NABIC Vol. 9, Issue 3, July 1999
The Last Word:
Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq*
My dear brothers and sisters in Islam!
The meaning of the verse I have just recited today is: "[O Muhammad!] We sent you not, but as a mercy for all creatures." [21/al-Ambiya/107]
I will return to this verse shortly. First I would like to take this opportunity to offer my gratitude to Allah for enabling me to be with you and attend this Jumuah prayer. I have traveled a thousand mile from a small rural town in Iowa. Unfortunately, there is no Muslim community in my vicinity. My nearest mosque is 70-80 miles away. So, I am somewhat deprived of the opportunity to regularly attend the prayer. The joy I am getting today from attending this Jumuah prayer and making new acquaintances is of tremendous value and satisfaction to me.
It is in this context I would like to draw attention to the feeling that brings us together - tie and bind our hearts together. What really is it? We can say, well, common faith, belief, heritage and so on. Thinking really deeper into it, we find that essentially it is rooted in the Rahmah (the loving and tender mercy and compassion) of Allah.
And, that is why the verse I have chosen as the theme of this Khutbah identifies Muhammad (s) as "a mercy for all creatures." In another Qur'anic verse, he has been identified as a "mercy to the believers."[9/at-Tauba/61] But in the verse I have recited as the theme, Allah has gone one step further, and that is, Muhammad (s) is not just a mercy to the believers, but for the entire creation. And, this essential aspect of Rahmah is the subject matter of this Khutbah. All the things we have learnt about Islam - the laws, regulations, and beliefs, the right kind of belief, the precision in belief, and often time, the details we have to perform, the obligations we have to carry out, are important in Islam. From salat to zakat, from personal relationship to personal conduct and behavior, all these different aspects have their important role in Islam.
Just like in parental relationship with children, there are things children are supposed to do, there are ways the children are expected to behave, and there are family rules, traditions and norms. But, after all, when it comes to parental relationship, it is essentially based on love, compassion, mercy and affection that often override other things. That is why children make mistakes and parents correct them. But then the parents also embrace the children with love and affection.
Knowing Allah is such a task that none of us can accomplish. He is beyond our full comprehension. Indeed, all the things of unseen are beyond our true and complete comprehension. That is why Allah used similitudes or examples to help us develop some appreciation of our relationship with Allah. For example, Allah has said in another Surah: "My mercy extends to all things." [7/ al-A'raf/156]
In a Hadith-e-Qudsi, it has been mentioned: "Allah said: 'My mercy overrides my wrath'". [Imam Nawawi's Forty Hadith Qudsi, #1] This is fundamentally important because the perception we develop about someone affects our behavior and relationship. If we are more afraid of our parents, we may develop one type of relationship. If we develop the relationship based on love and affection, that would be another way. Of course, there could - and should - be a mix of both.
Often in my own experience I have seen that our perception and knowledge of Allah, especially the way we understand and the way we are presented information and ideas about Him, is primarily how powerful He is in His knowledge and ability to affect our lives here and in the life hereafter. But is that the way Allah wants us to know or perceive Him?
Think about this. In the Qur'an Allah has been identified in many different ways. According to some numeration, there are ninety-nine attributes of Allah mentioned in the Qur'an. But Allah specifically chose two by which we should be remembering Him every time we begin something or every time we take the first step toward something. He does not want us to begin something by remembering Him as the Qahhar or the Jabbar or as this or that. There are only two attributes, derived from the same root, by which Allah wants us to remember every time we take a step in our life.
What are those attributes? They are as we all know contained in "Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim": ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim. So out of all the attributes of Allah that we might know or be familiar with, He wants us to remember Him by these two attributes. These attributes, thus, are pivotal to proper perception about Allah. Those who are too harsh on themselves or others ought to know, as the Prophet Muhammad (s) has said: "On the Day of Judgment anyone who would be scrutinized in detail would be ruined." [Sahih Muslim, #6874].
We don't have any kind of hope if we are going to be scrutinized in detail in regard to any aspect of us. I do not have any hope, and I am afraid very few of you would have hope that way. What is our hope then?
The Prophet (s) has said: "Nothing would save you on the Day of Judgment, including your good deeds." [Al-Bukhari; Vol. 8, #470] Imagine! Good deeds would not save even him. What would then save us? It is the Rahmah of Allah. Therefore, let us do our good deeds, let us have our correct faith, and let us perform our obligations to the best we can, but then leave that room for Allah so that His mercy is on our side - the same mercy that brings and binds us together as human beings.
Now, how do we develop an appreciation of the Rahmah of Allah? Again, Allah has used certain examples for us to understand that. In this life, no one shows better and more unconditional love and affection than a mother. Nobody else! All other relationship is somewhat mixed and conditional. When it comes to mother's love, it comes the closest to understanding the Rahmah of Allah. Is it my understanding? No, my brothers and sisters! This is the understanding we get from the Prophet Muhammad (s). In one of the Hadith [Riyadus Saleheen, #418] it is reported that during one of the gatherings of the companions of the Prophet (s), there was a woman prisoner running anxiously to and fro in search of her missing child. When she found the child, she took it up in her lap, drew it close, and suckled it. The Prophet (s) asked his companions what did they think of that woman? He asked: Do you think this mother could ever throw her child into the fire? The companions replied, O Rasulullah, how can that be, how is that possible?
Stop for a moment and think! There was no logical or intellectual argument here. It is just common sense or understanding as to how can a mother throw her child into the fire. The Prophet (s) then said, if this so, then know that Allah loves His servants more than this mother loves her child. This is my hope! And this is probably your hope too. Do your good deeds. Let me do my good deeds. But with all my imperfections, we have hope because Allah is that much more merciful than we actually perceive and appreciate.
Another illustration has been offered by the Prophet (s) in another narration. [Riyadus Saleheen, #420]. We can't put any numerical figure on Allah's mercy. Yet, just for our understanding, if Allah's mercy is divided into one hundred parts, He has given just one percent of that to His creations. And, this one- percent is what we observe in the way mothers take care of their children. Not just human mothers. It also applies to all mothers in animal kingdom in the way they take care of, defend and nurture their babies. This is one percent of Allah's mercy! What about then the ninety-nine percent? What is that for? Allah has saved that ninety-nine percent for the Day of Judgment. That is my hope, and that is probably your hope too.
That is why sometimes it bothers me a great deal to see that we as Muslims are always bickering. We often alienate ourselves arguing about this or that, emphasizing this or that, almost always creating more distance among ourselves than trying to bridge the gap. That person is from this madhhab; this person is from that madhhab! This is the way this needs to be done; that is the way that needs to be done! And so on. All these things are important. So, don't misunderstand me. Those things that the Prophet (s) has taught us to do and the ways those things are to be done, including the way we are supposed to believe - they are all important. But they have their proper, prioritized place in Islam.
In this context, it is very important to understand that Allah has not created us as perfect creatures so that we won't make any mistake. Human beings are prone to make mistake. The very first human being and his mate are illustrious examples of our imperfection. Therefore, Allah does not want perfection from us. Rather, He expects that from time to time, if we falter or make mistake, we would not follow the path of Shaitan and be arrogant and persistent in our mistake. Rather, we would follow the footsteps of our first parents Adam and Hawa, which is, that we admit and recognize our mistakes, seek forgiveness and make a determined effort not to repeat the mistake again. Indeed, this is so important to Allah that in another Hadith [Riyadus Saleheen, #422], it has been narrated that "Had human beings not committed any sin, He would have replaced this species with another species that would commit sin so that He could forgive them." So, Allah wants to forgive us and He wants us to feel His mercy in this life and hereafter.
Once again, one should not misunderstand this Hadith as a blanket sanction for committing sins. The emphasis of this Hadith is imperfection of human beings and its connection with Allahs forgiveness and mercy. Unfortunately, much of the message what we are getting and what we are delivering to others is not this: mercy, love and compassion of Allah. More often we are talking about the power and wrath of Allah and how we should fear Him, than about His Rahmah - His loving sensitivity toward us.
My dear respected brothers and sisters! The closest we can think about how Allah feels toward us is, once again, the mother. It is important to be aware that the word Rahmah is the root of Allah's two supreme attributes: ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim. In the Qur'an it is beautifully mentioned:
"O mankind! Revere your Rabb, who created you from a single person; created, of like nature, its mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; Revere Allah, through whom you demand your mutual (rights) and revere the wombs (that bore you): For Allah ever watches over you." [4/an-Nisaa/1]
Womb. The Arabic word is Rahm (singular), Arham (plural). This Rahm is so important to Allah that He declared in the Qur'an: "Would you then, ... sever your ties of kinship (Arham)? Such are they whom Allah curses so that He defeats them and makes their eyes blind." [47/Muhammad/22-23] Think about this womb! Allah has brought us to this world through the same reproductive system that has been named Rahm derived from the same root from which two supreme attributes of Allah are also derived. It then make sense when Allah says "My mercy extends to all things."
I am a father. So are many of you. As fathers we love our children - we love them a great deal. But we can't bear children. After Adam and Hawa, who were created by Allah directly, there was only one person we know who was created without both parents: the Prophet Isa, the son of Mariam (a). But he also did not come through a father, rather through a mother. Therefore, anyone who comes to this world comes through the mercy and love of Allah.
Now think about this. Any relationship based on fear is different than a relationship that is based on love and affection. Whenever fear is gone, we tend to act differently. If there is no fear, our attitude becomes different. But love and affection are like a magnet. Fear repels. Fear does not draw people or their hearts closer, but love and affection do. Imbued with the spirit of love and affection you think about whether you are doing anything that would hurt the feeling of the person who cares about you and loves you. It's a completely different feeling. And, that is why I personally feel that it is very important that our understanding of Allah should be based on just the way He wants.
It is not that He is not al-Qahhar; He is. It is not that He is not al-Jabbar; He is. But Allah Himself wants us to perceive and remember Him differently. In Surah al-Fatiha, the one we recite in every unit of prayer, it is pointed out in a very balanced manner that Allah is the Rabb of the universe. He is ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim. But that does not mean that you should be carried away thinking that you do not have any accountability and you can get by without following the guidance and commandments of Allah. This is so because He is also the Master of the Day of Judgment. So, here love in a balanced way is guiding us toward a balanced life. But again, all these things begin with the mercy and compassion of Allah.
So let our hearts be filled with more Rahmah so that our family bonds can be better and stronger. So when we hug our children or give them a kiss, when we embrace or hold them, when we pass our hands over their head, it is nothing less than Allah's Rahmah flowing through us. We have to believe that because we are the instruments of Allah's love in this life. In our da'wah and message, we also have to deliver this message of love.
Proper understanding of this aspect of Allah has deeper implications for us as individuals and as communities. Once touched by the Rahmah of Allah, our personality is transformed. We, then, cannot but have positive effects on our relationship at the family level. It would also be reflected in societys political and economic dimension. Our relationship with neighbors, Muslims or non-Muslims, individuals or nations, would also be positively transformed. From domestic violence to political leadership, from social responsibility to economic development, from conflict resolution to interfaith relations, the implication of assimilating the message of Rahmah in our life is so pervasive.
The love of Allah should be magnetic bond between us preventing us from disobeying Him and motivating us to obey Him. If we falter, however badly, we always have hope for His mercy, forgiveness and love through our humility, submission and repentance. It is His Rahmah that is going to save us, not anything else, even though we have to have right belief, and proper and adequate good deeds. But Allah's Rahmah is ultimately what we need. Let us be the conduit of divine love and mercy.
Therefore, I have to say that the FIRST WORD in our understanding of Allah is Rahmah. The LAST WORD in understanding Him is also Rahmah!
[Based on the latest Friday Khutbah delivered on 10/16/98 at the MCC, Silver Spring, Maryland; The author is a former editor of NABIC Newsletter and a faculty at Upper Iowa University. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org]
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