RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MUSLIM SISTERS
Guidance from the Qur’aan, Hadeeth Literature, and Seerah
By Sr. Fatimah L.C. Jackson
Sisters’ Pens Volume 3, Issue 10
Introduction: The Importance of Friendship
Both the quality and the quantity of the associations between social relations have an impact on morbidity and mortality – people with few social contacts live less healthy and shorter lives. (Denmark study) Furthermore, individuals with no contact with children, friend, or group organizations show high hazard ratios (their lives are more dangerous/destructive). There is safety in numbers. Good social relationships provide a buffer against adverse situations and events.
The functions of social relationships:
to receive support for tasks
to help others with tasks
Social relations may serve similar but different functions for males and females. Females need more social contacts than males (Portland study). This scientific observation is very important given the way that some of us have defined Islam (or allowed Islam to be defined) in the West. Sometimes these definitions have significantly reduced the opportunities for social contact with other Muslim women. This exacerbates the problems we already face in developing and sustaining meaningful positive social relationships in the West.
Friendship in Western Materialistic Life Versus Islamic Spiritual Life
The qualities of Western materialistic life encourage emotional degeneration (you feel nothing) and superficiality. Relationships tend to be noisy, glaring, loud, competitive rather than cooperative, and extremely individualistic (a la Jerry Springer)[This is in reference to a popular U.S. television show that features outlandish, shocking and crude behavior and personal revelations from the guests who are supposedly the “man in the street”. The more outrageous, the higher the rating. – Ed].
These are just the opposite of the qualities that Islamic spiritual life encourages. What I saw in Kuwait (for example) were quiet, dignified, respectful, self-respecting, cultured behavior among Muslimaat. Social relationships were very family-oriented and female- centered. Kuwaiti women socialized within their families and with other women as a priority.
How should a Muslimah Treat Her Sisters In Islam?
1. She loves them for the sake of Allah
This is a love untainted by any worldly interests or ulterior motives. True sisterly love is a relationship whose purity is derived from the light of Islamic guidance (Dr. Muhammad A. al-Hashimi). It is a bond that links a Muslims to her sister regardless of geographical origins, ethnicity, skin color, hair form, eye shape, or language. (It is) a bond based upon faith in Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) Who is greater than all our little petty divisions.
“The Believers are but a single brotherhood….” [Al-Hujuraat 49:10]
A love which is an expression of the sweetness of faith: “There are three things that whoever attains them will find the sweetness of faith: if Allah and His Messenger are dearer to him than anyone else; if he loves a person solely for the sake of Allah; if he would hate to return to kufr after Allah has rescued him from it, as much as he would hate be thrown into the Fire.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
So this is not love for the sake of status, notoriety, or fame. It is a love that requires a clean heart, a light heart, a soft and pliable heart.
In the hadeeth of Mu’adh reported by at-Tirmidhi, the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) said: “Allah said: `Those who love one another for My glory, will have minbars of light, and the Prophets and martyrs will wish that they had the same” [hasan saheeh hadeeth]
This kind of love is the only way to eliminate hatred, jealousy, and rivalry from peoples hearts.
2. She shows them kindness, faithfulness, and equity
The importance of kindness is mentioned hundreds of times in the Qur’aan! Islam instills in its followers the characteristic of kindness and faithfulness towards one’s friends, including the parents of one’s friends. The seerah is filled with examples of kindness and faithfulness among the early believers. If you remember the story concerning our mother `Aaisha (radiallahu `anhaa) who used to become upset with Rasoolullah (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) because he used to extend himself to the friends of his late first wife, Khadijah (radiallahu `anhaa). He (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) spoke highly of Khadijah (radiallahu `anhaa) and sometimes he would slaughter a sheep and send a large portion to Khadijah’s friends.
3. She meets them with a warm, friendly, smiling face
In Muslim it is reported our beloved Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) said: “Do not think little of any good deed, even if it is just greeting your brother with a cheerful countenance.”
The act of smiling actually stimulates the secretion of certain chemicals (endorphins) that increase our sense of well-being.
“Your smiling at your brother is an act of charity (sadaqah)” [reported by at-Tirmidhi who said it is hasan gharib)
4. She is sincere towards them
Sincerity is one of the most basic principles of Islam and a central foundation of the faith. Without sincerity, a sister’s faith is invalid and her Islam is worthless. When the first believers gave allegiance (bay’ah) to the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam), they pledged their sincerity. This is confirmed by the statement of Jarir ibn `Abdullah (radiallahu `anhu): “I gave allegiance to the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) and pledged to observe regular prayer, to pay zakat and to be sincere towards every Muslim.” [Agreed upon]
Furthermore, our beloved Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) said: “None of you truly believes until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself” [Agreed upon] It is impossible to do this without sincerity.
5. She does not forsake or abandon her sister(s)
The religion that calls for love, continued contact, and mutual affection is also the religion (Islam) that has forbidden sisters in faith to hate or abandon one another. It is reported by al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad: “No two people who love one another for the sake of Allah, or for the sake of Islam, will let the first minor offense of either of them come between them.”
This hadith and others tell us that prolonged estrangement from our sister is not acceptable. The longer the estrangement lasts (3 days or more) the greater the sin and the more severe is the punishment that will befall the two who are split by the dispute. Reconciliation among sisters-in-Islam is encouraged and the better of the two (disputing) Muslimahs is the first to give salaam. The Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) said: “There should be no breaking off of ties, no turning away from one another, no hating one another, and no envying one another. Be brothers, as Allah has commanded you.” [Muslim]
The great Sahabi Abu Darda (radiallahu ‘anhu) used to say: “Shall I not tell you about something that is better for you than charity and fasting? Reconcile between your brothers, for hatred diminishes reward.” (reported by al-Bukhari in Ad-Adab al-Mufrad)
6. She is tolerant and forgiving towards them
Sometimes it seems so easy to become angry with our sisters in Islam about just about anything. However, the true Muslim restrains her anger and is quick to forgive her sister, and does not see any shame in doing so. Rather, she recognizes this as a good dead that can bring her closer to Allah and earn her His love which He bestows only on those who do good: “…[those] who restrain anger and pardon (all) men – for Allah loves those who do good.” [Al-`Imran 3:134]
7. She does not gossip about or backbite them
The believing woman does not gossip about or backbite her sisters in Islam. She knows that gossip is haraam as the Qur’an says: “…. Nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, you would abhor it. But fear Allah: for Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.” [al-Hujuraat 49:12]
The believing woman restrains her tongue and speaks only good of her sister, remembering the words of the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam): “Do you know what gossip is? They said, `Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He said, `It is your saying about your brother something which he dislikes.” He was asked, `What do you think if what I say about my brother is true?’ He said, `If it is true then you have gossiped about him and if it not true then you have slandered him.” [Muslim]
Being two-faced is an aspect of this. In fact the two-faced person is regarded as being one of the worst people in the sight of Allah. Our beloved Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) said: “You will find among the worst people in the sight of Allah on the Day of Resurrection, the one who is two-faced, who approaches some people in one way and others in another.” [al-Bukhari & Muslim]
8. She avoids arguing with them, making hurtful jokes, and breaking promises
It is reported by al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad that our Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) said: “Do not argue with your brother, do not joke excessively with him, do not make a promise to him then break it.”
Arguing leads to further misunderstanding, rigidity, and is an easy opening for Iblis; hurtful jokes often lead to hatred and loss of respect; and breaking promises upset people and destroys love. We need to learn to be able to “back off” to not have the final say, to sometimes just “agree to disagree” until the matter can be resolved by someone with more knowledge. The kind of posturing and gesticulation that poisons so many disagreements is leftover jahl (ignorance). We need to run away from this.
9. She is generous and self-sacrificing
The Muslimah prefers friendship with a Muslim over the non-Muslim. The bond of common belief forms the foundation for generosity, a basic Islamic characteristic. We are entreated by Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa) to be “… lowly [or humble] with the believers, mighty against the kafirun …” [al-Maidah 5:54]
10. She prays for her sisters in their absence
The sincere Muslimah who truly likes for her sister what she likes for herself does not forget to pray for her sister in her absence. This is a practical demonstration of sisterly love and care. A sincere, pure prayer of this kind is the kind most quickly answered. It is reported by al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad that “The quickest prayer to be answered is a man’s supplication for his brother in his absence.”
11. She encourages her sisters in all that is pleasing to Allah
Wanting For Your Sister What You Want For Yourself
Application and Practice
Get to know each others names, talents, skills, families, goals, background
Seek out each other – integrate each other into each other’s lives, make space for your sister-in-Islam regardless of her background.
Remember the strategies of the Ansar and Muhajiroon. Follow the guidance of our righteous predecessors.
Be less judgmental about superficial issues, concentrate on the most important aspects of the deen.
Assume the best, not the worst about your sister in Islam. Don’t be hasty in reaching unfavorable judgements.
Avoid cynicism and sarcasm.
Respect cross-cultural differences that do not impact upon the practice of Islam.
Extend friendship, humility, kindness, equity and generosity to those sisters of a different culture, starting with the person closest to you. We are all potentially overwhelmed by some aspects of jaahiliya society.
Extend your hand and your heart to a fellow Muslimah.
Make Islam your primary identity, since your adherence to Islam is the only thing that will save you on the Day Of Resurrection.
SISTERHOOD IN ISLAM
Taken from Al Jumuah Magazine Issue 4, Page 38 (with a few alterations)
As Muslims sisters strive to gain knowledge about their religion and endeavor to increase their Iman, there is one issue of importance that often seems to be neglected. This is the issue of Sisterhood in Islam. Sisters may greet each other, spend time socializing, give gifts during happy occasions, cook for those who have a new baby, etc., but this is only the surface level of Sisterhood. To understand what this special relationship really means we must go much deeper than that. We need to go to the level of the heart from which the bonds of Sisterhood emanate. This relationship is very special because it involves a unique type of love; one that cannot be experienced in any other social connection. It is a feeling that is particularly extraordinary for those of us who are revert/converts to Islam. To really enjoy the beauty of this bond we need to completely comprehend the elements that are involved. A letter has been written to each of us to assist us in this endeavor, Insha-Allah. Let us put this knowledge in our hearts and we will begin to see the seeds of true Sisterhood grow into a beautiful, flowering plant, Insha-Allah.
Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah Wa Baraktuh
My Dear Sister in Islam:
Insha-Allah, everything is well with you and those close to you. I am writing this letter to let you know how much I care and to help us both gain an understanding of what Sisterhood in Islam really means, Insha-Allah. I care about you because we share something that is more special than the whold world and all that it contains; we share the belief in the Onenesss of Allah (sunhanahu wa ta’ala) and the religion that He (sunhanahu wa ta’ala) has given to us. This is a gift that transcends any differences we may have in regard to race, color, nationality, culture or language. Being a sister in Islam is one of the many blessings that comes from acceptance of the true path of Allah (sunhanahu wa ta’ala). It is also a responsibility that we each have as members of the Muslim Ummah. To fufill our obligation, we first need to understand what is required of us.
This is what the bond of Sisterhood in Islam means to me, based upon the wisdom of Allah and his Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wa sallam), “…And lower your wing for the believers (be courteous to the fellow-believers).” (Al-Hijr 15:88)
The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “None of you has Iman (faith) until he desires for his brother (or sister) Muslim that which he desires for himself (or herself).” (Bukhari and Muslim)
He (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) also said, “The Muslims in their mutual love, kindness and compassion are like the human body where when one of its parts is in agony the entire body feels the pain, both in sleeplessness and fever.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
I love you for the sake of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) … The Messenger of Allah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “On the Day of Judgement, Allah, the Most High, will announce, ‘Where are those who love each other for the sake of My pleasure? This day I am going to shelter them in the shade provided by Me. Today there is no shade except My shade.” (Muslim)
I will be sure to tell you of my love, Insha-Allah … The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “If a person loves his brother, he should inform him of this fact.” (Abu Dawud and Tirmidi)
I will be merciful and compassionate toward you, Insha-Allah … Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says, “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are severe against the disbelievers, and merciful among themselves…” (Al-Fath 48:29)
The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Do not be envious of other Muslims; do not overbid at auctions against another Muslim; do not have malice against a Muslim; do not go against a Muslim and forsake him; do not make an offering during a pending transaction. O’ servants of Allah, be like brothers (or sisters) with each other. A Muslim is the brother (or sister) of another Muslim; do not hurt him (or her), or look down upon him (or her) or bring shame on him (or her). Piety is a matter of heart (The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) repeated this thrice). It is enough evil for a person to look down upon his Muslim brother (or sister). The blood, property and honor of a Muslim is inviolable to a Musilm.” (Muslim)
I will keep company with you, Insha-Allah … The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Keep company with a believer only, and let your food be eaten only by the righteous.” (Abu Dawud and Tirmidi)
He (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) also said, “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” (Abu Dawud and Tirmidi)
I will help you when necessary and I will cover your shortcomings, Insha-Allah … The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “One who helps a fellow Muslim in removing his (or her) difficulty in this world, Allah will remove the former’s distress on the Day of Judgement. He who helps to remove the hardship of another, will have his difficulties removed by Allah in this world and in the Hereafter. One who covers the shortcomings of another Muslim, will have his faults covered up in this world and the next by Allah. Allah continues to help a servant so long as he goes on helping his own brother (or sister).” (Muslim)
I will encourage you to the right, Insha-Allah … Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says, “The believers, men and women. are Auliya (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another, they enjoin (on people) Al-Ma’ruf (i.e. Islamio Monotheism and all that Islma orders one to do), and forbids (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e. polytheism and disbelief of all kinds, and all that Islam has forbidden); they offer their prayers perfectly (Iqamat-as-Salat); and give the Zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have His mercy upon them. Surely, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” (At-Tauba 9:71)
When the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) instructed, “Help your (Muslim) brother (or sister) when he commits a wrong and when a wrong is committed against him, someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah, I understand how I can help him if a wrong is committed against him, but how can I help him if he is himself committing a wrong?” At that the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) answered, “Stopping him from committing the wrong is helping him.” (Bukhari)
I will fulfill my minimum duties and beyond, Insha-Allah … The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “A Muslim owes six obligations towards another Muslim: when you meet him (or her), salute him (or her) saying ‘Assalamu Alaikum; when he (or she) invites you, accept his (or her) invitation; when he (or she) solicits your advice, advise him (or her) sincerely; when he (or she) sneezes and praises Allah, respond with the supplication Yarhamuk Allah (Allah have mercy on you); when he (or she) falls sick, visit him (or her); on his (or her) death, join his (or her funeral).” (Muslim)
He (SAW) also said, “When a Muslim visits his (or her) Muslim brother (or sister) who is sick, he (or she) certainly gathers the fruits of Paradise until he (or she) returns (from visiting).” (Muslim)
You should understand, dear sister, that these are only some of the promises that I have made to you and to Allah (SWT), Insha-Allah. I will strive to fufill each of them to the best of my ability, Insha-Allah. Insha-Allah you will do the same for all of your sisters in Islam. This will not only enhance our bounds of Sisterhood, but will also strengthen the fibers of the Muslim Ummah as we acquire and utilize the wisdom of Islam, Insha-Allah. Our ultimate goal is to gain the pleasure of Allah (SWT), as well as His Mercy and Blessings, Insha-Allah. May we both find the true peace that comes with being a Muslim and attaing the highest of rewards: Paradise. Ameen!!!
With true love,
Your Sister in Islam
Walaikum Assalam Wa Rahmatullah Wa Baraktuh