The sole objective of the Prophet Muhammad’s mission to humankind as God’s chosen Messenger is described eloquently in the Qur’an: “We [Allah] have sent you for nothing else but as Mercy to the worlds.” (Al Anbiya’ 107)
Thus, anything which conflicts with this divine Mercy is divergent from the teachings and mandate of Allah’s final Messenger Muhammad (S) and his message.
One of Prophet Muhammad’s best self-descriptive statements is “Ar Rahmatul Muzjah — the Mercy presented by Allah to humanity.” Throughout his life, Muhammad (S) was an exemplary model of mercy to all, far and near, friends and enemies. The essence of mercy was completely ingrained in the psychology of this great man!
Yet unfortunately, some Muslims seem impervious to the inclusive and unconditional concept of divine mercy. Instead, they take on the role of judgment for themselves and make decisions in situations where only Allah has the true power to pass judgment. It is both worrying and problematic to encounter those who assert that they are speaking on behalf of Allah when they condemn a person, calling him/her “Kafir,” “Fasiq,” etc. Even if not intended as cruelty, such authoritarian judgments look like cruelty and interference into an area of human ethics where Allah should be the only Judge. And such cruelty is incompatible with Iman and Islam.
I have been pondering this difficult issue, especially as it concerns those Muslims who feel that Islam begins with a detailed knowledge of rules and regulations. One can have a full Islamic library in his/her head and still “not see the forest for the trees.”
Therefore, before absorbing numerous rules and regulations; before the stage of decoding and analyzing Haram, Halal, Makruh and Mandub; before memorizing and learning reams of scholarly opinion; one should first embrace the total picture of Islam, the holistic totality of this Faith.
Why is this so important? It is because the quality and depth of our everyday life-experience is enhanced, simplified, and enriched within the comprehensive framework of Islam. The good feelings that come from a willing and committed immersion in one’s faith extend outward to the development of better and healthier communities in which all members feel included and understood, not merely tolerated.
If there is “Rahmah” among people of faith, it cannot help but be noticeable, for the Din in Islam is associated with empathy and interrelatedness in communities, as Prophet Muhammad said. Every Muslim – indeed, every human being – must interact with others to fully live and not simply exist: life in isolation is very difficult and not recommended at all. By contrast, the reward for those who reach out in mercy and trust to interact with fellow humans – even if their efforts sometimes meet with malice or harm in response — is far better than for those who avoid extending themselves to others. As Muhammad (S), the Messenger of Allah, said: “The Muslim who mixes with people and endures any harm from them is better than one who does not mix with them and does not endure any harm they may do.” (At Tirmidhi)
Alhamdulillah! You and I know that the core essence of Islam is Rahmah. Anyone wishing to receive the Rahmah of Almighty Allah (and that, by definition, includes all of us!) must also build up his/her account by modeling Rahmah in our everyday dealings with other people, even when doing so may feel like an unappreciated duty or obligation. Again, as the Prophet Muhammad said: “Allah is not merciful to him/her who is not merciful to people.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
On another occasion, the Messenger said: “The Merciful One shows mercy to those who are themselves merciful to others. So show mercy to whatever is on the earth, then He Who is in heaven will show mercy to you (Abu Dawud, At Tirmidhi).”
If this essential quality of Rahmah flourishes within individual Muslims, then our community will prosper as well; but if this core trait is removed or allowed to atrophy, our collective psyche will also crumble and fail, to be replaced by hatred, envy, ill-feeling and division.
To bring about or renew the qualities associated with Rahmah (such as mercy, forgiveness, empathy, generosity, mutuality, understanding, etc.) so that we can apply them in a practical sense, it is helpful to outline several important points on the topic:
1. No one on earth exists as a complete and perfect person, free of every defect. When the Messenger of Allah advised believers on their marital relationships, he said: “Let not a believing man hate a believing woman, if he dislikes one quality in her then he will be pleased with another one.” (Sahih)
What is most important in this Hadith is the realization that we must focus on the positive qualities of others and accommodate those faults (perceived or actual) that we cannot change. We also learn that no Muslim (or any human being) is so completely wicked and evil that they deserve to be utterly condemned by the community of believers. Similarly, Prophet Muhammad (S) emphasized that no Muslim is perfect either.
In fact, every one of us comes with a unique mixture of qualities and characteristics, both good and bad, so I ask myself today: Where is that person in our community who is fully perfect in all respects? Please, help me to find him or her!
You see, we mostly complain about others instead of finding things to praise about them, but Almighty Allah enjoins us to be merciful among ourselves: “Ruhamau Bainahum — But be merciful among themselves.” (Al Fath)
One who is not able to realize this concept or apply it as a daily reality, is destined to live as an intensely annoyed, anxious and worried person. His/her heart will always be distracted and rootless, moving here and there without rest or satisfaction. He/she will always see people’s faults, never their good sides and qualities.
2. Secondly; how should a Muslim view himself/herself? We should all look at our own shortcomings as well as good qualities. If people would know all of our “unedited” or undisciplined traits, I am positive they would not see us as good role models at all; maybe they would not even talk to us. But if we live, act and speak from within the inclusive and holistic spirit of Rahmah, others will see us as we all aspire to be, Insha Allah.
3. Thirdly; how should we view other Muslims and other peoples of the wide human family? Consider the Sahabah as an example. It is reported that Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud said: “If you knew what I know about myself then you would have thrown dust over my face.” A pious Muslim once said these beautiful words: “One of you knows all his/her own faults and mistakes and he/she still loves himself/herself, and prefers himself/herself over others, yet he/she dislikes his/her Muslim brother/sister on account of suspicion. So, where then is the ‘Aql (intellect, sanity)?”
4. My fourth and final point concerns mutually helping one another to overcome those negative characteristics and defects within each of us, by informing each other of them with extreme sincerity and concern, not with the bitter words of censure and judgment.
In approaching the shortcomings of others, it is very important to understand this additional point: How do we tell people about their shortcomings and weaknesses? And how should one react to receiving information about his/her faults?
A wise man was asked once: “Do you like that a man should inform you of your faults? He replied: “If a man comes to me and rebukes me and starts criticizing me for my faults, then no … If he comes to me with sincere advice and a proper way, then yes.”
My wish is that Allah will help us all to be genuine instruments of His mercy – his Rahmah — and that He, in turn, will enfold us in mercy and forgiveness on the Last Day when we will need it the most.
Those who do not have mercy in their hearts cannot give what they do not have! Only one who has mercy in his/her heart can share it with others. That is the core spirit of Rahmah.