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Compassion

Your God is one God;
there is no other God than He,
the compassionate, ever-merciful.

Al-Baqarah, 2:163

Some thoughts

Al Fatiha stated it clearly and it is the first segment of the Islamic creed of faith: there is but one God. There is but one supreme reality that underlies everything and that gives existence to all that exists. It makes no sense to go and look for other Gods because there can be but one divine principle that is the deepest of the deepest and the essence of the essence. For a believer, therefore, the question is not so much “Does God exist?” but rather: “How can I recognize this divine principle? How do I come to know that I’m indeed not worshipping a man-made idea or false image of God? How can I be sure that I’m in fact searching for that one God and not a figment of my imagination?”

The Quran offers the answer to that question again and again: God is the exceedingly compassionate and ever-merciful. Of all the names he receives in the Quran, Ar-Rahman – the compassionate – is the most used. This can teach us many things but above all it can teach us that our concept of God always has to be consistent with the fact that He is exceedingly compassionate. So whatever we think we discover of God, if it contradicts the fact that He is compassionate, then we know that we’re on the wrong track and our search has led us into illusions.

The same applies to our own dealings: if we become less compassionate, we are moving away from God. Compassion is an essential aspect of the divine and as such it is possible to recognize whether somebody is truly walking a spiritual path or not – that is to say, you can tell by that their compassion is growing or diminishing.

Therefore, whatever we might read in the Quran, although it might sometimes sound harsh or even aggressive to those who aren’t from a Muslim culture – and I am one of those – if we cannot reconcile it with the idea of an ever compassionate God, then we haven’t really comprehended it. Whatever explanation is given to any verse in the Quran, if that explanation is not consistent with a compassionate God, then it is a false explanation. And I believe this idea extends beyond reading or understanding the Quran. Whatever holy text we take into our hands, if it cannot be reconciled with the divine principle of compassion, then it’s either not a holy text or we haven’t comprehended it correctly.

What Christians can learn

The most essential virtue Christianity upholds is love. Even so much so that in a letter of John we can read that “God is Love”. Islam, however, seems to say “God is compassion”. Of course the two concepts are certainly not opposed to each other. On the contrary, they are intrinsically linked and one can certainly not exist without the other, but it is still more then worthwhile to think over the subtle distinction. For, while love is something that brings us to others, compassion is needed to keep us together. Love loves the good in others. Compassion forgives the bad.

Because of this, compassion is a surer road to peace, for love helps us transcend our ego while compassion is a virtue that helps us to transcend our conflicts.

It makes no sense to act as if we don’t have conflicts. Yet when love is our main focus, it has been my experience, people often avoid the conflicts and do not deal with them because they get into a cramped and illusionary effort ‘to love’. Because they think they have to love, they avoid the conflict because they are not able to forgive. So many Christians should perhaps question themselves whether they haven’t been running away from conflicts or have cut contacts with people because, when you get to the bottom of it, they simply couldn’t forgive the others for some or other reasons.

It is easy to love those that are a part of our group or family but how many times have we left out people that hurt us somehow and how much did we feel very justified in doing so? Many Christians should therefore reflect on the fact that God is not only ‘reaching out’ but also ‘embracing’. The same is true for spirituality: it should always reach out for the good but also embrace the bad – and in so doing, transform it.

Questions for Muslims

If God is all-embracing and ever compassionate why then does the Quran mention so many times that those who believe will find forgiveness but those that don’t will surely perish? Even the verse of Al Baqarah quoted here, is surrounded by verses who warn the disbelievers will not be given any respite. How then can this be coupled to his name of Ar-Rahman?

It seems to me that it all depends on what is understood to be ‘disbelieving’. Is disbelieving the reluctance to say a certain creed? Is a believer simply the one who says there is but one God and Muhammad is his prophet? Most certainly not. The Quran is more than clear on this matter in several verses. Many are hypocrites: they say they believe but they do not in any way live like a faithful person. So it isn’t because you call yourself a Muslim that you will get saved. It is because you live according to the divine principles that underlie existence. And a disbeliever is not a disbeliever simply because he does not say or mentally believe a certain set of propositions or creeds. It is not because you do not call yourself a Muslim that there will be ‘no respite’ for you. (If that would be so, it would have made no sense at all that Christian women could, according to Islamic tradition, stay Christian even when married to a Muslim).

In short then: ‘believing’ in a Quranic sense means submission to the divine principles and not the utterance of a specific set of words. Without saying any of the ‘correct’ words, we can be submitted to the divine principles for we can be a very compassionate person when our heart and soul yearns for it even when we don’t call ourselves a believer. And on the other hand, someone who says the shahada can be a very uncompassionate person – and as such be much more of an unbeliever, for he has not understood this very essential attribute of the divine.

When there will be no respite for the disbelievers then, it is not because God is uncompassionate towards them, but it’s because they themselves place their own being outside of the divine principles. They themselves choose a path of egoism and aggression. It is not God that hurts them, but is they themselves that hollow out their own hearts.

And if all of this is true, then I feel the need to ask: how hollow is the heart of those that want to punish or even kill Muslims who change their faith? Why is there often such a hard reaction to people who choose to leave Islam? If their choice leads them to a life of compassion, peace and service, what is wrong with that? Do they not live according to the divine principles? And are they in that sense not believers of Ar-Rahman, even though they might call him differently? Of course they are. But what about those that want to hurt them or that cast them outside their community of family and friends? Where is their compassion? Are they true followers of Ar-Rahman? I truly have my doubts about that.

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Comments

Salam. I read your research

maryam

Salam. I read your research and hopefully your doubts may be reduced after this:
In Quran many verses tell us..that Allah does not put us in difficulties or in doing wrong or leaving the religion...its "man" who put all these matters on to himself as Allah has given us choice to do wrong or right...and the path our wisdom chooses is the track on which we walk on. And its not that ,who believes will find forgiveness;actually its essence still depends on the deeds we do.Allah says to ask for Right Path and i'll give you....it means people who go astray dont pray for the right path.And such people are ignorants and ignorants are hypocrites...for hypocrites and people who do shirk would not be granted forgiveness.

If you want ayaats supporting it,i'll give you soon.

The right path

Jonas Yunus

Dear Maryam, I'm not completely sure I understand you correctly, but if you mean that those who do not follow Islam weren't praying correctly and or on a 'wrong' path, I must disagree. If you on the other hand mean that does who are good people and thus help others and bring peace to the world are on the right path and that does who hurt others and disrupt the harmony are the ones who did not really ask God to be taken on the right path, then I do agree. 

I most certainly feel very supported by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in my idea that one can go away from Islam and still be a lot more of a Muslim than some others who call themselves Muslim but in fact do not walk the path of righteousness. For in my conversation with Imam Feisal, he also opposed any penalty on apostasy - with different arguments than mine, but a similar conclusion. And he as well said "that whoever follows his conscience, is a Muslim in God’s eyes. (...) The person that believes in God and the last day and does good, has nothing to worry about because God defines your religion upon your belief in Him and your ethics. What you call yourself is immaterial."

yes i am talking about your

maryam

yes i am talking about your second view. And i also second Imam Feisal.

Hello

Anonymous

The main difference between 2 messages of 2 religionsis that Quran is the last warning to mankind and Bible describes the ways of love to reach God. Because God says that I have done all for the mankinnd with Quran and this is absolute his last warning. I agree on compassion issue but you should always comprehend that this is not main issue. Of course you should comtemplate by your self about the consequences of this compassion. Main motive of this compassion will again be the love of God but this message is hidden under the text and you should be the one to underline it not the God this time -since God is not sure whether he likes you or not anymore. The mankind no matter which warnings and loves he received remains to act as same and tries to defy God and his truthness by refusing his rules. So , in that respect, in Quran god does not care about human thoughts anymore because already he knows them by hard...

Best Regards,
ANIL YIGIT

Anil : but Allah does say

maryam

Anil : but Allah does say that He is nearer to human than his jugular vein. How is it possible then that He does not care about Human Thoughts? And at many places Quran says Allah knows what is in ur heart and mind....arn't they thoughts? what is your ansr now. But i do like tha idea of Compassion ...because in Quran contextual knowledge is quite important.

but he is hopeless

ANIL YIGIT

God is hopeless about mankind in Quran. That is why his statement in Quran is just like a last warning compared to Bible's soft love determining wording . God gives importance about thoughts of one person but not this time persons because he is convinced that there is no way to train the mankind. He prefers this time to set the rules in more designative way. I do think the same as you that contextual knowledge is vey important in Quran.

Later

Jonas Yunus

Dear Anil, in a coming commentary on another Quran-verse I will in fact discuss some the issues you talk about here. I'm still writing it out at the moment, but it will be published soon.

Anil if you are talking in a

maryam

Anil if you are talking in a sense that ...Allah does not need anything from your deeds as if one follows his command...the one following it benefits..not Allah...and the ones who dont ,ruin themselves ....to some extent you are right but about thoughts ...that Allah knows very well. We are HIS creation...as a mother knows her child....Allah knows his creation and cares for them in a way just like a mother....because Allah said: " I love My man seventy thousand times more than a mother loves her child".