By Sheima Salam Sumer
25 November 2016
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "All creatures are [like] a family of God: and He loves most those who are kindest to His family."
(Narrated by Anas. Mishkat al-Masabih, 3:1392; quoted from Bukhari.)
In this article I explore the lessons of this hadith in relation to three issues:
1. Relations among Muslims of Different Sects
2. Relations among Muslims and People of Other Faiths
3. Relations between Human Beings and Other Creatures
Relations among Muslims of Different Sects
The above hadith encourages kindness to all of God’s creation. Kindness involves respecting the right of others to choose their religious interpretations. Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid is founder of Soundvision.com, a noted American Muslim scholar and interfaith activist. In 2015, he chaired the International Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, USA, which was attended by 11,000 people from 50 religions and 80 countries. He remarks:
“The principle of ‘no compulsion in matters of faith’ (Quran 2:256) is not just limited to Muslim-non-Muslim relations. It applies to Muslim interpretations of Islam as well. This instruction of God serves as a guideline for the Muslim community to not impose one's interpretation on others. That is why throughout history, not only have Hanafis and Shafis worked with each other despite differences, but Shias and Sunnis have lived and worked side by side with each other as well”.
Kindness involves trying to understand others rather than believing everything we hear about them. Respectful dialogue among Muslims of different schools of thought, including Sunnis and Shias, will promote kindness and understanding.
Relations of Muslims with People of Other Faiths
The above hadith teaches Muslims to be kind to people of other faiths because they are also part of God’s family of creation.
The Holy Quran teaches that God created different groups of people so that they can learn about one another:
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes so that you may know one another…”(Quran 49:13)
The Quran reminds Muslims to be kind to people of other faiths as long as they do not oppress them on account of their faith and do not drive them out of their homes:
“Allah does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against you due to (your) religion, and have not driven you from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly; surely Allah loves the doers of justice.” (Quran 60:8)
Terrorism is totally against the teachings of Islam. To kill an innocent person is like killing all of humanity:
“...If anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or for corruption (done) in the land, it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind… (Quran 5:32)
The Holy Quran teaches that fighting is only permissible in self-defense and must stop if the enemy desires peace:
“Fight in the Way of God against those who fight you, but do not go beyond the limits. God does not love those who go beyond the limits.” (Quran 2:190)
"...But if they cease, then let there be no hostility except against those who practice oppression." (Quran 2:193)
“But if the enemy inclines towards peace, you (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah... Even if they intend to deceive you, remember that God is sufficient for you…” (Quran 8:61-62)
If fighting occurs for self-defense, prisoners of war should be treated with kindness:
About captives of war, the Prophet said, “They are your brothers! Offer them what you eat and drink!” (Sahih Muslim)
After the Battle of Badr, prisoners of war were brought. Among them was al-Abbas. He did not have a shirt on, so the Prophet looked for a shirt for him. It turned out that a shirt of Abdullah bin Ubayy was the right size, so the Prophet gave it to al-Abbas to wear and compensated Abdullah with his own shirt. (Bukhari)
The Holy Quran states that all people have the right to choose their religion and that it is God’s Will that people have different religions.
Islamic Scholar Muhammad Abdel Haleem, author of Understanding the Quran, writes:
“Nowhere in the Quran is changing people’s religion given as a cause for waging war. The Qur’an gives a clear instruction that there is no compulsion in religion (Quran 2:256). It states that people will remain different (Quran 11:118), they will always have different religions and ways and this is an unalterable fact (Quran 5:48) – God tells the Prophet that most people will not believe ‘even if you are eager that they should’ (Quran 12:103).”
Responding to Prejudice: Relevance of This hadith
‘Islamophobia’ is prejudice and discrimination towards Muslims due to their religion. The above hadith encourages kindness as a means to please God. Therefore, kindness is the primary solution for ‘Islamophobia’ and the best way to build good relations between Muslims and people of other faiths. The Holy Quran states:
“Good and evil deeds are not alike. Repel evil with good, and he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend.” (Quran 41:34)
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid reminds us how the Prophet (peace be upon him) responded to ill-treatment:
“Remember the Prophet. The Prophet was subject to horrible insults and hate crimes in his lifetime. He remained steadfast, patient and tolerant in the face of this Islamophobia. We must model this same behaviour.”
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid recommends kindness to neighbours as a solution:
“Instead of a term of distance like “Non-Muslims”, use a term of relationship like “neighbours” when referring to our neighbours. The Prophet said, "Jibril kept recommending treating neighbours with kindness until I thought he would assign a share of inheritance to the neighbours." (Bukhari and Muslim). Given this level of familiarity and closeness we should have with our neighbours, it is amazing the way we keep ignoring them, especially in neighbourhoods with large, vibrant mosques and Islamic centres.”
Relations of People with other Creations
The above hadith teaches kindness to all creatures, recognizing that, like human beings, they, too, are among the family of God's creation. Kindness to animals is highly encouraged in many Hadiths:
A prostitute was pardoned who passed by a dog at a well holding out his tongue from thirst which was near killing him; for she took off her short boot and tied it to her wrapper, and pulled water for him; so was she forgiven. It was asked, “Shall we then have any reward for (our behaviour to) the animals?” “There are rewards,” said the Prophet, “for (our behaviour to) all living beings.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
A woman was sent to the hellfire for (her behaviour to) a cat which she had tied up, so that it died of hunger; for she gave it not to eat, nor untied it, so that it could eat insects and reptiles of the earth. (Bukhari, Muslim)
Once the Prophet saw a camel which was just skin and bones. He said to the owner of that camel, “Fear Allah for these speechless animals! Do not let them stay hungry!” (Abu Dawud)
In Islam, Hunting Animals For Mere Sport Is Forbidden:
"If someone kills a sparrow for sport, the sparrow will cry out on the Day of Judgment, 'O Lord! That person killed me in vain! He did not kill me for any useful purpose." (Nisai)
The above hadith also applies to our relationship with nature. The Giver of life is the Supreme Owner of life and destroying nature for other than necessity is wrong. Man must use nature responsibly and should avoid wastage.
Sheima Salam Sumer is an author and trained counselor. She is the author of How to Be a Happy Muslim Insha'Allah: and The Basic Values of Islam: Alphabetically Listed with Islamic References.