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Aspects of Islamic Faith 72: Cementing Ties Within The Muslim Community

Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

Al-Bara' ibn Azib reports: "The Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered us to do seven things and to refrain from seven others: He ordered us to follow funerals, visit the sick, accept invitations, give support to the one suffering injustice, fulfil oaths, return greetings and bless a person who sneezes. He further ordered us to refrain from eating in silverware, wearing gold rings, silk, brocade, fine and thick silk." (Related by Al-Bukhari).

Islam is keen to establish strong ties between its followers so that they are a solid community that suffers no internal divisions. The Prophet used every opportunity to point out actions and deeds that cement relations and increase feelings of unity among Muslims. The above-quoted Hadith mentions several things that we are ordered to do or to refrain from. When such matters are grouped together, they have a common purpose, and the purpose here is to strengthen relations within the community.

Although the Hadith uses the word ‘order', not everything mentioned in the first seven is a duty; some are only recommended. Likewise, some of the things we are ordered to refrain from are only reprehensible, not absolutely forbidden. Let us look briefly at these.

The first order is to follow funerals. This means to offer condolences to the relatives to the deceased, join the special prayer offered in congregation before burial and to join the procession to the graveyard. Other Hadiths make clear that following funerals is a collective duty, which means that when a group of Muslims have done it, the duty is not binding on the rest of the community. Also, the order is for men only. Women should not join the procession to the graveyard.

Visiting the sick is also a collective duty. It applies to all, whether relatives, friends, acquaintances and others, including opponents. The Prophet is authentically reported to have said: "When a Muslim visits his sick brother, he will be in the garden of heaven until he returns." However, certain manners need to be observed when visiting the sick: it should be infrequent except by close relatives, and the visitor must make sure that he is not causing inconvenience. He should choose the proper time and pray for the recovery of the sick person.

When we are invited, we should accept the invitation, unless it involves something forbidden. This is recommended, not obligatory.

Helping a person suffering injustice is a collective duty for those who are able to render such support. It is equally binding if the injustice is being done to an individual or a community. Help should be rendered in any way possible, physically when needed, or by verbal protest. People are required to give such help according to their means and ability.

The fulfilment of oaths is necessary as long as it is concerned with what is permissible. Returning a greeting and blessing a sneeze are collective duties, except in situations where there is one person around, in which case these two actions are incumbent on that person.

Although the Hadith mentions seven things we are expected to refrain from, only six are enumerated. Silverware and gold utensils are forbidden to use for food or other purposes. Wearing gold and silk, of all types, is forbidden for men, permissible for women. Wearing a silver ring is also permissible for men. The idea of these prohibitions is that using such luxurious items is bound to create a feeling of deprivation among the poor. This may lead to envy and hard feelings. It is better to remove the cause of such feelings in order to keep the Muslim community closely knit, with all people feeling and reciprocating good and brotherly feelings.


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