Islam as a Religion of Universal Mercy
Life is the foremost and most manifest blessing of God Almighty, and the true and everlasting life, is that of the Hereafter. Since we can deserve this life by pleasing God, He sent Prophets and revealed Scriptures out of His compassion for humanity. For this reason, while mentioning His blessings upon humanity in Sura al-Rahman (the All-Merciful), He begins: Al-Rahman. He taught the Qur'an, created humanity, and taught it speech (55:1-4).
All aspects of this life are a rehearsal for the afterlife, and every creature is engaged toward this end. Order is evident in every effort, and compassion resides in every achievement. Some "natural" events or social convulsions may seem disagreeable at first, but we should not regard them as incompatible with compassion. They are like dark clouds or lightning and thunder that, although frightening, nevertheless bring us good tidings of rain. Thus the whole niverse praises the All-Compassionate.
Prophet Muhammad is like a spring of pure water in the heart of a desert, a source of light in an all-enveloping darkness. Those who appeal to this spring can take as much water as needed to quench their thirst, become purified of sins, and become illumined with the light of belief. Mercy was a like a magical key in the Propeht's hands, for with it he opens hearts that are so hardened and rusty that no one thought they could be opened. But he did even more: he lit a torch of belief in them.
God's Messenger preached Islam, the religion of universal mercy. However, some self-proclaimed humanists say it is "a religion of the sword." This is completely wrong. They make a great deal of noise when animals are killed or when one of their own is harmed, but are silent when Muslims are massacred.
Their world is built on personal interest. It should be pointed out that abusing the feeling of compassion is just as harmful— sometimes even more harmful—than having no compassion at all.
Amputating a gangrenous limb is an act of compassion for the whole body. Likewise oxygen and hydrogen, when mixed in the proper ratio, form water, a most vital substance. When this ratio changes, however, each element resumes its original combustible identity.
Similarly, it is quite important to apportion compassion and identify who deserves it, for "compassion for a wolf sharpens its appetite, and not being content with what it receives, it demands even more." Compassion for wrongdoers make them more aggressive and encourages them to work against others. In fact, true compassion requires that such people be prevented from doing wrong. When God's Messenger told his Companions to help people when they were just and unjust, they asked him to explain this seeming paradox. He replied: "You help such people by preventing them from engaging in injustice." So, compassion requires that those who cause trouble either be deprived of their means for doing so or be stopped. Otherwise, they eventually will take control and do as they please.
The compassion of God's Messenger encompassed every creature. An invincible commander and able statesman, he knew that allowing blood-stained, blood-thirsty people to control others would be the most terrible form of tyranny imaginable. Therefore, out of compassion, he required that lambs should be able to live in security against the wolves' attacks. He desired, of course, that everyone be guided. In fact, this was his greatest concern: Yet it may be, if they believe not in this Message, you will consume yourself, following after them, with grief (18:6).
But how should he deal with those who persisted in unbelief and took up arms against him to destroy both him and Islam? He had to fight such people, for universal compassion encompasses every creature. This is why, when he was wounded severely at Uhud, he raised his hands and prayed: "O God, forgive my people, for they don't know."
The Makkans, his own people, inflicted so much suffering on him that he finally emigrated to Madina. Even after that, the next 5 years were far from peaceful. However, when he conquered Makka without bloodshed in the twenty-first year of his Prophethood, he asked the Makkan unbelievers: "How do you expect me to treat you?" They responded unanimously: "You are a noble one, the son of a noble one." He then told them his decision: "You may leave, for no reproach this day shall be on you. May God forgive you. He is the Most Compassionate." (I. Hisham, Sira al-Nabawiya, 4.55; I. Kathir, al-Bidaya wa l-Nihaya, 4.344.)
Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror said the same thing to the defeated Byzantines after conquering Istanbul 825 years later. Such is the universal compassion of Islam.
The Messenger displayed the highest degree of compassion toward believers: There has come to you a Messenger from among yourselves; grievous to him is your suffering; anxious is he over you, full of concern for you, for the believers full of pity, compassionate (9:128). He lowered unto believers his wing of tenderness through mercy (15:88], and was the guardian of believers and nearer to them than their selves (33:6). When one of his Companions died, he asked those at the funeral if the deceased had left any debts. On learning that he had, the Prophet mentioned the above verse and announced that the creditors should come to him for repayment. His compassion even encompassed the Hypocrites and unbelievers. He knew who the Hypocrites were, but never identified them, for this would have deprived them of the rights of full citizenship they had gained by their outward confession of faith and practice. Since they lived among Muslims, their unbelief in eternal life may have been reduced or changed to doubt, thus diminishing their fear of death and the pain caused by the assertion of eternal non-existence after death.
As for unbelievers, God removed their collective destruction, although He had eradicated many such people in the past: But God would never chastise them while you were among them; God would never chastise them as they begged forgiveness (8:33). This verse refers to unbelievers of whatever time. God will not destroy peoples altogether as long as those who follow the Messenger are alive. Besides, He has left the door of repentance open until the Last Day. Anyone can accept Islam or ask God's forgiveness, regardless of how sinful they consider themselves to be. For this reason, a Muslim's enmity toward unbelievers is a form of pity. When 'Umar saw an 80-year-old priest, he sat down and sobbed. When asked why he did so, he replied: "God assigned him so long a life span, but he has not been able to find the true path." 'Umar was a disciple of God's Messenger, who said: "I was not sent to call down curses on people, but as a mercy" (Muslim, Sahih, "Birr," 87] and "I am Muhammad, and Ahmad (praised one), and Muqaffi (the Last Prophet); I am Hashir (the final Prophet in whose presence the dead will be resurrected); the Prophet of repentance (the Prophet for whom the door of epentance will always remain open), and the Prophet of mercy." (Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 4.395; Muslim, Sahih, "Fada'il," 126)
God's Messenger was particularly compassionate toward children. When he saw a child crying, he sat beside him or her and shared his or her feelings. He felt the pain of a mother for her child more than the mother herself. Once he said: "I stand in prayer and wish to prolong it. However, I hear a child cry and shorten the prayer to lessen the mother's anxiety." [Bukhari, Sahih, "Adhan," 65; Muslim, Sahih, "Salat," 192]
Once, he said: "Pity those on Earth so that those in the Heavens will pity you." (Tirmidhi, Sunan, "Birr," 16.) Once when Sa'd ibn 'Ubada became ill, God's
Messenger visited him at home and, seeing his faithful Companion in a pitiful state, began to cry. He said: "God does not punish because of tears or grief, but He punishes because of this," and he pointed to his tongue. (Bukhari, Sahih "Jana'iz," 45; Muslim, Sahih, "Jana'iz," 12) When 'Uthman ibn Mad'un died, he wept profusely. During the funeral, a woman remarked: "'Uthman flew like a bird to Paradise." Even in that mournful state, the Prophet did not lose his balance and corrected the woman: "How do you know this? Even I don't know this, and I am a Prophet." (Bukhari, Sahih, "Jana'iz," 3)
A member of the Banu Muqarrin clan once beat his maidservant. She informed God's Messenger, who sent for the master. He said: "You have beaten her without any justifiable right. Free her." (Muslim, Sahih, "Ayman," 31, 33; I. Hanbal, Musnad, 3.447.) Freeing a slave free was far better for the master than being punished in the Hereafter because of that act. God's Messenger always protected and supported widows, orphans, the poor and disabled even before announcing his Prophethood. When he returned home in excitement from Mount Hira after the first Revelation, his wife Khadija told him: "I hope you will be the Prophet of this Umma, for you always tell the truth, fulfill your trust, support your relatives, help the poor and weak, and feed guests." (I. Sa'd, al-Tabaqat al-Kubra', 1.195]
His compassion even encompassed animals. We hear from him: "A prostitute was guided to truth by God and ultimately went to Paradise because she gave water to a poor dog dying of thirst. Another woman was sent to Hell because she let a cat die of hunger." (Bukhari, Sahih, "Anbiya'," 54, "Musaqat," 9; Muslim, Sahih, "Salam," 153; I. Hanbal, Musnad, 2.507) Once while returning from a military campaign, a few Companions removed some young birds from their nest to stroke them. The mother bird came back and, not finding its babies, began to fly around screeching. When told of this, God's Messenger became angry and ordered the birds to be put back in the nest. (Abu Dawud, Sunan, "Adab," 164, "Jihad," 112; I. Hanbal, Musnad, 1.404)
His love and compassion for creatures differed from that of today's self-proclaimed humanists. He was sincere and balanced in his love and compassion. A Prophet raised by God, the Creator and Sustainer of all beings, for the guidance and happiness of conscious beings—humanity and jinn—and the harmony of existence. As such, he lived not for himself but for others; he is a mercy for all the worlds, a manifestation of Compassion.
He eradicated all differences of race and color. Once Abu Dharr got so angry with Bilal that he insulted him: "You son of a black woman!" Bilal came to God's Messenger and reported the incident in tears. The Messenger reproached Abu Dharr: "Do you still have a sign of Jahiliyya?" Full of repentance, Abu Dharr lay on the ground and said: "I won't raise my head (meaning he wouldn't get up) unless Bilal put his foot on it to pass over it." Bilal forgave him, and they were reconciled. (Bukhari, Sahih, "Iman," 22) Such was the brotherhood and humanity Islam created between once-savage people. 1
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