She ran frantically amongst the crowd who had gathered to see the Prophetﷺ in the aftermath of a battle. This woman drew attention with her feverish search for her young child, who had gotten lost in the chaos as people had gathered from different places in town. When she found him, she picked him up and fervently started to breast feed him after their long separation. The Prophet’s companions were moved by this endearing reunion of a mother and her child. Using the event as the great teacher he is, our beloved, peace be upon him, turned to his companions and said:
“Do you see this woman? Would she ever throw her child into hellfire?” They undoubtedly responded: “No, by God, O messenger of God!” The Prophet then said: “Verily, God is more merciful with His servants than this woman with her child.” (Bukhari)
One is amazed by the extent of God’s mercy reflected in the Prophet’s statement. Many other verses of the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet, peace be upon him, speak of Allah’s mercy with His creation. One additional Prophetic narration states that God addresses us: “O My servants, you sin through the day and night, and I forgive all sins. So seek Me in forgiveness, and I will forgive you.” (Qudsi – Muslim)
The puzzling question that may come to mind is, if God is that merciful, more than a mother to her child, then how can He punish anyone, believer or nonbeliever, of His creation? How can He promise hellfire to those who disbelieve? Furthermore, we read in the Qur’an that the arrogant and ungrateful will not attain God’s mercy and forgiveness.
“So I (God) have warned you of a Fire which is blazing . None will burn therein except the most wretched one. Who had denied and turned away.” (Quran 92:14-16)
The answer is within the metaphor used by the Prophet ﷺ. It is through observing the kind of relationship between a mother and her children. A young boy or girl may disobey his/her mother, can break stuff in the house, or act naughtily. But the moment a serious warning is issued to the child, or in the event of sensing a danger, this child would run back crying to his/her mother seeking refuge and safety, even from light threats issued by the mother herself. It is in this instinct of running towards mothers, not away from them, that we find the answer and the qualifier for mercy. So does the arrogant or disbeliever seek refuge in God at the sign of danger? Does he or she heed the warning when it is communicated?
The Qur’anic narrative clearly distinguishes between sinners who fall prey to their desires or to a misguiding companion, and those who knowingly refuse God’s guidance and take pride in challenging it.
“Indeed, those who deny Our verses and are arrogant toward them - the gates of Heaven will not be opened for them, nor will they enter Paradise until a camel enters into the eye of a needle.” (Quran 7:40)
The magic word here is servitude—surrendering oneself willingly to God and admitting his/her true state of weakness before Him. It is the only “liberating” form of servitude to the Creator that sets us free from all other inward or outward manifestations of slavery to the creation. Realizing one’s place before God and returning to Him repeatedly via repentance breaks the barrier of sins every time. When a person exemplifies the humility of a servant, his/her servitude will awaken after every instant of disobedience. Enter another dimension of mercy, which is that God forgives every time we turn to Him, no matter how often we do it. Our beloved Prophet, the greatest display of God’s mercy, said it eloquently: “… and Allah will never quit (forgiving) until you quit (repenting and asking for forgiveness.)” (Tabarani and Bayhaqi)
In time, this bridge of servitude increases love towards God through knowing the extent of His mercy, just like a child’s love to his mother knowing the unlimited compassion and mercy she offers. A beautiful igniter of this love is how God teaches us to call Him in every prayer by “The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful” (Quran 1:3) and not by any of His other names such as The Avenger, The Compeller, or even The Sustainer or The Forgiving!
Remarkably, this only comes after He, most Exalted, teaches us to praise Him through our most noble connection to Him, as servants to the Lord of the worlds: “All the praises be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds (mankind, jinn and all that exists).” (Quran 1:2)
It is through discarding any remnants of arrogance and putting on the cloak of servitude that we enter into the vast realm of God’s mercy.
“So flee to Allah..” (Quran 51:50) not from Him, for He is more merciful with us than a mother to her child!
By Ghuydar Bashmaf , 17 Mar 2014