A Qurānic sign states, “Your Lord has inscribed Mercy on Himself.” (6:54) The ayah indicates, rather clearly it seems, that God has a Self. This Self has Mercy written all over it, to speak in the common vernacular. In other words, God’s Self and His Mercy are synonymous. We will attempt to show here that God’s ultimate mercy is with his very Self and those who reach that self-hood of Allāh are those who enjoy the fullness of His Mercy.
God’s Mercy is with His Very Self
God’s relationship with creation and our relationships with each other are based in Mercy. The tradition states, “Allah has divided mercy into 100 parts, and He retained with Him 99 parts, and sent down to earth 1 part. Through this one part creatures deal with one another with compassion, so much so that an animal lifts its hoof over its young lest it should hurt it.” (Al-Bukhārī) Naturally not every relationship is overflowing with obvious mercy, thus we know that there is some level of apportionment to each situation that we encounter. This division of mercy is accounted for in this tradition as 99 percent is with Him while the remaining 1% is amongst us. No doubt, this 1% is then further divided until it appears that some situations received no portion of mercy at all! Nonetheless, for our purposes, it is significant to note that the remaining 99% are actually with God, Himself. They aren’t with His angels, nor in His paradise or any other creature. Rather, these portions are, and most intimately so, with the Self of God.
We are Encouraged to Arrive to the Self
Every destination assumes at least four components: the travel, the path, the traveller and the destination. If one of these factors is missing there can be no endpoint to speak of. Without a terminus, travel has no purpose at all and to be devoid of purpose is to be meaningless. Surely revelation and meaninglessness are mutually exclusive concepts. In the Book God states, “And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the destination.” (3:28) Thus, the Self is of grave import for He is the Objective. As every target has the four constituents mentioned above, let it be understood that the travel is called worship, the path is known as Islām, the traveller is the worshipper, and the destination is God, Himself. This quranic sign also warns us about our destination. One must be careful regarding any warning by asking for guidance in dealing with whatever they have been warned about. As the path to the Self is termed Islām and Islām is the Straight Path, asking for guidance on the Straight Path daily, as per our recitation of al-Fātiḥa, is our encouragement to reach our Objective. The goal is God’s Self and thus we are encouraged to arrive to the Self.
Those Who Reach the Self are the Most-Mercified
If 99% of something is greater than 1% of it, then it follows that whoever has that larger percentage has more of it. If God has divided His Mercy into 100 parts and preferred to keep most of it with His Self, then those who arrive to the Self receive more of a portion of Mercy than those who do not. Those who are fortunate to receive more of the Mercy are, in this sense, more mercified than others. Thus, those who reach the Self are the Most-Mercified.
Warning is Itself a Mercy
We have stated that God’s apportioned Mercy is predominately with His very Self. We also demonstrated that these helpings are, and most personally so, with the Self of God. Thereafter we have shown that our goal is God’s Self and that like all goals we are called to arrive to the Self. As shown, those who arrive to the Self are the Most-Mercified. Those who do not arrive are in a sense devoid of Mercy. Those devoid of Mercy face some kind of non-mercy. Whoever lacks some of the mercy of His Lord has not been fully guided. Whoever has not been fully guided has some level of misguidance. The Book states, “And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord, but such as go astray?” (15:56).
It may be said, then, that to whatever degree we suffer from misguidance, i.e., non-mercy, is the degree to which we are astray. As most of us have not reached this Self-ness described here, we remain asking God for guidance daily, “Guide us on the Straight Path.” The recitation of al-Fatiha is a divine mandate. Thus asking for guidance is a command from God. The quranic sign states, “And Allah warns you of Himself, and Allah is Kind to [His] servants.” (3:30) In other words God has warned us of His Self, via revelation. We are therefore instructed to reach Him and to thereby avoid the consequences of not doing so, i.e., not enjoying full Mercy. To be warned of consequences is to be enabled to evade them. One evades harm through guidance. We do not ask but that God has already granted us our request. Thus to request for guidance daily is a kindness to those who ask for it, i.e., the servants. In this sense, warning itself is a mercy.
As His Self and His Mercy are in fact synonymous, God’s Self is the epitome of Mercy. Those who reach that self-hood of Allāh are those who enjoy the fullness of Mercy while those who do not ask for it daily. This appears to be the essence of guidance. Whoever despairs of the mercy of His Lord, which lies ultimately at His very Self-hood, it appears, has not been fully guided. Whoever has not been fully guided has some level of misguidance. To whatever degree we suffer from misguidance is the degree to which we are astray. As most of us have not reached this Self-ness, and are therefore in need, thus we remain asking God for guidance everyday, “Guide us on the Straight Path.” Those who have attained to it know that this is a permanent condition for Mercy will always belong to the Self. Thus their request is for the Self, constantly. May Allāh give us Allāh, Himself.
Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch
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