The western people mistakenly believe that Islam is a violent and cruel religion but the truth is that compassion is absolutely central to the Islamic tradition.
Karen Armstrong is one of the most original thinkers and writers on religious and political issues in the modern world. Her primary focus has been to help develop a better understanding of Islam. Karen wrote ‘A Letter to Pakistan’ and urged the people of Pakistan to discover compassion in their daily lives as a way to overcome the clash of cultural and religious traditions in a globalised world.
This thought-provoking letter describes that there is an imbalance of power and wealth which has led to the rage, malaise and humiliation that have erupted in terrorist atrocities that endanger us all. One of the chief tasks of our generation must surely be to create a global society, in which all peoples can live together in mutual harmony and respect. At a time when small groups have powers of destruction hither to reserved for the nation state, it seems clear that unless we learn to negotiate our differences more equably, we will not have a viable world to pass on to our grant – children.
The western people mistakenly believe that Islam is a violent and cruel religion but the truth is that compassion is absolutely central to the Islamic tradition. A compassionate person puts herself consistently in somebody else’s shoes, feels his pain as though it were her own. The Golden Rule demands that we look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain and then refuse under any circumstance to inflict that pain on anybody else.
The Almighty God says in His Holy Book: ‘The human is always at loss. Except those who keep the faith (Iman), who work justice, who counsel one another to truth and patience.’ [Surah 103: 2-6]
‘Do you see who calls the Reckoning (din) a lie? He is one who casts the orphan away. Who fails to urge the feeding of one in need. Cursed are those who perform the prayer unmindfully. Who make themselves a big show. But hold back the small kindness.’ [Surah 107]
The text of the charter of compassion is produced for the serious consideration of World Times valuable readers.
Charter for Compassion
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical, and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the sufferings of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others ‘even our enemies’ is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We, therefore, call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion.
To return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred, or disdain is illegitimate.
To ensure that the youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures.
To encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity.
To cultivate an informed empathy with the sufferings of all human beings’ even those regarded as enemies.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarised world. Rooted in a principled resolve to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.’ [Karen Armstrong: ‘A Letter to Pakistan’ Oxford]
By: Qayyum Nizami