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Aspects of Mercy


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The Sealed Nectar

 The Sealed Nectar by Shaykh Safi ur-Rahman

Aspects of Mercy

You must all have heard of great leaders and chiefs, such as Alexander the Macedonian, Napoleon and Hitler. History tells us that they were greatly admired by their followers, and each one of them was able to gather round him great multitudes of admirers and history tells us that they have exploited these multitudes because they that admired and followed them, and that they have used them in order to serve their own ends irrespective of the dangers that surround them or the damage they would suffer from.No one needs to be reminded of what Hitler or Napoleon, who are well known for taking advantage of their soldiers. This has been documented by those who studied their personalities and examined the battles they had waged. One of them is Colonel Muhammad Asadallah Safa, who said, “Napoleon used to give attention to the interests of his soldiers, but he used to exploit them in the cruelest manner.””[22] No fair person would doubt that the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, was loved by all his followers, who gave him their absolute trust, which was not the case for a great many leaders. Thus a leader may be loved but is not trusted for other considerations, and vice-versa. Thus the soldiers may trust their leader and his capabilities, but they do not necessarily love him, for obvious reasons.

The events that have been recorded confirm that the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, was not of this type at all. History has not recorded a single instance evidencing that he has taken advantage of this love and relied on this trust for taking his followers wherever he wanted and for realizing his aspirations through them, without taking account of the ethical considerations, that are headed by mercy, as it is this attribute that is needed by followers from the leader they follow, an attribute which they may not need any other in many cases.The Prophet, pbuh, used to preach this faith with absolute tenderness and mercy, so that he would not burden his followers with what they do not bear. Indeed, in some cases, he used to advise those who come to follow him and stay with him, to go back to their folks, lest they should be harmed, out of mercy and pity for them.Take the case of Amr bin Absah Al-Sulami, who came to the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, at the beginning of the mission and announced his conversion to Islam. He then proposed to the Prophet to stay with and support him, but the Prophet, out of mercy for him and by way of sparing him any burden, said to him, “You are not capable of doing this at present; don’t you see my difficult position and the attitude of the people to my message? So, go back to your folks, and when you hear that I have triumphed, come to me.”[23]

It was mercy that made the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, give priority to the interest of the man over others, when he told him not to expose himself to harm. I do hope that the preachers and leaders of movements in our contemporary world would assimilate this lesson and refrain from pushing their followers to destruction, while they are safe far away.This mercy has given fruit, for this man did not forget the Prophet’s care and mercy for him. So, when the Prophet migrated to Medina and succeeded in establishing a state, that man came to him, saying, “Do you recognize me?” The Prophet replied, “Yes, you are the man who came to me in Mecca.”[24]The Prophet needed this man, as his followers were few, but he had mercy for him because he was a lonely stranger and the Prophet had feared that he might suffer harm. So he said to him, “You are not capable of doing this at present; don’t you see my difficult position and the attitude of the people to my message? So, go back to your folks, and when you hear that I have triumphed, come to me.”

The Prophet’s mercy towards this sincere man had been given priority over the Prophet’s interest in keeping him for assistance in his propagation of his message.Anyone who has read the story of Ammar bin Yasser, whose mother was the first one to die as a martyr for the sake of her faith, and whose father was to follow suit after being exposed to great suffering at the hands of the Quraish pagans.The Quraish pagans used to take this youth and inflict on him severe suffering, to the point of his losing the ability to distinguish what he was saying. Once they ordered him to curse the Prophet, pbuh, if he wanted them to stop torturing him, and he did so. Then he came to the Prophet, pbuh, full of sadness. On seeing his plight, the Prophet was very sad and asked Ammar about his condition, and Ammar told him that the infidel Qurashites seized torturing him only after he maligned the Prophet and said good things about their gods. The Prophet, pbuh, asked him about what was in his heart, and he replied that it was full of faith, upon which the Prophet told him to say again what the pagans want him to say if they reverted to torturing him.[25]

The mercy of the Prophet towards his companions was such as to permit him to malign his person in order to save himself from the torture of the infidels. Not only that, but he also gave him open permission to do that again, if need be. It was as if he told him that if he was given the choice to malign the Prophet or to be tortured then he should opt for maligning him and not worry. It would seem to me that when the Prophet, pbuh, was talking to Ammar, he had painfully remembered Ammar’s mother, who was killed by Quraish infidels, and his father, who died of torture. Hence, the Prophet’s heart felt pity for him and showed this intensive mercy to him.I leave it to you, dear audience, to imagine the intensity of this mercy which the Prophet, pbuh, has felt towards Ammar.On another occasion, a youth was prompted by his love to the Prophet and the intensity of his faith in what the Prophet was preaching, to ask permission to join him in his fight against his enemies, although he felt that his parents did not want him to do so when he left them. Let us, dear audience, listen to the story of this youth.

Abdullah bin Amr bin Al-Aas has reported that a man came to the Prophet, pbuh, and said, “O, Messenger of God, I have come in order to fight on your side, for the sake of God and the Hereafter, and I have come leaving my parents weeping.” The Prophet said, ‘Go back to them and make them laugh as you have made them weep’”.[26]  This story contrasts with the agony of thousands of women today and with their cries as they see their children being driven to battles, without their knowledge or advice. Many are the scenes, which we daily see on television, of mothers who had lost their sons and carry their pictures, either because they were killed or taken prisoner or are  missing. Unfortunately, there is no one to listen to them or wipe their tears or sympathize with them. There is hardly any country at war that is devoid of such sorrowful scenes or the societies of mothers who have lost their sons and ask for mercy, but to no avail.The mercy of the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, did not tolerate the ignoring by the youth of the weeping of his parents. So he ordered him to return to them and restore the smile to their faces. You may perhaps agree with me that today’s mothers wish to have a leader who is characterized by such attributes of mercy as those of the Prophet, pbuh, and be a father to his soldiers and a brother to their mothers.

Dr. Adam paused for a while. Then she asked the audience if there was anyone among them who would say that such episodes are rare and apply to those persons only, and do not represent a general way of life. Seven or eight persons raised their hands.She said, “This is a legitimate question, which has been on my mind for several days, but which was soon dissipated after I came across similar episodes, some of which I shall put before you. By the way, I suggest that some of you search in the sources that deal with the life of the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, and see if similar episodes and incidents may be found. In any case, this is an optional matter, as I realize that many of you have other obligations and commitments.To revert to our subject, I can say that mercy was never absent in the situations of the Prophet, pbuh, and anyone who investigates his life will not fail to see mercy inherent in these circumstances, whatever they may be.

When the torturing of weak Muslims escalated to unbearable proportions in Mecca, the Prophet’s merciful heart prompted him to tell them to migrate to Abyssinia and encouraged them to do so, saying, “In it there is a king who does not permit any wrong to be inflicted on any person”[27] upon which many of them migrated and found therein peace and security. This episode is reported by Um Salamah, who was among the first Muslims, and later became a wife of the Prophet, pbuh, and a mother of believers. Said she, “When Mecca closed tightly upon us, and the Prophet’s companions were exposed to unbearable torturing on account of their faith, at a time when the Prophet, pbuh, could not protect them, though he himself was under the protection of his own family and uncles and was immune to the hated suffering afflicting his companions.The Messenger of God, pbuh, told them that there was in Abyssinia a king who did not permit any wrong to be inflicted on anybody; so he told them to go to his country, until God would ordain a solution for their plight. So, to it we went and there we were gathered and stayed in the best of abodes and the best of neighbors, fearing no wrong to befall us.”[28]  You are certainly aware, dear audience, that in this episode the mercy and pity for those were what prompted the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, to ask them to leave Mecca and head to Abyssinia, despite his need for them and his desire that they stay with him.

Dear Audience,

I am thinking of the events of the journey for the performance of Umrah (the small pilgrimage) in which the Prophet, pbuh, headed, in the sixth year of the Hegira, together with his companions, to Mecca Al-Mukarrmah, for the performance of Umrah.In this episode, the Prophet, pbuh, was keen that some neighboring tribes accompany him in order to avoid any confrontation with Quraish, but those tribes declined from accompanying him. The Prophet, pbuh, received news that Quraish had come to know of his approaching them and that they were preparing to confront him. In order to avoid clashing with Quraish46, he changed course, preferring a tortuous and tiring road to confronting his enemies in warfare, out of mercy to both sides.He has made this clear to the Khuzaah delegation, who acted as mediators between him and Quraish, saying, “Quraish has incurred a lot of harm on account of the continuing war, and I propose a truce to them.” Such proposal is an indication of his hatred of war, though he was able to wage it; but mercy requires the sparing of bloodshed.Moreover, he did not confine himself to this mediation, but sent one of his best companions, Othman ibn Affaan, to assure Quraish that the Messenger had come only as a visitor to, and venerator of, the Sacred House and that he was not seeking war or confrontation.

The Prophet, pbuh, adhered to this peaceful path, even when news reached him that Quraish had killed his messenger, Othman. This turned out to be untrue; but he and his companions were terribly angry; so they pledged to offer their lives, if it became necessary to confront Quraish. However, he kept the door open and said in this respect, “By Him in whose Hand is my soul, I shall be amenable to any plan that involves the veneration of God’s Sanctuaries.[29] The Prophet, bpuh, agreed to the unfair conditions of Quraish, which made his companions angry. But they were so only on the surface. They provided that the Prophet and his companions shall return that year, and, among other unfair conditions, they crossed out from the Peace Accord the phrase “Muhammad, the Messenger of God”.This attitude on the part of the Prophet involved giving priority to public interests over leaders’ desires and personal aims.The Prophet, pbuh, was advocating mercy to the country and its potentials, which are for all sides, as though he was saying, “I shall accept forthwith any proposal aiming at preserving the Kaaba and Mecca.”

This proposal we send to many countries. We are daily informed of their news of perpetual fighting, which destroys possessions and all that is sacred . This means that all sides are losers.But the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, wanted all sides to be winners and the land to be safe.Never had it occurred in the history of the Prophet’s preaching, which had been going on for nearly twenty years, that the companions expressed discontent before him, implying objecting to him, which was not their intention to do so, and was a totally unprecedented occurrence.

Dear audience,

It never occurred to me that the Prophet, pbuh, would solve this problem and overcome this dilemma, only with mercy and supplication for mercy.You have the right to ask how this was effected. After the Peace Accord had been concluded, the Prophet told his followers to sacrifice their garlanded offerings and shave their heads so that they may end their state of ihram. But none of them made any move because of their disappointment and frustration, even after he had repeated his order three times.Then the Prophet entered the quarters of his wife Um Salamah and told her what had happened. She said that their feeling of dissatisfaction was understandable and she suggested that he sacrifice his own garlanded offerings and shave his head, which he did and went out to them and said, “God will be merciful to those who shave their heads, repeating that three times, upon which they stood up and sacrificed their garlanded offerings and started shaving one another’s head, to the point that they almost killed one another in frustration.I have dwelt too long on these occurrences, which, in fact, are not narrated for their own sake, and I do not wish to dwell on analysis and comments on them. I leave this to you own intelligence, which will not fail to see in these occurrences the phenomenon of mercy clearly exemplified together with his keenness on invoking and spreading it, from the time he left his house until he concluded peace with Quraish and overcame the dilemma with his companions, despite the many obstacles they faced and the series of provocations they were exposed to, which I have chosen not to elaborate on.

But allow me to say, “Had the Prophet yielded to his companions and exploited their enthusiasm and their pledge of allegiance to the point of death; had he made use of all this and insisted on entering Mecca, and had Quraish stood by their refusal, then fighting would have broken between them, the consequences of which would have been disastrous, and hundreds on both sides would have been killed, as the situation had been too tense and the challenge on both sides had reached great proportions.But nothing of the sort did happen, because the Prophet’s mercy has controlled, directed and dominated every event, even at the expense of the embarrassment of the Prophet both in relation to his followers and to his enemies. He has endured a great deal, as witness the sequence of events, but he did not change or abandon the attitude of mercy that was clearly manifest towards both sides. Thus the consequence of the peace accord was that war was to stop for years and both sides exchanged visits of their relatives and scores of infidels adopted Islam.Could we not, therefore, say that the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, has fought his adversaries with mercy and guided his followers with that same mercy?I remember in this context a statement, which I have recorded, made by the Spanish scholar Jean Lake, who said, “The life of the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, is best described by what God has said, ‘We sent thee not, but as a Mercy to all creatures,’ (Al-Anbiyaa’, 107). The Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, was a true mercy and I send blessings on him in great earnestness and devotion.[30] Then Dr. Adam thanked the audience and said she would resume her talks and bade them good-bye.


[1] Reported by Boukhri, in the Section on God has divided mercy into one hundred portions, tradition 6000

[2] SaHiH Muslim, The Section on his mercy, pbuh, towards boys, family and his modesty, and its merit, Tradition No. 6030.

[3] Reported by Tirmidhi, The Section on Mercy Towards Muslims, Tradition No. 1924, and said that it is an authentic tradition. See also the series of the Authentic Traditions, v.2, p.925

[4] Reported by Al-Tabarani and classified as authentic. See Al-Matjar Al-RabeH fii thawab Al-ámal Al-Saleh, p. 779.

[5] An Authentic Tradition. See the series of the Authentic Traditions, v.3, p.223.

[6] SaHiH Muslim, the Section on the Prophet’s seeking God’s permission to visit his mother’s grave,Tradition No. 2259.

[7] SaHiH Muslim, the Section on Weeping on the dead, Tradition No. 2137.

[8] SaHiH Muslim, the Section on Weeping over the dead, Tradition No. 2135

[9] See Ibn Hisham The Biography of the Prophet, v.3, p.245, Tabaqat bin Saad, v.2, p.56

[10] Reported by Bukhari, Book of Manners, Tradition 5967.

[11] Reported by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad, on acceptable authority.

[12] Reported by Abu Dawood, the Section on Burning the Enemy with Fire, tradition 2675, (authentic). See also Al-Albani, The Series of Authentic Traditions, v.1, p.487,

[13] Reported by Bukhari, in the Section on People’s Mercy towards Animals, Tradition No. 6009.

[14] Reported by Bukhari, the Section on The Recompense of Giving Water to Drink

[15] Reported by Muslim, the Section on Feeding Servants, tradition 4315.

[16] Reported by Muslim, the Section on Feeding Serva                nts, tradition 43147

[17] Reported by Bukhari, in the Section on Guests and Family, tradition 602.

[18] Muhammad Sadeq Makki, Figures that Recount the World, first impression, 2006, Dar Al-Bayan, Riyadh.

[19] Enine Rene, Rays Emanating from the Light of Islam, p.323.

[20] See Dr. Draz, The Constitution of Ethics, pp.611-612, with some adaptation and addition.

[21] Ibid.,p.615, with some adaptation.

[22] Colonel Muhammad Safa, Napoleon Bonaparte, first impression, 1988, Dar Al-Nafaes.

[23] See SaHih Muslim, the Section on The Conversion of Amr bin Absah to Islam, tradition 1930; AlSalabi, The Biography of the Prophet: Lessons & Examples, v.1, p.277.

[24] See SaHih Muslim, the Section on The Conversion of Amr bin Absah to Islam, tradition 1930.

[25] Ibn Al-Jawzi, Zaad al-Masiir, v.4, p.495; and Muhammad  Al-Ghazali, Fiqh al-Siira, fourth impression, 1989, Dar Al-Qalam, Damascus.

[26] Reported by Ibn Majah, in the Section on A Man Fighting Contrary to the Will of His Parents, authentic tradition No. 2782. See The Series of Authentic Traditions, v.2, p.387.

[27] Ibn Hisham, The Biography of the Prophet, v.1, p.413, and Dr. Akram Al-Omary, The Authentic Biography of the Prophet, v.1, p.170.

[28] Abdul Malek Hisham, The Biography of the Prophet, v.1, p.397, Dar Al-Fikr.

[29] Reported by Bukhari, in the Section on Conditions in Jihad and Conciliation, tradition 2731

[30] Al-Husseini Maaddi, The Messenger in Western Fair Eyes, p.88