What is Empathy?


Empathy is a term that we are alien to. That is to say, empathy is a word that we have drawn our self away from. In other words, we are unfamiliar with the word, let alone its practice. Although it sounds similar to sympathy, so we derive the idea that it means the same thing. However, sympathy means to acknowledge the other person’s pain. On the other hand, empathy means to feel the other person’s pain.


How did our Prophet (peace be upon him) Exhibit Empathy


Our Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) exhibited the quality of empathy tremendously. Below we shall discuss a few examples of how the prophet possessed the quality of empathy. As a result, we shall be able to analyze how much we lack in this beautiful Sunnah. Let us see how the prophet (peace be upon him) practiced empathy regardless of who the other person was.


  • How did the Prophet (peace be upon him) show Empathy to Ikrimah ibn Abi Jahl

Ikrimah was the son of Abu Jahl; the greatest enemy of Islam and Muhammad (peace be upon him). After the death of his father, Ikrimah took upon himself to take revenge of his father from the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Muslim Ummah. He killed vast numbers of believers. Further, he was the one who planned various plots to kill Hazrat Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). After the conquest of Makkah, he came to the Prophet (peace be upon him). As a result of the news of Ikrimah entering into Makkah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) commanded his fellows to behave nicely to him.

The Prophet turned to his companions and strictly advised them not to call his father Abu Jahl. To clarify, the real name of Abu Jahl was Amr Ibn Hisham. However, because of his ignorance, he was known as Abu Jahl amongst Muslims. Our beloved prophet (peace be upon him) was hopeful that he will accept Islam. Therefore, he asked his companions not to mention anything that hurt his feelings. In short, our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) understood and felt the emotions of the son of his greatest enemy. Moreover, he was concerned that Ikrimah should not feel hurt.

  • Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Empathy’s towards Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy’s Son

The son of another major enemy of Islam; Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy, came to the prophet (peace be upon him) after his father’s death. He said to the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he knows his father had opposed him his entire life. Further, he said that he knew that his father said terrible things about the Prophet (peace be upon him). But it was his father and that he worries about him now.

As a result of this, the Prophet (peace be upon him) took off his shirt instantly and gave it to the little boy. To clarify, he gave the shirt to him to use it as a shroud for his father’s burial. In other words, what a great honor it is to wrap someone in the Prophet’s shirt and bury him. The Prophet (peace be upon him) bestowed him with such honor, although his sins were huge and it was with Allah to forgive his sins. Most importantly, the Prophet (peace be upon him) could feel the pain of one of the greatest enemies of Islam. This is what real empathy is. In other words, the Prophet (peace be upon him) could feel the loss of the boy who lost his father. Consequently, he tried his best to calm and comfort him.


Following the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Footsteps & Adopting Empathy


These are two of the major instances from a number of instances of empathy from the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) life. We can well understand what a great Sunnah empathy is by reading the stories of empathy from the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him). In other words, we need to revive this lost Sunnah. That is to say, today we have become so materialistic and immersed in our worldly life that we have forgotten this great Sunnah of empathy. To conclude we can rightly say that it is a lost Sunnah and we must take measures to adopt this beautiful Sunnah. In other words, we need to be concerned and thoughtful of our fellow beings.

Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever”.

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim: Book 1, Hadees 224]




For us to understand the loving and empathetic personality of the Prophet (peace be upon him), we must recite Quran and try to understand what Allah says about the Prophet and how He describes and mentions him in the Quran. By understanding Quran, we shall not only understand the personality of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) but also understand how to treat our fellow beings. Therefore, people who are in search of Online Quran tutors can contact us. QuraOnline provides Online Quran Classes for Muslims worldwide.