Monday, February 1, 2016

Mercy and Compassion Embraced Everyone


In order to understand to what degree the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a mercy ("We sent you as a mercy to the world" Al-Anbiya 107), it is necessary to take a look at the situation of the world before him. It has been historically established that, just as in many regions of the world, idols were dominant in  Meccan society and, consequently, a full human drama was taking place. According to a statement in the Quran, "Evil appeared on land and in the seas because of the acts of man, and disorder reigned everywhere" (Rumi 41). When the Prophet was still in his twenties, he participated in the Hilfu'l-Fudul which had been founded for the purpose of struggling against injustice, and he took an active role in it. Mentioning this event himself during his period of prophethood, he said, "If I were called to such an organization today, I would immediately accept and follow it" (Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat I, 129); thus, he announced how he maintained the ebullience of his inner stream of mercy.

a. Meccan Years

The compassion and mercy of the  Prophet and the patience he demonstrated against the bad treatment and unbearable rudeness he saw during the Meccan years was manifested in the form of always wishing for the salvation of the oppressors who had long since been worthy of damnation. During his return from the trip to Taif, Gabriel informed him that he would immediately act against the Meccan idolaters in any way the Prophet wished.  Muhammad's pleading, "My Lord, forgive my people; they do not know what they are doing" (Bukhari, Istitabe, 5), his forgiving and asking for salvation for his enemies who were merciless to him, and his praying to Allah to bring a generation with faith from their linage (Bukhari, Bad'ul-Halk, 7) is evidence of mercy and compassion unequaled in the world.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had the duty of conveying the message of Islam. This required compassion and mercy. He presented such a compassion-laden call to everyone he could reach. He spoke with everyone he could in every place. He especially never hesitated to speak with prominent Quraysh polytheists. However, at the same time he was cautioned in the Abasa Sura never to neglect ordinary citizens and believers. It was necessary to carefully pursue, every time and in every place, propagation activities with compassion that did not neglect the believers. In fact, throughout his life the Prophet spoke with everyone who came to him and particularly during the Medina period, he treated them with amazing hospitably and complimented them.

His manifestation of mercy, patience, wishing for their forgiveness and salvation and his conveying Islam's message (training-teaching) would infuriate the Meccans who understood no language other than coarseness and roughness. They could not understand why he was patient and did not respond in kind to all they had done to him. The torture they made was not enough for them because, as stated in the Holy Quran, mercy and patience are the most powerful weapons (Balad 17). He would have an impact even on the most oppressive persons. The Meccans did not endure this war of patience; they had to exile Muhammad, the focal point of mercy and compassion, from Mecca. Whereas, he was a great blessing: "I swear that by sending a prophet who reads Allah's verses, purifies them and teaches the people the book and wisdom, Allah has given believers a great blessing. Whereas, they were formerly clearly in perversion" (Al-i Imran 164).

Since the Prophet's apostleship was directed towards all people, naturally compassion and mercy would be aimed towards all mankind, as well. In fact, Allah described him to us as follows:

"I swear that such a prophet has come to you that your falling into difficulty will weigh heavy upon him. He is concerned about you and very compassionate and very merciful to believers" (Al-Tawba 128).

The Prophet, some of whose higher virtues are found together in this verse, was happy with the salvation of believers and extremely sad when they fell into difficulty, and he showed them great compassion. In spite of the behavior of the hypocrites that made him extremely uncomfortable, he did not have them killed and gave them the same treatment as Muslims received. He never gave an opportunity for the propaganda, "Muhammad is killing the sahaba," to be materialized. Those who did not declare their faith were a constant source of pain for him and a subject of his call. The verse, "(My prophet!)You are almost going to give your life because they do not declare their faith!" (Al-Shuara 3), shows the dimensions of the compassion he felt towards people and, consequently, the sadness he felt for their not knowing the tranquility of faith.

b. Medina Days

The Prophet's Medina life was the period when the Mercy of Muhammad (pbuh) reached its zenith.

The Prophet was a natural head of the family at home. He was very compassionate to members of the family and children. Anas ibn Malik was very happy to say that during the ten years he served the Prophet he never heard reproach from him even once. In fact, once when he got caught up in playing with some children he saw on the road to where he was going, the Prophet, who came to the same spot, only smilingly asked whether or not he had gone to the place he was sent. On another day an elderly woman was going to take the Prophet to oversee her work in a neighborhood outside of Medina. His mercy did not allow him to say "no" to anyone who asked something from him. If he had it, he would give it; if he did not have it, he would remain silent and wait.

Children, orphans, the forlorn, the elderly and the weak received the biggest share of the Mercy of Muhammad. The children he took on his shoulders even during salat, the children he accepted on the back of his saddle on his return from trips and those he took in his lap, the little ones he always  greeted and patted on the head wherever he saw them were all nurtured and trained as future compassionate adults with the Mercy of  Muhammad.

Rough and coarse behavior like dirtying the masjid and hanging on to the Prophet to ask for something were always met with understanding and a smile. By means of the compassionate warnings of Muhammad, animals were saved from being killed as hunting targets, from being seared with fire, from being left hungry and thirsty, from carrying heavy loads, and from being beaten, cursed and damned. It was the Prophet who said that a woman who caused a cat's death by confining it and leaving it without water would go to Hell, and that a sinful woman who saved a dying dog from a well and gave it water would go to Heaven. A locus of mercy, the Prophet saw a dog nursing its new-born pups on the side of the road in the Arch valley during the year 8 H. as he was going towards the conquest of Mecca. He immediately called its owner, Juayl ibn Suraqa, to stand guard there until the army had passed so the dogs would not be disturbed (ash-Shami, Subulu'l-huda va'r-rashad, Vii, 51). The Prophet, who went to the grave of the custodian of the masjid (whose death he was not informed of) and prayed for him, also reminded the imams that there may be sick, poor and elderly in the congregation. In matters that were left optional he always chose the easier one indicating that a trace of mercy should prevail in actions of the community. He would warn those who refrained from and abstained from the easiness and permission he had given, for whatever reason, that he knew Allah better than others and reminded them that he feared Allah more than anyone else (Bukhari, Itisam 5).

The natural environment eventually became green due to his compassionate hands and effective suggestions. He persistently recommended that obstructions be removed from the roads, that still waters and oases not be polluted, that a tree be planted even on Doomsday, that trees not be cut unnecessarily even in war, and that crops not be burnt.  Declaring Mecca and Medina to be a forbidden region and giving everything there a special status were extremely important precautions in respect to urbanization and environmentalism. Pilgrims being forbidden to kill any living creature in the Harem area and their not being allowed to pull up or cut plants or trees  when they are dressed in pilgrim's garments sanctifies the idea of "not harming the environment" and protection of the environment, and also spreads this idea throughout all Islamic countries. The environment received its share of the blessing of the Mercy of Muhammad in this way.

Young people became subject to love and compassion and older people to respect and deference. The statement, "Those who do not show respect to their elders and compassion to the young are not from us" (Tirmidhi, Birr 15), created a superior level and simplicity in human relations. Encouragement of compassion was stated in the principle, "Those who are not merciful will not be treated mercifully." Muhammad forewent making some recommendations due to his concern that they would be hard for Muslims or that they would lead to difficulty over the long run (saying "lawlâ an ashukka alâa ümmatî" - if it were not difficult for my community) (Bukhari, Iman 26).

Signing the Hudaybiya peace treaty with its harsh conditions and meeting opposition from those around him because of it, the Mercy of  Muhammad declared a general amnesty two years later at the conquest of Mecca and forgave the Meccans who were awaiting death. And in a manner that amazed everyone...

He accepted repentance from everyone who understood their mistake and repented, and he never blamed them for their past, which made it easier for them to become purified and change. Thus, he did what a Prophet of repentance should and showed that compassion and forgiveness were necessary.


Outside of war, he did not even flick anyone with his finger, and he cursed almost no one. When the Prophet exceeded these limits and cursed a Muslim, the Prophet asked Allah to make this a reason for forgiveness for him (Muslim, Birr 88-95). He only damned the enemy who laid a trap and killed Muslims.

The Mercy of Muhammad (pbuh) took sides with the Muslims who were treacherously martyred while they were going to teach the people and responded to this injustice with damning. This is quite natural... because he was a compassionate, but cautious commander who was careful to resurrect hearts with Islam rather than killing them even in war. His statement, "I am a prophet of mercy; I am a prophet of war" (O. Hanbal, Musned V, 405), affirms this. According to the findings of contemporary scholar Prof. M. Hamidullah, in ten years of war in an area of approximately two million kilometers, a total of 250 enemy soldiers and 150 Muslims gave their lives for the advent of Islam. This means that war had ceased to be a vehicle of destruction due to the Mercy of Muhammad. He always taught that women, children, civilians, places of worship and religious officials should not be touched, the environment should not be destroyed, and that being the means for one person's salvation was more important than possessing the world (Bukhari, Jihad 102). In other words, futuhu'l-kulub precedes fütûhu'l-bul. He commanded that captives be treated humanely and that a mother should not be separated from her child even if they were slaves. With his guidance, people were saved from being killed by having their organs cut out, from being tortured, and from having their female children buried alive.

His being a "prophet of war" did not contradict his status as a "prophet of mercy." For he made war into an activity of mercy and turned it into a vehicle and means of implementation for a final call to make the affirmation of Allah. He fought against those who did not accept his call to Islam and who pointed their weapons against Muslims. It became a principle that, regardless of the conditions, those who proclaimed faith were spared. Jihad was no longer a display of heroism or a vehicle for exploitation, and was practiced as a last resort for people to be able to see the truth and accept it. This was a natural and even necessary attitude like resorting to surgery as a last means. In other words, armed struggle in Islam was like surgical intervention in medicine. For this reason, jihad is a principle and practice of mercy and compassion. Starting off from the word "melhame" which means both war and peace (İ. Manzur, Lisanu'l-Arap,XII, l-h-m article), it is also possible to understand and interpret the statement, "ane nabiyyu'r-rahma wa ane nabiyyü'l-melhame," as "I am a prophet of mercy; I am a prophet of tranquility and peace." In fact, during the final official parade of troops on the way to the conquest of Mecca, the Ansar commander, Sa'd Ubade, shouted in a voice loud enough for Abu Sufyan to hear, "Today is the day of the great battle." When Abu Sufyan complained, the Prophet corrected Sa'd Ubade's words saying, "Today is the day Allah will exalt the glory of the Kaaba. Today is the day of mercy..." (Vakidi, Megazi, II, 822), and thus declared the day of conquest to be a day of mercy.

After he made this statement and then cleansed the Kaaba of idols, he announced a general amnesty for the Quraish who had forced him to migrate from Mecca eight years previously. This shows what kind of war or peace prophet he was.

With a brand new perspective gained for believers through their belief in the unity of Allah, the Prophet both declared and actively showed that legally everyone was the same and equal (some were not right or wrong from birth), and that like the natural environment, other creatures possessed certain rights and deserved merciful treatment.

Freedom of Religion and Belief

Saying, "Wasn't he a person, too?" (Bukhari, Janaiz 50) the Prophet even showed respect to a Jewish corpse. Those who accepted the rule of Islam continued to live their own religion and beliefs and secured protection by the state with the tax they paid. For he never thought to force anyone to become Muslim.

The Need for a Secure Environment

Islam needs a free and secure environment. There is need for this environment in order to be able to influence minds and hearts. For this reason, loci of terror (individual and institutional) were removed as a necessity of the Prophet's compassion towards mankind. Those who gathered power against the homeland of Islam and Muslims and attempted to make provocation were made ineffective from the beginning by special forces, and the Masjid-i Dirar event mentioned in the Quran (Al-Tawba 107) is one of the most striking examples of this.

As is known, there was a masjid made in Medina for the use of the hypocrites against the Muslims. A secret weapon depot at the same time, this masjid is called the Dirar Masjid in the Quran. Upon revelation that came on the return from the Tabuk campaign, this masjid was razed by the Prophet. This shows that due to compassion for the community, divine mercy and the Mercy of Muhammad did not close their eyes to an institution basic to Islam being used against Muslims and to exploit them.

Construction of a Higher Identity

There is no denial of identity in his compassion. To the contrary, there is construction of a higher identity. In the Medina agreement the Arab tribes that were a party to it were listed one by one. It brought the opportunity for the Jews and Christians to continue living according to the commands of their identities and religions.

Tribalism was defined as love for a person's nation, not as support for it in spite of injustice (Abu Davud, Adab 112).

Universal Document of Compassion

The twenty-three years of struggle for unity (tawhid) made with broad mercy and compassion by the Prophet (pbuh) was crowned by the universal document of compassion, the Farewell Address. The Mercy of  Muhammad attained a truth and warmth that embraced centuries in the Farewell Address.

Forgiving Wahshi who martyred the Prophet's uncle Hamza and Hind who chewed his liver, the Mercy of Muhammad announced in the Farewell Address that all blood feuds were abolished and left behind the comfort and fairness of practices that were proof of this declaration.

The Farewell Address was the final document to the effect that the Prophet Muhammad represented divine mercy in the universal plan. It was the most sacred duty of those who heard it to inform those who had not heard it. For the Mercy of Muhammad was directed towards all creatures of the world until Doomsday. Because Muhammad was a universal mercy. Whoever follows him will attain salvation and happiness; whoever rejects his leadership will fall into full destitution. 

İsmail Lütfi Çakan

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