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The Return of Reflections – Where is the Brotherhood/Sisterhood?



Returning to the reflections tafsir series that we started in Ramadan after too long of a break long, I want to start by reminding myself and all readers, especially in these highly virtuous ten days of Dhul Hijjah, of our main purpose for reading the Quran. The Quran was sent down to us for guidance and that we may ponder upon its ayaat and implement the noble guidance within them. As I had intended before, I will always try to make these posts brief so that the reader can take away one major point to implement in their day without getting weighed down with too much detail.


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Since this series did have its inception during Ramadan, one of the things that I most miss about Ramadan is the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood that existed at that time. Reading one sister’s post on Hijrah on this website a few days ago, I came away wondering why it is that so many of us Muslims – particularly those of us in the West – are so critical of our brothers and sisters in Muslim countries. I have heard it said many a time that “those people” don’t have a sense of humanity; that they treat one another with so much harshness; that good manners are long gone. So I wonder, is this a problem isolated to the Muslim countries, or is it more of a global epidemic striking our hearts?


We often hear the following ayah mentioned:


مُّحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ أَشِدَّاء عَلَى الْكُفَّارِ رُحَمَاء بَيْنَهُمْ


Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves …. [48:29]


Yet, does this ayah really reach into our hearts and spread its beauty until it drips from our actions? Are we merciful to one another? Have we forgotten that this mercy, gentleness and humility toward our believing brothers and sisters is in fact one of the characteristics that leads to Allah’s love for His believing servant as He said in surat al-Ma’idah:


Allah will bring a people whom He will love and they will love Him; humble towards the believers, stern towards the disbelievers. [5:54]


And the Prophet has said, in a hadith we have all too often heard but not internalized:


The parable of the believers in their love, mercy and gentle kindness for each other, is that of the body: when one of its organs falls ill, the rest of the body responds with fever and sleeplessness. (Muslim)


Being that this series is posted on a blog and its readers are no doubt contributors to blogs, this lesson carries extra weight. One of the common behaviors witnessed on so many blogs and on-line forums today is the idea of utterly humiliating your critic. It is the on-line equivalent maybe of trash-talk on the court or field. This behavior can be harmless if it is between strangers, can be virtuous if done correctly against those who seek to abuse the Prophet or Islam, but it is no doubt crossing the lines when it comes to speaking to another Muslim in this manner. We have a defined, noble, and exquisitely courteous etiquette in Islam when it comes to disagreeing with another Muslim and we always remember that, with few exceptions, no matter what the other view may be, that you are still speaking to your brother.


For those who are very familiar with the lives of the Companions and Tabi’een (Successors of the Companions), you will find this etiquette firmly in practice. They had one concern at any one moment in life, and that was the pleasure of Allah and attaining Jannah. They also had a great sense of humility and they didn’t seek to put down one another or to speak with harshness to one another, remembering that as Allah had said,


إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ


The Believers are but brothers; So make peace and reconciliation between yourselves; and fear Allah, that you may receive Mercy. [49:10]


And in the very next ayah:


يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَومٌ مِّن قَوْمٍ عَسَى أَن يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاء مِّن نِّسَاء عَسَى أَن يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُنَّ


O you who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter are better than the (former) …. [49:11]


Ibn Kathir states in his tafsir, “Allah the Exalted forbids scoffing at people, which implies humiliating and belittling them. In the Sahih, it is recorded that the Messenger of Allah said, ‘Arrogance is refusing the truth and belittling people’.” We should remember that this is the arrogance which he states will prevent one from entering Jannah.


Since they craved Allah’s mercy and feared His punishment, how could they approach their brothers in any manner except the kind and gentle manner in which they did? They at times even preferred their brothers over their own selves as Allah also mentions in surat al-Hashr. Thus, their gentle and kind treatment of their brothers was a reflection of their own humility.


For those who don’t know so much about the Companions and Tabi’een, consider popular culture friendships that represented the type of brotherhood or sisterhood commanded upon us. For the slightly more mature male crowd, think of Forrest Gump’s relationships with Lt. Dan and Bubba in Forrest Gump or the relationship between Sgt.’s Murtough and Riggs in the Lethal Weapon series or even the movie Stand By Me. For the mature female crowd, think of the relationships between the women in Steel Magnolias (before you say or think anything – I didn’t see this one ok, but I heard it was representative). For the younger movie crowd or the older reader crowd, think of the relationships between Sam and Frodo or Merry and Pippin in the Lord of the Rings. I think you will get the idea of what is meant insha’Allah.


Although these are movies, they are movies that have left a great impression on their viewers. In another time, it was the real life behavior of Muslims that left an impression on others around them leaving them to crave that sort of brotherly love and care in their own lives eventually leading them to Islam.


Yet, what about our behavior to each other today? Is there a description for this “vulture-culture” between us in the Quran?


بَأْسُهُمْ بَيْنَهُمْ شَدِيدٌ تَحْسَبُهُمْ جَمِيعًا وَقُلُوبُهُمْ شَتَّى ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَّا يَعْقِلُونَ


Their enmity among themselves is intense. You think that they are united, but their hearts are divided, that is because they are a people who understand not. [59:14]


Ibn Kathir comments in relation to this ayah, “even though one might see them combining forces and think that these forces are harmonious, yet in reality, they are divided severely. Ibrahim An-Nakha`i said that this Ayah refers to the hypocrites and the People of the Scriptures …” 


Thus, this is the description of the hypocrites among others – that their enmity to one another is intense, that their hearts are divided and that they are a people of ignorance and hence ignorant behavior.


Let us carefully consider these noble ayaat and ahadith and ask ourselves which group we belong to: the group that loves one another to the point of preferring the other, giving the other benefit of the doubt, showing gentleness and love and advising with etiquette; or are we the group that is described with arrogance, ignorance and with the characteristics of the hypocrites? May Allah always make us from the first group and may He lead us to repent if we have been other than that until now – ameen.


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Dr. Ali Shehata is the author of Demystifying Islam: Your Guide to the Most Misunderstood Religion of the 21st Century. Dr. Ali is an Emergency and Family Medicine physician currently living in an area of central Florida. He was born in Maryland to parents who had immigrated to the US from Egypt. He has studied Islam mainly through traditional methods among various scholars, du'at and students of knowledge here in the US.



  1. Amatullah

    December 4, 2008 at 3:48 PM

    Ameen. Jazaakum Allahu khayran Dr Ali for this amazing piece.

    It is as if these ayaat and ahadeeth do not affect us anymore. Nowadays, when you say to someone “inna-mal mu’minoona ikhwah”, instead of being a reminder to refrain, they continue their backbiting, their slander, their name-calling. The believers are those who when they are reminded of Allah and His ayaat, their hearts shake with fear and humility.

    What amazes me is the description of the believers. Allah ta’ala says they are ‘ruhamaa’, plural of ‘Raheem’–the true mu’mins are raheem to one another: excessively merciful, showing and expressing a lot of rahmah. Allah ta’ala also uses inna-ma, a word of exclusion, in the ayah of Hujuraat: the believers are nothing BUT brothers…that’s all we are.

    How far we have strayed, wa Allahul Musta’aan.

  2. jazaakallahu khayr for the reminder

    December 4, 2008 at 6:07 PM

    amin to the du’aa

  3. SH

    December 4, 2008 at 7:12 PM

    Subhanallah what an awesome reminder! I benefited a lot …I was reading the quran the other day and came across the same verses but your reflection upon them really makes one understand the need to implement these. Ah so much to learn and implement can take a lifetime which is exciting!

  4. Iman

    December 4, 2008 at 7:20 PM

    subhanallah, how powerful…”Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter are better than the (former) …. [49:11]” I’m thinking about ‘objective criticism’ (read: gossip) at work. One may not be the one gossiping, but letting it happen is just as bad. May Allah make our hearts firm on the deen and purify our speech, ameen

  5. mulsimah

    December 4, 2008 at 8:43 PM

    salaam Im not able to post in the ‘point of view from a single brother. ‘ its not going thru? it does go thru but nothing comes actually

    -Pulled it out from “spam”. It happens sometimes, nothing specific to post -Editor

  6. sister

    December 4, 2008 at 8:56 PM

    Jazak Allah Khair for this article and reminder. I have always thought about this topic.
    Ameen to your duas.

  7. Amad

    December 4, 2008 at 9:07 PM

    jazakAllahkhair Dr. Ali… this kind of reminder was sorely needed.
    May Allah make us all the practitioners of softness in speech and action.

  8. Abu Amad

    December 4, 2008 at 11:22 PM

    Jazakum Allahu Khairan,
    Finaly some great points to reflect on.

  9. Amad

    December 4, 2008 at 11:44 PM

    So glad to see my dad blogging… or someone who wants to be my dad :)

  10. Anonymous

    December 5, 2008 at 1:37 AM

    or has a son named after your ;)

  11. ibnabeeomar

    December 5, 2008 at 2:20 AM

    this was a great reminder, jazakallahu khayr. looking forward to the next one insha’Allah :)

  12. Ibrahim

    December 6, 2008 at 11:16 PM

    JazakAllahu khiarain Dr. Ali for this post. Very important reminder.

  13. iman

    January 12, 2009 at 2:19 PM

    asalaamu alaikum

    that was beautiful but now having been the victim of all this bad manners i feel superior that i have manners and am gentle.


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