By Editorial Staff
The names and attributes of God include “the Most Gracious” and “the Most Merciful ”. Man has a natural disposition to err and sin. He is naturally sinful and fallible.
As such, man stands in need of such God Who is Most Gracious and Most Merciful so that He will show mercy to him if he errs or sins, give him hope for repentance and penitence and urge people to have and show mercy to one another. In this way, both worldly and otherworldly lives will straighten out, with people sharing the feeling of mercy in this worldly life and God showing mercy to them in the Hereafter.
The Most Merciful in Islam
In Islam, God (called (Allah) in Arabic) is described as “Al-Rahman Al-Rahim” “the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful” in reference to God’s infinite mercy towards His creatures.
“Al-Rahman Al-Rahim” is also one of Al-Sab` Al-Mathani (“the Seven Repetitive Verses” in English) without which the prayer of a Muslim cannot be valid. Each Muslim must read “Al-Rahman Al-Rahim” in each of the units of the five obligatory daily prayers. That is to say, a Muslim must read “Al-Rahman Al-Rahim” at least seventeen times every day and night. This indicates how often a Muslim must conjure up the value of mercy from time to time.
In the opening chapter of the Qur’an, Surat Al-Fatihah, we read the following verses:
[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds – The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful (Al-Fatihah 1:2-3)
The descriptions of “the Most Gracious” and “the Most Merciful” are often repeated in the Qur’an. For example, we read:
And your god is one God. There is no deity [worthy of worship] except Him, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. (Al-Baqarah 2:163)
We also read:
And to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. He forgives whom He wills and punishes whom He wills. And Allah is Forgiving and Most Merciful. (Aal `Imran 3:129)
In Islam, God’s infinite mercy is mostly reflected in the so-called “original sin” and the story of Adam and Eve and their eating from the forbidden tree. We observe that Adam did not need anything after disobedience to God except for sincere repentance. When he turned to God in sincere repentance, God accepted his repentance and showed him infinite mercy. In the Qur’an, we read:
Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Most Merciful. (Al-Baqarah 2:37)
In Islam, we do not notice any consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve after their repentance. If a Muslim disobeys his Lord, he needs only to hasten to turn to God in sincere repentance and earnestly seek His forgiveness. God promised to forgive all sins and misdeeds and accept sincere repentance. In the Qur’an, we read:
And ask forgiveness of Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Most Merciful. (Al-Baqarah 2:199)
We also read:
And if, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Most Merciful. (An-Nisaa’ 4:64)
We further read:
And whoever does a wrong or wrongs himself but then seeks forgiveness of Allah will find Allah Forgiving and Most Merciful. (An-Nisaa’ 4:110)
About the acceptance of repentance, we read:
Except for those who return [repenting] before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Most Merciful. (Al-Ma’idah 5:34)
We also read:
But whoever repents after his wrongdoing and reforms, indeed, Allah will turn to him in forgiveness. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Most Merciful. (Al-Ma’idah 5:39)
Though polytheism is the deadliest sin to be committed against God, God forgives this cardinal sin and shows mercy to its committer if the latter turns to God in repentance. We read:
They have certainly disbelieved who say, “Allah is the third of three.” And there is no god except one God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, there will surely afflict the disbelievers among them a painful punishment. So will they not repent to Allah and seek His forgiveness? And Allah is Forgiving and Most Merciful. (Al-Ma’idah 5:73-74)
Another cardinal sin is the concealment of God’s revelations to mankind. This used to be done by the Jewish rabbis and the Christian priests. They used to distort, corrupt, alter, reveal parts and conceal other parts of their scriptures. In spite of the graveness of their offence and the seriousness of their sin, God promises to forgive and show mercy to them in case they turn to Him in repentance and reveal the words of God they concealed. We read:
Indeed, those who conceal what We sent down of clear proofs and guidance after We made it clear for the people in the Scripture – those are cursed by Allah and cursed by those who curse, Except for those who repent and correct themselves and make evident [what they concealed]. Those – I will accept their repentance, and I am the Accepting of repentance, the Most Merciful. (Al-Baqarah 2:159-160)
We even notice that if a Muslim has to commit a certain sin unintentionally, God shows him mercy, forgives him and accepts his repentance. In the Qur’an, God says:
But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Most Merciful. (Al-Baqarah 2:173)
We also read:
But whoever is forced by severe hunger with no inclination to sin – then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Most Merciful. (Al-Ma’idah 5:3)
The Most Merciful in Christianity
In the Bible, especially the New Testament, God is described as “Merciful”. We read: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:46-50)
The New Testament often urges mercy. We read: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) We also read: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)
Though the Bible urges mercy, we observe that the biblical conception of God is quite far away from any sort of mercy. We notice that, in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, when Adam disobeyed his Lord, God did not forgive him, rather He threatened him and cursed the earth because of him.
In the Bible, we read: “To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
Also, in the New Testament, we observe that the Bible based on Adam’s obedience an unforgivable sin. The Bible made salvation from such a sin through a demigod given the impossibility of the forgiveness of such a sin. Thus, this being had to be killed so that he would redeem mankind from this sin. Then, God could accept the repentance of His sinful creation.
In the New Testament, we read the following verses:
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict” (John 3:14-19)
It is quite evident that the Islamic conception of God is more acceptable and palatable for it takes into account the fallible nature of humankind. Since man is naturally disposed to committing sins, God facilitates for him a way out of this sin through repentance and penitence.
In Islam, God did not base on the sin of Adam and Eve a burden to be inherited by their offspring generation after generation. Rather, He showed mercy to them, accepted their repentance and promised to forgive the sins of their offspring and accept their repentance if they turn to Him in sincere repentance. Thus, God showed mercy to Adam and Eve as well as their offspring and urged them to show mercy to one another. Consequently, Adam and Eve as well as their progeny got the better of this world and the one to come: with reciprocal mercy in this world and forgiveness and bliss in the Hereafter.
As for the Christian conception of God, it is an unacceptable one, for God, according to the Bible, did not take into consideration the fallible nature of mankind. How come God is not Merciful towards and does not forgive the sins of Adam and Eve as well as their offspring though He created them as sinful beings? What can be expected from a sinful self except for sin? Is it fair to refuse to show mercy to them when committing a sin they are naturally disposed to? If God cannot show mercy to His servants and could only incite grudge among them, how can God expect them to do good deeds and show mercy if He Himself cannot show it?
1- The Glorious Qur’an (Sahih International Translation)
2- The Holy Bible (Visit biblegateway.com)