wah feats. If not fought eagerly, it develops into irritation, a type that increases when it sees success rather than when it sees failure, an illness that creates regression within progression; one that develops a widening gulf between the hearts causing a watertight team to implode from within.

It was envy that tore away the once righteous Iblīs from the company of the angels, envy that split the two brothers, Qābīl and Hābīl, with one eventually murdering the other; and envy that divided the brothers of Yūsuf (ʿalayhi al-Salām), an otherwise powerful, united body of 12 righteous brothers. Envy according to Imām al-Qurtubi is the first sin reaped in the heavens and the first sin reaped on earth.[6]

Without a shadow of a doubt, envy is everywhere, whether in gangs or Muslim circles and organisations. If left to linger, it permeates people’s statements, ‘refutations’ and observations. It is the one thing fault-finding missionaries have in common, the snipers of success, lurking in the woods of irrelevance, and known only by their shots and stabs.

Some said that “every soul possesses envy, but the honoured (one) hides it whilst the debased one exposes it.” This is the crux of the matter, how can we repel it relentlessly?

Start by knowing that if others have been blessed with what you want, you have been blessed with what they want. If they have reached success on the back of hard work, either that opportunity is also available to you, or you are excused from even pursuing it. If they are famous, then with fame comes burden and superficiality. If you feel obscure, then with obscurity comes inner-peace and authenticity. If they have reached the stars, accompany them to the moon. Sometimes accompanying great people takes you even higher than competing with them.

Ask, are they not slaves of Allāh, do they not yearn for the destination you yearn for? Do they not pray in your direction and face your Lord? Are they not passengers on a ship you also sail on? What benefit does their detriment bring to you and what detriment does their benefit bring to you? The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) tells us,

“No one of you believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”[7]

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali comments:

“And there are those whom when they find envy in their hearts, they strive to remove it, while maintaining beautiful treatment and supplicating to the envied until the envy is replaced with love…and this is the highest form of īmān (faith).”[8]

Defeat your envy with a secret duʿā’ for the one you envy, a message of support, an endeavour to assist, excel with them, prop them up without being known and encourage them, even if you are all alone.

Do not hate one another”

The mistake of your brother or sister is your call for help. Their stumble should be countered by your empathy and should trigger your support. If they err, then it is not about ‘who’ slipped up, but that a composition of the body you are a part of has slipped up. If they are frustrating or ‘annoying’, then they were not disposed with ‘annoying’ to annoy you, but it is their predestined share of characteristics. Who knows, maybe it is their sternness that the Ummah will one day need, or their stubbornness that will one day shine. Are they a victim of your misjudgement, have they encountered you during a moment of misunderstanding, are their intentions as bad as you suspect?

“O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion; indeed some suspicions are sins.”[9]

Seek out means to gather the hearts, not to drive them apart. Search relentlessly for excuses, work on terms of agreement, and overlook one another’s mistakes. If it is recommended to abandon an action that is recommended and yields reward if doing it causes upset it stands to reason that such should be our attitude for the less than recommended, too. Is that uncle’s ‘reserved’ space on the front row worth a fight? Is the purpose of Salāh to declare a little-toe-to-toe war, are you teaching the Sunnah or ‘making a point’ carried by your irritation?

Ibn Taymiyyah says:

“It is recommended (Mustahab) to leave a recommended action if in leaving it the hearts come together, because the benefit of bringing together the hearts is greater than that brought about through recommended actions.”[10]

Bitterness is what triggers pettiness. We find we are able to overlook our child slamming the door or their temper tantrums, but we burn and rage if not handed a wedding invite or if our Salām is mistakenly ignored. Pettiness is the one predicament that shackles big ideas and otherwise strong societies and teams. If you say ‘white’ and the wise-guy says ‘magnolia’, is it worth the debate?

Bitterness creates lingering thoughts, and fills your mind with pseudo-debates and if nothing else, puts unnecessary ‘pressure’ on the heart that is otherwise a vessel for īmān. Maybe through this lens we can better understand how īmān is better accommodated in a serene cordial heart; ‘you will not believe until you love one another…’

As the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,

“You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not tell you of that which will strengthen love between you? Spread (the greeting of) salaam (peace) amongst yourselves.”[11]

“Do not turn your back on one another”

The Muslim Ummah has needs, and its cause is a collective burden. Your share of that burden is yours to carry and that task should not depend on recognition or appreciation from others. The value of Da’wah, teaching, nurturing, project-work or whatever you are involved in far transcends our personal tussles and expectations. Your own area of contribution is as much a niche as is your fingerprint, even if your work is neither appreciated nor recognised. Not every pillar faces the other, and those who have their back to you will never see the burden you are carrying. But should you walk away, the weight will topple.

Fatih Sultan Mehmed, or Mohammad al Fatih could not have conquered Constantinople in 1453 without a legion of soldiers, planners, strategists, excavators and others to carry away the soil and dispose of it. Allāh has a role for you, not achievable by anyone else. Concern yourself with the ‘objective’; be content when the burden is upheld, regardless of who holds it, so long as Allāh is being venerated and served. Let us be happy with wherever we find ourselves placed, wherever the pressing need is, even if it makes you obscure, even if you never hear cheers, drums and whistles. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,

“Paradise is for him who holds the reins of his horse to strive in Allāh’s Cause, with his hair unkempt and feet covered with dust: if he is appointed in the vanguard, he is perfectly satisfied with his post of guarding, and if he is appointed in the rearward, he accepts his post with satisfaction; (he is so simple and unambiguous that) if he asks for permission he is not permitted, and if he intercedes, his intercession is not accepted.”[12]

“But be you, O slaves of Allāh, brothers…”

“You see the believers as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind, resembling one body, so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness (insomnia) and fever with it.”[13]

Let us ponder over this ḥadīth for a bit. When exposed to trauma, the body instinctively prioritises the limb to ‘sacrifice’. If you fall, or you see something coming your way, the hands will fling in defence. But if you are left to choose between a limb and your eyes, your instinct is to choose your eyes, our two ‘beloved limbs’.The Ummah is not only connected as a body, but interdependent as one. True brotherhood is as elucidated in the couplets attributed to ʿAlī (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu),

إن أخاك الصدق من كان معك             ومن يضر نفسه لينفعك

ومن إذا ريب الزمان صدعك              شتت فيك شمله ليجمعك

“Your true friend is the one who is with you, harming his self to benefit you,

The one whom if the misfortune of time shatters you, will disband himself to gather you”

“The Muslim is the brother of a Muslim”

“The believers are nothing else than brothers. So make reconciliation between your brothers and fear Allāh, that you may receive mercy.”[15]

1) “He does not oppress him, nor does he disgrace him”

Oppression is not only a transaction between leader and led, but between you and all whom you encounter. It is his divinely authorised right that his ‘Salām’ is answered and his invitation is accepted. If this is the case when you are the recipient of a virtue he initiated, what says of his sanctity when taking his wealth, slandering him, tarnishing his reputation or the like? In the narration in Bukhārī and Muslim, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) says “wala yuslimuh” meaning that ‘he does not hand him over’ to his own evil, or to anything or anyone who will bring about his harm.[16] What then of tarnishing him on tabloids or writing his ‘exposé’ on social media timelines for likes and shares?

2) “Nor does he hold him in contempt”

The sensation of ‘superiority’ is often leant to the material; more money, a bigger house, a faster car or a better paying job. But maybe more seriously is its permeating practicing circles that monopolise ‘conformance to the Sunnah’, ‘Tawhid’ and salvation, whilst others are small, worthless, impermissible to ‘sit with’, doomed to innovation and destined to hell. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) tells us,

“Pride means denying the truth and looking down on people,”[17] an atom’s weight of which is enough to shield one from entering Paradise.[18]

Why? Because “Taqwa is here”

“Verily, the most honourable of you with Allāh is that who has Taqwa…”[19]

People are oppressed, disgraced or held in contempt because of their being perceived ‘inferior’. If the criterion upon which the culprit created his ‘superior’ perception is hidden, there would be nothing material upon which to conclude superiority. In Islām, the only criterion for superiority is Taqwa, or observance or consciousness of Allāh. That criterion is simply divinely classified so, by extension, how can we hold any Muslim in contempt?

Shift your paradigm to the real benchmark; Taqwa resides in the heart. If you stand in the night in Qiyām, do not belittle those who sleep, if you fast throughout the year do not belittle those who do not. Qiyām and Fasting are virtuous, but tell yourself, what if they regret their actions or ‘inaction’ in this case, whilst I admire mine? What if they are guilty for their sins, whilst I am impressed by my deeds? Ibn ‘Ataa’ Allāh al Sakandary says,

“It may be that a sins that creates humility and a feeling of destitution to Allāh is better than an act of obedience that creates pride and arrogance.”

“The whole of a Muslim for another Muslim is Haram, his blood, his property and his honour.”

The events at Badr, Uḥud, al Ahzaab and the opening of Makkah leave us in awe and rightly so. But how often do we study these feats through the lens of brotherhood? The Prophet’s (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) project of uniting their hearts ahead of these mighty challenges was nothing less of scrupulously timed. Likewise in the West, it is not the size of the challenges that trounce us, but our thinking that ‘uniting hearts’ comes after trying to address them, when it is the one, most important goal after our relationship with Allāh that we can pursue,

“Obey Allāh and His Messenger and do not quarrel among yourselves lest you lose heart and your momentum disappear. And be steadfast. Allāh is with the steadfast.”[20]



[1] Qur’an 58:22

[2] Qur’an 3:103

[3] Qur’an 8:63

[4] Bukhari on the authority of Anas rady Allahu ‘abhu

[5] Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah rady Allahu ‘anhu

[6] See Tafsir al Qurtubi

[7] Muslim on the authority of Anas rady Allahu ‘anhu

[8] Jaami’ al ‘Ulum wal Hikam

[9] Qur’an 49:12

[10] Majmu’ al Fatawa

[11] Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah

[12] Bukhari on the authority of Abu Hurairah rady Allahu ‘anhu

[13] Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Nu’man ibn Bashir rady Allahu ‘anhu

[14] Bukhari on the authority of Anas rady Allahu ‘abhu

[15] Qur’an 49:10

[16] Ibn Hajar in Fath al Baary

[17] Muslim on the authority of Ibn Mas’oud rady Allahu ‘anhu

[18] Muslim on the authority of Ibn Mas’oud rady Allahu ‘anhu

[19] Qur’an 18:13

[20] Qur’an 8:46

About Ahmed Hammuda

Ahmed Hammuda is a regular contributor at Islam21c. His interests lie in Qur'anic Tafsir and the field of Middle East Affairs and how they reflect on Muslims living in the West. He is an Electrical Engineer by trade and has been involved in various Da'wah activities over the course of his education and working life. He has transferred the same analytical approach required in engineering into a careful and measured approach in his views and positions.

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