For mercy to be reflected in acts of worship:
Allah Almighty says of the human being, “ẓalūman jahūlan.” (See 33:72)
The human being is very unjust. Unjust to whom? Mostly to their own selves. Why are they unjust towards themselves? They are deluded by the world and they thus ruin their Hereafter. They exchange the seed and the drop for the ocean, and prefer the drop. This is the reason behind “ẓalūman“. The human being is most unjust to their own self.
And it is stated, “jahūlan,” most ignorant. They are ignorant of Allah Almighty Who created them, gave them life, brought them to this world and Who bestowed upon them His bounties.
So then how is this to be redressed?
ẓalūman: A believer is to possess deeds of righteousness. It is stated, ‘amalan ṣāliḥan (good, righteous deeds). This attribute of ignorance is to disappear and they are to pull away from the religiously unlawful. illa-llāh – the heart is to be with Allah Almighty. The attribute jahūlan will disappear.
alā bidhik’ri l-lahi taṭma-innu l-qulūb
“Be aware that it is in the remembrance and of and whole-hearted devotion to Allah that hearts find rest and contentment.” (13:28)
It is to be with Allah Almighty. With what are they going to ensure this? They are to ensure this with worship.
The acts of worship are each a vitamin. We provide vitamins for our body and our vitality continues. We need to give our spirit vitamins also, so that our spirituality can develop. This means that a person who does not worship Allah and who fails to realise the acts of worship in accordance with Allah’s Will, wrongs themselves. They show no mercy to their own self.
And for the person whose heart is filled with Divine mercy, the acts of worship each become a spiritual pleasure. The prescribed prayer becomes an act of pleasure. Fasting becomes an act of pleasure.
It causes them to contemplate and leads to reflection. “Draw near,” He says. “…Prostrate and draw near.” (96:19) Allah created the anatomy of the human being in a way allowing for their prostration in the best possible way.
A young African man came to me one day in Çamlıca, at the Foundation.
He said, “Will you please pray for me?”
More often than not, those who ask for prayer have certain worldly desires, such as “Let me graduate from university as soon as possible, let me do this or that…” This is, of course, very normal. This is fine. But this young man’s request blew me away.
“What is it that you want?” I asked him.
“Please pray for me so that Allah can make me love the prescribed prayer. So that I can prostrate much.”
One such example:
There was a Companion of Allah’s Messenger by the name of Abu Firas. He used to bring a bucket of water to the Noble Household during the night and leave it out in front. He did this every night. One day, the Messenger of Allah called him and said:
“O Abu Firas, I return the kindness shown to me by others. What do you ask of me? You have carried water for me every night.”
“O Messenger of Allah,” he said, I ask to be with you in Paradise.”
“It is a very difficult thing you ask of me,” Allah’s Messenger said.
The station of the Messenger of Allah is above the level of all the other Prophets. Abu Firas said, “I want to be with you.”
“O Abu Firas,” the Messenger of Allah said. “Ask something else of me, something worldly, something pertaining to the world.” He then said, “Release me, for you have brought many things to me and have done so much.”
“No, O Messenger of Allah,” he said, I want nothing in the world. I only want to be with you in Paradise.”
The Messenger of Allah replied, “Then, O Abu Firas, Help me against your own self by means of a lot of prostration.” (See Muslim, Salat, 226)
This goes to show that the prescribed prayer has a distinctive beauty and excellence.
We are on the verge of entering the blessed month of Ramadan. Fasting is another act of thankfulness to Allah. You will be hungry and you will increase your thankfulness. You will be hungry, and you will realise the true value of all bounties.
When Prophet Yusuf, upon him be peace, was responsible for the nation’s treasury, he would distribute rations when he himself was hungry.
When they asked him, “Why are you hungry? You have the national treasury behind you!” he would respond, “So that I can understand the circumstances of the hungry who come here.”
The prescribed annual alms and charity are also thus.
Property and possessions are not yours in any case. In communism, all wealth and property belong to society. In the capitalist regime, wealth and possessions belong to individuals. In Islam, they neither belong to society nor to individuals – al-mulk lillah: “To Allah belongs absolute sovereignty.”
He merely grants us disposal over it. You are to exercise this disposal in His way. There is the annual prescribed alms, a minimum to be given.
There is charity. And you will be saved from affliction and misfortune.
Then there is spending in the way of Allah and this is your way of testing your love for Him.
lan tanālū l-bira ḥattā tunfiqū mimmā tuḥibbūna
“You will never be able to attain godliness and virtue until you spend of what you love (in Allah’s cause, or to provide sustenance for the needy)…” (3:92) You are to test your compassion.
The Major and Minor Pilgrimages, and the like, should offer a certain spiritual depth.
Look at how Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, became the most excellent servant of Allah. Allah Almighty praises him in the Qur’an:
“Peace be upon Abraham,” He declares. (See 37:109) “Behold, all this was indeed a trial, clear.” (See 37:106) When he set out to sacrifice his son, in utmost trust in Allah and submission. The Qur’an declares, “And We left for him among later-comers (until the end of time this greeting and remembrance of him and his Message): Peace be upon Abraham.” (See 37:103-108)
And Abraham, upon him be peace, attained great favour and manifestation. On the Day of Judgement, he will say:
walā tukh’zinī yawma yub’athūna. “My Lord! And do not disgrace me on the Day when all people will be raised up to life.” (See 26:87)
He became a friend of Allah with his life, with his wealth, with his offspring. With what he did for Islam… He became a friend of Allah with his conveying the message to an idolatrous people, and with his stance towards Nimrod. However, how many Divine horizons were opened up to him, with he himself in a state of weakness (before Allah).
Walā tukh’zinī yawma yub’athūna, he says.
“My Lord! And do not disgrace me on the Day when all people will be raised up to life.” (See 26:87)
And so, in short, acts of worship need to enrich the heart and soul. Through the acts of worship, the heart will hold dominion. The greatest dominion is to be close to Allah Almighty. For mercy to be reflected in the heart… The heart will be filled with mercy. The heart will become a meeting place. The heart will be a centre of rehabilitation. There, in that heart, the poor, the outcast, those awaiting guidance, the oppressed, the sinning, will be treated.
Mawlana (Jalal al-Din al-Rumi), famously calls:
Bāz Ā Bāz Ā Har Ja Keh Hasti Bāz. “Come, come, whoever you are.” “Come,” he says, “and become reformed in this meeting place of the heart.” “Come,” he says, “and behold the Divine, see truth and see happiness.”
Baha’ al-Din Naqshband tended to helpless animals and to the ill for seven years and cleaned the paths of people. And he says, “It is here that I attained the greatest spiritual degrees.” His heart is not at ease.
Bayazid al-Bistami receives knowledge through spiritual unveiling that the saint of the age, the pole (qutb) is a blacksmith by the name of (Abu Hafs) Haddad. Let me go, he says, and observe for myself the state of this blacksmith. And see what it is that makes him a friend of Allah. I went, he says, and he was heating iron. He was tempering it, pounding and then shaping it. While on the other hand, he was weeping. I asked him the reason for his weeping, what was troubling him.
“What is the matter? Why are you crying?” I asked. He said:
He said, “What will be the state of those who sin and of the wrongdoing on the Day of Judgement?”
(Bayazid) then says, “I said to him, ‘Why should they be of any concern to you? Look to your own self.'”
“No,” he said. “The yeast of my disposition has been kneaded with compassion. I cannot be at ease when a Muslim, a believer suffers.”
(Bayazid) says, “I realised that compassion was the most important stage in sainthood, and saw that it was compassion towards Allah’s creatures.”
In summary, this means that a believer has to be tender hearted. Their faces need to have a constant smile. They will not offend nor take offence.
Sami Efendi graduated from the Dar al-Funun, the Faculty of Law at the time. A young man, a handsome, gracious youth.
A person by the name of Seyfi Baba looks at him, all handsome and charming, and says:
“Son, you have acquired an education, but this education is not sufficient. Further education is necessary, which will allow you to mature, to advance on the path of reaching self-perfection. Let me give you an address. Go there and acquire learning. Let me tell you the first and the last lesson of this training. Your first lesson is that you will offend no one. Your last lesson is that you are offended by no one. And this is the hardest of all.” Being able to forgive for the sake of Allah. Being able to forget what is done to you, for the sake of Allah.
“But,” he adds, “I cannot know how you will progress from that lesson to this one. That is not my business.”
In other words, one needs to be a person with mercy exuding from their heart, an altruistic person, not a self-centred person who thinks only of themselves. One who prefers others to their own self, who relinquishes any claim to anything for themselves. In other words, they are to give from their own self.
‘Abd Allah ibn Ja’far once passed by a certain place where he beheld an African many with three loaves of bread, throwing them before a dog. He watched the man for a while. Then approaching him, he asked:
“Who are you?” This scene horrified him.
“I am a slave,” the man said.
“What are these loaves of bread?” ‘Abd Allah asked.
“My daily food allowance,” he answered.
“What is this dog?” he asked.
“A guest,” the man said. “This is not one of the animals from around here. It must have come from afar. And it cannot find its way. I saw that it was hungry, so I gave it a bite to eat. And it kept eating as I gave it food. It must be very hungry.”
“What will you eat,” I asked him.
“Today, I shall be patient. God Who created me is the One and Same Creator of this dog. So He must have charged me with looking after this dog.”
Another similar example:
The Messenger of Allah states:
Once a sinful man suffered from thirst while he was walking on a journey. When he found a well, he climbed down into it and drank from it. Then he came out and saw a dog lolling its tongue from thirst and licking the ground. The man said (in much the same way):
This dog has suffered thirst just as I have suffered from it.” He climbed down into the well, filled his shoe with water, and then gave the dog a drink. Allah forgave him.” (See Muslim, Salam, 151-153)
This is so sensitive an issue that there was a military expedition after the Conquest of Mecca. There were some mistakes made there. In the midst of these errors, during the commotion, the dogs’ feeding troughs were even damaged. The Messenger of Allah sent compensation to the aggrieved. ‘Ali, may Allah be well pleased with him, went and repaired the dogs’ feeding troughs then and there. He reported this to Allah’s Messenger and Allah’s Messenger was pleased.
In other words, all creatures have a right over us.
This is why our forefathers exhausted all possibilities of charitable foundations for human beings and then established foundations for animals. They established charitable foundations for human beings, so that they would not be wronged.
For instance, Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan. There is a charitable foundation that she established in Damascus. It has two objectives. One article reads that the fresh water of Damascus is to be transported to the Noble Sanctuaries (Haramayn) and thirsty pilgrims will be given Damascus’ fresh water to drink.
The second article, and our horizons are not broad enough for this even in our day, in the face of all the atrocities faced in the world:
The goods and items broken by workers will be reimbursed by my foundation, she states. They will not be scolded, they will not be punished, and their hearts will not be injured in the slightest…
What is this? It is the manner of looking at all creation through the (merciful) gaze of the Creator… A manifestation of mercy overflowing from the heart…
‘Umar, may Allah be well pleased with him, journeyed to Damascus with his servant.
“It is your turn,” he said to his servant. “Mount the riding beast.”
“They will think you a slave,” his servant said, “and suppose me to be the Caliph.”
“No,” he said. “It is your turn. Now mount.”
Another Caliph, and a Companion by the name of Salama was standing in the middle of the street. The caliph nudged him aside a little.
“Do not block the road,” he said. Look at all these people, let them pass comfortably.”
Salama says that one year later the caliph summoned him and said: “Will you go on the Pilgrimage this year?”
Salama says he said it was a matter of means and that the caliph said, “Here, take these six hundred dinars and go.”
“Where did this come from, O Caliph,” Salama asked.
“That day, you remember, you had blocked the road and I had struck you a little too firmly with a stick, that you may move aside.”
What kind of mercy is this! How is it that a heart becomes such a court of mercy?
In short, the heart is to be kneaded with compassion. A heart kneaded with compassion overflows with mercy. Such hearts even treat with compassion those who are deprived of compassion. They think about their fate. They seek ways of delivering them. This is why they do not transfer their hatred for sin to the sinner themselves.
The human being, the believer that Islam champions is not a barren human being. They are a person of mercy. Like rain, they are to infuse life wherever they go. Like the sun, they will illuminate even the most obscure and remote corners.
And so, the human being will not be enslaved. The Messenger of Allah always freed slaves. He encouraged others to free them also. To a person who committed a sin he would say, “Go and liberate a slave.” “Feed them with what you eat, give them to drink of what you drink…”
Even at the time of his death, the narrator says:
His voice became so weak that we could barely hear him. The Messenger of Allah stressed two things:
“The Prescribed Prayer, the Prescribed Prayer, the Prescribed Prayer.”
“Beware the rights of those in your charge.” (See Bayhaqi, Shu’ab, VII:477)
And a great many Companions, fearing this great responsibility, set their prisoners of war, free.