Mercy for All the Worlds
By Nilofar Ahmed
Almighty God in His infinite wisdom has given Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) some titles in the Qur’an, many of which are God’s own attributes and reflect the stage of human perfection the Prophet (PBUH) had reached.
One of these titles, ‘Raheem’, meaning ‘ever-merciful’ is found in Surah Al-Taubah (9:128), while in Surah Al-Anmbiya (21:107), it is stated, “Wa ma arsalnaka illa rehmatal lil aalameen”, meaning, “We have not sent you [Muhammad], except as ‘Mercy for all the worlds’”. All the perfections and attributes of the Prophet find a consolidation in this verse.
‘Raheem’, a permanent attribute of God, can be described as that tenderness and sensitivity which pushes a person to be kind and is the all-encompassing goodness. According to Imam Ghazali, mercy requires an object of mercy and an empathy and a sensitive suffering (riqqat in Urdu), for the needy, on the part of the merciful. The Prophet chose for himself a life of poverty, while he distributed freely the wealth that he
received. The Arabic for ‘worlds’ used above is ‘aalameen’, that is, the whole universe, which includes all creation, and for all times to come.
Of the Prophet’s mercy and benevolence, there are innumerable accounts that have come down to us in narration, for example, how a dry well suddenly started overflowing with water because of his blessing, and many times a little food went a long way and was enough to feed the innumerable people present. There are accounts of how the Prophet was kind even to those who persecuted him. There was the well-known case of the old Jewish woman who used to throw garbage on him every time he passed by her window. One day, when there was no garbage, he went up to inquire about her welfare. She was immensely touched and became his devout follower.
Many times during his prophetic career, his companions would volunteer to eliminate an enemy who had harmed him in some way, but he would stop them saying that he was sent as a mercy for the worlds, and did not want revenge for personal reasons.
The Prophet set the rules for gradually eliminating the slavery of man to man. The freeing of a slave was established as a good deed as well as the expiation for many sins. The main source of making slaves was war. In verse 22:39 permission is granted to those who were oppressed because they had declared their faith in God, to fight the oppressors. In Surah Muhammad it is said, “…when you have completely subdued them, then capture them firmly. Then release them as a favor or after taking a ransom, until the battle lays down its weapons” (47:4). Since this verse instructs the believers to give up the prisoners, it has been deduced that it spells out the gradual end of slavery.
When read in conjunction with verse 2:190, the above verse makes clear that the believers are being given permission to fight a defensive war in the way of God in order to establish the truth, after 13 years of forbearance and patience. The Prophet imposed restrictions and conditions on those fighting jihad: to refrain from committing aggression and violence, especially against women, children and the old and infirm, to refrain from killing milch cattle and from destroying fruit trees, orchards and farms, etc.
The Prophet was not only kind to his followers but was equally concerned about the fate of the non-believers of Makkah, who had turned into his enemies. He used to make use of every opportunity to convey the message by visiting every friend and relative, every congregation and every traveling caravan to teach what was revealed to him. Whenever he saw his sincere effort going waste, he would become depressed and would stay up at night, weeping and praying for his people to see the right path. At such times he would receive a revelation to comfort him. In Surah Al-Kahaf it is said, “So are you going to kill yourself with grief over them, if they do not come to believe in this Word?” (18:6).
The Prophet emancipated women and gave them rights over men, rights to property, rights to their personal income, rights to education, a say in the choice of their life partner and a legal identity. Marmaduke Pickthall, in his lectures in Madras in the early 20th century said, “The Prophet of Islam was the greatest feminist the world has ever known.” He was also against extremism in practicing the faith and taught the virtue of moderation and following the middle path.
In the Charter of Madina and the Sermon of Haj, the Prophet laid down rules which have come to form the basis of human rights, as they are practiced today. Once, in a dispute between a Muslim and a Jew, the Prophet ruled in favor of the Jew. By his example, the Prophet taught the values of honesty, justice, patience, modesty, liberty, simplicity, good manners, generosity, kindness and love. He urged his followers to be kind to animals too.
At the conquest of Makkah, the Prophet (PBUH) said to his followers, “Do not kill the injured, do not pursue one who is fleeing, do not kill a prisoner and one who goes behind his door and closes it.” He forgave his enemies of 23 years who dreaded the worst form of revenge, and did not punish anyone for personal reasons nor make a single prisoner or slave. The Prophet was sent as a mercy, not just to his own nation and for his own time, but as a universal prophet, for all creation and for all times to come. Courtesy Dawn