In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
All praise is due to Allah, and may His peace and blessings be upon Allah’s Messenger, his Companions and whosoever follows his guidance.
Dear brothers and sisters, fourteen and a half centuries ago, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) entered the gates of Makkah as a conqueror. But he entered without violence. He forgave his enemies. He conquered their hearts instead.
With his 10,000 well-armed men, he could easily have hunted them down and punished them. They had killed, tortured, and oppressed so many of his followers for so many years. There could have been a bloodbath in Makkah. But Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) wasn’t a man of revenge.
Allah Almighty says about him:
“And We have not sent you (O Muhammad) except as a Mercy to all the worlds.” [Qur’an, 21:107]
The people of Makkah waited in fear and trepidation for what might come. They all knew the ancient tradition of tribal justice, and they expected the worst. But the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) announced a general amnesty, saying that he forgave those who had harmed him and his people, just as Prophet Yusuf forgave his brothers. The response was incredible. Not only was there a collective sigh of relief, but people were so grateful for mercy that the entire population of the city abandoned idol worship and became Muslims. Those who nowadays have the power to take revenge might well consider this wonderful example from history.
In recent times, Nelson Mandela showed mercy when he became President of South Africa after 27 years in prison. He forgave his oppressors and he invited them to confess their sins at a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This became a model for the peace accord in Northern Ireland, where Mandela’s advisers played a big part. He knew Imam Abdurrahman Basir, who came to lead the Jumu’ah prayers for Muslim prisoners on Fridays. Mandela admired Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). He loved the Muslims and appointed Abdullah (Dullah) Umar as Minister of Justice in South Africa’s first multiracial government.
We can only hope that in our countries and elsewhere, Muslims and other leaders around the world can win over the hearts and minds of their followers and their enemies by being merciful. Our world today has suffered more than its fair share of violence and revenge.
Let us all pray for peace, unity, progress and reconciliation. Let us turn to Heaven and ask Allah to help us and to help those who have lost their homes and loved ones in wars, fires, earthquakes, floods, and droughts in so many parts of the world.
Respected brothers and sisters, Allah is “Muqallibul qulub,” “The Turner of hearts,” so let us turn our pleas to Him, as Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) taught us in one of his favourite Du’as:
“O Turner of hearts, (please) turn my heart towards Your religion.”
The power of mercy was clearly shown in many examples during the lifetime of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
When the people of Tai’f chased him out of their city, abusing him and stoning him till the blood flowed, the Angel of Mountains offered to crush the city and destroy its people. But Prophet Muhammad, Allah’s Praised One resisted, saying that he wasn’t the Prophet of revenge. He was the Prophet of mercy. Perhaps their children will become Muslim one day. And they did.
Another example: Hindu, the widow of Abu Sufyan, offered to free Wahshi Ibn Harb, an Abyssinian slave, if he would kill Hamzah, the brave warrior and an uncle of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Wahshi was a skilled javelin thrower. He used that skill to deadly effect in the Battle of Uhud when he killed Hamzah (RA). Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) suffered indescribable pain and grief. Even so, after the battle, he forgave his uncle’s killer, and invited him to Islam.
It is said that Wahshi at first did not respond to the invitations. He was now a free man, but killing Hamzah was a heavy price for his freedom. He was so overcome with guilt and remorse. He felt that what he had done was unforgivable. His sin was beyond redemption. He felt that the hellfire was all that was he deserved. Then he heard this verse from Surah Az-Zumar (Qur’an, 39:53):
“Say (on My behalf), “O servants of Mine who have acted recklessly against their own selves, do not despair of Allah’s mercy. Surely, Allah will forgive all sins. Surely, He is the One who is the Most-Forgiving, the All-Merciful.”
On hearing this, Wahshi found a glimmer of hope in his dark clouds of despair. Surely, if Allah would forgive him, then all was not lost? He made his way to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), where he declared his Kalimatush-Shahadah. For the rest of his life, he was one of the foremost soldiers in the ranks of the Muslims.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn to be more merciful in all our relationships. Let us be merciful to husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and neighbours. We have our best example in our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
Let us all reflect on these two Prophetic Hadith, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Allah will reward gentleness what He will not reward for harshness.” [Muslim reported the Hadith]
And he said: “Be merciful to those on earth and He Who is above the heavens will be merciful to you.”
Dear servants of Allah, let us all ask ourselves, what is compassion and how important it is in a Muslim’s life.
Dictionaries define compassion as “the deep awareness of suffering in others, combined with a desire to relieve it.” This urge, this desire to relieve the pain and distress of other people, is deeply embedded in our human psyche. Compassion is a natural instinct. It’s part of our fitrah, our primordial human nature. Compassion is what makes us truly human. It’s the very opposite of Darwin’s law of the jungle, Survival of the Fittest. If we walked down the street and we saw and old woman stumbling on the pavement, or a toddler walking into the road towards speeding traffic, we would instinctively rush forward to help. If we stood on the river bank as floodwater rushed by, and we saw someone shouting and struggling for help, most people would instinctively try to save a life. Some people will even risk their own lives to help others, like the harbour-master who rescued a baby in a pram that fell into the icy water a few days ago. That’s compassion: Caring for the pain and suffering of others, and often disregarding one’s own safety.
We Muslims should know all about compassion and mercy. In our Noble Qur’an, we learn that Allah has 99 Beautiful Names, Asma’ul Husnah. We also know that Allah’s most frequently used names are, Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim: The All-Compassionate, the All-Merciful. Every chapter, every Surah in the Qur’an [except one] opens with these words: Bismillahir rahmanir rahim! In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. Every action a Muslim takes, from waking up, to opening a door or eating a meal or starting our prayers or getting off the bus or writing an exam, begins with Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. This way, we bring something of heaven to the most routine and mundane parts of our life. This is how we bless everything we do, with Allah’s Noble Names of Mercy and Compassion. Doing so is not just some thoughtless and superstitious habit, like crossing your fingers and hoping to get lucky. It’s a way of reminding ourselves of the high status that Allah has given us, to be custodians, trustees of all that Allah has created. And just as Allah is strict in punishment, irresistible in might and supreme in glory, He is also al-Ghafurur-Rahim, the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Muslims who constantly invoke the Noble Names of Compassion and Mercy, must surely, in time, show some evidence of that radiance, that heavenly light in our behaviour, in our relations with people. Why is it then, that some of us can be so harsh, so impatient, so judgemental?
Some Muslims have chosen to follow a limited selection of Allah’s Names, like Al-Jabbar [The Compeller], Al-Qahhar [The Subduer], Al-Muntaqim [The Avenger], and Al-Mumit [The Taker of Life]. They often forget that although Allah has names of rigour, He also has names of gentleness, like As-Salam [The Source of Peace], Al-Musawwir [The Shaper of Beauty], As-Sabur [The Patient One], and over and above all else, Allah wants us to remember Him as Ar-Rahman, [The Most Compassionate] and Ar-Rahim [The Most Merciful]. Clearly then, Allah wants us to reflect Compassion and Mercy in all our transactions. As human beings we are from time to time likely to be roused to anger, but we should really calm down and be patient, forgiving and merciful. Remember in a famous Hadith Qudsi, Allah describes the very moment of Creation in these words:
“When Allah decreed the Creation He pledged Himself by writing in His book which is laid down with Him: ‘My mercy prevails over my wrath.’”
In another well-known Hadith related by Muslim:
“Allah will say on the Day of Resurrection: ‘O son of Adam, I fell ill and you did not visit Me.’ He will say: ‘O Lord, and how should I visit You when You are the Lord of the worlds?’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that My servant So-and-so had fallen ill and you did not visit him? Did you not know that had you visited him you would have found Me with him? O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you did not feed me.’ He will say: ‘O Lord, and how should I feed You when You are the Lord of the worlds?’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that My servant So-and-so asked you for food and you did not feed him? Did you not know that had you fed him you would surely have found that (the reward for doing so) with Me? O son of Adam, I was thirsty and I asked you to give for something to drink, but you gave me nothing to drink.’ He will say: ‘O Lord, how should I give You anything to drink when You are the Lord of the worlds?’ He will say: ‘My servant So-and-so asked you for something to quench his thirst and you gave him nothing. Had you helped him you would certainly have found that reward with Me.”
Compassion is not just an abstract idea. It’s showing Allah’s love in action.
Respected brothers and sisters, every human being was created with a natural inclination towards mercy and compassion. Greed and selfishness are not part of our natural state. Greed and selfishness are cultivated. And, heaven knows, we now live in a “must have” culture. From early childhood our senses are steadily bombarded with an endless stream of messages, urging us to buy this, buy that, you must have this, you must have that. On radio, TV, phones, billboards, junk mail and spam messages in our email, we are urged to be yourself, discover yourself, indulge yourself, because you owe it to yourself”, and so on. Those hidden persuaders, the ad-men, the marketing moguls and PR whiz kids constantly manipulate our egos, and they promote greed and envy as acceptable behaviour. It takes a lot of critical awareness and self-discipline to resist. But we have to take stock, we have to step back and realise that we’re being manipulated. Someone is constantly making money out of our human weakness, our lower instincts.
I don’t have to remind you that the mess out there in the financial markets has a lot to do with human greed. A few people have taken reckless risks with other people’s money. It’s brought the world into a serious crisis. Islam urges its followers to follow the Prophetic examples of Musa, Isa and Muhammad, as well as the earlier Prophets (may Allah send peace and blessings on all of them). They lived frugally, and their lives were totally dedicated to the wellbeing of others. We should try to do the same. The Prophets are our real teachers and role-models.
In China, 500 year before the Christian Era, Confucius taught that “What you do not wish for yourself, do not wish for others.” Prophet Isa (AS) said that we should do unto others as we would like them to do unto us. 600 years later, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said that a Believer’s faith is not complete until he desires for others what he desires for himself. These teachings have become known as the Golden Rule, the ethic of reciprocity. This is the basis of the Charter of Compassion, which is supported by all major religions and has attracted thousands of signatories, from all walks of life.
The poet-philosopher Jalaluddin Rumi said that:
“The Way (to Allah) is not by holy robes and prayer beads, but by service to others.”
Some of us may make the mistake of thinking that it’s enough just to drop a few pennies in the collection box to satisfy a guilty conscience. Donations are certainly welcome, but real Compassion is not only about money and material needs. It’s also about giving your time and talent. Right here in our own neighbourhoods, in Nigeria, we have serious problems that we Muslims can help to alleviate. Even this wealthy, first-world country has its major social problems. Family life is becoming an endangered species. Teenage pregnancies, binge drinking and drug abuse have pushed the country to the top of the table of society under stress.
Respected brothers and sisters, let us get involved with our neighbours, let us join local initiatives to help young people and struggling families. Let us become living examples of Compassion, as “the deep awareness of suffering in others, combined with a desire to relieve it.”
May Allah help us to live up to those Noble Names of Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim, words that all too easily roll off our tongues, but are stripped of their meaning when our actions are bereft of mercy. We can and we should work hard to become Compassionate and Merciful towards everyone, day in and day out, till the end of our lives. Ameen.
Dear brothers and sisters, Allah’s most beautiful names Ar-Rahman (Entirely Merciful), Ar-Rahim (Especially Merciful). And these two names indicate a great attribute from the attributes of Allah which is the attribute of mercy.
And it is from the greatest attributes and we witness its effect in everything. For there is no blessing in the heavens or the earth except that it is from the effect of the mercy of Allah Almighty. Allah Almighty said:
“And if you should count the favours of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Qur’an, 16:18]
And from the mercy and generosity of Allah is that He gave his servants glad tidings about Himself:
“He has decreed upon Himself mercy.” [Qur’an, 6:12]
And from the manifestations of Allah’s Mercy preceding His wrath is that He accepts repentance, forgives sins, pardons misdeeds, gives opportunity to the sinners and does not hasten the punishment and forgives the one realising Tawhid even if he has earthfill of sins.
Indeed the mercy of Allah is wide to the point that it encompasses everything. Allah Almighty said:
“But My mercy encompasses all things.” [Qur’an, 7: 156]
So these Qur’anic verses show that the general mercy of Allah encompasses everything. It accommodates all that is in the heavens and the earth and what is between them. It encompasses the righteous and pious. And it encompasses the sinner and evil doer. It encompasses the genuine believer and it encompasses the denying disbeliever. It even encompasses the inanimate objects. So there is no creation except that it is encompassed by the general mercy of Allah and covered with His grace and kindness.
But Allah has a special and specific mercy that is not for everybody. He gives to whom He wills of His servants. This mercy is required for happiness in this world and the hereafter. So he gives them success through it for having Iman (faith) and performing righteous deeds. And He favours them because of it in the hereafter with gardens of everlasting bliss (Jannah). And this mercy has many means that Allah has made clear to His servants so that they may race and compete for it.
From the means of triumphing with mercy is guarding against and refraining from shirk (associating others with Allah) as well as other sins, both major and minor. Allah Almighty said:
“”But My mercy encompasses all things. So I will decree it for those who guard themselves against evil.” [Qur’an, 7: 156]
Ibn Abbas said that it means that I will decree it for those who guard against shirk (associating others with Allah).
And from the means of triumphing with the exclusive mercy is Iman (faith), emigration for the sake of Allah and striving in the way of Allah. Allah Almighty said:
“Indeed, those who have believed and those who have emigrated and strived in way of Allah – those expect the mercy of Allah. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Qur’an, 2:218]
And from the means of triumphing with this special mercy is obeying Allah and His Messenger (Peace be upon him). By performing what Allah and His messenger commanded and refraining from what Allah and His messenger prohibited. Allah Almighty said:
“And obey Allah and the Messenger that you may obtain mercy.” [Qur’an, 3:132]
And among the means for attaining this specific mercy is establishing and maintaining the five daily prayers and paying the Zakah if required to do so. Allah Almighty said:
“And establish prayer and give Zakah and obey the Messenger – that you may receive mercy.” [Qur’an, 24:56]
And from what attains the Mercy of Allah is loving and cooperating with the believers, and supporting them in the truth with the truth, and enjoining good and forbidding evil. Allah Almighty said:
“The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give Zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those – Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” [Qur’an, 9:71]
Among the doors of Allah’s mercy is seeking forgiveness plentifully while being genuine. For seeking forgiveness is the key to the doors of mercies and blessings in this world and the hereafter. Allah Almighty said in the narrative of the Prophet Salih (Peace be upon him):
“He said, O my people, why are you impatient for evil before [i.e., instead of] good? Why do you not seek forgiveness of Allah that you may receive mercy?” [Qur’an, 27:46]
Among the mercy that springs from seeking forgiveness is forgiveness of sins, lifting the punishment, abundance of livelihood, physical strength and being granted children.
And what brings the mercy of Allah is recitation of the Noble Qur’an and listening intently if it is recited and acted upon it. For the Qur’an is mercy and the one reciting it and the one listening intently to it receive mercy if they act upon it. Allah Almighty said:
“And this [Qur’an] is a Book We have revealed [which is] blessed, so follow it and fear Allah that you may receive mercy.” [Qur’an, 6:155]
And Allah Almighty said:
“So when the Qur’an is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive mercy.” [Qur’an, 7:204]
And among the means of attaining the mercy of Allah is striving to reconcile between the believers when conflicts and quarrels arise between them. Allah Almighty said:
“The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy.” [Qur’an, 49:10]
And among the means of securing the mercy of Allah is to be patient when calamities befall. So one should not say or do except what pleases Allah. Allah Almighty said:
“But give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return. Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.” [Qur’an, 2:155-157]
Respected brothers and sisters, be conscious of Allah and know that from the means of attaining the mercy of Allah is for one to be merciful to the creation. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“The merciful are shown mercy by The Merciful. Be merciful to the occupants of the earth, and you will be shown mercy from Who is above the heavens.” [At-Tirmizi]
That is to be merciful to who you are able among the people, disbelievers and the righteous and the wicked and humans and animals in a manner befitting to each one of them. For Allah is merciful to whoever is merciful to them. And the opposite is true. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“He who is not merciful, will not receive mercy.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Imam As-Sa’adi, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
“And the person’s mercy to creation is from the biggest means of attaining Allah’s mercy, which among its effects is the bounties of this world and the bounties of the hereafter. And missing out (on being merciful to creation) is one of the biggest deterrents and obstacles to attaining the mercy of Allah. And he also said, and the effects of this mercy that what is in the hearts appears on the limbs and tongue in striving to bring goodness and benefits to people and to remove harm and hardships from them. And the sign of mercy in a person’s heart is that they love to deliver goodness to all creation, in general, and to Muslims especially and hate that harm and evil befalls them. And to the extent of this love and hate is the extent of this mercy.”
And among the means of receiving the specific mercy is doing good in all matters. Allah Almighty said:
“Indeed, the mercy of Allah is near to the doers of good.” [Qur’an, 7:56]
And from the means of attaining mercy is leniency in buying and selling. Jabir Bin Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with them both, narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said:
“May Allah have mercy on a person who is lenient when he sells, lenient when he buys, and lenient when he asks for payment.” [Ibn Majah]
These are some of the means for attaining mercy, so be guarded over the other means. Learn them and put them into practice. For Allah forgives the past sins of the one to whom He has shown mercy and safeguards him in what remains of his life, and makes him happy in his life and in his grave, and after his resurrection and in his hereafter.
Ask your Lord for His mercy and do not desist from it at all. And when you ask Allah for mercy couple it with asking for pardoning or forgiveness, as is in His words:
“Pardon us, forgive us, and have mercy on us.” [Qur’an, 2:286]
And in His words:
“Forgive us and have mercy upon us, and You are the best of the merciful.” [Qur’an, 23:109]
And from the Prophetic supplications in this regard:
“O Allah, I have greatly wronged myself, and no one forgives sins but You. So, grant me forgiveness and have mercy on me. Surely, you are Forgiving, Merciful.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
And also from the supplications is:
“O Allah forgive me, have mercy on me, pardon me, provide for me.” [Ibn Majah]
May Allah grant us success in memorising these supplication and invoking Him through them. May Allah make us among those who receive mercy in this world and the hereafter. Indeed Allah is All Hearing, Answering.
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true followers.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of: Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah Mosque; and Late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene Mosque, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org; or +2348038289761.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Rabi’ul Awwal 7, 1445 AH (September 22, 2023).
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