By Maria Zain
Freelance Writer- Malaysia
One of the blessings of this world is the diversity of nations that we can appreciate. Allah has gift-wrapped nations with different cultures, colours, cuisine, artistic flair and landscapes. One way to reap insights of a foreign land is through their languages. Each language represents a culture– their sayings, expressions and interesting quotes represent the differences between one community from the other. Yet between all diversity and differences, there is one language that can be mastered by everyone; the language of compassion.
Compassion entails the feeling of sympathy and sorrow towards another who has been stricken by misfortune or grief. This feeling is accompanied by a strong sense of determination to alleviate the pain or suffering.
Unfortunately, the language of compassion has been lost through the lines of time, with tension growing between families, small-knit societies and countries. With compassion resting on shaky grounds, our nation too feels the tremors of conflict and are encouraged to emulate the teaching of the most compassionate human being who once lived in this world; Prophet Muhammed.
Compassion in the Heart
The heart represents the intentions of a person. After all, “Allah is Kind and He loves kindness. Kindness is not to be found in anything but that it adds to its beauty,” (Muslim). Mashaallah, how could it not be difficult to be kind, if that is what Allah (SWT) loves! We are also reminded of how compassion and kindness, two names of Allah (SWT), carry weight on the Day of Judgement. "Whoever has been given his portion of compassion has been given his portion of good. Whoever is denied his portion of compassion has been denied his portion of good. Good character will be the weightiest thing in the believer's balance on the Day of Rising," (Bukhari).
The companions of Prophet Muhammad, on repeated occasions, relay the compassion Allah has upon His worshippers, thus it is only befitting that His worshippers love what He loves and despise what He despises. Anas Ibn Malik once narrated that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "If there is roughness in anything it is bound to disgrace it. Allah is compassionate and loves compassion."
Thus Muslims rush to prayer to cleanse roughness from their hearts. And every day – five times a day – we repeatedly recite Al-Fatiha, invoking Allah for His Compassion upon each one of us. In verses five and six, we recite “You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help. Guide us to Your true path.” With these two lines alone, we are being compassionate towards the next Muslim who is praying– whether she is a sister, relative, neighbour, colleague or a new acquaintance.
Instead of reciting “I worship You alone and I ask for your help,” we pray collectively as Muslims sharing compassion with one another.
From Prayer into Action
Praying solidifies an important pillar in Islam with the seeds of compassion are planted in one’s heart. Turning compassion into action is easy as long as we do as Prophet Muhammad does. Prophet Muhammad reminds us to be gentle with words, even with speaking to those who despise us – it was through his gentility that even the staunchest enemies of Islam embraced Islam. Prophet Muhammad spoke clearly and humbly with adequate eye-contact. Where it was permissible to touch the person, he did; when speaking to children he kneeled down to their eye-level and listened openly when they spoke to him, even if they did so with little coherence. When he saw someone in distress he would flock to him or her, offering his help immediately.
How often do we do that? How often do we actively respond to someone who is having a bad day without comparing their problems to ours? How often do we actively listen and acknowledge their grief or predicaments without rushing to offer unthwarted advice? Sometimes, the act of just being there shows a level of compassion that looms over the need to chastise or correct.
Opening our hearts to receive Allah’s guidance transforms us into compassionate creatures; fluent in every dialect of the language. A comrade of Prophet Muhammad, Sayyidah Umm Darda, reported that one night her husband, Abu Darda, stood up and engaged in prayer. He wept, repeating the prayer: “Oh Allah, You have made my outward form beautiful, so make my inner character beautiful too.” He continued to make this prayer until dawn. She said to him: “Your prayer all night was only to be given good manners!” He replied: “A believing slave beautifies his character and his manners until they get him admitted into paradise. Or, he can adopt bad manners until they get him admitted into hell.”
We know bad manners are mistakes of our own and we find that along the way we forget the language of compassion through feuds and conflicts with our relatives, friends, neighbours and co-workers. This only breeds misery and a spiralling motion that will weigh our happiness down to the bottom most troughs. By just being a little more compassionate, many of these problems would not even occur.
And what is more, it makes the best of people. “The best of you are those who feed others and return greetings,” (Abu Yala Hasan). Prophet Muhammad also said, “The best of Muslims is he from his hand and tongue people are safe,” (Muslim).
Spreading the Words of Compassion
Compassion can prevent ugly conflict between spouses and between parents and children. Prophet Muhammad reminded that the best of the Muslims were those who were the kindest to their families– the most important cornerstones of a thriving faith. It can be just through a compassionate person reaching out to his or her relatives that societies would be rid of social ills, teenagers would grow up to be confident, intelligent and sensitive adults and intertwining disputes between communities and nations would come to a halt.
Compassion can be seen in so many forms. It can be as simple as a smile from a wife to a husband; a “thank you” from a daughter to a mother; a family activity that ends with a heart-warming meal at the end of a Monday fast. Sending flowers to the poorly or visiting a neighbour who is going through a rough patch in her life spread the rays of compassion further and further beyond the boundaries of our little homes, that are sometimes fraught with selfishness and prejudice. Opening up one’s heart to learn the language of compassion opens up relationships with others, shaping up the importance of kind and loving ummah.
There is too much hatred spreading around the world. Destruction, wars and crime make the headlines of the newspapers in nearly every vicinity of the globe. Very rarely is compassionate read in between the lines of any newspaper of any language. But compassion is for everyone and Prophet Muhammad never failed to let it show.
A man once came to the Prophet with a sheet of cloth and something in his hand.
The man said, “I saw a group of trees and heard the sound of young birds. I took them and put them in my garment. Their mother then came and began to hover around my head. I showed (the chicks) to her and she fell on them. I wrapped them (all) with my garment. They are now with me.” The Prophet said to his companions,
“Are you surprised at the affection of the mother for her young? ... Allah is more affectionate to His servants than a mother to her young ones. Take (the chicks) back and put them where you found them,” (Abu Dawud).
It is also time for us, as Muslims, to understand how compassion can change our lives and the world we live in– we need to wrap it up ourselves, as a special gift, and place it where it should be found– in our hearts that open up daily to Allah’s mercy and kindness.
Maria Zain is a freelance editor and writer living in Malaysia. While her evenings and nights are spent supporting different Muslim communities through her work, she shares her life with her husband and three busy little children below the age of five, whom she homeschools during the day.