Breaking Bread as Brothers
God insists in the Qur’an: And hold fast, all together, to the rope of God, and do not become divided. [3:103]
The Qur’an further insists: The believers are indeed but brothers. So make peace and reconciliation between your brethren. [49:10]
Brotherhood (ukhuwa) is a great principle of Islam. It is a brotherhood obliged by God. It is a brotherhood, the bonds of which are rooted in love of God and love in God. Islam’s teachings all ensure that these bonds are allowed to flower and flourish, and that whatever stands in the way to prevent this, or to incite discord or division between Muslims, is disowned by the shari’ah.
Hence the Holy Qur’an says about things that may incite schism or friction between Muslims: The Devil seeks only to cast enmity and hatred amongst you by means of alcohol and gambling, and to turn you from remembrance of God and from [His] worship. Will you not then abstain? [5:91]
Islam not only explains the ideals of brotherhood, it lays down specific teachings and measures that help to make it a reality in our lives. Among that which helps nurture a deep and abiding sense of brotherhood are:
Firstly, remembering that God has made the life and honour of every believer sacred and sacrosanct. It is forbidden to harm a Muslim’s honour or repute, as it is to harm their life or their property. Let us remind ourselves about this foundational fact with the following hadith: ‘Do not envy one another; do not inflate prices one to another; do not turn your backs on one another; and do not undercut one another – but be, O God’s slaves, brothers. A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim: he doesn’t oppress him or forsake him, nor does he lie to him or hold him in contempt. Piety is right here (pointing to his breast thrice). It is evil enough for a person to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. The whole of a Muslim, for another Muslim, is inviolable: his blood, his property and his honour.’ [Muslim, no.2564]
Secondly, to make it a part of our daily spiritual habit of supplicating for the well-being of Muslims. One hadith says: ‘The du‘ā’ of a the Muslim, for his brother [Muslim] in his absence, is always responded to.’ [Muslim, no.2733] In fact, so great an act is it, and so sacred is the life of a believer, that the Prophet, peace be upon him, declared: ‘Whoever seeks forgiveness for the believing men and women, God records for him a good deed for every believing man and woman [he prays for].’ [Al-Haythami, Majma’ al-Zawa’Īd,10:210]
Thirdly, another way to arouse love of fellow believers in our hearts is to devote some time of our day, each day, in their service or khidmah, in whatever capacity we can. So dear is this dedication and service to God, that one celebrated hadith says: ‘God helps His servant as long as the servant continues to help his brother.’ [Bukhāri, no.2442; Muslim, no.2580]
Fourthly, trying not to end the day with rancour in our hearts against any Muslim, but striving to rid ourselves of this noxious disease whenever it arises. The following du’afrom the Qur’an is a powerful medicine for such a thing: “Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who preceded us in faith, and leave not in our hearts any rancour or ill-will towards those who believe. Our Lord! You are Kind, Compassionate.” [59:10]
Fifthly, doing one’s utmost to follow the Golden Rule: ‘None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.’ [Bukhāri, no.13; Muslim, no.45] But if one fails to live up to this lofty standard, then to never fall below the minimum level of behaviour with others – which was taught to us by the great pietist, Yahya b. Mu’adh al-Razi: ‘Let your dealing with another believer be of three types: If you cannot benefit him, do not harm him. If you cannot gladden him, do not sadden him. If you cannot speak well of him, do not speak ill of him.’1
Allahumma allif bayna qulubina wa aslih dhata baynina waj’alna min al-rashidin.