A FRIEND who is also a formidable scholar of the Quran said something recently which resonated strongly. God has created us from nothing and blessed us with an existence which none of us really deserves. I realised then that it is not only the favours He has showered upon us but also the huge potential He has built into our design, which is ours to develop or destroy. These blessings all owe themselves to His grace and mercy which know no bounds.
The Arabic word ‘Rahma’, an attribute of God, Who is also called Ar-Rahim and Ar-Rahman, encompasses meanings which are difficult to translate into English; thus, it is sometimes referred to as mercy, sometimes as grace. It means love and compassion; forgiveness and reward. His mercy is a cloak that covers one to protect, to save and to lift one’s soul from the depths and lowliness of sin, whether in thought or deed.
God’s mercy is such that it is bestowed on the sinner and the pious, for both are in need of it. And whether or not we are aware of the need or ask for it, He gives it to us regardless. It is, however, our consciousness of it that may lead to a better spiritual life and hope for the Hereafter.
God’s mercy is bestowed on the saint and the sinner.
God’s attribute as being the Most Merciful is mentioned in the Quran 112 times for various occasions and advice to believers. Perhaps the most often repeated verse is related to the mercy of God for those who repent of their sins and turn to God.
The Holy Book says: “Allah accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and repent soon afterwards; to them will Allah turn in mercy: For Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom” (4:17). God has complete knowledge of what we intend and do; His absolute wisdom in the planning and fulfilment of His scheme for humans and His promise of justice — all three are predominant factors that come into play when dispensing His mercy to humans. God has vowed to Himself that He shall be merciful to us: “…He hath inscribed for Himself (the rule of) Mercy. ...” (6:12).
According to a hadith, when God created humans, He wrote in His Book: “My mercy shall prevail over my wrath” (Sahih Bukhari, 3022). When we find ourselves showing love, compassion and mercy to our children, parents, the poor, the needy, the sick, it is only one part of the mercy that God has ingrained within us; He has kept 99 parts with Himself (Bukhari, 5570), solely for our benefit.
God is closer to each one of us than our jugular vein (50:16), so even if we commit sins repeatedly, we should not despair of being forgiven, provided we are truly repentant and make an effort to correct ourselves.
These are difficult times to live in, and we often face despair when viewing the state of affairs, whether in politics, social or economic fields and whether nationally or internationally. How often are we driven by a desire to curse, or at least to hold some people responsible for the atrocities we face and damn them to hell? I am not referring to the hate speeches which we have all become familiar with, but real anger directed towards those who have been actors in acts of violence and the disruption of normal lives.
Perhaps we can make better use of the one-hundredth of the God-infused mercy by condemning the act, but praying for mercy, for those who are led astray, by will or ignorance and request Him to guide all of us to the right path.
This would be in line with the actions of the Prophet (PBUH).
On the other hand, when those oppressed by others invoke and call upon God’s mercy, it becomes an indictment for the oppressors in God’s court of justice. It is quite frightening to note that hardly anyone who has responsibility for imposing wars and famines upon innocent children, deepening poverty, encouraging hatred, violence and sectarianism, raising social and economic inequality and promoting ignorance is aware of the reverse effects of this call for mercy.
While God shall listen to the oppressed who pray to Him, as He has promised, whether in this or the next world, He will be equally attentive in punishing those committing heinous crimes against humans unless they not only truly repent but also make amends to the people they have hurt.
A tall order indeed, for global and regional powers, dictators, feudal lords, the elite social class, fanatics and religious extremists and power brokers who have all sought to gain short-term glory, playing with the lives and faiths of innocent people.
May God shower His infinite mercy upon these people and all of us.
The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2018