[These are rough notes from the first session of Duties of Brotherhood conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in 2011]
وَّذَكِّرۡ فَاِنَّ الذِّكۡرٰى تَنۡفَعُ الۡمُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ
And keep reminding, because reminding benefits the believers. [51:55]
This is an excerpt from Imam al-Ghazali’s (rah) work Ihya Ulum al-Din. He was born in 1058 AD and passed away in 1111 AD which, in solar years, was 900 years ago. It’s quite amazing that 900 years later people are still translating his work to English, Turkish, Persian and Urdu. They are still studying and learning from him.
Previously we had mentioned that there are continually new methods, but sometimes there is so much barakah in an old method to reach your goal that the ummah keeps using that old method. Imam al-Ghazali’s (rah) Ihya Ulum al-Din is like that. The ways of all awliya and mashaikh; Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jillani (rah), Imam Bahauddin Naqshband Bukhari (rah), are like that. Their ways and methods are old but they have a lot of relevance and barakah in them even today.
There is a concept known in Qur’an as akhuwah, or ikhwah. It means that the mu’minin are brethren. The word here used is brotherhood, but without having to go into the whole discussion of gender interaction, in some sense some of these things are going to apply to all of your fellow mu’minin; it applies to women believers and fellow women believers in the sense of sisterhood; it applies to male believers and their fellow male believers in terms of brotherhood.
I’m not going to highlight them right now because our audience is all men, but a few of those things would also apply to a fellow Muslimah who will also have some rights over you, not necessarily in terms of interaction and emotional engagement, but in terms of khidmah, or some help, should she require it. For example, if there is an aged woman, there are many rights that she has over her fellow believers, even including the male believers.
Here Imam al-Ghazali (rah) is generally talking about the rights believers have on one another, but every now and then he is also talking about the adab of salikeen; the brethren on the path; the fellow seekers of the pleasure of Allah (swt); the fellow travelers of the path of tazkiyah, ehsan, tasawwuf and suluk, the adab they should have with one another. These two things are not separate. In fact, this is supposed to be the greatest model of brotherhood and the greatest model of compassion, love, respect, kindness and gentleness that two fellow students of the same teacher, or two fellow seekers on the same path leading towards Allah (swt) should have with one another.
You are going to find that Imam al-Ghazali (rah), along with quoting the Qur’an and Sunnah, is also going to site sayings of the mashaikh of tasawwuf, of the awliya ullah, of their teachings of adab and akhlaq, and sometimes site examples of the comradery, chivalry and close-nit relationship between fellow seekers on the path. Some of you might find that quite intense. Certainly, the modern mind is going to rebel at a few things. In fact, the very first chapter is going to hit you very hard. It has to do with money.
The contract of brotherhood is a bond between two persons, like the contract of marriage between two spouses. Nikkah is an aqad, an actual conscious contractualization of a relationship, that a person consciously enters into a bond. Here, just by being a fellow Muslim, whether you know it or not, you actually enter into a bond with every single fellow believer, and one-to-one bond with every single one of them. In marriage, you get a bond with one spouse. By entering iman, you get bonds and links with 1.2 billion mu’minin and muslimin all over the Muslim world.
Just as marriage gives rise to certain duties which must be fulfilled, so does the contract of brotherhood confer upon your brother a certain right over your wealth and property, your person, your tongue, and your heart, by way of forgiveness, prayer, sincerity, loyalty, relief and considerateness. So he has pointed out eight items and has written about each of them in separate fasl i.e. chapter.
1. To Grant Them Right Over Your Wealth and Property (Asset; Maal)
Blessed Prophet (sws) said that two brothers (i.e. two fellow male mu’minin, or two fellow female mu’minat) are likened to a pair of hands, one of which washes the other. First of all, Imam al-Ghazali (rah) through this hadith shows a simile, the likeness, the metaphor of the example of two hands, because the pair are mutual assistant towards a single aid. So the first thing to know is the nature of this bond in theory; just like in chemistry we have covalent bonds in theory, every single Muslims is a part of this huge molecule known as the ummah. We have bonds with every other atom of the ummah.
This is radically different from the secular philosophy that teaches the concept of individualism, which, at its highest articulation, was called atomism that actually suggested that every human being is a separate atom; not part of any molecule; not part of any broader substance. Imam al-Ghazali (rah) makes it clear that it’s not like that. The second you enter iman, you become a part of a very large group. You form bonds with every single one.
What is the purpose of the hand? To grab something, to stave off something, to protect oneself against harm, to acquire something that one needs such as food. So two hands mean the two mu’minin have the same goal. Their goal is Allah (swt) and they are going to be mutual assistants to one another. That’s why throughout our deen you will find an emphasis on jama’ah. Allah (swt) does not want you to take a solo flight towards Him. Allah (swt) doesn’t expect you to be successful in that. He wants that you should link yourself with others. Especially for men, their prayer is in jama’ah. Hajj is also offered in jama’ah, although it could have been at any time of the year had Allah (swt) wanted you to come alone. Anyone can come to Arafah alone. Allah (swt) makes us go there in a jama’ah such that all the ummah stands there on one single day; Yaum al-Arafah and pray to Allah (swt) as a jama’ah. That’s why Allah (swt) also says in Qur’an:
وَتُوۡبُوۡۤا اِلَى اللّٰهِ جَمِيۡعًا
And repent to Allah O believers, all of you. [24:31]
You should make tawbah to Allah (swt) collectively.
So it is with two brothers that they are like two hands. Their brother is only complete when their comrades, i.e. their fellows, assist one another in a single enterprise, since the two are like one person. Another hadith of Blessed Prophet (sws) is that the whole ummah is like one body. The entire ummah is like one entity.
This entails common participation in good fortune and bad. It means that if good befalls you, remember this is the chapter about wealth, so he is going to take it in the sense that if one individual in the ummah has been blessed by Allah (swt) with wealth, or a good fortune financially, then that good fortune must also fall on his brother. How can one Muslim have wealth while the other remain poor? How can one Muslim receive any bounty and blessing from Allah (swt) and the other person remains unaffected by that bestowal? It means to share; there should be mutual sharing. Similarly, if a tragedy, travesty, in this case financial poverty, afflicts a Muslim, it should afflict the heart of the other one, although it may not afflict the lifestyle of the other one.
And they should have partnership in the future as well as the present moment. This partnership and sharing isn’t just for the here and now. It should last all the way till a person is alive. That requires an abandonment of possessiveness and selfishness. You should have to abandon greed, that I want this for myself or that for myself, or I want to save so much for myself. When it comes to donation, I give a little bit. When it comes to savings, I save a lot. We should view our savings account, although it might be in our name, as if it belongs to all of the brothers.
Now he gives these three degrees for sharing property and assets with one’s fellow Muslim; three darajat or levels which a person can do.
i. Below Parity
The lowest degree is where you place your fellow Muslim brother on the same footing as your slave or your servant in attending to his needs from your surplus. If some need befalls him, and you happen to have more than you require to satisfy your own needs, you give them spontaneously, not obliging them to ask. To oblige them to ask is the ultimate shortcoming in brotherly duties.
What does he mean by treating him like your slave? It means you don’t give them parity, you are not treating them as an equal. You are letting him live in a lower financial state than you. You don’t feel it’s necessary to raise him up to an equal egalitarian financial status as yourself. But, while he is lower than you, if he falls in a state of need, hajah, then you will fulfill that need. This means charity will be given on an as-and-when-needed basis. Charity will not be given to empower them socially, to uplift them economically or to take them out of the class they are in. Lowest level is that charity will be given just on need basis.
You will find that the best of people today are like this. The best are only on the first degree. But Imam al-Ghazali (rah) speaks about something that even the best of us lack i.e. the adab of being on the first degree — that you give to him spontaneously such that you are not obliging him to ask. You don’t put him in a position where he has to ask. To oblige him to ask is the ultimate shortcoming in brotherly duty. This is what a lot of us don’t do. If someone gives only on as-and-when-needed basis, when do they determine the need? They think if they ask me, I will give it to them. They even think that because I’m really good friends with that person, so if they needed something I’m sure they would ask me. If he hasn’t asked me, he must be fine.
Imam al-Ghazali (rah) is saying that is too laid back. That is too passive. Our job is to know the condition of our brother, and our job for ourselves is to be able to check whether they have this need or not. We should not put them in that position where they have to present their need to ask us. You should want for yourself and for your fellow Muslims that the only being we ask is Allah (swt), and whenever we need something in this world, I should give it to him without him asking.
The crux of all of this is this hadith that none has perfected his iman unless he loves for his fellow believer what he loves for his own self. What should we love for our self? Let’s suppose he is as good a friend to you as you think you are to him. Put yourself in the role-reversal, if you are in need, despite the fact that he is a good friend, would you be comfortable asking him for money? I think most of us will say no, I would be embarrassed to ask him for money no matter how good a friend he is to me. So why did you think so quickly that he would come to you if he ever needed it? This is the adab of the lowest degree.
You place your brother at the same footing as yourself. You are content to have him as your partner in your property to treat him like yourself to the point of letting him share equal. It means to tell him that what is mine is equally yours. You are free to take whatever I have. I have two sweaters, one is yours. Al-Hassan al-Basri (rah) the great Tabi’i – one of the greatest leaders of the followers of companions of Blessed Prophet (sws) – said that there was once a person who would split his wasteband between himself and his brother. Those of you who are desi may understand apna kamarband adha kar k dusre ko de diya. It is not exactly a belt, otherwise he would just be standing there with two halves of a belt not knowing what to do! It’s like a long rope used to tie loose and baggy trousers. So even that he would share with his fellow Muslim.
The third degree, highest of all, is that you prefer your brother to yourself. You set his need before your own. You would rather have them benefit from it. You would rather have them enjoy. So let’s say you have enough money that only one child can go to a good school and the other child has to go to a poor school, you would rather have your brother send their children to the good school and you will deal with the situation sending your child to the less good school. Can you imagine who could think like that? We work so hard and strive to earn money for the education of our children. We would never even on the farthest remote reaches of our imagination have made that intention that I will not do it for my children, instead I will do it for so-and-so’s children who lives in a disadvantaged location, and I will pay for his children to get the good education and I will send my children to the disadvantaged school. Never could we even dream like that.
Self-sacrifice is one of the fruits of this degree. So at this third degree the person slaughters their nafs. They lose their own desires, wishes and their own ambitions. They prefer their fellow Muslims to their ownselves.
Now here tradition tells how sufi fraternity, I will just comment here once on the translator. Obviously when people translate certain things in English, some people give it their Judeo-Christian equivalent. I would never like to use the word fraternity and not only because of what happens in American universities where they have JCRs and MCRs. Tradition here also doesn’t mean hadith, it means the reports from earlier Muslims.
What happened was that there was a group of people seeking pleasure of Allah (swt) and they were slanderously misrepresented to one of the rulers of the Muslim Empire at that time. The ruler ordered that they should be executed. He must have found in his view that they were guilty of committing apostasy; unbelief.
One of the accused was Abu al-Hussan al-Nuri (rah). When the group was called in front of the ruler, he recognized Abu al-Hassan al-Nuri (rah) who was standing at the front. He was a bit surprised because he knew him to be a pious, righteous, mutaqi, saleh, mu’min, but since he had already issued the order of execution, he had to continue with that. The ruler thus ordered the group to line-up again in the opposite direction. His intention was that at the end he would spare Abu al-Hassan al-Nuri (rah) and say in front of the court that so many people have been executed so the one left can leave.
However, when the people moved and the order was changed, Abu al-Hassan (rah) quickly moved to the front of the line. The ruler ordered them to line-up several times but every time Abu al-Hassan (rah) ended up at the front. Now the ruler thought that what am I going to do? He finally called him aside and he asked him that howcome he kept moving to the front? Abu al-Hassan replied that I wished my brothers, rather than I, should have a few more moments to live. In other words, now it’s a question of life. Whoever dies first will have a less life. The one who dies at the end of the line will have a few more moments to live. I would prefer my brothers to have life itself, to live more minutes than me, that’s why I present myself first.
The end of the story was that the ruler was impressed by Abu al-Hassan’s (rah) adab and akhlaq towards his fellows. He saw that he was the living embodiment of the hadith that you should love for your fellow believer what you love for yourself. And he realized that if this person is the associate of this whole group, this whole group must be righteous and pious and I must have been misinformed. He waved his order of execution and all of them were spared.
The lesson of the story also shows that there is barakah in adab. Many times we don’t realize that. Sometimes, when some of the joint ventures and projects that we do fail, or they collapse, or they don’t take off as much as we want them to do, it’s because we didn’t have adab with our fellow project workers. Sometimes loss of adab leads to a loss of barakah. Even if you are doing a project of khidmah, you will end up doing less khidmah because you will have less barakah in that khidmah, because you had less adab with one another.
If you do not find yourself in any of these relationships with your brother, that at the very least we should help them when they are in need, then the aqd, the contract of brotherhood has not concluded into innerself; inside you don’t really view that person as your fellow Muslim. You don’t really view them as your fellow believer. You don’t really treat them as your brother. All that lies between you is just a formal connection.
We love to say “assalamualaikum, brother, how are you doing brother?” That’s not brotherhood. Brotherhood isn’t just the mere exchange of salams. Is that all you would do with your blood brother? With your blood brother, you would try to keep a track of him, you would know what’s going on in his life, you would make sure you find out about his worries before he has to tell them to you. If you don’t have any of these three, then all that lies between you two is a mere formality, a superficial connection, lacking real force that has no haisiat, no haqiqat, no value and reality, in reason or religion. Even deen will not give any value to such a relationship, and even aql will not attribute any value to such a mere formality type of a relationship.
Then one who is content not to put his brother first might as well be the brother to the people of the graves. We would not want to use the word tombs here. Ahl al-qubur means the people of the graves; the people of the cemetery, the people of the graveyards. It means that he himself is also as good as dead for those people. He is not a real or living brother. As for the lowest degree, it is also unacceptable for truly religious people. If you really want to be salihin, siddiqin, sadiqin, the lowest degree is not going to cut it. You have to at least view the fellow brother as equal, if not prefer him to yourself.
Utba’ullah Ghulam came to the house of someone whose brother he had become saying that I need 4,000 of your money. The other said to him take 2,000. He declined the offer saying you prefer this world to Allah (swt)? Are you not ashamed to claim brotherhood in Allah (swt) when you say such a thing? Sometimes, some people would form a nisbat or a bond of brotherhood with one another. For example, this is sunnah, when Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) and Sahaba (ra) migrated from Makkah Mukaramah to Madinah Munawwarah, the migrant were called muhajirun, and the receivers, the helpers, were called ansar. Syedna Rasool Allah (sws), for the large majority of them, paired each one off in nisbat-i-mwakhat. One muhajir brother was made brother with one particular ansar. One Makki Sahaba (ra) was made brother with one particular Madni Sahaba (ra).
Sometimes, later on in history, some people revived this sunnah. So at some point this man was paired off with Utba’ullah and he needed some money. The implication being that he had the money. Notice that we do this sometimes with people who are close to us. We bargain with a person on their need. This is not a financial transaction; we are not selling him a commodity. They need 4,000 and for us the cold calculation of money starts; I am not the only person he knows, he could probably get 500 from X and 300 from Y and 200 from Z and 1000 from T, so I will give him 2,000. The mathematical cold processor which is the love for dunya in the mind makes all these calculations just in a fraction of a second.
Utbah said what kind of brotherhood is that? If you have 4,000 and I need 4,000, then I should get 4,000. It also shows you how frank the earlier Muslims were. He gave him, like we say in Urdu, khara jawab. He responded immediately and frankly. You prefer the world to Allah (swt)? Are you not ashamed to claim brotherhood in deen lillah fillah with me for the sake of Allah (swt) and say such a thing?
Then Imam al-Ghazli (rah) gives advice. Who is he giving advice to — just to be clear, so we don’t feel too hopeless — he is giving advice to those mentioned above when he said if you want to be truly religious people, the lowest degree is not going to be good enough for you.
Secondly, you ought to avoid muamalat with a person who is at the lowest stage of brotherhood. He is not saying spiritual feelings, feelings of love, but you should not want to become business partners with such a person. You should not want to have a joint entrepreneur venture with such a person.
If you have a spiritual brother, do not deal with him in his worldly affairs, he means if he is at this stage. This is a well-known thing, unfortunately, that if you have a close Muslim friend, one of the best ways to lose him is to make him your business partner, and for university students, by making him your roommate. They can’t even share one kitchen together. They would have been great friends when they lived separately, but when you put them together then you will see.
Imam al-Ghazali saw people and knew these things, like a person with 50 years of experience as a woodman would know all the different types of wood. He would know maple, oak, cherry etc. He would know which two would look good with one another, which ones can be joined with one another. These people were the masters of hearts. They had worked with so many different types of hearts of so many different types of sinners that they knew what would work with what. So he is advising that if the person has not gotten on the first level, don’t engage in muamalat/financial dealings with them. They will be a source of hurt, grief and sorrow for the both of you.
As for the highest degree, this corresponds with the description of the true mu’minin mentioned by Allah (swt) in Qur’an. That is this concept of shura.
وَاَمۡرُهُمۡ شُوۡرٰى بَيۡنَهُمۡ وَمِمَّا رَزَقۡنٰهُمۡ يُنۡفِقُوۡنَۚ
They agree on their affairs by mutual consultation and they spend freely of what we have bestowed upon them. [42:38]
The interesting nisbat Allah (swt) is mentioning here is that they do mutual consultation, shura, in Urdu mashwara, because they are viewing themselves as equals. And they also spend freely. They may decide and discuss the issue together as peers but they spend freely on one another. This is the highest degree which is to prefer our brothers to ourselves.
They are co-owners of worldly goods without distinction in status. Again, to take the roommate example, if they have a fridge, if you are on second degree, whatever you put in it, you would be happy if your roommate shares in it, and whatever he puts in the fridge, you would be happy to share in it. If you are on third degree (highest) you would notice what he likes and you would buy that for him. Let’s say you like orange and he likes apple juice. Next time you shop, you will not just buy orange juice, you will also buy apple juice. Third degree means you only have £2 from which you can either buy orange or apple juice. You will buy apple juice and put it there for him.
Finally, you will not do, what we call, ehsan jatlana; you will not let him know. That’s another problem with us. “O brother, you know I went to the store and I only had £2 and I knew that you liked apple juice, so I bought apple juice.” We are losing points with Allah (swt) to gain points with makhlooq. Do it for the sake of Allah (swt), no need to tell. When you made him feel it, you lost. You are supposed to do it in a way such that he never knows. He should be thinking seems like my roommate started liking apple juice. Maybe I am rubbing off on him.
All of you may never say it, but you feel it in your heart. When you open the door and see he has taken the last crescont, do you feel it? Does it hurt you a little bit? Do you get a little sting? Then you are not at the right level. How much does a crescont cost? You should be happy that Alhamdulillah I thought that was Allah’s (swt) rizq for me, ya Allah I am so grateful that You made it a means of rizq for my brother. I love you Allah, you are so kind to me. That’s how you should feel when you see the crescont is gone, when the ben & jerry’s ice cream is finished.
There were those who would shun the fellow-ship of a man because of his expression ‘my shoe’, thereby attributing to himself. It means he views the shoes as his? I can’t be his roommate.
Fatal al-Mausuli (rah) once came to his brother’s house when he was away, and asked his wife to bring him his money-chest. Opening it, he took from it whatever he needed. He went to someone’s house, and he probably needed some money, but the man wasn’t there. He told the wife that wherever he keeps the money, bring that bag to me. He opened the wallet and took whatever he needed. When that person came home, he was told of the incident. He had an attendant, a slave, to whom he said, if what you say is true, then you are free. He was so happy that Allah (swt) made this fellow brother of mine so comfortable with me that when I wasn’t home he felt he could take my wallet and take my money. I’m so happy he took my ATM card without even asking me and he made as much withdrawal as he needed. That’s what it means. So delighted was he at his brother’s deed.
Once a Tabi’i (rah) came to Syedna Abu Huraira (ra) and said that I wish to take you as my brother in Allah (swt). Syedna Abu Huraira (ra) said do you know what that means? He replied, no. He said, you have no greater right to your dinar and dirahim, to your money, than I have. Once we are brothers, we are the same. What is your maal is my maal, and what is my maal is your maal. So he said I’m not ready for that yet. Then Abu Huraira (ra) said that you can leave me.
Ali ibn Hussain (rah), the great grandson of Syedna Rasool Allah (sws), once said to a person that does one of you put your hand in the pocket or purse of your brother and takes what he needs without permission? They said none of us do that with one another. He (rah) said then you are not brothers. You are not brothers until you are at that level of closeness that you can take money out of the wallet of the other person. I told you the first chapter will be difficult for you. This is the most difficult one for the contemporary Muslim.
Some people called upon al-Hassan al-Basri (rah) and asked him, Abu Sayid (this was his kunyat), have you prayed your salah? He said yes. They said we are asking because people in the market have not yet prayed. So Hassan al-Basri, one of the greatest ulema of the Tabi’in, said who takes his deen from the people of the market? I hear that one of them refused his brother a penny. And al-Hassan said it as if it amazed him. He wasn’t denigrating them because they were market people. What was the thing that made him scoff at the people of the market? What was the thing about them that made him think they should not be followed? They had refused their brother a penny.
Once a person came to Ibrahim ibn Adam (rah) as the latter was leaving for Bait al-Muqaddas, (may Allah (swt) restore Bait al-Muqaddas to us and enable all of us to visit it one day) and said that I want to be your companion on the journey. He said you can come on the condition that I have more rights to your goods than you yourself do. I see you have a nice, big suitcase with you, and I have a little rucksack with me, so I will have more rights to your goods than you. He said no. He replied I admire your sincerity.
Ibrahim ibn Adam (rah) would never differ from a person who would accompany him on a journey. He would only choose a companion who would be in harmony with himself. It also shows that a person can, and maybe should, look at what we call munasibat. Munasibat means compatibility, congeniality, affinity. I’m not talking in terms of required muamalat. But in extra muamalat, extra interaction with fellow Muslims, you should interact with those you know you can successfully, mutually, beneficially interact with.
On one occasion, his traveling companion was a sandal strap merchant. At a certain resting post in the journey, someone presented Ibrahim ibn Adam with a bowl of soup. He opened his companion’s bag and took out some of the straps — as you know the strap is a piece of the sandal so this person manufactured and sold those particular pieces that were used in assembling the sandals — and he dropped them in the bowl and returned it to the person who had given him the bowl of soup. When his companion came along, he asked where are those straps which were in my bag? How much did the soup cost? You must have given him 3 straps. Be generous and generosity will be shown to you.
What he did was that after eating the soup he put those straps in the empty bowl. After eating the broth, which was a gift from the person, he wanted to return the bowl in which the broth was given. Then he decided that I have to give that person something. I have nothing to give him, but my companion is carrying his business goods, his straps, and wherever he goes he will trade them. So I will take two out and put them in the bowl, that way we can do khidmah of the person who sent this soup to us.
When the companion came back he noticed that two of my straps are missing. So he said that no we have to be generous to them. Be generous and generosity will be shown to you. This can mean two things. One was Ibrahim ibn Adam (rah) was teaching him that if you give the straps, Allah (swt) will continue to show generosity to you. Or he was trying to do ’amal on it himself; that this person has sent soup to me, he is being generous to me, I should now become the second half of this generosity, I should also give him a gift. Even though he gave it to me not selling the soup, not expecting any return, but since he was generous to me, the adab of my deen teaches me that I should be generous to him. I had to take two of your straps in order to fulfill that teaching of deen, to become generous back with him.
Ibrahim bin Adam once gave a donkey belonging to his companion without his permission to a man he saw walking. Can you imagine that I take the keys of your car and give it to the poor fellows on the bicycle? When his companion came along, he said nothing and did not disapprove. Imam al-Ghazali (rah) is teaching by way of example that what is the munasiba; travel with that person who knows what you are going to do.
The greatest story for this is of Khizr (as) when Sydna Musa (as) tries to become his traveling companion. Khizr (as) tells him that you are not going to be able to have sabr with me. You will not be able to handle me as a traveling companion. Musa (as) insisted that I can, he took three chances after that:
هٰذَا فِرَاقُ بَيۡنِىۡ وَبَيۡنِكَ
“Here is the point of parting ways between me and you.” [18:78]
This is now the separation, the parting of ways between me and you. You can see that lesson from Qur’an also that if there is no munasiba (understanding, there is no trust), then it may not be a well advice to pick that person as a companion.
The son of Syedna Umar (ra) says that one of the companions of Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) was given the head of a sheep. That companion thought to himself that my brother such-and-such, who was also his fellow sahaba, needs it more than I do. He thought that though I am hungry and somehow Allah (swt) has sent this food for me, but I know that so-and-so must also be hungry so I should send it over there. When he sent it over there, the person who received it said that so-and-so is also hungry so he sent it over there, it kept getting sent round and round till it came back to the first person after going through seven hands.
Seven Sahaba Karam (ra) preferred their fellow companion over themselves. Now we don’t know maybe when the first companion got it back, he thought maybe Allah (swt) wants to give it to me so he may have eaten it at the end, but seven people got sawab out of it. When you have more adab, you have more barakah. Had he eaten in the beginning, that would have also had barakah, but giving it away initially granted reward and pleasure of Allah (swt) to seven other Sahaba (ra) by preferring their fellow believer to themselves.
Masruq (rah) owed a heavy debt. His brother Khaytama was also in debt. It doesn’t mean his blood brother. Masruq went off and paid khaytama’s debt without him knowing and Khaytama went off and paid Masruq’s debt without him knowing. They both paid each other’s debt. They were more worried about the debt of their fellow brothers than their own debt. Can you imagine that today? I don’t want to get into that because 99% of loans that are taken today are not okay, but let’s say someone took an interest-free education loan to study and he is graduating and thinking I have got this £5,000 loan and the other friend also took interest-free education loan to study and he is also graduating knowing he has this £5,000 loan. But he thinks I will work and I will pay off half of his loan and he will never know about it. The other one also thinks I will work first and pay off his loan and he will never know about it. Can we find such an example today?
In the example of the ansar and muhajir, Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) made nisbat-i-mwakhat between Syedna Abdur Rehman ibn Awf (ra) and Sa’ad ibn ar-Rabi’ (ra). The latter offered to put the former i.e. Syedna Sa’ad (ra) offered to put Syedna Abdur Rehman (ra) first in preference, both materially and spiritually. He said may Allah (swt) bless you in both respects. Syedna Abdur Rehman (ra) responded that may Allah (swt) bless you in both respects, thus preferring his brother the same way as his brother preferred him.
What happened first that Syedna Sa’ad (ra) made du’a for Syedna Abdur Rehman (ra) that may Allah (swt) bless you both in monetary rizq and also spiritually give you higher ranks of taqwa, higher ranks of sabr, higher ranks of tawwakul and may Allah (swt) bless you with ease in this world. Then Syedna Abdur Rehman (ra) responded back that may Allah (swt) bless you. This is the concept of preferring and equalizing. The first gesture was preferment, to give tarjih to your fellow Muslim. The first is to give tarjih to your fellow mu’min — even in du’a.
Let’s say both you and your fellow Muslim brother have an interview at 9 AM for the same job. You both show up at 8:58 AM and are both sitting in the waiting room. You both have two minutes to make du’a. So you spend two minutes making du’a that he gets the job. That’s preferment; that you prefer him over your own job. Equalizing would mean you spend one minute making du’a that you get the job and one minute making du’a that he gets the job.
Abu Sulaiman ad-Darani (rah) used to say if I own the whole world to put in the mouth of a brother of mine, meaning if I could take the whole world and make a morsel out of it and feed my fellow Muslim, even then I would feel that I have done too little. He also said that when I feed a morsel to a brother of mine, I am feeding it to him but I feel the taste of it in my own throat. That is what in Arabic is called ita’am — feeding another is even more pleasurable — akal ta’am — than eating it yourself. In Urdu you can say khilany ka maza khany k maze se zyada hai.
Spending on fellow mu’minin is even worthier than giving sadaqah (not zakah) to the poor. Syedna Ali (ra) said that twenty dirham that I give to my fellow mu’minin are dearer to me than the hundred I give to the needy. This may be that special case of nisbat-i-mwakhat; Syedna Ali (ra) was a mahajir who was paired with an ansar (ra). He also said to make a meal and gather my brothers around it is dear to me than freeing a slave. This shows what we are well-known for all over the world, especially our Arabi brothers, this is how we show our joy and affection to each other, over meals.
In putting others first, everyone should follow the example of Syedna Rasool Allah (sws). He (sws) once entered a thicket with one of his Sahaba (ra) and gathered two toothpicks one crooked and the other one straight. It’s not a toothpick, it’s actually a miswak. He (sws) gave the straight one (i.e. the nicer one) to his sahaba (ra). Sahaba (ra) said ya Rasool Allah (sws) you are more entitled to the straight one than I am. The Blessed Prophet (sws) responded that when a fellow accompanies a fellow, when a friend accompanies a friend, if only for one hour of the day, he will be asked on the Day of Judgment to account for that time that he spent in the company of his fellow; that whether he fulfilled his duty to his brother in that hour or whether he neglected it.
Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) was thinking that about himself. He (sws) is the prophet while the Sahaba (ra) was an ummati — obviously the prophet should get the nicer one. But the way Blessed Prophet (sws) viewed it was that he is not just my ummati. He came with me on this journey. He is my travelling companion so I have to prefer him. You see that especially in children that they don’t like to do this. If they get something, they would immediately pick the better one for themselves. It maybe the case with adults too. Go back to your fridge where there are two crescont; one is slightly bigger than the other. You will go for the slightly bigger one and leave the smaller one for your friend.
Back when we used to eat meals together in our madrassah, it was known which students you should sit with and which ones you should not sit with. I was of the ones you could sit with Alhamdulillah. But that’s because I was a slow eater and not because of the other reason. I remember one student particularly said this to me when we were doing takhassas course that it seems you don’t like meat. I said, actually I do like it but you guys finish it by the time I get a chance to eat. He smiled and ever since he got this information he used to love to sit with me!
Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) indicated by his own example that putting the companion first, putting ones fellow first, was to fulfill one’s duty to Allah (swt), because Allah (swt) has rights over us in terms of our traveling fellows and companions.
On another occassion, Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) went out to a well to wash himself. Syedna Huzaifa (ra) took a robe and stood screening the Blessed Prophet (sws) while he washed and bathed. Then Syedna Huzaifa (ra) sat down and washed himself and Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) took the turn to hold the sheet to screen him. Syedna Huzaifa (ra) said Ya Rasool Allah (sws) what are you doing? May my father be ransomed for you; literally it means I would give up my own father for you and my mother too. He meant don’t do khidmat of me. Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) insisted and said each time two people are accompanied together, the more beloved to Allah (swt) — ahabbu — is that one of the two who is kinder to his companion.
There is a hadith of Sahaba (ra) that whatever Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) taught, he (sws) wanted to be the first one to do ’amal on it himself. He (sws) did ’amal on every hadith himself. He (sws) did it to teach others, yes, but also because he (sws) too was a servant and slave of Allah (swt). Like we say ash’hadu anna muhammadan ’abduhu wa rasuluhu; first and foremost he (sws) is the servant and slave of Allah (swt) and then His prophet and messenger. When Allah (swt) inspired him (sws) with this meaning that the more beloved to Allah (swt) is the one who is kinder, he always wanted to be the one who was kinder, and he always succeeded.
بِالۡمُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ رَءُوۡفٌ رَّحِيۡمٌ
And for the believers he is very kind and merciful. [9:129]
Allah (swt) said in Qur’an that he (sws) is with all believers ra’uf ar rahim; kind and gentle; soft and merciful — and these qualities are mentioned about Allah (swt) as well.
Malik Deenar and Muhammad ibn Wasi’ al-Azdi went together to the house of al-Hassan al-Basri but he wasn’t there. Muhammad bin Wasi’ took out a basket of food and started munching on it. Malik said to him, clap your hands to fetch the master of the house. Muhammad paid no attention to his words and went on eating. Malik was more for politeness (formality in manners).
Then Hassan said, my dear Malik, we are not used to being so shy of one another than you and your fellows appear i.e. you are doing takalluf with us and we are not used to that. We would like it that you should walk around the house and start eating food. So with this he indicated to make oneself at home in a fellow Muslim’s home is part of true brotherhood. This is why Allah (swt) in Qur’an al Karim has mentioned which homes, the buyut, you can enter: your own home, or that of a friend, or the home to which you have the keys. The ishara Imam al-Ghazali (rah) is giving is that although one’s brother would give the keys of house to another permitting him to act as he saw fit, a brother felt piety required him to refrain from eating.
There was one Sahabi (ra) who had given the keys to his home to another Sahabi (ra). Even though he was trying to show him that my home is like yours, the Sahabi (ra) who received the keys was still feeling a bit shy and hesitant. In his mind, he was thinking even though he has been so nice to give me the keys, still it is not nice of me that I should treat his home as my home. Allah (swt) sent wahi down in Qur’an and said you can go into it freely. If he is opening up his home to you like that and giving you the keys, you should feel that you should be able to go in as freely as you want. This was the first duty which was pertaining to material sharing — sharing our wealth, property and assets with our fellow believers.
2. To Render Personal Aid
Personal aid means not to hire somebody to help, for example, not to call the cab when you can drive the person yourself. Do it yourself. DIY khidmat of your fellow mu’min. To render personal aid in the satisfaction of their needs to fulfill and the fulfillment of their need, in attending to them without waiting to be asked and giving them priority over private needs. Same thing that which he said before, to oblige him to ask is the ultimate shortcoming in brotherly duty — that your fellow Muslim has a need, and you know of that need, or rather it should have been your duty to have been informed about that need, but either you neglected to do that duty being unaware of his need, or you knew but you still waited for him to ask — you waited for him to ask — that is the ultimate neglect of brotherly duty. It also means to give them priority over your own needs.
Here, too, there are different degrees as was in the case of material support. Lowest degree consists of attending to the need when asked and when in plenty. It means I will help this person when they ask me and when I have time to do so. This is the classic case of my experience in this country; over and over we get this message: if you need something, let me know. I have never responded to any such SMS. Even if I am in the most dire state of need, I will not respond to such a person. People love to send this. They are waiting to be asked. And, if they have time, when in plenty, then they will tend to your need. But at least it is showing cheerful joy and pleasure and gratitude. That is a good thing, they have one degree that they will genuinely, joyfully, happily, kindly, generously, showing pleasure and gratitude do what you have asked.
Someone said that if you ask your brother to satisfy a need and he does not do so, then remind him for he may have forgotten. If he still does not do it, pronounce Allahu Akbar over him as if he is a mayyat, and recite this verse:
وَالۡمَوۡتٰى يَـبۡعَثُهُمُ اللّٰهُ
As for the dead, Allah shall raise them up. [6:36]
If a person is sleeping and you shake him, he wakes up. If you shake something and it does not wake up, it does not mean it is sleeping, it means it is dead. You asked him once, then you reminded him the second time, you shook him, he still did not remember so you should pronounce Allahu Akbar over them.
Ibn Shabruma (rah) once satisfied a great need for one of his brothers. That brother later brought him a present. Ibn Shbruma (rah) asked him what is this? He said this is a present for you because of the great favor you did to me, you helped me in that great need. He said no, keep it, may Allah (swt) preserve you. And then he told him, if you ask your brother for something you need, and if he does not exert himself to satisfy your need, then wash for prayers, meaning make wudhu for salah, and pronounce four takbirs for salat al-janaza over him and count him among the dead. I think we would have a lot more janazas were we to do ’amal on this!
Ja’afar ibn Muhammad (rah) said that I make haste to satisfy the needs of my enemies lest I reject them and they do without me. Enemy means, let’s say somebody has envy or jealousy for you, or they did backbiting to you or they are in a cut-throat competition in school, cut-throat competition in the office with you — you know they have something against you. But you also happen to know they have a need. Ja’afar ibn Muhammad (rah) would actually go and fulfill the need of the person.
What would we do? We would be angry that why does this person have envy and enmity towards me? If we found out about their need, we would be happy that they have this suffering. We would revel and enjoy the fact that they have a need they are waiting to be fulfilled. Lest I reject them and they do without me — he was worried that what if I reject them and they try to make it without me? I don’t want them to be mustaghni/independant of me. Even if they are my enemies, they are still my fellow believers.
For example, even in certain masajid their are committee members competing for elections. If one member finds out the other one has some difficulty, the former would be so happy and overjoyed that maybe he will get caught up in that, maybe he will not be able to campaign enough, maybe he will not be able to get enough votes. Actually, we rejoice when we find out our enemies have needs. They did not think like this — they thought even if they have enmity towards me, I am still his fellow Muslim. If he has a need, I will fulfill his need. That is how they used to win over the hearts.
Sometimes there is a misunderstanding between two people which leads to a feeling of hostility or resentment. Sometimes it gets so confusing, you cannot clear it up. It might even be that if you go to clear it up, it gets more confusing. You just mess it up. What you have to do in such a situation is to do something for them completely separate from that situation. You may not get that opportunity immediately, but once you do that, Allah (swt) unravels the knob on its own.
One Muslim in the early days would see to the maintenance of his brother’s wife and children for forty years after his brother’s death — attending to their needs and providing for them such that they missed only the father’s person. They didn’t miss the father’s support because this person was offering that support. Unfortunately, that’s not something we can talk to you about in this country, but we would just tell you certain shuhada who leave behind families, this is their right over us that we should look after their families. Obviously, they will miss the person because that person was their father, you can never replace that personality. But other than that, all of their needs should be taken care of. They should feel as if they have this support and strength of a man in their house even if that particular man has been taken up by Allah (swt).
Indeed, they would try to treat them so well as they may have not even been treated by their own father. Not personal love, it may mean showering them with gifts and support. It was known for a man to go regularly to his brother’s household who had passed away and inquire from family widow that he left behind, have you oil, have you salt? These were staple items. Many times they would just drop off bags of salt and pouches of oil at their door.
If a man was traveling with his brother and anything was needed, he would attend to it unbeknown to his brother. This is how brotherhood and compassion are shown. If a man does not manifest compassion towards his brother in the same degree as to himself then there is no goodness in him. Be as true to others as you are to yourself. Be as caring to others as you wish to be cared for yourself.
Maymun ibn Mehran (rah) said if you reap no benefit from a man’s friendship, then his enmity will not hurt you. This is talking about the reverse side. One side was that we should give, care and help as much as we can. The second side is that if someone else is our friend, we should not try to reap benefits, we should not try to extract help from them. You should not expect it of them, demand it from them, force it out of them. If you don’t do that and that person who is your friend for some reason turns into an enemy, you will not lose anything in terms of personal aid because you were not taking any aid from them from the beginning.
Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) said surely Allah (swt) has vessels on this earth namely our hearts; qalb; spiritual heart, those hearts considered dearest to Allah (swt) are the purest, the strongest and the finest. Purest means pure from sins. Strongest means strongest in iman. Finest means finest towards their fellow Muslim brothers. In short, your brothers’ needs ought to be like your own or even more important than your own. You should be on the watch for times of need, not neglecting the situation anymore than you would your own.
We always watch out for ourselves. We are checking am I going to be okay? Will I be able to make this month’s finances? Do I have enough for this year? Do I have enough for this summer? We are keeping track of ourselves. Just like that, we should keep track of someone else. These people were also harīth; they wanted the opportunity to help others. They were searching and keeping track, they wanted to monitor when and who is in need because they wanted to help that person.
We are the opposite. We want not to know to the best of our ability. If someone forces us to sit down and broadcast his need to us, only then will we feel some type of duty and obligation to help them out. You should see that he does not have to ask — you can see, over and over again Imam al-Ghazali (rah) is repeating this — nor to reveal his need to appeal for help. Rather, you should attend to it as if you did not know you had done so. You yourself should also not feel that you helped him.
In a famous hadith Blessed Prophet (sws) has said that you should give charity with your right hand such that your left hand does not even know. Similarly, you should help your fellow believer in such a way that even you are not self-conscious and not aware that you helped him. You should not see yourself having earned any right by virtue of what you have done. You should not feel that you are entitled to that person’s support, you should not even feel that you are entitled to that person’s love, or their appreciation, or their gratitude. You should never do something for someone with that intention that you are going to make them indebted to you; whether financially indebted to you, or emotionally indebted to you in terms of gratitude, gratefulness and thankfulness. Rather, we should count it as a blessing and a kindness from him that he did an ehsan on me, it was his favor on me, I am indebted to him that he has allowed me a chance to help him.
You should not confine yourself to simply merely satisfying his needs, but you should try from the start to be even more generous to prefer him and put him before your own relatives and children. It means if he needs £10, you should give him £20. Why are you keeping him on this borderline situation? You only helped him so much that he did not fall, but you are not helping him to walk.
Al Hassal al Basri (rah) used to say that our brothers are dear to us than our own families and children because our families remind us of this world while our brothers remind us of Akhirah. This relationship which is khalasatan lillah fillah — solely, exclusively in the name of Allah (swt) for the sake of Allah (swt) — whenever we sit with those people, all we think about is Allah (swt) and Akhirah. When we sit with family, although that aspect is there, but there is also a worldly aspect to our family relationships.
Don’t get this wrong. He is not saying that you should have any disdain for your family. It means a very high love and enjoyment for family, but even higher than that was the enjoyment they got from those relationships that were purely for the sake of Allah (swt).
Al Hassan al Basri (rah) also used to say that if a man stands by his brother all the way until the end, right till the climax of need or whatever difficulty is afflicting him, then on the Day of Judgment Allah (swt) will send angels from beneath His throne to escort that person to Jannah.
Then in another tradition (tradition here does not mean hadith, this is what we call khabr, the early Muslim non-prophetic tradition) tells that whenever a person visits their brother, fellow Muslim, out of longing and yearning to meet them, then an angel calls out from behind and says that you have done well and there should be a well for you in the garden of Paradise. There is a question of how can you say this about the angels? Only Allah (swt) and Blessed Prophet (sws) can tell us what the angels say. Sometimes when you see narrations like this, it means they are giving an emotional expression to a reality that was mentioned in hadith.
For example, Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) said in a hadith that when you help your fellow Muslim in any need, Allah (swt) will help you in your need. And in another hadith he (sws) said when you make du’a for any fellow Muslim, Allah (swt) sends an angel who says three things: ameen, wa laka, ameen. For example, you made du’a for X. Allah (swt) sent an angel who said ameen to your du’a for X. Then the angel said wa laka making the same du’a for you and again the angel said ameen on his own du’a. So X got your du’a and angel’s ameen, but you got angel’s du’a and angel’s ameen. You actually got something better. This is expressed in this way that when you help someone, the angel would come and say something like you have done well and there will be a well for you in Jannah.
Ata ibn-e-abi Raba’ (rah), one of the great tabi’in, said seek out your brothers after three occassions. They must visit when they are sick, which is called ayadat al-mariz. If they are busy, help them. If you see them caught up in so much busyness, and you have some fursat, faraghat, free time, try to help them. And if they have forgotten, remind them. Especially if they have forgotten Allah (swt), remind them. If they have forgotten the Sunnah of Blessed Prophet (sws), remind them.
وَّذَكِّرۡ فَاِنَّ الذِّكۡرٰى تَنۡفَعُ الۡمُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ
And keep reminding, because reminding benefits the believers. [51:55]
Allah (swt) says in Qur’an that you must recollect and remind because that recollection and reminding benefits believers. That ayah is basis for all courses, all talks and lectures. It’s not enough just to read Qur’an and hadith on your own, because Allah (swt) said in Qur’an wa zakir — Allah (swt) has commanded some individuals to make nasiha, give advice, counsel, admonish and remind. Because indeed that reminder tanfa’u al-mu’minin — that act of reminding is of great benefit to the believers.
There are many ways to do this type of dawah. There is no one particular jama’ah to exclusively do dawah. We should all have this dawah aspect in our lives. A lot of us slack in this. There are people in our sphere, in our circle of interaction, some of whom are so close that they are even in the sphere of influence, but we don’t remind them at all. Some of the brothers in tablighi jama’at are very good at this. They don’t leave any stone unturned. They go in Pakistan to get a haircut, within one minute they are talking to the barber. Before you know it, the barbar is being given a full bayan about Allah (swt). Most of us would just sit there and will not say anything. That was an interaction and every interaction is an opportunity.
Sometimes you may even be sitting there watching and thinking in your own cynical and sarcastic way that look at the barbar, he is so annoyed. Sometimes you have to annoy people. He is getting annoyed at that moment, he may have forgotten Allah (swt) so much that he may not respond to the call of that reminder. But maybe in a few weeks Allah (swt) may send him some test, meaning Allah (swt) is going to shake him up, and he may remember some of the words that his brother had told him. That brother opened a door for him. He is not willing to walk through that door at that moment, but the door was shown to him whether he liked it or not. Later on, if there comes a time when he is willing to walk through that door, he will remember it.
I’m not saying do it every time and in every situation. It requires wisdom and hikmah also. But most of us let every opportunity go — every barbar, every taxi driver, every Muslim we interact with, we don’t say any word of nasiha to them. It should not be like that either. Every now and then, if you get the opportunity, chat the person up a little bit, don’t say too much but at least say a couple of lines. Share something that you heard, share some ayah of Qur’an, share some hadith of Syedna Rasool Allah (sws), share some words of nasiha, share something from your own life to make him personally close. Offer him something.
Maybe he will buy it, you never know. He may not look interested but how do you know? Can you see inside the hearts of people that they are uninterested? Offer him something and, even if he displays disinterest, just leave it there for him as food for thought. Maybe he will take a bite later. First intention to make is that I’m actually reminding myself: If nothing else, I may buy it. I heard this thing, I don’t do ’amal on it myself, but when I told the barbar that day, I realized that I should better do ’amal on it myself, so I bought my own dawah.
It was narrated that Abdullah ibn Umar (ra) was looking about right and left, he was looking around in front of Syedna Rasool Allah (sws). Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) asked him what are you looking for? He said there is someone beloved to me who I am searching for, but I don’t see him. Maybe he was thinking Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) came out of Masjid an-Nabwi and he (sws) is sitting with us and he (sws) is going to talk to us, and where is that favorite friend Sahaba (ra) of mine who is missing out on this? Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) said if you love someone, you should ask his name, his father’s name, where he lives. If he is sick, visit him and if he is busy, help him.
Blessed Prophet (sws) was teaching Abdullah ibn Umar (ra) that it is not enough just to be fond of him. You should have gotten to know him — ta’arafu — you should have asked his name, father’s name in order to identify him. Otherwise if he gets sick, how are you going to visit him? If he has a need, how will you find out how to help him? How will you keep track of him if you have no idea what his name is? It happens many times, I go places and ask you know this person? Plenty of times I get the reply, no I don’t know him, though sometimes I have seen him in the masjid but I have never talked to him. If I ask the one who knows his name, what does he do? He would say I have never asked him that.
By the way, this is a very special hadith that Syedna Abdullah ibn Umar (ra) narrates about his own interaction with Blessed Prophet (sws). Maybe because he was quite young, Blessed Prophet (sws) had a very special, what we call, andaz-i-tarbiyat, a special way of training him. In another narration, the hadith mentions the words that you should remember the name of his grandfather, his tribe, you should really do ta’aruf — you should really get to know him. He is your Muslim brother. Today we have our work brothers, you work in Cambridge, it should not be that when you get back on the bus and go home you wonder who was that brother with the blue shirt? Ask his name. Ask him what he does. Ask him where he lives.
Ash-Shami (rah) said of a man who keeps company of another, then says he knows his face but not his name (that’s what we say in Urdu mein shakal se janta houn, naam nahi ata hai –same case hundreds of years ago), that is the knowledge of a fool. What type of people were they and what type of people are we?
Syedna ibn Abash (ra) was asked who is the dearest, most beloved people to you? He said the one who sits in my company. Allah (swt) said in Qur’an:
يٰۤـاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللّٰهَ وَكُوۡنُوۡا مَعَ الصّٰدِقِيۡنَ
O you who believe, fear Allah, and be in the company of the truthful. [9:119]
When we adopt taqwa and sit with the sadiqin, we should feel something for the sadiqin and, we are learning here, the sadiqin also feel something back for us. He also said if someone sits in my company three times without having need of me, I learn where he is placed in the world.
Syedna Mullah said my sitting depends on three things: on my approach I greet him, on his arrival I make him feel welcome, when he sits I make him comfortable. They honored the sitting with one another. If we used to love to sit with them, they also used to love it if we sat with them. Allah (swt) said:
Compassionate among themselves. [48:29]
They are full of rehmah — full of mercy to one another. This is the ayah describing the feelings believers have for one another. Imam al-Ghazali (rah) commented that these words point to compassion and generous treatment. Part of complete compassion is not to partake in solitude of delicious food — to go eat your chocolate ice-cream secretly in the corner alone. I’m guilty of doing this; having cookies and Ben & Jerry’s when the kids are sleeping. Rather should the brother’s absence be stressing and the separation sad. You find this when you look at the tales of the lovers of one another for the sake of Allah (swt). They would be in a gathering enjoying and then they would realize that X is missing. The fact that X is missing would make them sad.
So, not to partake in solitude. If Allah (swt) has given you happiness, then share that happiness. When you share that happiness, you will multiply it. Allah (swt) has given you a joy not to enjoy alone — that’s why sunnah walima is a part of our deen — when Allah (swt) gives you that joy, you don’t want to just have that joy alone. In our deen, the first expression of the joy is to share that joy, proclaim that joy, announce that nikkah, gather people to a meal and show them how happy you are.
3. To be Mindful of the Tongue
First duty was financially helping; sharing in one’s property, wealth, assets and possessions. Second duty was helping which Imam al-Ghazali (rah) called personal aid. Third duty concerns the tongue. Sometimes the duty requires that the tongue should be silent. At other times, the duty towards our fellow Muslims requires that we should speak out. It is going to take some learning and some hikmah/wisdom and du’a to Allah (swt) to figure out when is the occasion to be silent and when is the occasion to speak out. Imam al-Ghazali (rah) is going to help us here.
As for silence, when should the tongue be silent?
- The tongue should not mention a brother’s faults in his absence (ghibah) or in his presence.
If you have such a relationship with that person, let’s say your younger brother, in his presence, but alone, not to expose him or embarrass him, not simply to shout at him, rather to rectify and guide him, you can discuss a fault of his with him. In such a case, that’s okay. Here it means to broadcast or expose that person’s faults, whether they are present and you expose their faults live in front of others, or you expose him in his absence, that is not something a person’s tongue should do.
Rather should you feign ignorance. For example, if someone asks you, “Do you know so-and-so? I heard that brother actually did X?” Even though you also know he did it, you should say, “Oh really? Allahu ’alam.” Close the discussion at the start. As opposed to saying, “Yeah I know he did X, but do you know he also did Y?” That’s what we do. Instead say Allah (swt) knows best — that’s always a correct statement, even if you do know.
- You should not contradict him when he talks, nor dispute nor argue with him.
- You should not pry and quiz him about his affairs.
On seeing him in the street or about some business, you should not start a conversation about the object of your coming and going, nor ask him about this. For perhaps it will be troublesome to him to discuss it, or he may have to lie about it. Like, “Dude, where are you going?” “Nowhere.” Obviously, he is going somewhere. If he says nowhere to you, he doesn’t want to share it with you. You don’t give him a second and say, “What do you mean nowhere? Where are you coming from?” Now he gets even more embarrassed. What difference does it make to you where he is coming from or where he is going? His right to you when you met him in the street was simply that you say salam to him, not to make him disclose completely where he is going or where he is coming from or what he is about to do.
This is why Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) said la tajassasu — don’t have this curiosity. I know people may not ask this question with a bad intention necessarily, but Blessed Prophet (sws) is training us. In another hadith, Blessed Prophet (sws) said min husni islami mar’i tarqu ma laya’ni — that from the beauty, nobility, excellence of the deen of Islam of a person is that they leave the things that don’t concern them. Don’t concern yourself with where he was coming from, what he was doing, where he was the previous night, unless there is a particular reason that maybe of concern to you, but 99% of the times it is not, so you should not ask.
Look at Imam al-Ghazali’s (rah) hikmah 900 years ago, still valid today. Perhaps it will be troublesome to discuss it or he may even have to lie about it. May be he did something so embarrassing that when you put him on the spot, although he should not lie, we are not excusing him, but because you put him so much in the spot, he ended up lying. You put him in that position. If there is something he wants to share with you, he will share it with you himself. Look at the adab — they were the people who used to think carefully. They viewed every interaction with every follow Muslim as something not to be taken lightly or forgranted.
We have to have husn-i-sulook. We need to have most noble way of dealing with the person. We should be conscious about what we should or should not say but without being nervous and unnatural. Once a person is trained in these adab, they come naturally. This is one of the gift of iman that every person Allah (swt) has gifted with iman, the sunnah adab and akhlaq comes naturally to them. They just have to learn it, practice it a little bit, then it will flow naturally from them.
The first time you hear it, it may seem a bit difficult to do. Don’t worry. Once you learn and practice it, it will flow naturally with ease. That will become your personality. That’s the power of deen that if you want the personality of Syedna Rasool Allah (sws), it can be your personality. It means his (sws) temperament, outlook, mannerism, kindness, compassion, his ways of dealing with people can become our way of dealing with people, if we want to follow his sunnah, his teachings of adab and akhlaq. If we became like that with one another, imagine how united the ummah would be. Don’t get me wrong. There will still be differences. Unity does not mean uniformity. It has never meant that in ummah. Even Sahaba Karam (ra) had differences. Unity is something else altogether.
So we have covered a few things in there: not to mention faults in absence or presence, not to contradict or dispute, not to pry and quiz about his affairs.
- Keep silent also about the secrets if he confides in you and on no account divulge them to a third party, not even to his closest friends.
This is the hadith of Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) al majalasu bil amanah. Some of you may be wondering in these few lines, I have mentioned several hadith to you that Imam al-Ghazali (rah) did not mention. Why did he not do so? This is our contemporary problem. We want that everything should be extremely well documented with references to all hadith. It is understandable for us. But in Imam al-Ghazali’s (rah) time, and the people he was talking to, they all knew hadith. Hadith was standard education for a Muslim. Every hadith I’m saying, they all knew it.
These types of books and works were just to take them to the final step to live those hadith and to feel those hadith. The purpose of these books was not to teach them the hadith. Because many of us don’t know hadith, it would be nice for us to have those hadith added to the translation so that along with getting Imam al-Ghazli’s (rah) help on living the hadith, we could actually do the knowing of the hadith as well.
You should understand this, it’s not that Imam al-Ghazali (rah) did not know hadith or he was not concerned with hadith or he just likes talking his own words. He is talking to an audience that knows hadith. In fact, the vast majority, if not all of his works, were addressed to ulema who were formal students and scholars of hadith. In many of his letters he addresses them point-blank directly by name and chastises them that you spent so many years studying and you still don’t feel it, what have you gotten from the sunnah? You have known thousands of hadith and you still don’t have the adab? He goes after them by name, point by point, and he does it in many other places in Ihya. In fact, this is universally accepted by all Muslim and non-Muslim historians that Ihya Ulum al-Din was written primarily by Imam al-Ghazali (rah) for the ulema. It is such a tragedy that the ulema don’t read it anymore.
So, al majalasu bil amanah literally it means gathering, but even conversations that you have with one another, are an amanah, unless it’s understood that you are talking about something that does not in any way require confidentiality. What does it mean that don’t even talk to it about to their close friend? For example, you may be friends with Abdullah, Abdullah is also friends with X. Abdullah tells you that I lost my scholarship for next year, and has some discussion with you about that. Because you think outwardly Abdullah is equally close friends with X, don’t assume Abdullah has told X. When you see X, don’t say, “Hey did you hear Abdullah lost his scholarship?” He will say no. So you breached a trust. When Abdullah told you, he was telling you, he wasn’t telling you to tell X. In fact, if Abdullah is close friends with X, he will tell him in his own way, in his own time.
We have this habit in ourselves of too much broadcasting. We hear and we broadcast. This is what Blessed Prophet (sws) is telling us that al-majalasu bil amanah. It doesn’t mean that only if the person explicitly tells you. Abdullah didn’t tell you not to tell anybody else, yes. But your nabi Syedna Rasool Allah (sws) told you not to tell anybody else. It’s about our habits. We have too loose of a tongue.
Do not reveal anything about those secrets, not even after separation and estrangement. Let’s say you are no longer friends with that person for whatever reason, misunderstanding happens, you part ways, even then you should not betray him. You should not think that the confidentiality of agreement in relationship was only when we were friends and now we are not such close friends. It’s a lifelong amanah. For to do so would be meanness of character, it means it is just bughz, ghil; it is just malice, spite and retribution. You are just doing it to be mean.
For example, you are roommates with someone. What that person does in that flat is not the business of the entire building. They are sharing close corners with you, so you may get to see certain things about them. You may get to know them more intimately. Those intimate details of their close personal lifestyle, their habits, their character, are not meant for you. He does not have to say about every single thing that don’t tell anyone about this. It’s understood that you are not supposed to share and broadcast these things to other people.
Cont’d in Session II