The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “The best of people are those who are of benefit to others.” Muslims are encouraged to have good relations with people of all faiths, whether they are relatives, neighbours, co-workers, friends, or others. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Let him who believes in God and the Last Day either speak good or keep silent; let him who believes in God and the Last Day be generous to his neighbour; and let him who believes in God and the Last Day be generous to his guest.” Islam also encourages Muslims to be a positive force in their societies.
The Prophet, peace be upon him, interacted with Meccan society well before receiving his Prophetic mission. On one occasion, he took part in a solemn communal oath to uphold justice for the weak and oppressed of which he later said, “I participated in a pledge in the house of Abdullah Ibn Jud’aan, had I been called upon to take part in it after Islam was revealed I would have agreed.” On another occasion, he helped in the rebuilding of the Kaba, playing a mediating role in restoring the Black Stone to its walls whereby Meccan society was spared imminent bloodshed and an all-consuming battle. After the advent of Islam, the Prophet and his Companions continued to live among the non-Muslims of Mecca, trading and interacting with them. When the Prophet eventually sent a group of Muslims to live abroad due to persecution by hostile elements in Mecca, it was to the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia) that he sent them. For the first community, there was no contradiction between practicing their faith and good dealings with people of other faiths.
THE COMMUNITY OF BELIEVERS
In addition to affiliations with family, countrymen, race, ethnicity, and fellow humans in general, there is a special form of affiliation based on faith. This affiliation does not negate other types of associations and relations but is additional to them. In the Quran, God recounts this brotherhood in faith between believers, both male and female, as a bounty from Him with which He honours believers. By simply being a Muslim, a person becomes a brother or sister in the faith—a member of the Nation of Believers (Ummah). Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, instilled a unified consciousness in the Nation of Believers, instructing them to have mutual concern for each other’s welfare and guidance united in a commitment to God. The Prophet Muhammad likened this mutual connection and concern to that of a physical body—if one part is ailing, the entire body is deeply affected by that pain. This brotherhood is understood within the context of allegiance to God alone, and God’s command that Muslims always side with truth and justice. This bond, therefore, places all believers on an equal plain where distinction is based on piety alone. The dynamics of the relationship between brethren in faith is captured in this famous narration (ḥadīth) of Prophet Muhammad, “None of you [fully] believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.”
In another narration, the Prophet, peace be upon him, described six basic rights that a Muslim has over another Muslim. He said, “The believer has six rights over his fellow believer: that he visits him if he is sick, that he attends his funeral if he dies, that he responds to his invitation if he invites him, that he greets him with peace when he meets him, that he blesses him when he sneezes, and that he behaves sincerely towards him in both his presence and absence.” By categorizing these common courtesies as rights, the Prophet, peace be upon him, set a threshold beneath which no Muslim should fall. He also defined the Muslim as “one from whose hand and tongue people are safe.” He strictly forbade Muslims from intentionally harming one another or doing things that would sow the seeds of enmity and discord between them. He said, “Do not envy one another, do not inflate prices one to another, do not hate one another, do not turn away from one another, and do not undercut one another, but be you, O servants of God, brothers. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim; he neither oppresses him nor does he fail him. He neither lies to him nor does he hold him in contempt. Piety is right here [and he pointed to his breast three times]. It is evil enough for a man to hold his brother Muslim in contempt.”
Islam and the Muslims
Although Islam is a perfect religion from God, Muslims are fallible human beings. Therefore, Muslims are instructed by the Prophet to hold a good opinion of people and always overlook the weaknesses and faults of others while holding themselves to the higher standard, in other words, be introspective and avoid being judgmental.