Conveying the Message of Mercy

Shaykh Masfar b. `Ali al-Qahtani
Think about the Companions on the last ten nights of Ramadan. They are ardently seeking out Laylah al-Qadr through the recitation of Qur’ân and by standing all night in prayer. They are inspired by the Prophet’s words: “Anyone who stands in prayer on (the night known as) Laylah al-Qadr and does so with faith and the hope of Allah’s reward will have all of his past sins forgiven.” It is a night wherein worship has the value of the worship of a thousand months. The Companions are staying in the mosque. They have taken themselves away from all of their worldly concerns to free themselves up for that most blessed night.

And what is `Â’ishah’s concern on that night? She goes to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and asks him: “What is the best supplication that will be answered on this night?”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) replies with the following supplication: “O Allah! You are the pardoner. You love to pardon. So pardon me.”

We should pause and think about the significance of this recommendation and the lessons we can learn from it when calling others to Allah.

First of all, we should take note of the brevity of this supplication. Indeed, brevity and succinctness are hallmarks of the Prophets’ supplications. Even during the tarâwîh prayers in Ramadân, the Prophet (peace be upon him) limited himself to the short supplication that the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught his grandson al-Hasan.

This is a lesson for those of us who wish to address the people and who wish to have the people want to hear what we have to say – and wish for more. We should be brief in what we say and not bore the people with unnecessary exposition and repetition.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The brevity of a man’s sermon and the length of his prayer is an indication of his understanding.”

Al-Shawkânî comments on this hadîth saying: “It is so surprising that people who claim to follow the Sunnah and to the way of the Pious Predecessors prolong their Friday sermons to the point that it wearies the listeners. Sometimes, they speak to advance their ideology or promote their point of view or to praise some sheikh or speak about some other matter that is not suited to the purpose for which the Friday sermon was prescribed.”

Returning to the meaning of the supplication that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) suggested to `Â’ishah, we see that it asserts the most suitable of Allah’s attributes to be invoked in supplications – and that is the attribute of pardon and all that it implies of mercy and forgiveness. Humanity needs to be constantly reminded of these meanings. These should be the themes of our sermons and exhortations far more often than the themes of fear, reprisal, and damnation in Hell.

For truly, Allah’s mercy precedes His wrath and His pardon precedes his displeasure. How strange it is for speakers to dishearten the people with talk of punishment, when Allah says: “O My servants who have transgressed against their souls! Do not despair of Allah’s mercy. Truly, Allah forgives all sins. Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Sûrah al-Zumar: 53]

How can they prefer to speak of Allah’s wrathe when Prophet Muhammad swore the following words by his Lord: “I swear by Allah! Allah is more merciful to His servants than a mother is to her child.”

We should consider that the supplication “O Allah! You are the pardoner. You love to pardon. So pardon me” is recommended for the choicest of times – at the times when supplications are most likely to be answered, at the times when the supplicant’s heart is at its most humble and most aware. For a heart to be truly hopeful, it must be free from heedlessness and insincerity.

What applies to supplications applies to listening to exhortations as well. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) often used to appoint his Companions to exhort one another instead of doing so himself. He did this to avoid their growing weary, even though he was clearly the most capable and effective preacher among them and they were the most eager to hear his words.

How much we today need to have this understanding in mind when calling others to Islam and to righteousness. We need to take the times and circumstances into account and to choose the appropriate time and place to speak. If we understand our true objective in calling others is to soften their hearts and bring them to want what is right, we will be able to use our preaching and exhortations as an effectibe tool for reform and guidance. Our words should never be a discouragement. They should not be an obstacle in the way of the people’s affections.

Glad tidings and clemency are nearer to the people’s hearts and have a greater positive impact on their conduct. Kindness never enters ito a matter without beautifying it, just as coarseness never enters a matter without disgracing it.

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