Forgiving and kind
To God belongs the kingdom
of the heavens and the earth.
He may forgive whosoever He please
and afflict whosoever He will.
Yet God is forgiving and kind.
No-one is as merciful as the one that could destroy everything but eventually shows forgiveness and kindness. The grandour of God therefore doesn’t lie in His overwhelming power but in His gentleness.
The surah says that both heaven and earth 'belong to God'. That's because they are His creation. He could, if He pleased, destroy all that is found within the heavens and the earth - which means He could destroy everything. But he does not and allows everything to have a place within His creation. And if everything has a place within His creation, everything has a place within Him, for he surrounds all of that creation. In other words: there is nothing outside of God and everything within God is treated with kindness.
It might take some time for some to be able to perceive this in the world, but it can actually be seen everywhere you look. Everything you can see in the heavens and the earth might eventually wither and die but if you reverse that thought, you can see that everything is also granted a time of existence. It is given the possibility to take shape and to become a part of the beautiful whole.
What Christians can learn
We are not to rule the world – God is. The beautiful whole exists by grace of the divine but we often forget it. A lot of Christian societies have therefore come to the point that they have overestimated their ‘guardianship’ of creation. Instead of dealing with our planet and nature as if it were a gift to treasure, we started to decide that we could mould it, change it and extract it in any way we pleased. And now we reach the limits of this thoughtlessness. Species are going extinct at alarmingly high speed, heavy changes of the climate cause calamities and natural resources deplete too quickly for too often we destroy without restoring.
There can be but one reason why God lets us still continue such a way of life: he is indeed very forgiving and kind. The limits of the divine are very wide and allow us many mistakes. So if God is always called a Father in Christianity, perhaps it is time we discovered more of his ‘embracing motherness’. It might teach us that, just like a mother, He’s forgiving and kind because He keeps more faith in us than we in Him.
What does it mean to say “God has faith in us”? It means that the deeper divine love is still with us and that, if this is so, there still is enough goodness in mankind. It must mean that there still are enough people who do strive for a new world full of peace and balance. And that should give us hope.
Questions for Muslims
Striving for peace and balance is not something we should only do in our society and in the way we deal with nature. It should be an aspect of our daily lives and personal relationships as well. Spiritually speaking this is rather self-evident. But sadly enough I often see a lot of insistence on harsh power in many Muslim families. (Well, certainly not only in Muslim families, but let me perhaps say: also in Muslim families.) Whether it is a matter of culture or religion is of little concern here, but I simply state what I see: often a strongly conservative mind-set of certain fathers and mothers limits the lives of their children and blames them harshly when they do something wrong – or even when they’re simply a bit different than the norm.
If even the heaven and earth belong to God, how much more than do our own lives and those of our children belong to Him? Should we not take it as an example then, how God rules the heaven and earth? He does so with forgiveness and kindness. Whatever your own specific style of education, should forgiveness and kindness not always be the norm to raise a family? That seems to me to be the basis of true guardianship – whether it is guardianship of the world as a whole or of a small family.