The second accusation Mawlana Nu’mani addresses in his book (pp. 40-55) is the accusation that Shah Isma’il said the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) must only be respected as an elder brother. A summary of his reply is as follows:
In religious and customary usage, there are for types of brotherhood:
1. Genealogical brotherhood (ukhuwwat nasabi) – the sons of the same man or the granchildren of the same man (i.e. cousin brothers). In the verses of inheritance (4:11,12,176) wherever “brother” or “brothers” is used, it is in this sence, and whenever Harun is called “Musa’s brother” (e.g. 7:143), it is in this sense. It is reported, ‘Ali, as the cousin of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “Muhammad is my brother and my in-law, and Hamza, the master of martyrs, is my uncle.” (Muhammadun akhi wa sihri, wa Hamzatu sayyid al-shuhada ‘ammi).
2. Ethnic or national brotherhood (qawmi aur watni ukhuwwat) – people from one country or from one ethnic group. In this sense, Hud is called the “brother of ‘Ad,” (7:65) Salih the “brother of Thamud” (7:73) and Shu’ayb the “brother of Madyan” (7:85), although the majority of these communities were disbelievers.
3. Religious brotherhood (ukhuwwat dini) – practicing members of the same religion. In this sense, the Qur’an says: “The believers are but brothers” (49:10) and a hadith says “The Muslim is the brother of a Muslim” (Bukhari, Muslim). On this basis, every messenger is the brother of every member of his ummah and every member of his ummah is his brother. This is why the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said of those Muslims who would be born after his death: “I wish we saw our brothers” (wadidtu anna qad ra’ayna ikhwanana) (Sahih Muslim). And he said to ‘Umar “Do not forget us, my dear brother, in your du’a.” (la tansana ya ukhayy fi du’aik) (Abu Dawud). Also in the event of the Prophet’s (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) proposal to ‘A’ishah, Abu Bakr referred to himself as his brother, as did the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) – in the commentary of this hadith, al-‘Asqalani said “This is an allusion to Allah’s statement: The believers are but brothers.”
4. Genetic brotherhood (ukhuwwat jinsi) – all children of Adam are brothers. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “All bonsmen (of Allah) are brothers” (al-‘ibad kulluhum ikhwah) (Abu Dawud). And in another hadith he said: “All of you are children of Adam, and Adam was created from dust.” It was reported ‘Ali said: “All men with respect to form are equal, their father is Adam and the mother Hawwa” (al-nasu min jihat al-timthal akfa; abuhum adam wa al-umm hawwa). This is the broadest level of brotherhood as it includes all human beings.
With regards to the hadith Shah Isma’il quotes in Taqwiyat al-Iman:
Ahmad transmitted from ‘A’ishah (Allah be pleased with her) that Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was amongst a group of the emigrants and helpers when a camel came and prostrated to him, so his companions said: “O Messenger of Allah! Beasts and trees prostrate to you, and we are more deserving of prostrating to you.” So he said: “Worship your Lord and respect your brother.”
He considers the brotherhood here to be of the latter kind (the brotherhood of humanity) as it is contrasted with “your Lord,” so Shah Isma’il says in the first part of his commentary: “ya’ni insan sab apas meh bha’i bha’i hey” (meaning, humanity are all brothers to one another). He then says: “jo bara buzurg ho woh bara bha’i hey, uske bare bhai ki si ta’zim keyjie aur malik subka Allah hey, bundegi usko jahiye.” (the bigger rigteous person is the bigger brother, and he should be respected as a bigger brother, and Allah is Master of all, and He alone is worshipped). Notice the word for “bigger” brother is the same word used for “bigger” righteous person (bara), as “bigger” means both “elder” and “greater.” Mawlana Nu’mani says: the brotherhood meant here, as shown by the previous sentence, is brotherhood in humanity, so “bigger brother” means “greater human being,” so a more pious person should be respected as a “greater human being” i.e. and not as god.
This is precisely what Shah Isma’il goes on to say in Taqwiyat al-Iman: “is hadis se ma’lum huwa keh awliya anbiya imam zada pir wa shahid ya’ni jitne Allah ke muqarrab bende he woh sub insan hi he aur bunde ‘ajiz aur humare bhai; mugar un ko Allah ne barai di woh bare bhai hoe, hum ko un ki furmanburdari ka hukm he; hum unke chote he; so un ki ta’zim insanoh ki si kurni chahiye neh ki khuda ki si.” (from this hadith it is known that saints, prophets, imams, shaykhs, martyrs i.e. all the close servants of Allah, they are all human beings and helpless servants [of Allah] and our brother; however, those whom Allah gave greatness they are our greater (or bigger) brothers, and we are their subjects; and we are smaller than them; thus we must respect them as human beings and not as god). Mawlana Nu’mani says: It should be noted that in this passage, Shah Isma’il does not refer to anyone specifically, not the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) or another, as a “bigger brother,” but generally of all those servants that are close to Allah, they are our “bigger brothers” i.e. in humanity not genealogically (as misconstrued by his opponents). Mawlana Nu’mani then states that all the points Shah Isma’il mentioned in this passage are agreed upon:
1. All people, whether great or small, are brothers of one another [based on the hadith quoted above: “All bonsmen (of Allah) are brothers” (Abu Dawud)]
2. They are all helpless servants of Allah
3. Those whom Allah gave a greater/bigger rank they are greater/bigger brothers i.e. in humanity
4. We are their subjects, and are smaller/lesser than them
5. We must respect them as human beings not as gods
Mawlana Nu’mani also notes that the objection that is brought (e.g. by Na’im al-Din Muradabadi) that using the word “brother” is disrespectful as the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) used it out of humility, Shah Isma’il does not encourage the use of this word to address the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) or any other, but rather explains the meaning of the hadith he quoted. The discussion is not about how to address (khitab) but about explaining (bayan) that human beings ought to be respected as human beings and Allah as Allah; and there is a big difference between khitab and bayan. Muradabadi also claimed there was a contradiction between the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) being our father (as proven by some texts) and our brother; but Mawlana Nu’mani explains that both are correct in their different contexts – he is our spiritual (ruhani) father, while religiously and genetically, he is our brother [he quotes ‘Asqalani’s comment above to support this].