At this moment, my Hashemi friend entered our house and said: “Tell me the truth. What happened to the bag of money I sent you yesterday?” I narrated all that had happened. He looked down for a moment and then said: “Yesterday when you sent a message asking for help, I had nothing but this bag of money, and I sent it to you. So to get some money for my own expenses I wrote to our other friend, asking for his help. He sent me my own sealed bag, and I remained astonished all this time till you explained the matter.” Waghedi says: “We three divided that money among us, and they offered my wife a hundred drachmas. The strange event was reported to Ma'emoun who summoned me and asked me to narrate the story, and I described exactly what had happened. Ma'emoun ordered to give two thousand dinars individually to all three of us and a gift of one thousand dinars to my wife.”(1)
The above story is a historical incident which has occurred for some Muslims who were educated in the school of Islam. Under the influence of the teachings of Islam, they acquired such fine qualities and human ways, and thus the spirit of brotherhood and fellowship dominated their lives to such an extent. If we study the history of early Islam, we can clearly observe the spirit of brotherhood and fellowship among individuals. In the battle of Ohod, which was one of the toughest of Islamic battles, the Muslims showed a great degree of self-sacrifice. Many groups courageously welcomed martyrdom. And a large number of them fell wounded and half-dead on the battlefield.
Seven Muslim soldiers had fallen wounded side by side, breathing their last. All of them were exhausted and thirsty. A man whose duty was to provide water to the soldiers, came there, but he had enough water for only one man. He came with it to one of them, asking him to drink it, but the wounded soldier said: “Give it to the man who has fallen near me.” So the carrier of water came to the second man who refused to take the water, asking him to give the water to the next soldier.
Thus, the third and fourth soldiers acted in the same way until all the seven of them, in turn, wanted the water to be given to the next man. The water-carrier came back to the first man since the seventh soldier had said that the first man was the thirstiest, but he was found dead by this time. When he came upon the others turn in turn, they, too, had passed away, and thus all of them had died in thirst, and actually taught other people the lesson of self-sacrifice and fellowship.(2)
That was an example of the lesson they had learnt in the school of the great prophet of Islam, and employed it even under the hardest conditions in all aspects of their lives. It is unfortunate that, despite having faith in such a liberating religion and sublime teachings, we are involved in such a condition that the spirit of brotherhood and fellowship is gradually disappearing among us, to be replaced by a dryness and indifference which are the souvenirs of the west. But we should remember that this state of affairs is contrary to Islamic teachings, and a Muslim cannot remain cool and indifferent towards the discomforts of his co-religionist brethren, and be a spectator. The noble prophet of Islam says:
مَنْ أَصْبَحَ لَا يَهْتَمُّ بِأُمُورِ الْمُسْلِمِينَ فَلَيْسَ بِمُسْلِم
“He who begins his day without endeavouring for the improvement of Muslims' affairs, is no Muslim.” (3) Imam Sadiq, the sixth Imam, says:
خیارکم سمحاوکم و شرارکم بخلائکم و من صالح الاعمال البر بالاخوان و السعی فی حوائجهم و فی ذلک مرغمة للشیطان و تزحزح عن النیران و دخول الجنان.
“The best of you Muslims are those who are generous, and the worst are the mean and miserly. One of the good and admirable acts is to show goodness to co-religionist brethren, and endeavour to meet their needs. Such an act makes Satan abject, and its doer will be immune from the fire of hell, and will approach heaven and eternal happiness.” (4)
A man came to the noble prophet of Islam and complained of being hungry. The prophet sent someone to a number of his relatives to get some food for the man. Unfortunately no food was to be found in their houses. The prophet turned to those who were present and said: “Which of you can take care of this man tonight?” Imam Ali said: “O, prophet of God! I will do it.” Then Ali took the man's arms and proceeded together to his own house. On reaching there, Imam Ali asked his noble consort, Fatima: “What eatables do we have in the house?” She said: “A little food enough for our children.” He said: “We must give priority to our guest over our children and ourselves.”
Upon this verdict, Fatima managed somehow to put the children to sleep without supper, and the Imam placed the food before the guest, and while pretending to repair the lamp, put it out. The guest began to eat in the dark, and the Imam sat by him without touching the food, but making the guest think that his host, too, was partaking of the supper. Thus, that night the Imam, Fatima and the children went without supper, and for the sake of God, showed hospitality to the guest. God Almighty in the following Quranic verse has praised this nobility of character and self-sacrifice:
وَيُؤْثِرُونَ عَلَىٰ أَنْفُسِهِمْ وَلَوْ كَانَ بِهِمْ خَصَاصَةٌ
“...and prefer (them) before themselves though poverty may afflict them...” 5)
Naturally, this conduct is not possible for everyone, and only a supreme man is able to behave in this manner.
Nor has Islam required every follower of its faith to act in this way as a duty, but what is considered a definite and inevitable duty is brotherhood and fellowship, in the sense that a Muslim should help his co-religionist brethren in distress and hardship, devote a part of his wealth to the betterment of the condition of the needy and the helpless, visit sick Muslims, console them, and as far as possible take care of orphans and those who have no guardian, and participate in the establishment of public welfare foundations.
A Greek used to visit Imam Ali frequently and discuss Islamic injunctions with him. When he became sufficiently versed in Islam, and was convinced of its rightfulness, he embraced this faith under the direction of the Imam. When Imam Ali was guiding him about his future duties, he said:
وآمرک ان تواسی اخوانک المطابقین لک على تصدیق محمد صلى الله علیه واله وتصدیقی
“I advise you to assist your co-religionist brethren who are the followers of the prophet of Islam and me, and help them with some of the wealth which God has granted you. Meet their needs, remove their difficulties, and treat them kindly.” (6)
Imam Reza, the eight Imam, says about the rights of co-religionist brethren:
إن من حق المؤمن على المؤمن المودة له في صدره والمؤاساة له في ما له والنصرة له على من ظلمه ... و لايظلمه و لا يغشه و لا يخوکه و لا يخذله و لا یغتابه و لا يكذبه ...
“One of the rights that every believer owes to his co-religionist brother is to love him truly, to help him financially, to show him fellowship, and aid him when he is oppressed by someone... A believer is never unjust to his co-religionist brother, does not deceive or betray him, and allows no slander, nor lies to him.” (7)
He who offers a garment as a gift to his co-religionist brother, will be rewarded with heavenly garments by God, and he who gives a loan to his co-religionist brother for the sake of God, will receive alms by God, and he who removes the sorrow of his co-religionist brother, will be aided by God in removing the sorrow of his life in the hereafter...
Safwan Jamal says: “I was sitting with Imam Sadiq in a gathering when a man of Mecca entered and said that his money was finished and he had no fare left for his return trip.
1. Historical stories, Morawej-o-Zahab of Masoudi
4. Majaless-e-Mofid,p.179, Amali Toussi, vol.l.
5. The Holy Quran 59:9
6. Ehtejaj of Tabarsi, p.114.
7. Bihar-al-Anwar, vol.74, p.233.