Today, often times a “religious” person is seen to be someone who is rough and rigid, spouting do’s and don’ts without thinking twice about the emotions of the person being scolded. The Prophet ﷺ, however, was the farthest from any such description. He was a man who was enveloped in mercy, who cared for the weak, encouraged the women, and stood up for anyone in need.
“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].” [Qur’an, 3:159]
The Prophet ﷺ did not only have mercy towards the men of his society at a time when women were treated very harshly, he was also busy working against this to replace it with mercy and compassion.
The men at the time of Rasul’Allah ﷺ were privileged with the opportunity to constantly be in his company, learning and growing with him. The women wanted to have such an opportunity, and being the leader that he was, the women did not feel any shyness or fear in requesting this from him. Upon request, the Prophet ﷺ set aside a special time just for the women so that he could answer their questions and help them with what they needed. There is a narration in which the Prophet ﷺ was sitting amongst the women and they were talking loudly to him. Umar came into the room and the women completely changed their demeanor. Seeing this, the Prophet ﷺ did not get angry, nor offended, nor even jealous–rather, he laughed. Umar radi Allahu anh (May Allah be pleased with him), asked the Messenger ﷺ why he laughed at their behavior and he replied that he was amazed at how the women hid the instant they heard Umar’s voice! This angered Umar and he questioned the women, asking how they should fear him yet not the Messenger ﷺ! Their response exemplifies the mercy that Prophet ﷺ had towards these women; they responded confidently that in comparison, Umar (ra) was hot-tempered, while the Prophet ﷺ was the epitome of mercy.
The Prophet ﷺ’s mercy was vast and inclusive. He spread it far and wide to the point that even animals could find refuge in his kindness. Of the many instances that are breathtakingly vibrant with the clemency of RasulAllah ﷺ is that of the helpless bird. ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud was traveling with the Prophet ﷺ and a few other men. One of the men took an egg from the bird’s nest. Out of despair, the bird came and flapped its wings at the Prophet ﷺ, and he took immediate notice to her sad state. He turned to his companions and asked them who had made this poor bird miserable. Upon finding out that her egg had been taken, he ordered the man to return the egg to her as a sign of mercy and compassion. At a time when many humans were not being shown kindness, the Prophet ﷺ mastered kindness to mankind and was already encouraging kindness and rights of animals.
Today, we look to the lives of the sahabah and read their stories. Many times, it is hard to comprehend how they had so much energy and drive to do all the things that they did. Their energy stemmed from pure Divine Love which was not built through harsh reprimands or robotic movements—rather, this love was built by being in the presence of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, seeing his amazing mercy and knowing that if he, the creation of Allah (swt), could exhibit such mercy, then what of his Creator?