“A faithful believer to a faithful believer is like the bricks of a wall, reinforcing each other” (Bukhari).
Whenever we read this hadith or others stressing the importance of brotherhood or stating its rights, our minds usually go to the sisters at the masjid, the colleagues in class, the woman next door, etc. Seldom do our hearts go to our own family members, perhaps due to the close bond we share. Thus, we rarely see our loved ones as our brethren in Islam. Allah the Most High says: “Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship) and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the needy, the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet) and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like such as are proud and boastful” (An-Nisa:36).
We understand from the explanations of the ayah above that there are three types of neighbours: a neighbour who has one right, the one with two and the one with three. The neighbour who has three rights is the Muslim neighbour who is our relative for he has the rights of Islam, kinship and neighbourhood. The neighbour who has two rights is the Muslim neighbour for he has the rights of Islam and neighbourhood. The neighbour who has one right is the non-Muslim neighbour.
From the foregoing, it is evident that we owe our spouses, children, parents and relatives the duties of brotherhood just like we owe other Muslims and actually even more. The following highlights some of the duties of brotherhood which we owe to every Muslim including our family members.
Kindness, love and mercy
The Prophet (SAW) said: “You see the believers, as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind, resembling one body, so that if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness and fever with it” (Bukhari and Muslim). It is very important to show kindness, love and mercy to everyone and it is especially important in our homes. Being kind and gentle towards our spouses and children arouses in them love and mercy towards us which begets a warm and loving atmosphere in the home.
Liking good for them
The Prophet (SAW) said: “None of you will have faith till he wishes for his Muslim brother what he likes for himself” (Bukhari and Muslim). Thus, we are expected to wish good for others just like we wish for ourselves. This can be applied in the home when we put ourselves in our spouse’s or children’s shoes. Ask yourself: “Won’t I be glad if my hubby gets me a surprise gift today?”, “Wouldn’t I be upset if Abdullah did this?”, etc.
Assist them in righteousness
“…Help one another in righteousness and piety, but do not help one another in sin and transgression…” (Al-Maidah:2).
As brethren, we are expected to assist one another to strive towards noble ends in this world and the Hereafter and we are expected to caution one another whenever we are about to transgress the limits of Allah (SWT). This is also very important in the home. Perhaps your husband is in a low state of iman and is neglecting his ‘ibadah or your child is tending toward prohibitions; it becomes your duty to assist them in overcoming that trying phase, just like you would do with any other Muslim.
Avoid oppression, satisfy their needs and overlook their faults
“A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfills the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever relieves the troubles of his brother, Allah will relieve his troubles on the Day of Resurrection and whoever covers up the fault of a Muslim, Allah will cover up his fault on the Day of Resurrection” (Bukhari and Muslim).
Therefore, we owe our fellow Muslims the right to be assisted whenever they are in need, relieving them of discomforts and overlooking their shortcomings. Who could be more deserving of these beautiful virtues than our family members? Overlooking the faults of your husband and children would save you a lot of nagging time – they would appreciate it especially when they already know that they have wronged you.
“O you who believe! Fulfill (your) obligations…” (Al-Maidah:1).
It is a duty on every true believer to honour pledges and contracts, because not fulfilling a promise without legitimate justification is forbidden and considered treachery and disloyalty in Islam. How many wives neglect the rights of their husbands, how many mothers promise their children gifts for doing something good and refuse to give them and how often does this weaken the bonds of familial love and warmth?
The Prophet (SAW) said: “If any of you meets his brother then you should greet him and if a tree or wall stands between them and you pass such a barrier and meet him, then greet him again” (Abu Dawood). This is a very important right of brotherhood which has a lot of etiquettes pertaining to it. For instance, we are expected to greet those whom we know and those whom we do not know. This is very important in the Muslim home as the spread of salam increases love between hearts, which is necessary in an ideal Islamic home. Also, it is sunnah for an adult Muslim to greet children in order to teach them the Islamic greeting and to develop in them the spirit of closeness and affection.
The Prophet (SAW) ordered us to do seven things: “To visit our sick brethren, to follow the funeral procession, to say ‘may Allah have mercy on you’ to a sneezer if he praises Allah, to help others fulfill their oaths, to help the oppressed, to accept the invitation (to a wedding banquet) and to return greetings” (agreed upon).
These and many more are the rights of our brethren in faith and we should strive to fulfill these duties to the best of our abilities. Our spouses, children and relatives who are Muslims are most deserving of these rights and fulfilling them will not only be rewarding in the Hereafter, but will also promote a warm and cordial relationship in the family.
Haleemah Oladamade Ahmad is a computer scientist and a writer who loves to pour her thoughts into her pen. She can be contacted via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.