Where do you begin when discussing mercy? I started the conversation in my Ramadan Day (RD) 1 post by defining “mercy” in English. I find that when your multilingual things often take on a deeper meaning, however, in trying to translate all of that meaning the richness of the concept or idea is lost on the reader. Trying to keep that in mind I felt the next best place to really explore “rahma” is Al Rahman- the Most Merciful, God.
Muslims relationship with God begins with the Arabic word for God- Allah. If you open up a Christian Bible in Arabic, you will find it “littered” with the word Allah, because in Arabic, whether you are talking about the Muslim God or the Christian God, God in Arabic is Allah. The closest example of this simple concept, that is often very difficult to comprehend by non-Arabic speakers, is the Spanish word for God- Dios. When you pick up a translation of the Bible or the Quran, the concept of God is expressed in the Spanish language as Dios. There are lots of people, on both the Muslim and Christian side, that claim that our God is not the God worshipped “those people.” I don’t much care for the distinctions that divide those two opinions because for me my perception of the God that is discussed in the Bible as well as in the Quran stems from the Abrahamic perception of God. Now whether Christians divide that concept by utilizing the Trinity, is in essence another story for another post. Similarly in Urdu and Farsi the word for God is Khuda and in prayers and conversation, Khuda and Allah are intermingled and exchanged according to the speakers preference and possibly the emphasis the speaker is trying to get across.
Both the Bible and Quran discuss attributes of God- God will smite the evil doers, God will provide to the needy, God is compassionate, God is merciful, God is exacting, God is judge and just, God is everlasting, the Creator and these attributes go on. In Islam, however, the concept of God is never mixed up with the idea that God is cruel or that God is malevolent. I find that sometimes while reading the Bible I get this picture of God laughing at humanity and creation, but then again, there are multiple levels of translations that eschew the language of the Bible in ways that we, today at least, can’t completely untangle.
One of the most important attributes in Islam of God is that God is Most Merciful (along with God being Most Generous). To give you an idea of the importance of this attribute take these examples: A simple phrase, Bismillah ir Rahman nir Rahim (translation- In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Exceedingly Merciful) is recited before every meal; before starting a new task, before wearing new clothes, while sitting in a car, while endeavoring on a new task, before beginning a meeting and the list goes on. This same phrase is recited in the beginning of every reading of the Quran (except for one specific chapter of the Quran), in prayers it is recited in every standing section twice which, if praying all the prayers would mean a minimum of reciting it 35 times, but you add in their Surah Fatiha (The Opening Chapter) and you’ve double that amount. The short of it is that Muslims attune themselves to God’s Mercy all the time.
One of the most beautiful chapters of the Quran is Surah Rahman, in which human kind is asked over and over again, after each example of creation listed in the chapter- Which of these favors of your Lord will you deny? For Muslims creation itself, along with everything in it, is a mercy from God, an opportunity to do good, to seek out goodness in oneself, to attain a self that is closest to God and God consciousness. Out of all the attributes of God that are expressed in the Quran, the most famous and the most worthy to call upon is ar Rahman- ”Thy Lord is self-sufficient, full of Mercy: if it were God’s will, God could destroy you, and in your place appoint whom God will as your successors, even as God raised you up from the posterity of other people.” (Surah Al-An’am, verse 133)
To truly understand MERCY I find it hard to begin in any place besides God, because the Quran describes exactly how merciful God is. To embody MERCY, Muslims need to understand how forgiving God is. Its hard to comprehend that mercy because as humans we seem to have a hard time forgiving ourselves, but God has in the Quran and through examples given by the Prophet, expressed that he will be ever Merciful and ever Forgiving, we just need to turn to him with that faith and hope in his Mercy and Compassion.
Still want more? Go on to RD3—