BY DR. AISHA HAMDAN
The Prophet said, “Whoever possesses the following three qualities will taste the sweetness of Eman (faith): One to whom Allah and His Messenger become dearer than anything else, whoever loves his brother (or sister) solely for Allah’s sake, and whoever hates to revert to disbelief just as he loathes to be thrown into the Fire.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Although we readily understand the sweetness of Emaan (faith) that one experiences from loving Allah and His Prophet and hating to revert to disbelief, the concept of loving a sister in Islam is not often discussed in this manner. How could love of a sister in Islam be tied to the sweetness of Eman? And what is the sweetness of Eman?
In essence, love for the sake of Allah is a thing that cannot be truly grasped until it is experienced. But some explanation may be beneficial.
Love for the Sake of Allah
When a Muslim woman loves her sister ‘in Islam’ she loves her for the ‘sake of Allah,’ subhanahu wa ta’ala—as noted in the hadeeth. This means that her love for her sister is connected to, and is part of her love for Allah. She may love her and want to befriend her and be close to her for all the good reasons people love and befriend one another, but in addition, she loves her and treats her in the manner that Allah has ordained she be treated in. Maintaining that as the basis for the relationship is what strips the love from worldly elements, and purifies it so that she and her friend know and feel their love extend way beyond this world.
In this way, a Muslim woman is certain that her love for her sister will endure, because they share a special bond that can never be broken, the bond of faith in Allah, the Creator of all humankind, the Lord through whose Love people love, respect and be kind to one another. It is a bond between hearts and minds that brings them together in a unique and special way; so much so that they are willing to sacrifice anything for each other knowing they will gain the pleasure of Allah in the process. Nothing is ever done for worldly gain or purpose.
Status of those who love for the sake of Allah
It is important to understand that loving someone solely for Allah’s sake may not be easily found and nourished, but for those who do, the reward goes far beyond tasting the sweetness of Eman in this world to an unimaginable blessing—eternal enjoyment in Paradise. The Messenger of Allah said, “On the Day of Judgment, Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, will announce, ‘Where are those persons who (in the world used to) love each other for the sake of My Pleasure? This day I am going to shelter them in the shade provided by Me. Today there is no shade except My shade.” (Muslim) Sisters who love each other for Allah’s sake will find His shade on the day when there will be no other shade. The rewards that Allah gives for this love are beyond what we are capable of earning through other deeds. This emphasizes the importance of loving each other for the sake of Allah.
In another story, “A man went to visit a brother of his in another village. Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, sent an angel to wait for him on the road. When the man came along, the angel asked him, ‘Where are you headed?’ He said, ‘I am going to visit a brother of mine who lives in this village.’ The angel asked, ‘Have you done him any favor (for which you are now seeking repayment)?’ He said, ‘No, I just love him for the sake of Allah.’ The angel told him, ‘I am a messenger to you from Allah, sent to tell you that He loves you as you love your brother for His sake.” (Muslim) How could we deny or ignore the significance of this, when we understand that our love for our sister in Islam brings to us the love of Allah? How could we treat our sister in any other way than that which would gain us Allah’s Pleasure and Grace? How could we harm our sister in Islam knowing that that will lead to losing all of these rewards and blessings?
The sweetness of Emaan
Have you tasted Eman? Do you know how it feels?
It is one of the most amazing gifts in this life, and how sweet it is. Loving your sister in Islam for the sake of Allah is one of the paths to tasting the sweetness of Eman. Experiencing this sweetness requires effort, self-sacrifice, and compassion.
The Prophet said, “None of you has Eman until he desires for his brother Muslim that which he desires for himself.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] He also said, “The Muslims in their mutual love, kindness, and compassion are like the human body, where when one of its parts is in agony, the entire body feels the pain, both in sleeplessness and fever.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Feeling the pain should prompt us to action to alleviate the pain of our sisters in Islam. We should not sleep a night until our sisters are free from the pain and suffering that they are experiencing. When we start feeling the pain our sister feels, and not rest until we do something to alleviate it, then, and only then, we feel joy and happiness, no matter what hardships we had to overcome, we have tasted the sweetness of Eman.
This is one of the ways a sister can experience the sweetness of Eman, and this is the pinnacle of being a Mu’minah. Achieving that is an essential stage on the path to strengthening the Muslim Ummah.
The keys to being a true believing sister
Even though being a true believing sister in Islam is an achievable goal, it is not a simple matter, and there are many ways to fulfilling it. What is listed below outlines the things sisters should struggle to keep in their relationship so that it grows to be for the sake of Allah.
A true sister in Islam will honestly and sincerely love her sisters for the sake of Allah. This should not be construed to mean that sisters will not, and may not, have disagreements or problems. This is not possible, because we are human beings not angels. What makes our relationship unique is the fact that it is controlled by Allah’s commands and guidance. No matter what goes wrong, ultimately, we deal with one another according to the acceptable ways of Shari’ah, seeking only to please Him.
Thus, a sister will strive hard to maintain the ties of love and sisterhood. She will like for her sisters what she likes for herself, and will not forsake them or cut off relations. She will greet her sisters with a cheerful, smiling face, even (or especially) if she does not know them. Tolerance and forgiveness for mistakes will be an important part of her character, and she will be certain to cover the faults of her sisters. There will be no hatred, envy or malice, and she will not hurt feelings by being hostile or argumentative. The true sister will not backbite or gossip, and will stop others who engage in this harmful behavior. She will be kind and generous to her sisters and will offer them sincere and constructive advice when necessary. She will make every effort to enjoin them to the right and forbid them from wrong. She will be loyal toward her sisters and defend them in their absence.
It comes back to us
In the end it all comes hack to us. The Prophet said, “One who helps a fellow Muslim in removing his difficulty in this world, Allah will remove the former’s distress on the Day of Judgment. He who helps to remove the hardship of another will have his difficulties removed by Allah in this world and the Hereafter. One who covers the shortcomings of another Muslim will have his faults covered up in this world and the next by Allah. Allah continues to help a servant so long as he goes on helping his own brother.” (Muslim)
The rewards that we gain are far beyond the efforts and sacrifices that we make.