Many times every day we utter the names of Allah, glorified be He, ‘ar-Rahman, ar-Raheem’, yet how easy is it to quickly say the words without pausing and fully reflecting on what it means to call on the Compassionate, the Merciful One. Imam al-Ghazali wrote: ‘Mercy requires an object of mercy, and no-one is an object of mercy unless he be in need’, and of course all of creation is in a state of neediness. So, you, me, every living thing needs Allah’s tender-loving care and compassion at every moment of our lives. Sometimes, He offers us opportunities to become more aware of our absolute neediness—when things seemingly go wrong, when pain and stress enter our lives, when we struggle to see the ease in the hardship. Why, then, do we scoff and mock at others who are similarly being offered a chance to realise their dependence on the One? As Shaykh Ebrahim said, we need to remind ourselves ‘there but for the grace of God, go I’ when we look at others who we may be tempted to view as less than ourselves.
Compassion, according to the Oxford Dictionary, means to have ‘sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others’, yet Allah’s compassion is not an emotion, it is a boundless ocean of continual care and nurturing. He does not need to have sympathy for my wretched state, because He is continually providing me with everything I need to draw closer to Him, if only I would reach out and grab it with both hands. The emotion of compassion is something I need to have for me and my fellow slaves. If I see some other soul struggling with alcohol addiction, or lacking in education, or being blighted with the evil of hubris, I need only remember my own sins and struggles—’my own frailty’, as Shaykh Ebrahim says—and if I cannot help my brother or sister in humanity or in faith, at the very least I can pray earnestly for them, as I well need their prayers likewise! May the Compassionate, the Merciful, grant us ease in our hardships, relief from our suffering, and draw us ever closer to Him.