To Whom Do Believers Show Compassion and Mercy?
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are fierce to the disbelievers, merciful to one another. You see them bowing and prostrating, seeking Allah's good favour and His pleasure. Their mark is on their faces, the traces of prostration…(Surat al-Fath: 29)
On every issue, the Qur'an, the only guide that "discriminates between right and wrong" lays down the mode of behaviour for believers. In the Qur'an, real compassion, and to whom and under which conditions believers are to show mercy are all made explicit. The following section deals with these topics.
Mercy Shown Towards Believers
Allah clarifies in the Qur'an that Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, is His Messenger and that "those who are with him are fierce to the disbelievers, merciful to one another". (Surat al-Fath: 29)
As this verse makes explicit, the people to whom believers show compassion are again believers, that is, those who have faith in Allah and who fear Him. One and above all else, they fulfil this as a command of Allah. This aside, seeing a believer's love for Allah, his elevated morality and his striving to earn Allah's approval and the exemplary morality he displays inspires a natural love, mercy and compassion in other believers' hearts. As is expressed in this verse, "Your friend is only Allah and His Messenger and those who believe: those who establish prayer and pay the welfare tax, and bow" (Surat al-Ma'ida: 55), believers know that they are the guardians of one another and act with the sincerity and fondness this acknowledgement brings. These attributes are expressed in another verse as follows:
The men and women of the believers are friends of one another. They command what is right and forbid what is wrong, and establish prayer and pay the welfare tax, and obey Allah and His Messenger. They are the people on whom Allah will have mercy. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat at-Tawba: 71)
The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, also told believers, "You will not be true believers until you are merciful with one another."(Bukhari and Muslim)
Thus, having this concept of friendship, believers aspire to eliminate all factors likely to cause trouble for one another and to create a peaceable and comfortable environment. They are aware that their brothers are weak servants of Allah like themselves. They acknowledge that they are apt to make mistakes, to commit errors of memory or to be forgetful. Therefore, they are never seized by feelings of anger or mercilessness and compassionately encourage one another to do good.
Nevertheless, Allah orders believers to be "fierce" to the disbelievers. That is because disbelievers struggle with the religion of Allah and even try to prevent people from living by it. This being the case, showing mercy to such people means turning a blind eye to the harm they are likely to do to religion. This is an utterly unacceptable situation with which believers would severely struggle until the end of their lives. Accordingly, they feel compassion towards sincere believers who fear Allah and who strive to earn Allah's approbation.
Compassion Shown Towards Those Who Emigrated in the Way of Allah
In the Qur'an, the emigrants are defined as those "who were driven from their homes and wealth desiring the favour and the pleasure of Allah and supporting Allah and His Messenger". (Surat al-Hashr: 9) In another verse, it is stated that these people had been expelled from their homes without any right only because they said: "Our Lord is Allah". (Surat al-Hajj: 40)
Allah assigned believers to protect those who migrated in the way of Allah and informed them that these people were the guardians and friends of one another:
Those who believe and have migrated and struggled with their wealth and themselves in the Way of Allah, and those who have given refuge and help, they are the friends and protectors of one another… (Surat al-Anfal: 72)
Believers, whom Allah characterizes as those who "give refuge", extend their help to those who, leaving everything they owned behind, take refuge with them, although they had no prior acquaintance with them. Neither the wealth, nor the status, nor the occupations of the refugees have any importance for them, since they only help because they say they have faith in Allah. Leaving this aside, they have no expectations from them, whether immediate or long-term. Their purpose is to earn Allah's approval and therefore, they expect their rewards only from Allah.
The support provided by believers to those emigrants is a sign of their elevated morality and understanding of mercy. Yet, they essentially display this morality because it is a command of Allah. This obligation of believers is related in the following verse:
Let not those of you who possess affluence and ample wealth ever become remiss in helping (the erring ones among) their relatives and the very poor and those who have migrated in the way of Allah. They should rather pardon and overlook. Would you not love Allah to forgive you? Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surat an-Nur: 22)
In compliance with this command of Allah, believers accept those who flee their homes as their "brothers" and demonstrate a deep compassion for them. They share all their earnings with them, care for them and provide them with shelter. To make them feel at home and to ease their trouble, they anticipate their potential needs before they express them and try to meet them.
However, what is most important is that believers make all these sacrifices voluntarily, without feeling any distress. If necessary, they offer their own food, clothing and even their homes to the refugees even if they themselves are in need and this never causes them any uneasiness. Indeed, the fellow feeling they show to those who migrate soothes their conscience. It pleases them greatly to display such morality as pleases Allah. The morality of such believers is described in the following verse:
Those who were already settled in the abode, and in faith, before they came, love those who have migrated to them and do not find in their hearts any need for what they have been given and prefer them to themselves even if they themselves are needy. It is the people who are safe-guarded from the avarice of their own selves who are successful. (Surat al-Hashr: 9
Allah informs us that these people "are successful", because of their sublime morality. Glad tidings are given in another verse to those who display such attitudes as are most favoured by Allah towards the emigrants only to gain Allah's approval:
…Those who have given refuge and help (to those who have migrated), they are the true believers. They will have forgiveness and generous provision. (Surat al-Anfal: 74)
Compassion Shown for Parents
Doing good and showing compassion for parents are clear commands that have been repeated in many verses of the Qur'an:
We have instructed man to honour his parents… (Surat al-'Ankabut: 8)
We have instructed man to be good to his parents… (Surat al-Ahqaf: 15)
Your Lord has decreed that you should worship none but Him, and that you should show kindness to your parents. Whether one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say "Ugh!" to them out of irritation and do not be harsh with them but speak to them with gentleness and generosity. Take them under your wing, out of mercy, with due humility and say: "Lord, show mercy to them as they did in looking after me when I was small". (Surat al-Isra': 23-24)
In compliance with the commands of Allah, believers show a compassionate attitude towards their parents who grow old and need care.
The above verse also explains the extent to which a believer must show compassion to his parents. With the admonition, "do not say 'Ugh!' to them out of irritation and do not be harsh with them but speak to them with gentleness and generosity" (Surat al-Isra': 23), Allah prohibits believers from adopting a disrespectful manner or even a merciless attitude. Therefore, believers behave very kindly and compassionately towards their parents who grow old and become weak. They do their best to make them feel comfortable and always respect them. Considering the difficulties and distress old age is likely to bring, they anticipate all their needs. This aside, they never stop being tender-hearted and respectful in their manner, no matter what the circumstances. On this matter, a hadith of the Prophet (says):
I asked, "Messenger of Allah, to whom should I be dutiful?" He replied, "Your mother"...."Then to whom should I be dutiful?" He replied, "Your father,and then the next closest relative and then the next". (Bukhari, Muslim)
However, there is a different kind of situation which a believer is likely to encounter regarding his parents; it may well be that the parents of a believer might have chosen the path of disbelief. The attitude a believer has to adopt in such a case would be to graciously and tolerantly summon them back to the right path. The dialogue between the Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, and his father is exemplary in the sense of the manner to be adopted and the attitude to be assumed. When the Prophet Ibrahim wanted his father to desist from worshipping idols, he addressed him thus:
Mention Ibrahim in the Book. He was a true man and a prophet. Remember when he said to his father, "Father, why do you worship what can neither hear nor see and is not of any use to you at all? Father, knowledge which never reached you has come to me, so follow me and I will guide you to the right path.
Father, do not worship Devil. Devil was disobedient to the All-Merciful. Father, I am afraid that a punishment from the All-Merciful will afflict you, and turn you into a comrade of Devil". (Surah Maryam: 41-45)
However, as is in the case of the Prophet Ibrahim's father, there may be certain people who remain indifferent to an exhortation made in a kind and respectful manner. In the face of such indifference however, in compliance with Allah's command, believers must still maintain their reverent and compassionate attitude towards their old and needy parents. Nevertheless, they do not respect or obey their ideas, since they (their parents) live by the principles of a perverted system of beliefs. The unique guide to the true path for a believer is Allah's commands and Allah explains the attitude a believer must adopt in such a situation in this way:
But if they try to make you associate something with Me about which you have no knowledge, do not obey them. Keep company with them correctly and courteously in this world but follow the Way of him who turns to Me. Then you will return to Me and I will inform you about the things you did. (Surah Luqman: 15)
Kindness Shown to Travellers
The attitude assumed towards travellers is another manifestation of the beneficence of believers. Believers provide all forms of material and spiritual support to wayfarers, who, for one reason or another, have difficulty in reaching their final destination, and they ensure that they arrive there safe and sound. Meanwhile, they consider the potential difficulties and troubles they are to encounter, take effective steps to eliminate them, and provide all other necessary assistance. This obligation, which Allah imposes on believers, is stated in the Qur'an as follows:
… (Be good to) travellers and your slaves. Allah does not love anyone vain or boastful. (Surat an-Nisa': 36)
The offerings given for the sake of Allah is for the poor, the destitute, those who collect it, reconciling people's hearts, freeing slaves, those in debt, spending in the Way of Allah, and travellers. It is a legal obligation from Allah. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.(Surat at-Tawba: 60)
In the above verses, Allah commands believers to "be good" to these people apart from the material support they offer. Given the elevated values of the Qur'an, it is easy for believers to know—as a matter of conscience—how to "do good" and they take great pleasure in displaying these good manners. They think about the possible needs of a wayfarer and accordingly assume a naturally sensitive attitude towards them.
These commands of Allah also reveal the understanding of responsibility and the humane qualities instilled in believers by the Qur'an. Believers, who take upon themselves the responsibility for a wayfarer, never remain heedless towards incidents taking place around them. Towards one who needs help, they never assume an inhumane attitude or say, "He is someone I have never met before", "This is none of my business", or "I don't care a bit how he copes with this situation".
They care for the needy and support them with whatever means Allah has bestowed upon them. If they lack the material means to provide the necessary support, they still do not leave them to their own devices, but seek solutions on their behalf. Indeed, in most cases, they put up a far better effort than the needy person himself and continue to deal with the matter until all problems are entirely resolved and needs are satisfactorily met.
This morality and compassion displayed by believers stem from their attachment to Allah which is marked by a profound love for and fear of Him. It is again because of this attachment that believers meticulously comply with the values of the Qur'an.
Compassion Shown Towards the Poor
Some people in societies indifferent to religion consider themselves to be highly sensitive to the needs of the poor. However, the attitude these people assume towards the poor is only a matter of habit. Sensitivity in its real sense appears only when people fully comply with the commands of the Qur'an.
Believers meticulously fulfil the commands of the Qur'an regarding the poor out of their fear of Allah. They do this because it is a command of Allah and because this is what their understanding of mercy and their conscience tell them to do. Believers are thus zealous in making all kinds of sacrifices of their own free will.
In Surat at-Tawba, verse 60, the poor are specified among those to whom alms must be given. According to this verse, giving alms to the poor becomes an obligation for believers. In the verse, "And beggars and the destitute received a due share of their wealth" (Surat adh-Dhariyat: 19), Allah makes it clear that alms must be given not only to those who openly express their indigence but also to those who refrain from doing so because of their nobility of character.
In the following verse Allah elaborates upon the situation of the latter class of people.
It (Charity) is for the poor who are held back in the Way of Allah, unable to travel in the land. The ignorant consider them rich because of their reticence. You will know them by their mark. They do not ask from people insistently. Whatever good you give away, Allah knows it.(Surat al-Baqara: 273)
As is expressed in the above verse, such people refrain from importuning others for help. However, believers, as a matter of conscience and compassion, recognise the indigence of these people and offer them support to meet their needs. If necessary, they give precedence to the needs of these people over their own. In accordance with the hadith of Allah's Messenger, "Blessed is the wealth of a Muslim from which he gives to the poor, the orphans and to needy travelers" (Bukhari), they know that this is good for them. The Qur'an describes this noble understanding of mercy which is peculiar to believers as follows:
They give food, despite their love for it, to the poor and orphans and captives, (saying): "We feed you only out of desire for the Face of Allah. We do not want any repayment from you or any thanks". (Surat al-Insan: 8-9)
As is evident, believers never try to make others feel indebted because of the compassion they demonstrate or the help they offer, nor do they even expect to be thanked. Their true aim is to try to gain Allah's approval by means of the morality they display. That is because they know that they will be called to account for that morality on the Day of Judgment, and giving alms to the poor is a deed about which they will be questioned. In the Qur'an, Allah has expressly revealed that hell will be the destination of those who knowingly refuse to comply with His commands. It is said that the righteous will ask the sinners:
"What caused you to be scorched?" They will say, "We were not among those who did prayer and we did not feed the poor. (Surat al-Muddaththir: 42-44)
(Allah commands:) "Seize him and truss him up." Then roast him in the Blazing Fire. Then bind him in a chain which is seventy cubits long. He used not to believe in Allah the Magnificent, nor did he urge the feeding of the poor."(Surat al-Haqqa: 30-34)
People's failing to encourage one another to support the poor singles them out for the ignoble end of being cast into hell. On this, the Almighty specifies who wrongdoers are:
Have you seen him who denies the religion? He is the one who harshly rebuffs the orphan and does not urge the feeding of the poor.(Surat al-Ma'un: 1-3)
"Nor do you urge the feeding of the poor."(Surat al-Fajr: 18)
This aside, the compassion shown by believers to the poor is not limited to material support. In compliance with the verse "…Be good to your parents and relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to neighbours who are related to you and neighbours who are not related to you, and to companions and travellers and your slaves". (Surat an-Nisa': 36), believers are kind and respectful towards the poor. In yet another verse, Allah commands believers to be forgiving and tolerant to the poor:
Let not those of you who possess affluence and ample wealth ever become remiss in helping (the erring ones among) their relatives and the very poor and those who have migrated in the way of Allah. They should rather pardon and overlook. Would you not love Allah to forgive you? Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.(Surat an-Nur: 22)
As is evident, the high morality with which believers deal with the poor also manifests their mercy. Aware that the ultimate Owner of everything is Allah alone, believers acknowledge that everyone is poor before Allah's wealth and thus also approach the poor with affection and compassion.
Mercy Shown to Orphans
Orphans must be treated not with harshness but with beneficence
The mercifulness of believers may also be observed in their approach to orphans. The noblest of attitudes that must be shown to orphans, who need the care and interest of others because they have lost their parents, are made explicit in the Qur'an. One of the exemplary attitudes believers meticulously adopt is "to do good" to orphans and "never to treat them harshly".
In societies in which the values of the Qur'an are not observed, no system has been devised to protect the rights of orphans or to secure their future. Protection, such as it is, depends upon the conscience of the people. For this reason, some ill-intentioned individuals may try to benefit from the lack of experience and ignorance of these children. Indeed, having no one to protect their rights, orphans can readily become subject to abusive treatment at the hands of those who have taken it upon themselves to care for them. Such people may expect orphans to feel gratitude because they have taken them under their wing or they may reproachfully remind them of the kindnesses they have done them. On the other hand, subjecting them to a different kind of treatment, they may oppress these children in both the physical and the spiritual sense. Nevertheless, Allah prohibits subjecting orphans to harsh treatment and condemns those who mistreat them:
Have you seen him who denies the religion? He is the one who harshly rebuffs the orphan and does not urge the feeding of the poor. So woe to those who do prayer, and are forgetful of their prayer, those who show off and deny help to others. (Surat al-Ma'un: 1-7)
Contrary to such offensive treatment, Qur'anic morality demands tolerant and compassionate treatment of orphans as expressed in the verse, "(be good to) orphans and the very poor. And speak good words to people". (Surat al-Baqara: 83) Believers meticulously observe this command. Their conscience and understanding of humanity entail the protection of orphans who need help and care, and the meeting of all their spiritual and material needs. Believers never oppress orphans, expect them to appreciate their kindness or strive to obtain any material or spiritual benefits from them. On the contrary, they protect their rights and adopt the best possible attitude. Their strong sense of what is right, their profound fear of Allah and their compassion account for this meticulousness.
Improving the situation in life of orphans and bringing them up as decent individuals
…They will ask you about the property of orphans. Say, "Managing it in their best interests is best". If you mix your property with theirs, they are your brothers… (Surat al-Baqara: 220)
As is implied in the above verse, Allah advises believers to bring orphans up as decent individuals. Believers show keenness to take this responsibility upon themselves and do their best to educate them in the best way possible.
However, the most important responsibility of a person who takes a child under his protection is to instil in him the noble values of the Qur'an and to make him regard Allah with due appreciation. That is because, these are the most important issues that guide the individual to truth and salvation. A child develops moral sense in the light of the knowledge he acquires in his early years and is accordingly prepared for his eternal life in the hereafter. For this reason, this is the most important issue to which a believer pays attention while an orphan under his care is being educated. He does his utmost to ensure that he or she has superior values as a believer. No doubt, this is only made possible by his living by the values of the Qur'an himself. Abiding by Islamic ethics ensures that orphans grow up into decent, intelligent, hard-working individuals.
Protection of orphans' property
Allah issues a stern warning to those who misappropriate the wealth of orphans:
People who consume the property of orphans wrongfully consume nothing in their bellies except fire. They will roast in a Searing Blaze. (Surat an-Nisa': 10)
In compliance with the above verse, believers who assume the responsibility for an orphan do not spend that orphan's personal wealth for their own needs or expect anything in return. On the contrary, giving them priority over all others, they protect the rights and wealth of such orphans as are entrusted to them by Allah.
Being meticulous about protecting the wealth of an orphan entrusted to one's care is something peculiar to those who are sincere in their faith, who have a high standard of morality and who grasp the understanding of mercy described in the Qur'an, especially since a guardian is granted the authority to spend the wealth of an orphan. Not spending a penny for one's own personal needs out of a property entrusted to one—despite having the authority to spend from it is truly a matter of conscience. In the Qur'an, Allah advises the wealthy guardian to behave decently in this matter. If the guardian in question is poor, then he is allowed to spend within the due limits specified in the Qur'an. Believers who fear Allah and who are aware of the Day of Judgement behave in a manner in His eyes, most in keeping with the dictates of the conscience, and in observance of the Prophet's warning "Whoever is not merciful towards people, will not be treated mercifully by Allah." (Ahmad). That is because, Allah warns that, "devouring" the wealth of the orphan is a grave sin.
Give orphans their property, and do not substitute bad things for good. Do not assimilate their property into your own. Doing that is a serious crime. (Surat an-Nisa': 2)
Fearing Allah and His grievous punishment in the hereafter, believers carefully conserve the wealth of orphans until they reach intellectual maturity. When orphans grow old and mature enough to exercise rational and healthy judgement, believers hand over their property to them. The conditions of this are specified in the Qur'an as follows:
Keep a close check on orphans until they reach a marriageable age, then if you perceive that they have sound judgement hand over their property to them. Do not consume it extravagantly and precipitately before they come of age. Those who are wealthy should abstain from it altogether. Those who are poor should use it sensibly and correctly. When you hand over their property to them ensure that there are witnesses on their behalf. Allah suffices as a Reckoner.(Surat an-Nisa': 6)
Believers comply exactly with all these commands relating to the care and education of orphans. A comparison made between the way people in societies distant from religion treat orphans and the attitude of believers shows the nobleness of Qur'anic morality.
Mercy Shown to Debtors
Another very good example of the mercy peculiar to believers is the attitude they assume towards debtors. Allah relates the proper attitude one has to adopt to debtors in the following verse:
If someone is in difficult circumstances, there should be a deferral until things are easier. But making a free gift of it would be better for you if you only knew. (Surat al-Baqara: 280)
Believers adopt an entirely compassionate and sensible attitude to one who is in difficulty over paying his debts. A believer, above all, is a person of wisdom and high conscience. Thus, he can very well understand what a person in debt goes through and accordingly assumes the most conscientious and compassionate attitude possible.
No doubt, debt is an important liability to take on, involving as it does a promise given to another party. Indeed, in numerous verses, Allah commands people to keep their promises. However, according to the above verse, when a debt is at issue, decision about its settlement, rests entirely with the creditor. The creditor can postpone repayment until the debtor is in better financial conditions. However, Allah stresses that it is better for a believer to waive the debt and consider it as alms.
The Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had this to say on the behaviour of the creditor:
"Who gives respite to a debtor or grants him remission, Allah will give him shade under His shade". (Muslim)
Nevertheless, there is one important point to consider here: The believer may exercise this right only when he believes in the honesty of the other party. This is not a procedure to follow for a debtor with a fraudulent mentality. Otherwise, people bereft of a sincere fear of Allah may attempt to defraud people of good faith who have good intentions.
At this point, a believer simply relies on his conscience and wisdom, and obeys this command of the Qur'an when he feels the other party is decent and has sincere intentions.
Mercy Shown to Those Whose Hearts are to be Reconciled
The offerings given for the sake of Allah is for the poor, the destitute, those who collect it, reconciling people's hearts, freeing slaves, those in debt, spending in the Way of Allah, and travellers. It is a legal obligation from Allah. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.(Surat at-Tawba: 60)
In the Qur'an, reference is made to a group of people "whose hearts are to be reconciled". These are the people who have recently started learning about Islam or who have no knowledge of religion at all, but for whom efforts are made to encourage them to have faith.
Believers who acknowledge the perfection of the religion Allah has chosen for mankind and witness its being the unique system in consonance with their creation, also wish others to live by this beautiful system. This aside, aware that all people will be called to give an account of their deeds on the Day of Judgement, they strive to warn them and summon them to the true path while there is still time. That is because, they know that the only way to attain salvation both in this world and beyond is to live by the guidelines of Islam. Allah commands believers to communicate His religion to the people. These virtues of believers are related in the Qur'an as follows:
You are the best nation ever to be produced before mankind. You enjoin the right, forbid the wrong and believe in Allah. (Surah Al 'Imran: 110)
Believers take every opportunity to save people from a life which is distant from religion and to protect them from hell. They encourage them to do good and try to prevent them from engaging in wicked deeds. They aim to save such people as are on the brink of an abyss because of their ignorance. Allah thus describes the situation of these people before committing themselves to religion:
…You were on the very brink of a pit of the Fire and He rescued you from it. In this way Allah makes His Signs clear to you, so that hopefully you will be guided. (Surah Al 'Imran: 103)
Believers, who are very well aware of the torment an irreligious life brings to man, try various ways of making people embrace Allah's religion and thus save them from the situation they are in. They make any sacrifice, both material and spiritual, to communicate their religion to those "whose hearts are to be reconciled". The Qur'an typifies as "alms" everything spent for the purpose of propagating religion. This is the kind of spending which will be rewarded generously in the sight of Allah. Indeed, having faith in Allah means being saved from the torment of hell and attaining an eternal life in paradise. The believers' understanding of mercy, stemming from their fear of Allah, entails spending without expecting anything in return. That is because, for believers, there exist no such benefits as would be received in return for such spending. Furthermore, when needed, they put restrictions on their own needs or make other sacrifices to be able to offer this help. Meanwhile, we have to keep in mind that there is always the possibility that these people whose hearts are to be reconciled might never agree to embrace Islam. Even if this is the case, none of the efforts of a believer go unnoticed; he will be rewarded most bountifully in the hereafter. Throughout history, all messengers who were assigned to proclaiming the divine message, gave expression to this truth:
My people! I do not ask you for any wage for it. My wage is the responsibility of Him who brought me into being. So will you not use your intellect? (Surah Hud: 51)
Say: "I do not ask you for any wage for it—only that anyone who wants to should make his way towards his Lord". (Surat al-Furqan: 57)
Compassion Shown to Women
Providing maintenance for divorced women
Allah states in the Qur'an that providing maintenance for divorced women is an obligation for all men of faith:
Divorced women should receive maintenance given with correctness and courtesy: a duty for all who believe. (Surat al-Baqara: 241)
The amount of the maintenance is to be determined by mutual agreement of the involved parties. While determining this amount, believers assume a conscientious attitude and take into account the social status and the needs of the woman. The appropriate behaviour Allah recommends believers is stated as follows:
… But give them a gift—he who is wealthy according to his means and he who is less well off according to his means—a gift to be given with correctness and courtesy: a duty for all good-doers. (Surat al-Baqara: 236)
He who has plenty should spend out from his plenty, but he whose provision is restricted should spend from what Allah has given him. Allah does not demand from any self more than He has given it. Allah will appoint after difficulty, ease. (Surat at-Talaq: 7)
Whether well-off or poor, Allah commands believers to support women in a manner commensurate with their own means. In societies which do not live by the values of religion, generously supporting an ex-wife, from whom one can no longer derive any benefits, is regarded as vain spending. This being so, the people in question try to give the minimum alimony possible and to this end even resort to fraudulence. However, guided by his conscience and his compassion, a believer never reneges on such an obligation. After all, he performs this duty as a good deed which will earn him the approval of Allah. That he has no further expectations from her or that she has fallen in his estimation, never influences his attitude. Besides, his humane feelings and compassion incline him to support a person who is in need. For that reason, those who are well-off make adequate provision for divorced women to have a good standard of living. Similarly, a poor person does not shirk this responsibility, by saying, "I have insufficient means"; he fulfils this responsibility in the best way he can.
Not taking back the properties given to women after divorce
If you desire to exchange one wife for another and have given your original wife a large amount, do not take any of it. Would you take it by means of slander and outright crime? How could you take it when you have been intimate with one another and they have made a binding contract with you? (Surat an-Nisa': 20-21)
In compliance with the command implicit in the above verses, upon the decision to divorce, a man of faith makes no request whatsoever to take back the properties he formerly gave to his wife. That is because these properties were meant to be a safeguard for the woman and their loss may put her in difficulty. To prevent such an undesirable situation, Allah imposes this condition upon male believers, thereby securing the social well-being of women.
Besides, the extent of this property does not lessen the obligation this verse imposes upon a man. Even if a believing man has given all his possessions to his spouse, he does not request the return of anything after separation.
As is evident, these commands of the Qur'an make manifest the superiority of the understanding of mercy the Qur'an offers to believers. At the cost of placing themselves in difficulties, believers never depart from the Qur'anic notion of mercy conveyed in these verses, and fully comply with it.
Setting divorced women free with liberality
In societies distant from religion, divorce often becomes a source of unrest and disagreements. This may be accounted for by the failure of the parties to reach a compromise. The two sides usually voice their own requests and claims and no criteria exist to judge their validity. The absence of these criteria leads to many disagreements and disputes.
The lives of believers are quite different from those of the members of unenlightened societies. Unlike disbelievers, they have a guide that directs every moment of their lives and gives the best decision on their behalf. This guide is the Qur'an, a blessing from Allah. People who comply with the Qur'an share exactly the same views and way of thinking; that is, they agree on the same rights, wrongs, demands and claims. Furthermore, since this common understanding rests upon the just Book Allah has revealed, only the best results ensue. People who initially establish their bonds upon such an understanding also display a compromising mood when they have to divorce.
Events and conditions may change but what matters for believers is to live by the principles of religion and to show such moral perfection as will please Allah. Having such a noble spirit, when divorce is in question, believers never cease to treat the other party with respect, mercy and kindness, also observing the Prophet Muhammad's counsel, "The best of you are those who are best in dealing with their wives." (Tirmidhi). In the following verse Allah describes the behaviour expected from believers:
When you divorce women and they are near the end of their waiting period , then either retain them with correctness and courtesy or release them with correctness and courtesy. Do not retain them by force, thus overstepping the limits. Anyone who does that has wronged himself… (Surat al-Baqara: 231)
In obedience to this decree of Allah, believers terminate their marriages with the same good intentions as they had when they initially married. With divorce, men never lose the respect they had for their wives. In this sense, divorce never becomes a cause to dispute or to hurt one another. Believers marry to earn the approval of Allah and divorce with the same intention. Therefore, neither by his words nor his acts does a believer put the woman he divorces in a difficult situation. Furthermore, since believers love other believers for their faith and moral perfection, the love and respect spouses feel for one another never disappear with divorce.
Lodging Divorced Women
Thanks to the merciful attitude the Qur'an enjoins upon man, believers do not leave the women they divorce in a desperate situation without providing them with adequate means to live. Women may not have a family that can take care of them or even a house in which to stay. Considering these and similar conditions, believers, although divorced, ensure the welfare of women, until they find a way to support themselves.
Upon their mutual decision, believers allow the women they divorce to live in their own houses or in some other place under their control. Their main intention here is to earn the approval of Allah and to display a compassionate attitude to another believer. Other than this, they have no other expectation. During this period, Allah recommends that believing men should not engage in any deed which would do any harm to women they divorced or put them in a difficult situation. This affectionate approach displayed towards women is explained in the verse below:
Let them live where you live, according to your means. Do not put pressure on them, so as to harass them. If they are pregnant, maintain them until they give birth. If they are suckling for you, give them their wages and consult together with correctness and courtesy. But if you make things difficult for one another, another woman should do the suckling for you. (Surat at-Talaq: 6)
The second part of the verse recommends that believers display moral perfection while settling any problems that may arise after divorce, and that they resolve all disputes in compliance with Islamic rules. The values that ensure such a settlement no doubt stem from the fear of Allah a person harbours in his heart, and conscience. Believers, who value a person primarily because of his or her faith, can in no way allow anything harmful to happen to him or her, nor can they put that person in a difficult situation. To come up to this standard of moral perfection, men of faith provide lodging to and otherwise meet the needs of their divorced wives, as long as they ask for such support.
Not Inheriting Women Against Their Will
You who believe! It is not lawful for you to inherit women by force. Nor may you treat them harshly so that you can make off with part of what you have given them, unless they commit an act of flagrant indecency. Live together with them correctly and courteously… (Surat an-Nisa': 19)
Allah warns believers against inheriting women against their will, except in situations in which women commit an explicit indecency. Never exerting any pressure on women, believing men allow women to make use of their possessions in any way they please after divorce.
However, we must bear in mind that, being so scrupulous comes from observing Qur'anic morality. Due to believers' adherence to Qur'anic principles firmly based on the fear of Allah, there is no diminution of the mercy shown by them to women, no matter what the circumstances. Indeed, even in an environment where there is no one to bear witness to their conduct, their compassionate attitude never alters. Aware that Allah witnesses every deed they do, believers commit themselves to never swerving from moral perfection.
In the Qur'an, there are numerous other verses about the measures that secure the protection of women with compassion and the prevention of their suffering. All these explicitly reveal how Qur'anic morality encourages the showing of mercy to women and how believers commit themselves to displaying this noble attitude.