Prophet Muhammad - A Mercy for All
i - Mercy for Slaves
The Noble Prophet was particularly kind to slaves. He used to say, "They are your brothers; give them to eat what you eat, and give them to wear what you wear." Whenever he received any slaves, he always gave them freedom but they could never free themselves from his kindness and generosity. They left their parents, relatives and families and regarded it as an honour to live in bondage to him.
Zaid Ibn Haritha was a slave. Muuhammad freed him and gave him the choice to go with his father, who had come, to take him, but he refused to go with his father and preferred to stay with the Prophet. Muhammad loved Osama, son of Zaid, so much that he used to say that if he had been a girl, he would have adorned him with ornaments.
Slaves felt humiliated at being called slaves. He advised his companions not to say "my slave" or "my slave-girl" but to say, "my son" or "my daughter." He also told the slaves not to call their masters "lord" for Allah alone was the Lord. He was so kind to slaves that his last admonition before he died was, "Fear Allah in regard to your slaves." Abu Dharr was one of the converts and Muhammad praised him for his honesty. Once he abused a non-Arab slave, who complained to the Noble Prophet about this.
He reprimanded Abu Dhar and said, "You still have some traces of Days of Ignorance; these slaves are your brothers. Allah has given you authority over them; if they are not suited to your temperament, sell them. Don’t harm Allah’s creatures. Give them to eat what you eat; and wear what you wear. Don't give them that much work which they cannot do. If you assign a piece of work to them which is beyond their capacity, then give them a helping hand to finish their work.’
Once Abu Masud Ansari was beating his slave when he heard a voice behind him say, "Abu Masud! Allah has more power and control over you than you have over this slave." Abu Masud turned and saw that it was Allah's Messenger. He said, "O Allah's Messenger! I free this slave for the pleasure of Allah." Prophet Muhammad replied, "If you had not done so, the fire of Hell would have touched you."
People in those days arranged the marriages of slaves but forcibly separated them whenever they wished. One man arranged the marriage of his slave to his slave-girl and then waited to separate them. The slave complained to Allah's Messenger, who stood up in the Mosque and ad dressed the people "Why do people marry slaves and then separate them? The right of marriage and divorce belongs only to the husband and wife."
The effect of this kindness was that many slaves of polytheists used to run away and come to him. He used to grant them freedom. When the spoils of war were distributed, slaves were given their due share. The newly freed slaves received their shares first for they did not have any property.
Once a man came to Prophet Muhammad and said, "O Allah's Messenger! How many times should I forgive the mistakes of slaves?" The Noble Prophet kept quiet. The man repeated his question three times, and the Prophet replied at the third time, "Forgive them seventy times every day." A man had two slaves but was not happy with them. He used to beat and abuse them but they did not change their ways. He complained to the Prophet and asked for his advice. Prophet Muhammad said that if his punishment was in proportion to their wrongs, well and good; otherwise Allah would punish him for his excesses.
On hearing this the man was upset and began crying. Prophet Muhammad recited the verse from the Qur'an, "We shall set up scales of justice on the Day of Judgement." (1:47) and observed that the man did not read the Qur'an. After this he said, "O Allah's Messenger, it is better that I release them from my possession. Be witness that they are now free."
ii - Mercy for Women
Prophet Muhammad (Peace be on him) was also very kind and affectionate towards women. Women were very badly treated in those times. The Noble Prophet gave them honour and dignity at par with men in the community. Omar reported, "We did not have much regard for women, while we were at Makkah, but they were better treated in Madinah. Allah's Messenger established women’s rights through his sayings and commandments, which improved their position and status.”
Men enjoyed the priviledge of the company of Allah’s Messenger most of the time while women did not get any time while women did not get any time to listen to him or enquire about their problems. Therefore, women requested him to allocate one day for them for this purpose. The prophet accepted their request and fixed a day for them. As women are usually of a tender and weak nature, he took special care of them and always treated them with kindness. As a result, women felt free to enquire about their problems without any fear and hesitation.
Once on a journey with the Noble Prophet, Anjasha, an Abyssinian slave was walking ahead of the camels and was singing. Some of the wives of the Noble Prophet happened to be with him on that journey. While Anjasha was singing, the carriers began moving fast. At that, Prophet Muhammad said, "Anjasha, take care lest the crystals (women) may break."
Asma Bint Amees was one of those who had emigrated to Abyssinia in the early period of Islam. When during the expedition of Khaybar, while the Muslims were on their way back to Madinah, she also came with them. One day she came to see Hafsah when Omar was also there. On that occasion, Omar casually remarked that as they had emigrated before them they had greater claim to Allah's Messenger than others. Asma became angry and said, "Never, you people lived with Allah's Messenger who fed the hungry, while we were away from home, living among strangers in Abyssinia who often maltreated us and we were in constant fear of our lives."
While this talk was going on, Allah's Messenger entered to whom Asma said, "O Allah's Messenger, Omar has said this." Prophet Muhammad asked, "What did you reply?" She told the whole story, whereupon the Noble Prophet said, "Omar has no more right over me than you have. Omar and his companions emigrated only once, whereas you people emigrated twice."
When the report of this incident spread in Madinah, Abyssinian emigrants came running to Asma and listened to Allah's Messenger's words again and again. According to Asma's account, there was nothing more pleasing in the world to the ears of the Abyssinian emigrants than the wordss of the Prophet.
Once many women relatives of Prophet Muhammad were sitting around him and talking loudly to him. When Omar came they all left, at which the Prophet laughed. Omar said, "O Allah's Messenger, may Allah keep you smiling. Why did you laugh?", The Prophet remarked that he was amazed at the behaviour of those women, who, on hearing Omar's voice, had all hidden themselves from him. Omar, addressing them, said, "You fear me but do not fear Allah's Messenger." They all said, "You are a hot-tempered person in comparison to Allah's Messenger."
Once the Noble Prophet was sleeping with his face covered in the apartment of Ayeshah. It was the day of Eid and young girls were singing. Abu Bakr entered the house and asked the girls to stop. The Prophet said, "Let them sing, it is the day of Eid for them."
As a result of Prophet Muhammad's exemplary temperament and kind treatment, women used to ask him questions and the companions were often surprised at their boldness, but he never showed any kind of aversion or displeasure towards them. It is reported by many companions, including Abu Saeed, Ayeshah, Anas, Ibn Abbas and Jabir, that Allah's Messenger said, "Whoever has two or three daughters or sisters and treats them well will go to Paradise."
iii - Mercy for Animals
Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) was kind to every living creature and this kindness knew no limits. He was very kind to animals as well. Arabs, like all ignorant and illiterate people, were very unkind to their animals. It was very common in Arabia to put a collar round the neck of a camel, but this practice was stopped on the Prophet's orders. People used to cut pieces of flesh from living animals and cook and eat them. This common practice was forbidden.
It was also forbidden to shear their hair or tails. Prophet Muhammad said that the tail was the brush and fan (if these animals and hair was their quilt. He also forbade people to keep animals tied to their working equipment for a long time and said, "Don't make the backs of animals your chairs." Animal fights were also made unlawful. Another custom was to tie up an animal and practise arrow shooting on it. This was also prohibited.
Once Prophet Muhammad (peace be on Him) saw a donkey on the road with a brand on its face, and said, "Allah's curse is on him who branded it." As people had to brand their camels and sheep in order to identify them, they were told to brand them on parts which were not so tender. Anas reported that he went into a herd of sheep and saw Allah's Messenger branding them on the ears.
Once the Prophet was on a journey with his companions and they stopped for rest at a certain place. A bird had laid an egg there. A man took away the egg and the bird began beating her wings in a state of great distress. The Prophet enquired who had hurt her by taking her egg. When the man admitted that he had done that, the Prophet asked him to return the egg to the nest.
A companion who had some baby birds wrapped in a piece of cloth came to the Prophet. On enquiry, he told Prophet Muhammad, "I heard a noise from a bush, went there, saw these chicks, and took then out. When their mother saw what had happened, she began to hover over my head." The Prophet told him to go back and return the chicks.
Once he saw a camel on the road, whose belly had shrunk so much because of extreme hunger that it had become one with its back. He said, "Fear Allah in your treatment of these animals who cannot speak." Muhammad himself fed animals, tied carriers and milked goats.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) once told a story to his companions. There was a man who went on a journey and on his way felt very thirsty. He found a well and went down into it and drank water. When he came out of the well he saw a dog who was also very thirsty and was licking the salty ground with his tongue. Thinking that the animal was thirsty like him, he again went down into the well, filled his leather socks with water and gave it to the dog. Allah was so pleased with this action of the man that He granted him Paradise. There is another story about a woman going to Hell who starved her cat to death.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) was so kind and gentle that he advised his companions to be nice and considerate even while slaughtering animals for food. He asked them to slaughter them with the sharpest weapon, thus causing the minimum pain and suffering to the animal. He also forbade them to sharpen the weapon in front of the animal or when the animal was ready for slaughter, but told them to do these preliminaries before the animal was brought for slaughter.
Prophet Muhammad taught people by word and deed to be kind and polite to everyone. Abu Hurairah reported the Prophet as saying, "A believer is friendly (and kind)." Ayeshah reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "Allah is gentle and likes gentleness. He gives for gentleness what he does not give for harshness and what He does not give for anything else."
Ayeshah also reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "He who is given his share of gentleness is given from his share of the good of this world and the next, but he who is deprived of his share of gentleness is deprived of his share of the good of this world and the next." Abdullah Ibn Masud reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "Shall I not tell you about the man who is kept away, from Hell and from whom Hell is kept away? From the person who is gentle and kind, accessible and of an easy disposition."
Prophet Muhammad, by his own example, had instilled this kind of behaviour in his companions, who, after him, set an example for other people. This is shown by the following incident. It is reported by Abdullah Ibn Jafar that he passed by a grazing field and saw an Abyssinian slave guarding a herd of goats. A dog came and sat in front of him. He took out a loaf of bread and gave it to the dog, who ate it. Then he gave the second and third loaves of bread to the dog who ate them all. He enquired of the slave how many loaves of bread he got daily from his master. He replied that he got as many as he saw.
At this, he asked why he gave all his bread to the dog. The slave replied that the dog did not belong to that place and must have come hoping for food from a long distance, hence he did not like his effort to be wasted. Abdullah said that he liked his action so much that he bought the slave along with the goats and the grazing field from his master, set him free and gave him all the goats and the grazing field. The slave thanked him and prayed for him and gave all the goats and the grazing field in charity and went away.
iv - Mercy for Relatives
Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) was very kind to his relatives and asked his followers to treat their parents and relatives with kindness. Abu Hurairah reported that a man asked Allah's Messenger, "Who is most deserving of friendly care from me?" He replied, "Your mother." He asked who came next and Prophet Muhammad replied, "Your mother." He asked who came next and he again replied, "Your mother." He again asked who came next and he replied, "Your father." And last of all, he replied, "Your nearest relatives."
He also reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "May he be humbled; may he be humbled; may he be humbled." He was asked about whom he was speaking. He replied, "The one, who, having one or both parents live to old age, does not enter Paradise (by treating them nicely)." Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr, sais that her mother, who was a nonbeliever, came to her at the time of the treaty with the Quraishi. She asked Allah's Messenger, "My mother, who is ill-disposed towards Islam, has come to me. Shall I show her affection and treat her with kindness" The Prophet asked her to treat her mother with kindness.
Ibn Omar reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "One of the first acts of kindness is for a man to treat his father's friends in a kind manner after his death." Anas reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "He who wishes to have his provisions increased and his term of life prolonged should treat his relatives well." Abu Hurairah and many other companions reported Allah's Messenger as saying that Rahim (ties of kinship) is a word derived from the Compassionate One, (Al-Raheem). Allah said, "I shall keep connection with him who joins You and sever connection with him who severs you." Abdullah Ibn Abu Aufa told that he heard Allah's Messenger say, "Mercy will not descend on a people among whom there is one who severs ties of kinship."
Anas reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "By Him in Whose Hands is my soul, a man does not believe until he wishes for his brother what he does for himself." Abu Hurairah reported Allah's Messenger as saying "By Allah he does not believe," and he repeated it thrice. When asked to whom he was referring, he replied, "The one from whom his neighbour is not safe." Abdullah Ibn Amr reported Allah's Messenger as saying, best companion in Allah's sight is the one who is best to his companion, and the best neighbour in Allah's sight is the one who is best to his neighbour."
This is one of the principles put forward by Islam as a foundation for the whole structure of human relationships. "Treat your parents with great consideration. If either or both of them live with you in their old age, do not say a word of contempt to them, nor rebuke them but speak kind words to them; treat them with humility and tenderness and pray: 'Lord, be merciful to them just as they brought me up with kindness and affection.'” (Qur'an, 17:23-24) In Surah Luqmaan, we read, "And We have enjoined on man to be good to his parents, to show gratitude to Me and to your parents." (Qur'an, 31:14)
The essence of Islam is to serve Allah and be kind and good to one's fellow creatures: "Serve Allah, and join not any partner with him and show kindness and affection to your parents and to relatives and to orphans, and to the needy; and be considerate to your neighbours and to wayfarers.” (Qur'an, 4:36) The same commandment was given to nations of previous times: "Remember that We made a solemn covenant with the Children of Israel to this effect: Worship none but Allah; be good to your Parents, to your relatives, to orphans and to the helpless; and speak fair to the people. (Qur'an, 2:83)
v - Mercy for Orphans
Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) was kind to all people and asked his followers to be the same. He was especially kind to orphans and asked his companions to be kind to them. Thauban reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "Only supplication averts the decree (of fate), only kindness prolongs life, and a man is deprived of provision for a fault he has committed."
Ibn Omar reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "A Muslim is a Muslim's brother; he does not wrong him. If anyone cares for his brother's need, Allah will take care of his need; if anyone relieves his brother's anxiety, Allah will remove from him one of his anxieties on the Day of Resurrection; and if anyone conceals a Muslim's secrets, Allah will conceal his secrets on the Day of Resurrection."
Abu Hurairah reported Allah's Messenger as saying, ‘The best house among the Muslims is one where an orphan is well treated, and the worst house among the Muslims is one where an orphan is badly treated."
Abu Omamah reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "If anyone caresses an orphan by moving his fingers in his hair, doing so only for God's sake, he will have blessings for every hair over which his hand passes and if anyone treats well ail orphan girl or boy under his care, he and I shall be like these two in Paradise," putting two of his fingers together.
Abu Hurairah reported Allah's Messenger as saying, He who strives to serve a widow and a poor person is like the one who strives in Allah's way." He also reported that when a man complained to the Messenger of Allah of being hardhearted he said, "Show affection to the orphans and feed the poor."
vi - Mercy for Enemies & Unbelievers
Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) treated everybody, friend or foe, with kindness and taught his companions to do likewise. It is reported by Abu Basra Ghifari that when he was a non-believer he came to Madinah and stayed as a guest of the Messenger of Allah. He drank milk from all his goats at night but the Prophet did not say a word. That night he and all his family slept hungry.
A similar incident is reported by Abu Hurairah. One night a non-believer stayed as a guest of the Noble Prophet. One by one, he drank milk of all the seven goats, but the Prophet did not show any sign of anger or dislike towards him. Perhaps due to the Prophet's behaviour, next morning, the man embraced Islam and was satisfied with the milk of only one goat.
Abu Hurairah's mother, who lived with him in Madinah was a non-believer. She used to abuse the Noble Prophet, about which Abu Hurairah complained to him, but he prayed for her. Bilal was very close to Prophet Muhammad and managed his household. One day an unbeliever called him a Negro and said that he would not rest until he had made him tend his goats for him. Prophet Muhammad heard this conversation but did not say anything to the unbeliever.
The problem of hypocrites in Madinah was a great test for the Prophet and his companions, but he always treated them kindly and with great consideration. Abdullah Ibn Obayy and his followers embraced Islam, but at heart they were unbelievers and never really accepted Islam. Their behaviour at the time of the Battle of Uhud and on many other occasions was damaging to the cause of Islam, but Prophet Muhammad always treated them with kindness. When Abdullah Ibn Obayy died, Prophet Muhammad gave his cloak for his shroud.
Jews were extremely hostile to Prophet Muhammad and his mission, but he was always kind to them. Once he went to the house of a Jew to visit his sick son. He invited the boy to Islam but the boy looked towards his father for his permission. His father gave him permission and the boy embraced Islam. Once when the funeral of a Jew was passing, the Prophet stood up as a mark of respect for the dead. Once a Jew complained to him that a Muslim had slapped him. He called that Muslim at once and reprimanded him.
In the valley of Hudaibiyah while Prophet Muhammad was saying the morning prayer with his companions, seventy or eighty unbelievers came down quietly from the mountain of Taneem in order to kill the Muslims during prayer. They were caught and brought before him. He treated them well and released them all.
In fact, he treated all people with kindness under all circumstances and never showed any ill-will towards anyone or ill-treated anyone. Makhul reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "The believers are gentle and kind like a pliant camel which, when guided, lets itself be guided and when made to sit, even on stones, does so." Mu’aadh said, "The last injunction Allah's Messenger gave him when he put his foot in the stirrup was. "Treat people well, O Muadh."
Encyclopaedia of Seerah, Vol. 1
Edited by: Ajalur Rahmait
The Muslim Journal - Vol.29 No. 4