Raḥmatan lil ͑Alamin or mercy to all is a phrase stated in the Noble Quran. “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” (Surah 21, verse 107) The verse describes the purpose of Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood (Peace Be Upon Him) whose birthday is remembered on the 12th day of the third month in the Muslim Hijri Calendar, Rabiul Awwal. The verse describes Muhammad’s Prophethood as a messenger who brings Mercy, Compassion, and Benevolence to all people and to the whole universe.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has brought with him a way of life which provides fundamentals for humans to develop a complete system of life. Muhammad (PBUH) is a messenger who has brought mercy and compassion to all people and the whole universe, an attribute described by Allah as Rahmatan lil Alamin (Mercy to all). The attribute could be manifested as a principle which must be emulated by all Muslims, that is to render, show, and radiate mercy to all. Rahmatan lil Alamin, hence, could be understood as a set of principles which promote universal values of love and compassion among mankind as well as all God’s creatures. It encompasses positive universal values which are not specifically meant to benefit Muslims only, but to all mankind and creatures. This underscores the assurance that Islam teaches its followers to live in peace, diversity, and harmony in this universe.
Prophet Muhammad PBUH taught us to be nice to others, and avoid hurting or oppressing others. The principle of Rahmatan lil Alamin stresses the need to eradicate hate and discrimination among people. The principle pointed out that religion, knowledge, and wisdom are essential bases that equip us with effective ways to relate to others in this world.
First, The Prophet (PBUH) has brought with him Deen al-Islam which is not a political ideology or a system of ritual activities but a complete way of life. There are Quranic verses and Hadith (behaviors and statements of the Prophet PBUH) which guide people on ways to be merciful and compassionate to others. Secondly, the Prophet (PBUH) has emphasized the importance of having knowledge in understanding the characteristics of people whom we need to relate to, deal with, or serve. The principle of Rahmatan Lil Alamin necessitates us to understand the people in our surrounding or know the local reality instead of adopting the knowledge and practices from other culture when attempting to understand the characteristics of people in our context. This is important especially when we are designing certain programs to develop or improve their well-being. The program we design must be suitable with the local context, as long as it does not divert from the Islamic principles. Thirdly, wisdom is crucial when dealing with others. It leads us to effectively deal with members in the society, organization, or family by using techniques which suit their backgrounds. This indicates the need to recognize the local wisdom, or work of local scholars whose knowledge, views and advice are instrumental in providing guidance and direction with regard to the local context.
Based on the three fundamentals, it could be learnt that the principle of Rahmatan lil Alamin is accounted for by numerous attributes, which include the following;
a. Tolerance, not bigotry. Religious tolerance is an important teaching of Islam. One of the basic Quranic teachings with regard to the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is that of the principle of non-coercion. The Prophet PBUH disallowed Muslims to force non-Muslims to embrace Islam. This attributes speaks volumes of Islam as a religion of tolerance. Living in a diverse society where belief systems, culture, and language are heterogeneous warrants for a readiness among all to understand each other. While Muslims hold strong to the verses revealed in the Quran, we are also required to read and understand the contexts. The former is to be correctly understood while the latter need to be judiciously respected.
b. Mercy, not violence. Islam is a religion of mercy, evident in the Prophet’s PBUH hadith “I am the Prophet of Mercy.” As Islam opposes any element of coercion towards others, the practice of violence is totally contradictory to the core value promoted by Islam. Any act of violence in the name of Islam is wrong and misleading others from knowing the true teachings of Islam. The elements of mercy propagated under the principle of Rahmatan lil Alamin are far-reaching, bringing benefit for all mankind.
c. Love, not hatred. One of the ingredients in maintaining a peaceful coexistence among people of diverse backgrounds is to spread love instead of hate. Islam teaches its followers to develop love towards God and to fellow human beings. The Prophet PBUH said, "No one of you becomes a true believer until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself." All commentators of this tradition or Hadith agree that "brother" here refers to "brother in humanity" that is inclusive of everyone. The principle of Rahmatan lil Alamin tells the world that Islam is indeed a religion of love which rejects hatred.
d. Assertiveness, not acquiescence. It is most crucial to bear in mind that the principle of Rahmatan lil Alamin does not equate acquiescence. Acquiescence here means a passive acceptance of opposite ideas often unwillingly or even without the ability to express oneself. The tendency to acquiesce leaves the impression that a person is not confident of his convictions, which in turn denies the very belief of the foundation of rahmah and Islam. The principle of Rahmatan lil Alamin demands assertiveness where the spirit of searching for and upholding the truth is embraced and retained while room for intellectual and harmonious debate is opened without any discrimination.
e. Fairness, not discrimination. As Islam upholds the principle of justice, Rahmatan lil Alamin also means the observation of fairness and practicing a non-discriminatory approach. This is an important message that sermons during congregational prayers (e.g Jumuah prayers) include as a reminder on the need to uphold al-ʿadl wa al-iḥsān (justice and perfect practice).
f. Positive work behavior, not counterproductive individuals. The Prophet (PBUH) has taught us the importance of having positive work behaviors and professionalism in organization, society, and even in family. Institutions should work towards quality-driven work outcomes and efforts. In this regard, workplace environment should be conducive and healthy for workers. We should have proper initiatives to avail an ecosystem which help workers to have good personal life, family relationship, and spiritual life. Taking these aspects for granted may cause certain extent of counterproductive behaviors among them, to the detriment of individual life and organization functions.
The principle of Rahmatan lil Alamin taught by the Prophet (PBUH) requires Muslims to relate to and engage with other people and all creations, negating the understanding of some Muslims who believe in the exclusivity of Islam. The internalization of the principle of Rahmatan lil Alamin could be achieved upon the presence of fundamental factors or values, to list a few. They include (a) designing and conducting programs to develop spiritual and religious values among individuals, at different levels; (b) providing holistic education at school, university and any learning institution, to include value education; as well (c) availing effective communication about the importance of the principle of Rahmatan Lil Alamin to be emulated by Muslims.
Shukran Abdul Rahman is an associate professor at Department of Psychology, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM); and Dean of Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences. He lectures Psychological Assessment; Organisational Change and Development, History and Philosophy of Psychology and other psychology subjects. His research areas include change and development in higher education, graduate employability, and university-community engagement. He also conducted studies that relate to test development, adaptation, and validation.