Solidarity in a Muslim Community

Toward a Caring and Just Muslim Society
Bridge Structure
A believer to another believer is like a building whose different parts reinforce each other
Trees and Waterfall

Islam enjoins its followers to maintain cooperation, solidarity and unity of feelings and emotions among them, in addition to their solidarity in their needs and materialistic matters.

With this, they become like a solid cemented structure whose parts reinforce each other.

Narrated by Abu Musa al Ash’ari, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

"A believer to another believer is like a building whose different parts reinforce each other" (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

Or like a single body in which if any part is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness and fever with it. The Prophet said:

“You see the believers as regards their mercy, love and kindness among themselves resembling one body, so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness (insomnia) and fever with it.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)


Comprehensive Solidarity in Islam

Social solidarity in Islam does not merely stop at the material support, which is one of solidarity’s main aspects, but covers all the needs of the society; individuals and groups, whether these needs are material, moral or intellectual, and in the widest scope of these concepts. This means solidarity involves all the basic rights of individuals and groups in the nation.

All the teachings of Islam affirm the comprehensive nature of solidarity among Muslims. That is why the Muslim community does not recognize individualism, selfishness and negativism. The Muslim community, rather, is based on faithful brotherhood, generosity and always helping one another in righteousness and piety.                  

Social solidarity in Islam is not the concern of only the Muslims belonging to the Muslim nation, but also is the concern of all mankind with all their religions and beliefs within that Islamic society. Allah (SWT) says: {Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just} (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8) because the basis of solidarity is the dignity of mankind. Allah (SWT) says: {We have honored the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors, above a great part of our creation} (Al-Isra’ 17:70).    

One of the comprehensive verses in the context of solidarity and integration of members of the Muslim community is Allah’s saying: {Help ye one another in righteousness and piety, but help ye not one another in sin and rancor: fear Allah, for Allah is strict in punishment} (Al-Maeda 6:2).

Al-Qurtubi said: “It is a command for all the creation to help one another in righteousness and piety, which means they must help one another. Al Mawardi said “Allah (SWT) has called on people to help one another, and connected it to righteousness and piety because with piety comes Allah’s pleasure and with righteousness comes people’s pleasure, and he who gets Allah’s pleasure and people’s pleasure is happy and completely blessed.”  


Importance of Zakah in Islam

Zakah is seen as the first source of exemplifying the concept of solidarity and cooperation. Zakah is the third of the five pillars of Islam.

The Holy Quran has explicitly stated that there is a portion of the property of the rich that should be given to the poor and needy. Allah (SWT) says: {And those in whose wealth is a recognized right. For the (needy) who asks and him who is prevented (for some reason from asking)} (Al-Maarij 70:24-25). The Divine Legislator has fixed that portion Himself and had not left the matter for the generosity of the rich or the openhandedness of the benevolent. He has not left the matter for the feeling of mercy that may exist in the hearts of the rich or their desire for piety and benevolence and their love of philanthropy.

Those needy people have been defined by the Quranic verse: {Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom} (At-Tawbah 9:60).

Thus, Zakah (almsgiving) is highly important as regards to its covering of almost all members of the society and on the basis that Zakah is seen as the first source of exemplifying the concept of solidarity and cooperation. Zakah is the third of the five pillars of Islam. One’s Islam is not accepted without Zakah. Zakah purifies and sanctifies the almsgiver’s self, as Zakah benefits the one who performs it before the Zakah recipient. Allah (SWT) says: {Of their goods, take alms, that so thou mightest purify and sanctify them} (Al-Tawbah, 9:103). Undoubtedly, as almsgiving purifies its performer from stinginess and avarice, almsgiving also removes grudge, rancor and hatred of the rich and the wealthy from the hearts of the needy, the poor and those who deserve almsgiving. Zakah creates an atmosphere of love, cooperation and mutual compassion between members of the society where such a great merit is performed.             

Islam permits those charged with authority among the Muslims to take from the money of the rich what they deem enough to cover the needs of the poor - each one according to his financial capability. It is not permitted in a Muslim community that some people sleep with full stomachs whereas their neighbors are hungry. The whole society is commanded to cooperatively share the minimum necessary to support life. The Prophet says:

“The one who sleeps with a full stomach knowing that his neighbor is hungry doesn't believe in me” (Al-Hakim).

In this area, Imam Ibn Hazm said: “The rich people of every region are instructed to help their poor people and the sultan (ruler) forces them to do so. Therefore, the poor and needy should get food necessary for life, clothing for winter and summer and dwellings to protect them from rain, summer, sun and looks of passersby.

Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs

In Islam, the material solidarity does not stop at providing the minimum necessary to support life for the needy, but it exceeds to achieving sufficiency. This was obvious in Umar ibn Al-Khattab’s saying: “Repeat the alms to them, even if some of them had a hundred camels.”  


Hadiths on the Merit of Solidarity

One of the hadiths that call for the merit of solidarity in the Muslim community and illustrate its status in Islam was narrated by Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari, who said: The Prophet said:

"When the people of the Ash'ari tribe ran short of food during the holy battles, or the food of their families in Madinah ran short, they would collect all their remaining food in one sheet and then distribute it among themselves equally by measuring it with a bowl. So, these people are from me, and I am from them." (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

Ibn Hajar said in his book, Victory of the Creator: It means they are connected to me (the Prophet), and this is the highest honor for every Muslim.

Another Hadith was reported by Abdullah ibn Umar, may Allah be pleased with him and with his father, who said the Prophet said:

“A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

An-Nawawi, may Allah forgive him, said: “This illustrates the merit of helping a Muslim, bringing him out of his discomfort and screening him. A facet of removing a Muslim’s troubles is by removing it with money and authority or assisting him. It is obvious that bringing a Muslim out of his discomfort can be achieved also by one’s giving his opinion or advice”, and this is the exact meaning of solidarity in the Muslim community.    

The Prophet wanted to say that the whole society ought to share supporting one another and particularly the poor and needy and that each well-to-do individual and each individual who has an authority should support his society and always lend it a helping hand. He also wanted to say that all the human resources in society should collectively target the preservation of each single individual’s interests and warding off harms, as well as protecting the social structure and establishing it on sound bases. The hadith also means that people should live with one another in a state of cooperation and unity between individuals and the groups and between everyone and their brother.

The Prophet classified helping the needy and feeling the responsibility toward members of the society as one of the alms due on one’s self. Abu Dharr narrated:

“Every person ought to give an alms everyday- with the rise of the sun”, I said: Oh, Prophet: How can we give alms while we have no money? He replied: “Because one of the gates of alms is guiding a blind, helping a deaf and mute to understand, showing people the ways they should take when they ask for this, enthusiastically helping whomever is in bad need for help, enthusiastically helping the weak, all these are gates to charity giving…” (Ahmad)     

... solidarity is an essential foundation in the Muslim society, which takes many forms of cooperation and partnership ...

Such values are outstanding civilizational landmarks with which Islam had preceded all systems and laws which paid a great concern to that issue. Who had ever heard of guiding the blind and helping the deaf-muted to be considered as a type of charity?!  

The Prophet warned those who are able to fulfill the needs of people from lagging in doing this. Amr ibn Murra told Mu’awiya: I have heard the Prophet saying:

“The Imam who closes his door in the face of the needy, the poor and the visibly in need people, Allah closes the gates of heaven without fulfilling his needs.” (Al-Tirmidhi & Ahmad)

Ibn Murra said: Mu’awiya then assigned a man to fulfill the needs of the people.

Narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah and Abi Talha Al-Ansari, may Allah forgive them, the Prophet said:

“Whoever disappoints a Muslim where his sanctity is profaned and his honor is assaulted will be disappointed by God when he would like to triumph, and whoever stands by a Muslim where his sanctity is profaned and his honor is assaulted will be assisted by God when he needs His assistance” (Abu Dawoud & Ahmad)  

Establishing the origin of this from the sayings of Muslim jurists is marvelous. They judged that every Muslim must try to fend off harms on others. Prayers have to be stopped in order to save the life of whoever needs urgent help such as a drowning person or a person in the center of a fire – he has to save them from anything that may cause his death. If the person is the only one capable to do so, this becomes an obligatory duty that he must do. But if there happens to be more than one who can do so, the duty becomes optional and there is no disagreement between jurists on this.

Thus, solidarity is an essential foundation in the Muslim society, which takes many forms of cooperation and partnership like offering help, protection, support and condolence until the need of the person in trouble is fulfilled and until pains and diseases come to an end.

Source: Taken with minor editorial changes from the Islam Story web site - http://en.islamstory.com
Related Links:
Zakah and Social Justice
Prophet Muhammad & The Power of Giving
The Wisdom Behind Zakah (Alms Giving)
Muhammad: A Father for All
Balance in Spending our Wealth
Dr. Ragheb El-Sergany is an Egyptian Muslim preacher, surgeon and academic who is best known for his studies of Islamic history, and his founding and current supervision of IslamStory.com, a website that deals with the studies of the history of Islam. He is also an assistant professor of Urosurgery in Cairo University School of Medicine. Dr. El-Sergany has hosted and co-hosted several well-known satellite-TV programs in the Arab world, which has contributed to his reputation among Arab audiences.

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