Transcending egoism and perfecting faith
Anas (may Allah be please with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be on him) said:
By Him in whose hand is my soul, a servant of Allah does not believe perfectly till he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.
This is a very important and well-known hadith.
What the Prophet (peace be on him) is saying here is that one cannot attain perfection in their imaan, and will have incomplete imaan, until they love for their neighbour or brother what they love for themselves.
This hadith encapsulates the social aspect of Islam. Islam is not a religion of individualism. It certainly looks after the individual; nurtures the individual and encourages the individual to reach its maximum potential, but it is not a self-centred religion. It is a society-centred religion; society is at the heart of our worship.
When we make dua we do it in a plural form rather than in a singular form. We say ‘Guide US’, ‘you alone WE worship’. We do not say ‘you alone I worship’ in Surat al Fatiha. The use of the plural form brings the community together, bind hearts together and help people to fight their egoism and arrogance, which comes inbuilt in ourselves.
Egoism and self-centredness
By default, we are self-centred creatures. But Islam wants to rid of this internal mechanism and reach beyond ourselves, to our fellow brothers and sisters, to our community, rather than to be trapped in own self, working for our own benefit and interests.
Islam takes the individual out of his shell and propels him to the small circle around him, and then the bigger circle, of which the biggest circle is the circle of the ummah and humanity.
In order to achieve perfection in your imaan you have to break the cycle of egoism and self-interest, and want you love for your brother, neighbour and community. What restricts you from perfection is your ego. The more you fight selfishness we have, the higher your rank will be.
Highest level of faith
Putting others first is called eethaar. It is the highest level of devotion and sacrifice. You cannot advance to higher levels of spirituality and reward until you are prepared to make sacrifices. Sacrifice takes brings you closeness to Allah Almighty. The more you sacrifice the closer you are to Allah Almighty, of course within the limits.
Your brother, your neighbour, all humanity
None of you believes until you love for your brother what you love for yourself. (Bukhari)
The brother here of course can be literally your brother in blood, your brother in faith or your brother in humanity. The narration of this hadith in Muslim says ‘His imaan is not perfect until he loves for PEOPLE’, he did not say his brother, because many interpreters and commentators always comment that ‘his brother’ means his Muslim brother. This restricts goodness to Muslims alone. The Prophet (peace be on him) did not restrict it. When you put all the narrations together, you can see that he (peace be on him) is saying when you love for other people what you love for yourself, this will perfect your Islam.
Love for others what you love for yourself and you will be a mu’min (Ibn Majah)
Mu’adh ibn Anas reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
The best faith is to love for the sake of Allah, to hate for the sake of Allah, and to work your tongue in the remembrance of Allah.
Mu’adh said, “How is it, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said:
That you love for the people what you love for yourself, and you hate for the people what you hate for yourself, and that you speak goodness or remain silent. (Imam Ahmad)
The servant will not reach the highest level of imaan until he loves for people what he loves for himself. (Ibn Hibban)
Love is not restricted to ourselves, to our families or to fellow Muslims
Your love should not be just restricted to the goodness for your family, or your people exclusively – no. You cannot be a good Muslim by just being good to yourself and to your community.
Islam is not for just Muslims, it is for humanity. We tend to forget this, and think Islam is a special club just for me and you. Islam is for everyone.
Love begins with your neighbour
This is why he (peace be on him) is saying you can no perfect your imaan until you love for others what you love for yourself. For instance, your neighbour. You live in close proximity to your neighbour, your doors, and walls are close to each other if not adjoining, and you see him every morning. When you want goodness for him, he will want goodness for you. You will have a good relationship. But if he does something that harms or affects you then this is not loving goodness for your neighbour because you don’t love this for yourself.
Volunteering in the community, not necessarily in the mosque is good. The more you get involved with projects the more connected you are to others. The more it trains you to think of others.
Whether you feed the homeless, look after elderly people, support green projects these are worthwhile commitments. Or you can utilise your time by offering advice, teaching youngsters, listening to those who are going through difficulties.
When you do something regularly or as part of group with your children, you impart important skills. When children see their mother or father doing such things, it teaches them social responsibility by example.
Living Islam is more powerful than preaching Islam
I once met a person in Spain when I was invited to deliver some talks in Grenada. We met a new Muslim in his 80’s or 90’s. I asked him how did you come to Islam? He said I have a Muslim neighbour and they always feed me and if they are going on a picnic they will always take me with them, they were so nice, so kind to me. My own family did not do this for me so I wanted to be closer to them I became a Muslim. As simple as that. They did not preach to him or lecture him, or give him a pile of books on Islam, but they demonstrated to him through their kindness what it meant to be a Muslim.
Islam is a religion of kindness. We ask Allah Almighty to enable us to always be people of goodness, deliver goodness, share goodness and to be good ourselves. Ameen.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim
Transcribed by Asma Husain from the Sunday Hadith Class on ibn Hajar al Asqalani’s Bulugh al Maram 13th September 2020
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