Peace, one and all…
In a recent post, we explored a beautiful tradition of the Prophet (as), in which he powerfully connected mercy with familial affection. Looking at this small event once again reveals another important aspect. For ease of reference, here is the hadith in question:
‘The Messenger of God kissed his grandson Hasan, the son of Ali, while Aqra` bin Habis al-Tamimi was sitting nearby. Aqra` said: ‘I have ten children and have not kissed any of them’. The Messenger of God looked at him and said: ‘He who does not show mercy shall not be shown mercy’.’
(Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Adab, no. 6063)
Our hadith opens by naming the Prophet’s relationship to Hasan (as): he kisses his grandson, the son of Ali. That is, his connection to his daughter’s child takes pride of place; it is the first thing mentioned in this tradition. He kisses his grandson in public because of his love for Hasan, and his pride in him. I find this deeply significant. We are being taught here to love our children and grandchildren because they come through us, and not because we own them. We are to glory in our children because they are both uniquely from us and other than us.
Aqra, by contrast, neither names any of his children, nor does he speak of his relationship to them: he merely describes them as though they were possessions (‘I have ten children…’). They appear in this hadith as mere appendages, rather than as fully fledged human beings in their own right.
So, what can we take from this? The way of Muhammad (as) is a way of mercy, tenderness and loving-kindness. Moreover, as the Quran makes clear, the only means to deepen in surrender to the divine (the root meaning of Islam) is to follow this way ourselves, in all our frail humanity:
‘Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah , then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.’ (3:31)
Mercy is given to all things generally. It is also given to all things individually, in their specific uniqueness.
And praise be to God, who maketh it so