Mercy of God

The Qur’an tells us that the prophets were sent to the world to teach the ways of mercy and compassion. According to one of the Prophet’s sayings, related in the Sahih (authentic traditions) of Imam Muslim, “God has a hundred mercies, one of which He has sent down amongst jinn and men and cattle and beasts of prey. With this they are kind and merciful to one another and the wild creature inclines to tenderness to her offspring. The remaining ninety-nine mercies have been reserved by God Himself, so that He may show mercy to His servants on the Day of Resurrection.” This hadith is quite specific about the importance of mercy in the eyes of God who is All Merciful. All of God’s creation is, in fact, an expression of divine mercy. And it is this self-same virtue that God desires to see in the hearts of human beings. According to another tradition, the Prophet observed: “Be merciful to people on earth and God on high will be merciful to you.” This is the basis of a divine code of ethics in accordance with which man too should have feelings of well-wishing and compassion for others. Everyone should look with sympathy for his fellow men, and remain sensitive to their needs. The relation of one man to another should be that of love – not of hatred, or rivalry, and people should consider it a matter of the greatest good fortune that they are able to serve others. According to yet another hadith, God said: “My mercy prevails over my anger.” Man would do well to adopt this same divine ethics. That is, in social interaction, when one individual has an unpleasant experience with another, he should not permit his feelings of anger and revenge to be aroused. What, ideally, he should do is allow his sense of mercy to prevail over his ire. He would thus refrain from taking any step towards injuring others. The culture desired by God in human society being that of mercy (rahmat), the spirit of tolerance should be predominant in all aspects of human behaviour. People have a feeling of mercy in their hearts for one another which should manifest itself at all times in their conversations and transactions. Universe – As a Role Model An individual – so tradition has it – once came to the Prophet and asked him for some masterly piece of advice, which would enable him to tackle the problems of life with greater efficacy. The Prophet replied, ‘Don’t get angry.’ This wise counsel meant that human beings should live together like brothers, friends. Even the most galling of situations should not provoke them. Regardless of the circumstance they should never abandon this culture of rahmat. It is repeatedly stated in the Qur’an that everything in the universe is subservient to the will of God. That being so, the universe, displaying as it does all the various manifestations of His will, His likes and His dislikes, presents the perfect model for human behaviour. It is up to man to adopt this model in his daily living. What is this example set by the universe? It is one of the perpetual benefits to man, without receiving anything in return. The sun gives light and heat to the whole world without demanding a price for it. At all times and in all places, the atmosphere supplies oxygen free of cost. The trees provide an abundance of fruits and flowers on a strictly unilateral basis. God’s provision of rains on such an enormous scale is a vital system on which human life rests. But this natural system of rainfall never sends a bill to man for its services. Even if man abuses the universe, it does not lose its beneficent character. This God-given model has to be followed by man here on earth. The Qur’an puts a question to people: Do they want a religion other than that established by God ... although the earth and the heavens have all submitted to Him. It must be conceded that the religion of man and the universe is but one, its greatest features being peace, mercy and magnanimity. This culture of rahmat approved by God is not limited only to human beings, but extends also to the animal world: we must be equally sympathetic to animals. The hadith gives us many guidelines on how to look after animals and treat them with fairness. These are duties laid down by God. One who is cruel to animals’ risks depriving himself of God’s mercy. On this subject, many traditions have been recorded in the books of hadith. Two of these sayings of the Prophet are of particular significance. One concerns a woman who trussed up a cat with rope and deprived it of food and water. Ultimately, the cat died. God so strongly disapproved of this that, in spite of her great devotions (she used to pray a lot), He decreed that she be cast into hell. The other incident concerns a woman who although not religious, took pity on a dog she found lying on the ground, dying of thirst. There was a well nearby, but she had nothing with which to draw water from it. Then she thought of her shawl. She lowered this into the well, and then squeezed the water, which it soaked up into the mouth of the dog. She continued to do so until its thirst was quenched. The animal’s life was thus saved. God was so pleased with this human gesture of mercy that He decreed that she should enter paradise.