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Brotherhood: Foundation of Islamic Civilization

3417 2008/08/11 2024/05/26

the rock bottom foundation of islamic civilization is human brotherhood, a brotherhood under which man does not become truly human until he has loved for his brother what he loves for himself and implemented this love by deeds of goodness and mercy without weakness or servility. a man once asked muhammad, "which islam is better?" muhammad answered, "that you give food to the needy and that you greet those whom you know as well as those whom you don't." he opened the first sermon he delivered in madinah with the statement, “whoever can protect his face from the fire even with a basket of dates, let him do so; and whoever does not find even that much, then let him do so with a good word, for the good word brings a reward ten times greater than itself.” in his second sermon he said, "worship god and do not associate any being with him. fear and revere him as he ought to be feared and revered. be true unto him by saying always the best than can be said. love one another in the spirit of god. god is displeased whenever his covenant is violated." by this and like exhortations, muhammad used to counsel his companions and preach to the people in his mosque, leaning against one of the date trunks supporting the ceiling. later on, he ordered a pulpit of three steps to be made for him, the first to stand upon when delivering a sermon and the second to sit down upon.


muslim brotherhood

the brotherhood which muhammad made the cornerstone of islamic civilization did not rest on his preachings alone. it was embodied in its highest perfection in his deeds and concrete example. true, he was the prophet of god, but he consistently refused to adopt any of the appearances of power, authority, kingship, or temporal sovereignty. he emphatically repeated to his companions, "do not praise me as the christians have praised the son of mary, for i am but the servant of god. rather, call me the servant of god and his prophet." once, he arrived at a gathering of his companions leaning on a stick and they all rose up in respect for him. he said, "do not stand up for me as the persians do in aggrandizement of one another." whenever he joined his companions, he always sat at the edge of the space they occupied. he used to joke and mix with them, to talk to them about their own affairs, to pamper and coddle their children, and to answer the call of freeman, slave, maid servant and destitute alike. he used to visit the sick in the farthest district of madinah, to take the initiative in greeting whomever he met, and to stretch his hand in welcome to his visitors. no man came to visit muhammad and found him in prayer but he shortened his prayer, .attended to his visitor and returned to his prayer after the visitor had left. he was the most charitable of people, always smiling in the face of everyone except when revelation came to him or when he delivered a speech or a sermon. in his home, he felt no superiority over the members of his family. he washed his own robe and mended it by his own hand. he milked his own goat, repaired his own sandals, attended to himself and to his camel, ate with his servant, and fulfilled the request of the weak, the oppressed and the destitute. whenever he found somebody in need, however lowly or plebeian, he preferred to attend to him first rather than to himself or to his family. that is why he never saved anything for the morrow, and when he died his shield was in possession of a jewish pawnbroker as lien for a loan made to muhammad to spend on his family. he was exceedingly modest and extremely loyal. when a deputation from the negus of abyssinia arrived to see him, he rose to serve them. his companions sought to stop him, but he said to them: "the abyssinians were kind to our companions when they went to their country; i would like to treat them likewise and reward them." he was so loyal to khadijah that whenever she was mentioned he gave her the best of praises so that `a'ishah used to say, "i have never been jealous of a woman as i have been of khadijah for all that i have heard the prophet praise her." once when a woman came to him, he rose to greet her, spoke to her gently, and attended to her pleas; people asked him who she was. he answered, "she used to befriend us in the days of khadijah; loyalty to one's friends is of the faith." indeed, he was so compassionate and gentle that he did not mind his grandsons' playing with him during his prayer. once, he even prayed while umamah, his granddaughter through zaynab, sat on his shoulders and had to be put down when he prostrated himself.


muhammad's kindness to animals

his kindness and mercy, on which he founded the new islamic civilization, were not limited to man alone but extended to animals. muhammad used to rise and open the door for a cat seeking to enter. he attended with his own hands to a sick rooster and rubbed down his own horse with his own sleeve. when `a'ishah rode on an obstinate camel and began to pull him hardly, he said to her, "softly and gently please." thus his kindness and mercy embraced all that ever came in touch with him every creature that sought to stand near his person.


the brotherhood of justice and mercy

muhammad's mercy did not proceed from weakness or servility, nor was it ever vitiated by pride, haughtiness, or the expectation of gratitude. it was done purely for the sake of god. hence, nothing was excluded from it. this kindness differentiates the foundation of the civilization of islam from all other civilizations. islam puts justice side by side with kindness and judges that kindness is not kindness without justice.

"whoever commits an aggression against you, return to him his aggression in like manner.” [qur'an, 2:194]

"in punishment a whole life lies implicit, o you who have minds to reason with!”[qur'an, 2:179]

kindness is felicitous and the good deeds that issue from it are praiseworthy only when the motivation is internal, the will is free, and the purpose is the seeking of god's sake alone. kindness should proceed from a strong soul that has known no submission to anything but god, has not succumbed to weakness, does not go to extremes in the name of piety, and knows no fear or contrition except on account for a misdeed it has done or a crime it has committed. as long as the soul is under alien dominion, it can never be strong; it can never be strong, either, if it stands under the dominion of its own passions and desires. muhammad and his companions emigrated from makkah precisely in rebellion against the dominion of quraysh who attempted to weaken their souls by means of dominion and the injuries it perpetrates. on the other hand, the soul is said to be under the dominion of passions and desires whenever the body's demands take precedence over those of the spirit, when passion vanquishes reason, when external life exerts any power over internal lifeline short, when the soul does not know that it has no need of either passion or desire and is really their final master.


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