Have you ever wondered why some people risk their lives, wealth and well-being in order to save others? What inspires them to sacrifice a great deal of their time, effort and money for the betterment of others, without anything tangible in return? How come we feel truly fulfilled, delighted and energised by serving others without expectations? The reality is that altruism, the concern for the welfare of others, is an in-built and intrinsic trait in human beings. Man is born altruistic. God created us highly compassionate. For instance, an infant is given utmost care and compassion not just by the mother, but also by her friends and relatives, other members of the family and sometimes even unrelated people. They mete out an impressively compassionate treatment to the child with no gain in mind.
According to a recent study by psychologists, human beings generally tend to help out strangers in need quicker than any animal species. In fact, God has made us like that, because He himself is the most compassionate, the most gracious and the most altruistic. And this is the meaning of the two attributes of God, Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim, which came in the first verse of the Quran, “Bismillahir-Rahman-nir-Rahim”. Allah’s names, Rahman and Raheem, are derivatives of the Arabic word rahm, meaning “womb of a mother”, which is full of love, mercy, compassion and selflessness. The womb of a mother is the place where an unborn child is provided complete protection. The beautiful connection of rahmah (compassion) and motherly love is so eloquently expressed in the Hadith tradition, in which Allah says: “I am al-Rahman. I have created the rahm (uterus) and named it after Me.”
There’s a beautiful story attributed to Prophet Mohammad. A woman saw an infant in the midst of captives. She took hold of it, brought it to her bosom, and started nursing. The Prophet then told his companions, “Do you think that this woman would throw her child in the fire?” They said, “No, by God, she would not.” The Prophet then said, “God is more compassionate with His creatures than this woman is with her child”. Prophet Mohammad also said, “Those who show compassion to their fellow beings will be shown compassion by the Merciful Lord. So show mercy to those on the earth, and He who is in the heaven will show mercy to you.” A Turkish Sufi poet Yunus Emre beautifully relayed it: “We love the creature, because of the Creator”. Let’s be anchored in the divine ideals of rahmah, love, mercy, compassion and selflessness. Let’s be altruists!
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is an alim (classicalIslamic scholar) and a Delhi-based writer. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org