Summary of 7.3 “Human Brotherhood and Equality III”

In the last program we continued the subject of human equality and brotherhood and we sighted some of the deeds and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in order to make clear the principles that were annunciated in the Quran.’ We indicated that the only criterion for superiority between human beings is piety (faith and righteous deeds) and that God does not look into people’s bodies, wealth or nobility of decent.’ God only looks into people’s hearts.’ We are all children of Adam who was created from clay (dust).’ We pointed out that human brotherhood is not only extended among believers but both the Quran and sayings of the Prophet indicate that it is to be extended to none Muslims (not fighting Muslims/ at peace) as well.’ We referred to a saying of the Prophet that said that whoever hurts a none Muslim living under Muslim protection is hurting the Prophet.

Within this brotherhood there is nothing wrong with having brotherhood of faith.’ This is not a substitution for the broader human equality but falls within its boundaries.’ Then we went on to analyze brotherhood of faith; we indicated that in Islam there is no distinction between someone who is born to Muslim parents/parent or a person who is a revert.’ It is not a matter of a person claiming decent but rather what a person really is.

7.4′ Brotherhood of Faith

Host:’ Is there superiority for those who are able to communicate (speak, write and read) the Arabic language (of the Quran)?’ Also, is there distinctions between Muslims if they reside by Muslim holy places (I.E. Mecca and Medina)?

Jamal Badawi:

First of all, it is definitely a blessing for any person to know or learn how to communicate in Arabic.’ It would definitely help a person understand the Quran and avoid some of the problems that arise from translations of the Quran.’ It is also an act of worship to recite the Quran in its original language.’ This, however, does not mean that a person who does not speak Arabic is not more righteous than someone who does speak Arabic.’ Indeed, there is no language in itself that is regarded as a holy language, even if it is the language of the scripture.’ The Quran itself is holy because it is the word of God.’ The words of the Quran in the exact Arabic wording is holy.’ In every language including Arabic have profanities so we can not say that a language is holy, but the revelation of God in itself is holy.’ The Prophet (PBUH) defined language from a linguistic aspect ‘Arabic is a tongue, whoever speaks it is an Arab.” In other words he is saying that the ethnic aspect is not significant and that we can go beyond ethnic bonds.’ However knowledge in the language itself doesn’t make someone more superior than another.

Residing near holy places is a blessing and can be inspirational but it doesn’t mean that one has inherent superiority regardless of one’s own behavior, understanding and practice of Islam.’ There are many infractions done by people living in Medina and Mecca.’ There is no particular privilege by virtue of language or where someone lives, but by faith, sincerity and good deeds.’ This whole variation is based on the concept of nationalism and parochial type of things but in Islam all Muslims are regarded as an Ummah (not a nation)!

Host:’ What does the word Ummah mean and how does it differ from the word nation?

Jamal Badawi:

I avoided using the term nation because this term usually refers to a group of people who share a particular language, reside within a particular geographic area, a group of people who share a group of history or a group of people who share a common interest.’ When we talk about brotherhood of faith it is not regarded in itself as a distinction between people.’ The term Ummah which is found in the Quran itself means a community of believers who have a fellowship in faith.’ When we say community we are not talking about community or group of people who are interacting face to face or living close to each other.’ Ummah is a community of believers who transcend the boundaries of place and time.’ It transcends the boundary of place because Islam does not believe in this narrow nationalism.’ Nationalism is perceived as a narrow parochial attitude typically expressed with the motto ‘My country; right or wrong.” This is not accepted in Islam.’ It appears that one of the major reasons of the suffering the world in the past and today are these fanatic nationalisms.’ The suffering that was inflicted on humanity in the World Wars, if traced back can be found to be related partially to nationalism.

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said something very eloquent and concise about this attitude of nationalism.’ He said ‘He is not of us, he who proclaims, asabiah, fanaticism (parochialism/partisanship) ,who fights for fanaticism and who dies for fanaticism.” Then the companions asked him what do you mean by asabiah and he replied ‘Helping with acts of oppression or acts injustice.” This gives a clear indication that one of the major problems facing the world today is to support one’s own people even though they are committing acts of oppression.’ Oppression can be in the form of aggression or by supporting tyranny of the majority.’ So both internal and external problems may lie in in the feeling of partisanship which is not really for reasons of faith but simply for superficial foundations.

Host:’ We just discussed how faith supersedes space can you cover how it supersedes time limits?

Jamal Badawi:

Superseding time means that faith is not time bound.’ This goes back to the term that Quran uses that believers are one brotherhood; brotherhood doesn’t only apply in all place and cross all those barriers but it is a brotherhood or fellowship in faith that extends throughout history.’ A believer does not only feel a part of a given community of believers but is a part of a whole caravan of believers throughout history.’ This is clarified best by referring to the terms used in the Quran.’ An example is found in (49:10) ‘The Believers are but a single Brotherhood: So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear Allah, that ye may receive Mercy.” Time is not specified in this verse as all believers throughout history are a part of this brotherhood.’ This indicates that it is not part of history in the sense of being part of a given community of believers after the birth or coming of a great prophet or a great religious teacher, but throughout history from Adam to the last Prophet, Muhammad (PBUH).’ All of these people who sincerely followed their prophet and the true path of God are all brothers and part of this community.’ Islam does not accept the narrow exclusivist type of approach that those who follow this or that prophet are on the true path.’ All prophets followed the true path but people after them are the ones who might have changed or tampered with their teachings.’ A clear example from the Quran is found in (59:10) ‘And those who came after them (the previous believers) say: ‘Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and leave not, in our hearts, rancor (or sense of injury) against those who have believed.’ Our Lord! Thou art indeed Full of Kindness, Most Merciful.” This shows that it is not only about being a part of the existing believers but belong to all believers throughout history.

In two other citations in the Quran (23:51-52) and in (21:92) the messengers and their followers’ are told that ‘Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore serve me (and no other).” The verse in chapter 21 comes after the mention of at least 15 prophets including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Lot, Zachariah, John the Baptist, Jesus, Noah, Ezekiel, Jonah, Ishmael, Job, Idris, David, Zul kifl and Solomon.’ After the Quran mentioned all of these prophets who came in different place at a different time it still says ‘Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood.” This shows that the matter of salvation is not restricted to people who followed a specific person or believed in a particular prophet but that it is the grace of God that has been granted to all prophets and all of their sincere followers.

Host:’ How does blood relationships relate to the question of brotherhood of faith?’ Is there one that takes precedence over the other?

Jamal Badawi:

Brotherhood of faith takes precedence over all barriers (including blood relations).’ Brotherhood in faith’s foundation is the believe and love of God.’ Basically it is a relationship in God and for God.’ The Quran warns us against letting blood relationships supersede relationships of faith.’ For example in the Quran in (9:24) it makes it clear that one should not put family or fortune above the love of Allah ‘If it be that your fathers, your sons, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that ye have gained; the commerce in which ye fear a decline: or the dwellings in which ye delight- are dearer to you than Allah, or His Messenger, or the striving in His cause;- then wait until Allah brings about His decision: and Allah guides not the rebellious.” One may have good relationships with relatives but the brotherhood of faith is relatively more significant and important.’ This does not mean that relatives have no claim on each other (we discussed in The Moral Teachings of Islam the rights of relatives) but one should not put disbeliever from among his relatives above his relationship with a believer in God.

The Quran gives us a clear indication of how we can balance conservation of faith and kindness to relatives (31:14-15)’ ‘And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: (hear the command), ‘Show gratitude to Me and to they parents: to Me is (thy final) Goal.’ ‘But if they strive to make thee join in worship with Me things of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration), and follow the way of those who turn to me (in love): in the end the return of you all is to Me, and I will tell you the truth (and meaning) of all that ye did.’

In the Quran we find several examples family members where one is a believer and one is not and the believer can not help in the salvation or deliverance of his close relative.’ The Grace of God is a very important element for a person’s salvation but this is not a substitute for individual responsibility, true faith and practice.’ There are four examples found in the Quran of a father who is a believer and a son who is a non-believer, a son who is a believer and a father who is a non-believer, a husband who is a believer and a wife who is a non-believer and a case of a wife who is a believer and husband who is a non-believer.

When the Quran tells the story of Prophet Noah it clearly says in (11:43) after Noah build the ark ‘O my son! Embark with us, and be not with the unbelievers!’ and his son refused.’ His son went up on the mountains in order to avoid being drowned, but ‘the son was among those overwhelmed in the Flood.” After his son drowned with the disbelievers, Noah as a father felt a great deal of sympathy towards his son and then God told him (11:46) ‘O Noah1 He is not of thy family: For his conduct is unrighteous’

The second example is of a believing son and a disbelieving father which is the case with Prophet Abraham.’ His father, Azar, was an idol worshiper and Abraham out of love for his father tried to invite him to the path of truth.’ The Quran discusses the dialogue between father and son in depth as Abraham tried to invite him to faith.’ Once Abraham realized that his father was an enemy of God he disassociated himself from him.’ The Quran says in (9:115) ‘But when it became clear to him that he was an enemy to Allah, he dissociated himself from him: for Abraham was most tender-hearted, forbearing.’

The third example is of a believing husband and disbelieving wife.’ The Quran gives examples in chapter 66 of two cases: the wife of Noah and the wife of Lut.’ Both these women did not join their husbands on the true path and on the Day of Judgment they will be told to ‘Enter ye the Fire along with (others) that enter!’ (66:10)

The opposite is also true of a believing wife and disbelieving husband.’ An example of this is found in the Quran about a Pharaoh whose wife, Asia, became a believer.’ Her husband was furious and tried to force her away from the path of truth.’ The Quran describes the beautiful prayer that she used to say as found in the Quran in (66:11) ‘And allah set forth, as an example to those who believe the wife of the Pharaoh: Behold she said: ‘O my Lord! Build for me, in nearness to Thee, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from those that do wrong.’

An interesting saying of the Prophet (PBUH) describing some of the women who achieved perfection: One was Asia (some say she was killed as a result of her belief), the second was Khadijah (wife of the Prophet), third was Fatimah (daughter of the Prophet) and the fourth was Marry mother of Prophet Jesus (PBUH).’ These are a variety of examples that showed that faith came first.