The type of brotherhood that exists between Muslims is more real than the relationship between citizens of a country. Those who embrace Islam are continually surprised and delighted by the warmth of brotherhood that exists.
In fact, the normal way Muslims speak to each other is to call one another brother or sister. This is not just a polite courtesy, but an expression of something real.
In Islam there are no distinctions between persons. You have only to pray one of the congregational prayers in any mosque to see this. The poorest man might be praying next to the richest.
When we take off our shoes and leave them at the door, we remove also any honors and titles and positions of importance we might hold in this world. Prostrate in prayer, with their foreheads touching the ground, all Muslims are equal as brothers.
There is perhaps no society on earth that has ever shown such equality and brotherhood. We read in the Quran:
O Mankind! We have created you from a single soul, Male and Female, And We made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah Is the greatest of you in piety. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (49:13)
Importance in Islam comes not from being the ruler of a nation or driving a fast car or owning a rich company. Honor and importance comes from doing good deeds and from obeying the will of Allah.
This is not too surprising, since the very word “Islam” itself comes from a root word meaning both “peace” and “submission.” The true Muslim is the one who finds peace by submitting his will to Allah.
How Islam turns the values of this world on their head! Being given special favors or privileges because of how much money you own or because of how many officials you know, has no place in Islam. The most honored is the one who is the greatest in piety.
In Islam there are no priests or popes or ministers who have special knowledge to be dispensed to the faithful.
There are no mediators between God and people. Each Muslim is responsible to Allah alone, and it is to Allah that each one will have to give an account of his deeds on Judgment Day.
Muslims pray in the mosque as brothers and sisters, but they each know that they will be judged individually for how they act in this life.
There is no greater image of this brotherhood and equality than the hajj, the once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Makkah that all Muslims make at Allah’s command, if they are able to do so.
At the start of the hajj, all the pilgrims enter into the state of ihram by removing their own clothes and putting on the simple white cloths of the hajj pilgrim. In doing so, they leave behind all the things they have clung to in this world and are quite literally equal to one another in what they are wearing.
As they perform the rituals of the hajj, they do so as brothers and sisters. To call someone “brother” or “sister” in Islam is not just a courtesy. It is not just a polite habit that has been acquired over the years. It is a fact.
Only a real Muslim can understand these words. The ties between Muslims are even stronger than national ties. They are as strong as family ties could ever be. Muslims are brothers and sisters to one another.
Muslims are brothers. We see it in the mosque as we greet each other upon entering with the greeting of peace, as-salamu alaykum, and then pray next to one another in rows. Then, at the end of the prayers we greet our brothers, for that is what they are.
When Muslims greet one another in the street with a handshake or a brotherly embrace we experience the brotherhood of Islam. We see it when Muslims hear about the sufferings of their brothers any part of the world where they are oppressed or harmed.
And we see it when help is called for or funds are needed to build hospitals or schools or mosques in communities where money is short.
Right at the beginning, when the first Muslim community was establishing itself in Madinah, we saw what was probably the nearest the earth will ever have to a perfect state. All of the Muslims were equal. They loved one another as brothers.
The mosque was at the center of the community, Allah was its complete focus and Muhammad was at its head. Those who had nothing shared with those who had.
The Muslims who had migrated from Makkah were taken into the homes of the Muslims already living in Medina. They worked together to build the mosque and they then prayed in it together, led by their Prophet.
Even the poor-due, called zakah (obligatory alms), which Muslims give to the poor at the command of Allah, was revealed to them so that none of the brothers should lack anything, whilst others had plenty.
The Five Pillars of Brotherhood
In fact, all of the Five Pillars of Islam, revealed by Almighty Allah, strengthen this brotherhood of Muslims and are signs of it.
All Muslims declare the one Shahadah, or the Testimony of Faith, saying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger.
They pray together in the mosque, equally, as brothers.
All who can afford to, contribute to the welfare of those who have little.
All fast together for the sake of Allah during Ramadan and break the fast together at the end of each day.
And all who are able to do so make that pilgrimage to Makkah, the hajj, which sees Muslims of every nation on earth, come together in vast numbers.
Ripples of Believers
There is, finally, one very beautiful image that sums up how Muslims are connected to each other wherever they are and whenever they pray. It is the image of a stone being dropped into a pond.
You know how a stone dropped into a pond causes circles of ripples to go outwards, more and more? For Muslims, the Ka’bah is like this. We see it very clearly if we are in Makkah itself, where the Muslims pray in rows around the Ka’bah, since it is their direction for prayer.
In Makkah, the rows are not straight lines, but are circles. If you can imagine those circles getting ever wider and ever bigger, throughout the earth, until wherever a Muslim prays he is actually standing on one of those circles.
Muslims praying together in congregation in rows, or just praying on their own in their homes, are all a part of one of these circles facing towards Makkah, their direction of prayer.
Wherever they are, Muslims are part of this universal brotherhood of Islam. No Muslim need ever feel alone in any part of the world, whether he lives in a Muslim land or is the only Muslim in his entire city, since he is a part of this community, this brotherhood, this nation which makes up Islam.
(From Discovering Islam archive.)