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Rights of Brotherhood between Muslims

One of the highest and most excellent instructions of Islam to all Muslims is
brotherhood, without distinction of birth, rank or position. But, unfortunately,
Muslims have always neglected this. One of the first duties of Islamic
brotherhood is that a Muslim should wish for his brother what he wishes for
himself, and that he should not wish for his brother what he doesn’t wish for
himself. Concentrate carefully on this small
responsibility, if people were to respect it, neither oppression, nor enmity,
nor theft, nor falsehood, nor backbiting, nor spying would be found anywhere
among them. If they realized the result of this and were careful in carrying out
this duty, oppression and enmity would disappear; they would live as brothers
with each other and attain the heights of happiness among themselves.

One of the highest and most excellent instructions of Islam to all Muslims is
brotherhood, without distinction of birth, rank or position. But, unfortunately,
Muslims have always neglected this. One of the first duties of Islamic
brotherhood is that a Muslim should wish for his brother what he wishes for
himself, and that he should not wish for his brother what he doesn’t wish for
himself, as we shall pointed out in a Tradition from Imam Sadiq (AS).

One must study this duty well, and it is accounted a very small one in the
opinion of the descendent of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). One sees that Muslims find
it difficult to fulfill on this small duty, for their morals and behavior are
not in accordance with the Islamic spirit. Concentrate carefully on this small
responsibility, if people were to respect it, neither oppression, nor enmity,
nor theft, nor falsehood, nor backbiting, nor spying would be found anywhere
among them. If they realized the result of this and were careful in carrying out
this duty, oppression and enmity would disappear; they would live as brothers
with each other and attain the heights of happiness among themselves. Madina al-Fadhilah,
of the ancient philosophers would become a reality; no government would be
needed, no court of law, no police, prison or criminal law; they would be free
from colonizers and tyrants; oppressors would not succeed in forcing their
iniquity on them; and the earth would become Paradise.

Furthermore, if Islamic brotherhood reigned among people, as Islam has said it
should, then the word injustice would disappear from our dictionaries; laws
against injustice would not be needed, and brotherhood alone would suffice to
ensure goodness, peace, happiness and pleasure among us. For humanity, in such a
situation, would have no need for justice and its laws; these are only needed
when there is a lack of love between people. A mother is kind and good towards
her children because of her love and compassion, not because of the commandments
of justice. We can understand why a man loves only himself and that which is
agreeable to him; it is impossible for him to love something or someone unless
it belongs to him. And when he does love something or someone, it is impossible
for him to give them to someone else whom he dislikes, unless there exists a
principle which is stronger than his desires, like a belief in justice and
kindness, and in this case, he may devote his interests to someone else whom he
does not like.

Such an ideal, when it dwells in the human mind, keeps it in a position above
all materials things, so that it is able to realize the superiority of justice
and goodness, and to show kindness to others. It will be seen that man needs
such superior ideals when there is no kindness and brotherhood between him and
his fellow men. That is to say that as long as he lacks the feeling of
brotherhood – and the fact that what he does is because of his egotism and
desires – as long as this feeling is missing, he must believe in the goodness of
justice and kindness, following the guidance of Islam. And if he fails to
believe in this as well, then he doesn’t deserve to be thought of as a Muslim;
such a man, even in name, is not a friend of Allah; he has done nothing for the
sake of Allah as we shall see in the Tradition of the Imam (AS) that follows.
Usually human desires overcome man, and it is difficult for him to prepare
himself even to believe in justice, and so it is much more difficult for him to
attain that perfect belief through which he can vanquish his desires.

We can see that the brotherhood of a man is very difficult to obtain, unless one
is sincere and a true lover of Allah. For this reason, Imam Sadiq (AS) didn’t
wish to explain to al-Mu’alla ibn Khunays more than he could understand because
Ja’far was afraid to teach him what he couldn’t put into practice. Mu’alla once
asked the Imam (AS):

"What does one Muslim owe another?"

"There are 7 duties incumbent upon every Muslim. Should he neglect but one of
them, he isn’t a friend or servant of Allah, and truly he has done nothing for
the sake of Allah."

"What may these things be," asked Mu’alla.

"I feel compassion for you. I am afraid lest you learn them, but you neglect to
put them into practice, or you cannot. There is no power but Allah’s," replied
the Imam (AS).

Mu’alla then relates that the Imam Sadiq (AS), on his insistence, informed him
about the seven duties of all Muslims, as follows:

"First, the smallest duty is that you should wish for your brother what you wish
for yourself, and that you should wish that what you don’t desire for yourself
should not befall your brother!"

So, this is a small duty! Do we find this easy? That is to say, we present-day
Muslims? May those who call themselves Muslims but don’t act in accordance with
this small but strict duty be disgraced.

It’s amazing that the backward state of the Muslims should be ascribed to Islam,
while the only reason for it is the behavior of the Muslims, that is those who
call themselves Muslims but don’t carry out this humble duty.

Having reminded ourselves and mentioned our present circumstances, we shall now
list the seven duties as related by Mu’alla from Imam Ja’far Sadiq (AS):

i) Wish for your brother what you wish for yourself, and wish that what you
don’t desire for yourself should not befall your brother.

ii) Don’t make your brother angry, but seek to please him and obey his wishes.

iii) Help him with your soul, your tongue, your hands and your feet.

iv) Be his eyes to see with, his guide to lead him and his mirror.

v) Don’t eat your fill when he is hungry, nor drink and clothe yourself when he
is thirsty and naked.

vi) If he has no servant, but you do, it’s incumbent on you to send your servant
to him to wash his clothes, cook his food and spread out his mattress.

vii) Accept his promise and his invitation; visit him when he is sick, attend
his funeral, and see to his needs before he asks you, hurrying to do them if you
can.

When Imam Ja’far (AS) had finished, he said:

"If you fulfill these duties you can call yourself his friend, and he will be
your friend too.

There are many Traditions told from our Imams (AS), and most of them are
collected in "Kitab al-Wasa’il" in the relevant sections.

Some people have imagined that the Imams (AS) meant brotherhood only among the
Shia’s, but if they were to read the Traditions, they would understand that
their imagination is deceiving them, although the Imams (AS) did strongly
repudiate those whose way was against the Shi’a and who didn’t follow their
guidance. Here let’s mention the conversation of Imam Sadiq (AS) with Muawiyah
ibn Wahab.

"How should we treat those who don’t follow our ways?"

"Look to your Imams whom you obey, and obey them and imitate them. They visit
them (i.e. those who are not Shi’a) when they are sick, go to their funerals,
give evidence for or against them, and repay their trust."

No, the brotherhood that the Imams envisaged among their followers is higher
than ordinary Islamic brotherhood, and it has been mentioned briefly in the
introduction. It will suffice to read the following conversation between Imam
Sadiq (AS) and Aban ibn Taghlab:

Aban relates: While I was circumambulating the Ka’ba with Imam Sadiq (AS), one
of our friends signalled to me that I should immediately go with him to help
him.
The Imam noticed and said to me:

"O Aban, does he mean you?"

I replied: "Yes."

"Does he believe in what you believe in?"

"Yes."

"Then go with him and break your circumambulation."

I asked if it was incumbent on me to do so, and he said that it was.

Then I went with the man to help him, and after doing so I returned to the Imam
and asked him about the rights of the believers.

"Don’t ask me concerning them," he said.

But I insisted.

"Give your brother half of what you own," he told me, and looked at me. He
understood my surprise and said: "O Aban! Do you know that Allah admires those
believers who prefer others to themselves?"

I replied: "Yes."

"When you give your brother half of what you own you, don’t prefer him above
yourself, but only when you give him the other half do you really prefer him
above yourself."

If we feel ashamed on reading this, then really we do not deserve to call
ourselves believers. We are quite remote from the teachings of the Imams (AS).
Everyone who reads this Tradition becomes astonished as did Aban, but then he
pays no further attention to it and forgets it, as if he were not the person
addressed, and as if he were not responsible.

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