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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

As to Persian society, to the east of the Arab Peninsula, suffice it to say that the principles of Mazdocism were prevalent and advocated profligacy and illicit marriage between close relatives, making it lawful for a brother to marry his sister. Further east, in India, we find that the woman was burned alive, after the death of her husband, as there was no meaning for her survival after him. On the other hand, the woman was despised in Greek society, so much so that one of their philosophers said, “A woman’s name must be imprisoned at home just as her body should be imprisoned.”        Dr. Adam said that she did not wish to dwell on this matter, which does not appeal to all present. She merely gave certain hints that confirm that those societies were deprived of the manifestations of mercy and humanity. In them there prevailed injustice and cruelty. William Mure has summed up the condition of those times as follows; “Reform was unthinkable at the advent of thr Prophet Muhammad. We know of no success and reform as that he left upon his death.”[12]However, if there were at all some instances of mercy and tolerance, dispersed here and there, which we do not deny, they, nevertheless, remain isolated cases that are almost indiscernible and had no effect on society, as against the pictures of injustice, domination and hostility that prevailed at the time on a large scale. 

God has sent the Prophet of Mercy in these environments and to those peoples, as a mercy to them, and sent down to them a religion that is the very embodiment of mercy. This encourages us to say that the beginning was there. It is the one thousand mile trip, whose first step was there. It is the voyage of humanity to the world of mercy and compassion. In fact this is not a sentimental talk that springs from void. It is rather the fruit of research and analysis, and judgment rests with the listener, whom I respect and trust.The Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, has, from the dawn of his call, started spreading mercy among people, although  the first environment in which he lived – Mecca – preaching for thirteen years, was hostile to him all the way through with all its might, where there was no place for mercy, except certain isolated manifestations prompted by Arabian values, whose manifestations had not vanished despite the prevalence of cultures that were contrary to those values that had become odd and bizarre. In his mission, he had no helpers with the exception of persecuted individuals, who were increasing every day, despite the injustice and persecution they were exposed to.The manifestations of the mercy of the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, started with both his followers and enemies, from the first day of his preaching. This fact has attracted the attention of those involved in the study of his life. This was manifested by his commitment and that of his followers not to retaliate in the face of the abuse of their enemies, such attitudes having been in implementation of God’s instructions: “Hast thou not turned thy thought to those who were told to hold back their hands (from fight) but establish regular prayers…(Al-Nisaa’,77); and in another verse: “But turn away from them and say ‘Peace / But soon shall they know.” (Al-Zukhrof, 89); and yet in another verse, God has ordered the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, and his followers to forgive: “But forgive and overlook”   (Al-Baqarah, 109).

Ever since the first days, mercy was present and manifest in this approach, so that people would be aware that the decisive word is for principles, and that conflict is only a conflict of beliefs, and that survival is for the fittest, without any exterior influence in terms of force or other effects, and the Prophet, pbuh, is determined to follow this path, though he knew that his adversaries would not accept it. Moreover, the Prophet has seen all that represents good and tolerance in this path, which is based on forgiveness, patience and tolerance. This is because those who believe in him and those who reject him belong to one community, being united by family and family links, and may live in one and the same house.It was out of the Prophet’s mercy for them that he forbade his followers to fight them and retaliate, so that brother would not kill brother, friend would not kill friend and neighbor would not kill neighbor, as far as that was possible.

This unique and exceptional attitude in this environment continued several years, as people in these environments used to settle their problems, even the trivial ones, by fighting. In fact, the enemies of the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, have entertained such intentions and said so quite openly: “It is as it were that you desire that difference should escalate between us to the point of brandishing swords on one another until we destroy ourselves.”[13] And no one would survive. But they did not know that the Prophet had other ideas and an unfamiliar approach, which he would brandish in their faces, rather than brandishing swords.The Prophet made this clear when his followers asked him to be allowed to defend themselves in the face of the injuries they were exposed to. Thus they would say, “O Prophet of God, we were mighty and revered when we set up gods with God, but when we attained belief we became humiliated.” But the Prophet said, “I am ordered to forgive. Do not fight these folks.”

Thus, whether they like it or not, they are now before a new approach that confronts differences – albeit unilaterally – with mercy, tolerance and forgiveness.In this attitude the Prophet, pbuh, has signaled to humanity, past and present, that mercy would create the proper atmosphere for dialogue and understanding among people, despite their differences in terms of views and races.Hatred blinds people; the voice of might renders people deaf, and the consequence is the prevalence of the law of the jungle.The attribute of mercy in the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, was not reflected only in a personal behavior, without considering those who were around him, as is the case in some great figures. Such figures made virtuous manners personal attributes that distinguished them from their fellow human beings, who continued as they had been previously, such as the asceticism of Buddha, for example, so that it might be surmised they are the manners of the elite and have nothing to do with the ordinary people, who are not required to acquire such manners.

The Prophet, pbuh, has acquired these manners, and then ordered people to follow suit and emulate his words and deeds, so much so that it may be said that without hesitation the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, has through his behavior, created an environment in which the attribute of mercy grows up and the culture of people being merciful towards one another gradually spreads among people and becomes a social trait, after it had been an individual, weak and secluded character – characterizing a few of them. Is it not a fact that the conduct of the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, is to be considered a message to reformers and to the wise, within human communities at all times and in al places. Such conduct involves the need for those people to propagate the virtues that characterize them and for exerting efforts for persuading people to adopt them, not to be satisfied with possessing such virtues alone and leaving people as they are.

The Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, has exerted all sorts of efforts in order to firmly establish these virtues among men, despite the harm and hardship he and his followers had been exposed to, at the hands of enemies with cruel and unyielding disposition, who objected to his person. The Holy Qur’an has recorded such objection and exposed their cruelty and the evil  they harbored inside them: “Why is not this Qut’an sent to some leading ma of the two (chief) cities?” (Al-Zukhrof, 31. They objected to the principles of his call and objected to his followers.His enemies put dirt on his head, while he was prostrating, so that he could remove it. It was his daughter who came and removed it. Once he was beaten and spat on and perpetually exposed to ridicule.[14] Such enemies of the Prophet have also ridiculed the principles he was advocating ــ his call for the worship of one God. This is recorded in the Holy Qur’an: “Has he made gods (all) into one God? Truly this is a strange thing.” (Sad, 5).

They also exposed his followers to the ugliest forms of torture and killed Sumayyah bint Khabat, after torturing her.[15] At this point Dr. Adam paused and looked at the audience, smiling, and showing signs of emotions and said, “I am pleased to side, this time in this lecture, with my gender, to tell you that a woman was the first to sacrifice herself for the sake of the teachings of the Religion of Mercy. Then her husband, Yasser, died under various forms of torture which continued for long periods of time.”She went on to say, “Before I proceed with the exposition of these events I would like to point to an important matter of methodology, which, in brief, relates to the fact that when I narrate these events and stories, I aim to leave it to you to deduce, yourselves, the lessons that reflect the way mercy was propagated among people.There is one other matter that is just as important, namely, that the nature of these cultural lectures requires the mentioning of these true and well established stories, as people’s minds appreciate hearing them, particularly in view of the fact that we have looked for similar ones in the lives of great figures who preceded the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh,, but did not find any of them.I conclude with a third matter, and apologize for this digression. When I was a young student, I used to love to hear such stories from the lecturer because, in my view, they make the point more easily and rapidly, and I assume that your are, just like me.” A member of the audience said something that indicates concurrence with what she said.

I must not omit to mention also a picture of torture to which a woman was exposed at the hands of the Meccans. This woman is Um Salamah, who later on became a wife of the Prophet, pbuh, after the death of her husband. I will let her tell her story herself. ‘When Abu Salamah – meaning her husband – decided to migrate to Medina, he mounted me and my son on a camel and headed to Medina. Some members of my family, the Banu Mughirah, intercepted us and would not let him take me, their daughter. When my husband’s folks, Banu Assad, saw what my people had done, they swore they would not leave their son with them if they were to take her by force.So they started, each side pulling my son in their direction, until they wrenched his arm and my husband’s folks took him. I was taken by my people, who separated me from my husband and my young son after having dislocated his arm. I used subsequently to go out to the outskirts of Mecca and weep all day, for a year or so.”[16]I do not wish to comment on this story. It is enough that it is a tragic picture that is self-evident.The response of the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, was to advocate tolerance and mutual mercy, which is hard to achieve. But the Qur’an, which was being revealed at this time in Mecca, had a role in spreading the culture of mercy. It urged people to observe patience. It narrated to the Muslims the stories of the believing predecessors from former nations, by way of consolation.

What is also worth noting is that the Holy Qur’an has never called for the severance of family ties, as between those who adopted Islam and those who did not, and neither did it permit Muslims to ostracize them or to refrain from being benevolent and gracious to those who were fighting against the Prophet, pbuh, and his followers.There is some query on my mind, which I would like to put before you, and which I, truly, did not find anyone who mentioned it. Do you not notice a clear similarity between the Message of Christ , pbuh, and the Message of the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, in Mecca, both having preached forgiveness and forbearance?I may be going too far if I say that the phenomenon of tolerance and forgiveness was more pronounced in the Message of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, than in the Message of Christ, as there was a clear enmity between the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, and his opponents, and despite the constant request of his followers to be allowed to fight their enemies, which request was met with insistence on adherence to such manners and imposing them on his followers. He kept insisting on adherence to mercy, despite the many provocations that emanated from his enemies in Mecca, and despite the torturing his followers had been exposed to.

This is a message to those who have misunderstood the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, and were under the illusion that his Message was the opposite of that of Christ. I am struck by a statement by the eminent English writer Bernard Shaw, who has understood this fact and said, “I have studied Muhammad as an astounding man and found that he was remote from being contrary to Christ.”[17] Things continued in this manner, the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, confronting his enemies with forgiveness and mercy, while they were confronting him and his followers with cruelty. Such cruelty assumed severe proportions, seven years after his mission, when his enemies in Mecca decided to besiege the Prophet and his followers, and all those who sided with them from amongst his relatives, in a dale known as the Gorge of Abu Taleb, with a view to isolating them from the outside world, and to boycott then economically and socially.They succeeded in that and the isolation and siege continued for three years, which were severe and dreadful to the Prophet and those who were with him.[18] But the Prophet did not change his conduct. Thereafter, the fruits of mercy, whose seeds he had implanted in that environment, and took real care of them, with his words and deeds, began to blossom.Thus mercy began to stir in the hearts of a number of those opposing him and they decided to end the siege and cancel the isolation.The Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, and his followers emerged victorious when many people in and outside Mecca sympathized with them on account of their suffering and his enemies felt embarrassed and lost, as their cruelty was defeated in the face of the mercy of the Prophet, pbuh, and his peaceful attitude. Thus their cruelty has misfired.

Dear audience,

I an afraid I have dwelt too long on the subject in this lecture. Allow me to conclude by saying that the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, has created an environment wherein mercy has flourished to become a culture that spread to encompass the people. He has succeeded in making mercy a means to protect his companions and used it as a weapon that enabled him to defeat his enemies on several occasions, as you have seen, which was a conduct unknown to people before.Meanwhile, a member of the audience stood up and thanked her for her perseverance and asked if he could ask her a question, which permission was granted forthwith. He said, “There is no doubt that we are considering a great personality, that excels in the establishment of patience and the spreading of mercy in an environment that rejected it. But what if one who has listened to this lecture would say that what we have seen in the conduct of the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, was neither mercy nor tolerance, but was a form of surrender and acceptance of reality, because he had no choice except to adopt that attitude, in view of the paucity of his followers and his weak potentials. Hence, he had no alternative but to face injury with patience and to avoid, by all means, clashing in Mecca with his opponents, who outnumbered him and his followers and were more powerful than them.” Some of the audience looked towards the speaker, as though in confirmation of what he said, and waited to hear the opinion of Dr. Adam, who welcomed the intervention of the speaker, and asked the audience if they had heard what the speaker had said, and some of them replied in the affirmative.

She said, “I believe today’s lecture gave some answers to this question. But in order to arrive at an answer one has to read between the lines and requires an analysis of the events we have discussed and those that are forthcoming after the conditions of the Prophet would change from weakness to strength. In this connection, I have just remembered an opinion adopted by many Muslim scholars, to the effect that the Prophet, pbuh, had never been weak or powerless before his opponents. This is evidenced by the fact that had he so wished, they would all have perished in one moment.The narrators of the Prophet’s traditions have reported a tradition which they unanimously considered to be authentic. It stated that God had sent an angel to the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, after his people’s belying him had escalated, proposing to him to destroy all of them. But the Prophet, pbuh, strongly refused that.[19] If the change of attitude had depended on power, the attitude of the Prophet, pbuh, would have changed immediately after God had supplied him with that extraordinary power.However, this does not negate the weakness of the Muslims at the time, as people would think. Therefore, I propose that we split this task: you search in the events we have discussed; these may provide some answers to that legitimate query, and I, for my part, would provide answers to this question in light of further readings, with a view to answering it, in the next lecture.I shall give you the opportunity to express your points of view in the next lecture. Thank you and good bye


[1] Bodley, The Apostle: The Life of Muhammad,  p.12

[2] Dr. Bassem Khafaji, Why do they hate him? V.1 1427 H. – 2006 G.

[3] For further information on these good tidings, see Abdul Ahad Al-Ashuri, Muhammad in the Bible, translted by Fahmy Shamma, Qatar, Dar Al-Ulum Press Establishment, 1990.

[4] Muhammad Sharif Al-Sheibani, The Messenger in the Fair Orientalist Studies, p. 62; v.1 1988, Dar Al-Alhadarah, Beirut.

[5] Master Bustani, The Encyclopedia, v.9, p. 198, Dar Al-Fikr, Beirut

[6] Dr. Alexi Joravsky, Islam and Christianity, book No. 215 in the series of älam al- ma’rifat, The National Council of Culture, Arts and Literature, Kuwait, November 1996.

[7] Montgomery Watt, The Effect of Islam on Europe in the Middles Ages, p.301, Moscow, 1976.

[8] Muhammad Sharif Al-Shaibani, The Western View of Islam in the Middle Ages, by Southert, quoted from the Book on the Apostle in the fair Orientaist studies, p.27, first impression, 1988, Dar Al-Hadhara, Beirut.

[9] For further information, see the following books: Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan Nihaayah; Ibn Qayyem Al-Jawziyyah, Zad Al-Maáad fii Huda Khayr Al-Íbaad; Husseing Haikal, Hayat Muhammad.

[10] For further information, see Abul Hassan Al-Nadawi, The Prophet’s Biography, p.27 ff, Islamic Distribution and Publication House, Cairo, first impression.

[11] Dr. Mustafa Al-Sibaii, The Woman between Jurisprudence and the Law, p. 16.

[12] William Mure, The Life of Muhammad, quoted from Abdul Rahman Azzam’s book The Hero of Heroes, p.11.

[13] Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan Nihayah, v.3, p. 68.

[14] Ibn Hisham, The Prophet’s Biography, v.1, p.395; and see Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Salabi, The Prophet’s Biography, an exposition and analysis of facts and events, pp.288-291, first impression, Dar Al-Iman, Alexandria.

[15] See Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah, The Prophet’s Biography in Light of the Original Sources, p. 186, first impression, 1992, King Faisal Research Center, Riyadh.

[16] Ibid., v.1, p.477, with some adaptation. Dr, Al-Omary, The True Prophet’s Biography, v.1, p202 ff., with some adaptation.

[17] Al-Husseini Maadi, The Messenger in fair Western Eyes, first impression, 2006, Dar Al-Kitab Al-Arabi, Damascus, Cairo.

[18] See Ibn Hisham, The Biography of the Prophet, v.1, p.430; and Dr, Ali Al-Salabi, The Biography of the Prophet, p. 347 ff; and see the Biography of the Prophet in light of the original sources, p.194 ff, with some adaptation

[19] The origin of the tradition appears in Muslim’s Compilation, which was quoted at length. It stated that when the Prophet returned from Taef, saddened by what its people had done to him, God sent Gabriel with the Angel in charge of the mountains, who said, ‘If you so wish, O Muhammad, I would crush them between two mountains,’ but the Prophet , pbuh, said, ‘I am hoping that God would let them give birth to a progeny that would worship God and would not ascribe any partner to Him. See also SaHiH Muslem, who reported that tradition, in the Section on the harm that the Prophet has sustained; see also Dr. Akran Dhiyaa Al-Omari, The Authentic Biography of the Prophet, v.1, p.186.

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