On Morals and Manners

Mercy is a special attribute of God, and Rahman (the Beneficent) and Rahim (the Merciful) are His Excellent Names. The bondmen are blessed and deserving of Divine Mercy to the extent to which a reflection of this virtue is present in them, while those who are cruel and hard-hearted are excluded from it in the same proportion.

(1) It is related by Jareer bin Abdullah that the Apostle of God said: “They will not obtain the mercy of God in whose hearts there is no mercy for others”. – Bukhari and Muslim


The word “others,” occurring in this hadith, includes the Muslims as well as the infidels and the sinners. Everyone, indeed, has a claim upon kindness and compassion, no matter to what class or community he belongs. True sympathy and kindliness towards the infidels and wrong-doers, however, would demand that, first of all, we feel sorry and concerned in our hearts at the sequel of their infidelity and transgression, and try sincerely to save them. Apart from this, in cases of physical or worldly want and suffering, also, we are commanded to be kind and helpful to them.

(2) It is related by Abdullah bin Amr bin el-Aas that the Apostle of God said: “God will have mercy upon them that are merciful. Treat kindly the dwellers of the earth; He who dwells in the heavens will treat you kindly.” – Abu Dawood and Tirmizi


It shows that deserving of the special mercy of the Lord are the kindhearted bondmen who have love and sympathy for His creatures. The exhortation to show kindness to “the dwellers of the earth” includes not only men of all faiths and nationalities, but, also, animals. It has been made more explicit in the Traditions that follow.

(3) Abu Hurairah related to us, saying that the Apostle of God said: “Once, as a traveller was feeling extremely thirsty, he came upon a well. He went down into it, drank the water, and came out. On coming out, he saw a dog that was dying of thirst. Its tongue was sticking out and it was licking the wet earth. The man took pity on it and, again, went down into the well, filled his boot with water, held it by his teeth, and came out of the well, and gave the water to the dog to drink. This simple service to the thirsting dog pleased the Lord so much that He blessed the man with salvation.” Upon it some Companions enquired: “Is there a reward even on removing the distress of animals?” “Yes”, replied the Prophet. “On removing the distress of every living being (that can feel, the pangs of hunger and thirst).” – Bukhari and Muslim


Sometimes, even an ordinary act is most pleasing to God owing to the idea or intention behind it, or the unusual circumstances in which it is performed, and all the sins and iniquities of the doer are forgiven as a result of it. The incident, related in the above report, is of a similar kind. A traveller is pressing on towards his destination under the hot sun. He is tormented by thirst. In these circumstances, he sees a well, but there is no rope or bucket to draw the water from it. With great difficulty, he climbs down into the well, drinks the water, and comes out. Now, he sees a dog licking the wet earth. He takes pity on it. The situation in which he is placed demands that he should hurry on with the journey and reach the destination early so that he could have some rest. But there is the dying dog. He cannot leave it alone. It is, also, a creature of the Lord. So, he decides to go down into the well again and fetch the water for the poor animal. On reaching the water, he fills his leather-stocking, holds it by the teeth, and comes out, and gives the water to the dog. The mercy and benevolence of the Lord is stirred by it and the decision is reached to grant him forgiveness and Paradise. It needs to be remembered that it was not merely the act of giving water to the dog that mattered, but the spirit behind it.

(4) Narrates Abdullah bin Jafar that ‘once the Apostle of God went to the orchard of an Ansar Companion [Literally, the term Ansar means the ‘helpers.’ In Islamic terminology, the term applies to the inhabitants of Madinah who embraced the Islamic faith and extended warm support and sympathy to the Muhajirs (or the emigrants from Makkah)]. There was a camel over there which groaned pathetically on seeing the Prophet, as a she-camel does when separated from its young one, and, began to shed tears. The Prophet went to it and stroked its head gently until it became quiet. He, then, asked: ‘Whose camel is it?’ An Ansar young man came forward and said that it belonged to him. The Prophet there upon, said to the Ansar: ‘Do you not fear God, in respect of the poor, dumb creature, Who has made you its master? It has complained to me that you keep it hungry and take too much work from it.’” – Abu Dawood


As Solomon (Hazrat Sulayman) used to understand the language of the birds, by Allah’s leave, which, also, is mentioned in the Qur’an: ‘We have been taught thee language of the birds,’ (XXVII: 16), the holy Prophet, too, could understand the language of the animals. The incident mentioned in this Tradition, of the Prophet’s comprehension of the complaint of the camel and, in the next, of his comprehension of the complaint of a bird, belong to the same category, and are, so to speak, among his miracles that cannot be explained by a known natural law. The moral of it is that anyone possessing an animal should feed it properly and take only as much work from it as may not be beyond its endurance. The world has, now, woken to the need of the prevention of cruelty to animals, but the sacred Prophet had taught it to mankind thirteen hundred years ago.

(5) Abul Rahman bin Abdullah bin Masud relates, on the authority of his father, that: “we were accompanying the Apostle of God on a journey that (once), while he had gone to attend the call of nature, we saw a small red bird, (probably a blue-necked jay), with two young ones, We caught the chicks, (and) the bird came and began to hover over our heads. (Meanwhile), the Prophet returned, and said: ‘Who has hurt the bird by catching its young ones? Give back the chicks to it’. He, then, saw an ant-hill we had set fire to, and enquired who had done that, ‘O Apostle of God’, we said, ‘We have burnt it’. He, thereupon, observed: ‘It befits no one save God, the Creator of Fire, to inflict the punishment of fire on a living being.’” – Abu Dawood


From these Traditions we learn that the animals too, even the ants, should not be treated cruelly.

(6) It is related by Abdullah bin Amr that the Apostle of God said: “A cruel, hard-hearted woman was cast into Hell simply for her cruelty to a cat which she held in captivity until it died of starvation. She neither gave it a morsel of food nor set it free so that it could eat the worms (or rodents) of the earth.” – Bukhari and Muslim


From Jabir’s account, quoted in Sahih Muslim, it appears that the woman was a Jewess and the holy Prophet had seen her undergoing the penalty of fire in Hell either during the Night of Ascension or in some other vision. Anyway, it is clear from it that even cruelty to animals is most displeasing to the Lord and can lead one to Hell.

(7) Abu Hurairah relates that he heard the truthful and trustworthy Syedna Abul Qasim (the Apostle of God) say: “The attribute of compassion is not taken away from the heart of anyone except the ill-fated.” Musnad Ahmad and Tirmizi


It shows that if the heart of anyone is wholly devoid of kindliness and compassion, it should be taken to mean that he is accursed in the sight of God, for the heart of a person who is doomed to Hell, alone, is totally lacking in mercy.

(8) It is related by Abu Hurairah that a person complained to the Apostle of God of his (own) hardheartedness. “Caress the head of the orphan, and feed the poor,” the Prophet replied. – Musnad Ahmad


Cruelty is a spiritual ailment. The questioner had sought the advice of the Prophet concerning the state of his heart upon which he was told to cultivate the habits of caressing the heads of the orphans and feeding the hungry. The remedy suggested by the holy Prophet is based upon a well-known principle of psychology, or, rather, it confirms it. It teaches that if a mental or emotional condition is not present in anyone, and he wants to acquire it, he should make himself look like possessing it, and, in course of time, it will become a part of his nature. Wear a mask, it is said, and your face will lift up and fill it. The method of profusion in Zikr (God-remembrance), as a means to the cultivation of Divine love, which is practiced among the Sufis is founded on the same principle.

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