Some of us get raised to think that the default setting of people is egocentricity. Where the only one that matters is me and I. But the Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam (peace and blessings be upon him), was sent to show us that this doesn’t have to be the case. That we can make our lives service to others instead of service to the self. He would turn his whole being towards someone and he gave them his full attention.
He would weep out of sincere care for his community. We forget that his farewell sermon was addressed to humankind (An Nas). We forget that a pagan woman used to put thorns on his path to bother him until she fell ill. The ego would have been thankful for ridding a nuisance in life, but his default setting was to go see her and make sure she was okay. When he carried the groceries of the old woman, who on the walk used her tongue to attack Muhammad, not knowing it was him helping her, he held his tongue and was completely well mannered because his default setting was to help her, even if she said a bad word towards him. Salallahu alayhi wasalam. Peace and blessings be upon him.
In a world that tells us to do whats best for Anna (I or Me), to fulfill our desires above all else, the Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam) showed us a different way. A way that entails putting others above ourselves. The default setting is mercy and care for people. This is the example that we follow.
Revelation came through the heavens so that we would aspire towards greater ideals. We are taught to reach for the stars, but revelation teaches us to reach for something beyond that. It tells us to stop being obsessed with ourselves and focus on the Creator of everything. Muslims raise their hands declaring that God is greater! and this statement starts with digesting that God is greater than ourselves, greater than our desire for this world, greater than anything and everything. We raise our hands throwing everything else behind us, throwing our own selves behind us and we aspire towards goals that lie beyond the stars and skies.
Do not focus too much in how entrenched we are in darkness, because the Prostitute, who lived a life of darkness was illuminated into Paradise because of one single act of mercy of providing that dog water. Be in between two acts of mercy and do the first act in excellence and look towards the next act in excellence. God is Ar Rahman and Ar Rahim, the most merciful the most gracious. We begin in the name of God, the most merciful the most gracious, and our example is the mercy to all the worlds. There is no more time to waste, illuminate life with a new setting: mercy. And we will finally find that life was worth living.
The Quran begins in the name of God the most Merciful the most Gracious and it ends with the word Humankind (Nas). Hold onto this message of being a mercy to mankind, the Quran’s beginning and end and the middle will follow.
“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.”
– The Quran in Surah Al Anbya (The Prophets) 21:107
(This is inspired by the words of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Feb 2013)