A man came to the Prophet Mohammed and showed him a nest full of young birds wrapped up in a piece of carpet. ” I found these birds, my Lord,” he said, “as I came through the wood. Hearing the chirps of the nestlings, I looked into a tree and found this nest.” ” Put the nest on the ground,” said the Prophet. Then the mother bird swooped down and perched on the edge of the nest, delighted to have found her children. ” Put the family back where you found them,” said Mohammed. And he added : ” Be kind to animals. Ride them when they are strong enough to carry you. Dismount from them when they are tired. Give them to drink when they are thirsty.”
In the records of Islam it is said that one day the angels of heaven said to God: ” O God, is there anything in the world stronger than rock? ”
” Yes,” God replied, ” iron is stronger, for it breaks rock. ” ” Is there anything stronger than iron” ” Yes, fire, for it melts iron.” ” And is there anything stronger than fire?” ” Water, for it quenches fire.” ” And what is stronger than water? ” ” Wind, for it can move the waves.” ” And is there anything even stronger? ” ” Yes, the kind heart that gives alms in secret, not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing.”
Not that today giving alms is the chief way of being kind. Of course, we may help our neighbour with a kind hearted gift. But the story means that, by a gift or in any other way, the power of kindness is the greatest power in the world for winning the affection and friendship of others. Suffering is aroused by the suffering of others, and joy by their joy. Such is the glorious nature of Sympathy.
Does the human heart show mercy only to human beings? No, it feels sorrow for the sorrow of an animal and joy for its joy.
People passed by a certain woman in scorn. They called her a sinner. This sinner saw a dog whose tongue hung out in terrible thirst. It was dying. Without a cry, the poor creature was begging for something to drink. The sinner took off her boot and let it down into a nearby well; in this way she brought up a little water and gave it to the dog, and so its life was saved. People changed their minds about her. ” The Lord,” they said, ” has forgiven this woman’s sins.” She may have been a sinner, but she understood the meaning of human kindness.