Rahmatan li ‘l – alamin: Universal Mercy in Early Islamic Historical Writings is the title of Nyong Eka Teguh Iman Santosa’s dissertation, which was presented by him at Doctoral Open Defense on January 18, 2017. Nyong was ICRS student from batch 2010 and in his research, Nyong tries to analyze the idea of rahmatan li ‘l – alamin which is normatively found in the Qur’an, 21: 107. It is commonly used to claym for the universality of the prophetic mission of Muhammad. As a philosophical concept, the idea is interpreted by exploring the meanings of the structuring words and the interpretations of Muslim Qur’anic exegetes.
“Here, the study came to three general views of its meaning and discovered four classical theories of universal mercy. These philosophical ventures unfortunately were taken by a divisive mode of thinking that subsequently affected their ways in comprehending the idea. Universal mercy in Islam was evidently castrated in the early development of Islamic scholarship by a zealous endeavor to expand its spectrum including eschatological dimension which was clearly, in the primary sources of this research, left no decent room for disbelievers or Non-Muslims.” Nyong explain in his presentation.
As a historical narration, the idea is explored through investigating how early historians had pictured and represented Muhammad and his prophetic mission as a mercy to all peoples. Through the selected materials used in their historical writings the four classical theories of rahmatan li ‘l – alamin echoed their voices. In spite of this theoretical linkage of representation, the historians typically focused on the historical aspects of the Prophet. The eschatological aspect that influenced Muslim exegetes in their interpretations of the idea was isolated. From these results of the study, the intellectual development in the early second century of Islam showed that the plurality of religious traditions had been accommodated in the attempts to understand rahmatan li ‘l – alamin.
“Further, I do a constructive elaboration to provide a more contextual meaning, mainly related to the conception and articulation of the idea in a contemporary setting. This perspective that I call the theory of ethical mercy interpreting rahmatan li ‘l – alamin in a more proportional fashion by putting it within the framework of understanding which preserves its character as a universal idea. The claim of Islamic universal mercy was herewith put in the historical structure, not to be overly expanded to the eschatological realm.” Nyong said.
This theory sees rahmatan li ‘l – alamin that was aspired and struggled by the Prophet Muhhamad during his lifetime embodying in the establishment of the imagined Islamic society namely the society of mercy on the foundations of mutual trust, justice and the heights of ethics. It makes rahmatan li ‘l – alamin not an exclusive Islamic project but a universal wisdom that openly offered to everyone regardless their primordial backgrounds to make efforts of its attainment.