The basis for the following article was originally published in 2005 by the Taliyah al-Mahdi.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
There was once a follower of the Ahl al-Bayt, a student of the A’immah of the Prophet Muhammad’s progeny, whose family would repeatedly argued bitterly with him. This bitter arguing was regarding his decision to enter the fold of the Din al-Fitrah, the Religion of Nature, which had been proclaimed by the Prophet Muhammad. For this man was very devote in his quest for knowledge, and he had followed truth wherever it led him. His brother would bicker and argue with him, as would his parents, yet no matter what he still loved them and prayed that one day they too would enter the Din as he had done. When they fought, his brother would say mean and spiteful things against him, as brothers often do. He would bring up things which he had done in his past which in hindsight proved very stupid decisions. “You never think anything through, remember when you did this, this and that? You are the stupidest person alive!” Time and time again conflict arose and venomous words were spit against him.
Nevertheless, his family would come to him the day after a large fight between them all. Time and time again he would forgive them, even though they were kuffar, quoting the teachings of his Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, saying: “The virtue that will force a Mu’min to enter into Jannah is rich moral behavior with parents.”
His parents and brother were embarrassingly pleased with his forgiveness. His words would leave them in shame of their actions, and their adoration of the teachings of Islam. Despite what they had done and said, he loved them and kept no account of their wrongs.
It was not too long before this man, this student of the Ahl al-Bayt was sitting in Hawza and heard the infamous words of Rasul Allah‘s final Khutbah at Ghadir Khumm: “A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection.”
“Maa shaa’ Allah. Maa shaa’ Allah.” Was heard subtly on the lips of students. “Allahu Akbar!” the student let out, in a more audible tone, feeling in his heart that he truly appreciated these words. Shortly after this the lesson for the day came to a close, the man gathered up his belongings and retired for the day.
The man went home reciting Ahadeeth along the way, stopping along the way to make Salaah right when the time arrived for it. He was admired for his taqwa, his piety and fear of Allah. He was known for his knowledge of the Din. Along the way the some friends who knew this man heard him coming. One of them broke away and called out to him: “Akhi! Where were you last night?” He reminded the man that he had agreed to help him with something. But the man had completely forgotten about this and naturally apologized “Forgive me Akhi! I forgot all about this, I was so busy with work, and studies.” But this had not been the first time he had failed this brother so the brother erupted at him: “I’ve had it with you! You are a good for nothing friend! I have helped you do so many things and yet you cannot keep a simple, singular commitment to me?”
The man who had asked for forgiveness responded angrily that he would not be spoken to in this manner, and with that he continued walking off…
The next day he came across some others that he knew and they asked him about this conflict, this fitnah. They said, “We heard that you and so and so had a big argument yesterday.” The man grew angry at this old acquaintance and tore into him to these people.
As he continued he passed this man who had been so angry with him the day before. The man said “Akhi, I do not want you to think that I am not upset with you breaking your commitment to me, or you being oblivious to this while I am aware of my commitments to you. Nevertheless, I do not want you to think that I meant any of that which I said. I was angry and this anger over took me, just as our Imam `Ali once told us that ‘Anger is a form of temporary insanity, which ends in remorse.’ This is true Akhi, and indeed I feel remorse for this. I meant my criticisms of your actions, but I regret the anger with which I said these things. I wish for you to consider what I said, but please forgive how I spoke to you.”
Yet this man would not hear of it. He said “No, I cannot do this. You are still my brother in Islam, but I will never speak with you again.”
The other man waited and waited for forgiveness to enter into the man’s heart, but it never came. When he would see the man walking home from his hours of study in the Hawza he would plead: “Akhi, this is not how we are supposed to be. Is it not narrated that Rasul Allah said: ‘Do not be angry with each other and do not envy each other and do not turn away from each other, and be slaves of Allah, brothers. For it is not halaal for a Muslim to shun his brother for more than three nights?’ Akhi, it has been much longer than three nights, and still you shun me! Why do you forgive your kafir brother in blood, but reject your Muslim brother in spirit? Blood is perishable, but the spirit lives on. Akhi, please forgive me, not in a conceptual way of merely uttering the words of forgiveness, but by truly feeling forgiveness and not shunning your Muslim brother.”
The man said nothing in response but walked away holding a grudge and shunning his brother.
O Brothers and sisters, O Children of Adam, when there is conflict between brothers, it is not to be ignored. Islam is the Din of Nature, the Natural Religion, and it is not natural for brother to turn against brother. The Ummah is a family unit. Family units are to be tightly knit, and when conflict flares up, it is allowed to burn itself out, and then any words, bitterness and even insults are forgiven. This is the nature of brotherhood that we see in families bound only by blood, and within the Din of Islam, we are to see it displayed even more so.
Islamic brotherhood is not hypothetical or conceptual. Muhammad said it clear that every Muslim is a brother to every other Muslim. He did not say “You are brother… IN Islam” neither did he say “You are all LIKE brothers.” Imam `Ali was certainly not his BLOOD brother, and yet he said to him “You are my brother in this world and the next.” Yes, he said in both this world of the Dunyaa’ and in Akheerah, Imam `Ali was his brother despite the fact that `Ali neither came from the seed of his father, nor from the womb of his mother.
Muhammad said “You are all brothers” and that Islam itself is a true Brotherhood. This brotherhood is thicker than blood. This brotherhood is MORE “real” than the ties of family and blood in the sight of Allah and the Mu’minun. To honor family ties and not honor this brotherhood, ordained by Allah and proclaimed by Hu’s Rasul is to embrace the pure illusion of the world of Dunyaa’ and to reject the Haqeeqah, the Reality. This is not the way of Islam, but is the tendency of the era of Jahiliyah.
When Muhammad, al-khatam al-anbiyaa told us that we are brothers of each other, this is what he meant, and more importantly this is what ALLAH meant for him to convey. These words were not of him“self.” Clearly this is why Muhammad forgave even those who he would foretell would leave the fold of the Din. As it is written that Muhammad said: “Certain individuals among my companions will be forcibly pushed away from my Pool (of Kawthar) on the Day of Judgment just as strange camels are pushed away from the watering place, and I shall cry, ‘O Lord! My companions! My companions!’ and it shall be said to me, ‘You do not know what innovations they invented after you,’ so they will be pushed away towards the left side, and I shall say, ‘Away with them; ruined they shall be.”
Yes, Muhammad even knew there were those amongst him who would betray the Din, and would divide the Ummah, and yet he never disassociated with him. This is because he knew the reality of the words of `Isa when he instructed us to pray that we be forgiven by Allah just as we forgive others. And as well, the words that by the same standard or measure that we judge, so too shall it be judged against us. This is why `Isa knew that Yehudah the Sikkari (Judas Iscariot), would betray him – as the story goes, at least – and yet he kept him around as one of his twelve innermost disciples; never shunning him. For it was not `Isa who rejected and shunned Yehudah, but Yehudah who rejected and shunned him. Similarly, this is why `Isa foretold that Shimeon Kefa’ (Simon Peter), would deny him three times before the rooster crowed the next morning – in spite of Kefa’s claims that he would gladly die for him – and yet this did not cause `Isa to deny Shimeon or shun him; neither did it cause him to reject and disassociate himself from Kefa’ after the fact.
This was because of the nature of brotherhood. What brother would shun his brother when a hand of forgiveness is offered? Yehudah was looked upon as `Isa’s brother. `Isa knew that this brother would betray him and yet he still did not reject him, because he sincerely loved him and viewed him in the same way that even most kuffar view and respect their own blood ties. This is the nature of brotherhood and this is the nature of Islam, of Submission to the Divine Will.
Freewill exists and we each are responsible for our individual choices in life. Thus it is possible for people to go against this and do the opposite of what they are told, but this is not Imam. It is for the Mu’minun to make only those choices in accordance with the Divine Will. Thus, it is written that Imam Al-Husayn said: “The person having confidence in Allah’s free-will (satisfied with Divine destiny), does not wish to be in a state other than the one chosen for him by Allah.”
This is why both Muhammad and `Isa treated even those who they knew would betray them and even those who would betray the Din as brothers. When they were approached for forgiveness, there was no puffed up “nafs” who thought of holding a grudge or refusing forgiveness. This was not their Sunnah. Those who sought to be their companions were their companions. They did not decide “I like this person and our ‘personalities’ mesh well together so I will select him as ‘my’ friend.” They did not decide who would be their companions, they accepted all who came to them. Those who sought more, were given more; as it is written: “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened.”
How do we know what is Allah’s Will and what is the will of man? We know this because Allah has told us and given us the example of the Prophets and the purified ones, the Mutahharoon of the Ahl al-Bayt to emulate. It is for this reason that it is written that Imam Moosaa Kaadhim relayed a Hadeeth from his ancestor, the Prophet Muhammad saying: “If any Mu’min resolves or even tries to resolve the difficult matters, affairs, or problems of another Mu’min, in reward on the Day of Judgment, Allah will please the heart of that person.”
Thus, we know Allah’s Will. We do not have to wonder which of these two men in this story are right or wrong. For both men had wronged each other, just as any brothers will do, but despite the unforgiving man’s piety and devotion to learning, he had not paid attention to the very words of Muhammad which he himself had adored about brotherhood. Thus, it is written that Muhammad, al-Khatam al-Anbiyaa’ likewise said: “A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He neither oppresses him nor humiliates him nor looks down upon him. The taqwa is here, (and while saying so) he pointed towards his chest three times. It is a serious evil for a Muslim that he should look down upon his brother Muslim. All things of a Muslim are inviolable for his brother in faith; his blood, his wealth and his honor.”
This, brothers and sisters, is the nature of Taqwa, of piety, of fear of Allah. True Taqwa is in the Innermost Heart, the Qalb of the Mu’min. It is not in the outward acts of piety and devotion. It is not the external, Zahiri form of Shariy`ah. These things are important, but the essence of Taqwa does not lie externally in the performance of these rituals and acts, but rather internally, from where the motivation to manifest these outward acts should spring forth from.
For this reason it is written that Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq quoted his ancestor, the Prophet Muhammad, saying: “Have fear of Allah with the fear of His punishments (Azab) and perform virtues without the intention of showing them off to people. Performing virtues and posing to be pious just for showing off to people is a form of Shirk and such deeds will not be rewarded by Allah All Mighty. Allah only rewards deeds/acts that have been performed for purely the sake of His happiness. The destination of such a person (who adopts piousness to show off to people) is the worst portion of Hell called Sijeen.”
O Children of Adam, do you not understand that every performance of a deed centered around the nafs, the ego of one’s-“self” or the “self” of any “other” is a form of “shirk,” of polytheistic worship of the “ego-self?” If our deeds are not performed due to the Garden within the Qalb, then we will never enter the Garden in the Hereafter. It is for this reason that `Isa called the outwardly “pious” Bet Shammai school of P’rushim, or “Pharisees” a “den of vipers” and “white washed tombs” who were clean and freshly painted on the outside, yet filled with death on the inside.
“Woe unto you, scribes and [Bet Shammai] Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like white washed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful on the outside, but within you are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” Matthew 23.27-28
Brothers and Sisters, we can say “Akhi” this and “Ukhti” that, but if we do not TRULY view each other as brothers and sisters, forgiving all trespasses against each other just as we ourselves wish and often expect to be forgiven by Allah, then we have not embraced the essence of Taqwa. If we cannot achieve unity and brotherhood on an interpersonal level within our communities and the people we meet, then how can we expect for the Ummah itself to ever find unity. If we cannot achieve unity and brotherhood on an interpersonal level within our communities and the people we meet, then how can we expect for conflicting parties on the world stage to ever come to view each other as brothers and put aside the animalistic drive for one people’s dominion over the other?
Change begins within. If we do not change what is within us, then we will never change the world which is outside of us. For if we cannot wage this inner Jihad against the ego which resents, harbors grudges and grievances, then how will we ever hope to win an external Jihad against forces that fight and oppress others based on their own feelings of having them“selves” been wronged? If we cannot win the inner Jihad, then not only will we never win any external struggle against wickedness and oppression, but we will merely be manifesting a form of the same wickedness, ego-centrism and oppression; merely caked with the deceptions of religious terminology like so much white-wash painted onto sepultures.