Religion as an Inception of Compassion

In spirit of the last post, and along the same lines, sometimes when I am asked whether if all can be achieved without referring to religion or if I see any usefulness or need of it, I recount the story of myself reading the following hadith:

Anas Ibn Malik narrates: “Whilst we were in the Mosque with the Messenger of God, a Bedouin came and stood urinating in the Mosque. The Companions of the Messenger of God said, ‘Stop it! Stop it!’ and they rose to attack him.”

But the Prophet stopped them. “Let him finish.”

–Muslim 285

I would have never thought, without that hadith, of letting a man finish taking a piss as a compassionate act. (The only thing that might have stalled me is the possibility of being sprayed!)

That to stop him in the middle of release would have caused him discomfort, that to relieve oneself is exactly that–relief, that a man’s entitled to finish a piss, that there some things prioritized in a mosque over ritual purity, would have never crossed my mind before the thought of he is damaging the property!

But it is. It is an act of compassion. And it is one whose existence I would have never realized. I would have never realized.

And that startles me. Am I, unbeknownst to myself, a cruel person, in smaller yet significant ways I may never see? How else might I be unkind? What quiet empathy is unawakened? What compassion has never been realized?

After the man finished, the Prophet explained to him, “In these Mosques it is not right to do anything like urinating or defecating; they are only for remembering God, praying and reading the Qur’an.” Then the Prophet asked the man to throw a bucket of water over the affected area to cleanse it, and the man did.

After understanding his wrong, the Bedouin remembered, “The Prophet stood before me, and he neither cursed nor scolded nor hit me.”

And I remain startled, and I feel a darkness lift off of me in which I never knew I had been enveloped.

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