Nura's eyes blurred with tears as she heard the Imam proclaim, "The Prophet, [sallallahu alayhe wa sallam (SAWS)] said, "Do not sever relations. Do not indulge in mutual enmity. Do not entertain rancor and jealousy against one another, and not be jealous of others. Be brethren among yourselves and become Allah's slaves. It is not permissible for a man to have severed his relations with any of his brethren for more than 3 days." (Bukhari)
She realized then that almost six months had passed since the last time she spoke to Aisha, and now she could not even remember what their fight had been about.
We all have had disagreements with our brothers and sisters, but why is it so wrong to harbor animosity? Why does Islam emphasize freeing the heart from hatred and enmity?
Even more dangerous is that harboring hatred will eat away at our faith. The Prophet said, "Listen, may I not tell you something more important than salah, fasting and charity?" The companions requested him to do so. He said, "To keep the mutual relationship on the right footing, because the defect in the mutual relationship is the thing which shaves a thing clean. I do not mean that it shaves the hair, but that it shaves (removes) the religion." (Tirmithi)
Hatred consumes the heart, so much that we forget Allah's justice and mercy. Our gratitude to Allah is repelled by resentment of others.
That is why Satan's favorite method for destruction is instilling enmity in the believer's heart. He uses this weapon to weaken the Muslim community and make it vulnerable to both physical and spiritual enemy attacks.
Our physical enemies do not stand a chance against the Muslim Ummah unless disunity has weakened it. Our spiritual enemies, Satan and our lower desires, do not stand chance against our faith unless animosity has weakened it.
Most importantly, however, we should purify our hearts continuously to attain Allah's forgiveness, a blessing we all desperately need. The Prophet (SAWS), assured us that, "Every Monday and Thursday men's acts are placed before Allah. On these days, Allah forgives the sins of everybody, except the polytheists. However, if there is a person who has spite and hatred against his bother, he says about them, 'Leave these two alone in their condition till they reconcile." (Muslim)
Clearly, purity of heart is a quality we must acquire, and so Allah, the Merciful, has given us the means to attain it.
We should begin by keeping our hearts free from jealousy. The Last Messenger (SAWS), warned us, "Keep away from jealousy, for jealousy eats up virtues in the same way as fire eats up wood." (Abu Dawud)
We must realize that all blessings are from Allah, which He gives to whom He wills without measure. Failure to accept this and be grateful is rebellion against the will of Allah. This, in fact, was the crime of Satan when he refused to submit to Allah's ordinance to make Adam Allah's khalifah on Earth!
Maintaining our brotherhood also means to never sever relations. The Prophet (SAWS), admonished us against this serious sin, "There are three persons whose prayer does not rise even a fist above their heads. One is that man who leads the prayers of others who do not like him. Second is that woman who spends her night in such a way that her husband is displeased with her. And third are those two brothers who have severed their relations with each others." (Ibn Majah)
While it may seen that severing relations is just a result of harboring hatred, and not a cause, it actually prolongs and hardens angry feelings by allowing them to go unresolved. Even worse is that severing relations distorts our perception of the incident and causes us to become bitterer.
Instead, we should rush to resolve disagreements. If our brother wronged us, we should give him sincere advice. If we wronged our brother, we must race to seek forgiveness from him and from Allah.
The Prophet (SAWS), has instructed, "He who has harmed his brother's rights or has hurt his honor, then he should please him today, before the day comes when there will be neither Dirham nor Dinar with him. If he would have virtues, then they would be taken in proportion to the aggression that he had committed. If there would be no virtues in his record, then the evil deeds of the oppressed would be thrust into his account." (Bukhari)
We should also soften our hearts and forgive if we were wronged. This requires great inner strength, as was the case for Abu Bakr when his relative spread a rumor against Aisha. Though Abu Bakr was rightfully angry, but when he heard the verse, "Let them forgive and overlook; do you not wish that Allah should forgive you?" [Qur'an 24:22], he responded by pardoning his relative, saying, "I like that Allah may pardon me."
Covering each other's faults is part of forgiveness, and comes with a great reward as the Seal of the Prophets, alayhemus-salam, has promised, "Any one who knows about the defect of his brother and he has concealed it, then Allah will cover his defects on the Day of Judgment." (Tabarani)
Clearly, this means we should never backbite. Because not only does it cause others to share our anger, but it also causes our hatred to flare and multiply. Even more serious is that it will surely make the conflict harder to resolve.
We see the wisdom in the Prophet's words when he said, "None of you should convey to me any hurtful thing about my companions, for I want that as long as I may come to you my bosom should be clean in respect of every one of you." (Abu Dawud)
Let us all then hearken to the call of Allah when he ordered us to "….hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah, and do not separate." [Qur'an 3: 103]
May Allah Subhanahu grant us all the serenity to accept what we cannot change?
Change what we can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.