Islam is the most complete and perfect way of life that mankind has ever known. Practicing the religion of Islam while performing good deeds will enable one to experience true happiness in this world, while receiving great blessings in the hereafter, as Allah says: ‘Whoever does deeds of righteousness, whether male or female and they are believers, then we will surely grant him a pleasant and happy life in this world, and we shall also reward them in great proportions and even more in the hereafter for the deeds that they used to do in the worldly life.’
From the important teachings and themes we find constantly mentioned in Allah’s revelation-directly as well as indirectly- is the importance of brotherhood and sisterhood based upon the Quran and Sunnah. It is an endless and extensive topic that we constantly need to be reminded of over and over again.
Surely, striving to strengthen the ties of unity and brotherhood in Islam is the first task that all Muslim communities should strive to establish, especially here in the USA. Our role model is the Prophet Muhammad Salallaahu 'alyhi wa sallam who joined the Muhajireen and Ansaar who were once strangers and perhaps rival enemies, and made them brothers in Islam, as Allah mentioned in the Quran:
Allah says: “Hold firmly all of you unto the rope of Allah and do not be divided, and remember the blessing that Allah bestowed upon you all, when you were once enemies, but Allah was the one who unified your hearts, and know you have become brothers, and you were once on the edge of falling into the hellfire, and Allah saved all of you from it, and this is how Allah clarifies his verses to you so that you all may be guided…’
As we have a command from Allah in the Quran to be united and a prohibition of being divided and separated in the same verse. So commands are obligatory upon us to follow, and prohibitions are obligatory upon us to avoid. So we must unify upon the Quran and Sunnah, all Muslims, and we must do everything in our power to prevent dissension and division in our ranks.
It is only the true acceptance and implementation of Islam that removes the hatred and enmity of enemies from people’s hearts, which leads people who were once fierce enemies and turns them into loving brothers and sisters.
The universal Islamic brotherhood is something that the world has never witnessed, something that history has never known, something that puzzles the politicians, and boggles the minds of sociologists, researchers, and even the historians. Brotherhood based upon ‘la ilaha illa allah Muhammad rasulullah’ is the only thing that can unify the poor man with the rich man without arrogance or pride, the only thing that can unify the white man with the black man without racism and prejudice, the only thing that can unify the free man with the slave man without distinction, the only thing that can unify the Pakistani man and Arab man with the African man without a feeling of superiority, and the European man with the Asian man without hatred, jealousy, dislike, and discrimination.
It is only Islam which binds and unites its followers as a universal brotherhood and as a result of the strength of that bond-all of the community becomes as if it is one body… If one organ suffers/complains about pain, then the rest of the body joins it in fever and restlessness. If one member of the community is suffering, then the rest of the ummah suffers and feels the pain. If one member falls into misguidance or disobedience, then it is the responsibility of the rest of the community to advise that person and bring him back to the community and congregation of the Muslims. The connection of brothers and sisters in Islam is like the connection of our hands with our wrists, and our legs with our shin, and our heads with our shoulders.
Prophet Muhammad Salallaahu 'alyhi wa sallam expressed this in the beautiful hadeeth: “The likeness of the believers in their mutual mercy, compassion and love is like that of one body, when one organ of the body suffers/complains about pain then the rest of the body joins it in restlessness and fever.”
The prophet not only compared our brotherhood and unity as a body and its organs, but he also explained that the relationship between brothers in Islam should be one that is as solid and supportive as a wall or building, as he said: “The believer is to the believer like parts of a building, each one of them supporting the other."
As Allah says in the Quran: ‘Indeed, Allah loves those who fight in His cause in a row as though they are a [single] structure joined firmly together.
Qatadah said: Don’t you see how the one constructing a building doesn’t like to see his building with faults, or walls with cracks. Similarly, this is how Allah likes to see the believers unified as one fortified wall/building not only on the battlefield but also in their prayers.
The ranks of the Muslims should be unified wherever we are; if we cannot be unified physically, then we need to at least be unified spiritually, and unified within our hearts, unified upon the correct understanding and actualization of ‘la ilaha illa Allah Muhammadur rasullallah’ whether we’re in the masjid in prayer, or out in the workplace, at school, in the marketplace; wherever we are we need to be supportive of each other and not let Satan come between us, not in prayer in the masjid, nor in our dealings with each other outside the masjid.
Unification and brotherhood must start within our hearts and souls. It must start by rectifying our beliefs, deeds, statements, manners, and dealings; and making them in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah. We should strive to be united upon the Quran and Sunnah inwardly (soul-heart-beliefs) and outwardly (statements-actions-behavior).
This is why we see the Prophet Salallaahu 'alyhi wa sallam used to emphasize the importance of straightening the rows during the prayer, so that our bodies can be physically and spiritually aligned and unified.
The Prophet Salallaahu 'alyhi wa sallam emphasized the importance of being unified outwardly as well as internally, ordering us to be unified in our prayers:
"Straighten your rows (he said it three times), by Allah either you straighten your rows or Allah will cause conflict between your hearts."
“Make the rows straight and do not differ, lest your hearts differ.” “Straighten your rows, for straightening the rows is part of perfecting prayer.”
“Slaves of Allaah! Make your rows straight or Allaah will cause discord among you.”
And emphasizing the importance of unity he also prohibited us from leaving gaps in our ranks as he said:
"Establish your lines straight, for indeed the angels pray in lines. Align your shoulders, close the gaps, yield your hands to your brothers, and do not leave any gaps for Shaytan. Whoever connects a line, Allah maintains him, and whoever breaks a line, Allah cuts him off."
“Do not leave gaps for Shaytan” “Do not differ, or your hearts will dissent” “Do not make your chests irregular, or your hearts will dissent”
So If we want to be truly unified, then let’s work on purifying our souls, hearts, intellects with the Quran and Sunnah. Let’s start unifying upon pure Islamic monotheism and the imitation of the beloved Prophet Muhammad Salallaahu 'alyhi wa sallam. Let’s start unifying in the Masajid by standing close to our brothers in the prayer like a fortified wall, foot to foot and shoulder to shoulder during prayer; being supportive of each other physically and outwardly, so that this physical unity will permeate and enter into our souls and intellects eventually leading our hearts being united no matter where we are on the face of this earth.
Faruq Post is the Imam of the Islamic Society of Frederick in Maryland. He holds a Master degree in Hadith Sciences from Umm Al-Quraa' University in Makkah.