Making 70 Excuses for Others in Islam – A Key Duty of Brotherhood

In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful

Hamdun al-Qassar, one of the great early Muslims, said, “If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.” [Imam Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-Iman, 7.522]

Imam Ghazali (Allah have mercy upon him) also quotes this in the Ihya.

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Overlook the slips of respected people.” [Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad; Abu Dawud; Nasa’i in al-Kubra; and others–rigorously authentic (sahih), from A’isha (Allah be pleased with her)]

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The General Basis for Making Excuses

Ibn Ajiba (Allah have mercy upon him) mentions that making excuses for others returns to the Prophet’s words (peace and blessings be upon him) that, “A believer is a mirror of the believer. [Abu Dawud, from Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him); sound (hasan)] So what you see in your brethren is a reflection of what is within you–so beware.

The way of purity and sincerity is to look at everyone–friend and foe–with the eye of sincere concern (nasiha) and mercy. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said that, “Religion is sincere concern (ad-dinu’n nasiha).” [Muslim and Nasa’i, from Tamim ad-Dari] And, “It is only the merciful who are granted mercy by the All-Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth and the Lord of the Heavens will be merciful to you.” And, “None of you believes until they wish for others as they wish for themselves.” [Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi, from Abdullah ibn Amr (Allah be pleased with him); soundly authentic (hasan sahih) according to Tirmidhi]

This is why Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn Munazil (Allah have mercy upon him), of the early Muslims, said, “The believer seeks excuses for their brethren, while the hypocrite seeks out the faults of their brethren.” [Sulami, Adab al-Suhba]

Why 70 Excuses?

This is because the default assumption about all humans and their actions is that they are sound and free of error. This is considered our operating certainty. After this, if we find something that makes us doubt about them, we are not permitted to leave this operating certainty that they did not err for mere doubts or misgivings.

Allah Most High commanded us: “Believers! Leave much doubt, for most doubt is sinful.” [Qur’an, 49.12]

The doubts and misgivings about others that are sinful are those that do not have a sound basis that would be sufficient to leave our operating assumption about others that they are upright and their actions free of error.

And Allah alone gives success.

-Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

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Can a Muslim call a non-Muslim ‘Brother’?

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Yes, it would be permissible to refer to or respond to a non-Muslim as a ‘brother’ referring to the common brotherhood of humanity.

According to some scholars, it would also be permissible to greet a non-Muslim with ‘Assalam ‘alaykum’ and respond to their greeting with ‘Wa’alaykum assalam’. The permission is more desirable if one hopes for their Islam. And Allah knows best.

[Sharh Sahih Muslim]

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Brotherhood

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

“There are certain people amongst the servants of Allah, who are not prophets, nor are they martyrs, yet on the Day of Judgement they will have attained to such a position that even the prophets and the martyrs will look at them in admiration”.

The Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, asked:

“Who are these people and what sort of good deeds will they have done? Let us know so that we can love them and be close to them, o Messenger of Allah”. The Prophet ﷺ answered:

‘They are such people that though there are no blood relations amongst them, nor any business or trade relations, yet they love each other for the sake of Allah. By Allah their faces are radiant with light and they are upon pillars of light. When others fear, they do not fear, and when others feel sorrow, they do not feel sorrow”.

He ﷺ then recited the following verse:

‘Yes, the friends of Allah will feel no fear and will know no sorrow: 

those who have faith and are conscious of Allah, there is good news for them in the life of this world and in the afterlife. There is no changing the words of Allah. That is the great victory!’ (Yunus, 10:62-64)

The Blessed Prophet ﷺ narrated the following story as an demonstration of how loving one’s fellow Muslim for Allah will allow one to attain to Allah’s love.

“One time a man set out to visit his Muslim brother who lived in another village. Allah Most High appointed an angel with the duty of watching him on his way. When the man came to the angel, the angel asked him:

‘Where are you going?’

The man replied:

‘My Muslim brother lives in that village. I am going to see him.

The angel asked him:

‘Is there something that you wish to benefit from that friend?’

The man replied:

‘No, no. It is just that I love him for the sake of Allah and I am going to visit him’.

The angel then said:

‘Just as you love him, so does Allah love you. I am a messenger sent to you by Allah in order to give you this good news’ (Muslim, Birr, 38; Ahmad, II, 292).

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Abu Idris al-Hawlani (may Allah have mercy on him) narrates:

“I had gone to the mosque of Damascus, where I saw a young man there with a smiling face. A group of people had gathered around him. Whenever they fell into dispute about some matter they would immediately go to that young man and ask for and accept his opinion. I asked who this young man was. They told me it was Muadh ibn Jabal .

The next day I ran to the mosque as early as I could. When I got there I saw that that young man was there already performing his prayer. I waited until he had finished and then approached him and greeted him with the greeting of peace and then said to him”:

“By Allah! I love you”.

“Do you love me for the sake of Allah?” he asked.

“Yes for Allah” I said. Then he asked me twice:

“Do you really love me for the sake of Allah?” Both times I answered:

“Yes I truly love you for the sake of Allah”. Then he held me by my robe and pulled me towards him and said:

“I congratulate you. I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say:

“Allah Most High has said: ‘Those who love each other merely for My sake, and those who gather together to please Me, and those who visit each other for My sake and who give charity and do good for My sake… They will be the ones who (will) have earned my love” (Muwatta, Sha’r, 16).

 

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