“Write Mercy, and Live!”
And God said “Let there be light, and there was light”
“He wrote ‘mercy’ on himself...(Qur’an 6:12)
Our scriptures all agree on the power of the Word to shape the World. At the beginning of creation (in the Torah), God says “Let there be Light,” and there is light. He doesn’t simply create light in quiet darkness--the words themselves are bound together with the act of creation. The Qur’an repeats time and again that God has only to say to something, “Be!” and it Is. God’s
word has such power that it seems inevitable for us to ask: Could God use a word to change himself? Can God change God? Has God ever done so, and do our scriptures tell us anything about it? If I am not misinterpreting its words, the Qur’an’s answer is: yes, he did so one time only.
•Say: “To whom belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth?” Say: “To God.” He wrote Mercy upon himself ...[But] those who destroy themselves do not believe. (Qur’an 6:12)
Was mercy missing, or insufficient, or dormant, so that God had to add it to God’s self, increase it, or wake it up? Was there too much of some “bad” quality in God, like anger? Does mercy make God bigger, smaller, or just better? The Qur’an doesn’t ask these questions, much less answer them. The passage tells us simply: “He wrote Mercy on himself.” God wrote
Mercy into God’s very being, embedding it into his text, or his “program” you might say (if you’ll permit a computer metaphor when discussing the Supreme Being!) Some translators prefer to say that God “prescribed” mercy for himself, medicalizing it into a kind of therapy or treatment that God self administers. You could see it as a kind of grooming which God undertakes
to keep himself ready for dealing with the likes of us human beings. Or, if you prefer, you could call it God’s own spiritual self-discipline.1
Whatever you call it, almost every passage of the Qur’an begins with the words “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,” but this is the passage which tells us how God got to be that way. He wrote Mercy on himself. If it’s true, that would be the single most radical act since Creation itself. It may have come before Creation but I don’t think so. The text suggests it was a response by God to something very peculiar among his creations: human beings, and how they treat each other. “He wrote Mercy upon himself,” says the book--in his own words, we’re told-- “[But] those who destroy themselves do not believe.”
It’s a good idea to ask, when God changes the world: What are the people in the world doing at those times when he sends a flood, a plague of locusts, or makes darkness fall at noon? We can also ask: what are the people doing when God decides to change, to write Mercy upon himself? The Qur’an gives us a hint when it says: “Those who destroy themselves do not believe.” God writes Mercy on himself when we write destruction. God writes Mercy when we write Death; when we cross ourselves out, or try to erase each other. We do it all the time. It’s business as usual for us. There’s nothing radically fresh or new about murder, or suicide, or about committing both at once. There’s nothing radical or fresh about war, invasion, or oppression. What’s radical is to write Mercy, and live. The Qur’an repeats the idea a few lines down:
•And when they come to you--those who do believe in our signs--say: “Peace be upon
you! Your Lord has written Mercy upon himself...” (Qur’an 6:54)
When they come to you...say: “Peace be upon you! Your Lord has written Mercy upon himself...” Say it. You say it! These are words for us to say to each other, not just to read. Could it be that what we call “the word of God” is simply what we ourselves most deeply need to hear, or to say to each other, but feel we can’t? So, we say it’s what “God” says. Did God really look at some point into God’s own heart...and find something lacking?Or are we the ones who lack? If a word can change God, will a word do it for us, or are we harder to change than our Creator is?
Many of us know a story telling how the first “thing” God created was not a star or a planet but a Pen. He then told the Pen to write, and the Pen inquired, “What shall I write?” God replied by commanding the Pen to write all that will be from that moment on, right up to the hour of Judgment.
I can’t tell you if God really did create the Pen from nothing, somewhere out in space, or if he might have done so on earth using human hands, but I tell you that the Pen is holy. The Pen is holy, and this is why: We are pens, not guns, not bombs. We are pens, not finished books. We write our lives with that which fills us, until it all runs out. We are bloodpens, sweat-pens, pens filled with tears. We may write with a fine point, or a broad one, but who can read it if we just leave smears? What kind of pen
am I? What kind of pen are you right now? What kind might you become? You will write so many things, great and small, on the pages of the world you cross each day. But before you go further, stop for a moment. Stop, and write Mercy on yourself, just like God did. Maybe you don’t believe that you can, but do it anyway.
Let mercy enter deeply into the program of your being, deep into your text. Write Mercy for the weak and Mercy for the strong. Even if we have been made to feel weak or wounded, that does not grant any privilege -- much less impose any duty--to be merciless in response when others do us wrong. We should never forget enslavement, slaughter, or oppression--but God frees us to forgive. In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful--write Mercy now, and live!
I’m telling you all this--here today--because I don’t have a place where I can stand and tell the whole world. If you’re willing, I hope you can pass this message on to everyone you meet, so maybe it will reach the right persons before it’s too late. The Pen may still be writing, but we don’t know when it will stop. So here is the message: Make your life a search for mercy. If you don’t find it in whomever or whatever you worship, then turn away--because it isn’t God, and it isn’t worth your time. If you don’t find
mercy in whatever you read as “scripture,” write it there yourself. Or, close the book and put it down.
Take a fresh sheet of paper. Write Mercy, then read it to yourself. Speak it out loud, or say it in a whisper. Take it with your breath, hold it in your lungs, and mix it with the blood in your heart. Make it your secret and make it your song. Let it be part of you, forever. Write Mercy, and live. And so may peace be upon you, and some day upon us all.
Amin. Amen. And many thanks for your kind hospitality.
© Craig Moro, all rights reserved