The Manner of Guidance and Mercy

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What is the manner of guidance and mercy? What does guidance means in islam? What does mercy mean in islam?  The method of spiritual guidance and mercy in serving humanity. A guidance and a mercy for the righteous ones

Murshids, well aware that the style of guiding is just as important as its content, have followed a prophetic path in this respect, too, mediating the guidance of many. By approaching, as a code, disciples with compassion and mercy to help them in their spiritual progress, they have acquired beneficial results. The lives of the righteous abound in many such examples. The below experience of the Sufi great Ibrahim Hakkı Erzurumi is noteworthy:

Ibrahim Hakkı had been invited to a nearby village in Erzurum to give sermons during the month of Ramadan. The villagers sent a young man, a non-Muslim, with a horse, to pick Ibrahim Hakkı up from his hometown and bring him to their village. As there was only one mount, Ibrahim Hakkı -may Allah sanctify his secret- took turns with the young man to ride the horse, as Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- had once done with his slave on the way to Jerusalem, despite the continuous protests of the young man.

“If the villagers hear about this”, he kept on saying, “not only will they scold me, they will also withhold my pay!”

“None of us know, son, the condition we are to be in during our last breath. You are afraid of the villagers’ reaction; yet I am afraid of the account I am to give in the presence of Allah!” replied Ibrahim Hakkı. So they continued taking turns nonetheless.  

As wisdom would have it and as had been the case in the journey of Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- and his slave, it was the young man’s turn to ride the mount, just as they were entering the village. Afraid of the villagers, the young man began pleading Ibrahim Hakkı, telling him that he had forfeited his turn.

“It’s your turn”, replied Ibrahim Hakkı, as they entered the village, with the young man on horseback and Ibrahim Hakkı walking in front of him.

Upon seeing the situation, the villagers abruptly encircled the young servant and scolded him.

“You rude, inconsiderate wretch!” they shouted. “You are just too comfortable riding the horse to give your spot up to this great man of respect, aren’t you? Is this how you do your job? Was this what we paid you to do?”

But Ibrahim Hakkı -may Allah sanctify his secret- calmed them down by explaining the situation. Thereupon, a villager called out to the young man, saying:

“Seeing this sort of virtue, the least you could do is become Muslim!”

After brief silence, the young man said:

“If you are calling me to your religion, never…But if you are calling me to the religion of this great man, I have already embraced that religion on the way here!”

The above approach of Ibrahim Hakkı -may Allah sanctify his secret- sets a standard for the desired style of guidance through compassion. It is to treat another for the sake of his essence, in a sense, to look upon creation with the gaze of the Creator. Pious hearts are therefore conscious of being entrusted on Earth as the caliphs of Allah, glory unto Him, and having been, in the words of the ayah, “breathed with the Spirit of Allah”.[1] So no matter how polluted by sin a person may be, seeing the inner perfection of his essence, they are never ones to turn a cold shoulder on him. Rarely do they lose hope in a person; they moreover help him hold onto hope until the very end. Hope, for them, is an indisputable incentive, both intellectual and emotional. We find, even in the Quran, the Almighty teaches us ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim more emphatically than all His other Names, to the point of even revealing a surah by the name of ar-Rahman that begins with the very same name, meaning ‘He whose mercy encompasses entire creation.’

Being over and above a style most harmonious with Divine Pleasure, looking upon human beings from the window of the heart and offering guidance through compassion also helps revive beauties concealed within the heart of the other, providing the most blissful results. This style imparts onto both the applier and the recipient that is to both sides of the scale, an exceptional elegance, maturity, love and hunger for the Real. It is the very elixir that has transformed many a Yunus and Rumi, a potion of life for many a heart in the throes of death.

Both the content of tasawwuf and the use of the Sufi style in calling to Islam have thus always proved to be of great significance. It is a historical fact that emerging at a time when the social order of Anatolia came under the disrupting grip of Mongolian hordes, great Sufis like Mawlana Rumi and Yunus Emre provided virtual springs of peace and tranquility for the disturbed masses, handing out comfort and cure bleeding wounds and weary hearts. Treating many an ignorant as a patient waiting for a cure, they lead lives utterly remote from malice and hatred. Yunus says it beautifully:

I did come to lay claim,[2]
Love is all that I aim,
Hearts are where the Friend dwells,
To mend hearts is why I came

Because they strived to mend hearts, these great figures have always gazed at others from the window of the heart and emitting love and compassion all around, they were able to lead to the guidance of many. Were they to act in opposition to this wonderful and prudent conduct, they would have completely severed what was left of the already thinned ties with the public, throwing out all their chances of guidance in the process. And this would have been in defiance of Divine Will, which desires for people to be saved from the swamps they have tripped into. The Almighty has sent tens of thousands of prophets throughout history, commanding them to purify hearts in the best possible style. The righteous (ahlullah), entrusted with maintaining the same duty, have continued to uphold this prophetic style in spiritual training.

Allah, glory unto Him, the sole source of mercy and compassion, reveals the most affective style for his servants to adopt in calling to the truth:

“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner…” (an-Nahl, 125)

“And who speaks better than he who calls to Allah while he himself does good, and says: I am surely of those who submit? And not alike are the good and the evil. Repel (evil) with what is best, when lo! he between whom and you was enmity would be as if he were a warm friend.” (Fussilat, 33-34)

The application of this style has turned many a thorny soul into a rose, many a pitch dark dungeon like heart into a sunlit garden.

Embarking from this principle, Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- underlines the importance of setting sinful human beings right on the path of truth and no less the style of conduct in doing so:

“Even if he be like iron, black and rusted, his rust will be cleansed once rubbed and polished. Polish a mirror and it will begin to shine beautifully, even if it be of iron; reflecting wonderful shapes and patterns.

Do not muddy the waters of the lake of the heart, if you wish to see the moon and the stars float above it! Humans are like a river; once the water is muddied, you will not be able to see any reflection!”

As Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says, human spirit is like clear water; if muddied by sin, it becomes murky, reflecting nothing of goodness. It then becomes necessary to refine the water to expose the spiritual gems and the light of truth in its waterbed. The aim of tasawwuf is therefore to rein in egotistic and selfish feelings and deliver the individual and in due course entire society to peace and harmony. The Lord has indeed adorned man with elegance and a sublime depth. Man’s true worth is to the degree he flourishes these traits implanted in his heart-world. Hearts pervaded by spirituality are gifted with good morals, righteous deeds and spiritual manifestations. Only in this way can man meet the terms of having been created in ahsan-i taqwim, in the best fashion thinkable.

Hence, no matter how far a person may have gone in disbelief and sin, he may not be deprived of his right of invitation to the truth. One of many such examples in the life of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- is recounted in the following:

The Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- had sent a Companion to call Wahshi to Islam; the same man who had sent the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- into enormous grief by martyring his beloved uncle Hamza -Allah be well-pleased with him-. Somewhat astounded, Wahshi responded:

“How can you call someone like me to Islam when Allah says, ‘And they who do not call upon another god with Allah and do not slay the soul, which Allah has forbidden except in the requirements of justice, and (who) do not commit fornication and he who does this shall find a requital of sin. The punishment shall be doubled to him on the day of resurrection, and he shall abide therein in abasement’ (al-Furqan, 68-69). I am a man who has committed all these ugly deeds. How can there be a way out for me?’

Revealed thereupon was the following ayah:

“Say: O my servants who have acted extravagantly against their own souls…! Do not despair of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the Forgiving the Merciful.” (az-Zumar, 53)

Relieved by the message of the ayah, Wahshi emotionally exclaimed:

“How great is your mercy, o Lord!” After a sincere repentance, he then embraced Islam with his friends.

Wahshi, who had martyred Hamza -Allah be well-pleased with him- at Uhud, had now become a Companion. Engrossed in the spiritual pleasure of receiving guidance and with the hope of making amends for his martyring of Hamza -Allah be well-pleased with him-, Wahshi -Allah be well-pleased with him- risked all dangers and killed Musaylamatu’l-Kadhdhab, the false prophet, and ended a tumultuous unrest.

“Is this compassionate pardon valid only for Wahshi, Messenger of Allah?” inquired the Companions.

“It is for all Muslims”, he answered.[3] 

As seen in the above narration, hearts that turned to a sincere repentance at the time heard the most affective testimonies of true compassion and love from the lips of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- himself. From those lips have entire humankind likewise heard refreshing words of cure and consolation. It is again from the grace of the Light of Being -upon him blessings and peace- that mankind is able to see the infinite ocean of mercy and generosity and the shore of hope. That they are addressed in the most compassionate manner by the Almighty –‘O My servants!’- is again only for the sake of that Noble Being -upon him blessings and peace-.

So in this day and age, giving priority to the mercy and compassion of the Lord and spreading hope is of crucial importance in dispersing the widespread spiritual crisis brought about by the materialistic influences of the West. It is much more realistic to win people over emotionally than to steer them into rational debates. Today, many are rationally conditioned for the worse, which makes it almost impossible to persuade them through argumentation. When a person is rationally conditioned to respond to something in a pre-established way, it prevents him from accepting rational proofs. In warming hearts to the truth, it would therefore be more affective to first approach people leniently and then help them flourish their inner spiritual tendencies.

One must give priority to winning the heart of a person swamped in error, rebellion and sin before criticizing, censuring or even asking him to fulfill religious commands. For this, one must try to establish a bond of love with the person, the ground of personal closeness. Once the person’s heart begins to acquire a certain blend, one may then begin to gradually correct his mistakes. One must not underestimate the spiritual blessings compliments and treats, both spiritual and physical, bring. In this regard, one must grasp the subtlety of the following words of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, a virtual window of hope opened to hearts stifled under the smoke of sin, offering them a fresh breath of life:

“My intercession is especially for those among my ummah who have committed great sins.” (Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 20)

Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- wonderfully elaborates the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- merciful attitude towards sinners: “Medicine looks for the ill and wounded, to heal them. To sickness is where the cure goes. To a ditch is where the water flows. If it is the water of mercy and compassion you need, then be like that, too!”

But for the medicine to be effective, the wound must first be cleaned from all bacteria. Cleaning ill hearts from the bacteria of sin is for them to be washed with the water of repentance. The medicine, that is the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- intercession, takes place only afterwards.

In another hadith, it is said: “A repenter from sin is like he never sinned.” (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 30) This is an expression that brings glad tidings on the one hand, while indicating the depth of Divine compassion on the other.

The delicate measure of guiding through compassion implemented by all prophets has also been diligently followed by the righteous. Accordingly, the first fruit of faith has come to be considered as compassion and servanthood has concisely been defined within the two standards below:

Ta’zim li-amrillah; or to observe the commands of Allah, glory unto Him, delicately and full of respect.

Shafqat li-khalqillah; or to show mercy and compassion to the created for the sake of the Creator.

Fudayl ibn Iyad -may Allah sanctify his secret- offers a splendid example of a Muslim who leads a life within this measure:

Seeing him crying one day, they asked him the reason.

“I am crying because I am upset on behalf of another Muslim who has done me wrong”, he replied. “I fear he will suffer in the Hereafter.”

Shedding light onto what it exactly is that sends mature Muslims of such ilk to feel such mercy and compassion, Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says: “Once the seas of mercy surge, even stones drink the water of life. Corpses dead for a hundred years rise from their graves and faces, dark and devilish, assume an angelic beauty envied by even the houris of Paradise.”

It is reported that Ibrahim Adham -may Allah sanctify his secret- once washed the grimy mouth of a drunken man, responding to those who could not understand why he did so, by saying:

“It would be disrespectful for me to leave a mouth and tongue, created to mention the name of Allah, grimy!”

When the man regained consciousness, they told him that “Ibrahim Adham of Khorasan just washed your mouth!”

Feeling embarrassed, the man was suddenly awoken spiritually, as he murmured, “In that case, I hereby repent for good!”

Ibrahim Adham -may Allah sanctify his secret-, who mediated the guidance of the man, that night heard a voice in his dream:

“You washed his mouth for us; so We washed his heart for you!”

In the Quran, Allah, glory unto Him, advises the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and in his person the entire Muslims with the following: “Take to forgiveness and enjoin good and turn aside from the ignorant.” (al-Araf, 199)

In putting this command to practice, the most perfect example is without a doubt provided by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. The morals, compassion and forgiveness he displayed were of a kind that would make even angels envious, so to speak. Here is just one among many:

On the day of the liberation of Mecca, the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- had declared a general amnesty. Mecca, having witnessed nothing but oppression, mockery and enmity for years on end, was now making the most of the sweet breeze of compassion and mercy, ensured by the great forgiveness gusting throughout. But a Meccan by the name of Fadala, with the intention of casting a grim shadow over this pleasant day, approached the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- with the intention of killing him. Yet, possessing insight to his malicious intention all along, without showing any sign of panic or anger, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- spread his wings of mercy for Fadala and, placing his graceful hands on Fadala’s chest, said:

“Repent, Fadala, from the plot you have contrived in your mind!” The malicious intention disappeared from Fadala’s mind there and then. His heart melted and was thereby filled with the light of iman. In his sight, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- suddenly became the most beloved of all beings.[4]

This is, without a doubt, exceptional maturity of conduct that puts into action the principle ‘Let he who has come to kill you, be revived through you’; and the history of Islam abounds in such examples. Many, including Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him-, are fruitful results of this wonderful style of approach. Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says:

“From the perfection of the mercy of Allah and the billowing waves of the ocean of benevolence, each arid land receives rain and each arid soil is united with water.”

“You who calls to guidance…! Know that the medicine for an evil eye is a good eye! A good eye and a beautiful gaze stomp on the evil eye and destroy it. A good eye and a clean gaze owe their being to the fact that the mercy of Allah is superior to His wrath. It is from mercy. An evil eye is from wrath, curse. As a beautiful gaze is from Divine mercy, it reigns supreme over the evil eye. This is but a manifestation of what is expressed in the hadith al-qudsi as ‘My mercy has overtaken My wrath’ (Bukhari, Tawhid, 55). Know that under all circumstances, the mercy of Allah is superior to His wrath. It is because of this that every prophet has reigned supreme over his enemies.

So ridding troubles is not through complaining or oppressing. Its cure is to show benevolence and forgive. Let the warning of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- ‘Charities rid one of troubles’[5] wake you up. Realize the way to treat illnesses and troubles!

But do not forget that forgiving the oppressor is to oppress the exploited! To feel sorry for the thief and the wretch is to beat the weak and deprive them of mercy!”

One must therefore establish a delicate balance. True, the Almighty is Ghafuru’r-Rahim, the Forgiver and the Merciful; yet He is also Azizun Dhu’ntiqam, The Dignified Avenger of the rights of the exploited from the oppressors.

The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- has hence said:

“On seeing two of your brothers fighting, run to the aid of both the oppressor and the oppressed.”

“We see how we are meant to aid the oppressed, Messenger of Allah; yet how can we help the oppressor?” asked the Companions, on which the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- said:

“By preventing him from oppressing…” (Bukhari, Ikrah, 7; Muslim, Birr, 62)

What we wish to say, in short, is that both faith wise and islamically, humanity today, including Muslims, is like a wounded bird. It is therefore necessary to approach them with care and sensitivity and dress their wounds. And this can only be done observing the content and style we have tried to convey above.

Tolerance for the sinner should not be carried over to the sin; and hostility to the sin should not be reflected onto the sinner. A Muslim of this mind should direct criticism to himself and tolerance to another, as an adopted manner of calling to the truth.

[1]        See, al-Hijr, 29.

[2]        Davi in the original Turkish.

[3]        See, Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawaid, X, 214-215.

[4]        Ibn Hisham, IV, 37; Ibn Kathir, as-Sirah, III, 583

[5]        See, Tirmidhi, Zakat, 28; Suyuti, al-Jamiu’s-Saghir, I, 108.

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, Sufism, Erkam Publications

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