Brotherhood according to Islam

The meaning of brotherhood is that a Muslim must not consider another Muslim an
alien or not belonging to his ‘own’. It should be like when a blood related brother
comes to him. How he regards him as one of his own. Likewise when a Muslim
reaches or approaches another he must consider him as his own and not consider
him as separate from himself. Imam Sadiq (a) is reported to have said, “A
believer, for another believer, is like a single body. If one of the organs is
in pain, all other parts of that body are also troubled.” Similarly when a
believer is in trouble, all other Muslims experience pain and restlessness too.

“The believers are but brethren, therefore make peace between your brethren
and be careful of (your duty to) Allah that mercy may be had on you. (Holy Qur’an, 49:10)”

Believers are like a single body

It must be understood that the above verse ordering brotherhood of the Faithful
with one another is not only for reconciliation and improvement of relations.
That only if there arises a dispute, (one ought to) settle it. Rather, this is
one of the commands. It is the demands of "brotherhood" that if two persons or
two groups clash, it is a must to make a settlement. Yet rights of one another
are still more.

The meaning of brotherhood is that a Muslim must not consider another Muslim an
alien or not belonging to his ‘own’. It should be like when a blood related brother
comes to him. How he regards him as one of his own. Likewise when a Muslim
reaches or approaches another he must consider him as his own and not consider
him as separate from himself. Imam Sadiq (a) is reported to have said, “A
believer, for another believer, is like a single body. If one of the organs is
in pain, all other parts of that body are also troubled.” Similarly when a
believer is in trouble, all other Muslims experience pain and restlessness too.
For example, if one’s tooth pains, his head also aches and his body temperature
rises. When you check up you find that only one of his teeth has a trouble which
resulted in pain all over the body due to fever. Likewise, it is the natural
demand of unity of Muslim brotherhood that if one believer becomes restless all
other Muslims must also feel the restlessness. Of course, true believers are
those who have the spirit of unity, who have given up lust and selfishness and
have reached the state of humanity. This couplet of Shaykh Sadi explains this
tradition:

All human beings are the organs of a single body as they are created from a
single pearl or essence. If one of the body organs is in pain, all other
physical parts also become restless.

The narrator asked the Imam, “O Master! Sometimes I get disturbed without any
apparent cause for pain.” The summary of the Imam’s reply is: Muslims have a
unity among them. Another believer fell in trouble and so you become restless as
an effect of unity and brotherhood. What is meant is the unity of hearts and
spirits. It is the unity, agreement and brotherhood of the faithful. In order to
bring this desired amity among Muslims there is a chapter of morals in Islam for
strengthening this unity day by day. I hint to the first of such etiquettes.

Say Salam while visiting and meeting

One of the rights of Islamic brotherhood is saluting (saying Salamun Alaikum).
It is the Muslim duty to say Salam when one meets or visits another. This Salam
should be before uttering any other word. The Imam says, “If someone tells you
anything before saying Salam, then it is not compulsory to reply.”

There are some such persons who, for instance, ask you: Where is the house of so
and so? If he said Salam first only then you should reply. But if he did not,
you may not reply so that he may get a lesson in discipline. While meeting
another Muslim a Muslim must begin a talk with Salam. Its reply is also
compulsory. One who was first in Salam is a wiser Muslim. Even though it was a
must for him and similarly it was the duty of the other to give the reply, the
one who says Salam first gets a higher reward. This is an exception in the
matter of rewards. The Second Martyr, in Qawaid, says, “Generally the reward of
an obligatory matter is not less than that of a voluntary and recommended deed.
But there is exception in three situations: Firstly, the one who is the first in
saying Salam gets ninety percent of the reward even though saying Salam is
recommended while replying to it is obligatory. One who replies gets ten percent
of the reward even though beginning with Salam was not voluntary; it was only
recommended.”

A question may come up here. If two persons meet one another at the same time
and both say Salam simultaneously and the two Salams meet one another. What
about reward proportion? It is advisable that each one should reply to the Salam
because as both had the intention to be the first in saying Salam but it
happened simultaneously. Since it is obligatory to reply to Salam, both must
reply to one another. In brief, the duties of brotherhood in Islam start from
Salam and then rise higher. All this is to ensure that the unity of the faith of
Muslims and the unity of their spirit becomes stronger and perfect. It is
recommended that when they meet one another they should first say Salam and then
inquire about their health etc.

Inquiry about health etc for thanksgiving

It is written in one of the books authored by scholars of Islamic morality that
in the beginning of Islamic era, it was the habit of Muslims that when they met
one another, after saying Salam, they were inquiring about their condition and
were asking about their health etc so that the replier would say: Praise be to
Allah (Alhamdulillah) thereby making the other party thankful to Almighty Allah.
Muslim society had adopted this way of initial talks after meeting one another.
But it is not the case at present. Now, when one is asked about his condition
the latter opens up a file of complaints to God and discusses adversities to
such an extent that you feel sorry for asking! How strange!

Shake hands and hug

Same is the case with shaking of hands, which is ordered for Muslims. One who
meets his Muslim brother shakes his hands and sends Salawat. It is narrated that
such manner of meeting results in dropping down of the sins of both like the
falling of leaves in autumn. This of course is on condition that the handshake
must accompany a smiling face. Faces should never be sulky. After the handshake,
it is recommended that the two should hug or embrace one another and also kiss
the forehead (place of prostration mark) of one another.

Likewise, with regard to visiting one another; it is mentioned in the tenth
volume of Wasa’il ‘ush-Shia that anyone who comes out of his house to visit his
brother-in-faith without any self interest (unlike people today who go to meet
one another only with a selfish motive and hence do not get any reward in the
Hereafter), seventy thousand angels come to him saying, “O fortunate one! Be
happy!” Remember God together with whom you are going to meet. Describe the
virtues of Ahle Bait. It is mentioned in some traditions that such a meeting is
like meeting Almighty God.

Tradition says: One who visits a believer at his house is like the one who
visits Allah at His throne (Arsh).

The Prophet says, “O Ali! Walk (travel) even up to six miles for meeting a
servant of God for Allah’s pleasure.” It is recommended in the manners of
meeting that, first of all, go without any selfishness. Go only to earn God’s
pleasure. Then sit wherever the owner of the house asks you to sit. Never long
for a higher place. Accept whatever respect he gives. For example, if he puts
before you a mat or a carpet, sit thereon. Do not reject any honor. Consider his
trouble or hardship as your own trouble or hardship. Never make that poor person
uneasy for providing ease and comfort to you, lest he becomes indebted. The best
hosting is that in which whatever is available is presented.


Source: Selected excerpt from
Moral Values of Qur’an; a Commentary on Surah Hujurat
by Shaheed Ayatollah
Dastghaib Shirazi (ra)

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