Monday, March 5, 2012

Forgive Those Who Hurt You

I Forgive Those Who Hurt Me

By Professor Shahul Hamīd

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

As human beings, each of us has an inherent tendency to deviate from the straight path to do unintelligent, awkward things. Not a day passes when a person can be certain that "today I have made no mistakes."
At times we are oblivious of the fact that we are doing wrong; and at times we consciously and deliberately do things we know we ought not to. These wrongs may cause agony to others or even bring physical pain and suffering to them. As rational beings endowed with the freedom of choice, we are responsible for our actions and are answerable before God, Allāh the Almighty. For this reason, we are constantly in need of Allāh’s Forgiveness and Mercy. 

Allāh tells us in the Quran, that He is the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful. Allāh has a number of names that imply different aspect of His Forgiving nature. He is called Al-Ghafur (the Most Forgiving) and Al-Afuww (the One Who heals and restores our honor).

Allāh is also called Al-Tawwab (the Acceptor of repentance). This word has the sense of "oft-returning", which implies that Allāh accepts our repentance again and again. We make mistakes and when we become conscious of it, we repent to Allāh, and Allāh accepts our repentance. Then again, we do wrong and repent to Him, seeking His forgiveness, and He forgives. 

Allāh is called Al-Rahmān and Al-Rahīm too, which mean "the All-Merciful" and "the All-Compassionate" respectively. The two words indicate that Allāh is ever merciful to all of His creations, and most particularly to His obedient servants. Indeed Allāh’s mercy is unbounded and His love is infinite.

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to pray: "O Allāh, You are the All-Forgiving One; You love to forgive, so forgive me" (At-Tirmidzi). Without exception, all of us badly need Allāh’s mercy and forgiveness all the time. 

Allāh in the Quran teaches us that we humans should strive hard in cultivating within ourselves the qualities of mercy and forgiveness. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) has taught us: 

·     “Allāh is only merciful with those who show mercy to others.” (Al-Bukhari)
·    “The believers in their mutual love, mercy and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with sleeplessness and fever.” (Muslim)

There were several events in the life of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) that demonstrate how merciful and forgiving he was even to his enemies. For instance, on his return to the city of Makkah after his victory, the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  was face to face with his brutal persecutors who fought him for many years, and murdered many of his followers. Now he had full power and his enemies were at his feet, pleading for mercy. Making that moment a historic one unparalleled in history, the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told them simply, "No blame on you today. Go, you are all free" (Ibn Hisham). 

If someone spread false rumors about your loved ones, would you be able to forgive and forget?

The Prophet's exemplary character and his personal example left a deep impression on his Companions. No one exemplified the gentleness and the generosity of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in life more than his closest companion, Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq (radiyallāhu‘anhu). 

The name "Al-Siddiq" is actually a title that was given to him by Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) which means "the always truthful". It was Abu Bakar (radiyallāhu‘anhu) who was the foremost in standing steadfast beside the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) on all those occasions when others of less caliber faltered. 

Abu Bakar (radiyallāhu‘anhu) was the very embodiment of magnanimity, nobility, and grace. He was one of the first to declare his allegiance to the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and from that moment on, nothing deterred him from the path of Islam, and no one was closer to the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) than him. Indeed, Abu Bakar (radiyallāhu‘anhu) was the first rich man in history who bought slaves just to give them freedom. 

Lady Aishah (radiyallāhu‘anha) the wife of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), was the beloved daughter of Abu Bakar. This relationship was a bond that brought him close to the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). There was an incident concerning Aishah that upset Abu Bakar and brought him great sorrow. The story is told in the biography of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and is usually referred to as the "incident of the slander."
It all began when Aishah (radiyallāhu‘anha) accompanied Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in one of his campaigns, and while returning, she happened to lag behind the caravan owing to her preoccupation with the search for a necklace she had lost in the desert. This detained her while the caravan continued the journey, believing that Aishah was with them. When she came back to the camping place she found no one, and she had no option but to remain there in the hope that her people would notice she was not with them and come back looking for her. 

A man named Safwan (radiyallāhu‘anhu) one of the Companions of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), was riding behind the army and he happened to see Aishah (radiyallāhu‘anha). He let her ride on his camel while he led them on foot to the caravan that was at the next halt. 

After this, some people began spreading slanderous rumors connecting Aishah and Safwan. When Aishah (radiyallāhu‘anha) knew about it, she was very agitated, and she went on weeping and praying to Allāh to prove her innocence.

One can imagine how upset Abu Bakar (radiyallāhu‘anhu) was on knowing about the plight of his daughter. While some people stood by Aishah (radiyallāhu‘anha) and believed in her innocence, many others took part in gossiping and spreading false rumors, and there was nothing Abu Bakar (radiallāhu‘anhu) could do to spare his daughter this pain. 

Sometime later, after Aishah, Abu Bakar, and Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had endured much pain and stress due to this incident, a revelation came to the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) declaring the innocence of Aishah, and castigating the slanderers. Allāh says in the Quran what means:

“It was a group from among you that concocted the lie — do not consider it a bad thing for you [people]; it was a good thing — and every one of them will be charged with the sin he has earned. He who took the greatest part in it will have a painful punishment. When you heard the lie, why did believing men and women not think well of their own people and declare, "This is obviously a lie"? And why did the accusers not bring four witnesses to it? If they cannot produce such witnesses, they are the liars in God's eyes. If it were not for God's bounty and mercy towards you in this world and the next, you would already have been afflicted by terrible suffering for indulging in such talk. When you took it up with your tongues, and spoke with your mouths things you did not know [to be true], you thought it was trivial but to God it was very serious. When you heard the lie, why did you not say, "We should not repeat this — God forbid! — It is a monstrous slander"? God warns you never to do anything like this again, if you are true believers.” (An-Nur 24:11-17)

How consoling that revelation was to both Aishah and her father, Abu Bakar. The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) himself was greatly relieved at having the innocence of his beloved wife proven. 

It is clearly mentioned that the accusation was false, and the whole incident would teach Muslims the importance of saying the truth and not speaking ill of others. Muslims are also given a wonderful example in the way such a complicated situation was handled by Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), Aishah, and Abu Bakar, as they all bore the pain patiently seeking the pleasure of Allāh. Abu Bakar (radiyallāhu‘anhu) came to know that one of the persons who played a key role in the spreading of the slander was a person called Mistah ibn Uthatha. 

Abu Bakar, being such a great and generous man, used to spend of his own wealth to support many destitute persons. Mistah was one of those people who relied on the financial support he received from Abu Bakar. After finding out that Mistah had taken part in slandering his daughter, Abu Bakar was very angry with him and decided to stop the financial support he was providing him. However, Allāh’s revelation came to Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), saying what means:

“Those who have been graced with bounty and plenty should not swear that they will [no longer] give to kinsmen, the poor, and those who emigrated in God's way. Let them pardon and forgive! Do you not wish that God should forgive you? God is All-Forgiving and All-Merciful.” (An-Nur 24:22)

Abu Bakar (radiyallāhu‘anhu) felt the sting of this admonition, and immediately repented. Soon he corrected himself, and restored his liberal grant to Mistah. Thus, he forgave the man who took part in slandering his daughter, and mercifully continued to give of his own wealth in order to support him.

The refinement of the wild Arabs of the desert through the revelation of Allāh and the example of His Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was in itself nothing short of miraculous. Indeed, Abu Bakar Al-Siddiq (radiyallāhu‘anhu) is ever one of the shining models for the whole of humanity to be found in the annals of Islam. 

And, Allāh Almighty Knows best.

[See: Ibn Hisham, Abd al-Malik. Sīrat Ibn Hisham. Vol. 1. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1998.]

Professor Shahul Hamīd is a consultant to the Reading Islam Website. He is also the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He wrote several books on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.

[Via On Islam Sunday, 28 February 2010]

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