By Jamal Rahman

“In the Name of God, Boundlessly Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful.”   (The Qur’an)

If kindness were a visible creation, nothing which Allah has created would be more beautiful than it.”   (Hadith)

In my early childhood my parents taught me by word and example that the core teaching of Islam is the divine attribute of compassion, and to this day compassion is the value that I most treasure and try to express in my own life. The compassionate nature of our Creator is invoked at the beginning of virtually every chapter of the Qur’an: “In the name of God, Boundlessly Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful.” This invocation, called the Basmala, inspired the Prophet Muhammad to conclude that all the teachings of the Qur’an can be distilled into a message of Divine Compassion. When a Bedouin asked him about the secret inner meaning of the Basmala, the Prophet replied, “Have compassion on yourself and on others.”

To expound on the astonishing power and beauty of practicing compassion in our lives, Sufi teachers use the metaphor of water in nature. They teach that water can be wonderfully soft and yielding, but over time it can also overcome the hardest granite. We also know that wherever water falls, life flourishes. Thus, the person who is gentle and merciful is not only possessed of authentic strength, but his or her compassion is life-affirming and life-bestowing.

 To be compassionate with myself, I was taught to engage in self-talk with gentleness and mercy. This practice is called “Sacred Naming.” From an early age I called myself “Brother Jamal.” Whenever I become aware that I am being overly self- critical, I do a spiritual intervention by addressing myself as “Brother Jamal” and carrying on the conversation with mercy and sweetness. Immediately, I find that the tone, energy, and content of my self-talk shifts. In the process, lessons are learned and surprisingly, in the times of difficulties, from the womb of compassion creative solutions emerge.

To practice compassion with others, especially those who are adversarial, I was told to invoke compassionate awareness. Learn to distinguish between behavior and being. In dealing with those who are difficult, protect yourself and take the right action. But as you take the right action remember to keep this person’s essence or divine spark in your heart. You might be upset at their behavior but remember that their inner core is sacred. Keeping this compassionate discernment in our heart as we take the right action, has the power to shift heaven and earth.

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