Interfaith Lecture at St. John’s Wood Church on
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as Mercy for Mankind
Dr. Mozammel Haque
During last one month many important conference, symposium, seminar and lecture were held in London, among which the most important was Two-day Chatham House London Conference; One-day Interfaith Symposium on ‘Countering Fear and the Rise of Discrimination, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the UK’ and many talks, lectures, seminars and conferences on Balfour Declaration 1917. And lastly, an Interfaith lecture on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as Mercy for Mankind was held at St. John’s Wood Church, Park Road, London.
I decided to pick up the last one on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). There are three reasons; first of all, this is the month of Rabi al-Awwal, the month of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Secondly, I used to write on him in the month of Rabi al-Awwal every year without fail, like Khaled al-Maeena, the former editor-in-chief of both Jeddah-based Arab News and Jeddah-based Saudi Gazette. Thirdly, this time an interfaith lecture on the Prophet peace be upon him) as a Mercy for Mankind was delivered in a Christian Church.
Speech on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) at
St. John’s Wood Church, Park Road, London
On Sunday, the 12th of November, 2017, an Interfaith Lecture on the Mercy for Mankind Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was organised by St. John’s Wood Church, Park Road, London and was held at the Church premises where the Director General of The London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, was invited to give a talk on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Vicar of St. John’s Wood Church, Fr. Anders Bergquist, introduced Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan who was the guest to give a lecture on the subject, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as Mercy for Mankind. Guests included Senior Rabbi Alexandra Wright – Liberal Jewish Synagogue and many others. The talk was followed by a Question and Answer session.
Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan
Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London started by saying, first of all, ‘bismillah hir rahman nir rahim’ this is the word meaning ‘in the name of Most Merciful the Most Compassionate God.’ Then he addressed the gatherings by saying ‘Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullah,’ which again he explained, this is also the way that we greet in Arabic, that means ‘peace be upon all of you and with you all of you’. The nice lovely day thank you very much.
Then he said, “My friends and neighbours, thank you for this invitation. I am so happy to be here today with you and I am sure what is actually brought us together here this feeling that is we have; we have lot of things in common and that’s why I am happy to come here to speak and say to you. We are neighbours; always neighbours support actually well—connected time.”
Why I have chosen the Prophet
In the very beginning, Dr. al-Dubayan explained why he has chosen Prophet Muhammad as a subject to talk about. He said, “There are two reasons; the first one is really the highest personality for Muslims and in Islam. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the model for all Muslims; they try to follow, to learn from his behaviour as well as from his manners. Secondly, he is also a person, who actually in many ways misunderstood, sometimes misinterpreted, not only by non-Muslims but by Muslims themselves, some times. That’s why it is very important and I am sure, not sure, may be some never read anything about him; so that’s why I chose this personality to talk about.”
Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned that the talk will not be about his biography rather he has chosen all those things of his life which is related to mercy. He said, “I have chosen or picked up, lets say, about the dimension of mercy in Islam. This is very important. I have chosen this, particularly, actually mercy has spiritual value. It is one of the well-known qualities in Christianity itself; it is also one of the higher values in Islam. It is actually the Mercy when it is in your heart you will feel that is really if in peaceful time and peaceful life. It is also the value the thing that is asking from Allah Himself from God Himself. When we ask for mercy we have to give mercy first. We have actually asked for mercy itself.
“Also there is another reason for choosing mercy. Mercy; it is the value; may be one of the most, not only the most ever, important value for us to live in harmony in one society, to love each other to be actually well-connected to have better understanding. Because without this value of mercy things will be really miserable and life will not be good at all,” he mentioned.
Then Dr. al-Dubayan talked about the social side of mercy itself. He said, “There is also the social side of the mercy itself. Today actually, in our modern life, mercy becomes even more important, with more this connection we have around, all this technology; with all this what we hear, what we do, and what we do every day now, we are very busy may be more than anybody else in the history in the past. Because of all these things we are having and we have in our hands. We have lot of overwhelming news coming from the media, from the internet etc; so this value is very very important which keep us in right direction of our campus where to go.”
About the Prophet peace be upon him
After giving introduction about mercy and its importance in today’s life and in today’s society, Dr. al-Dubayan started talking about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He said, “Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born in Makkah. He actually was called to Islam when he was forty. He was not like Jesus Christ that he was young. He actually started calling to Islam at the age of forty. At the age of forty he received revelations, the Message. He was asked to call people. He stayed in his home town Makkah 13 years calling people, telling them and giving them guidance to give up all actually the old religion of the Arabs who used to worship idols and paganism all those things at that time. He actually suffered a lot. His first followers suffered here.”
First Generations of Companions to Abyssinia
Dr. al-Dubayan then mentioned the Hijrat or migration of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to Madinah. He said, “After this he moved to Madinah; this is another city which is 400 kilometres away; then he stayed there ten years only and then he died. So the whole actually the age of Islam with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was 23 years only - 13 years in Makkah and ten years in Madinah. All these 23 years he actually used to tell people little by little, verse by verse, chapter by chapter the Qur’an the Holy Book of the Muslims.”
His contact with Christians
Dr. al-Dubayan then mentioned the Prophet’s first contact with Christians. He mentioned, “Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself actually had the first contact with the Christians when he sent his Companions, the early generation of his Companions, the first Companions actually, sent them to African country where Christian king was ruling at that time. He said to them, ‘Just go there; there is a king, the Christian king; he is very just king; live here; it is more peaceful than Makkah in your people.’ And about 18 people - men and women with their husbands and with their children - sometimes went to Abyssinia, at that time; Ethiopia now or Somalia. They stayed there two years till the situation in Makkah becomes better. Later they came back. They stayed there as Muslims under the protection of Christian king in Ethiopia at that time. Ethiopia and Somalia they are now argue where that was actually.”
His contact with Jewish community
Speaking about his first contact with the Jewish community, Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned, “When he moved to Madinah then he had contact with the Jewish community. There was a big Jewish community, lived and well in Madinah many years before the Prophet came to Madinah; they were living with some Arabs. The population of Madinah at that time was actually some Arabs who were not Christians but they were not Jew; but they followed their own religion before the beginning of Islam and a big Jewish community. When the Prophet peace be upon him came to Madinah, he signed a treaty which is called Madinah Treaty; it is a Convention between him and the Muslims and the Jewish community. In the text of this Convention it was said, “It is today Muslims and Jews are one nation. It means we defend you something happened to you and you defend us when something happened to us.”
Dealing with wives
After mentioning about Prophet’s first contact with the Christians during his Makkah period and then his contact with the Jewish community when he moved to Madinah, Dr. al-Dubayan was talking about the value of mercy in his actions, his relations and sayings. He said, “During his life, we can see the value of mercy in many aspects; in actions; in relations; in his sayings also. For example, he had more than one wife but we don’t know about harm doings with his life; in fact, he never hit any of them; he never did anything harm to any of them; he never hit a child; he never raised his hands on animal or a child.”
Dealing with servants
After citing his mercy towards his wife, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned how the Prophet (peace be upon him) dealt with servants. He gave an example, “When Prophet (pbuh) came to Madinah, a widow who has child ten years old, his name is Anas, came to the Prophet. She said to the Prophet – ‘Can I leave my boy to you to stay between my home and your home as servant to stay with you and then to help you if you need things whatever;’ then the Prophet said, ‘yes, okay’. The boy stayed there. He used to go between his home and Prophet’s home everyday serving the Prophet, bringing something, sending here and there; and after ten years Prophet died. The servant himself, Anas the boy said himself, ‘I stayed with him ten years, he never hit me; he never said to me why did you do this; or why didn’t you do this; that was really very good treatment I got from the Prophet’. Even people used to call him the companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) of his life about 80 years; When the prophet died he was at the age of 20 years; he lived 80 years more to reach 100 after the prophet.”
“The Prophet (pbuh) used to walk on the street; then a woman stopped him to talk to him; he used to stop to listen to her; old ladies, young ladies sometimes even teenagers, they stopped him on the street and he used to stop to listen to them. To give hear to them, to listen to their some complaints; some needs they need from him; then he said, yes, I will do it; he tried to do it,” Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned.
Dealing with children
Then Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned about his dealings with children. He gave an example, “Once Prophet was actually sitting in his house; then his grand son al-Hassan who was about five years old; he was playing around him. He used to carry him from the floor and kiss him and put him back and play with him again and hug him as we all do it with children. A man from the desert, a Bedouin, came to visit the Prophet; when he saw this, that was something unusual to him; he said, ‘Muhammad, I never did this to my children that you were doing with him.’ It happened more than one time. The Prophet said, ‘what shall I do to you if Allah does not put mercy on your heart. Your problem; you have to have mercy’.”
Dr. al-Dubayan then mentioned about the first Hadith, the tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He said, Muslims used to study the Qur’an and after this they used to study the Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The chief of the Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC) said, “The first Hadith tradition started always with is the Hadith when he said those who have mercy in their hearts Allah will give them mercy. Merciful people will have mercy from Allah. We have to have mercy on people on earth Allah will then have mercy.”
Dr. al-Dubayan also mentioned another incident when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shortened his prayer so that the mother can take care of her crying baby. He mentioned, “Once the Prophet was in the mosque praying; he decided at that prayer a long prayer. When he started, then a child took crying in the back with his mother; then the Prophet did the prayer quickly; the companions enquired what happened Rasoolullah that you prayed very quickly today. The Prophet said, ‘Have you heard the child crying? The mother was worried about him, so I made my prayer quickly; so that she can make her prayer quickly and go to the child to see.’ This is an example.”
Adopting or fostering an orphan
Dr. al-Dubayan also mentioned another saying of the Prophet (pbuh) regarding adopting or fostering an orphan. He said, “The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said; ‘Anybody who adopts an orphan or fosters an orphan he will come with me in paradise the distance is like this two fingers together.’ That means together in paradise.”
The ICC Director General also mentioned another saying of the Prophet (pbuh) about taking care of children, especially daughter. He mentioned, “The Prophet said, ‘Take care of children, especially daughters. Anybody who had two daughters, three daughters or four daughters; then he takes care of them till they are adult; their life is okay; then I guarantee that you will be in paradise.’ Specially the daughters; why? Of course boys have mercy; but why daughters, because in that society at that time daughters and women they really need support in order to have their life in order.”
Take care of three things, the Prophet said
Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned, “One of the last word the Prophet said, ‘Take care of three things; number one prayer, never forget it; number two, you have to treat woman very well, very good way; number three, do it the best with the servant; the people who worked; stay most of the servant slaves sometimes; let them to eat from your food; let them have clothes like yours clothes; whenever you cook something or they help you to cook have them first because they are the one who cook it; they are the one who serve in the fire, in the smoke; and you just come in and eat it and they don’t. These are some of the practical things he used to have doing in his daily life.”
Mercy on Animals and Birds
What about animals? Animals are also important. Dr. al-Dubayan spoke about the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) mercy on animals. He gave an example. He said, “I will give you a story which shows how much mercy he had. Once when he went to Makkah about ten thousands people was going towards Makkah that time and when they returned back in one of the valleys between the two cities they found a dog actually with puppies in one of the valleys; when this ten thousands people or the armies come it will destroy all of them. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw the female dog; he advised people, ‘hold on’ and then he changed the direction of the army all of it ten thousands people and he asked one of his friends ‘to stay there to guard the dog and their puppies till everyone was moved from that area’. Think about the change of direction of the whole army because of the dog in the way.”
The ICC chief mentioned another instance to show Prophet’s mercy on birds. He said, “Once the Prophet (pbuh) was sitting with one of his companions; then he saw a bird there flying around from this wall to that wall in this area. The Prophet said, ‘anything have happened to this bird; someone has taken the chick of this bird’. One of the men sitting there said, yes. The Prophet said, ‘Put the chick back and children or something.’ All these stories and others show that this man had mercy for everything around him.”
Earlier Dr al-Dubayan mentioned one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, wherein the Prophet said, ‘Those who have mercy Allah will have mercy on them’. In order to elaborate that, Dr al-Dubayan gave an example, he said, “Once a woman who used to be working as a prostitute profession or word in Arabic which shows that this woman is working or doing this work. She was walking happily. She found a dog. This story was told by him. She found a dog, the dog was so thirsty; there was a well; you know the wells were too deep; and then the dog was going around the well because she was so thirsty trying to find a way to quench thirst; or access to the water but the water was so deep down. The Prophet said, ‘When the woman sees the dog; she thought my god; the dog is very thirsty; then she took her shoes, went down to the well, put water into the shoes and give it to the dog’. Actually, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Allah thanks for this and everything she has done’; compare between the sin itself is very big and see the action for which she was forgiven is very small compared to that, just giving water to the dog. How merciful is Allah. God Himself is very Merciful.”
Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned another story which was said by the Prophet peace be upon him. The Prophet (pbuh) told the story: “A woman actually was put in fire because she locked a cat in her home. She did not feed the cat, she did not release the cat out; she locked the cat that is a very big sin of the woman.” Another example was: “A man said, ‘I wanted to slaughter a goat for food, when I saw her, the goat, I had mercy on my heart. He hesitates to slaughter. He has mercy; because of this mercy Allah will have mercy for him.”
That’s why, because of this, in the Qur’an Allah Himself told us that ‘We only send you, Muhammad, as Rahmatullil Alamin, Mercy for Mankind.’ The Prophet (peace be upon him), all his life, he never treated people in his house or Companions, or children or women in a bad way at all. This is actually always encouraging people talk in the mosque because for everybody the value of mercy is very important. This is very important for all of us or for all religions and all religions by the way talk about mercy,” mentioned Dr. al-Dubayan.
The ICC chief said, “The problem comes always in the practice; when it comes to implement this actually into in our daily action, in our daily communications; in our daily sayings what we say; what we talk; it is not easy. We have to remember this value. I believe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself throws this aspect that I have mentioned to you in his life; is a very good model or the best model actually with the value of mercy.”
Dr. al-Dubayan also mentioned, “We connect this, of course, with Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) who also well known for his mercy; his messages on mercy; of course I am not going to preach Jesus Christ in the Church. If we connect also to other Prophets - Zakariyah, Jacob, Joseph, Abraham, Moses (peace be upon them all) - all of them we will find actually this aspect - taking care of other people - is always there; and always valid and always available; you may see it here, you may actually hear here very clear; see it here; no way hidden or written but need some interpretations. It is always there. Because we believe Allah chosen these people; God chosen all these Prophets because they have the ability; they have actually spread this message; they can deliver this message to us; firstly the value is the only thing that we really need today in connection with other people. This is not only, the Prophet said, this is not only for Muslims; this is for everyone; it is for mankind; for any human being; for all the mankind.”
“This mercy is not only for human beings, not only for animals; but of course for everybody; it is even for nature around itself; there are rules in Islam about nature; how to protect natural resources; not wasting things,” said Dr. al-Dubayan and mentioned one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), “If anybody kills a bird or small bird (sometimes people do it just for fun), who kills a bird without any need a small bird like the small sparrow as we see in the garden, whatever that may be, he will be asked in the day of judgement, ‘why you kill this bird.’ We have to remember this in our communication in our relation.”
The Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre said, “That’s the message of today and that’s the message I have taken today only particularly from the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him); of course there are lots of stories, there are lots of sayings by him besides the verses of the Qur’an about mercy; how beautiful how important how must do we have all these things are around everything.”
Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned another Hadith. He said, “In another Hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Allah will reward you for anything, even if you have one date and you cut it into two and then you give it to somebody;’ just half of a date can you image; something very cheap; sometimes we think it’s a easy thing, a silly thing; but Allah counts everything; everything is counted. Any soul you feed or give it is a charity; even the good words you say it to somebody; it’s a charity. Even the smile when you meet somebody in the street, you just smile to make other people happy; this is a charity. This the Prophet (pbuh) said. Even when you take a food and you give it to the mouth of your wife to show her your love; to show her that you love her and appreciate everything that she did for you. This is a charity. Allah will also give you reward. Even the small thing we sometimes forget. All time all that somebody wants to be remembered how value the charity is for the cause of God. That’s why I am doing it.”
Questions & Answers sessions
After this, there was a Questions & Answers session when many questions were asked for more elaborate discussions and clarifications; these included about definitions of Mercy and distinctions between mercy, generosity and compassion. Dr. Al-Dubayan was also asked to explain charity and its distinction and differences between charity and sadaqa and also the differences between sadaqa and Zakat. There was a lively discussion on many other related topics.