The Final Sermon: Fraternity and Holding Fast

The words of our beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) are full of rich lessons. Among them is his address during the farewell Hajj. This is the twelfth in a series of articles on The Prophet’s Last Sermon, Lessons for Humanity.

“O people, believers are but brothers. No one may take his brother’s property without his full consent. Have I given the message?—O Allah, be my witness.”

The believers are but brethren. It has specific consequences concerning fulfilling the material and non-material rights of others.  We are all servants of God and that entails fraternity. Who are you? I’m a servant of God. Who is this person? They are a servant of God. Who is that person? They are a servant of God. 

Rights of Fraternity

That fraternity has rights. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “None of you believes until they wish for others of the good that they wish for themselves.” 

All of religion is defined as being sincere concern for Allah and the Book of Allah and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) and for both the leaders of the believers and the common believer. It is that you care for another, that is faith. 

The scholars say that the rights of fraternity can be summarized in three. The most fundamental right of another is to not harm them. Do not harm their life or limb. As for their property: do not harm it, do not take it, do not cause damage to it, and do not harm their honor. Do not speak ill of them, do not backbite them, do not slander them, do not gossip about them, do not mock them, and so on.

Foundations of Right Conduct

The foundation of proper conduct is to not harm others. The second level of fulfilling the rights of others is to know their rights, know their positive rights and fulfill them. Some rights are obligatory that you assist them if they are in desperate need, that you provide for those you are obligated to provide for if they are in financial difficulty, like parents, children, etc. or even relatives, if they are otherwise in desperate need. 

There are also encouraged rights such as visiting them when they are sick, attending their funeral, helping them in general need, greeting them, staying in contact with them etc. So that you fulfill their rights.

Then you seek good for them above and beyond fulfilling what their obligatory and encouraged rights are. The ideal is:

وَیُؤۡثِرُونَ عَلَىٰۤ أَنفُسِهِمۡ

“And prefer others to themselves” [Quran, 59:9; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

This is the way of the Ansar, the people of Madina with respect to the Makkans. Allah says:

لَن تَنَالُوا۟ ٱلۡبِرَّ حَتَّىٰ تُنفِقُوا۟ مِمَّا تُحِبُّونَۚ 

“None of you shall attain devotion to their Lord in every good, until you spend of what you truly love” [Quran, 3:92; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

That is one of the ways you cultivate concern for others. For example, if you want to get something for yourself get it for another, even if you do not get the thing for yourself.

Holding Fast to the Book of Allah

“Verily, I have left among you that which if you take it, you will never stray after me: the Book of Allah. Have I given the message?—O Allah, be my witness.”

This is a very memorable statement. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) repeated it in many different contexts. In other of the final sermons it is reported, “The Book of Allah and my Sunna.” In other versions, “The Book of Allah and my household.”

Holding fast is to connect to the book of Allah, which is Allah’s guidance. The book of Allah is great guidance, it is complete comprehensive guidance. It is absolute guidance for those seeking mindfulness.

Some narrations add, “My Sunna,” and others, “My household.” All of these are true because hold fast to divine guidance, hold fast to religion, hold fast to the book of Allah, the Sunna, hold fast to the household of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), whom Allah has chosen the upright, God-fearing of the household of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to be likely exemplars of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) throughout history.

Imam al-Bukhari relates in a chapter heading in his authentic collection that Abu Bakr said, “Be mindful of Muhammad in his household.” Allah bless him and give him peace. These are all means of being connected to guidance.

Duties of Fraternity

How does one hold fast to the Book of Allah? One duty is: 

یَتۡلُونَهُۥ حَقَّ تِلَاوَتِهِۦۤ

“Diligently reading it as it should be read” [Quran, 2:121; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

Recite it in an unhurried manner, with proper recitation. Recite it in a manner that you can hear yourself. That has a deeper impact on the soul than just reciting it without hearing yourself clearly. If you are in private, raise your voice a little bit.

Hold a copy of the Quran when you recite because then your eyes and your hands are engaged in the act of worship as well. Reflect, because Allah asks: 

أَفَلَا یَتَدَبَّرُونَ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانَۚ 

“Can they not have pondered the full import of the Quran?” [Quran, 4:82; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld] 

The best of you are those who learn the Quran and who teach others the text and the meanings of the text. That is learning both the recitation of the Quran and learning the guidance of the Quran. Learn its guidance, that is the purpose of Islamic studies. 

All the Islamic sciences are meant to be facilitators for you to cultivate a living relationship with divine guidance in a manner acceptable, pleasing and beloved to Allah. 

Then, of course, acting upon it in accordance with the form and spirit of the Prophetic way. When you are not clear, return to guidance and the inheritors of guidance (the scholars) when something is unclear.