In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful Dear Believers in the United States,…
The religion of Islam emphasizes the importance of community, brotherhood, and unity between brothers and sisters to grow and form a link with the Almighty. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) states, “The communication between brothers in times of closeness should be visitation, and in times of travel, in letters.”1 According to the Imam, true brotherhood or sisterhood must happen in person—only during times of travel should we replace these interactions with written communication.
Due to advances in technology and the fact that we are so often looking down, quite literally, at our phones, many of us have lost the meaning of benefiting from the presence of others. In an age of hyper-connectivity through phones and social media, we may often find ourselves sustaining relationships solely through our digital interactions. There are many ways in which an online connection falls short of sustaining a meaningful relationship. Text-messages lose many inflections, emotions, and expressions. Even with features like video-calling, the elements of quality time spent in good company are absent. More than anything, in-person visitation requires a level of effort that is simply missing in the convenient world of virtual communication. Making an effort to visit people in person preserves a culture of community among our brothers and sisters, which paves the way for Islamic brotherhood to fulfill its purpose.
What is Brotherhood?
Brotherhood in Islam, primarily, serves to build a community of believers who encourage each other to do good and prevent each other from doing evil. God states, “The believers, both male and female, are each other’s protectors. They try to make others do good, prevent them from committing sins, perform their prayers, pay the religious tax, and obey God and His Messenger. God will have mercy on them; God is Majestic and All-wise.”2 This is only possible when feelings of friendship, trust, and honesty exist within a community. Studies have shown that despite the connected nature of our online communications, the majority of people in the United States suffer from loneliness.3 While we should, as believers, seek refuge in God during times of solitude, God has sent our fellow believers as a mercy and instructs us to cultivate love and co-dependence among them. This means taking breaks from our phones, for example, and focusing on what is important as far as our relationships are concerned.
Moreover, our brothers and sisters in faith have rights over us just like our parents, children, and spouses. The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) has described the rights of our fellow brothers in faith when he states, “There are thirty rights for each Muslim incumbent upon his believing brother… [Among the thirty rights of brotherhood are]: To forgive his brother’s mistakes, console him during hard times, hide his faults [from others], dismiss his pitfalls, accept his apology, defend him against those who backbite him, regularly advise him, preserve his friendship, visit him when he becomes sick, attend his funeral procession, accept his invitations, accept his gifts, reward his favors, be of good assistance to him, fulfill his needs, intercede for him, say ‘God have mercy upon you’ when he sneezes, help him find his lost property, reply to his greetings, [and] praise him with [good] words.”4 As we can see, most of these rights that our brothers have over us require us to be present physically and not just use text messages or video calls.
Bits of Advice
1. Know who your friends are: Part of making time for sincere relationships is knowing who to befriend—our relationships have a profound effect on who we are. Imam al-Sadiq (p) states, “My most beloved brother is he who [makes me aware of] my faults.”5 While it is important to have friends whom we enjoy being around during leisure time, it is also important to have friends with whom we have achieved a level of honesty which enables us to advise each other sincerely. True brotherhood or sisterhood entails wishing the best for your brothers and sisters which includes our spiritual states.
2. Make an intention to make time for those people: As with anything worth attaining in life, meaningful relationships take time and effort. We should treat our relationships with our brothers and sisters with the respect we afford to our work, studies, and worship, as these relationships are a trust from God. Often due to the daily grind and our busy schedules, we find ourselves neglecting that which is so important (meaningful relationships). Hence, it is vital to make the intention to spend time with those whom we value the most.
3. Pray for our brothers and sisters in faith: We often give “likes” and “favorites” to our brothers and sisters on different social media platforms. While this may give them short-term satisfaction, making sincere prayers for those in our lives will give lasting benefits to both the recipients of the prayer and ourselves. This reinforces a sincerity in our well-wishes for our brothers and sisters. In the Holy Quran, God tells us that the righteous supplicate for their brothers and ask for removal of any resentment. He states, “Say, ‘Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in the faith, and clear our hearts of any ill will against the believers. Lord, You are Compassionate and All-merciful.’”6
1. Al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-Uqul, p. 358.
2. The Holy Quran 9:71, Quranic quotations in this article are from the Muhammad Sarwar translation.
3. Dennis Thompson, “3 In 4 Americans Struggle With Loneliness,” U.S. News & World Report,, accessed August 1, 2019, https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2018-12-18/3-in-4-americans-struggle-with-loneliness.
4. Al-Karajaki, Kanz al-fawaid, vol. 1, p. 306.
5. Al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 2, p. 639.
6. The Holy Quran 59:10.
1. روي عن أبي عبد الله الصادق (ع): “التواصل بين الاخوان في الحضر التزاور والتواصل في السفر المكاتبة”
2. قال الله تعالى: ﴿وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ ۚ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَيُطِيعُونَ اللَّـهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ سَيَرْحَمُهُمُ اللَّـهُ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ﴾] القرآن الكريم: التوبة 9، آية 71
4. روى عن النبي (ص):”للمسلم على أخيه ثلاثون حقاً، لا براءة له إلا الأداء أو العفو: يغفر زلته، ويرحم عبرته، ويستر عورته، ويقيل عثرته، ويقبل معذرته، ويرد غيبته، ويديم نصيحته، ويحفظ خلته، ويرعى ذمته، ويعود مرضته، ويشهد ميتته، ويجيب دعوته، ويقبل هديته، ويكافىء صلته، ويشكر نعمته، ويحسن نصرته، ويحفظ خليلته، ويقضي حاجته، ويشفع مسألته، ويسمت عطسته، ويرشد ضالته، ويرد سلامه، ويطيب كلامه، ويبر أنعامه، ويصدق أقسامه، ويوالي وليه ويعادي عدوه، وينصره ظالماً أو مظلوماً فأما نصرته ظالماً فيرده عن ظلمه، وأما نصرته مظلوماً فيعينه على أخذ حقه ولا يسلمه، ولا يخذله، ويحب له من الخير ما يحب لنفسه… ويكره له ما الشر ما يكره لنفسه، ولا يبرأ المسلم يوم القيامة من هذه الحقوق إلا إذا أدّاها أو نال من صاحبه العفو”
5. روي عن أبي عبد الله الصادق (ع): “أحب إخواني إليّ من أهدي إليّ عيوبي”
6. قال الله تعالى: ﴿وَالَّذِينَ جَاءُوا مِن بَعْدِهِمْ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لَنَا وَلِإِخْوَانِنَا الَّذِينَ سَبَقُونَا بِالْإِيمَانِ وَلَا تَجْعَلْ فِي قُلُوبِنَا غِلًّا لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ رَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ﴾] القرآن الكريم: الحشر 59، آية 10