In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Most Merciful
A brief summary of last lectures:
Dear believing brothers, last lectures and Friday sermons, we talked about the ritual acts of worship; Salah (prayer), Siyaam (fasting), Zakah (alms giving), and Hajj (pilgrimage). Also, we talked about marriage which is the most important social issue, and we remained discussing this topic for about a year and a half. Furthermore, we discussed the transactions before marriage topic and all these topics have been taken from Fiqh As-Sunnah book.
Next lectures, I am going to move on to another topic which is the Islamic Aqeedah (creed). This subject may take a long time since it is one of the most important topics in Islam, because when one's Aqeedah is sound, his deeds will be sound, while when it is deviated, all his deeds will be invalid.
Let us continue to discuss Imam al-Ghazali's book Ihya' Ulum Ad-Din (The Revival of The Religious Knowledge) – Volume 2. We may discuss them in the next lectures with mentioning some of the stories from the Prophetic Seerah (Biography), and the Seerah of the Prophet's companions and followers, may Allah be pleased with them all.
For Sunday lectures, we will discuss a chapter from Aqeedah book and a chapter from Ihya' Ulum Ad-Din along with discussing some incidents of the Prophet's Seerah and his companions and followers
Duties of brotherhood in Islam:
Fidelity and sincerity:
Let us continue to ponder over the rights of a Muslim over his fellow Muslim. The seventh right is titled Fidelity and Sincerity.
Last lecture, we defined fidelity as the love you feel towards your fellow Muslim which continues till death or even after death through maintaining a good relationship with his children and friends. Unquestionably, brothers in faith love each other for the Sake of Allah the Almighty, hoping to gain the Hereafter and not the worldly life only.
Some of the effects of faithfulness:
The faithful person never feels superior to his brother in faith:
Actually, the faithful person never looks down on his fellow Muslim and stays humble even after he becomes rich or more influential. In other words, when he moves to a rich neighborhood, gets a better job, gets promoted, or gets a higher position, he remains faithful to his brothers in faith; he never gets away from them, leaves them behind, or feels superior to them, since one of the characteristics of true believers is that their personalities never change, but rather they remain the same. Whereas, one of the characteristics of the heedless of Allah the Almighty is that they leave their brothers in faith behind when they occupy a high position or after they become rich. Thus, treating your fellow Muslims with disdain after getting a higher position is a type of meanness.
Let me give you some examples of the faithfulness and fidelity of the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him:
Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that when the Prophet opened Makkah, he consequently had control over the entire Arabian Peninsula since all Arabian tribe became under his control, and he became the first social and political leader of the new Muslim community. For that reason, the Ansar, may Allah be pleased with them, feared that he might prefer to stay in Makkah since it was his own home country. So when they expressed their concern, the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, reassured them saying:
(I migrated towards Allah and towards you. I will live with you and will die with you.)
So, they (the Ansar) turned towards him in tears and they were saying, "By Allah, we said that because of our tenacious attachment to Allah and His Messenger." He said to them:
(Allah and His Messenger testify to your assertions and accept your apology.)
He, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, continued by saying:
(If all men took one path and the Ansar took another, I should take the way of the Ansar. O Allah have mercy on the Ansar, on their children, and on their grandchildren.)
Also, when the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, entered Makkah after opening it, each one of the noble companions wanted him to stay in his own house, but the Noble Prophet said:
(Set up a tent for me by Khadijah's grave.)
The Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, did that out of deep faithfulness to his wife who believed in him when no one else did, helped, supported and comforted him when none lent him a helping hand." Thus, the Noble Prophet said:
(Set up a tent for me by Khadijah's grave.)
Faithfulness is almost the most distinguishing characteristic of a true believer; to be faithful to his brothers in faith and to those who stand by him in his darkest moments and have shared with him life's hardship, since no one looks down to his friends when he prospers except the mean one. The poet said:
When the noble and generous in spirit prosper
They remember the ones
with whom they shared before
life's difficult situations
and humble circumstances
* * *
Let me give you an example of an act of meanness. A man may get married to a woman, and she may endure his poor living conditions for years, however, when his financial situation gets better, he looks for another wife! Such a man is so mean to his wife; she has been content with him during hard times, but when he becomes rich, he is no longer satisfied with her! He will meet Allah (on the Day of Resurrection) while Allah will probably be angry with him (since Allah has forbidden injustice and oppression).
It was narrated that one of the Salaf (pious predecessors) gave his son the following piece of advice, "O my son, do not make friend except with the one who is always there for you when you need him, who never covets what you possess when you become rich, and who never looks down on you when he moves into a more senior position." Also, a wise man once said, "O my son, if your fellow brother is appointed to a senior position, and he maintains half of his affection towards you, then it is great!"
Let me tell you the following story: There were two friends living in harsh living conditions. Once, one of them said to the other, "If you are appointed to a senior position, will you remember me then?" His friend answered, "Of course! I will never forget you." Then he asked him, "Where are we going to meet each other?" His friend answered, "Near this tree!"
Many years later, his friend was appointed to a high position. When he passed by that tree and saw his old friend, he neglected him and pretended that he had not seen him. After a period of time, he was dismissed from his post, and he met his old friend again, so the latter asked him, "Why did you neglect me when you passed by that tree? Did you not notice me?" His friend answered, "I did not even notice that tree!" Well, holding a high position can make one blind!
I repeat the advice of the wise man to his son, "O my son, if your fellow brother is appointed to a senior position, and he maintains half of his affection towards you, then it is too great!"
Ar-Rabi' narrated that ash-Shafi'i (may Allah have mercy on him) made friend with a man from Baghdad, but when that man was appointed to a high position, he began to treat him in an unfriendly way, so Ash-Shafi'i sent to him the following letter, saying:
Go away, the feeling of affection towards you
has been removed from my heart, just like divorce.
However, it could not be likened to an irrevocable divorce;
If you come to your sense, this will help rekindle our friendship,
with two divorces remaining. But if you refrain,
I shall give another divorce, which could be likened
to pronouncing divorce two times during two monthly courses.
If the third reaches you from me,
making the divorce irrevocable, no one can ever help you
* * *
To conclude, the first point of this lecture is that if you become a person with high social status, you should stay faithful to your old friends who stood by you during difficult and tough times.
A true friend does not agree with his friend when he disobeys Allah:
The second point of this lecture is that being a loyal friend means that you never agree with your brother in faith when he violates Shari'ah (the Islamic Law), commits a sin, earns money through haram (illegal) means, or neglects one of the five obligatory prayers, since refraining from giving advice to him is an act of unfaithfulness. In other words, when your brother in faith deviates from the straight path, commits sins, or neglects some of the religious duties, you should advise him in private, because giving advice to others in public is an act of defamation. Thus, if you are faithful to your brother in faith, you should disagree with him when he disobeys Allah the Almighty.
It was narrated that Imam ash-Shafi'i, may Allah have mercy on him, established a bond of brotherhood with Muhammad Ibn Abdul Hakam, and they were so close friends that Imam ash-Shafi'i once said, "My only reason for staying in Egypt is to see him." Once Muhammad fell ill, so ash-Shafi'i, may Allah's mercy be upon him, visited him and said:
When the beloved one fell ill and I visited him
to inquire about his health,
I became ill too out of fear for his health.
When my beloved recovered and visited me,
I became well at seeing him in good health.
* * *
He recovered when he found that his brother in faith had recovered. Due to this sincere affection, people thought that Imam ash-Shafi'i would ask Muhammad Ibn Abdul Hakam to take his place (i.e. to teach people in his sessions of knowledge) after his death. When he was on his death bed, people asked him, "Which one of your students will be your successor?" Muhammad Ibn Abdul Hakam stood upright and raised his head thinking that he would definitely be chosen among other students, but Imam ash-Shafi'i, may Allah have mercy upon him, said surprisingly, "Glory be to Allah! Is there any doubt about it? Of course he is Abu Yaqub Al-Buwaiti."
Everyone was surprised; all people thought that Muhammad Ibn Abdul Hakam would be his successor, since he had perfectly learnt his madhhab (a school of thought within Islamic jurisprudence). However, Abu Yaqub Al-Buwaiti was more pious and more righteous than Muhammad Ibn Abdul Hakam. So, Imam ash-Shafi'i gave people sincere advice for the sake of Allah the Almighty and did not flatter his close friend. He did not seek the acceptance of people by displeasing Allah the Almighty.
After his death, Muhammad Ibn Abdul Hakam refuted the madhhab of ash-Shafi'i and went back to his father's madhab; he returned to study the madhhab of Imam Malik, may Allah have mercy upon him.
Bear in mind that if you are perfectly faithful to your brother in faith, you should disagree completely with him when he does something that displeases Allah the Almighty, because sincere love implies giving sincere advice for the Sake of Allah the Almighty.
Al-Ahnaf said, "Brotherhood is like a thin piece of jewelry; if you do not guard it, it can be easily damaged. Protect it by controlling your temper, so that you can accept the excuse of those who do wrong to you, and by being content and humble, so that you will not make others feel deeply indebted for you due to the favors you do for them, or that they fail to thank you enough." In other words, to maintain this thin piece of jewelry, (i.e. Friendship), do not criticize your friends repeatedly. Also, if you do your friend a favor, never mention it many times in front of him in order to make him feel indebted to you. Furthermore, if your friend apologizes to you for his mistake, accept his apology in order to maintain your friendship.
True friends feel deep grief when they leave each other:
One of the aspects of utmost faithfulness is feeling so sad when you leave your friends or feeling a strong dislike towards anything which makes you leave them. Concerning this point, the poet said:
I have been through many trials and tribulations in my life
the hardest one of them is to leave your beloved ones
while other afflictions are quite bearable.
Leaving your loved ones is one of the most difficult trials in life. Ibn Uyaynah said, "I have been apart from my dearest friends 30 years ago, nevertheless, the pain of losing them never gets easier." Thus, losing one's respectful, faithful, honest, friendly and modest brothers in faith is really heartbreaking.
In brief, one of the signs of true friendship is feeling deep grief when leaving each other.
A true friend avoids listening to what people say against his friend:
One of the signs of faithfulness is that you never listen to what people say against your friend, especially those who first pretend to be nice while their real aim is to ruin other people's relationship. Someone may praise your friend in front of you at first in order to make you feel pleased; he may say that you have chosen the right friend since he is a good and faithful man, and a person of high moral character. Then, he starts revealing some of your friend's hidden faults. Thus, his trick is to praise your friend in the beginning to make you listen to him, i.e. to ensure that you will listen to him, since he knows that if he reveals your friend's faults in the beginning, you will never listen to him. After that, he criticizes him. Hence, one of the signs of perfect faithfulness is to refuse to listen to what people say against your friend.
It was said that someone came to a wise man and asked him, "May you accept me as a friend of yours?" That wise man replied, "I accept that at three conditions." The man asked, "What are they?" To which the wise man replied, "Never listen to what others say against me, never disagree with me, and never give me false advice."
A true friend does not develop friendship with the enemy of his friend
Out of faithfulness, you should not befriend the enemy of your friend. Namely, if someone hates you and spread lies against you, your dear and faithful friend should never become a friend of him. Our Master Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "You have three types of friends in life: Your friend, the friend of your friend, and the enemy of your enemy. On the other hand, you have three types of enemies in life: Your enemy, the friend of your enemy, and the enemy of your friend." Thus, the faithful friend never befriends his friend's enemy, and this is the 7th right of friendship, and let us move on to the 8th and last right.
A true friend does not burden his friend beyond his scope
The 8th right of friendship is that one should make things easier for his friend and should not charge him with a heavy burden or burden him beyond what he can bear. For example, you should not ask your friend to invite you to a banquet at his home, as this will embarrass him. Perhaps, he is facing difficult financial times, and he cannot afford it. Also, he may be busy, his wife may be too sick to cook, and he may have a domestic problem, such as a dispute between his daughter and her fiancé which causes a lot of tension and stress in his house, etc. So, you should not embarrass him and burden him beyond his capacity.
Instead of that, you should make things easier for him. Also, you should not take advantage of him financially or exploit his high social status to your own advantage. Furthermore, you should not require him to be humble and kind to you, to check in on you or to appreciate you. For example, you should not say to him, "have I not invited you twice? Why do you not invite me in return? Why do you not appreciate what I have done to you!" By doing so, you are embarrassing him. You should better love him for the Sake of Allah alone. Indeed, the deeper your faith is, the less you expect others to do you a favor in return to yours. Hence, even if you have invited someone 30 times or have done him a lot of favors, expect nothing in return since you are doing that for the Sake of Allah the Almighty, and that is all. Pay attention to the following Hadith concerning this point:
(Do good to all people whether they deserve it or not; if they are good people they deserve your kindness, if they are not, your kindness reflects your inner goodness)
For example, you should not remind your friend of the gift you gave him on his weeding then blame him for not giving you a present in return when you had a baby. He might be in a financial hardship and cannot afford it, so do not embarrass others.
To sum up this point, do your brother in faith good without expecting anything in return. Also, do not exploit his financial situation or his high social status to your own advantage, and do not push him too hard or put pressure on him since all these acts indicate weakness of faith.
One more thing, if your friend is travelling abroad, do not ask him to buy you many thing from there. It may take him 5 or 10 hours to buy all these things while it is only a one-day trip. Let alone, it may exceed his budget, or his luggage may become too heavy since they will get filled with all those presents. As a result, he will find himself obliged to pay overweight baggage fees in foreign currency. Thus, do not overburden your friend.
On the other hand, it is permissible for you to ask your brother in faith to make Du'a for you. Also, you can visit each other in order to encourage one another to obey Allah the Almighty and to practise Islam. This is definitely allowed.
Verily, helping your brother in faith, giving him his rights, and providing assistance for him will be a means for you to get closer to Allah the Almighty, and this is the true brotherhood in Islam.
A wise man once said, "Whoever asks his brothers in faith to do him a favor while he does nothing for them in return has done them wrong." For example, you should not visit your friend's shop in order to buy something while you know for sure that he will feel too embarrassed and will not ask you to pay for it. He will find himself obliged to give it to you for free, whereas he never visits you at your shop in order to take something in return.
I repeat the word of wisdom I have just mentioned, "Whoever asks his brothers in faith to do him a favor while he does nothing for them in return has done them wrong. Also, whoever does his brothers in faith a favor and asks them to return the favor has put a heavy burden on them." For example, if you do your friend a favor then you ask him two weeks later to do the same or something similar in return for what you have done for him, you put a heavy burden on him, since he will feel forced to return the favor. Thus, "Whoever asks his friends to do him a favor while he does nothing for them in return has done them wrong. Also, whoever does them a favor and obliges them to return the favor has put a heavy burden on them. Furthermore, whoever does them a favor and expects nothing in return is extremely generous to them." So, when you help others, try to do that with no expectation of anything in return, in order to be really generous to them.
Another wise man once said, "Whoever estimates his self-worth among his friends far above what his real value is, and no one advises him to stop being arrogant, then all of them are to be blamed."
Feeling superior to others:
Let me ask you this question: Is there anyone in the world who is better, more perfect, closer to Allah or greater than the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him? Of course, there is not. Although the Noble Prophet was the greatest person in the world, he did not consider himself superior to his companions and did not distinguish himself from them.
(Just as the Prophet (PBUH), and his companions landed from their rides, and laid the loads down, it was decided that they would sacrifice a lamb for dinner.
One of the companions volunteered: "I will sacrifice the lamb."
Another: "I will skin it."
Third: "I will cook it."
Fourth: "I will...."
The Prophet (PBUH): "I will gather the wood from the desert."
The group: "O Messenger of Allah, it is not becoming of you to discomfort yourself as such. You rest. We will be honored to do all this on our own."
The Prophet (PBUH): "I know that you are eager to do it all, but Allah is not pleased with the slave who distinguishes between himself and his companions, and considers himself better than others." Then he went to the desert, and gathered some wood, and brought it to the group.)
Unlike the Noble Prophet, someone may think that he is better than the others although he is an ordinary person. For instance, when such a man goes for a picnic with his friends, he never helps them in the preparation of food, cooking, or even washing the dishes. Instead, he claims that he is tired and needs some rest. He just wants his friends to wake him up when food is ready! Of course, this behavior is not acceptable, and the true believer never behaves this way. Pay attention to what the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, who is the Master of mankind, the beloved of Allah, said:
(I know that you are eager to do it all, but Allah is not pleased with the slave who distinguishes between himself and his companions, and considers himself better than others)
Another example of modesty is the behavior of the Muslim Khlaifah (caliph), Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him. While he was riding a she-camel and holding its reins, the latter dropped down, so he got down from that she-camel in order to take them. People around him looked with astonishment at him and said, "O Khalifah (successor) of the Messenger of Allah! Why do you not ask one of us to pick up the reins for you?" He said, "I heard my beloved one, the Prophet of Allah, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, saying, 'Do not ask others to do something for you as long as you can do it yourself'."
Well, it is ok to ask for help when one gets seriously ill, but as long as you enjoy good health, do not ask others to do things for you, and that will be one of the ways to thank Allah the Almighty for the blessing of well-being. Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:
(Whoever remembers Allah with much remembrance proves himself to be free of hypocrisy.)
Also, Jabir Ibn Abdul Allah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:
(Whoever pays Zakah on his wealth proves himself to be free of stinginess.)
In another Hadith the Prophet, peace be upon him, said:
(Whoever carries his own belongings proves himself to be free of arrogance.)
In the battle of Badr, the Muslim army were only 313 men, with 2 horses and 70 camels, so the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:
(Let each 3 men share the same camel, and Abu Lubabah, Ali, and I will share the same one. When it was time for the Messenger of Allah to walk, they said, "O Messenger of Allah please do not get off the camel, we will walk and let you ride." But the Prophet said, "No, you are not stronger than me, and I am not in less need of reward than you.")
Let me give you another example of the modesty of the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him. When Adi Ibn Hatim, came to visit the Prophet (before he embraced Islam), the Noble Prophet gave him a leather cushion filled with palm fiber to sit on. Adi felt embarrassed before him and said, "Rather, you sit on it." "No, you," the Prophet said, and he sat on the floor. Verily, this is the high moral qualities of the Noble Prophets.
A wise man once said, "Whoever estimates his self-worth among his friends far above what his real value is, then all of them are to be blamed." He is blamed because he has considered himself superior to them, and they are blamed as well, because no one of them advises him to stop being arrogant, and they delude him into thinking that he is right.
Let me continue that wise saying, "Whoever estimates his self-worth among his friends properly, will be hard for them all. Whereas, if someone estimates his self-worth among others less than his real value, then all of them will be saved."
Good friends behave naturally toward each other:
One of the signs of being good friends is that you can be yourself in front of your friend and you do not find yourself obliged to behave in a sophisticated way.
Al-Junaid said, "When two people love each other for the Sake of Allah, and one of them finds himself obliged to behave in a formal or an artificial way in front of the other, then one of them definitely has done something wrong."
To make my point clear, let me tell you about a bad communication habit which can ruin family relationship. Some sons-in-law are addicted to criticism, i.e. a family may invite their son-in-law into their home for a casual dinner, and they welcome him warmly and treat him with respect. However, when he comes back home, he comments negatively on their food. For example, he says to his wife, "The cheese was too salty, there were not enough olives in the dish, and the eggs were fried in vegetable oil instead of the fats obtained from animal sources, etc. so his wife will feel embarrassed; she will feel ashamed to say that to her mother. Which means his parents-in-laws cannot behave normally in front of him since he criticizes every little detail, and as a result, his relationship with them will turn cold.
Indeed, if you love your parents-in-law, let them behave normally in front of you and never criticize every little thing about them, otherwise, never visit them! If you truly love them, you should behave spontaneously, not formally, because this is how true believers should be.
When one criticizes his parents in-law in front of his wife, his poor wife will be physiologically and emotionally harmed; if she tries to defend her parents against her husband's criticism, he will prevent her from doing so, saying, "Did I not tell you that your parents lack social etiquette!" If she remains silent, he will go on with his criticism, so she will be confused. Verily, this is one of the traits of ignorant people (about Islamic ethics and high morals values).
Hussein Ibn Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:
(Allah loves lofty matters and superiority and hates inferior matters.)
By Allah, The Only One Worthy of worship, the true believer never indulges in such inferior and silly matters.
That son in-law should follow the example of the noble companions of the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, who used to be satisfied with the least of things; a single date was enough for them.
Bear in mind that when your parents in-law invite you to dinner, that means they love you and care for you. So, never complain about their hospitality under the pretext that you see some fruits in their fridge while looking for some cold water, but they have not presented to you. What a bad son in-law you will seem!
I repeat what Al-Junaid said, "When two people love each other for the Sake of Allah, and one of them finds himself obliged to behave in a formal or an artificial way in front of the other, then one of them definitely has done something wrong."
The worst friend is he who obliges you be formal to him:
Imam Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "The worst friend ever is the one with whom you find yourself obliged beyond your limit to please him." I have a friend from another country, and he visits our country from time to time in order to attend some Islamic lectures. Sometimes he stays in my house, so when he comes to visit me, he asks me not to prepare any special food for him. I present our simple food to him, and he is always pleased with it, so I never feel obliged to behave formally in front of him. Hence, he can come to visit me at any time, and I never feel that he is a burden to me. For instance, I do not have to set up a special room for him to sleep in, and I can offer him our simple food. Also, whenever I visit him, he treats me the same way, and this is how friendly relationship lasts forever, unlike when friends flaunt their wealth at lavish dinner parties.
Keep your friendship with others simple, because if you spend a lot of money on lavish dinner party, may be you will not be able to invite your friends to another one, because you simply cannot afford it, or maybe your friend cannot invite you in return for the same reason. Keep it simple and behave normally, so that your relationship lasts forever. Thus, "The worst friend ever is the one with whom you find yourself obliged beyond your limit to please him", and the one who is overly sensitive. Such a man blames you for everything you do, so you find yourself obliged to apologize to for him all the time." In this regard, there are three traits of the worst friends.
Good friends act naturally in front of each other and forget each other's mistakes. For example, if you do something wrong unintentionally, the good friend takes it easy, he forgives you, because you love each other and he knows very well that you do not mean it, and that is it. Whereas those who are totally ignorant (about Islamic ethics and morals values), focus on other's mistakes, even the smallest ones. Actually, Allah the Almighty pardons our faults, so why do we not forgive one another?
Listen to this story. A Bedouin had lost his camel on a journey in an empty desert while it carries his food and drink, then after he had lost all hope, he found it all of a sudden. He made a huge mistake due to his extreme joy as he said, "O Allah, You are my servant and I am Your Lord." The Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:
(Allah is more joyful with the repentance of His servant than that Bedouin with his camel.)
The moral of this story regarding the point I would like to highlight is forgiving others, accepting their apology and excuse them for the mistakes or slips of the tongue they make unintentionally. Unfortunately, you may find someone whose heart is full with hatred, so he never forgives other's very small mistake even if that happened many years ago. Thus, it was said, "The worst of your friends is the one you are obliged to overextend yourself to please him, and the one who is overly sensitive and who blames you for everything you do so you find yourself obliged to apologize for him all the time." Also, Al-Fudail, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "Overextending oneself to please others severs social relationships"
I told you once that I heard about a group of friends who meet each other every Tuesday for 17 years which is really strange, because usually such regular meetings continue to take place for no more than one or two years. When people asked them, "What is the secret of your healthy long-lasting relationship?" They replied, "Whenever we meet each other, we avoid three matters: Backbiting, intermixing with non-mahram women, and overextending ourselves to please each other (i.e. imposing heavy financial burden on ourselves in order to host lavish dinner parties)."
Apart from the fact that intermingling and free mixing between men and non-mahram women is not allowed in Islam, it often causes some marital problems. When a married couple attend such meetings, they may argue with each other when they come back home about him seeing his wife staring at another man, or about her seeing him staring at another woman, and their relationship may turn into a bad one. Actually, the true believers never attend a meetings in which there is free intermixing between men and non-mahram women.
I repeat this saying, "Overextending oneself (i.e. imposing heavy burden on oneself) to please others severs social relationships". This happens when one invites his friend to a lavish dinner party, and the latter may not invite him in return because he cannot afford it, so they would not visit each other anymore.
The Mother of the Believers, Mrs. A'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said, "A believer is a brother of another believer, so he never exploits him to his own advantage", which means he never flatters him to gain some benefits. Actually, he who never humiliates himself in front of a rich person to gain some benefits will be raised to a higher rank in the Sight of Allah the Almighty since he knows for sure that Allah the Almighty is the One Who has granted him wealth, and He is able to bestow His Endless Blessings upon him too. Thus, never humiliate yourself in front of rich people seeking some benefit.
So, the Mother of the Believers Mrs. A'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said, "A believer is a brother of another believer, so he never exploits him to his own advantage, and he avoids being overly formal with him." So, why do you act too formally in front of your brothers in faith? Relax and act normally since they are your closest ones!
Al-Junaid said, "When two people love each other for the Sake of Allah, and one of them finds himself obliged to behave in a formal or an artificial way in front of the other, then one of them definitely has done something wrong."
Yesterday, while one of my brothers in faith rode with me in my car, I interpreted a Qudsi Hadith for him. When I finished, his eyes were full of tears, and he thanked me gratefully for that. I told him that it does not deserve so much thanks, but he said, "Yesterday, I rode with an arrogant man who was driving an expensive car. He looked down on me and acted so superior to me that I was about to ask him many times to stop his car and let me get out of it! He did not even utter a single word all the way, and I could not stand it anymore." May Allah the Almighty protect us from arrogance.
A poet said:
Ponder over Al-Kuhl (cosmetic black stone); which is a stone
Nevertheless, due to its softness,
it is applied in people's eyes.
(which means avoiding arrogance
and being humble makes one win people's hearts)
Avoid being overly formal or extremely cautious:
By Allah, dear noble brothers, the more humble you are, the higher your status will be in the Sight of Allah, as well as in the eyes of people. On the other hand, the arrogant person is despised by Allah the Almighty since haughtiness is the worst trait a person can possess. In fact, man should avoid being arrogant since he has been created weak; he is but a single sperm-drop, and he will become a corpse after his death. Furthermore, his weakness can be manifested when he gets ill; he may lose one of his five senses after an accident, for example. Also, if he has a kidney stone, he may spend a sleepless night due to pain, so what makes him so arrogant!
When a wise man was once asked about the characteristics of a good friend, he answered, "A good friend is the one who you do not have to place an excessive burden on yourself in order to please him, and you do not have to be overly cautious while dealing with him."
Some people are so difficult to deal with, because they get irritated very easily at a single word, which leads to a fragile social relationship. Whereas a true believer is amicable and easy to deal with; if his brother in faith calls him by his first name instead of calling him Dr. so and so, or instead of calling him by his nickname (i.e. Abu [the father of] so and so), he does not feel unappreciated or disrespected since in a close relationship there are no formalities.
Actually, calling somebody by his nickname does not necessarily imply showing respect. The proof of this point is that Allah the Almighty called His enemy; Abu Lahab, by his nickname. He says:
(Perish the two hands of Abu Lahab (an uncle of the Prophet), and perish he.)
On the other hand, when it comes to His beloved Noble Prophets, He called them by their first names: O Yahya, O Zakariya, and O Iesa (Jesus), etc.
(Perish the two hands of Abu Lahab (an uncle of the Prophet), and perish he!)
So, if someone calls you by your first name instead of your nickname (Abu (the father of) so and so), it is not a big deal; maybe he has forgotten the name of your eldest son!
Ja'far as-Sadiq, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "The friend who makes me uneasy is the one who behaves overly formally in front of me, or the one who makes me very careful about how I behave towards him, and who makes me choose my words carefully, lest he gets upset over trivial matters. One the other hand, the friend who makes me feel so relieved is the one in front of whom I can act as normal as when I am on my own."
In other words, in a close friendship there are no formalities; you can go for a picnic with your friend and share your humble meal with him. Thus, one of the signs of a genuine friendship is that you act normal in front of your friend as if you are alone. On the other hand, when the one who acts overly formal comes to visit you, you feel obliged to dress formally in front of him; you cannot receive him wearing your casual clothes even if they are neat and clean, lest he feel disrespected.
Let us repeat that wise saying, "The friend who makes me uneasy is the one who acts overly formal in front of me, or the one who I should be very careful about how I behave towards him and I should choose my words carefully lest he get upset over trivial matters. On the other hand, the friend who makes me feel so relieved is the one in front of whom I can act as normal as when I am on my own." Verily, that is the greatest friend.
Some Sufi (ascetics) scholars said, "Do not become friend with anyone except the one who does not respect you more when you do a righteous deeds or less when you commit a sin", which means he never changes his opinion about you, and it is all the same to him. Let me elaborate; consider the example of someone who stayed the night at his friend's house, but he woke up after sunrise and could not wake up for Fajr (dawn) prayer, his friend should excuse him, because maybe he was very exhausted. So he should never say to him in astonishment: How could you miss al-Fajr Prayer? Are you not a believer!" By doing so, he will make him feel ashamed and he will never visit him again. Furthermore, It can happen to everyone, even the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, missed Al-Fajr prayer once. So, it may happen to anyone under very difficult circumstances. For example, maybe he stayed awake till late at night, because his child was very sick so he woke up after sunrise. So, do not criticize him for that, because it can happen to you as well.
A true friend is someone who apologizes on your behalf when you make a mistake:
Some of the scholars said, "Be polite to people whose main concern is this worldly life, learn a lot from those who are concerned about the Hereafter (i.e. Islamic Scholars), and behave naturally when you are with deeply pious people (i.e. who adhere to the high ethical values of Islam), since there is no need for formalities.
Also, it was said, "Do not become a friend of anyone except the one who asks pardon and apologizes on your behalf when you make a mistake." Some people are so humble that they ask for your pardon even though they are the ones who do you a favor. Thus, "Do not become a friend of anyone except the one who asks pardon, apologizes on your behalf when you make a mistake, offers considerable support for you, and avoids being dependent on you (in order not to bother you)."
A man came to al-Junaid, may Allah have mercy upon him, and said, "True friends are rare these days, so how can I find one?" Al-Junaid said nothing, but when that man repeated his question three times, he replied, "If you are trying to find a brother in faith who offers a considerable support for you, and who endures the harm caused by you to him, then he belongs to the extremely rare men. Yet, if you are trying to find a brother in faith you should offer a support for him and endure the harm caused by him, then he belongs to those who are many", so that man did not say anything.
Knowledge acquisition requires hard work, memorizing and revising:
Next lecture, insha' Allah (if Allah's Will), we will continue discussing this subject, but let me tell you something. I am sure you have benefited greatly from this information, however, if anyone of you asks himself a month later whether he remembers anything about this subject; I mean about the 8th right of a Muslim upon another Muslim, he will mostly remember nothing at all, because acquiring knowledge requires memorizing and revising what you have learnt. I suggest that you buy this book; the Revival of Religious Knowledge, read it in your spare time, and revise what you have learned in this lecture many times.
By the time, this knowledge should be transformed into behavior, habits and morals, since Knowledge itself is of no value unless you put it into practice. In other words, even if we reflect deeply on the valuable information mentioned in this book, it is worthless in the Sight of Allah the Almighty unless this information is transformed into moral principles you live by and good habits you follow.
Well, whoever does not apply what he has learnt to his life can be likened to a free listener who has no right to apply for exams, and who does not have to do homework, write essays, and write theses, etc. like other students do, and will eventually get a worthless certificate. The main point is that listening alone is not enough.
This book is available in most bookstores, so anyone of you can read it, revise the chapter The Rights of a Muslim upon another Muslim at home and recall every comment I made. I hope that this knowledge will be translated into actions; habits, moral principles, and a pattern of behavior. By adopting these high ethical standards, we will have a socially cohesive society.
In fact, this chapter can be printed separately as a booklet entitled The Rights of a Muslim upon another Muslim and distributed free of charge. Doing such a thing may be regarded a righteous deed by which one can serve Islam.
To wrap up, listening alone is not enough; acquiring knowledge requires hard effort, memorizing, revising and applying what you have learnt to your life. One of my brothers in faith told me that he wrote down the main points of this subject, and each weekend he asks himself whether he has put this knowledge into practice, so he considers whether he behaves excessively formally in front of his friends, criticizes every little thing about them, and gets upset at trivial matters, etc.
It was said that after the death of one of the Islamic scholars, who wrote about 200 books, one of his students saw him in his dream, and he asked him, "My master, have you been rewarded abundantly for your considerable knowledge?" He said, "The thing which benefited me more than anything else was performing small number of supererogatory prayers at the last part of night."
Accordingly, knowledge has no special value in itself; knowledge is worthless without actions. It was said, "Whoever acts according to the knowledge he has acquired, Allah the Almighty will grant him the knowledge that he did not know." Also, "You will not be regarded a scholar until you apply what you have learnt to your everyday life, and no matter how knowledgeable you are, you will not be rewarded until you act according to your knowledge." Hence, fulfilling one of these rights (the rights of a Muslim over his fellow Muslim) to your Muslim brother is far better than memorizing this book completely (without acting upon it).
When Al-Ghazali, may Allah have mercy upon him, was told about a man who memorized Sahih Al-Bukhari (while he did not practice the teachings of Islam in his life), he said, "It is just an extra version of that book!" This indicates that if you memorize this book completely, while you do not put what you have learnt into practice, your memorization will be just an extra version of this book. On the other hand, when you act upon your knowledge, your rank will be raised in the Sight of Allah the Almighty.
Lastly, what really matters is putting your knowledge into practice, whereas memorizing alone is not sufficient and is pointless.