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ISLAMIC BROTHERHOOD

In His name
There is nothing that does not glorify Him with praise.
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

Verily the believers are indeed brothers; so make peace between your brothers. (49:10)

Repel (evil) with that which is better; then he, between whom and you there is enmity, shall be as if he were a loyal friend. (23:96)

Those who restrain their rage and forgive people - verily God loves the good-doers. (3:134)

Dispute, discord, partisanship, obstinacy and envy among the believers are distasteful and vile, harmful and sinful, for personal, social and spiritual life

Dispute and discord among the believers, and partisanship, obstinacy and envy, which lead to rancor and enmity among them, are distasteful and vile, harmful and sinful, for personal, social and spiritual life, by the testimony of truth and wisdom, and from the viewpoint of the supreme humanity that is Islam. Also, they are poison for the life of mankind. Out of numerous aspects of this truth, we shall set forth only six.

That it is wrong from the viewpoint of truth:

O unjust man who nourishes rancor and enmity against a believer! Suppose that you were on a ship, or in a house, with ten people, one innocent, the others criminal. If someone were to try to make the ship sink, or to set the house on fire, because of that one criminal, you know how great an injustice he would be committing. You would cry out to the heavens against his injustice. Even if there were one innocent man and nine criminals aboard the ship, it would still be against all rules of justice to sink it.

In the same way, a believer may be compared to a house or a ship belonging to God, and he has, not nine, but as many as twenty innocent attributes such as faith, Islam and neighborliness. If, then, you cherish rancor and enmity against him on account of one criminal attribute that is adverse to you, and you desire the sinking of that ‘ship’ or the burning of that ‘house’ created by God, then this would be a most atrocious crime.

That it is wrong also from the viewpoint of wisdom:

As is well-known, love and enmity are, like the light and darkness, opposites so they cannot be combined in a heart in their true nature.

If love is truly felt by a heart, by virtue of the predominance of the causes that produce it, then hostility in that heart will take on the form of pity. A believer should love and indeed does love his brother and is pained by any evil he sees in him. He tries to improve him not with harshness but gentleness. Because of this, as warned in a Prophetic saying: A believer should not be angry with another, nor refuse to speak with him, for more than three days.1

If, by contrast, the causes that produce enmity predominate and accordingly, hostility truly invades a heart, then the love in that heart will become merely formal and take on the form of pretence and flattery.

O unfair man! See now how great an injustice is rancor and enmity towards a brother believer! If you were to regard worthless pebbles as more valuable than the Ka‘ba and greater than Mount Uhud, it would be a repugnant absurdity. Likewise, while all the Islamic attributes like faith, which has the value of the Ka‘ba, and Islam, having the splendor of Mount Uhud, demand love and concord between believers, it is a disgrace and folly of the same degree, and a great injustice, to nurture hostility towards a believer. To do so would mean preferring to faith and Islam certain shortcomings in him which arouse hostility, but which, in reality, are like the worthless pebbles compared to Mount Uhud or the Ka‘ba.

Indeed, unity in faith requires the unity of hearts, and the oneness of creed demands the oneness of society. You cannot deny that if you are in the same squadron as someone, you will feel a friendly attachment to him; that a friendly relation will be formed between you and him due to your both being under the command of a single commander. You will also experience a brotherly relationship because of living in the same barracks. All these things considered, you should understand the extent to which you are attached to a believer by ties of unity between you as numerous as the Divine Names, bonds of accord and relations of brotherhood coming from the light and consciousness of faith.

There are hundreds of bonds among Muslims

Both of you are the slaves of the same, One Creator, One Sovereign, One Object of Worship, One Provider... so there are a thousand ties of unity between you, to the number of His Names. Besides, your Prophet, your religion, your qibla, are one and the same, and the number of such ties amount to almost a hundred. In addition, your town is one, your country is one, your state is one; tens of things are one and the same for you. All of these ties require unity and oneness, union and concord, love and brotherhood, and they are, as immaterial chains, strong enough to link all the planets together. If, despite all this, you prefer those things, as frail and trivial as a spider’s web, that cause dispute and discord, rancor and enmity and the bearing of grudges against a believer, then you must understand - unless your heart is dead and your intelligence extinguished - how great is your disregard for those ties of unity, how grave the slight you give to those causes of love, how serious your transgression against those relationships of brotherhood!

To nurture rancor and enmity against a believer is like condemning all the innocent attributes found in him on account of one criminal attribute.

According to the Qur’anic decree, No soul laden bears the load of another, (6:164) which expresses absolute justice, to nurture rancor and enmity against a believer is like condemning all the innocent attributes found in him on account of one criminal attribute, and is therefore a very great injustice. If you go further to include in your enmity all the relatives of the believer with whom you are angered because of a single evil attribute of his, then you will be the object of the Qur’anic reproach, Verily man is much given to wrongdoing. (14:34) While truth and the law and wisdom of Islam warn you against this much greater act of injustice, how can you imagine yourself right and still say, ‘I am in the right’?

In the view of truth, the forms of evil which arouse enmity are in themselves evil and dense like earth; others are not necessarily touched or moved by them. If it should happen that another person does, after seeing those forms of evil, imitate them, that is a different matter - it is more from his inclination to those forms of evil than the effective powers of evil that he is led to do evil. By contrast, good actions and qualities spring from love and arouse love, they are luminous as love is; it is in their nature to be infectious and so to be transmitted. It is for this reason that they say it as a proverb, The friend of a friend is a friend; as also it is on everybody’s tongue that Many eyes are loved for the sake of one eye.

So, O unjust man! If this is the case from the viewpoint of truth, you will understand now, if you are able to see the truth, how great an offence to truth it is to harbor enmity towards a brother in religion who is innocent and worthy of love or towards his relatives because you happen to have taken a dislike to him.

That it is wrong from the viewpoint of personal life.

Consider the following four principles:

  • You can say, “My way is right and better,” but you do not have the right to say, “Only my way is right.”

When you know your way to be right and your opinions to be true, you may be justified if you say, “My way is right and better,” but you do not have the right to say, “Only my way is right.” As stated in the wise saying, The eye of contentment is too dim to perceive faults; whereas the eye of anger exhibits all vice, your unjust view and distorted opinion cannot judge between the ways and should not condemn the way of another as wrong.

  • All that you say should be true, but you do not have the right to say the whole of what is true

It is incumbent upon you that all that you say should be true, but you do not have the right to say the whole of what is true. If you do so, the person you address may be irritated by your advice and react unfavorably - especially where the intention is not quite sincere.

  • Direct enmity against the feeling of enmity in your heart and be an enemy to your evil-commanding self

If you wish to nurse the anger of hostility, then direct it against the feeling of enmity in your heart and try to remove that. Also, be an enemy to your evil-commanding self and its fancies and try to reform it, for it is more harmful to you than all else. Do not nurse anger and hostility against believers to please that injurious self. If you cannot rid yourself of enmity, then there are numerous unbelievers and heretics to nurse your anger and hostility against. As the attribute of love deserves the response of love, so too, is enmity fit to receive enmity as its response. If you wish to defeat your enemy, then respond to his evil with good. For if you respond with evil, enmity will increase; even though he may be outwardly defeated, he will nurture rancor in his heart and enmity will persist. If, by contrast, you respond to him with good, he will repent and become a friend to you.

As expressed in the couplet,

If you treat the noble nobly, he will be yours,

But if you treat the ignoble nobly, he will revolt...

it is the nature of a believer to be noble and he will be subjected to you by noble treatment. However, should there be among the believers a man apparently ignoble, he is yet noble with respect to his belief. It often happens that if you repeatedly tell a man ‘you are good’, he will become good; and if you insistently tell a good man ‘you are bad’, he will become bad. Therefore, heed the following sacred principles established by the Qur’an, for happiness and salvation are to be found in them:

If they come across vanity, they pass by with dignity. (25:72)

If you pardon and overlook and if you forgive, surely God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate. (64:14)

  • One who indulges rancor and enmity wrongs and transgresses against his own soul, his brother believer, and the Divine Compassion

One who indulges rancor and enmity wrongs and transgresses against his own soul, his brother believer, and the Divine Compassion. He condemns his soul to painful torment on account of his rancor and enmity. He inflicts anguish upon himself whenever he sees his enemy obtain some blessings or advantage, and he suffers pain on account of his fear of him. If his enmity arises from envy, this is the most severe form of torment. For envy, first of all, consumes and destroys the envious, and does not harm the one envied; even if it does so, it does so only a little.

The cure for envy:

Let the envious individual ponder the fate of those things that arouse his envy. Then he will conclude that the physical beauty, strength, worldly rank, and wealth enjoyed by his rival are transient. Their benefit is slight, but the trouble they cause is great. If the things arousing his envy are merits possessed by his rival with respect to the Hereafter, they cannot be an object of envy. But if one does envy another on account of them, then he is either himself a hypocrite, wishing to use up the rewards to be paid in the Hereafter while yet in this world, or he imagines the one whom he envies to be a hypocrite, thus being unjust towards him.

If the envious person rejoices at the misfortunes that the envied one suffers and is grieved by the bounties he receives, it means he is offended by the good done to the other by Destiny and Divine Compassion, and is, indirectly, criticizing Destiny and objecting to Compassion. Whoever criticizes Destiny is striking his head against an anvil on which it will break, and whoever objects to Compassion will himself be deprived of it.

You cannot condemn your brother believer by attributing solely to him the evil you have experienced at his hands

How can justice and sound conscience accept that the response to something unworthy of even a day’s enmity should be a year’s rancor and enmity? Besides, you cannot condemn your brother believer by attributing solely to him the evil you have experienced at his hands because:

  • Destiny has a certain part in allowing that evil to be, to which you should respond with quiet acceptance.

  • The share of Satan and the evil-commanding self should also be taken into consideration. In this case, you will rather pity your brother than become his enemy, for having been overwhelmed by his carnal self.

  • God may have punished you through your brother for a defect in your own soul of which you are unaware or of which you do not wish to be aware.

As for the remaining small share, if you respond to it with tolerance, forgiveness and magnanimity, a way to conquer your enemy most swiftly and safely, then you will be saved from wrongdoing and harm. Otherwise, if, like someone drunken or crazed merchant who buys fragments of ice and glass at the price of diamonds, you respond to worthless, transient and insignificant affairs of this world with violent, persistent hostility and permanent rancor, as if you would remain in the world forever with your enemy, it would be excessive wrongdoing, drunkenness and a kind of lunacy.

If then, you care for yourself, do not allow enmity and desire for revenge, which are so harmful to inner life, to enter your heart. If they have already entered, do not listen to what they command. Hear what truth-seeing Hafiz of Shiraz says:

The world is not a commodity worth contending for.

The world is worthless because it is transient. If this is true of the huge world, then you can grasp how insignificant are the petty affairs of the world! Hafiz also says:

The tranquility of both worlds lies in two things: Magnanimity towards friends, wise management of enemies.

If you have no choice other than enmity?

If you say, ‘I have no choice, there is enmity in my nature. Moreover, these things angered me, so I cannot overlook them,’ my answer will be this:

If, in resisting the force of the evil impulse in yourself and the tendency to behave badly, you refrain from carrying out your intention, and (in doing so) become conscious of your own defect, there is no harm. This is because awareness of your own defect and admission of the wrong in having such an evil impulse, are a means and form of repentance and seeking God’s forgiveness which will deliver you from the evil consequences of that evil impulse. That is indeed why I wrote this part of this Letter - so as to urge you to seek forgiveness, to distinguish right from wrong, and to prevent enmity from being presented as right.

A case worthy of notice: I once witnessed that, as a result of partisan bias, a pious scholar of religion went so far in condemnation of another pious scholar whose political opinions he did not share as to imply that he was an apostate. On the other hand, he praised with respect a hypocrite who was of the same opinion as himself. I was appalled at such evil results of political partisanship and concluded, I seek refuge in God from Satan and politics. From that time on I withdrew from politics.

Obstinacy and partisanship are very harmful for social life.

Question

A tradition says: Difference among my community is a mercy (for them). Difference requires partisanship. Even though partisanship is a social disease, it relieves the oppressed common people from the oppressive elite, for if the elite of a town or village join together, they tyrannize the ordinary people. If there are parties, the oppressed may take refuge with one of them and thus save themselves.

It is also from the confrontation of opinions and the disagreement of minds that truth comes to light in its full measure. Do you agree with this argument?

Answer

The difference meant in the tradition is a positive difference. That is, it is a difference whereby each side strives to promote and propagate its own argument, not seeking to destroy and nullify that of the other, but rather to improve and reform it. As for negative difference which aims at the destruction of the other side because of partisan bias and hostility, this is rejected by the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings. Those who are at each other’s throats cannot act positively (towards each other).

To the second part of the question we would answer that if partisanship is in the name of truth, it may well become a refuge for those seeking their rights. But the current partisanship, which is biased and self-centered, is only a refuge for the unjust and a focus of support for them. For, if a devil comes to a man engaged in biased partisanship and backs him, that man will call down God’s blessings on that devil. But if a man of angelic character joins the opposite side, then he will - God forbid! - go so far as to invoke curses on him.

To the third point in the argument we would say: If confrontation of opinions is in the name of truth, it is only a difference of means; in reality, it is an agreement, a unity, with respect to aim and basic purpose. Such difference can make manifest all the different aspects of truth and so serves justice and truth. However, it is not ‘gleams of truth’, but rather flames of dissension which will emerge from a confrontation between biased, partisan opinions based upon egotism and fame-seeking, a confrontation which takes place for the sake of a tyrannical, evil-commanding self. For, it is unity of purpose that must be the goal, whereas opposing views of this kind can never find a point of convergence anywhere on earth. Since they do not differ in the name of truth, they split into absolute extremes and give rise to divisions that are irreconcilable.

If one’s conduct is not based on the exalted principles, loving for the sake of God, disliking for the sake of God, judging for the sake of God, dispute and discord will result.

In short, if one’s conduct is not based on the exalted principles, loving for the sake of God, disliking for the sake of God, judging for the sake of God, dispute and discord will result. If one does not take due account of these principles, attempts to do justice will result in injustice.

An event which should provide a lesson: Imam ‘Ali, may God be pleased with him, once threw an unbeliever to the ground. Just as he drew his sword to kill him, the unbeliever spat at him. ‘Ali released the man without killing him. The unbeliever asked: ‘Why did you not kill me?’ ‘Ali answered: ‘I was going to kill you for the sake of God. But when you spat at me, I became angered and the purity of my intention was clouded by the inclinations of my soul. It is for this reason that I did not kill you.’ The unbeliever replied: ‘I spat at you so that you would become angered and kill me instantly. If your religion is so pure and disinterested, then it must be truth.’

An incident worthy of notice: When once a judge showed signs of anger while cutting off the hand of a thief, the just ruler who happened to observe him dismissed him from office. For, if he had cut off the thief’s hand in the name of the Sacred Divine Law, he would have felt pity for the man and cut it off without showing either mercy or anger. Since the inclinations of his soul had some share in his deed, he was unable to perform the execution with justice.

A regrettable social condition and a perilous disease paralyzing the life of society, fit to be wept over by the heart of Islam: It is a requirement of harmonious social life, recognized and practiced by even the most primitive peoples, that internal enmities should be forgotten and abandoned when foreign enemies appear and attack. What then ails those who claim to be serving the Muslim community that, at a time when countless enemies are ever ready to attack, one after the other, they, by failing to forget petty hostilities, prepare the ground for the assaults of enemies? This is a corruption, a kind of barbarity and treachery committed against the community of Islam.

A story with an important lesson: The Hasanan, a tribe of Bedouin, had two clans that were at war with each other. Although more than fifty had been killed on each side, whenever another tribe such as the Sibkan or Haydaran appeared against them, these two hostile clans would forget their enmity and fight together, shoulder to shoulder, until they repelled the attacking tribe, without recalling their internal animosities.

O people of faith! Do you not know how many ‘tribes’ and enemies are ready to attack the ‘tribe’ of believers?

O people of faith! Do you not know how many ‘tribes’ and enemies are ready to attack the ‘tribe’ of believers? There are more than a hundred, like a series of concentric circles. When the believers should be taking up defensive positions, each supporting the other and giving him a helping hand, is it at all fitting for people of faith that, by insisting on biased partisanship and hostile rancour, they facilitate the assault of the enemy and open the gates for them to penetrate the fold of Islam? There are as many as seventy circles of hostile forces, ranging from the misguided, the atheists and the people of false belief, to the vicissitudes of worldly life, each meaning you harm, and regarding you with anger and hatred. Your firm weapon, shield and citadel is Islamic brotherhood. So be aware of how far it contradicts conscience and the interests of brotherhood to shake this citadel of brotherhood on account of petty enmities and other pretexts, and come to your senses!

It is reported in some Prophetic traditions that extremely harmful and terrible persons such as Sufyan and the Dajjal will come to lead the heretics and hypocrites at the end of time and exploit the worldly ambitions and dissensions among the Muslims and mankind, so that, with only a small force, they will reduce humanity to anarchy and the vast world of Islam to slavery.

O people of faith! If you do not desire to fall into slavery and humiliation, come to your senses and take refuge against oppressors who would exploit your differences, in the citadel of the believers are naught else than brothers. Otherwise, you will be able neither to preserve your lives nor to defend your rights. It is evident that if two champions are fighting with each other, even a child can beat them. If two mountains are balanced in the scales, even a small stone can disturb their equilibrium, causing one to rise, and the other to fall. Thus, people of faith, your strength will be reduced to nothing as a result of your passions and hostile partisanship, so that you can be defeated by the slightest forces. If you have any commitment to a collective life of social harmony and solidarity, then make the exalted principle of The believers are together like a well-founded building, one part of which supports the other2 your guiding principle in life! Then you will be delivered from humiliation in this world and wretchedness in the other.

Spiritual life and correctness of worship are spoilt by enmity and rancor

Spiritual life and correctness of worship are spoilt by enmity and rancor, because the purity of intention that is the means of salvation is spoilt. For a biased partisan wishes for superiority over his enemy in the good deeds he performs and becomes unable to act purely for the sake of God. Also he prefers, in his judgment and dealings, the one who takes his side, so he cannot be just. Thus the purity of intention and justice that are the basis of all good deeds are lost because of enmity.

This aspect could be elaborated further, but we keep it short here in order to reserve space for other matters.

1. Bukhari, ‘Adab,’ 57; Muslim, ‘Birr,’ 23; Abu Dawud, ‘Adab,’ 47.
2. Bukhari, ‘Salat,’ 88; Muslim, ‘Birr,’ 65; Tirmidhi, ‘Birr,’ 18.


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Last Updated on October 29, 2000

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