by Habīb Todd Boerger
In considering the topic of compassion, I am reminded that each of the Abrahamic faiths directs us to love and care for others – those who are poor, those who are needy, neighbors and strangers – as we love and care for ourselves. My approach to understanding compassion is grounded in my religion (Islam) and my spiritual practices as a Muslim, as well as in my experience of God during my ‘most human’ moments. Secondary to this exploration of compassion is my relationship with myself. Next is my relationship with others. Hence, I explore the topic of compassion through these filters.
A central tenet of Islam is that God is as He has described Himself in the Holy Qur’ān. The name for God in Arabic, Allah, is known as the unifying name, the name that unifies God’s other names and attributes. While some of those names describes God’s attributes of majesty and severity, the names relating to love and compassion appear ten times more often. One name in particular, ar-Rahman, is given special attention in the Qur’ān: “Say: ‘Invoke God, or invoke the Most Gracious: by whichever name you invoke Him, [He is always the One – for] His are all the attributes of perfection’” (17:110). This name, ar-Rahman, translated here as “the Most Gracious,” is singled out as being commensurate with the name Allah and is commonly translated as mercy, grace, beneficence, and compassion.
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