Kindness and Generosity
Muhammad always commanded his followers to treat everyone with kindness, and to give to others in charity. There are countless stories of Muhammad exhorting the benefits of charity, both for individuals and society at large.
In many traditions, Muhammad reminded his followers that the bounties we have in this world do not belong to us, but are a trust from Allah. It is our duty to share with those less fortunate. In addition to the institution of zakat (almsgiving), Islam implemented systems whereby slaves would be set free and neighbors would care for neighbors. Even those who are limited in means can give in charity. Muhammad instructed them: “Help someone in his work, or make something for someone who cannot make it himself. If you cannot, then at least restrain yourself from doing harm to anyone, for that also is a charity.” On another occasion, he said, “Each person's every joint must perform an act of charity every day the sun comes up. To act justly between two people is a charity. To help a man with his mount, helping him onto it, or hoisting up his belongings onto it, is a charity. A good word is a charity. Every step you take towards prayer is a charity. And removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity.”
Muslims are reminded in the Qur'an not to be boastful about their charitable donations: “O you who believe! Do not cancel your charity, by giving reminders of your generosity, or by injury, like those who spend their wealth to be seen by men, but believe neither in God nor in the Last Day” (Qur'an 2:264).
The Virtue of Mercy
Muhammad often told stories of people to serve as examples to others. In one case, he told a story of a man who passed by a road and found a thorny branch in the middle of the path. He removed the branch so that it would not be an inconvenience to people. When Muhammad told the story, he added, “Allah appreciated his action and forgave his sins.”
The Qur'an is filled with messages of the mercy of Allah, and it exhorts its followers to be merciful and just. Muhammad once told a man, “Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully [by Allah on the Day of Judgment].” He particularly disliked those who did not show mercy to children and the elderly.
Treatment of Animals
A Muslim's kindness should extend not only to other people but also to animals, which are deserving of kind treatment and mercy. In another story, Muhammad told of a dog that was circling around a well, suffering from extreme thirst. A woman saw the animal in this condition, so she drew some water and gave it to the dog to drink. “Allah appreciated her action and forgave her sins, simply on account of this kindness,” he said. His companions who were listening to the story asked Muhammad, “Are we rewarded for our kindness towards animals as well?” He answered, “There are rewards for kindness to every living thing.”
While in the company of Muhammad, a man once took an egg from a bird's nest. This caused the mother bird to get upset and begin circling around Muhammad's head. He asked, “Who stole this bird's egg?” The man admitted that he took the egg. Muhammad then told him, “Put it back, and have mercy.”
In another account, Muhammad warned those people who treat animals with cruelty. He told his companions, “A woman was doomed to Hellfire because she put a cat in a closet until the cat died from starvation. She did not give the cat anything to eat or drink, nor did she let the cat free to hunt for its food.”