Compassion: A Divine Concept and Capacity

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By Tahir Iqbal

Religion promotes peace, love and God consciousness, for it has originated from the Divine lap, which is a universal source of mercy and kindness. It is swathed with the commiseration and compassion. Compassion is the key in all world religions and religious traditions. Dalai Lama, the preacher of peace wrote that compassion is an aspiration, state of mind and wanting others to be free from suffering. Someone has rightly said that hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by compassion and love. Hate is parlous for the humanity and love, a mercy. Love is a cosmic energy that emanates from a pure heart, connected with Divine Truth.
The pivotal thing for life is compassion. It is a universal thread embedded in all religions that connects the people together in the bond of love and mutual understanding. Some philosophers like Schopenhauer tried to delink the compassionate attitude from religion and argued that it is an intuitive recognition and not based on some God given commandments. Nietzsche sees compassion (and benevolence) as a weakness. Unlike this nihilistic ideology, religion considers fellow-feeling as a sacred act. To serve means to worship. The golden rule about it is mentioned in the Bible, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do you.” (Mathew 7:12)
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. (Psalm, 112:3-5)
“There is something wrong,” says Karen Armstrong, the leading scholar of world religion, “with any spirituality that does not inspire selfless concern for others.”
The Quran, the sacred book of Islam, called Prophet Mohammad (SAW) as a mercy for the whole universe and the Creation.
“And we have sent you (Oh Mohammad) not but as mercy for the Alameen.” ( Al-Anbiya, 21: 107)
The Prophet (SAW)said, “Reconcile with whoever cuts you off, give to whoever deprives you, and forgive whoever wrongs you.” He further said that no of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. The bedrock teaching of Islam is justice, kindness and brotherhood, and not retribution. Allah says in the Quran;
“Whoever killed one human being should be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind; and whoever saved a human life should be regarded as though he had saved all mankind.” (5:32)
The unfortunate thing is that the aficionados and the zealots have destroyed the social and religious harmony while indulging in violence and extremism in name of religion. The misinterpretation and misquotation of sacred text for some political and personal reasons play an elephantine role in the promotion of morass and melancholy in society.
Religion is not the opium for the masses, as Karl Marx put it but a sacred medicine for the disease of inhumanity, injustice, corruption and spiritual crisis.
When we develop a compassionate attitude, violence gets obviated automatically, and it brings us an inner strength and bliss.
As Rumi said in his immortal words:
When we practice
Loving kindness and compassion
We are the first ones to profit. (Rumi)
Compassion has been promoted by all the religious traditions, seers and sages of religious orientation. It obviates the selfishness, and gives us the celestial experience and a spiritual serenity. It is out of compassion that Buddha expounded his Dhamma to liberate people from suffering. Jesus (PBUH) made a strong harangue on love and compassion when he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark, 12:31)

The author is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies in the Higher Education Department, Jammu and Kashmir. He can be reached at: