Friday, January 20, 2012

The Power of Forgiveness

The Power of Forgiveness: An Islamic Perspective
By Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-ā’lamīn. There is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.

As human beings we are responsible, but we do also make mistakes and we are constantly in need of forgiveness. Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala has granted intellect to human beings. The intellect entails responsibility. The more intellect a person has the more he or she is responsible.

When the intellect is missing, the responsibility is also not there. Little children are not held responsible, because their intellect has not yet developed. The insane are not responsible, because they have lost the intellectual capacity. However, part of our being human is also that we make mistakes. Sometime we make mistakes without deliberation and intention. But sometime we knowingly and deliberately sin and do wrong to others.

A renowned saying: "to err is human and to forgive is divine." Both parts of this statement are very true. As human beings we are responsible, but we do also make mistakes and we are constantly in need of forgiveness. 

Islam speaks about two elements of forgiveness: a) Allāh’s forgiveness; b) Human forgiveness. We need both, because we do wrong in our relations to Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala as well as in our relations to each other.  

Allāh’s Forgiveness

There are many names of Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala given in the Quran. They are called “Most Beautiful Names” and they indicate many different and diverse attributes and qualities of Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala. Some of these names are related to His mercy and forgiveness. Let us look at some of these names:

1. Al-Ghafūr: The Most Forgiving. This name occurs in the Quran more than seventy times. There are other names from the same root, such as Ghafir and Ghaffar. The meaning of the Arabic word “ghafara” is to cover, to hide and from it comes the meaning “to excuse,” “to pardon,” “to remit” and “to forgive.” Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala does all these things. In the Quran, it is mentioned that Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala does not forgive the Shirik (without repentance) but He may forgive every other sin for whomsoever He wills. (Al-Nisā', 4:116) We must turn to Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala to seek His forgiveness.

2. Al-‘Afuw: This has another part of forgiveness. This name occurs in the Quran five times. Literally the word 'Afw means “to release,” “to heal.”“to restore, to remit.” Thus in relation to Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala it means “to release us from the burden of punishment due to our sins and mistakes,” "to restore our honor after we have dishonored ourselves by committing sins and making mistakes." Sometimes in the Quran both names: 'Afuw and Ghafūr come together.

3. Al-Tawwab: The Acceptor of Repentance. This name of Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala is mentioned in the Quran about 11 times. Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala accepts the repentance of those who sincerely repent and turn to him. The word “tawwab” gives the sense of “oft-returning” which means that Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala again and again accepts the repentance. We make sins and mistakes then we repent, He accepts our repentance. Then again we commit sins and make mistakes and when we repent, He again very kindly accepts us and gives us another chance.

4. Al-Halīm: The Clement. This name is mentioned fifteen times in the Quran. This means that Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala is not quick to judgment. He gives time. He forebears and is patient to see His servant return to Him.

5. Al-Rahmān and Al-Rahīm: The Most Merciful and Compassionate. These names are the most frequent in the Quran. Al-Rahman is mentioned 57 times and al-Rahīm is mentioned 115 times. Al-Rahmān indicates that Allāh's mercy is abundant and plenty and Al-Rahīm indicates that this is always the case with Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala. Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala is full of love and mercy and is ever Merciful.

The Quran teaches that Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala is a Judge and He also punishes, but Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala is not bound to punish. The justice of Allāh, according to Quran is that Allāh does not and will not inflict undue punishment on any person. He will not ignore the good of any person. But if He wishes to forgive any sinner, He has full freedom to do that. His mercy is unlimited and His love is infinite.

There are many verses in the Quran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) on Allāh’s love, mercy and forgiveness. In one of the prayers that the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) taught, he said: “O Allāh, You are most Forgiving One, You love to forgive, so forgive me.” (At-Tirmidzi and Ibn Mājah). We need Allāh's mercy and forgiveness all the time. It is wrong to assume at any time that one will find eternal salvation without the forgiveness of Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala.

Human Forgiveness in Islam

Just as it is important to believe in Allāh’s mercy and forgiveness, it is also necessary to base human relations on forgiveness. We cannot expect Allāh's forgiveness unless we also forgive those who do wrong to us. Forgiving each other, even forgiving one's enemies is one of the most important of Islamic teaching. In the Quran Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala has described the Believers as: “those who avoid major sins and acts of indecencies and when they are angry they forgive.”(Al-Shura, 42:37)

Later in the same chapter Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala says: “The reward of the evil is the evil thereof, but whosoever forgives and makes amends, his reward is upon Allāh” (Al-Shura 42: 40) In another place the Quran says: “If you punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith you were afflicted. But if you endure patiently, indeed it is better for the patient. Endure you patiently. Your patience is not except through the help of Allāh…” (Al-Nahl, 16:126-27)

In one the famous sayings of the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) it is reported that he said that Allāh commanded him about nine things. One of them he mentioned was “that I forgive those who do wrong to me.”

Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) was the most forgiving person. He was ever ready to forgive his enemies. When he went to Ta'if to preach Allāh’s message to its people, they mistreated him. They abused him and hit him with stones. He (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) left the city humiliated and wounded. When he (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) took shelter under a tree, Allāh’s angel appeared to him and told him that Allāh was very angry with the people of Taif and sent him to destroy them because they mistreated Allāh’s beloved Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam). The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) prayed to Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala to save the people of Ta’if, because what they did was out of their ignorance. He said: “O Allah, guide these people, because they did not know what they were doing.” (Al-Bukhari)

When Rasūllulah (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) entered the city of Makkah after the victory, Rasūllulah (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) had in front of him some of his staunchest enemies. Those who fought him for many years persecuted his followers and killed many of them. Now Rasūllulah (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) had full power to do whatever he wanted to punish them for their crimes. It is reported that Rasūllulah (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) asked them: “What do you think I shall do to you now” They expected nothing but retaliation and pleaded for mercy. The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, “Today I shall say to you what Joseph (referring to Prophet Yusuf –‘alaihissallam- as mentioned in the Qur'an, Yusuf 12:92) said to his brothers: “No blame on you today. Go, you are all free”.”

Soon they all came and accepted Islam at his hands. He (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) forgave even Hindun who had caused the murder of his uncle Hamzah. After killing him, she had his body mutilated and chewed his liver. When she accepted Islam, the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) even forgave her.

A very striking example of forgiveness we find in the Quran in reference to the most unfortunate event of “Slander of Aishah.” Some hypocrites of Madinah accused her. They tried to put dirt on her noble character. One of the slanderers turned out to be Mistah, the cousin of Aishah’s father Abu Bakar As-Siddiq (radiallāhu‘anhu). Abu Bakar used to give financial help to this young man. After he slandered his daughter, Abu Bakar vowed not to help him anymore. 

But Allāh Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala reminded Abu Bakar and through him all the Believers:

“Let not those among you who are endued with grace and amplitude of means resolve by oath against helping their kinsmen, those in want and those who migrated in the path of Allāh. Let them forgive and overlook. Do you not wish that Allāh should also forgive you? Indeed Allāh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (An-Nur, 24: 22)

Abu Bakar (radiallāhu‘anhu) came out of his home and said: “Yes, indeed, I do want Allāh’s forgiveness”. He did not only continue to help him but he increased his allowance. Islam emphasizes justice and punishment of the wrong doers, but it equally strongly emphasizes mercy, kindness and love. Justice, law and order are necessary for the maintenance of a social order, but there is also a need for forgiveness to heal the wounds and to restore good relations between the people. We must keep in mind that as much as we need Allāh's forgiveness for our own sins and mistakes, we must also practice forgiveness towards those who do wrong to us.

And Allāh Almighty Knows best.

References: This article was excerpted from

[Via On Islam Monday, 21 March 2011 08:30]

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