Two Hearts in One Body: God’s Mercy vs. a Mother’s Mercy

Getting my 2.5-year-old daughter to go to bed at night is quite the operation. It involves tears (I won’t say whose tears), arguments and – in all honesty – a fair amount of bribery. When her eyes finally close and she drifts off into the realm of dreams, I breathe a long sigh of relief. And sometimes, as she peacefully dreams about whatever little girls dream about, I lay my hand over her chest to feel her heart beat.

Those soft, rhythmic pulsations remind me that I used to have two hearts in my body, both beating simultaneously – both connected, but separate. It reminds me of how I would feel her hands and feet pushing and kicking, wanting to finally be free from me. And then she was free – and that heart that was within me, was now on the outside.

No matter how often she does the things she knows are off-limits, or refuses to eat or get dressed or brush her hair, the mercy I have for her doesn’t waver. Loving her and having mercy on her is easier than loving and having mercy on myself. She is from me– as though when she was born, she took her own heart with her, and also a piece of mine.

And when she does something wrong then says, “I’m sorry,” all the threads of frustration that had twisted themselves into angry knots in my chest are immediately untied. She nestles herself into my embrace, as though no wrong was ever done…

The Prophet Muhammad (saw) taught us that Allah’s Mercy towards His believing slaves is greater than a mother’s mercy towards her child:

Umar ibn Khattab reported that there were brought some prisoners to Allah’s Messenger (saw) amongst whom there was also a woman, who was searching (for someone) and when she found a child amongst the prisoners, she took hold of it, pressed it against her chest and provided it suck. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (saw) said: “Do you think this woman would ever afford to throw her child in the Fire?” We said: “By Allah, so far as it lies in her power, she would never throw the child in Fire.” Thereupon Allah’s Messenger said: Allah is more kind to His servants than this woman is to her child.”

I didn’t understand this hadith until I had a child of my own. Sure, I understood it theoretically, but I didn’t feel it. (Such is the beauty of Islam – every stage of life opens your eyes to new meanings and new understandings of the faith). If Allah (swt) has more mercy on me than I have on my own child, my own second heart beating outside my body, I can never lose hope in His Mercy. If I easily forgive my daughter for her mistakes, I should expect an even greater and more merciful response from Allah (swt) when I seek His Forgiveness for a sin…

A famous scholar once said that if he were to have the option of having either Allah (swt) judge him on the Final Day, or his parents judge him – he would undoubtedly choose Allah. He uttered this statement knowing full well that his parents would never wish to cause him even the slightest harm. But still, Allah (swt) is more merciful than a parent to her/his child.

We think that the mercy we have towards our young ones is our own doing. We chalk it up to maternal instinct. But the truth is, that mercy and love is a gift bestowed upon our hearts by Allah:

The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “Allah divided mercy into one-hundred parts and He kept its ninety-nine parts with Him and sent down its one part on the earth. And because of that, its one single part, His creations are Merciful to each other, so that even the mare lifts up its hoofs away from its baby animal, lest it should trample on it.”

Your mercy towards your children is a manifestation of that one portion of mercy Allah (swt) placed for us on this earth…

I understand the mercy I have in my heart for my daughter. I acknowledge that I will sacrifice anything I can to prevent harm from coming to her. I know that I can give up my own dreams so that she may live out hers. I realize that it will take just one sincere embrace, one sincere I’m sorry from her to make it okay between us.

And still, Allah is more merciful than I am.

And still, with Him are 99 portions of Mercy; a number and an amount that no human mind can comprehend.

May Allah (swt) include us in His Mercy, which “encompasses all things” (7:156).

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