“Help one another in righteousness and piety…”

“Help one another in righteousness and piety…”

Allah says: “Help one another in righteousness and piety, but do not help one another in sin and transgression. Fear Allah, for Allah is strict in punishment.” [Sūrah al-Mā’idah: 2]
Allah has enjoined upon us to cooperate in righteousness and piety with everybody. What matters is that our common endeavour is a good one. He has forbidden us from cooperating with people in sin and transgression, regardless of who they are. In this way, Allah has defined for us the limits of cooperation, but He has not placed restraints on who we can cooperate with.

When Allah says: “Help one another in righteousness and piety”, He refrains from making any reference to the other party we are to engage with, so that the verse can encompass every possible act of righteousness conceivable.

Muhammad Rashīd Ridā used to say: “We must cooperate in matters wherein we agree and excuse one another in those wherein we disagree.”

Ibn Taymiyah made the point many times that if a non-Muslim accepts Islam at the hands of some Muslims with misguided beliefs, it is better than if that person had remained an unbeliever. He also said that if a sinner repents after hearing a weak hadīth, it is better than if that person remained a sinner.

Likewise, praying behind a Muslim who has a degree of deviance in his religious practice is better than abandoning congregational prayer. [See: Majmū` al-Fatāwā (13/96) and (23/353-354)]

The principle of acting together upon what we have in common is ascertained in consideration of the general welfare. Muslims need to act upon this principle today more than ever. The scope wherein we agree in religious matters is wider than we might think. The scope in which our worldly interests overlap with those of other people is even greater.

Furthermore, Allah says: “Allah does not forbid you, with regard to those who do not fight you for (your) faith nor drive you from your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just.” [Sūrah al-Mumtahanah: 8]

He also says: “O humankind! Verily We created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes to get to know one another. Verily the most honoured of you with Allah are those who are the most pious among you.” [Sūrah al-Hujurāt: 13]

These verses show us that our cooperation with people extends to those who are far and near, to those who are familiar to us and those who are different. Likewise, we are prohibited from dealing in sin and transgression with anyone, no matter how familiar or close to us they may be.

This is why Prophet Muhammad said during the drafting of the peace treaty of Hudaybiyah between the Muslims and the Meccans: “Any provision they ask for that upholds Allah’s sanctity, I will grant it.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (2731)]

Likewise he said about a covenant that he was party to made between various Meccan factions before the advent of Islam: “If I am called to honour it today, I will do so.” [Sunan al-Bayhaqī (6/367)]

This covenant was an alliance governing commercial dealings known as the League of the Virtuous, and its main provisions were respect for the principles of justice, and to collectively intervene in conflicts to establish justice.

We can see how the Prophet honoured the principle of cooperation with those who were openly opposed to his faith. How should we be, then, with those who are not hostile to us? And furthermore, how should we be with those who merely differ from us in their school of thought or their opinions?

By Sheikh Salman al-Oadah


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