By Waris Mazhari
22 December 2016
According to a hadith report, the Prophet Muhammad said: “All creatures are [like] a family of God, and He loves the most those who are kindest to His family.” (Source: Baihaqi)
The hadith report uses the term al-khalq, which means ‘creatures’. And so, the hadith applies to both human as well as non-human beings, including animals, plants and the natural environment, all of which are also creatures of God. That said, of course the hadith also applies to the whole of mankind as such. The whole mankind is like a family of God, we learn from this saying of the Prophet.
According to another hadith report, the Prophet said: “O God, ‘I bear witness that all human beings are brothers of each other’” (Source: Abu Daud). It is narrated that the Prophet pronounced this sentence after every prayer (Namaz).
Unfortunately, most Muslim writers argue that only Muslims have a brotherly relationship to each other. However, these two sayings of the Prophet Muhammad clearly negate this notion, affirming, as they do, that even people of other faiths are our brothers and sisters, the only difference being that while Muslims are brothers and sisters to each other in religion, Muslims and people of other faiths are brothers and sisters to each other in humanity.
In the same vein, another hadith declares that the Prophet Muhammad said that people areas equal to each other as the teeth of a comb. (Source: Ghareebul Hadith by Khattabi)
All above sayings of the Prophet reflect two very significant aspects of human relationships, which the Quran, too, emphasizes. The first aspect is the unity of humankind, because all human beings are descendants of Adam and Eve. The second aspect is human dignity, according to which every human being, in her or his capacity of being human, deserves dignity and respect. The Quran (17:70) says:
We have honoured the children of Adam, and have borne them on the land and the sea, given them for sustenance things which are good and pure; and exalted them above many of Our creatures.
This is why the Prophet Muhammad respected the human soul. It is this concept which prompted prominent Muslim jurists and scholars to affirm that every human being is dignified, no matter what his or her religion may be.
It is reported that once, a funeral passed by the Prophet Muhammad and he stood up. It was said to him, “It is a Jew.” And the Prophet replied, “Was he not a soul?” (Source: Bukhari) This incident clearly tells us that irrespective of a person’s affiliation to any particular creed or religion, community or caste, merely as being a human being God has given him equal rights, because it is God who has created him. God loves every person, even if a person does not love God. According to a hadith report, the Prophet said that God loves a person 70 times more than a mother loves her child. From another hadith we learn that he who most serves people is most beloved to God. By ‘people’ here is meant not Muslims alone but everyone else, too. This means that the one who serves people, irrespective of their religion, the most is most beloved of God.
Good and evil, beautiful and ugly, all creatures are God’s handiworks. An artist never thinks of destroying his or her art, no matter how ugly it may be. Had this not been so, God would already have destroyed those who are not obedient to Him. But God may not even wish to do so, because this is not in accordance with His preordained design for the universe. Since time immemorial it is in His infinite knowledge that humankind would be divided into two groups: people of faith and virtue and others. This is why He has left it to a person‘s free will to adopt or to reject the way of faith and virtue. As the Quran (18:29) clearly says: “Let him who will, believe in it, and him who will, deny it.”
The actual problem lies with the concept of ‘otherness’. Every social, including religious, group has its own concept of the ‘other’, and this ‘other’ can number one or more other groups. Again, common to all social groups are notions of external and internal ‘others’. The hadith “All creatures are [like] a family of God, and He loves the most those who are kindest to His family”, cited earlier is against any demeaning concept of otherness. Every human being, irrespective of religion and creed, caste and community, belongs to God’s family. God has divided humankind into groups for God to know who the best among them in good deeds are, and for them to learn about each other. As the Quran (49:13) says:
Mankind! We have created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes, so that you might come to know each other. The noblest of you in God's sight is the one who fears God most. God is all-knowing and all-aware.
This world which God has created, for which He has appointed human beings as His trustees, is very beautiful. Its beauty lies in its pluralistic nature. The various religious communities of this world are like the flowers of a single garden. Every flower has a different colour and fragrance, but put together, they increase the beauty and splendour of the garden.
Today, the family of God is fighting each other. The garden of God has turned into a battlefield. Such thick and high walls have been erected in the name of religion that they have almost completely veiled the face of humanity, even though our common humanity excels over all identities.
One’s religious life relates, in particular, to the life after death, where, according to the Quran, God will make a final judgment about our fate. The theory of truth and falsehood has always been very confusing to many, with different groups considering themselves alone as true and all others as false. One cannot be allowed to suppress others on this basis, as, however, unfortunately continues to happen. It is totally inhuman and is against the nature of God’s universal plan. To fight and try to destroy fellow members of the one family of God is fighting God Himself—and, needless to say, one cannot win a war against God.
It is a very important issue that although today we are living in a global village, where we are all dependent on each other, many people harbor deep-rooted hatred for others, including for those who follow other religions other than the one they claim to. It seems as if the very same sources that were meant to bind us together have been misused to create an enormous gulf between us. We are victims of self-interested politics and pseudo-religiosity gone rampant.
Today’s politics is free from every sort of ethical value. It is true that, barring some exceptions, the past examples in this regard are also not very encouraging, but the present situation is extremely bleak. This is because modern society has lost its touch with the true spirit of religious and moral values—or spirituality. Unless we transform ourselves into individuals bearing a high moral character, we cannot transform entire communities and societies.
From a hadith referred to earlier in this essay we learn that he who most serves the people is most beloved to God can be narrated another way—as telling us that the best of people are those who benefit humankind. This hadith requires us to be a well-wisher for all other people. According to another hadith, the Prophet said that ‘Well-wishing is the religion [in its entirety]’ (al-Deenu al-Naseeha). (Source: Bukhari) One can be a true Muslim and truly a worthy member of God’s family only if one lives according to this hadith. In this regard, it is important to always bear in mind this teaching of the Quran (5:8):
Believers, be steadfast in the cause of God and bear witness with justice. Do not let your enmity for others turn you away from justice. Deal justly; that is nearer to being God-fearing. Fear God. God is aware of all that you do.
If every one of us sincerely takes the hadith “All creatures are [like] a family of God, and He loves the most those who are kindest to His family” into consideration and acts upon it, all our major differences will vanish. As a couplet of the famous Persian Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi reminds us:
You have come to unite people
Not to sow seeds of difference.
Waris Mazhari is a graduate of the Dar ul-Uloom, Deoband. He did his Ph.D. from the Department of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, and is presently teaching in this department.