Of all the 99 Beautiful Names of Alláh, it is Ar-Rahmán and Ar-Rahím that we use, most frequently, in our prayers and dua’s. Ar-Rahmán and Ar-Rahím, are both derived from the same Arabic root word, Rahma, meaning mercy, compassion. Pickthall translates Ar-Rahmán and Ar-Rahím, as, the Beneficient, the Merciful, and Yusuf Ali says, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Most of us, unfortunately, take Alláh’s mercy and compassion for granted. But if we stop for a moment, and just reflect on the depth and extent of Alláh’s mercy, we will be amazed beyond words.
The Holy Qur’an frequently draws our attention to the world of Nature. So, let us consider, for a moment, the fragile world in which we live. We hear about the depletion of the ozone layer, the dangers of pollution, the need to preserve the environment for our children, and so on. Many books and TV programs about nature and the universe stir up our curiosity, our sense of wonder.
In many ways, scientists are realizing today, what our Holy Qur’án revealed over 15 centuries ago: That we live in the centre of a violent universe, ever changing, constantly in motion. We are surrounded by forces that are so delicately balanced that the smallest shift could kill us all. A few years ago, the comet Schumacher-Levy plunged into Jupiter, and exploded with the energy of several million atom bombs. In astronomical terms, a difference of just a few degrees would have set this comet on a collision course with our planet earth. In fact, the scientists say and believe that human life is possible and exist only on the very narrowest of margins. To illustrate just how narrow is that margin by using same comparison and analogies, let’s take an example of an orange wrapped in plastic shrink film:
If you can imagine that this orange is our planet earth, then the thickness of the plastic film, is the atmosphere, the air we breathe. Most people think that the earth is solid. But, below us, much thinner than the skin of this orange, is the thin crust on which our continents are placed. Under that crust, are thousands of miles of boiling molten rock and lava around a solid iron core. In size comparison, all living creatures are like the specks of dust and bacteria that cover the surface of this orange. You can’t even see it without a microscope, just as astronauts in space, cannot actually see any life on earth.
Just imagine! A few miles below our feet, like, under the skin of this orange, we have thousands of miles of boiling liquid, oceans of molten lava; above us, a thin skin of breathable air, only a few miles deep. Above that, nothing; a complete vacuum. And the sun, without which life would not be possible, is 93 million miles away. But, what does that mean? 93 million miles? We cannot even make sense of such a distance. It’s just 93 followed by six zeros. But let’s make it easier. If this orange was our planet earth, then the sun would be a ball the height of this room, and that ball would be about 55 miles away, let’s say, the distance from here to Waterloo or Cedarfalls. Just imagine that! The slightest tilt of the earth, towards the sun in summer, and we complain that we’re unpleasantly hot. Then a slight tilt away from the sun in winter, and we’re freezing cold. Measure the distance of that tilt, a mere 4000 miles, compared with 93 million miles to the sun, and you will see that we boil or freeze within a range of, just 0.005 %. That is, not one percent, not even one hundredth of a percent, but a mere one five thousandth of a percent!
Now, I’m not a scientist and I’m not an astronomer. But, if we reflect on this simple fact, we are left amazed. All life on this planet earth, is suspended, hazardously, on the thin crust of a huge ball of boiling lava, covered by a thin membrane of oxygen, floating through space, passing deadly showers of meteors and comets and all kinds of deadly radiation. This is just mind boggling facts. Any rock larger than about 1 or 2 miles thick, striking the earth head-on, like the comet Schumaker-Levy that struck Jupiter, would wipe out all life on this planet. The scientists and astronomers [which some of them are atheists and they don’t believe in God], they tell us that we, living creatures, survive on this planet only by the narrowest of margins. Statistically speaking, the dangers are so great, they say, and the mathematical probabilities of our survival are so small, that we should really not have been here at all!
We Muslims, as Believers, would say that our creation and continued existence on this planet is due entirely to the mercy of Alláh, subhánalláh wata-‘álá, glorified and exalted is He. The Holy Qur’án makes this point in many beautiful verses. For example, in Súra Saba [34:9] we read:
“See they not how little of the sky and the earth is open to them, and how much is hidden? If We wished We could cause the earth to swallow them up or cause a piece of the sky to fall upon them. Verily in this is a Sign for every servant that turns to Allah (in repentance).”
Sura Fátir v41 “It is Allah Who sustains the heavens and the earth lest they cease (to function): and if they should fail there is none not one can sustain them thereafter: verily He is Most Forbearing Oft-Forgiving”
and further in the same sura: verses 44 and 45:
“Do they not travel through the earth and see what was the end of those before them though they were superior to them in strength? Nor is Allah to be frustrated by anything whatever in the heavens or on earth: for He is All-Knowing All-Powerful. If Allah were to punish men according to what they deserve He would not leave on the back of the (earth) a single living creature: but He gives them respite for a stated Term: when their Term expires verily Allah has in his sight all His servants.”
Brothers and Sisters, next time we look up to the starry skies, let us think about those powerful forces that surround us. Forces that keep our very existence poised on a knife-edge, and let us thank Alláh subhánalláh wata-‘álá for his grace and mercy.
How do we become worthy of Alláh’s Mercy? We become worthy of His Mercy, when we begin that long journey from doing what pleases us, to doing what pleases Alláh. This comes only by conscious effort. But remember, when you do just one good action, you can repeat it, and it can become a good habit. Like a farmer with his seed, when you sow an action, you reap a habit. You sow a habit, you reap a character, You sow a character, and you reap a destiny. And the good destiny we all seek is to enter the garden that Alláh has prepared for those who seek his pleasure, and mercy.
We should also remember, that part of Alláh’s mercy, is that he is very patient with our shortcomings. We all have many faults, but Alláh’s anger does not just descend on us like a bolt of lightning, as soon as we step out of line. He always gives us time, lots of time, to recognize the error of our ways, and to put things right, to ask for mercy.
In the same way, we must not be impatient with others. We must also show mercy, wherever we have power and authority. This is especially towards our wives and our children. We must not project our fears and anxieties on them. We should avoid insulting, embarrassing or humiliating anyone. Taking an aggressive attitude usually does more harm than good. It is much better to teach, to encourage, to be kind and set a good personal example, without arrogance or self-righteousness. We expect Alláh’s mercy and patience for ourselves, so why then, should we not show mercy and patience for others? The first Hadíth Qudsi reminds us:
“When Allah decreed the Creation He pledged Himself by writing in His book which is laid down with Him: My mercy prevails over my anger.”
This Hadíth confirms that Mercy is more powerful than anger. It is one of the noblest qualities. When Muhammad (SAW) entered Makka with an army of 10,000 soldiers, he could have severely punished the Quraish, for the cruelty and suffering they inflicted upon him and his companions in the early years. However, he showed them all Mercy and the conquest of Makka was almost bloodless. Nearly everyone was forgiven. Look throughout the pages of history and you will not find anywhere a better example of Mercy shown by a victorious conqueror. No wonder, Nabi Muhammad’s kindness and mercy touched them so deeply, that virtually all Makkans accepted Islam.
Let us pray to Alláh, subhánalláh wata-álá. May His mercy descend into our homes and in our hearts, not only during Ramadhán, but also throughout the year, insh-Alláh. May we all show greater mercy to one another, especially to those over whom we have some authority. May Alláh guide our leaders to show mercy to their citizens, our employers to their workers, our parents to their children. And May He reward us all, according to the best of our deeds. May this small community of ours, grow and prosper in love, mercy and brotherhood, and may we all, set a good example to other communities inside and outside of Islam, in Taiwan and beyond.