How Real is the Brotherhood of Believers
By Adil Salahi
“A believer is a mirror to his brother. A believer is a brother of a believer: he protects him against any danger and guards him from behind.”
(Related by Al Bukhari in Al Adab Al Mufrad and by Abu Dawood.)
Like all other teachings of Islam, the brotherhood of Muslims acquires more substantive reality when Muslims take their faith seriously, implement it in their lives and abide by its teachings, commandments its roots deep in their hearts, the Muslims do not feel their brotherhood to be a real bond which unites them in all situations. On the other hand, the more aware they are of the requirements of their faith and the more willing they are to fulfill these requirements, the more real their brotherhood is to them and the keener they are to preserve and strength it.
The brotherhood of Muslims is stated very clearly in no lesser an authority that the Qur’an. Allah says: “Believers are but brothers.” This is a general statement which applies to every believer regardless of race, Moreover, every believer is a brother to all believers in past and future generations as well as those who are his contemporaries. This bond of brotherhood is even felt with those who lived before the advent of Islam and followed other prophets who conveyed to them the messages of Allah. Thus a Muslim living today feels a strong bond with an Israelite who joined Prophet Moses against the Pharaoh and with a Christian disciple of Jesus when he stood up to the corruption that prevailed in his society. He feels that they all belong to the same camp, united by its faith in the Oneness of Allah and its determination to stand against disbelief.
This brotherhood is not confined to the realm of feelings and ideals. It must have practical effects. By its nature, Islam cultivates the community feeling among its followers. They pray in congregation, standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, with no distinction made in favour of rank, position or class. What applies to prayer is equally true of all other acts of worship, which Islam requires of its followers.
Moreover, a Muslim must look after his neighbours and make sure that they have what they need. That sense of good neighbourliness is strongly emphasised by the Prophet who has spoken about every aspect of it.
We will only remind ourselves of its essence by quoting the Hadith in which the Prophet swears by Allah three times that a certain person is not a believer. When his companions asked him to define that wretched person, he said: “He who goes to bed having eaten well while his neighbour remains hungry and he is aware of that fact.”
The brotherhood among the believers imposes on them certain duties, which are summed up by the Prophet in the following Hadith: “A believer is a mirror to his brother. A believer is a brother of a believer: he protects him against any danger and guards him from behind.” (Related by Al Bukhari in Al Adab Al Mufrad and by Abu Dawood.)
When the Prophet says that a believer is a mirror to his brother he points out the way for the Muslim community to get rid of any shortcomings, which affect its individual members or affect the whole community. A mirror shows a person exactly as he is. When we stand opposite to a mirror, we want to know whether we are well dressed or whether we look in a good shape. The mirror tells us about every defect in our appearance. Moreover, we are not angry with the mirror for showing us as we are. A believer acts like a mirror to his brother.
This means that if he notices that his brother is doing something wrong or making a certain mistake, he gives him a kind warning. He tells him that such an action may not be good for his well being either in this life or in the life to come. But he does that in a very kind manner, giving a sound advice without sounding like a fault-finder. He speaks about it to his brother because he cares that his brother should do only what serves his interest. He is only after what brings benefit to his brother.
This kindly attitude is stressed by the next statement by the Prophet emphasising the fact that all believers are brothers.
In other words, everyone of them acts as a mirror to all the others. Thus, the duty to give advice is not limited to a certain group of Muslims. It applies to all, since every one of them is a brother to all.
The Prophet leaves us in no doubt as to what this brotherhood entails. He gives it its proper direction. “He protects him against any threat.” Anything which many threatened the life or the welfare of a believer comes under this statement.
Moreover, it applies to anything that endangers a believer’s well-being in the hereafter. In other words, if you find your Muslim brother doing something which is bound to incur Allah’s displeasure, you warn him against it in a kindly manner. You do not give that warning in public because a mirror does not reveal defects in public. You speak to him privately and kindly. When he feels that you are after his interests, he is bound to accept your advice.
A believer also guards his brother “from behind”. This means that he is always ready to come to his aid against outside danger. He does not stand idle when his brother is exposed to any kind of danger of which he might not be aware, without rushing to his defence. When we consider these details, we are bound to conclude that the brotherhood of the believers is very real indeed.
The Prophet has taken care to emphasise that every single believer, must be well respected in Muslim society. No one may be ridiculed or treated as an object of laughter because of some perceived defect. The Prophet gives the best example of treating everyone of his companions with the respect he deserves. Abdullah ibn Mas’oud, one of his early companion who was also a scholar, was short man with very short legs. In a authentic Hadith, Ali, the Prophet’s cousin, reports that the Prophet once bid Abdullah ibn Mas’oud to climb up a tree and fetch him something from it. When Abdullah climbed up, those who were there looked up and laughed at the fact that his legs were very small,. The Prophet was angry. He said to them: “Why do you laugh? One of Abdullah’s legs is heavier in Allah’s scales than the mount of Uhud.”
This is an example of how the Prophet was keen that everyone of his companions., and indeed every Muslim, must be treated with the respect he deserves. Abdullah was a devoted servant of Islam. He never hesitated to render any sacrifice required of him. When battle flared up against non-believers, he was at the forefront of the Muslim army. Hence, he earned high esteem. The size of his leg was immaterial. It was his action, which counted. By his actions, Abdullah ibn Mas’oud achieved a very high position as a devoted servant of Islam. Hence, he was not one to be made fun of in any situation. The Prophet stresses that idea by stating that either one of his too small legs is heavier that a mountain, when it comes to the evaluation of deeds and services given to Islam.