The Method of Spiritual Guidance and Mercy in Serving Humanity

For an action performed to serve creation there must be certain qualities in order gain the acceptance of Allah the Almighty. Most important of all is intention. The intention of any act must be to attain the contentment of Allah the Almighty, not to be known as that “generous person” or to hear the praise of others. Such pure intentions should not be shadowed by selfish feelings and ulterior motives aimed at satisfying the ego. Service should be done with mercy and kindness as well as extreme caution so not to hurt the recipient’s feelings.

In this regard, Erzurumlu Ibrahim Hakki’s following narration is a very exemplary one. “One day Ibrahim Hakki was invited to a village to give a sermon. A young non-Muslim servant was hired and sent to pick him up. They set off. There was only one ride and Ibrahim Hakki took turn with the young servant just like Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) did when he was on his way to Jerusalem with his slave. Even though young servant protested saying: “if villager heard this, they would reproach me and would not pay my money,” Ibrahim Hakki told him:

“O my son! We do not know what will happen on our final moments. You are worried about villagers, while I am worried about the great judgment we will face in front of our Lord.” and started to take turns getting on the ride.

It was servant’s turn when they were entering the village. Young servant refused to get on the horse, but Ibrahim Hakki insisted and he went into the village in front of the horse.

Just like the young servant expected, villagers circled around them and started to scold him. Then Ibrahim Hakki explained them the situation and they stopped scolding. Just then a villager told the young servant:

“You saw and lived such wonderful merits today. Why do not you accept the message of Islam?” To this, young servant responded:

“If you are inviting to your religion, I will never accept that. However if you are inviting this saintly man’s religion, I have already accepted it when we were our way here.”

This exemplary action of a man of Allah shows us the conduct of mercy and spiritual guidance in serving others. In a way to be able to treat others as humans deserve means to be able to look at creation by virtue of the Creator which is why righteous souls look at human beings as the vicegerent of Allah the Almighty on the earth. And they live aware of the factthat a Divine secret was breathed into them.[1] These righteous believers do not turn their backs to sinners no matter how many sins have been committed, because of the perfection in the essence of human beings. They neither lose their hope from sinners nor let the sinners lose hope from themselves.  In fact the most often repeated names of Allah the Almighty in the Qur’an are “al Rahman – The Most Gracious” and “al Rahim – The Most Merciful” and there is also a chapter named Rahman in the Qur’an, which also begins with the same Divine name.

Therefore approaching humans from this perspective, i.e. with mercy and guidance, is the most congruent with the pleasure of Allah the Almighty and the most blessed method of approach. It also consists of a lofty characteristic, which could bring the hidden qualities of human beings into light, because, this is such a manner that brings fineness, maturity, love and closeness to Allah the Almighty to both its performer and the recipient. It is also a potion which makes the great men as the great men, such as the famous Sufis Yunus Emre and Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi. It is like the elixir, which can give life to the dead souls.

That is why both the contents of Sufism and its methods for conveying the message of Islam present a great significance. It is a historical fact that when social order in Anatolia was shaken up by the Mongol invasion, Sufis, such as Yunus Emre and Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, ensured peace and tranquility for the suffocated society. These sufis considered heedless people as patients who were seeking a cure. They made sure to keep their distance from “hate and enmity.” The following lines of Yunus Emre exemplify this attitude:

I did not come to fight

I came for love

The hearts are the houses of the Friend (Allah)

I came to appease the hearts

Since these great figures came to appease the hearts, they always looked at people through their own hearts; Because they treated everyone with mercy and love, they have become the cause for many to choose Islam. If they did the opposite, they would lose their connection with these people on the edge of a cliff and it would be impossible to explain them the message of Islam. And this would be contrary to Divine will. For Allah the Almighty wants His servants to be saved from the swamps they sank, and He sent thousands of prophets throughout the history of mankind and ordered them to purify people’s souls with the gentlest approach.  For the same object, man of Allah carried on the same approach in the spiritual training of mankind.

Our Lord, who is the only source of mercy and compassion, explains the method of inviting people to the message of Islam as follows:

“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner; surely your Lord best knows those who go astray from His path, and He knows best those who follow the right way.”(16; 125)

“And who speaks better than he who calls to Allah while he himself does good, and says: I am surely of those who submit? And not alike are the good and the evil. Repel (evil) with what is best, when lo! he between whom and you was enmity would be as if he were a warm friend.”(41; 33-34)

By following this Divine approach, several thorn-like hearts transformed into roses and dark souls overwhelmed with the light of Islam.

From this fact, Jalal al-Din Rumi states the significance of guiding both non-Muslims and sinners and the language which needs to be used in spiritual guidance:

“Although the iron was dark and devoid of light, polishing cleared away the darkness from it. The iron saw (suffered) the polishing and made its face fair, so that images could be seen therein.”

“You have made the water turbid: do not make it more (so). Do not stir it up (befoul it): let this water become clear, and (then) behold the moon and stars circling therein. For man is like the water of the river: when it becomes turbid, you cannot see its bottom.”

As it is stated by Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi (q.s.), the human soul is like clear water; however, when it becomes turbid with sins and horrid acts, nothing can be seen in it. Then in order to see the pearls of spirituality and the lights of truth, we need to clear the water. Thus, the object of Sufism is to purify souls, and bring peace to individuals and society.  For Allah the Almighty adorned human beings with elegance, grace and lofty qualities. A person’s value increases as much as he improves these qualities. Hearts filled with spirituality are the place of manifestation for righteous and pious deeds and spiritual states. By this way a servant achieves the state of “being the perfect exemplar.”

Consequently no matter how deep a person is in committing sins and polytheism, he cannot be left without spiritual guidance. Numerous examples of this are as follows.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sent one of his Companions to his uncle Hamza’s murderer, Wahshi, to invite him to Islam. Wahshi responded:

“O Muhammad! While you state Allah the Almighty’s ruling “And they who do not call upon another god with Allah and do not slay the soul, which Allah has forbidden except in the requirements of justice, and (who) do not commit fornication and he who does this shall find a requital of sin; The punishment shall be doubled to him on the day of resurrection, and he shall abide therein in abasement;.” (25; 68-69), how can you invite me to Islam? I have committed all those horrid acts. How can there be a way of salvation for me?”

Upon this Allah the Almighty revealed:

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلٰى أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِنْ رَّحْمَةِ اللّٰهِ إِنَّ اللّٰهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا
إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

“Say: O my servants! who have acted extravagantly against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the Forgiving the Merciful.”(39; 53)

Finally, Wahshi, relieved with the glad tidings repented and converted to Islam saying:

“Dear Lord! How broad your forgiveness is.”

When the Companions heard this, they asked the Messenger of Allah:

“O Messenger of Allah! Is this mercy and compassion reserved for Wahshi or all Muslims?” Prophet (pbuh) said: “It is for all Muslims.”[2]

Wahshi, who martyred Hamza (may Allah be pleased with him), became a Companion. And in spiritual excitement of Allah’s forgiveness and spiritual guidance, he risked his life and killed the false prophet, Musaylimah al-Kadhdhab, in a battle and gave an end to the social disorder. In a way this was his redemption for the murder of the Prophet’s uncle.

As it can be observed in the aforementioned narration, glad tidings of the highest levels of mercy and forgiveness were given to the sincerely repenting souls by the Prophet (pbuh) himself. In short, humanity has heard the comforting, healing and refreshing news from Prophet’s blessed lips. And no matter how sinful they are, humanity is also blessed by Allah the Almighty’s compassionate addressing, “O My servants”, for the sake of His Messenger.

Therefore it is a central principle to use the same compassionate, merciful and promising approach in order to save our community from the dangers and depression of modern materialism. It is more beneficial to win the hearts instead of pushing them into mental fights; because, several of them might even have a mental condition, which is why it would often be impossible to win them through “fights and disputes,” because negatively conditioned minds are closed to accept mental evidences. In order to accustom the hearts with the truth, they first need to be approached with tolerance and their lofty qualities should be unearthed. This is a much more effective method.

Before criticizing, reproaching a person who has sunken deep into  sedition and sins, and requiring him to follow the rules of Islam, we should give priority to win their hearts. For that, we should try to establish an affectionate and friendly relationship, which could provide a more effective ground to win their hearts. After preparing the hearts, mistakes can be slowly corrected. Also material and spiritual treatment and compliments should be taken into consideration for their role in increasing the effectiveness of the results. In this regard, Prophet’s (pbuh) following saying needs to be remembered:

“My intercession is for the members of my ummah who committed great sins.”(Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 20)

Jalal al-Din Rumi describes the Messenger of Allah’s (pbuh) approach to the sinners in the following lines:

“Medicine seeks sick and wounded people to cure. Wherever a pain is, the remedy goes there: Wherever a hole or lowland is, the water runs there.”

“If you want water of mercy, go, become lowly and then drink the wine of mercy.”

However, for getting better effects from a medicine or an ointment, a wound must first be disinfected from germs. Similarly diseased souls must first be cleaned from germs of sin; in other words they should first be washed by water of penitence. Medicine, or intercession, will come after the cleansing.

Another saying of the Prophet (pbuh):

“Who sincerely repents is like the one who has never sinned.”(Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 30)on the one hand gives good news for those who have sinned, and on the other hand explains the pre-condition for this good news.

Both prophets and men of Allah have carefully followed this sublime method. Mercy is considered as the first fruit of faith and servitude to Allah is defined by the following two terms:

Ta’zim li Amrillah” which means to fulfill Allah’s orders with veneration.

Shafkat li Khalqillah” that is to show mercy and compassion to the creation of Allah the Almighty for the sake of their Creator.

A friend of Allah, Fudayl b. ‘Iyad, is one of the best examples of these faithful hearts who follow these rules. He was seen crying. People asked:

“Why are you crying?”

He replied:

“I am crying for a Muslim who has oppressed me; because I am worried about his woeful state in the Hereafter.”

Rumi explains what guides these perfect men to such a high level of mercy:

“When the seas of Mercy begin to surge, even stones drink the Water of Life. He that has been dead a hundred years comes forth from the grave; the accursed devil becomes an object of envy to the houris on account of his beauty.”[3]

It has been narrated that Ibrahim b Adham cleaned a drunk’s dirty mouth. He responded to those who asked why he had done that:

“It would be a disrespect to leave a mouth dirty that was created to utter Allah’s names.”

When the man became sober, people told him:

“Ibrahim Adham, ascetic of Khorasan, washed your mouth.”

The man felt ashamed and repented. Ibrahim Adham was told in his dream:

“You washed his mouth for the sake of Allah the Almighty; and Allah washed his heart for you.”

Allah the Almighty says to the Prophet (pbuh) and all Muslims in his person:

خُذِ الْعَفْوَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْعُرْفِ

“Take to forgiveness and enjoin good…”(7; 199)

Of course the Prophet (pbuh) was the best example of the application of this command. Even angels envied his perfect morality, mercy and forgiveness. Here is an example:

On the day of the conquest of Mecca, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) declared a general amnesty. Mecca, which had been witnessing nothing but oppression and enmity, was living an indefinable manifestation of mercy, compassion and love. However, a Meccan named Fudalah came closer to the Prophet (pbuh) to attempt an assassination. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was Divinely inspired about Fudalah’s intention and, without showing any sign of panic and anger, asked Fudalah:

“Are you Fudalah?”

He replied:

“Yes, I am”

Then the Mercy of the universe (pbuh) said:

“O Fudalah! Repent for your intentions.” and put his blessed hands on Fudalah’s chest.

Fudalah immediately repented and accepted the message of Islam. He became one of the most beloved Companions of the prophet (pbuh).[4]

Of course, this state is the perfect manifestation of the principle “those who come to kill must revive in you. There are numerous manifestations of this principle inIslamic history. In fact Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) and many others became the precious fruits of this understanding. Rumi says:

“(Because) He (Allah), from the perfection of His mercy and waves of His bounty, bestows rain and moisture on every barren soil.”[5]

“O He who invites to the right path! The remedy of the evil eye is the good eye. It makes the evil eye naught beneath its kick. (Divine) mercy has the precedence (over Divine wrath): it (the good eye) is (derived) from (Divine) mercy, (while) the evil eye is the product of (Divine) wrath and execration. Therefore the good eye overcomes the evil eye for it is from Divine mercy. This state is the manifestation of the sacred Hadith: “My mercy overcomes My vengeance” (Bukhari, Tawhid, 55). You should know that Allah’s mercy always overcomes His vengeance: hence every prophet prevailed over his adversary.”[6]

“Then violence and complaint are not the means of averting calamity. Its remedy is beneficence and pardon and kindness. Prophetic warning of “Alms is a means of averting calamity”[7] should bring you to your senses. Now better understand the method to heal the maladies and calamities.”[8]

“However, do not forget that to show mercy to oppressors is to oppress the weak. To show mercy to thieves and any sinister-handed (noxious) person is to inflict blows and have no mercy on the weak.”[9]

The balance should be very well set. Because even though Allah the Almighty is Ghafur al-Rahim or the Most Forgiving and the Most Merciful, he also is Azizun zuntiqam or the Mighty and the Inflictor of retribution and the Avenger of the injustices and oppressions. That is why in one of his narrations, the Prophet (pbuh) said:

“Help your brother whether he is an oppressor or an oppressed,”

A man said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I will help him if he is oppressed, but if he is an oppressor, how shall I help him?”

The Prophet said, “By preventing him from oppressing (others), for that is how to help him.” (Bukhari, Ikrah, 7; Muslim, Birr, 62)

In short we would like to say that today people in our country in particular and people in the world in general are like wounded birds in respect to faith and Islam. It is essential to be merciful to heal their wounds. This can only be realized by following the aforementioned principles and methods.

Dear Lord! Include us among Your righteous servants who understand the meaning of “My mercy overcome My vengeance” and treat others with mercy and forgiveness.


[1].      See Qur’an 15; 29

[2].      See Haythami, Majma’ al-Zawaid, X, 214-15.

[3].      vol. V, 2281-83

[4].      Ibn Hisham, al-Sirah, IV, 46; Ibn Kathir, al-Sirah, III, 583.

[5].      vol. IV, 1489

[6].      vol. V, 513-515

[7].      See Tirmidhi, Zakat, 28; Suyuti, al-Jami’ al-Saghir, I, 108.

[8].      vol. VI, 2590-91

[9].      vol. VI, 4261