The Prophet’s Smile: “O Allah, show mercy to me and Muhammad and no one else!”

A Bedouin man once entered the Prophet’s Mosque. Feeling the need to answer the call of nature, and not appreciating the place he was in, he went off to the side of the Mosque and began to urinate. The Prophet’s Companions were naturally outraged. They began to rebuke him and some stood up ready to physically prevent him from what he was doing. But the Prophet  , who had been observing everything, forbade them from doing anything. Instead, he told them to let the man finish and then wash away the urine with a bucket of water. He reminded them that their role was to make things easy and not difficult.

When the man had finished, the Prophet himself approached him. The Prophet did not rebuke him and did not insult him. He very simply told him that the Mosque is a place of prayer and not a place to urinate. He was so impacted by the kindness of the Prophet that he prayed: “O Allah, show mercy to me and Muhammad and no one else!”

The Prophet smiled and said: “You have restricted something which is vast.”

(narrated by Bukhari, Ibn Hibban and others)

Every event in the life of our Prophet and the people around him was an opportunity to learn. The people present at the time of this event learnt something and we continue to learn many centuries later. There will always be people who do not know the correct behaviour or etiquette that a particular place or situation demands. If we know the correct etiquette and wish to teach it to someone else, how do we go about doing so? Sometimes our attempts to give advice or correct someone may do more harm than good. Sometimes we are too harsh and lack wisdom when we do this. But not the Messenger. He immediately read the situation. This man was most likely entering the Mosque for the first time. It may have been his first experience of Islam and how it is practised. At the very least, he did not know what the right thing to do was. The Prophet took all this into account. It was not that he didn’t care about the sanctity of the Mosque, but he was teaching us that people are more important than buildings. The Prophet was concerned for this man’s wellbeing – his physical, psychological and spiritual wellbeing. Forcing him to stop urinating may have caused him physical harm. Publicly humiliating him may have caused him psychological harm. Driving him away may have distanced him from Islam, causing him spiritual harm. The Prophet cared about every individual. No one was too insignificant to receive his full attention. He did not instruct someone else to teach the Bedouin, but he himself spoke to him. He did not give him a lengthy lecture about the sanctity of the Mosque and the rules of ritual purity. Instead he very gently and simply said what the Mosque was and what it was not.

The beauty of the Prophet’s approach won over the Bedouin, whose response was to pray to God. Having been on the receiving end of the rebukes of the Companions, he excluded them from his prayer. As a general principle, it is good to make dua for individuals and mention them by name, but we should also include everyone in our prayers. The Prophet smiled when he heard the Bedouin praying only for himself and the Prophet. He smiled in a way a father might smile at his son when he can ask for anything from Allah and all he asks for is something small. Of course, Allah’s forgiveness is not something small, but His love, mercy and compassion are so vast and all-encompassing that she would never restrict them to certain individuals based on our limited understanding.