The literal meaning of Mercy is, “forbearance towards one who is in one’s power”. Mercy is the characteristic of Allah. There is hardly any chapter of the Holy Quran which does not expound or refer to the virtues attending to this Divine attribute. The second verse of the Opening or Ummul-Quran refers to this attribute of Allah, “The Beneficent, the Merciful” (1:2).
The Holy Quran is replete with verses extolling the Merciful attribute of Allah Almighty – “If anyone does evil or wrongs his own soul, but afterwards seeks God’s forgiveness, he will find God Oft-Forgiving and Most Merciful” (IV-110).
All creation around us is a testimony and proof of Allah’s Mercifulness, “…He hath inscribed for Himself (the rule of) Mercy …..” (IV-12). The supremacy of this virtue is again repeated in Surah Al Nisa, verse 54.
“Allah is forgiving, Merciful” (24:22) is a verse which is repeated most in the Holy Book, thus signifying the importance of Mercy. In Surah Al-Ahzab alone this attribute is referred to eight times.
Prophet Muhammad taught us to initiate each job with the following appellation of Allah, “In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful”. Thus this line has been added as a prelude to every chapter of the Holy Quran, except for “Surah Repentance”. We have been asked to greet each other with the salutation, “May Allah shower His Mercy upon you.”
Allah has many attributes, but it is His quality of Mercy, that Allah likes most. “… and (He does wish to) turn to you (in Mercy): and God is All-knowing, All wise” (IV:26) and again in surah IV, verse 133, “Thy Lord is self-sufficient, Full of Mercy”.
Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) underwent tests of Allah for forty years before Allah chose him for disseminating His illuminating Message to a people living in a world of darkness. At the beginning, the infidels treated the Prophet (Pbuh) in a most brutal manner, annoying and tormenting him in every way. After the death of his beloved uncle, the Quresh of Mecca accelerated their sinister designs and they left no stone unturned in persecuting and deriding him and his followers. When he went to Taif, the tribal leaders treated him badly and refused to respond his Call. Dismissed and followed by vagabonds and thoughtless children who drove him, not allowing him to rest, the Holy Prophet, exhausted, his feet bleeding profusely, sat and appealed to the Almighty, to invoke His Mercy.
At the end of his prayers, an Angel appeared on the horizon and said: “O Prophet of Allah I am at your service. If you wish I can cause the mountains overlooking this town to collide against each other so that all people therein may perish”. But Lo! The Prophet said, “even if these people do not accept Islam, I do hope from Allah that there will be persons from among their progeny who would worship Allah and serve His cause”. Indeed! All Praise be to Allah when he says, “We have sent thee (O Muhammad) as a Mercy to the world. The Prophet of God, who was sent but as Mercy, to the entire creation, is continuously directed by Allah to forgive injuries, insult and persecution, “hold to forgiveness, command what is right” (VII – 199). In Surah Tauba, verse 61, Allah reaffirms, “he believes in Allah, has faith in the believers, and is a Mercy to those of you who believe”.
The Verses of the Holy Quran are a testimony to the fact that Mercy is a characteristic closest to the Prophet’s heart: “It was by the Mercy of Allah that thou wast lenient with them (O Muhammad), for if thou hadst been stern and fierce of heart they would have dispersed from round about thee” (3:159). Further Allah says about the Prophet, “For the believers full of pity, merciful” (9:128). The Prophetic traditions alluring to Mercy are plentiful, “The merciful are shown Mercy by the merciful”, “Grant Mercy to those on earth and He who is in heavens will grant Mercy unto you”.
“We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures”. Abdullah Yousuf Ali in his commentary on the Holy Quran states, that with the revelation of this verse, “there is no question now of race or nation, of a “chosen people” or the “seed of Abraham, or the “seed of David”; or of Hindu Arya-Varta; of Jew or Gentile, Arab or Ajam, Turk or Tajik, European or Asiatic, white or colored, Aryan, Semitic, Mongolian or African; or American, Australian or Polynesian. To all men and creatures other than men who have any spiritual responsibility, the principle universally applies.
Among the pagan Arabs, the tying of an animal to the tomb of its master, so that it may die with him, was a common custom. Islamic law prescribed methods to deal humanely with animals, thus making it clear that Mercy has to be extended not only to humans but to all the creatures of God. It is said a devout Muslim, Aidy-ibn-Hatim was often seen distributing little crumbs of bread to ants in consonance with his assertion that they were his neighbors and thus entitled to rights.
Mercy is an integral and inseparable part of our religion and a truly believing soul can never be barbarous. Nations devoid and shorn of Mercy became a plague on earth. Thus Mercy is the sine qua non of our religion and we ought to practice it earnestly, besides the fundamental forms of worship. The demand to introduce Islamic penal laws as a first step, towards building an Islamic society, totally negates and repudiates the fundamental injunctions of Islam, a religion of Peace, Mercy, Tolerance, Piety, Love and Compassion.
Abd-Al-Rehman Pasha, in his book, ‘The eternal message of Muhammad’ has remarked that it was only under the banner of Mercy that the Ottoman rulers were able to extend the boundaries of their empire to the gates of Vienna. The need of the hour is to follow the injunctions of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah in a more practical way, so that a truly Islamic society may emerge wherein people abound with Mercy and benevolence.
All Muslims should resolve to make their behavior symbolic of attributes, such as mercy, generosity, truthfulness, endurance, patience and fortitude. Let us not defeat the primary teachings underlying the message of Islam.
— The writer is a senior banker with interest in Religion.