Nervously, I approached the stranger I had agreed to meet. She was wearing a warm winter coat, buttoned up against the biting cold, and a pretty pink hijab. I had never so much as spoken to a lady in a headscarf and I had no idea what to expect.
Greeting me warmly with a friendly smile, I was immediately at ease and we spent over an hour in a nearby coffee shop chatting about Islam and why I had come to be interested in the faith.
Out of the blue, she asked me if I’d like to accompany her to the university mosque so she could pray. I readily agreed, overwhelmed with curiosity.
On our short walk from the city centre to the university campus I noted that this sister greeted, or was first greeted by, many other Muslims. I asked her if she knew all of these people and she replied with a smile that no, she didn’t know them all.
“These are my sisters. We recognize each other by our hijab so we exchange salaam. Muslims are all one big family!”
This had such a great impact upon me. How wonderful that brothers and sisters in faith recognize each other on the street and, knowing them or not, they greet each other with peace and blessings.
The Beauty of the Salaam
You will hear the words “assalamu alaikum” in any Arabic or Muslim majority country as the basic greeting of ‘hello’. Yet, if you really think about it, the salaam is so much more than a mindless “hello”, it’s a beautiful dua.
“Peace be upon you.” When you greet a brother or sister you are asking Allah to bless them with peace. It is a declaration that you wish for them contentment, happiness and ease.
By the One in Whose hand in my soul, you will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not tell you of something that if you do it, you will love one another? Spread Salam amongst yourselves. (Muslim)
The greeting increases unity and love. Such a simple act, so many blessings. Alhamdulillah.
My town is quite small. There are not many hijabi sisters at all, so when I bump into a sister and we exchange salaam, it really makes my day.
Do not neglect this small gesture, you have no idea how much this could mean to a Muslim who is feeling lonely or isolated.
Rights Over Each Other
Allah and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) have been very clear about how Muslims should interact and care for each other. Allah says in the Quran:
The Believers are but a single brotherhood. (49:10)
There are six rights of the Muslim over his brother or sister. Islam makes no distinction between a beggar and a king; all Muslims are equal and these rights apply to us all. They are:
1. To greet each other with salaam.
2. To accept an invitation.
3. To advise him kindly.
4. To make dua for him when he sneezes.
5. To visit him when he is sick.
6. To attend his janazah (funeral).
Each of these guidelines serves to foster love and unity. They encourage us to engage with each other, to take care of each other and to nurture each other.
Of course, like any large family, there will be members who shirk their responsibility, but this does not take away from the fact that there are many more family members who carry out these duties with willingness and love.
Love for the Sake of Allah
Becoming part of the Muslim family, ummah, did feel awkward for me at first. Ladies I didn’t know called me “sister” and I wasn’t quite sure that I liked it.
But as time passed, the meaning seemed to evolve. It wasn’t the cringey “sister” that I had heard in Evangelical circles when I was a Christian, it was a deeper, more authentic term of endearment.
Standing in the row of sisters, waiting for the prayer to start, a girl I didn’t know approached me.
“My sister, your scarf has slipped, let me fix it for you.”
Such a small gesture but a world of kindness. A complete stranger cared enough to fix my scarf, worried that it may invalidate my salah, and she addressed me as her sister. I never saw her again, but I will never forget her.
Where are those who loved one another for My glory? Today I will shade them in My shade on the Day when there is no shade but Mine. (Muslim)
This signifies the importance of loving each other. It’s so important that Allah will seek out those believers who love each other for His sake alone, and He will shade them on the Day of Judgment.
A man set out to visit a brother (in faith) in another town and Allah sent an angel on his way. When the man met the angel, the latter asked him:
“Where do you intend to go?”
“I intend to visit my brother in this town.”
The angel said:
“Have you done any favor to him?”
“No, I have no desire except to visit him because I love him for the sake of Allah.”
Thereupon the angel said:
“I am a messenger to you from Allah (to inform you) that Allah loves you as you love him (for His sake).” (Muslim)
To earn the love of Allah, the Most High, all we have to do is love each other. Even those family members who are hard to love! Love them for His sake.
A Connected Muslim Family
Many of us have family members who have moved far away, or whom we don’t really speak to. Distance may be a problem or even a dispute. However, if an injustice occurs or they are sick or struggling, we can’t help but feel moved; their pain is ours also.
The same is true for the big Muslim family:
The believers, in their mutual friendship, mercy and affection, are like one body: if any part of it complains, the rest of the body will also stay awake in pain. (Al-Bukhari)
Our brothers and sisters are suffering in many parts of the world and our collective grief is visible. Despite the distance, the cultural difference, the language barriers, we are all united by the shahadah. Praying in the same direction, five times a day, is further evidence of our bond.
If you are new to Islam, we welcome you into our Muslim family. Like every family, we have a few difficult relatives, we argue more than we should and we can be dysfunctional at times, but the love is there.
May Allah unite us, increase the love between us and make us stronger together. Ameen!