Could This Be War?
Mercy in Islam also extends to enemies, in times of war
and peace, as Prophet Muhammad used to urge his Companions to maintain family
ties with relatives who were still disbelievers by calling on them and giving
As for times of war, God commands Muslims to grant
refuge to enemies if they should ask for it, and forbids anyone to harm them. This
is stated in the Quran, where God says what means:
“If one amongst the pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to
him, so that he may hear the word of God; and then escort him to where he can
be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge” (Quran 9:6)
As for the Prophet, he forbade his Companions to harm
the elderly, injured, women, children, and people in places of worship. Also,
destroying fields was forbidden. Defacing the corpses of enemies was strictly
banned and giving them rapid burial was commanded out of respect.
The Prophet’s orders regarding captives were strictly
obeyed by his Companions. In one of the stories about a battle related to us
by a captive, he says that he was staying with a Muslim family after being captured.
Whenever they had their meals, they used to give him preference by offering him
bread while they would eat only dates.
When the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be
upon him, victoriously entered Makkah after defeating the Quraish, he
approached them and asked:
“How do you expect me to treat you?”
They replied, “You are a noble brother and the son of
a noble brother! We expect nothing but goodness from you.”
Then the Prophet announced, “I speak to you in the
same words as Yusuf (the Prophet Joseph) spoke unto his brothers:
“No reproach on you this day, God will forgive you,
He is the Most Merciful of the Merciful” (Quran 12:92).
Go, for verily you are free.”
On this day, when tolerance and forgiveness were least
expected, the Prophet set an example of mercy and forgiveness by releasing all
the captives without ransom, and forgiving them for the persecution and brutal
torture of the Muslims, which was continuous during the first 13 years of
conveying the message of Islam.
All of God’s Creatures
Animals were not ignored and were given many rights in
Islam. For instance, when the Prophet saw a donkey with a branded face, he
“Have you not heard that I have cursed anyone who
brands an animal on its face or who hits it on its face?” (Saheeh Muslim).
The Prophet once said that a woman was sent to Hell
because of a cat that she imprisoned, neither feeding it nor setting it free to
hunt for its own food. On the other hand, the Prophet said, a man went to Paradise for giving water to a dog in the desert that was panting out of thirst.
The Prophet forbade that knives should be sharpened in
front of animals before slaughtering. In addition, the slaughtering of an
animal before another was prohibited. This is clear in one of the Prophetic
“God calls for mercy in everything, so be merciful
when you kill and when you slaughter: sharpen your blade to relieve its pain” (Saheeh
One of the Companions related this incident: When they
were traveling with the Prophet, they found a bird with its young ones, so they
took them from their mother. The bird came and started flapping its wings, so
the Prophet asked:
“Who has distressed this bird by taking its young?
Return them to it at once” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari).
Animal rights were affirmed by the Prophet when he said
that anyone who took a living thing as a target is cursed. Forcing animals to
fight till one gores the other was also strictly banned, for animals have
feelings and this would be definite torture for them.
The Islamic concept of mercy is holistic and stresses
the interconnectedness of all of creation with itself and with the Creator. Mercy
starts with God and is bestowed by Him to every living creature. Animals and
humans alike show each other mercy, to live harmoniously with one another, and
in turn, by showing this mercy, they themselves are shown even more mercy from God.
This vision of Islam encourages the breaking down of barriers between peoples
and is the underlying foundation upon which both life and civilization are