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Apr 21

Mercy and Islam

“Among the privileged names that Islam attributes to the Creator are “Merciful and Kind.”

Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus

Mercy Minute

Interfaith relationships have been on my mind lately – particularly relationships with the Muslim community.  This is in part due to the Comparative Theology class I am currently taking here at GCU.  Recent terrorist attacks have also brought the topic to the fore.  In addition, echoes of Donald Trump’s assertion that “Muslims hate us” continue to disturb my peace.

The truth is that in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Christians and Muslims have a great deal to dialogue about.  As Pope Francis points out, mercy is an important aspect of both traditions.

Eboo Patel is an American Muslim who co-founded the Interfaith Youth Core.  When speaking about mercy, he often recalls a visit with his Grandmother in India.  One day he woke to find a strange woman in their home.  It was clear that she was not part of the extended family and that she would be staying for a while.  It turned out that the woman was a victim of abuse and that she was just one of many woman his grandmother had sheltered over the years.  “She told me story after story of these women” Eboo says. When his grandmother was done, he asked “Why?”  “Because I am Muslim,” she said. “This is what it means to be merciful. This is what Muslims do.”

My research has led me to a dawning recognition of how important mercy is to Islam.  Islam’s scriptures, for example, stress mercy as God’s primary attribute.  The formula “In the name of God, the All-Merciful, the Mercy-Giving,” appears 114 times in the Qur’an.  The Prophet Mohammad is also known as the “Prophet of Mercy” and the Qur’an says of him:  “We did not send you but as a special mercy to all the worlds.”  Islam also enjoins followers to be merciful to themselves, others and the worlds so that God’s mercy may be received.

Mercy is what Muslims do in much the same way that it is what Christians do.  Whether one is a Grandmother in India, a nun in 17th century Ireland or a student in Lakewood, New Jersey, mercy both heals and unites us.

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