A popular buzzword amongst Muslims nowadays is the concept of “brotherhood”. “The event is for brotherhood purposes…” “This is great for creating brotherhood”, and other similar statements are often heard as the tagline for organized events, and has become almost something of a subculture for Muslim youth (represented by groups like YM and that cheesy “chill yo Islam yo” t-shirt, for example).
You may have noticed that “brotherhood” is being placed in quotation marks here. Why? Isn’t it a key part of our deen? Indeed, Allah establishes it in the Qur’an by stating, “Verily and exclusively, the Muslims are brothers” (49:10). Isn’t this something we should be trying to nurture? Unfortunately, our definition of “brotherhood” is no longer in line with its true, Islamically established meaning: a bond, stronger than blood, that exists between two people who say “la ilaha ill-Allah”. Take a moment to consider that: the only condition for this brotherhood is the declaration of the Shahada. It sounds so simple, how could our definition have corrupted that? It is by introducing extra conditions which, believe it or not, almost all of us are guilty of at one point or another.
You might immediately ask what that means, but in your heart you already know the answer.
“That guy is a hardcore salafi, you could grab his beard in 5 fists.”
“Watch out, that girl is a sufi. The only word in her vocab is ‘dhikr’”.
“He’s a shi’a, he prays on a rock, doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
How shameful is it that these are not exaggerated scenarios, but actual sentiments Muslims voice? How shameful is it that we have created artificial boundaries in a system based on unity? Ikhtilaf (difference of opinion) exists in Islam, and discussing which opinions have a basis and which don’t is a whole subject on its own…but since when has it become the criterion for determining who to associate with and who to avoid? Aren’t we one ummah? Isn’t there such a thing as discussion in Islam? Naseehah (advice)? Where does ikhtilaf come in to diminish the bond so clearly and simply established in the aforementioned ayah? And on top of categorizing other Muslims like this, why do we insist on categorizing ourselves? Why isn’t it enough to say we’re Muslim anymore?
Your label, whether you realized/intended it or not, separates you from others. You are now different. You’re a shafi’i. A hanafi. A salafi. Sufi. You have created a subcategory for Muslim when there aren’t any, and thus have created fragmentation when there should be solidarity. Ikhtilaf should be the source of discourse, not distance. We should be brought together to learn and teach one another about our deen, but instead we have done the exact opposite. Our Ummah is literally bleeding to death, and we’d rather criticize (from a distance) and avoid our own brothers and sisters who happen to hold a different idea (wrong or right). Until we realize and internalize the true meaning of brotherhood, not “brotherhood”, we will stay in the weak broken state we’re in now. Our Ummah has worked together and lived in harmony for centuries despite ikhtilaf existing even during the time of the Prophet (saw), so clearly our disunity is a product of our own ignorance rather than something innate in Islam (wal ‘iyathu billah).