When any person comes in contact with a Muslim, he/she should find through the behaviour, words and actions, of the Muslim that Islam is a religion of compassion, mercy, forgiveness, love, respect for the human dignity and public welfare.

These key principles of Islam should be engraved in the character and person of every Muslim reflecting genuine concern of Muhammad (s), for the humanity.

Sadly, the words and actions of some Muslims are far from mercy, respect and forgiveness. Their actions and speeches often wrongly portray Islam as a religion of cruelty, wrath, revenge, oppression, torture and punishment.

They forget that Muhammad (s), was sent to save people from oppression and punishment and give the glad tidings of hope, forgiveness and mercy, and Muslims should be reflecting these values in their behaviour.

Even where punishments are mentioned in the Qur’an, these are normally associated with a call to repentance, reformation and forgiveness.

Mercy and forgiveness

It is worth noting that, sadly, many Muslims seem to be unaware (or fail to notice) that the word that occurs most frequently in the Qur’an is mercy.

All except one of the 114 chapters of the Qur’an begin with ‘In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful’. In addition, the name Al-Ghafoor (The Most Forgiving occurs in more than 70 times together other names from the same root, such as Ghafir and Ghaffar.

The meaning of the Arabic word “ghafara” is to cover, to hide and from it comes the meaning “to excuse,” “to pardon,” “to remit” and “to forgive.”

Other names frequently mentioned in the Qur’an are Al-`Afuw (The Pardoner, Al-Tawwab (The Acceptor of Repentance and Al-Haleem (The Clement).

Islam is a way of life from the Most Merciful and Compassionate Allah and transmitted and implemented by one who is known as the mercy of the universes, Prophet Muhammad (s), yet often the behaviour and priority of some Muslims give an opposite impression that Islam is all about harsh punishment, patriarchy, suppression of women, ignoring the rights of minorities, and killing innocent people.

Aren’t these Muslims just scaring people and tarnishing the image of Islam by promoting violence and cruelty rather than mercy, hope and protection?

Islam is a religion of peace, justice, and seeks public safety and welfare. Every innocent person must be safe from the hands and tongue of Muslims. Actually, a Muslim should be a safe refuge for any human being, upright, just and protecting rights of people of other faiths including the right to worship.

According to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (s), Muslims must not denigrate the reputed gods of people of other faiths, and protect their places of worship.

This reality is far from some of the terrible actions the world has witnessed from a few people who sadly call themselves Muslims.

Doesn’t the Qur’an prohibit Muslims to suspect or spy on others to find their faults? Didn’t the Prophet try to ignore the faults of people rather than punishing them?

Does Islam promote love, care, forgiveness and mercy, or hate, enmity, revenge and cruelty?

Prophet Muhammad (s) even forgave a non-Muslim who urinated inside his Mosque in Madinah, and allowed him to leave unpunished after the insulting act. Can’t the Muslims today practice this sunnah of patience, mercy and forgiveness?

Sometimes it seems Muslims of today, rather than inculcating within themselves the values of mercy, compassion, kindness and forgiveness, focus on aspects of more superficial Sunnah related with outer appearances rather than working on the necessary inner changes which would then be reflected in righteous actions and practices.

Mercy surpasses wrath

Through His messenger, Allah communicated: Allah’s mercy surpasses His wrath (Bukhari #3194). ”

Allah has divided mercy into one hundred parts; and He retained with Him ninety-nine parts, and sent down to earth one part. Through this one-part, creatures deal with one another with compassion, so much so that an animal lifts its hoof over its young lest it should hurt it” (Bukhari #6000).

Every chapter (except one) of the Qur’an starts with ‘In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Gracious’ and its first chapter introduces Allah as ‘the Most Merciful, the Most Gracious’.

So Muslims should be practicing, proclaiming, promoting, reflecting mercy (to everyone) through their words and actions unconditionally. This would ensure that Islam is a religion of mercy and forgiveness as Allah loves to forgive.

Sadly, words and actions of some Muslims are far from mercy, rather the opposite of mercy. Their actions often wrongly portray Islam as a religion of cruelty, wrath, revenge, oppression, torture and punishment.

They forget that Prophet Muhammad (s) was sent to save people from oppression and punishment and give the glad tidings of hope, forgiveness and mercy, and Muslims should be reflecting him in these qualities.

The Qur’an says, ‘do not despair of Allah’s mercy’ (39:53).

Although, there are penalties in the Islamic legal code for certain crimes under very strict conditions, Muslims should practice ‘kind speech and forgiveness’ as these are better than charity followed by injury’ (2:263).

Forgiveness and support over anger

Mistah ibn Uthatha (r) was one of those companions of Prophet Muhammad (s) who took part in the slandering of the wife of the Prophet and daughter of Abu Bakr (r), Aishah (r) when she fell behind the caravan of Muslim while searching for her lost necklace in the desert.

On return to Medina, when the gossip become the talk of the town, Aishah RA became sick and went to visit her parents with the permission of the Prophet. Later she reported, “Rumours about this slander went on spreading in the city for about a month, which caused a great distress and anguish to the Holy Prophet. I cried due to helplessness and my parents were sick with mental agony.”

As a consequence Aishah (r), Abu Bakr (r), and Prophet Muhammad (s) had endured much pain and stress and passed very painful and difficult time until the following revelation was sent by Allah: “Indeed, those who came up with that outrageous slander are a group of you. Do not think this is bad for you. Rather, it is good for you.They will be punished, each according to their share of the sin. As for their mastermind, he will suffer a tremendous punishment.” (Quran 24:11).

Abu Bakr (r) was a wealthy and generous man. He used to spend his own wealth to support many destitute persons including Mistah. When he found out that Mistah had taken part in slandering his daughter, Abu Bakr decided to stop his financial support for Mistah.

Then Allah revealed: “Those who have been graced with bounty and plenty should not swear that they will [no longer] give to kinsmen, the poor, and those who emigrated in God’s way. Let them pardon and forgive! Do you not wish that God should forgive you? God is All-Forgiving and All-Merciful.” (Quran 24:22)

Abu Bakr immediately repented and restored his financial support for Mistah. Thus, he not only forgave the man who took part in slandering his daughter but also mercifully continued to support the man who caused so much pain to his family and Prophet Muhammad (s) himself.

Muslims would benefit immensely if they return to real core of Islam by practicing unconditional mercy and forgiveness.

Forgiveness after victory of Makkah

 The greatest example of mercy and forgiveness of Prophet Muhammad (s) was him letting his arch enemies go free without any reparation or punishment after the victory of Makkah.

That included Hind bint Utbah, wife of Abu Sufian, who chewed the heart of Prophets uncle Hamza (r), at the battle of Ohad.

The Prophet did so when he had all the power to punish or even execute anyone he wished after the defeat of the Quraish in Makkah who not only oppressed, tortured and persecuted him and his companions but also forced him/them in exile and ultimately compelled him to migrate to Madinah.

There is no second example of such a general amnesty in the history of mankind. Every Muslim requires to practice this sunnah, and become a living example of mercy and forgiveness for humanity.