By Mariam-Joyce DSouza

By way of introduction, the 30 days of this beautiful, glorious and bountiful month called 'Ramadan' are divided into three parts - each comprising of 10 days. The first 10 days are the days of Mercy; the middle 10 days are the days of Forgiveness; and the last 10 days are the days of Salvation. This article refers to the first 10 days of mercy.

My dear readers, it's the most wonderful time of the year and a great opportunity to make and establish resolutions. This is a special month because it symbolizes the spirit of worship, sacrifice and most challenging of all - God consciousness. All leading to becoming merciful ourselves thus resulting in receiving God's blessings of mercy. Hence, I take this opportunity to urge you to seek opportunities to be merciful.

Show leniency, clemency and compassion. Be graceful, tender-hearted, generous and kind. Practice pity, charity and forgiveness. Exercise humanity, humaneness, forbearance, soft-heartedness and tolerance. Maintain mildness of character, sympathy, empathy and benevolence. So in these ten days (and hopefully always), attach your name to at least one of these traits.

This is a special quote for those readers who house the volumes of hadiths on their bookshelf: Allah created mercy in one hundred parts and sent down to earth only one part. Because of this one part, there is mutual love amongst creation, so much so that an animal will lift up its hoof from its young one, fearing that it might harm it. Allah has reserved the remaining ninety-nine parts of this mercy to favor His believing servants on the Day of Judgment. (The Prophet Muhammad as recorded in Bukhari and Muslim, Book #037, Hadith #6631)

I would like to share this little story I recently read. And so as most stories begin, once upon a time, in a small rural village, there lived a young orphan boy with his paternal relatives. Due to the scarcity of water in the village, the young boy awoke early every morning, carried his pot and headed for the stream with the aim of fetching water for the family. Sadly for him, he alone had this task as a routine every morning and evening while his cousins were given other lenient tasks.

Yet, the young boy bore no grudge against his family. He continued to love them and carried out his task, diligently. However, on his way back from the stream, with a pot filled to the brim with water, he usually encountered some individuals who invariably were thirsty. Despite knowing that his aunt would berate him (often get a beating too) for fetching half-filled pots, this boy would stop and offer water to these individuals. One day, he couldn't bear the scolding from his aunt, so he swore never to give anyone water. But on one particular day on his way back, he met a strange looking man who begged him for water.

The strange man lay by the road side with an injury. The young boy remembered his vow - never to give anyone water - but contemplated for a moment. His heart filled with mercy for the stranger and so he gave the man some water. When he got home, his aunt noticed the half-filled pot, and again pounced on him - this time with even more cruelty than ever before. As she was beating this young lad, there was a knock on the door.

It was the strange wounded man - a mailman who would have died of thirst on the way if not for the boy's mercy. Apparently, he came from town with an envelope for this very same young boy. It contained a scholarship with an additional gift of cash for the boy! You can only imagine the boy's feelings of profound joy, deep happiness and intense gratitude which was reflected in his profession. The boy grew up to be a famous orator and he always opened his lectures talking about his childhood experience because he realized that it was God who had put him in the "mailman's way" and it was God who had placed mercy in his heart for others.

With mercy comes a heart filled with compassion and love for the giver and the beneficiary. It is rightly said that where there is mercy, there is life. Your everyday good deeds, however small, are never in vain for they shall return to you when least expected.

Some questions as food for thought - will I become less of a person if I smile at and pray for the less fortunate, the needy and those whose paychecks are not as heavy as mine? Will I be termed a weak person if I forgive those who have hurt me - be it strangers or loved ones? Will I lose my wealth if I practice some charity and give alms? Will I lose my health if I practice forbearance and tolerance with everyone around me - at home and at work? Practice does make perfect! Make it your resolution to subscribe to just one of these adjectives and you will reap benefits galore.

My experience has taught me that mercy begins by opening oneself to those with whom one might strongly disagree. Mercy doesn't end there, of course. It may begin with small acts of understanding, but can lead to life-changing experiences of love, peace and tolerance.

And this ode is for those sisters and brothers who have Shakespeare on their bookshelf:
The quality of mercy is not strain'd.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice'

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