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Aspects of Mercy

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The Sealed Nectar

 The Sealed Nectar by Shaykh Safi ur-Rahman

Aspects of Mercy

It was time for the Third Lecture, and the audience started coming in numbers exceeding those that attended previously. When Dr. Adam walked into the hall, the audience welcomed her and she reciprocated their greeting. She began as follows:“We can briefly sum up the reasons why non-Muslims have adopted a negative attitude towards the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, particularly in the Western world.” After a brief silence, she asked whether this was not what the majority of the audience wanted, and whether it was not the subject they expected her to talk about in her third lecture. In the mean time she kept smiling at the audience and encouraged them to express their opinions.A group of the audience answered in the affirmative, adding that that was what they had agreed on and expected and thanked her for her speedy response.Dr. Adam began by saying that she did not deny that that matter was connected with the subject at hand, though she did not wish to elaborate on it for the time being, as she might have to revert to it in future lectures, in the process of exposition and analysis of some of the attitudes of the Prophet, pbuh,.

The first thing that drew her attention in this matter was an opinion expressed by the English historian and writer R.F. Bodley, who was to her a virtual key, as he stated that it was unfortunate that the Prophet of Mercy came after the advent of Christ.[1] The common belief was that any prophet who comes after Christ is phony and the religion he propounds is not true, and will be at the expense of other former religions. This was frankly expressed by a Western thinker: “Muhammad was capable of establishing a political and religious empire, at the expense of Moses and Christ.[2]This illusion is built on previous illusions, the first being their assumption that the message of the Prophet of Mercy,pbuh, is contrary to that of Christ, which is not true. The second is their ignorance that Christ, pbuh, has announced the good tidings of the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, and urged his followers to believe in him. All the Gospels included references to the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, and the good tidings of his advent which was close at hand. This may be verified by referring to the Gospel of Mathews  (24 – 44, The Gosel of John (6:27), and many other references.[3]This good tiding is expressly mentioned in the Holy Qur’an: “And remember, Jesus, son of Mary who said, ‘O children of Israel! I am the Messenger of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the Torah and giving glad tidings of a Messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad.’” As-Saff, 6).On the other hand, the Holy Qur’an spoke very highly of Christ, praised him, exalted him and venerated him. The different views held by those who imagine the existence of a difference between Christ, pbuh, and the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh,, exists only in the minds who have no appreciation of the facts, or those who were prejudiced against the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh.

On this occasion, Dr, Adam said “I wish the followers of Christ would consult what the Prophet of Mercy says about Christ, through the verses of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s traditions, and to treat him in the way he treated Christ, which, I think is only fair, and to treat Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, in the way Muslims treat Christ , pbuh,. This, my dear audience is a fair and just invitation.”One wonders whether the followers of Christ are aware that Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, has strongly condemned the Jews who were his neighbors in Median on account of the abominations they ascribed to Christ’s mother, at a time when there was no relations or neighborliness  between him and the followers of Christ. The Qur’an has recorded this condemnation of the Jews, when it mentioned some of their sins, which included what Allah Almighty said of them: “That they rejected Faith and that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge (Al-Nisaa, 156).The second thing that has led to this misunderstanding is that non-Muslims have looked at the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, in light of descriptions that stuck in their minds concerning their great figures, which descriptions came to be considered as virtual criteria.Thus the followers of Christ saw nothing in Christ except his tolerance and forgiveness, so much so that they considered that his greatness lies in his loss.[4] But Dr. Adam said, “I reject the statement that a prophet loses before his people. The same thing applies to the followers of Buddha; it  had stuck in their minds that his qualities were those of a great saint, the most conspicuous being his asceticism and his abandoning of the present life and its pleasures.”

Those have thought that the one who would come after Christ would necessarily be his opposite, particularly if his conduct seemed to suggest lack of mercy and tolerance, in their opinion. Thus they were under the impression that he would be domineering, thirsty for revenge, lacking mercy or tolerance. Thus, some of them, unknowingly and without reflection, described the Prophet of Merci, pbuh, as having such attributes,. The same applies to the followers of Buddha and others.”Dr. Adam went on to say, “I say in all clarity and frankness that if greatness is synonymous with the monasticism of priests, their tolerance towards their adversaries, their forgiveness of the wrong doers and neglecting their reformation; if greatness means the asceticism of Buddha, who abandoned his wife and  his home  and wandered in the forests; and if greatness means the torturing of oneself by the Hindu priests, in refraining from eating and sleeping for several days ـــ if such things are the exponents of greatness, then the Prophet of Mercy would not be considered great, because he lacks such qualities, because, in such case, he would not be a reformer who guides people to virtues and distances them from vices. He would rather be great and remote from their conditions, good only in himself, and merely earning their admiration or surprise. This being the case, they are undoubtedly justified; but in such case, the reformer would lose his role and his function would cease to exist. This is clearly apparent in the life of Buddha, who abandoned life and died in seclusion. This is also the case with Zoroaster, who secluded himself from people in a mountain until he died.[5] 

This behavior does not please the Prophet, pbuh,: neither does it please his followers, because this would overburden them and would create an insurmountable barrier between the conduct of their Prophet and their own conduct. The greatness of the Prophet of Mercy lies in his realism and simplicity. Ignorance of these facts, and the abnormal criteria by which greatness is judged, may perhaps explain why non-Muslims have a problem with the Prophet of Mercy.The third factor, with which I shall conclude my lecture, has to do with old legacies and backgrounds. I leave it to Dr. Alexi Joravisky, for whom I have great respect, to expound this matter from his own point of view, which maintains that, in the Middle Ages, Europe’s literature on Muslims was mostly recorded by Christian clergy, who based their views on extremely divergent sources, such as the folkloric stories of heroes, pilgrims and saints, as well as the defensive polemic - theological works of Eastern Christians, the testimonies of some Muslims and the translations of their thinkers and scholars.In most cases information was taken out of context and presented to the European reader. In this manner, facts were deliberately distorted in some cases and unintentionally at other times, in the zealous and hasty quest for “the Problem of Islam” that had dominated religious - ideological subjects in the Middle Ages.[6]

Montgomery Watt agrees with this analysis and said that in the Middle Ages there had existed in the consciousness of the Europeans the features of the following picture of Islam: It is a creed invented by Muhammad. This picture is full of lies and deliberate distortion of facts. Thus it is termed as the religion of predestination and moral degeneration, the abuse of carnal pleasures and lust. It is the religion of violence and cruelty. He went on to say that Islam was portrayed as an ugly and evil type that is totally different and contradictory with the ideal type of Christianity, which is the true religion that is characterized by strict ethics and the spirit of peace, and that it is a creed that is propagated peacefully and not by the force of arms.[7]In light of this analysis, we can easily understand what Professor Southert has said when he talkerd on the general tendency that prevailed in the scientific environment of the West, when he says, “The only thing we should not expect to find, during those ages, is the academic liberal spirit, or the human research that characterized many endeavors of research that related to Islam in the past hundred years.[8]

Together, these factors have contributed to the misunderstanding of the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh,. No doubt there are others, of various force and effect. I think the clearest and most effective was the third, which was clearly expounded by two eminent orientalists, who have studied the life story of the Prophet, pbuh.In any case, I do not wish to dwell too long on this matter, which I have tackled only because I was asked about it, because my approach is based on the exposition of the truth, to the best of my ability, and to put it before those whose love and respect I reciprocate, which is a great satisfaction and pleasure to me.While I recognize that there is a conflict between various reports of information, which is the result of the conflict between cultures, which they regrettably term as the conflict of civilizations, yet I firmly believe that it is the true information that survives, because it embodies the factors of its strength and survival.I have realized, through discussions with some colleagues, that true information imposes itself and forces respect  to it; indeed it confers respect in the academic circles on those who are interested in it and respect it.

If anyone tries to belittle information, the truth of which has been transmitted from one generation to another, they would be belittling themselves in fact. This is one of several reasons that made eminent professors concede the truth of information that they do not like, but allowed themselves to elaborate on their interpretation, to their liking, and, at times, to force impossible meanings upon them. But this, in any case, is another matter.”As Dr. Adam was preparing to resume her lecture, she looked happy, buoyant, and full of energy, as though that lecture was her first. This impression was corroborated when she said, “The previous lectures may be considered mere introductions to what is forthcoming, as we shall concentrate on the attribute of mercy and its manifestations in the life of the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh.”“It would be proper, dear audience, to shed some light on the life of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, before embarking on these lectures. He is Muhammad, son of Abdullah, son of Abdul Muttaleb, son of Hashem, whose lineage goes back to God’s Prophet Isma’il, who lived in Mecca and was the son of God’s Prophet, Abraham.

Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, is a member of the most famous and honorable Arab tribe of his time. It is the tribe of Bani (children of ) Hashem of Quraish. His mother is Aminah, daughter of Wahab, of Bani Zuhrah, a well known Arab tribe.Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, was born in 570 G., as established by the majority of the authoritative historical sources, though some scholars believe that it was 571 G. I do not consider this a difference, because he was born towards the end of 570.Holy Mecca was his birth place. It is an ancient city in the Arabian Peninsula, in Asia. I have found, in the results of pieces of research and studies based on satellite pictures and space ships, that Mecca is the centre of the circle, in relation to Earth. Such studies are accessible to those who are interested in ascertaining this amazing fact.His father died while he was still in the womb of his mother. Thus he was born an orphan, and was the only son to his mother, who took care of him till her death, when he was six years old. Thereafter, he was supported and cared for by his grandfather Abdul Muttaleb. When Muhammad, pbuh, was eight years old, his grandfather died and his uncle Abu Taleb, joined him to his children and cared for him as though he was one of his own children.

As a youth, Muhammad, bpuh, began to work to support himself. Thus, he tended sheep for the people of Mecca and later on he engaged in trade, traveling beyond the Arab Peninsula. ُEver since he was young he was known, among his people, , as truthful and trustworthy.He then managed the trade of an honorable lady of Quraish, Khadijah bint Khwailed, and he was destined to marry her. She was forty and he was twenty five years old at the time.She gave birth to four daughters and two sons, lived to be sixty five and was the only wife he had in her life time.All his sons and daughters died during his life, except one, Fatimah, who died six months after his death.When Muhammad, pbuh, was forty, God’s revelation of Islam was descended upon him and he began preaching Islam to people for thirteen years in Mecca and then moved to Medina, about 500 kms from Mecca after the majority of Medina’s population adopted Islam and were historically known as the Ansaar (The Helpers).

The Prophet, pbuh, kept preaching Islam for twenty three years and established an Islamic State in the Arab Peninsula.He died when he was sixty three years old and was buried in Medina in 633 G.Throughout all his life, he lived simply in matters of food, drink, and clothes. Sometimes, he and his family would not find anything to eat for days. He was modest and close to people, whom he loved and who reciprocated his love.[9] At the time, the life of humanity was deplorable as unanimously reported by books on the history of nations and peoples. Virtues were non-existent and many forms of vices, such as the killing of daughters and illicit marriages were rampant; the strong dominated the weak, wrong doing and aggression prevailed; wars broke out for the most trivial of reasons. Such ugly conditions spared no environment at the time.While we cannot go into details of all the features of this corruption and degeneration, for lack of space and space, and lest we should be distracted from our original subject, we nevertheless cannot totally disregard these facts, because they help us understand a great many issues. Hence, an understanding of the present sometimes requires that we invoke the past. This being the case, allow me to exemplify by considering one aspect which I believe would give a clear picture of that condition. This is the status of women at that time, which I propose to deal with very briefly[10], but allow myself to be biased to my gender, in this respect.

Arab women in the Arab Peninsula – the environment in which the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh, has lived – has suffered from the ugliest forms of wrong doing, as sometimes young females were buried alive in the sand.The Holy Qur’an has recorded this abominable practice in the following verse: “When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned for what crime she was killed” (Al-Takwir, 8-9). The woman was considered part of the furnishings of a house; when her husband died, his relatives would inherit her, as though she was a piece of furniture.The woman fared no better in the environments neighboring that of the Prophet of Mercy, pbuh,. Thus the Romans, to the West of the Arab Peninsula, allowed fathers to kill their wives in what was known to them as the marriage of sovereignty[11], and fathers were allowed to abandon their newly born baby girls, even if this meant leaving them on the road until they died. This is not surprising, for Roman society was known for its culture of brutality and pugnacity, while mercy did not have the least value.