Yes, seriously. What's up with this brother/sister thing that gets added to your name. Who invented it?!! When did brother become a title?! It is a beautiful word, but when did it become a title?! Sometime during the last century someone introduced this "innovation" to the English language. This is one of my pet peeves. Why is David Dave but Mohamed is Br. Mohamed? Why is Elizabeth Liz but Mariam is Sr. Mariam? Why do I respect everyone without adding to their names any titles but I have to add a title to my Muslim "brother" or "sister" to show respect. I have been struggling with this issue for a while and I discussed it with several people and here are the answers I got:
1- Respect: It is a cherished value in Islam and we need to respect each other and older people in particular.
Rebuttal: Are we respecting David and Elizabeth less when we do not add the br./sr. title to their names? Don't we respect our teachers and professors?! Don't we respect our seniors at work and don't we respect our neighbours?! Did the Prophet (SAW) show respect to people using elements alien to their culture? Didn't he use the very titles that they used to use to show respect to them like the Kunya (which means calling a person father of "his son's name" or something beloved to him)
2- Professionalism: In Islamic work we need to be professional especially across genders, thus the need to use titles.
Rebuttal: Why do we need to be professional in a different way from the rest of the society? People are very professional at work, yet they don't use titles most of the time. They only use titles sometimes in some settings with doctors, professors, judges, attorneys and some elected officials. However, most of the time in professional settings they don't use titles and they are very good at being professional.
3- Brotherhood/sisterhood: When we add the title we enforce the concept that we are brothers and sisters which is the bond that ties all of us as Muslims.
Rebuttal: Keep it real dude. As soon as I add the title I don't feel that bond anymore. You want me to feel the bond call me with my name or say my dear brother. You can put the word brother in sentence, it is such a beautiful word but please don't make a title out of it. When someone sends an email and signs, your brother it touches my heart. When some tells me "ya akhi" which is the Arabic for "my brother", I feel the warmth of brotherhood. One time a dear sister emailed me and signed "ukhtak....." (your sister), I was so happy and replied back thanking her. My brothers and sisters in Islamic work are as dear to me as my family and I don't add titles to my cousins names. If you are from a background that mandates giving elders titles and you feel uncomfortable not doing that with me (if I am older than you), then use the same title you would use for your older brother in your culture. In that sense if you are Egyptian and you feel that you can't call me by my first name, then call me "Abaih Ayman". As funny as that sounds, I won't mind it. If you are younger than that, I won't mind being called "3ammo Ayman" :).
Let me share this story about Umar, may Allah be pleased with him. He was off to a 3umra and the prophet (SAW) told him mention us in your prayers "ya akhi" (my brother) and Umar (RAA) said that he wouldn't have loved anything better than this "ya akhi". When the prophet (SAW) wanted to be very brotherly he didn't give him a title. Ever since I read this story, I can only relate to the word put in a sentence but never as a title, ever.
In our Masjids and communities we don't want to create an alien culture. We need to create an all inclusive culture of genuine respect and sincere brotherhood and sisterhood. What message are we sending to people of other faith when we call each other br./sr.? Are we telling them that they are not our brothers and sisters? Let's love each other but let's also make room for our fellow neighbours to come join us in our activities. Let's not create a culture that will stand out like a sore thumb but rather a culture where everyone likes to belong to.
So my dearly beloved sisters and my dearly beloved brothers, don't "brother" me anymore pleaaaaaaaaaaase.