‘Support Your Brother’

In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful

The Arabs had a saying that went like this: “Support your brother, whether he be wronged or plain wrong.” This means that one’s tribe will be willing to protect one of their own, even unto death and war, and even if their tribesman was a thief, brigand, or murderer. It highlights the fiercely sectarian and tribal nature of the Arabs at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

The Prophet (pbuh) took this statement and radically transformed it. He mentioned this to his Companions: “Support your brother, whether he be wronged, or wrong.” The Companions replied, “We understand how to support our brother if he is wronged, but how do we support our brother if he is wrong?” The Prophet (pbuh) replied: “You support him by preventing him from doing wrong.

This was a radical paradigm shift for 7th Century Arabs. The Prophet (pbuh) is changing the old, ignorant ways of the Arabs by showing his followers that we cannot support our brothers’ sins simply because they are one of us. Thus, in today’s world, despite all the injustices done to Muslims around the world: in the Occupied Territories, in Kashmir, in Chechnya, etc, we cannot support when a Muslim commits wrong. Thus, we Muslims cannot support the massacre of schoolchildren in Beslan, Russia. We Muslims cannot support the killing of innocent Israelis on a Tel Aviv bus. We Muslims cannot support flying planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. We Muslims cannot support killing innocent Shi’is at the Mosque of Imam Ali. We simply cannot, because God, through our Prophet (pbuh), told us so.

The same goes for we Americans. I believe wholeheartedly in supporting our troops. These brave, young men and women do a job that – in reality – should be incumbent upon each and every able-bodied citizen of our country. Yet, we have an all-volunteer army, thus the soldiers who enlist in the Armed Forces are doing an enormous service; they put their lives on the line each and every day, so that my family and I can live in peace and security. They deserve our respect, admiration, and wholehearted support.

That being said, however, I cannot do a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” when an American soldier abuses detainees, whether they be in Iraq or Afghanistan, or rapes an Iraqi woman, as has been alleged in recent days and weeks. I cannot support an American soldier breaking the law, even though he or she is putting his or her life on the line defending me and my country. When a few American soldiers are accused or convicted of such crimes, I do not curse all American soldiers, though. I do not call every American soldier a “baby killer” or a “bigot.” I would never fathom spitting in their faces when they come home from a tour of duty. Absolutely not. Nevertheless, if an American soldier does wrong, I cannot support his action.

The same also goes true for my country. I love this country, and I would die defending her. This is my home, and nothing but God could separate me from my beloved homeland. She is my mother, and I am her loving son. I say from the bottom of my heart – and not caring what other people say or think about it – God Bless America! That being said, however, whenever America does wrong, I cannot support that action. I must tell her when she does wrong. I must point out when she is not living up to her ideal of justice, freedom, and democracy. That is one of the greatest forms of patriotism. The late Dr. Martin Luther King, the anniversary of whose assassination was April 4, embodied the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’s exhortation to prevent your brother from doing wrong. He had the courage to tell America:

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”

Criticizing our country is not being “un-American,” and those who say so only foment division and mistrust among fellow citizens. I agree that this criticism must not go overboard. We cannot let disagreement with a specific policy degenerate into hatred for our country. Nevertheless, we cannot claim to love America and what she stands for and remain silent whenever she does wrong. After all, if it was not for Thomas Jefferson’s criticism of the Constitution – just after a bloody war of independence from the British – we may never have had a Bill of Rights. Just imagine if some of the Founding Father’s called President Jefferson “un-American” for his criticism. America would probably not be what she is today.


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