The Lord of Grace Abounding

By Imam Jamal Rahman

“Allah is the Lord of Grace abounding.”   (Qur’an 2:105)

“The character of a friend of God is based on nothing more than graciousness and generosity.”    (Sufi saying)

Is Allah Gracious and Generous?

This question is best answered by innocent people who have been savagely mauled by life’s circumstances. In my ministry, I have been privileged to work with some people who have suffered immense anguish because of murder and incest. What has astonished me is that these same people who were initially gut-wrenchingly furious with God, after undergoing their own unique journey of healing, have now developed an intimate and loving relationship with God. To all of them God is Infinitely Gracious and Generous. Their transformed relationship with God is mind-boggling.

To understand this phenomenon, I have returned several times to reflect on a story I heard decades ago: A widow was deeply distressed by the tragic and senseless loss of her two children and gave up any shred of faith in God. “Where is your compassion?’ she screamed out to God day and night. Then one night she was graced by a dream in which she had died and angels were escorting her to heaven. She was thrilled as the angels bore her higher and higher into paradise, and then suddenly she beheld the greatest joy of all: her two children, radiant and exuberant, came rushing to greet her! In ecstasy she cried out, “O Allah, my children were lost to me, but they were not lost to You! Thank You, my Creator and Cherisher!”

Sufi teachers say with inner certainty that the hallmark of a spiritually developed being is that he or she is graced with the divine qualities of graciousness and generosity in manners, behavior and service.

Islamic saints delight in telling the story of Bayezid Bistami, the ninth century sage, who solemnly proceeded on his journey to Mecca intent on fulfilling his sacred pilgrimage. The arduous travel for the sake of Allah would take several months. Bistami was particularly eager to perform the ritual of going around the Ka’ba. En route, he met a desperate man who pleaded with Bistami to give him most of his money. The poor man had a family of seven to support. In spite of endless toil and sacrifice, the man was heavily in debt and the family close to starvation. After some reflection, Bistami gave the man his money. He asked the man to stand still and Bistami circled around the man seven times. He then returned home, joyous that he had completed his sacred pilgrimage.

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