More on loving one’s (Muslim) neighbour
The Common Word letter proposes that love for the neighbour forms part of Islam’s common ground with Christianity. However, in my Notes for Christians I explained that the sources cited by A Common Word to show that Islam teaches love for the neighbour, in fact teach love for one’s fellow Muslim. The purpose of this post is to give further support for this view.
1. A highly-regarded commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, known as Fath al-Bari, explains that it is fellow-Muslims who should be loved: ‘... according to Ismaili through Roh from Husain: “until he loves for his Muslim brother what he loves for himself of goodness,” explaining the meaning of brotherhood and pointing the direction for love.’ [i.e. that the love is towards other Muslims] This source can be found here.
2. The Sahih Muslim, as pointed out in my Notes for Christians, also makes clear that this tradition refers to fellow Muslims. Furthermore, Al-Nawawi, in his commentary Al Minhaj bi Sharh Sahih Muslim, states that the hadith variant with ‘neighbour’ is of doubtful reliability, and ‘brother’ is the reliable version. This source can be found here. Most Arabs will understand the difference between neighbour and brother. In Islam a ‘brother’ is understood to mean a fellow Muslim, whereas ‘neighbour’ (jar) refers to someone who is geographically close by.
3. A Common Word’s citation from Muslim censors the original text of the hadith. The English version of A Common Word reports the hadith to be ‘None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.’ However what the Arabic actually says – and this is accurately cited in the Arabic version of the Common Word – is: ‘None of you has faith until you love for your brother – or he said for his neighbour – what he loves for himself.’ The English version of the letter obscures the fact that the main focus of the hadith from the Sahih Muslim is upon loving one’s brother, i.e. one’s brother-in-Islam.
The scholars who wrote A Common Word used the heading ‘Love of the Neighbour in Islam’, but what their content takes the reader to is love for one’s fellow Muslim. It is misleading to say one thing in a heading, and another in the sub-text. The impression which the scholars are seeking to convey is that there is an equivalence between the teachings of Muhammad and Christ on this issue, but their sources prove otherwise.
To teach that only people of a particular faith are to be loved will seem repugnant to most Christians. How can an Islamic tradition which calls Muslims to love other Muslims, be seriously proposed as part of the common ground between Islam, Judaism and Christianity? Surely what the world urgently needs is love between people of different faiths, not just between people of the same faith!