Among the most important legacies that Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) left behind for his followers…
The greatest of God’s creations, and the messenger unto the worlds, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) is an example for all of humanity, not limited to any time or historical era. Against all the odds of society, he was a man of incredible character, and his personality was a means to bring people toward God. His impeccable qualities of mercy, compassion, generosity, patience, and love are what cause his legacy to remain in the hearts of more than a billion individuals in the world today.
During a time in which society was so far away from virtue, his perfect etiquette brought people out from darkness and into light, by the help and support of the Almighty. God says in the Quran, “Only through the Divine Mercy have you (Muhammad) been able to deal with your followers so gently.”1 Furthermore, God gives the Prophet the biggest honor by anointing him the “mercy to mankind” when He states, “We have sent you for no other reason but to be a mercy for [the worlds].”2 We note that the plural form has been interpreted to include all the “worlds” of creation (such as “world of humans,” “world of animals,” and “world of plants”). Through his mercy, he was able to transform the fate of women in the Arabian Peninsula by raising their status, to help the less fortunate, and to show us how to treat our own families, the environment, and its creatures, just to name a few examples.
The Abolishment of Female Infanticide
In pre-Islamic Arabia, there were many corrupt pagan rituals that the people often practiced. One of these horrific practices was burying infant girls alive soon after their birth, because the people of that time saw female children as less valuable or not valuable at all compared to male children. God states, “When the glad news of the birth of their daughter is brought to them, their faces turn gloomy and black with anger. They try to hide themselves from the people because of the disgrace of such news. Will they keep their newborn despite the disgrace or bury it alive? How sinful is their Judgment!”3
The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) abolished this behavior and implemented gender equality in terms of the value of males and females in society. He stressed the point that males are no better than females in the eyes of God. God states, “People, We have created you all male and female and have made you nations and tribes so that you would recognize each other. The most honorable among you in the sight of God is the most pious of you. God is All-knowing and All-aware.”4 The Prophet demonstrated his mercy by ending female infanticide, promoting gender equality, and emphasizing that the value of a human does not lie in their gender, or ethnicity for that matter, but in their sincere deeds and God-consciousness.
Mercy to the Poor and the Orphans
The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) was known for the way he used to support the orphans and the less fortunate. God states, “Righteousness is not determined by facing East or West during prayer. Righteousness consists of the belief in God, the Day of Judgment, the angels, the Books of God, His Prophets; to give money for the love of God to relatives, orphans, the destitute, those who are on a journey and in urgent need of money, and beggars.”5
During his prophet hood, he never missed an opportunity to show the importance of helping those in need, especially the orphans. He states, “Whoever takes care of an orphan until he is no longer an orphan and able to take care of himself, God will make paradise obligatory on him, just the way He has made hell for those who take away the rights of an orphan.”6 Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) was a mercy to those who were less fortunate and made it clear to humanity that we should help those who have not been offered certain privileges in society.
Mercy to His Family
The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) treated his family with love and the utmost respect. He honored them and showed his love and affection toward them with the most beautiful manners. For example, he held his beloved wife Khadijah in high esteem and honor and demonstrated that to her during her life. Furthermore, after she passed away, he would continue to honor her in the same manner as he did during their marriage.7 For example, Um Salamah said that when someone mentioned Lady Khadijah’s name in the presence of the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) he began to cry and said, “Who is like Khadijah? She believed me while others called me a liar.”8 Today, there are so many challenges in our communities, and many of these challenges stem from a lack of love, care, and sympathy between husband and wife.
Furthermore, Imam Ali (p) states, “Whenever Fatimah would enter a room the Prophet was in, he would stand up, kiss her hands, and give her his seat.”9 The Prophet teaches us a lesson in terms of how to express and demonstrate love to those who are most near and dear to us.
Mercy to Animals
Prophet Muhammad and his progeny (pbut) have given us such incredible insight and direction in terms of how to be someone that is not only merciful to humanity, but also to the animals that roam this Earth. Imam al-Sadiq (p) says, “There are six rights for the animals that their owners should observe: they should not be forced to carry what they do not have the strength to bear; they should not be ridden while the rider is speaking; they should be given their provisions (i.e., food and drink) when they stop; they should not be branded (imprinted) or burnt; they must not be [struck] on their face because they glorify God; and they should be allowed to drink when they pass by water.”10 This beautiful narration illustrates the reality of the mercy and compassion of the Holy Household (which is taught by the Holy Prophet [pbuh&hp] himself). This encourages us to reflect on how much care we must take in our treatment of our fellow creations of God.
Mercy to the Environment
The religion of Islam and prophetic instruction do not only offer advice in terms of how to live among human beings and animals. The Prophet (pbuh&hp) even showed us how to care for the environment. For example, God states in the Holy Quran, “And do not cause corruption on the earth after its restoration.”11 The Prophet (pbuh&hp) is also reported to have said: “Any Muslim who plants a tree or sows a seed and then a human, bird, or an animal eats from it, it will be regarded as a charity for him.”12 From these words, we must understand our duty to not only treat human beings with care, but our environment as well.
Bits of Advice
1. Be merciful to all of God’s creations: Following the Holy Prophet’s footsteps, we should be a source of mercy to all those around us, no matter who or what they are. Imam Ali (p) states, “Be merciful and you will receive mercy.”13 If we are merciful to others, then God will be merciful to us.
2. Support orphans around the world: Taking example from the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp), we should support orphans around the world. The Holy Prophet says, “I and the one who cares for the orphans are like these two [pointing out his index and middle fingers together] in the Paradise.”14 There are many organizations, such as My Orphans, that work with and help support orphanages in different parts of the world.
3. Treat your spouse well: In one of the final sermons that the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) delivered, he made it a point to advise the people on how to behave with their spouse. He states, “Oh people, your wives have a right over you, and you have a right over them.”15 Treating your spouse well and with respect is vital to having a healthy and successful family life.
1. The Holy Quran 3:159. All quotations from the Quran in this blog, unless otherwise noted come from Muhammad Sarwar’s translation.
2. The Holy Quran 21:107.
3. The Holy Quran 16:58-59.
4. The Holy Quran 49:13.
5. The Holy Quran 2:177.
6. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 76, p. 271.
7. Fatima wa al-mufadhalat min al-nisa, p. 79.
8. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 43, p. 131.
9. Ayan al-Shia, vol. 1, p. 307.
10. Al-kafi, vol. 6, p. 537.
11.The Quran 7:56, Ali Quli Qarai translation.
12. Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 13, p. 460.
13. Al-amali, p. 278.
14. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 35, p. 117.
15. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 73, p. 349.