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Doctrine of the Rights of Brotherhood between Muslims

Adopted from the book : "The Faith of Shi'a Islam" by : "Allamah Muhammad Ridha al-Muzaffar"

One of the highest and most excellent instructions of Islam to all Muslims is brotherhood without distinction of birth, rank or position. But, unfortunately, Muslims have always neglected this. One of the smallest duties of Islamic brotherhood is that a Muslim should wish for his brother what he wishes for himself, and that he should not wish for his brother what he does not wish for himself, as we shall point out in a tradition from Imam Sadiq.

One must study this duty well, it is accounted a very small one in the opinion of the Descendants of Muhammad. One sees that Muslims find it difficult to fulfill this small duty, for their morals and behaviour are not in accordance with the Islamic spirit. Concentrate carefully on this small responsibility; if people were to repeat it, neither oppression, nor enmity nor theft, nor falsehood, nor back-biting, nor informing would be found anywhere among them. If they realized the result of this and be found anywhere among them. If they realized the result of this and were careful in carrying out this duty, oppression and enmity would disappear; they would live as brothers with each other and attain the highest of happiness among themselves. Madinah al-Fadilah 10 of the ancient philosophers would become a reality, no government would be needed, no court of law, not police, prison or criminal law; they would be free from colonizers and tyrants; oppressors could not force their iniquity on them; ad the earth would become paradise.

Furthermore, if Islamic brotherhood reigned among people, as Islam has said it should, then the word justice would disappear from our dictionaries, justice and its laws would not be needed, and brotherhood alone would suffice to ensure goodness, peace, happiness and pleasure among us. For humanity, in such a situation, would have no need for justice and its laws; these are only needed when there is a lack of love between people. A mother is kind and good towards her children because of her love and compassion, not because of the commandments of justice. We can understand why a man loves only himself and that which is agreeable to him; it is impossible for him to love something for someone unless it belongs to him. And when he does love something or someone, it is impossible for him to give them to someone else whom he dislikes, unless three exists a principle which is stronger than his desires, like a belief in justice and kindness, and in this case, he may devote his interests to someone else whom he does not like.

Such an ideal,when it dwells in the human mind, keeps it ina position above all material things, so that it is able to realize the superiority of justice and goodness, and to show kindness to others. It will be seen that man needs such superior ideals when there is no kindness and brotherhood between him and his fellow men. That is to say that as long as he lacks the feeling of brotherhood -and the fact that he does is because of his egotism and desires -as long as this feeling is missing, he must believe in the goodness of justice and kindness, following the guidance of Islam. And if he fails to believe in this as well, then he does not deserve to be thought of as a Muslim; such a man, even in name, is not a friend of Allah; he has done nothing for the sake of Allah, as well see in the tradition of the Imam which follows. Usually human desires overcome man, and ti is difficult for him to prepare himself even to believe in justice, and so it is much more difficult for him to attain that perfect belief through which he cam vanquish his desire.

We can see that the brotherhood of man is very difficult to obtain as long as its desirability is not sensed. For this reason, Imam Sadiq did not wish to explain to al-Mu'alla ibn Khunays more than he could understand, because Ha'far was afraid to teach him what he could not put into practice. Mu'alla asked:

What does one Muslim owe another?

There are seven duties incumbent upon him, Should he neglect but done nothing for the sake of Allah.

'What may these things be?

'I feel compassion for you. I am afraid lest you learn them, but you neglect to put them into practice, or you cannot. There no power but in Allah.

Mu'alla then relates that the Imam told him the seven:

'First, the smallest duty is that you should wish for your brother what you wish for yourself, and that you should wish what you do not desire for yourself should not befall your brother.'

So, this is a small duty! Do we find this easy? That is to say, we present-day Muslim? May those who call themselves Muslims but do not act in accordance with this small but strict duty find themselves disgraced.

It is amazing that the backward state of the Muslims should be ascribed to Islam. while the only reason for it is the behaviour of the Muslims, that is those who call themselves Muslims but do not carry out this humble duty.

Having reminded ourselves and mentioned our present circumstances, we shall now list the seven duties as related by Mu' alla from Imam Ja'afar (AS).

(a) Wish for your bother what you wish for yourself, and wish that what you do not desire for yourself should not befall your brother.

(b) Do not make your brother angry, but seek to please him and obey his wishes.

(c) Help him with your soul. your tongue. your hands and your feet.

(d) Be his eye to see by, his guide to lead him and his mirror.

(e) Do not eat your fill when he is hungry, nor drink and clothe yourself when he is thirsty and naked.

(f) If he has no servant, but you do, it is incumbent on you to send your servant to him to him to wash his clothes, cook his food and spread out his mattress.

(g) Accept his promise and his invitation; visit him when he is sick, attend his funeral, and see to his needs before he asks, hurrying to do them if you can.

When he had finished, Imam Ja'far:

If you fulfil these duties you can call yourself his friend, and he will be your friend also.

There are many traditions told from our Imams, and most of them are collected in' Kitab al-Wasa'il'11 in the relevant sections.

Some people have imagined that the Imams meant brotherhood only among the Shi'a., but if they were to read the traditions they would understand that their imagination is deceiving them, although the Imams did not follow their guidance, Let is us mention here the conversation of Imam Sadiq with Mu'awiyah ibn Wahab.

'How should we treat those who do not follow our ways?'

'Look to your Imams whom you obey, and obey them and imitate them. They visit them (i.e those who are mot Shi'a) when they are sick, go to their funerals, give evidence for or against them, and repay their trust.'

No, the brotherhood that the Imams envisaged among their followers is higher than ordinary Islamic brotherhood, sand it has been mentioned briefly in the introduction. It will suffice to read the following conversation between Imam Sadiq and Aban ibn Taghlab.

Aban relates: While I was circumambulating the Ka'bah with Imam Sadiq, one for our friends signalled to me that I should immediately go with him to help him. The Imam noticed and said to me

O Aban, does he mean you'?'

I replied: Yes.'

'Does he believe in what you believe in?'


Then go with him and break your circumambulation.

I asked if it was incumbent on em to do so, and he said that it was, Then I went with the man to help him, and after doing so I returned to the Imam and asked him about the rights of the believers.

Do not ask me concerning them, he said.

But I insisted.

Give your brother half of what you own, he told me, and looked at me. He understood my surprise and said:' O Aban! Do you know that Allah admires those believers who prefer others to themselves?

I replied; Yes.

'When you give your brother half of what you own you do not prefer him above yourself, but only when you give him the other half do you really prefer him above yourself.

If we feel shame at this, then really we should not call ourselves believers. We are quite remote from the teachings of the Imams. Everyone who reads this tradition becomes astonished as did Aban, but then he pays no further attention to it and forgets it, as if he were not the person addressed, and as if he were not responsible.

Notes :

10. The Virtuous City/State Notably the ideal in government and politics as described by al-Farabi (259-339/872-950), and modelled by him on Greek political theory.

11. Wasa'il ash-Shi'a. The largest and most widely referred to collection of Shi'a tradition relevant to all branches of fiqh, compiled by Muhammad Hasan al-Hurr al-Amili (d. 1104/1693) the latest printing in Iran is in 20 vols.