Mercy, the Seal of Allah

Islam has been generally equated with "peace" and widely called a religion of "peace" as it literally means "entering into peace". This etymological connection serves as a basis of the common use of the word "peace" while defining Islam. Thus, Muslims identify their religion with "peace" just as the Christians equate their faith with "love". In addition to the etymological description of Islam as the "religion of peace", from a theological perspective, Islam can be more properly defined as "the religion of mercy" and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is called "the prophet of mercy" by Islamic revelation.

Dr. Umar Faruq Abdullah, chairman of the Nawawi Foundation, narrates us how "mercy", the seal of Allah, surrounds us from our creation through eternity; both in our finite lives on this world and our everlasting life on the world without end.


Allah shows mercy to the merciful and withholds it from those who hold it back from others so Muslim are ordered to be merciful not only to themselves and others but also the whole of existing things. This form of thought is called "the Tradition of Primacy" as it summarizes the main characteristics of Islam

Allah: The All-Merciful

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "People who show mercy to others will be shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth, and he who is in heaven will be merciful to you."  Allah shows mercy to the merciful and withholds it from those who hold it back from others so Muslim are ordered to be merciful not only to themselves and others but also the whole of existing things.  This form of thought is called "the Tradition of Primacy" as it summarizes the main characteristics of Islam.

"99 Names of Allah," are among the titles that Allah has used to define himself in his revelation and "Allah" is the most beautiful name covering all others. However, the All-Merciful (ar-Rahman) and the Compassionate (ar-Rahim) are the titles of Allah which are repeated in every recitation of the central Islamic code, Bismillahirrahmanirrahim (In the name of Allah, the Merciful and the Compassionate) which is key to Holy Quran and all approved actions. These two titles best characterize the relationship between Allah and the universe which is based on the eternal mercy of Allah. The Quran states: "It is the All-Merciful who assumed the Throne" (Quran 20: 5), meaning that mercy of Allah surrounds the universe as a whole so there is nothing on earth that is unclouded by mercy - even wrong and evil.  In the Holy Quran, special emphasis is laid on the supremacy of mercy in the universal plan and its dominant role as the universal law (sunna): "Our Lord, you have embraced all things in mercy and knowledge." (Quran 40: 7).


Prophet Muhammad did always follow the path of mercy, even in the battles. He set limits in rules of war prohibiting the predation of civilians, malicious devastation of lands and livestock and every kind of indiscriminate killing such as firing, flooding and poisoning

The Prophet of Mercy

Muhammad (pbuh) is the last prophet of Allah according to Islam and affirms the teachings of Allah's previous messengers Abraham, Moses and Jesus. He is the greatest messenger of Allah and was properly called the "prophet of mercy" (nabiy ar-rahma). The Quran says of him, "We did not send you but as a special mercy to all the worlds" (21: 71). The prophet stated, "In certainty, I was not sent to bring down curses; I was only sent as a special mercy."

In Arabic, the literal meaning that is attached to "mercy" is compassion and act of forgiveness whereas theologically, it is defined as "the intent to bring good to others and cause them benefit." Mercy makes its mark on every frame of the Prophet's life. He always did everything with the best intentions in order to bring good to others and set things aright. He took a strong interest in children and treated the adults gently. He attached an importance to sick calls and neighborhood. Prophet Muhammad respected not only his friends but also his followers and even those who gave no credence to him. He showed an unrestricted mercy to all people even to the faithless: "A funeral procession passed us by, and the Prophet, may God bless and keep him, stood up so we all stood up because he had. Then we said: ‘O Messenger of God, it is only the funeral procession of a Jew.' He replied: ‘Was he not a human being?'" His just and merciful treatment of people is what makes him an outstanding leader and is the secret of his success.

Prophet Muhammad did always follow the path of mercy, even in the battles. He set limits in rules of war prohibiting the predation of civilians, malicious devastation of lands and livestock and every kind of indiscriminate killing such as firing, flooding and poisoning. He took people at their word, never aimed at revenge and was always ready to forgive.  He was a partisan of peace even while he was already fighting and he was always inclined to clemency and harmony.  He even conquered Mecca in peace and after the conquest, he set everyone free. The endless compassion of Prophet Muhammad enabled the establishment of his authority in Mecca, advancement of mutual understanding and formation of new bonds. Thus, it was above all this merciful nature of the Prophet that enabled the formation of "pax Islamica (dar al-Islam)" in the Arabian Peninsula and salvation of the city of Medina from the civil war between its feuding clans and foundation of an island of equilibrium and harmony as well as winning the hearts of his most severe enemies. Thus, it was this mercy that "prepared the way for Islam's unparalleled triumph in the world beyond."


Muslims, following the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad, are supposed to be compassionate, to do everyone a kindness and to return good for evil

The Command to Be Merciful

Muslims, following the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad, are supposed to be compassionate, to do everyone a kindness and to return good for evil. Muslims, as the members of a religion that adopts a form of thought such as Tradition of Primacy, are commanded to show clemency to not only the Muslims but also to the Christians, Jews, the believing and unbelieving, the faithful and the vicious, to all human beings. Muslims' mercy should overreach the human family and should surround the whole of existing things; the animate and inanimate.

In the light of an anecdote of a sinful man who got water from a well for a thirsty dog, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told that showing good to every living creature would be rewarded.  On the other side, the Prophet (pbuh) stressed the heinousness of merciless behavior in Allah's eyes by telling of a woman who was doomed to punishment of hell for purposely letting a cat go hungry and die.

Mercy comes into being in the individual and then in circles, spread out to his/ her family, neighbors, society and finally to the world as a whole.

The cycle of mercy

Indeed, the cycle of mercy is closely related to "a law of universal reciprocity". The Prophet said, "Truly, God only shows mercy to those of his servants who are themselves merciful" and elsewhere He said, "Whoever shows no mercy, will be shown no mercy."   In other words, "mercy will be shown to the merciful and it will be withdrawn from the merciless".

According to the law of universal reciprocity, there is a close connection between mercy and true faith while merciless is connected with lack of faith and rejection of Allah. Mercy and true faith cannot go about with hatred and wrath in a heart. Without mercy, a heart is spiritually dead and mercy can only grow in healthy hearts those are full of sincere faith and spiritually alive.

Thus, Muslims' attitude towards the whole existing things is defined by all embracing mercy doctrine of Islam. As Muslims, we are the leading representatives of mercy and prosperity and we are commanded to bring good to everyone and peace to society. Finally, the advice of Prophet Muhammad shed light on the way of those whose hearts are spiritually alive and full of mercy: "Take an informed opinion (literally, fatwa) from your heart. What is good puts your self and your heart at rest. What is wrong is never fully acceptable to yourself and wavers in your heart, even if people give you a different opinion (fatwa) and keep on giving it to you."

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