1. Articles
  2. The importance of ethics and values in Islamic Civilization - Rageb El sergany
  3. Mercy in Islam…Its Significance and Examples on Mercy

Mercy in Islam…Its Significance and Examples on Mercy

Article translated to : العربية Español

importance of mercy in islamic legislation

the first eye-catching feature in the holy quran, which is muslims’ constitution and their top and most importance source of legislation, is that all its chapters save at-tawbah (repentance) chapter, have been opened with basmala (the phrase: bismillahi ar-rahman ar-rahim or in the name of allah, most gracious, most merciful). it is clear for all that opening all quranic chapters with these two attributes has its obvious denotation on the importance of mercy in the islamic sharia. the close linguistic meaning of the two attributes is also unmistakable for everyone. scholars gave long details and several opinions on the difference between the two words[1]. allah could have been using another attribute with the attribute of being merciful, such as the incomparably great, the wise, the all-hearing, the all-seeing. it was also possible for allah to use another attribute with another meaning so as to strike a balance for readers in order to prevent the mercy attribute from prevailing, for example, the compeller, the lord of retribution or the subduer. but combining these two attributes with their close meanings at the start of each quranic chapter gives the very obvious indication: the attribute of mercy precedes par excellence all other attributes and that mercy is the basis of treatment and which never collapses in front of other bases.                                         

as a confirmation on this meaning, the first chapter in the order of the holy quranic chapters[2], al fatiha or the opening, starts with the basmala, which includes allah's two attributes: most merciful and most gracious, like the rest of chapters. in the same chapter, the two attributes were repeated. this is the first chapter in the holy quran and starting the quran with this chapter in particular has an obvious denotation, as well. surat al fatiha must be recited in each single prostration in each prayer – muslims pray five times each day. this means each single muslim repeats the word most merciful at least twice and repeats the word most gracious at least twice, too. these are four times in which each worshipper remembers allah's mercy in each single prostration. this means each worshipper repeats the attribute of mercy 68 times a day during a total of 17 prostrations each worshiper makes in his five daily prayers. this gives a perfect image on the high value of that great attribute: mercy.                               

this explains to us many of allah's apostle's hadiths, which describe the mercy of the creator. a hadith was narrated by abu huraira in which the prophet says: "when allah created the creation, he wrote in his book--and he wrote (that) about himself, and it is placed with him on the throne--'verily my mercy overcomes my anger"[3]

this is a stark declaration that the attribute of mercy overcomes and precedes the attribute of anger and that kindness precedes harshness.      


allah's apostle's mission as a mercy for all the creation
in addition, allah exalted he is sent his apostle, peace be upon him, only as a mercy for humankind and the entire creation. in the quran, allah exalted he is says what means: {we sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures} [the prophets: 107], and the prophet's character embodied this clearly and mercy was his logic when dealing with his companions and enemies. the prophet, peace be upon him, was encouraging people to be merciful. the prophet says: "allah will not give mercy to anyone, except those who give mercy to others"[4]. and the word "others" is general and does include everyone irrespective of race and religion. scholars say: this is general and does include showing mercy toward children and others[5]. ibn battal[6]said: “this hadith encourages people to show mercy toward all the creation, including believers, disbeliever and beasts, be them owned or not. animals should be supplied with food to eat and water to drink and should not be overloaded or beaten.”[7]     

in his hadith, the prophet, peace be upon him, said: “allah will not give mercy to anyone, except those who give mercy to others”. his companions said: oh, allah’s apostle, all of us give mercy. the prophet replied:“not through each of you giving mercy to his company, but through giving mercy to all people.”[8], and this means each muslim should give mercy to all people, including children, women and old people, be them muslims or non-muslims.         


the prophet, peace be upon him, also said: “have mercy on those who are on earth, and the one in heaven will have mercy on you”[9]and the word "those" refers to everyone on the planet. 

thus, this is the concept of mercy in the muslim community. these are the practical moral values that convey one's sympathy and love toward others. mercy in islam exceeds humankind to include animals – those creatures which cannot speak, as well as birds and insects!         

the prophet said a woman entered the (hell) fire because she was cruel with a cat. the prophet said: "a woman entered the (hell) fire because of a cat which she had tied, neither giving it food nor setting it free to eat from the vermin of the earth".[10]   

the prophet also said allah exalted he is forgave a man because he watered a panting dog. allah's apostle said: "while a man was walking he felt thirsty and went down a well and drank water from it. on coming out of it, he saw a dog panting and eating mud because of excessive thirst. the man said, 'this (dog) is suffering from the same problem as that of mine. so he (went down the well), filled his shoe with water, caught hold of it with his teeth and climbed up and watered the dog. allah thanked him for his (good) deed and forgave him." the people asked, "o allah's apostle! is there a reward for us in serving (the) animals?"he replied,"yes, there is a reward for serving any animate"[11]     

the prophet also told his companions that paradise was wide-open for an adulteress who was merciful toward a dog! allah's apostle said: "a dog was going around the brink of a well in an extremity of thirst, when a loose woman of the bani israel espied it. she lowered her leather sock into the well, drew up some water and gave the dog to drink. she was forgiven on account of this."[12]

it is astonishing: what's the value included in watering a panting dog next to something as hugely wrong as adultery! what's behind such a behavior matters most; it is mercy in the heart of everyone in light of which one acts, behaves and works and what is also more important is the impact of a behavior like this on the entire human society, in general.         


mercy toward dumb animals and small birds 
islam also commanded its followers to show mercy toward dumb animals and warned them to deprive them from food or overload them! the prophet, peace be upon him, came upon an emaciated camel and said: "fear allah regarding these dumb animals. ride them when they are in good condition and feed them when they are in good condition"[13]  

a man said: "o, messenger of allah, i have mercy on the sheep before i slaughter it". the prophet, peace be upon him, replied:"if you have mercy on it, allah will have mercy on you"[14]

moreover, islam ordered its followers to have mercy, not only on beasts and animals, but also on small birds from which humans get so big benefit the way they do from beasts. the prophet, peace be upon him, said: "whoever kills a sparrow or anything that is greater than this without its due reason, then allah will ask him about it on the day of judgment." he said:"what is its due reason, o, messenger of allah?" he said: "to slaughter it for the sake of eating, and avoid cutting its throat off to be thrown."[15]   

historians report that during amr ibn al-aas' conquest of egypt a pigeon rested on his tent and built a nest. he saw the nest when he is about to depart the place. but he did not like to disturb the pigeon by, for example, destroying its nest. so he left the nest only for several other pigeons to come and build their nests. the place later was called al-fustat city. in arabic, fustat means tent.        

ibn abdel hakam[16]reported, in his biography of the muslim caliph, umar bin abdel aziz, that umar ordered people not to jog horses except there is a due reason for that and that he sent to people a written book ordering them not to use heavy bridles and not to prod (animals) with a whip at its end a piece of iron is attached. he also wrote to his governor in egypt, saying: i learnt that in egypt there are camels being overloaded with up to one thousand pounds. when you receive this book, you should know that i know that each camel should not carry more than six-hundred pounds[17].                

this is the concept of mercy in the muslim community. mercy dominates the hearts of its members so that they have mercy on the weak, feel sorry for the sad, sympathize with the patient and feel for the needy even if it is a dumb animal. with such living and merciful hearts, the society becomes clear, turns away from crimes and it turns into a lighthouse of good and peace for everyone          




[1]ibn hajar: fat-h el-bari (grant of the creator) 13/358, 359

[2]the way quran chapters was ordered is tawqifi or unchangeable; allah revealed to his apostle to order the quran chapters the way they are although verses and chapters had been revealed in a different order, look: abu abdullah az-zarkashi: al-burhan fi oloum al-quran (the proof in the sciences of the quran) 1/260                

[3]al bukhari: kitab at-tawhid (book of oneness and uniqueness of god), chapter allah's saying:{nay, this is a glorious qur'an. (inscribed) in a tablet preserved}(constellations: 21,22) (7115), and the text words is his, and muslim: kitab at-tawbah (book of repentance), chapter allah's far-reaching mercy (2751). in another version, the word "precedes" is substituted for "overcomes", al bukhari: kitab bida al-khalq (book on beginning of creation) (3022)                    

[4]al bukhari: kitab at-tawhid (book of oneness and uniqueness of god), chapter the prophet's call on his nation to worship only one god; allah exalted he is (6941), and muslim: kitab al-fadha'el (book of virtues) chapter his mercy toward young boys and lads and his humbleness (2319)             

[5]an-nawawi: al minhaj fi sharh sahih muslim ibn al-hajjaj (the approach in the interpretaion of sound collection of muslim ibn al-hajjaj) 15/77   

[6]ibn battal: his full name is ali ibn khalaf ibn abdel malik ibn battal, also nicknamed ibn al-lajjam, one of the prominent scholars with wide knowledge, great discernment, good legibility. he interpreted al bukhari’s sahih in several volumes. he died in 449ah, look: al zirikli: al a’laam (leading figures) 4/85 and az-zahabi: siyar a’laam an-nubala (lives of noble people) 18/47          

[7]al mubarakfuri: tuhfat al ahwazi bisharh jami at-tirmizi 6/42

[8]musnad abi yala (4258), al bayhaqi: branches of faith (11060), al-albani said it is a correct hadith, look: the sound chain (167)

[9]at-tirmizi from abdullah ibn amr: kitab al-birr was-silah, chapter on having mercy on muslims (1924), ahmed (6494), al-hakim (7274) and abu essa said: this is a good sound hadith and al-albani said it is a sound hadith, look: sahih al-jami (the sound collection) (3522)       

[10]al bukhari: book of beginning of creation, chapter five animals must be killed when found in al-haram (3140), and muslim: book of penitence, chapter allah's far-reaching mercy and that it preceded his anger (2619)                

[11]al bukhari: book of distribution of water, chapter the virtue of giving water to thirsty creatures (2234), and muslim: book of peace, chapter the virtue of watering and feeding beasts (2244)           

[12]al bukhari: book of prophets, chapter {or dost thou reflect that the companions of the cave and of the inscription} (3280), and muslim: book of peace, chapter the virtue of watering and feeding beasts (2245)     

[13]abu dawood: book of al-jihad, chapter treatment of animals and beasts (2548), ahmed (17662), and shu'ayb al-arna'out said: this hadith's attribution is right, narrated by reliable men, ibn hibban (546), and al-albani said: it is a sound hadith, look: the sound chain (23)             

[14]ahmed (15630), al-hakim (7562), who said: this is a sound hadith with a sound attribution, at-tabarani: the large lexicon (15716) and al-albani said: it is a sound hadith, look: sahih at-targhib wat-tarhib (2264)   

[15]an-nasai from asharid ibn suwaid (4446), ahmed (19488), ibn hibban (5993), at-tabarani: the large lexicon 6/479, and ash-shawkani said: this hadith was reported with different versions and scholars had judged some of them as sound. look: ash-shawkani: as-sayl aj-jarrar 4/380     

[16]ibn abdel hakam: (187ah-257ah) is mohamed ibn abdullah ibn abdel hakam, nicknamed abul-qassim, historian and jurisprudent who follows the malikiya school of jurisprudence, born and died in egypt. look: al zirikli: the noble figures 3/282          

[17]look: mohamed ibn abdullah ibn abdel hakam: biography of umar ibn abdel aziz 1/141  

Previous article Next article
Supporting Prophet Muhammad websiteIt's a beautiful day