The Evolution Deceit
Exemplary Values of Believers Reflecting Their Mercy
So far, we have explained to whom believers should show mercy and the criteria the Qur'an lays down on this subject. We have also stressed that believers' compassion is a natural consequence of their fear of Allah and their elevated morality. That is also the reason why they adopt a compassionate attitude, irrespective of the circumstances.
In this section, we shall deal with how mercy permeates believers' lives, the elevated values arising from a correct understanding of mercy and how believers live by this morality. No doubt the attributes that reflect the believer's understanding of mercy are legion; yet, in this section, we have to limit ourselves to the most significant ones.
At this juncture, there is an important point to remember: believers display moral perfection as described in the Qur'an only because Allah commands so and because they fear Allah. "Mercy" is, therefore, an extremely important and fundamental value that enables them to sincerely and properly live by Qur'anic morality and to maintain their commitment to it under all circumstances.
For instance, because it is a command of Allah and because a believer has a deep fear of Allah's punishment, a believer does not even think of cheating in measurement, weight or calculation, thereby distressing other believers or placing them in difficulties. This aside, the feelings of mercy he has in his heart make him grasp the divine purposes and delicacy inherent in this command and so he takes pleasure in observing it. In this way, he stands firm against all the provocations of evil and the urgings of his lower self.
It is unlikely that a person with immature feelings of mercy can be just, self-sacrificing and honest. A person devoid of compassion does not even think that he needs Allah's mercy, since he is also unaware of his own weaknesses. Consequently, he does not fear Allah as he should, and in his daily living he fails to display the good values of the Qur'an.
It should be borne in mind that, all the moral values described in the Qur'an are of a complementary nature; they perfect and support one another. The existence of one of them is conditional upon the existence of the others.
Below, we will see how mercy positively influences and perfects the other elevated moral values of believers.
To Rule with Justice
Mercy is a very important moral quality that ensures the exercise of justice. A believer never assumes a cruel or merciless attitude towards another, be he friend or foe. His feelings of mercy make him committed to showing justice under all conditions.
Aware that Allah witnesses everything he does, says and even thinks, a person of faith never perpetrates any unjust deed. The Qur'an also enjoins believers to be just and believers know that acting against the commands of the Qur'an will surely bring upon them the grievous penalty of hell. Some of the commands of Allah on being just are as follows:
Allah commands you to return to their owners the things you hold on trust and, when you judge between people, to judge with justice. How excellent is what Allah exhorts you to do! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (Surat an-Nisa': 58)
We sent Our Messengers with the Clear Signs and sent down the Book and the Balance with them so that mankind might establish justice…(Surat al-Hadid: 25)
Ibn 'Umar reported that in one of his hadiths, the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said the following concerning the just behaviour of believers towards:
"A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim; he does him no injustice, nor does he leave him alone (to be the victim of another's injustice); and whoever does the needful for his brother, Allâh does the needful for him…"
Another point we need to make clear here is the superiority of the believers' understanding of justice. In unenlightened societies, everyone entertains different ideas about justice, which leads to justice being meted out in a variety of ways. Indeed, everyone has his own ideas about right and wrong and, in the light of these variable criteria, he makes judgments.
However, the situation is otherwise for believers. The basis of a believer's understanding of justice is in the Words of Allah, that is, in the Qur'an, which is the Just Book that provides man with the most exact knowledge of all things. Allah is infinitely just. Thus, a believer, who complies with His words and acquires the morality deemed to be favourable by Him, displays the most just attitude by nature.
Not to Approve of Cruelty
Believers never remain insensitive towards acts of cruelty that they witness, hear or learn about in some way. Their compassion that stems from the morality of the Qur'an, calls for standing up against all forms of cruelty, protecting the rights of the innocent and, if necessary, struggling on their behalf.
They never hesitate to struggle against cruelty, whether the person subjected to it be a close friend or a stranger they have never met in all their lives. Moreover, they consider this as a precious opportunity to earn the approval of Allah and to display Qur'anic morality.
The members of a society not living by the values of religion, however, think that not making such sacrifices is a sign of cleverness and they label those who involve themselves in such efforts as "stupid". This clearly shows their forgetfulness of the fact that, all human beings will be summoned to account for their good and wicked deeds on the Day of Judgement. A believer, however, who remains conscious of this fact, approaches even a stranger with compassion and strives to improve the situation of those who are exposed to cruelty.
Even in situations in which there is not a single soul who will support him, a believer commits himself to removing evil. The insensitive and unscrupulous attitude of those who do otherwise never make him falter in his commitment, although such people may be in the majority. He always keeps in mind that, in the hereafter, he will be questioned about every incident he witnessed and how he sided with the good and showed determination to remove evil. Contrary to the views of the majority, he knows that just saying, "I have not heard, seen or witnessed anything" by no means exonerates him. He never forgets that it will be only he who will be rewarded in case he acts conscientiously and again, only he will be punished if he ignores wrongdoing. This being the case, he never turns a blind eye to cruelty.
In societies where the values of religion are not observed, however, examples of moral negligence may be seen at all times. For instance, a person who witnesses an accident may just hurry past, so as not to have to go to any trouble or when he sees someone being unjustly treated, he may remain silent so as not to direct the anger of the oppressor towards himself.
However, a believer who is guided by his conscience and feelings of mercy, never remains silent at injustice or ignores such events. After all, he never oppresses anyone or does any injustice, and thus becomes a role model for Quranic morality. If he sees others displaying conscienceless attitudes, he is disturbed by pangs of conscience himself until he feels he has striven enough to remedy the situation. That is because, true mercy does not allow one to ignore cruelty or turn one's back to it.
To Be Forgiving of Mistakes
One of the most important signs of Islamic virtue is to be forgiving and merciful. In the Qur'an, Allah calls His faithful servants to be "forgiving":
Practice forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant. (Surat al-A'raf: 199)
This is an attitude that the lower self finds hard to assume, but which deserves great rewards in the sight of Allah.
An individual may be unwilling to forgive a mistake or may feel angry about it. However, Allah makes it clear that forgiveness is the better path to take and encourages believers to practise this elevated form of morality:
The repayment of a bad action is one equivalent to it. But if someone pardons and puts things right, his reward is with Allah. Certainly He does not love wrongdoers. (Surat ash-Shura: 40)
In another verse, Allah draws attention to the fact that willingness to forgive is a praiseworthy attribute of a believer:
But if someone is steadfast and forgives, that is the most resolute course to follow. (Surat ash-Shura: 43)
Let not those of you who possess affluence and ample wealth ever become remiss in helping (the erring ones among) their relatives and the very poor and those who have migrated in the way of Allah. They should rather pardon and overlook. Would you not love Allah to forgive you? Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surat an-Nur: 22)
In the above verse, Allah calls believers to reflect upon how they would like to be treated. Indeed, every one strives for Allah's forgiveness, mercy and grace. He wishes that other people would forgive him when he makes a mistake. By recalling this, Allah wants people to treat others in the way they want to be treated by them. This is no doubt a major reason for believers to show mercy to one another.
Believers show mercy to other believers, no matter how serious their mistakes may be, although, their forgiveness is very different from the forgiveness of those who do not embrace Qur'anic morality.
Those who are distant from Qur'anic morality, may say that they have forgiven someone, but the rage and hate they feel deep in their hearts hardly lessens. Their attitude, often reproachful, gives hints of this rage. Indeed, they give vent to the rage and hate in their hearts whenever they have the opportunity.
Believers, on the other hand, sincerely forgive, which is conduct praised by the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in the words he said to one of his companions "You possess two qualities that Allah loves. These are clemency and tolerance." (Muslim) Aware that man is by nature a fallible being, they approach people with tolerance from the very outset. The verses in the Qur'an relative to repentance remind us that man is prone to mistakes, yet what really matters is his sincere efforts not to repeat a mistake once he realises he has done something wrong. One of the verses reads:
Allah only accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and then quickly repent after doing it. Allah turns towards such people. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (Surat an-Nisa': 17)
As long as a believer displays such an attitude, which makes his sincerity explicit, believers treat him most compassionately and with forgiveness. They do not inwardly hold grudges for mistakes made by someone who repents, regrets and tries to make amends. When he is sincerely committed to never repeating his mistake, believers know that they cannot judge him adversely because of something he has done in the past and that the truly important thing is the recent morality he displays.
One distinctive quality of believers' forgiveness is their showing no hesitation to forgive, even in circumstances where they are completely right and the wrongdoer is utterly unjust, since Allah recommends this as a model example of morality:
Those who give in times of both ease and hardship, those who control their rage and pardon other people—Allah loves the good-doers. (Surah Al 'Imran: 134)
Considering this command of Allah, believers act humbly, thereby becoming role models for others to follow.
Another important personal quality stemming from the values of Qur'an is that, in their minds, believers do not classify mistakes as minor or serious and hence do not develop a different understanding of forgiveness according to the nature of each mistake. It may well be that the person in question has caused great material loss or has done harm to one's health by a mistake he has made. However, aware that every incident takes place by the will of Allah and in conformance with destiny, a believer faces up to such an incident by putting his trust in Him. Therefore, he never harbours anger deep in his heart, nor does he allow it to be stirred up.
Again, out of ignorance, this person might have disobeyed Allah's commands and transgressed His limits. Yet, in this situation, it is only Allah Who can judge the individual concerned. Thus, judging a person or not forgiving him is an attitude which a believer is not responsible for. The rewards one receives in return for sincere repentance and regret are at the will of Allah. Indeed, in numerous verses, Allah informs believers that He can forgive any mistakes except for that of "ascribing partners to Allah" (shirk). Since believers can never know whether an act is of an idolatrous nature, they forgive by complying with Allah's commands and if there is a particular attitude recommended in the Qur'an which a believer must assume in the face of such a mistake, they do so.
At this point, we need to recall that for a believer, sincerity and doing good will serve as the main criteria for forgiveness. A believer identifies these qualities in a person by the wisdom and conscience he possesses. He would no doubt debar one, who had made wickedness a way of life, from taking advantage of believers' compassion and good values. In such a case, a believer knows that true compassion entails not only forgiveness but also exhortations to be sincere and honest and to go in fear of Allah, all of which expresses his compassion in a more appropriate way.
Helping One Another in Goodness and Piety
Believers show their compassion by encouraging one another to engage in such deeds as would be most likely to earn Allah's blessing. They know that true compassion requires supporting one another in such a way as to become people worthy of the Garden. In that respect, they do their best to make up for each others' mistakes and shortcomings. Such cooperation is also what Allah and Qur'anic morality enjoin. The limits of such cooperation is specified in the Qur'an as follows:
…Help each other to goodness and heedfulness. Do not help each other to wrongdoing and enmity. Heed Allah. Allah is severe in retribution. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 2)
As is also expressed in the above verse, believers' not helping one another in " wrongdoing and enmity" is another manifestation of true compassion. When someone asks help for same wicked aim, they do not behave ignorantly and say, "I might offend them" or "It would be improper not to help" because they know that even if the wrongdoer is frustrated by a refusal of help at that point, he will certainly be pleased with the outcome in the hereafter, and that this is the best sign of one's compassion.
In the above verse, Allah informs us that the best assistance a believer can offer is in promoting goodness and piety. Again, we learn from the Qur'an what goodness is:
It is not righteousness to turn your faces to the East or to the West. Rather, those with true righteousness are those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, the Angels, the Book and the Prophets, and who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travellers and beggars and to set slaves free, and who establish prayer and pay welfare tax; those who honour their contracts when they make them, and are steadfast in poverty and illness and in battle. Those are the people who are true. They are the people who do their duty. (Surat al-Baqara: 177)
As is evident, true goodness plainly differs from the sense of goodness prevalent in societies in which the values of religion do not prevail. People, who are distant from Qur'anic morality, perceive goodness as a favour done when one feels like it. This is an attitude occasionally adopted. Often this form of goodness is limited to not side-stepping beggars and to giving in charity, feeding stray dogs or giving one's seat to an elderly person in a crowded bus. However, all these favours are done only when, they do not harm one's interests.
Contrary to this picture, however, the kind of goodness described in the Qur'an is the kind of morality and worship practised right throughout one's life, and not only when it happens to occur to one or one feels like it: it is not dependent on particular conditions. When necessary, a believer can consider making any sacrifice simply for the sake of doing a good deed or to encourage others to do good deeds.
Another subject on which Allah commands believers to help one another is the awe or fear of Allah (taqwa) which inspires the individual to be on his guard against wrong actions and to be eager to do things which please Allah. The following verses describe different aspects of "taqwa":
…Whatever good you do, Allah knows it. Take provision; but the best provision is doing your duty (taqwa). So heed Me, people of intelligence!(Surat al-Baqara: 197)
Children of Adam! We have sent down clothing to you to conceal your private parts, and fine apparel, but the clothing of heedfulness (taqwa)—that is best! That is one of Allah's Signs, so that hopefully you will pay heed. (Surat al-A'raf: 26)
Mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in Allah's sight is the one who best performs his duty (one with the most taqwa). Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.(Surat al-Hujurat: 13)
The Qur'an informs us that what is precious in the sight of Allah is not the deed itself but the intention behind it and whether it has been done purely to earn Allah's approval. The following verse explains this as follows:
Their flesh and blood does not reach Allah but your heedfulness does reach Him… (Surat al-Hajj: 37)
Examples from our daily life are legion. For instance, one may give charity to the poor or make many sacrifices or be very considerate towards others. Yet, the real criterion here must be that while doing all these things, the individual must hope only to earn Allah's approval and seek only His rewards. If his intention is to show off, to earn the admiration or praise of others then it may well be that his efforts will be in vain. Ultimately, in the hereafter, everyone will be rewarded in accordance with his own piety.
In the Qur'an, Allah commands believers not only to do good deeds but also to be sincere about doing them. Cooperation among believers is based upon exactly these two criteria that are deemed to be precious in the hereafter. True compassion, indeed, entails this kind of cooperation.
Believers help others only to provide comfort and bring peace. For instance, believers help to improve one's health, to provide better living conditions, to give joy and happiness, to ease worries or strengthen faith. That is, the ultimate end of such help has to improve health, peace, the environment and people's faith.
However, those who have no Qur'anic understanding of mercy do not while helping someone appreciate these finer points. They do not even think of the possibility of the harm they may cause to others. For instance, lending money for gambling, prostitution or fraud is highly damaging. The one who borrows the money sooner or later find himself in great trouble in this world. But the matter does not end there, for his suffering extends to the hereafter, because of his having acted against the commands of Allah. Furthermore, the lender ought also to accept the blame for having helped another to commit a sin. In this sense, he may become equally responsible for the sin. For this reason, Allah declares that such people will meet the most grievous punishment in the hereafter and that they will no longer be able to help one another:
"Why are you not helping one another?" No, today they come in absolute submission. (Surat as-Saffat: 25-26)
Those who help one another out of goodness and piety will be rewarded as follows:
Those who produce a good action will receive ten like it. But those who produce a bad action will only be repaid with its equivalent and they will not be wronged.(Surat al-An'am: 160)
…If anyone does a good action, We will increase the good of it for him. "Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Thankful". (Surat ash-Shura: 23)
Being One of Those Who Enjoin the Right and Forbid the Wrong
Without a doubt, it is only believers who have any true knowledge of goodness and evil, since the Qur'an, which is "the criterion of judgment between right and wrong", provides them with the real meanings of these concepts. The Qur'an offers precise illustrations of the concepts of right, wrong, goodness and evil so that everyone may have a full grasp of them. Moreover, because of their fear of Allah, Allah has granted believers "discrimination between right and wrong".(Surat al-Anfal: 29) However, keeping this discrimination only to oneself is not in consonance with Islamic morality; a believer must also enjoin other people, who are willing to see the right and accept admonition, to live by the Qur'an. This being so, throughout their lives, believers impress upon others the difference between right and wrong. Allah commands believers thus:
Let there be a community among you who call to the good, and enjoin the right, and forbid the wrong. They are the ones who have success. (Surah Al 'Imran: 104)
Those who repent, those who worship, those who praise, those who fast, those who bow, those who prostrate, those who command the right, those who forbid the wrong, those who preserve the limits of Allah: give good news to the believers. (Surat at-Tawba: 112)
Allah informs those who fulfil His decree that they are the best community that has been raised by Him for mankind:
You are the best nation ever to be produced before mankind. You enjoin the right, forbid the wrong and believe in Allah. If the People of the Book were to believe, it would be better for them. Some of them are believers but most of them are deviators. (Surah Al 'Imran: 110)
Believers take into consideration a crucial criterion when they enjoin goodness and forbid wrongdoing; wrongful attitudes displayed by one in the past or those ones he currently assumes, do not give rise any kind of prejudice in believers. They never consider that anyone "will never be a believer in the true sense" because of his past errors. Believers do not make such distinctions between people in communicating Allah's message. They are very well aware that this is unjust and so strictly avoid it. They are aware that if they want other people also to display the high morality peculiar to believers, they have primarily to be informed about Islam and educated in the light of the Qur'an. For this very reason, no matter how unfavourable the attitude of others may be, believers never hesitate to enjoin goodness, forbid what is wrong and communicate the message to them.
However, despite all this striving, if their hearers insist on being intractable, they apply no coercion. Allah reveals this truth in the Qur'an when He says that there is no coercion in religion:
There is no compulsion where the religion is concerned … (Surat al-Baqara: 256)
Remind, then, if the reminder benefits.(Surat al-A'la: 9)
Believers enjoin good not only upon the ignorant who are irreligious but also upon believers. That is because, man makes mistakes not only because of lack of knowledge but also because he is forgetful or gives in to the temptations of his lower soul. In such situations, believers remind one another of the commands of the Qur'an, thereby enjoining good and forbidding evil. They warn each other, aware that only those who have faith and do good deeds are worthy of the Garden and that those who do not avoid evil will suffer a grievous torment in hell. Allah declares that all believers are each other's guardians:
The men and women of the believers are friends of one another. They command what is right and forbid what is wrong, and establish prayer and pay welfare charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. They are the people on whom Allah will have mercy. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat at-Tawba: 71)
Furthermore, believers never feel exhausted in fulfilling this act of worship. No matter how frequently other people make mistakes, they never cease to warn and remind them with patience, compassion and affection. That is because, in numerous verses, Allah proclaims that He loves those who are patient and enjoins believers to be patient in living by Qur'anic morality.
Repelling the Bad with Something Better
In the Qur'an, Allah commands believers to repel the bad with something better:
A good action and a bad action are not the same. Repel the bad with something better and, if there is enmity between you and someone else, he will be like a bosom friend. (Surah Fussilat: 34)
Ward off evil with what is better. We know very well what they express.(Surat al-Muminun: 96)
As is evident from the above verses, Allah promises believers that they will attain goodness when they repel evil with good. He further points out that even in situations of enmity, the relationship between foes turns into a warm friendship.
This is also what believers' understanding of mercy entails. When believers witness an attitude that does not please Allah, they primarily approach the offenders humbly and with tolerance, without falling a prey to pride. That is because they know that arrogance would have an adverse effect on their lives in the hereafter. Unlike those who do not observe Qur'anic morality, they do not hold a flawed rationale and say, "He is the one who has done wrong; he should act humbly", or "Let him do whatever he wishes". They recognise that Allah loves those who display the best attitude and showing a good attitude even when one is subjected to wickedness is acting in compliance with the Qur'an. This being the case, they know that acting humbly is not a loss but a great gain in the sight of Allah.
Believers encounter various different people throughout their lives. Yet, they never deviate from their moral code because of others' attitudes. Some people may speak derisively and be offensive in their words. They may show anger, enmity or do harm. However, a believer always perseveres in modesty, graciousness and compassion; he never responds to evil words in a similar vein. He does not mock people who mock him or display anger to someone who is angry with him. He remains calm when subjected to ignoble treatment. He even assumes a compassionate and tolerant attitude towards a person who has done him harm. Ultimately, in the face of the sublime disposition of the believer, the wrongdoer feels ashamed of his behaviour and yearns to have such a noble character.
No doubt, while displaying all these attitudes, believers remain rational; they never let others do any harm or injustice to themselves or to other believers. Meanwhile, with the good attitude they show, they display the beauty of the values of the Qur'an, which draws people nearer to the morality that pleases Allah.
We need always to remember that the evil attitude shown by other people is not an excuse for us to deviate from our own high moral standards, a lapse with which Allah would not be pleased. After all, for one's deeds, everyone is himself responsible to his Creator. Furthermore, according to the Qur'an, being able to show compassion, mercy and goodness when confronted with an evil attitude is a sign of a sublime adherence to morality. That is because, this praiseworthy attitude of a believer makes manifest the strength of his loyalty to Allah. Indeed, the person in question patiently displays such an attitude only to please Allah.
In return for nobly displaying patience in order to live up to Qur'anic morality, Allah proclaims that there will be a twofold reward:
They will be given their reward twice over because they have been steadfast and because they ward off the bad with the good and give from what we have provided for them. (Surat al-Qasas: 54)
Treating People Kindly
We did not create the heavens and earth and everything between them, except with truth. The Hour is certainly coming, so overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness. (Surat al-Hijr: 85)
Allah enjoins believers to "overlook any human faults with gracious forgiveness". The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, also encouraged believers towards this attribute of good character by saying, "Every act of kindness is a charity" (Bukhari). This is an understanding of morality stemming from a believer's fear of Allah and his loyalty to Him. For this reason, a believer never swerves from code of conduct and, in order to earn Allah's approval, he treats people kindly throughout his life.
Whether the person dealt with is well-off or poor, young or old, a man or a woman does not alter a believer's morality. Not expecting any worldly reward in return for his attitude, a believer does not assess people by such yardsticks. Indeed, Allah sets the criteria for this in the following verse:
Worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him. Be good to your parents and relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to neighbours who are related to you and neighbours who are not related to you, and to companions and travellers and your slaves. Allah does not love anyone vain or boastful. (Surat an-Nisa': 36)
By Quranic standards, a Muslim is held responsible for treating all people kindly. However, this does not mean that he should approve the flawed reasoning or turn a blind eye to erroneous ideas. A believer always remains committed to the true path of Allah and never yields to the erroneous rationale of those he deals with. If someone is wrong in his attitude, a believer approaches him sincerely and compassionately and strives to encourage him to behave righteously. The believers' approach to disbelievers while communicating religion sets a good example of this. One of the examples Allah gives us in the Qur'an is the manner in which the Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, communicated Allah's religion to the Pharaoh, the then ruler of Egypt. Allah enjoins Musa, peace be upon him, to communicate His religion to the Pharaoh but to speak gently while doing so:
Go, you and your brother, with My Signs and do not slacken in remembering Me. Go to Pharaoh; he has overstepped the bounds. But speak to him with gentle words so that hopefully he will pay heed or show some fear. (Surah Ta Ha: 42-44)
Following the commands of Allah, the Prophet Musa and his brother, the Prophet Harun, peace be upon them both, approached the Pharaoh with compassion and humbleness, in spite of the latter's insolence, and his cruel and proud behaviour.
Putting Things Right Between People
As stated earlier, the believers' understanding of compassion always leads them to treat people kindly. They never display a hostile, obstructive or destructive manner and they lead the people around them to the truth. Being sincere adherents of Qur'anic ethics, they have a peaceful, conciliatory and constructive disposition. The fights, quarrels or disputes often engaged in by people who are distant from the values of the Qur'an, never figure in a believer's life, since he knows these are described in the Qur'an as totally despicable. This being the case, they forgive, show tolerance and enjoin the good, no matter what the circumstances, as the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, also recommended in a hadith:
"Allah is the Forbearer and loves forbearance in all matters.'' (Bukhari and Muslim)
They also exhort other people to accept this standard of morality and remind them that this is what pleases Allah most and brings better rewards in the hereafter. All along, they conduct themselves in a manner pleasing to Allah, by resolving the issues which people have with each other.
Allah proclaims that those who display such a standard of morality only to seek Allah's pleasure, will be bountifully rewarded:
There is no good in much of their secret talk, except in the case of those who enjoin charity, or what is right, or putting things right between people. If anyone does that, seeking the pleasure of Allah, We will give him an immense reward. (Surat an-Nisa': 114)
People, who consider human existence to be confined to the life of this world, are not likely to make sacrifices for other people, unless there is some serious advantage to be gained. That is because they forget that they will encounter all their evil acts and good deeds in the hereafter.
Believers, on the other hand, having no doubts about the existence of the hereafter, know that they will be rewarded for each deed they engage in and similarly feel regret for the things they neglected. This being the case, they try to live up to the values of the Qur'an in the best way they can.
In numerous verses, Allah makes clear the importance of making sacrifices. Hence, believers strive to express the compassion and love they feel for other believers by the self-sacrificing manners they assume.
For someone to experience sacrifice as defined in the Qur'an in its real sense, he must primarily set aside all his selfish feelings and desires. Otherwise, guided by his worldly ambitions, he would wish to have the best of everything for himself. Believers are aware that everything in this world that has been given to them is but a temporary favour to test them and that they will have the best of everything in the hereafter, provided that they adopt the values of the Qur'an. For this reason, they take pleasure in giving something they like to someone else or giving priority to others so that they may experience something pleasurable. Indeed, Allah informs us that people can never attain true goodness unless they give away the things they love:
You will not attain true goodness until you give of what you love. Whatever you give away, Allah knows it.(Surah Al 'Imran: 92)
Believers derive great pleasure from knowing that their sacrifices please other believers. They know as a matter of conscience that this is the right attitude and thus feel at ease in displaying an attitude that pleases Allah.
Even in situations where they themselves are in need, they do not hesitate to waive their rights. They do not praise themselves by expressing the sacrifices they make or try to make other people feel indebted for these sacrifices. This meritorious understanding of sacrifice is stressed in the following verse:
Those who were already settled in the abode, and in faith, before they came, love those who have migrated to them and do not find in their hearts any need for what they have been given and prefer them to themselves even if they themselves are needy. It is the people who are safe-guarded from the avarice of their own selves who are successful. (Surat al-Hashr: 9)
Praying for the Believers' Hereafter
One of the most gracious acts of compassion among believers is to pray for each other's good. They know that their Lord is the Almighty, Who is capable of doing anything at any moment, if He wills. Our Lord invites believers to call on Him by praying and assures believers that their prayers will be answered:
If My servants ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me. They should therefore respond to Me and believe in Me so that hopefully they will be rightly guided. (Surat al-Baqara: 186)
Indeed, believers wholeheartedly answer the call of Allah and ask for all kinds of fine things both for this world and the hereafter. Out of their compassion for other believers, they also pray for their good. Whatever they wish for themselves, they also ask for on behalf of other believers. Furthermore, their understanding of compassion is so noble that they ask for better things for other believers.
The main reason for their compassion is their unshakable faith in the eternal life, which is due to begin after death. They always pray for a blissful life—endowed with Allah's mercy—for believers in the Garden. They call upon Allah and ask Him to improve the morality of themselves and their brothers, to protect them from evil deeds, to forgive them and reward them with the Garden.
There is no doubt that this is a very elevated moral code, considering that people are, by nature, prone to strive for their own good and comfort, and tend to keep the better things for themselves. Unlike this example, the fact that believers also show consideration for their brothers is a manifestation of their elevated morality. This is also stressed in the Qur'an in numerous prayers of believers:
"…Our Lord, do not take us to task if we forget or make a mistake! Our Lord, do not place on us a load like the one You placed on those before us! Our Lord, do not place on us a load we have not the strength to bear! And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy on us. You are our Master, so help us against disbelieving people." (Surat al-Baqara: 286)
"…Our Lord, pour down steadfastness upon us and take us back to You as Muslims." (Surat al-A'raf: 126)
And there are others who say, "Our Lord, give us good in this world, and good in the hereafter, and safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire". (Surat al-Baqara: 201)"Our Lord, do not make our hearts swerve aside after You have guided us. And give us mercy from You. You are the Ever-Giving. Our Lord, You are the Gatherer of mankind to a Day of which there is no doubt. Allah will not break His promise". (Surah Al 'Imran: 8-9)
Praying for the Next Generation's Faith
In the Qur'an, Allah commands believers to show deep compassion and care for the young children they will leave behind after their death. For this reason, when believers grow old and draw near to death, they pay the utmost attention to not leaving their young children unassisted. They raise them as people of faith and teach them how to be trustworthy, wise and of high morals:
People should show concern in the same way that they would fear for small children if they were to die leaving them behind. They should heed Allah and say words that are appropriate. (Surat an-Nisa': 9)
In this regard, Allah gives numerous examples from the lives of the prophets. The prophets prayed both for their children and the generations that would succeed them, and struggled to raise them as Muslims of sublime morality. Some of the examples related in the Qur'an are as follows:
When Ibrahim said, "My Lord! Make this land a place of safety and keep me and my sons from worshipping idols". (Surah Ibrahim: 35)
"My Lord! Make me and my descendants people who establish prayer. My Lord! Accept my prayer." (Surah Ibrahim: 40)
Those who say, "Our Lord, give us joy in our wives and children and make us a good example for those who do their duty". (Surat al-Furqan: 74)
And when Ibrahim built the foundations of the House with Isma'il: "Our Lord, accept this from us! You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. Our Lord, make us both Muslims submitted to You, and our descendants a Muslim community submitted to You. Show us our rites of worship and turn towards us. You are the Ever-Returning, the Most Merciful". (Surat al-Baqara: 127-128)
When his Lord said to him, "Become a Muslim!" he said, "I am a Muslim who has submitted to the Lord of all the worlds". Ibrahim directed his sons to this, as did Ya'qub: "My sons! Allah has chosen this religion for you, so do not die except as Muslims". (Surat al-Baqara: 131-132)
Asking Forgiveness for Believers' Mistakes
Know then that there is no god except Allah and ask forgiveness for your wrongdoing, and for the men and women who believe. Allah knows both your activity and your repose. (Surah Muhammad: 19)
The kind of compassion imbued by the Qur'an in believers manifests itself in the way believers care for one another. They feel fear—fear of torment in hell—not only for themselves, but also for other believers. They wish that their brothers may also attain eternal salvation just as they wish it for themselves. Therefore, they pray for forgiveness. There are numerous verses in the Qur'an explaining this delicate understanding of compassion by believers:
"Our Lord, those You cast into the Fire, You have indeed disgraced. The wrongdoers will have no helpers".
"Our Lord, we heard a caller calling us to belief: 'Believe in your Lord!' and we believed. Our Lord, forgive us our wrong actions, erase our bad actions from us and take us back to You with those who are truly good."
"Our Lord, give us what You promised us through Your Messengers, and do not disgrace us on the Day of Rising. You do not break Your promise." (Surah Al 'Imran: 192-194)
All they said was, "Our Lord, forgive us our wrong actions and any excesses we went to in what we did and make our feet firm and help us against these disbelieving people". (Surah Al 'Imran: 147)
"My Lord! Make me and my descendants people who establish prayer. My Lord! Accept my prayer. Our Lord! Forgive me and my parents and the believers on the Day the Reckoning takes place".(Surah Ibrahim: 40-41)
Moreover, believers also pray for the believers of the past generations, because no matter in which period or place they lived, believers are always brothers. We again find examples of believers praying for believers of past generations again in the Qur'an:
Those who have come after them say, "Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith and do not put any rancour in our hearts towards those who believe. Our Lord, You are All-Gentle, Most Merciful". (Surat al-Hashr: 10)
Not Mocking Others
In societies where the values of religion are not upheld, "mocking other people" does not disturb people so long as they are not the ones being mocked. Besides, this is considered "fun". For this reason, they indulge in mockery whenever they have the opportunity. What they actually try to accomplish with such misdemeanours is to exalt themselves while they humiliate others. For them, any weakness of a human being can be the subject of derision. A mispronunciation, the physical make-up of an individual, lameness, obesity or anything such as sneezing or staggering can be made a mockery of.
However, believers never descend to such behaviour. After all, they know that mockery is severely condemned in the Qur'an and that it is conduct disapproved of by Allah:
You who believe! People should not ridicule others who may be better than themselves; nor should any women ridicule other women who may be better than themselves… (Surat al-Hujurat: 11)
The criteria taken into account by believers while assessing others are their faith, good values and sincere efforts to draw nearer to Allah. This being the case, they never humiliate or provoke anyone because of his physical weaknesses. On the contrary, these weaknesses evoke feelings of mercy in believers and thus they make a sincere effort to eliminate them. Similarly, believers never embarrass others because they mispronounce a word, stumble, or fail to deal with the kind of unfavourable situation which one may encounter at any time.
Moreover, believers never indulge in offensive behaviour, such as mockery, just to amuse themselves. They take no pleasure from a joke, conversation or attitude which is intended to offend people. They never lapse into such behaviour. Furthermore, in any incident in which an individual is mocked or humiliated, they can never remain silent. Believers are entirely on the side of the person who is being harassed and never let others hurt him. As a matter of conscience, they can imagine how such behaviour as they would never like to experience themselves, can also cause offence to others.
All this meticulous attention to proper behaviour is because of their fear of Allah and the exemplary moral values to which they adhere. Their conscience and understanding of compassion prevent them from engaging in any such graceless act as mockery. Besides, aware that Allah warns mockers of a bitter torment in hell, they strictly avoid such an attitude:
Woe to every scorner and mocker who has amassed wealth and hoarded it! He thinks his wealth will make him live for ever. No indeed! He will be flung into the Shatterer. And what will convey to you what the Shatterer is? The kindled Fire of Allah reaching right into the heart. It is sealed in above them in towering columns.(Surat al-Humaza: 1-9)
Not to Call People by Derogatory Nicknames
The Qur'an commands believers not to violate the rights of others and believers are sedulous in complying with this command; they always treat each other with respect, esteem and honour. One habit they particularly avoid is calling one another by offensive nicknames.
As we know, this is quite prevalent in societies in which people do not live by the values of the Qur'an. Often, they have ulterior motives in doing so. The negative impressions people avoid sharing with one another are mostly expressed by giving nicknames to people. Sometimes, the intention is to humiliate, ridicule or offend people. These names often express other's errors or weaknesses. Hence, every time someone is called by his nickname, he is ridiculed and thereby offended. Believers, however, never use a name that would cause resentment to others because of Allah's commandment:
You who believe! People should not ridicule others who may be better than themselves; nor should any women ridicule other women who may be better than themselves. And do not find fault with one another or insult each other with derogatory nicknames. How evil it is to have a name for evil conduct after coming to belief! Those people who do not turn from it are wrongdoers. (Surat al-Hujurat: 11)
In compliance with Allah's command, believers are frank enough to express one another's faults and thereby purify them of these flaws. Since they openly and sincerely express their opinion, they never feel the need to imply something.
This is, at the same time, a clear manifestation of the compassion believers feel for one another. They never adopt even the slightest attitude that would cause uneasiness or distress to others. Through these values, they become role models for those who do not adhere to the values of the Qur'an.
Feeding the Needy out of the Inheritance
As is stressed throughout this book, Allah urges people to be compassionate towards the needy and not to ignore the needs of the poor. He draws attention to the fact that sharing one's possessions and money with the needy is a deed with which He would be pleased. Furthermore, when someone inherits wealth, it is recommended that he allocate a certain share to the poor.
This is why, when believers inherit, they give relatives, orphans and the poor a certain share. Allah's recommendation regarding this is expressed as follows in the Qur'an:
If other relatives or orphans or poor people attend the sharing-out, provide for them out of it and speak to them correctly and courteously. (Surat an-Nisa': 8)
This practice of believers also makes manifest the elevated nature of their conscience and compassion. They never amass a fortune while they are surrounded with many needy people.
Unlike believers, when those who are strangers to the values of the Qur'an become heirs, let alone sharing what thus inherit with the poor, they try to keep it a secret. That is because, they feel concerned that once it becomes known, many people including their relatives, orphans and the poor would ask for help. Although they have the means, they do not suffer the slightest pangs of conscience to see such people in need and to leave them unassisted. They wish to possess the best of everything and to spend for their own pleasure. Otherwise, they feel this is a great loss.
Believers, on the other hand, in compliance with Allah's Will, willingly give to the needy even if they never ask for it. Such compassion will be rewarded in the hereafter as follows:
Nor will they give away any amount, whether large or small, nor will they cross any valley, without it being written down for them so that Allah can recompense them for the best of what they did. (Surat at-Tawba: 121)
Giving the Best of Everything in Alms
People who do not abide by the Qur'an perceive giving alms as giving away old possessions that are no longer needed. This is rather like a tradition they hold to. In the process, they are very careful not to include any of the things for which they feel some attachment. Often their main purpose is to get rid of old possessions and thus create a false image of doing good. In one verse, Allah draws attention to the fact that their intention is often to show off:
And also for those who spend their wealth to show off to people, not having belief in Allah and the Last Day. Anyone who has made Devil his comrade, what an evil comrade he is! (Surat an-Nisa': 38)
Giving away a possession one does not feel like using because it is outmoded is a sign of deeming the recipient inferior. Because such donors rank people according to their money, they do not consider a needy person worthy of respect. Consequently, they think it is not proper to allocate the best of what they have to poor people. However, the Qur'an commands as follows:
You who believe! Give away some of the good things you have earned and some of what the earth produces for you. Do not have recourse to bad things when you give, things you would only take with your eyes tight shut! Know that Allah is Rich Beyond Need, Praiseworthy. (Surat al-Baqara: 267)
The justice and compassion of believers call for the rights of all believers to be protected; believers can never accept that other believers should have lower living standards than their own and thus be in difficulties, when they themselves enjoy better conditions. Similarly, they do not allow others to consider needy people as being worthy only of inferior conditions. To needy believers, they try to provide the best conditions they can afford, so that they can also attain a standard of living at least matching their own.
While giving in charity to earn Allah's approval, it is essential to make sacrifices from the possessions for which one feels some attachment rather than what one's lower self would not like to give away. As is clear, it is not a sacrifice to give away something to which a person attaches no importance. By listening to their conscience, believers can readily make this distinction. They choose the things that are to be given away from the fine food and clothing they have and the possessions they cherish. This is a clear manifestation of the mercy and compassion they have for other believers.
The following is another verse by which Allah encourages believers to give of the things they hold dear:
You will not attain true goodness until you give of what you love. Whatever you give away, Allah knows it. (Surah Al 'Imran: 92)
Being Honest in Trade
Believers' feelings of compassion make them honest, delicate and kind towards others. For this reason, let alone "committing fraud in trade", believers even disallow the slightest mistake or carelessness that may cause harm or trouble to believers or that may put them in difficulty. They are very meticulous about protecting people's rights and maintaining justice. They never commit the sin of using up anyone's hard earned possessions unjustly, nor do they allow anyone else to engage in such a misdeed, which they consider the result of a cruel attitude. That is because Allah's command on this is explicit:
Give full measure when you measure and weigh with a level balance. That is better and gives the best result. (Surat al-Isra: 35)
As is seen in the above verse, Allah enjoins believers to be honest in trade, and not to cheat in measurement, weight or calculation, because that is ultimately the best way to conduct oneself.
Ibn Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, also mentioned the importance of honest trade in a saying to the owners of measurements and weights: "You have been certainly entrusted with two affairs about which the former nations before you were destroyed". (Tirmidhi)
However, there are some who, despite being aware of these warnings, persist in fraudulent dealings. When they feel sure that nobody is watching them, they do not hesitate to unjustly take others' money, goods and possessions or to cheat in measurement, weight or calculation. They consider it an advantage when the client does not understand that he has been cheated, and they assume that the money they make or the goods they acquire by means of deception will be of avail to them. However, since all such acts are unlawful in the sight of Allah, they are of no benefit to the doer. Allah thus warns those who are dishonest:
Woe to the stinters! Those who, when they take a measure from people, exact full measure, but when they give them a measure or weight, hand over less than is due. Do such people not realise that they will be raised up on a Terrible Day, the Day mankind will stand before the Lord of all the worlds? (Surat al-Mutaffifin: 1-6)
All messengers of Allah sent throughout history also commanded their people to be just in measure and calculation and not to cheat people. In numerous verses, the warnings of these messengers are conveyed to us. The message of the Prophet Shu'aib, peace be upon him, who was sent to Madyan, illustrates this sensitive approach explicitly:
And to Madyan We sent their brother Shu'ayb who said, "My people, worship Allah! You have no other god than Him. A Clear Sign has come to you from your Lord. Give full measure and full weight. Do not diminish people's goods. Do not cause corruption in the land after it has been put right. That is better for you if you are believers". (Surat al-A'raf: 85)
Not to Harm Children for Fear of Poverty
Deliberately or unintentionally, it is impossible that a believer could cause harm to an innocent person. No matter what the circumstances, for his own sake, a believer does not display an attitude which may cause hardship to another. He does not cause any material loss to anyone else while trying to earn for himself. He does not risk someone else's health to save his own. Neither does he secure own well-being through others' starvation. In brief, he always gives priority to the needs, peace and well-being of others. Even if it be a child, a captive or someone he has never known, a believer, thanks to his compassion, always considers others' advantage before his own. In order to display such nobility, he makes all kinds of sacrifices.
In the Qur'an, Allah gives examples of those who attempt to kill their children for fear of not being able to look after them and warns them against such a cruel and violent attitude:
Say: "Come and I will recite to you what your Lord has forbidden for you: that you do not associate anything with Him; that you are good to your parents; that you do not kill your children because of poverty—We will provide for you and them…" (Surat al-An'am: 151)
Do not kill your children out of fear of being poor. We will provide for them and you. Killing them is a terrible mistake. (Surat al-Isra': 31)
It may be that "killing children out of fear of poverty" or "burying them alive"—all practices peculiar to pre-Islamic societies, are not common in our day. Yet, in modern societies, a different form of this crime is committed: abandoning children on the streets for fear of poverty.
Believers take refuge in Allah from committing such a crime and feel a deep fear of the grievous end of those who commit such a crime. Indeed, the compassion imbued in them by Qur'anic morality forbids them to perpetrate such cruelty upon another human being—let alone upon a small child, simply out of concern for their future. If they are really in a difficult situation due to poverty, they try to eliminate this problem by developing viable solutions within the limits of the Qur'an.