Be Like Adam's Son: The Prophets and Mercy

From Jawdat Said

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What happened that blinded us to the mission of prophets? What concealed from our eyes the mercy they taught so that we gave the infliction of pain first place? This is one of the things that make me say that the real age of prophets is ahead of us and not behind us. While the prophets taught people to compete in doing more good, we took up the principle of inflicting more hurt. But their principles will come to dominate. If we fail to adopt their message, there will come a generation that does uphold it and adopt it.

Of course you would not expect Muslims to bear the message of mercy to humankind, or to have much mercy for humankind, when they do not show mercy in dealings among Muslim groups. And all this has come up most glaringly in the Gulf War, our great tragedy. Is there not evidence enough in this war? Does it not refute convincingly all the big claims? All our hidden and denied malaise was brought out through this war.

We did not show mercy, not even loyalty to our next of kin and brethrens, not to mention mercy for our fellow human beings. Neither the causes were merciful, nor the so-called cure was. We really acted in flagrant defiance of all the merciful message of the prophets. We believed in destruction and eradicating man; we craved vindictively to do mischief.

The Qur'an teaches otherwise, "Those who behave arrogantly on the earth in defiance of right – I will turn them away from My Signs: Even if they see all the Signs, they will not believe in them; and if they see the way of right conduct, they will not adopt it as the Way; but if they see the way of error, that is the Way they will adopt. For they have rejected Our Signs, and failed to take warning from them." (7:146). And when we read 'I will turn them away' let us remember the two readings of the Qur'an. A human has done enough to deserve being turned away from the right way; there have been changes in the concepts and values in proportion to the torture inflicted on a human. Do we realize that very stringent laws control a human's being merciful or being hard-hearted, and that those laws are not beyond our reach? How can we learn and teach others to help the sick person to heal, and not to kill him?

Do we enjoy seeing the disease, or seeing the afflicted being eliminated? There is really no need, for no matter how hateful a person appears to us, his disease is one thing and he is another. And you see that the disease is common to all of us, so why pour our malice on the head of some individuals and groups? The tragic thing is that we do our best to protect the disease, and are ready to lay our life for perpetuating it! You know how arduous and challenging a human's struggle with viruses that attack the body is; but indeed we have a more arduous and challenging struggle with viruses that block understanding. These intellectual viruses are so elusive that they keep escaping detection. It is something like what Foucault said, "I am not where you seek me; I am here, where I stand mocking you and your search."

As Skinner comments, if Plato, Aristotle, and Gale were resurrected among us, they would not understand one page of the modern books on math, biology, or medicine; but if Socrates or Diogenes were resurrected and read some of the modern books on politics, ethics and international law, they would have no difficulty understanding them, for they will find humankind where they left it more than two millenniums ago.

It is not that in these latter spheres it is not possible to make breakthroughs? No it is not so, and some thinkers and philosophers begin to grope for something new. But somehow it scares them to suspect a new world, and they stop short.