Al-Rahman is often translated as “The Compassionate” but this translation is insufficient. Rather, it entails an all-encompassing wardship, like a womb, and the two words come from the same root word. The significance of al-Rahman becomes apparent when we read the Qur’an as Allah describe Himself in the basmala by this name after mentioning His proper name. [Quran 1:1] Thus, we are constantly reminded of Allah’s encompassing wardship.
Mercy is also a fundamental component of our deen. The essence of the entire mission of Sayyidna Muhammed, may peace and blessings be upon him, was mercy. Allah describes the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) as follows: “And We did not send you except as a mercy to all the words.” [Quran 21:107]
We are called to imitate the character of the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him). In order to be good khulafa upon this world, we must deal with creation mercifully. “The Merciful has mercy upon those who show mercy, show mercy to that which in the world and He in the sky will show you mercy,” said our Noble Messenger (may peace and blessings be upon him) (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi). The mercy described in this narration is broad, not specific, and thus extends to all of creation. As such, Muslims are called to be merciful to all of humanity, not just to their fellow Muslims. The narration also entails exhibiting mercy to non-humans and nature as well.
We must realize that we are in need of Allah’s Mercy at all times. Even when we have a sense of apparent safety, we need Allah’s Mercy as much as a sailor in stormy waters. No one is an object of mercy unless they are in need and we are in absolute need of Allah merely to exist.
The Mercy Allah showers upon us requires us to be obedient to His pronouncements and prohibitions. It requires that we purify our hearts from arrogance and disdain for people. Many people oppress humans and animals without noticing and are unable to humble themselves to the service of others because of these two features.
We have become miserable khulafa. Many species have gone extinct for sport and many others face extinction because of environmental degradation. May Allah forgive us of our ways and allow us to show mercy to creation so that He may have mercy upon us.
Much more can be said on this so I counsel you to Imam al-Ghazali’s The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God.
Allah’s Impoverished Servant,