Published — Friday 13 February 2015
ANGER and hatred are without doubt the most influential emotions that prevent some people from being able to forgive one another. If there is also an element of justification to that anger, then it is even harder for someone to overcome that anger and forgive.
That justification generally stems from the other side having made a great error. Justified feelings, such as “How could they do that to me?” and “How could they be so thoughtless, selfish and foolish?” based on the other party’s poor behavior, cause many to remain entrenched in their anger.
Yet there is a very important point that is overlooked here; human beings are fallible. It is impossible to live without making mistakes.
Allah creates human beings with the capacity to err, behind which there is much wisdom. It is therefore very wrong to expect someone else to have the will to spend their whole lives without making a mistake. Even the most perfect and virtuous person in the world is still human, and may, as part of Allah’s creation, forget, be mistaken or go wrong.
Some people may be angered by mistakes and be reluctant to forgive. Yet Allah tells believers that it is better to forgive and encourages that virtue in them. He encourages them to reflect on that in this verse:
“Those of you possessing affluence and ample wealth should not make oaths that they will not give to their relatives and the very poor and those who have migrated in the way of Allah. They should rather pardon and overlook. Would you not love Allah to forgive you? Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an, 24: 22)
Certainly everyone will wish Allah to forgive their mistakes and have mercy on them. In the same way, when one makes a mistake, one will want that to be overlooked and forgiven by the people around them.
By reminding believers of this, Allah reveals that they should treat others as they themselves would wish to be treated. This is an important command that encourages compassion among believers.
Since believers know that people are created with a tendency to err, they approach them with compassion right from the outset.
Verses of the Qur’an about repentance reveal that humans are prone to err, but what matters is to abandon the error as soon as one realizes it and to strive not to repeat it. (Qur’an, 4:17)
So long as these conditions apply believers will be very forgiving and compassionate toward one another.
They will not harbor hatred toward another believer because of an error of which he has repented and is trying to correct. They will know that they cannot judge anyone because of past errors if he sincerely repented of them and that what counts is the moral values the person is displaying now.
Allah tells believers that it is a virtue to forgive when the other side is in the wrong: “Those who give in times of both ease and hardship, those who control their rage and pardon other people — Allah loves the good-doers.” (Qur’an, 3:134)
In the light of that command of Allah’s they can easily forego their own rights and behave with humility, thus representing a fine role model for the other party.
There is a major difference bestowed by the moral values of the Qur’an on this subject; believers do not discriminate between big and small mistakes when it comes to forgiveness, and do not exhibit different levels of forgiveness depending on the error involved. The person who made the mistake may have unwittingly caused great loss of life or property and may have seriously damaged the other party’s interests: Yet the believer knows that everything happens by Allah’s leave and within an appointed destiny, and will treat such events with submission and avoid personal rancor.
Someone may have exceeded the bounds set by Allah out of ignorance. However, it is only Allah Who can judge him for that. Believers therefore have no responsibility to judge and withhold forgiveness.
The response if someone sincerely repents and regrets his actions will come in the Presence of Allah. Indeed, Allah reveals in numerous verses that, with the exception of “ascribing equals to Him,” He will forgive mistakes of which believers genuinely repent.
Human beings are prone to error as part of their natures; they may think inaccurately on many matters at any time. They may make wrong decisions and even behave wrongly. However, Allah, Who creates man and knows his defects, also forgives mistakes that are made. Were it not for Allah’s “forgiveness” it would be impossible for anyone to enter paradise.
That is set out explicitly in the Qur’an: “If Allah were to punish people for their wrong actions, not a single creature would be left upon the earth, but He defers them till a predetermined time. When their specified time arrives, they cannot delay it for a single hour nor can they bring it forward.” (Qur’an, 16:61)
When a believer makes a mistake and sincerely repents of it, he will wish both for forgiveness in the Sight of Allah and for Muslims to forgive and trust him. When he encounters forgiveness he will know that this is a great blessing from Allah.
Believers will exhibit this forgiveness they hope for themselves to other people, too. This is also the most appropriate behavior in terms of earning the approval of Allah: “… But if you pardon and exonerate and forgive, Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an, 64:14)
Of course this command of Allah’s is one that encourages compassion among believers and needs to be obeyed. As servants in need of Allah’s forgiveness, we also need His love and mercy.
We must take the “path of forgiveness” that will earn us the good pleasure and mercy of Allah, and must not forget that this will profit us greatly, both in this world and the hereafter: “… Allah’s mercy is close to the good-doers.” (Qur’an, 7: 56)
The writer has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science.