Content of Character

The Golden Rule: Content of Character 07 – Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

Shaykh Yahya Rhodus discusses the Islamic version of the Golden Rule. Its sources in the Muslim tradition and its meaning and place in our lives.

قال رسول الله سلى الله عليه و سلّم: أَحِبَّ للناس ما تُحبُّ لنفسك

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Love for Humanity, what you Love for yourself.” (Ibn Majah)

There are other versions of this hadith that come in various other collections. In the collection of Bukhari and Muslim it says: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.”

In Muslim the narrator says: “A servant doesn’t truly believe until he loves for his neighbor or his brother that which he loves for his own self.”

The great scholar of Hadith Abu Dawud says there are four hadith that Islam revolves around:

    1. 1. The hadith of intention


    1. 2. The hadith of leaving that which doesn’t concern you


    1. 3. The hadith of the halal and the haram being evident


    4. And then finally this hadith: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.”

The Golden Rule in Islam

This is an Islamic Golden Rule. And the idea of this is found in nearly every religion and ethical tradition, and it is encompassed in all cultures spanning in the world in which we live.

We find this in Christianity, in the Gospel of Matthew where it says: “Do to others that which you would have them do to you.” We find remnants of this in Judaism and Confucianism as well as the early Greek philosophers. This maxim appears in either a positive or a negative injunction.

In its positive form should be: “One should treat others like other should treat oneself.” In the negative form: “One should not treat others in a way that one would not like to be treated.” Or you could say in an empathetic form: “What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself.”

It is important to note that this is different from the maxim of reciprocity, which is this understanding of “I give so that you will give in return.” This is a higher degree of the Golden Rule and this is a commitment to that good reaching the other, striving for good to reach the other, and wanting good to reach the other, without the expectation of anything in return.

The Rule Is a Command

If we take it back to this hadith, our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, begins with a command: “Love for people…” It is important here to note the centrality of love in Islam and it raises the question: What do we love?

This hadith provides an opportunity for us to reflect on what it is we really do love. From a religious perspective, the sign that we draw nearer to our Lord is that we love that which our Prophet loves, Allah bless him and give him peace. Here he is commanding us to love for not just the believers but for all humanity, that which we love for our own self.

This is one of the things that we naturally love – our own self. We should also love for everyone else, wherever they might be in the face of this earth, what we also love for our own self.

Love, Care, Attention

One of the interesting things about the word for love in Arabic used in this hadith “ahibba” comes from the same root that we find the word “muhhabba,” from which you also derive “hub” or “hubba,” which is a word for seed. This indicates that it requires care, attention, and has to be nurtured in order for it to grow. It is a gradual process that actually requires a great deal of effort.

We know that there are many different types of love. We have the love that you have for your family. Then we have a slightly different love that you have for your friends. And we also have a special love for your spouse. But the highest love of all is the religious love. This is what our Prophet Allah bless him and give him peace is calling us to.

We should love solely for the sake of Allah and His messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace. This particular type of love that is in accordance to the Divine Will and the Will of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is to love for all of humanity that which we love for our own selves.

What Should We Love?

It is also interesting to note that the hadith does not elucidate what we should love. It is understood that what is meant here is anything from the realm of good: anything that is beneficial for us in this world and in the next world.

We love for all people to experience the bliss of paradise and to experience the highest degrees of paradise. But in this world also, we should want for everyone else the very same things we want for ourselves and for our children. We should want the basic necessities of life to be guaranteed for all human beings. And this is related to not only clothing, food, and shelter, but also safety and the ability to prosper and be successful in the world. This is a right that we should strive to guarantee for all people.

Our Prophet is teaching us here something about love. He is indicating one of the things that we should love and this is way that a believer is, the believer is expansive.

Be Expansive People

One of the contentions of our teacher, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, says: “The limited, they like to limit, where the open they want to open.” In other words, people who are very restricted in the way that they view the world, they will always be limiting their interactions with others, limiting the good that they often want to see come to others. Those who are open, they also want other people to be open.

This is a desire we should have. We should be expansive. This is after all a universal religion. Our prophet was a universal prophet Allah bless him and give him peace. This is why when we are taught here to love, it is for all of humanity, for all people, that which we love for our own self.

In the Qur’an we have a number of times that Allah addresses people: “O People.” In fact the very first command in the Qur’an – in Sura al Baqara after the classification of believers, disbelievers, and hypocrites – is that Allah, Praise be to Him, says in verse 21:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

“O People, worship your Lord who created you and created the ones who came before you, that you might attain Taqwa (God consciousness).

This is the first address.

The Best Community

Allah Praise be to Him addresses all of humanity in the Qur’an. And we are taught in our religion that we must be there for all of humanity and have a concern for all of humanity. As a result we have attained the rank of being the best of communities that have come to human kind.

What does Allah Praise be to Him say? “You are the very best of communities brought forth to people.” One of the statements of Imam Bukhari is we should be the best of people to all the people.

May Allah give us tawfiq to give us all this and may we love for all of humanity what we love for our own selves.

The Content of Character podcast is brought to you by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of Al-Maqasid Institute, and powered by SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary. Listen to this episode in full on the SeekersHub website, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS.