Mercy To The World

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Muhammad the Benefactor of Mankind

by Dr. Musharraf Hussain

In the name of Allah the merciful, the gracious.

A presentation given to the members of the Christian Muslim Forum in 2010, alongside a presentation on Jesus by Revd Canon Dr Frances Ward (then, now Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral).

This article attempts to explain the meaning of the Quranic verse ‘we sent you as the mercy to all the world’ (21; 108). A traditional meaning is presented from classical commentators, it is suggested that the best way to interpret this epithet, “mercy to the world” is to look at the messenger’s character, and the way he presented a sublime and a perfect model of living as a human being.

What is the meaning of Mercy to the World? Why is he called “Rahmat ul lil aalimeen”?  asked Allama Mahmud Alloosi the famous commentator of the Quran. He used a metaphor to explain the meaning and said; “He is the root and the world is the branch.” This metaphor emphasises the eminent position of the messenger of God. The root not only provides an anchor and stability to the plant but the nourishment needed by the trunk, the branches, leaves, buds, flowers and the fruits. All these need the root. Without the root they would wither and die.

The prophet (saw) is the ‘mercy to the world’ in this sense that through him everything derives sustenance and divine mercy.

Rahmat means to do a favour to someone, to give benefits to others, to have pity and show kindness. In this context the implication is that Mohammad (saw) has enormously benefited not only the Arabs and Muslims but also the entire world, therefore he is the Benefactor of Mankind. Allah is “the Lord of all worlds” and He has made his beloved messenger the “mercy to all worlds’.

There is another interesting word ‘rahim’ that is derived from ‘rahma’ and means the mother’s womb. The womb nourishes, sustains and protects the unborn and it caters for its needs.

This is another wonderful metaphor for Mohammad as a Benefactor of Mankind. The one who fulfilled human needs, such as the need for guidance, a model for moral behaviour, a model for successful lifestyle in the world and the hereafter. His teachings provide a shield against the wretchedness and evil.

It is a well-established principle of history according to the Quran that whenever people rejected a Messenger of God, refused to listen to him they were punished. We therefore have the people of Nuh (a.s.) who were drowned, the people of Aad were pelted with stones, the people of Lut were destroyed by an earthquake, the people of Salih were destroyed by a thunderbolt, the Pharaoh and Egyptians were visited by nine plagues etc.

However, when it was Muhammad’s turn the Quran proclaimed, “Allah will not punish them as long as you are amongst them”.

The tafseer of Rahul Biyan tells the following story to explain the meaning of Rahmat al lil aalameen:

The messenger (saw) once asked Jibreel, “Tell me how I am rahmat al lil aalameen for you, what have you gained by my rahma?” Jibreel replied “O beloved, I was unsure about my fate until you arrived since I had seen how Iblis had been rejected by the Lord and what had happened to the two angels Harut and Marut. But now I am confident about my fate because the Lord has praised me in the Quran: “the strong one who is near the throne, obedient and trustworthy” (84; 20)                

Dr. Muhammad Iqbal the illustrious poet and philosopher of East expressed eloquently the meaning of this quranic term as follows in a couplet;

‘Both intellect and passion benefited from his teachings. The intellect achieved inquisitiveness and the heart intense passion and love. The grandeur of king Sanjar and Salim is a reflection of your majesty whilst the poverty of Junaid and Bayazid represents the beauty of your character.’

The teachings of the messenger were not like the teachings of a philosopher that just satisfy the intellect but his message satisfied the yearnings of the heart. 

Once a terrified and prosecuted group of early Muslims living in Makka came to the messenger and pleaded with him “curse the unbelievers we can no longer tolerate their torments, they are cruel to us!"  He replied in his characteristic sweet manner by saying “I have been sent as a mercy and not as a punishment”.

THE TRIP TO TAIF

The intense trials and tribulations of the prophet’s trip to the city of Taif illustrate in abundance the virtues of forgiveness and forbearance, which were the hallmark of his gentle, stoical personality.  

This trip came soon after the death of his beloved wife and constant companion of 25 years Khadija as well as that of his patron uncle Abu Talib who had been an impenetrable bulwark that stood between his nephew and the brutal Quraish. The prophet’s life was in emotional turmoil at this time with no moral support from Khadija or protection from Abu Talib. With his uncle gone, the Quraish sensed the prophet’s vulnerability and speeded up their vicious and relentless campaigns of hatred and hounding. 

He decided to try the nearby city of Taif hoping that his call to Islam would find more willing recipients there than he was having at that time in Makka. However, the tribe of Thaqif, who ruled the city, not only declined to listen to him but mocked and ridiculed him mercilessly and expelled him from the city. 

In the face of such a fierce opposition, the beloved prophet had no choice but to retreat hastily. They ran after him, pelting him with stones which caused him severe injuries.  In excruciating mental, physical and emotional pain, bleeding and exhausted, he took refuge in a vineyard. Feeling dejected, forlorn, helpless and humiliated he raised his hands and prayed a prayer which has become an iconic symbol of utter submission to the will of God in the face of complete and total despair. 

I could write a whole thesis on the depth, the intensity, the beauty and the very moving humility of this magnificent supplication and still it would not do an iota of justice to its unique splendour. 

“O God, please consider my weakness, my shortage of means, and the little esteem that people have of me. Oh, most Merciful God, You are the Lord of the oppressed and you are my Lord. To whom would you leave my fate? To a stranger who insults me? Or to an enemy who dominates me? Would I that you have no wrath against me! Your pleasure alone is my objective.”

RAISING HUMAN DIGNITY

Amongst the Prophets contribution to the welfare of humanity is his teachings about the dignity and the respect of mankind. Before him people had sunk very low and were slaves not only to their own passions but to the whims of feudal lords, kings and masters. Legendary idols were worthier than the human blood. Hence men were sacrificed to please these idols. 

Muhammad the benefactor of humanity gave back to mankind his lost dignity and proclaimed that man is the most valuable gem on this earth. He taught that man is the vicegerent of God and is the crown of his creation for which the entire universe was created. “He is the one who created for you whatever is on the earth” (Baqarah: 29).

Again God says “We honoured the children of Adam and gave them control on land and sea and gave him sustenance from pure things and distinguished him above our other creation” (Isra: 70).

Can anything better be said about the dignity of mankind than this: “The whole creation is God’s family and God’s most beloved creature is the one who is the most kind to others” (Sunan Bayhaqi). 

The following beautiful saying of the Prophet emphasises the worth and preciousness of man: The blessed Prophet said “On the day of judgement God will ask ‘O son of Adam! I was ill but you never visited me’. Man will say ‘you are the Lord of the worlds how could I have visited you? God will then say ‘don’t you know that my devotee was ill but you didn’t visit him, had you visited him you would have found me there. O son of Adam! I asked for food but you didn’t feed me’. Man will answer ‘O lord you are the cherisher of the world how could I feed you? ‘God will say ‘don’t you know that my servant asked for food but you refused him. Had you fed him you would have fed me. God will say o son of Adam! I asked you for water … (Muslim).

EXAMPLES OF THE MESSENGER’S FORGIVENESS

The following three powerful examples clearly demonstrate the kindness and the caring nature of the blessed messenger, they show that he loved people and that this was his outward expression of Divine love.

1) The Muslims had been attacked three times by the Makkans, at Badr, Uhud and third time when they gathered all their allies to wipe out the Muslims.  However, look at the goodness of the messenger of God, when he heard that people in Makka were facing a famine, he immediately sent them a supply of food and 500 gold coins as charity from the Muslims of Madinah.

2) When the prisoners of Badr complained about the ropes being too tight on their wrists, at once he ordered them to be loosened, and told everyone to take care of the prisoners as if they were members of their families.

3) The Conquest of Makkah

The conquest of Makka is perhaps the most striking example of the messenger’s kindness and moral character. After twenty years of hostility and persecution he returns to Makka with a mighty army the likes of which the Quraish had never seen. However, he entered with utmost humility, with a bowed head, no swagger, no trappings of an all-mighty conquering hero, no revenge or retaliation. Not a single person was killed in this phenomenal conquest.  Haykal describes the general amnesty as follows:

‘Oh, the beauty of pardon and forgiveness on the part of the mighty and powerful! How great is the soul of Muhammad which rose above hatred and above revenge, which denied every human feeling and ascended to heights of nobility man had never reached before! There were the Quraysh among whom were people whom Muhammad knew had plotted to kill him, had persecuted him and inflicted upon him and his companions all kind of injury and harm, who fought him at Badr and at Uhud, who blockaded him in the campaign of al Khandaq, who incited the Arab tribes to rise against him and who would even then tear him apart if only they had the power. There, the whole of Quraish stood totally under Muhammad’s hand, indeed under his feet, totally subject to his command. His heart was absolutely free of injustice, of malice, of tyranny or false pride. In the most decisive moment, God gave him power over his enemy. But Muhammad chose to forgive, thereby giving to all mankind and all the generations the most perfect example of goodness, of truthfulness, of nobility and magnanimity.’(The life of Muhammad).

The Prophet taught kindness towards fellow humans: “The most gracious Lord is kind to those who are kind to others. So be kind to those on earth and the one who’s in the heavens will be kind to you.”

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