By Tahera Ramzanali
“Surely the believers are but brothers, so make peace between your brothers and be careful of your duty to Allah so that mercy may be had on you.” (49:10)
This verse explicitly declares the core belief of the social aspect of Islam – brotherhood amongst believers. All the rules in Islam relating to Haqqun-Naas (Rights of People), are founded on this cornerstone of brotherhood. But to what extent exactly does this brotherhood go? A short step by step analysis may help.
“Innamul mu-minoona ikhwatun” – Surely the believers are but brothers.
The significant word in this portion of the verse is ‘ikhwatun’. In Arabic, as we know, ‘akh’ means brother. The word akh has two plural forms – ikhwan and ikhwatun, with a very fine difference between the two: ikhwan is usually used to refer to brothers in general, whether distant cousins, or members of a community, or a group having similar beliefs or political ideas etc. A literal example being the Ikhwan movement in Egypt, which is working to establish the Khalifah in the Muslim world. Ikhwatun, on the other hand, is usually used to refer to brothers by blood relationship. Just the first three words, therefore, lay down the extent of fraternity demanded of the believers. It makes it incumbent upon us to love and respect each other as we would our own brothers, and make the same sacrifices for them, only on account of their believing in the same God, the same Prophet and the same Book as us. All other differences become insignificant when compared with this similarity. Correspondingly, verse 103 of Sura Aali Imran, clarifies: “And hold fast by the covenant of Allah, all together, and be not disunited, and remember the favour of Allah on you when you were enemies then He united your hearts so that by His favour you became brethren.” This Hablillah, the rope of Allah, is exactly the same beliefs we all share, and which created such a revolution in 7th centaury pagan Arabia, that tribes which had been warring for decades and centauries over the pettiest of reasons, could put all their differences completely aside forever, and live in peace and harmony among each other.
Examples abound, especially in early Islamic history, of how the Muslims applied this verse in their daily lives, and one of the most famous incidents illustrating this feeling is that if the seven injured fighters during the battle of Uhud – when the water bearer came to give the first one some water, he was told to go to the second soldier who was more in need of it. The water bearer went to the second soldier and offered him some water, but he was told to go to the next man. In this way, he reached the seventh warrior, who told him to go to the first, since he was the thirstiest. He returned to the first soldier but found him dead, and as he went to each soldier again, he found they had all succumbed to their wounds and had passed away. This is an unforgettable example of the level of brotherhood and self sacrifice the followers of Islam have displayed throughout history.
In short, this ayat, in making all believers brothers, encompasses all aspects of our behavior towards each other, at all times. It expects us to always go the extra mile for them, to the extent that we may not even think remotely ill of any believer; as the famous Hadith goes, we should look for 70 excuses if a believer behaves in a manner not expected of him.
The verse goes on to say, ‘faaslihoo baina akhawaikum’ – ‘therefore, make peace among your brothers.’ This point – of smoothing out any problems that may arise in a community is also so encouraged in Islam that it is one of the situation when even lying may become compulsory, if that can help in reducing tensions and hostilities.
Correspondingly, the verse ends with reminding us about the purpose of our creation – the attainment of Taqwa, which is ultimately the only thing we will be judged on. Taqwa obviously, does not refer to external signs of piety like praying and tasbeeh, but includes equally, if not more importantly, Haqqun Naas. Once brotherhood is established, both areas of mans responsibility – towards Allah and towards His creatures. Become easy to fulfill, regardless of the superficial differences between people of race, nationality, wealth and so on.
The biggest example we have of achieving both these goals – of brotherhood and taqwa – is obviously, the tragedy of Kerbala. Its lessons are unparalleled in their scope, and one of the most outstanding lessons is that of brotherhood. All the companions wanted to be the first to die, before the others. Zuhair ibn Qain and Sa’eed ibn Abdullah sacrificed their prayers to allow their companions to pray in some measure of peace. The companionship and self sacrifice displayed among the martyrs is matchless. They did not differentiate among themselves on any count – young or old, rich or poor, black or white, slave or freeman – all were distinguished enough to represent humanity on one count only, and that was their taqwa – ‘inna akramakum indallahi atqakum’ (surely the most honourable of you with Allah is the one amonf you most careful of his duty) – and they lived and died on that ideal.