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Forgiveness and Tolerance

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abuayisha View Drop Down
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    Posted: 16 June 2010 at 6:31am
Forgiveness and Tolerance in Islam
by Hanaa Hamad

It never ceases to amaze me that Allah can inspire so much fear in our hearts when we reflect on His supremacy, yet his mercy is equally as vast as His dominion. Allah tells us in a Hadith Qudsi (sacred narration of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ): “O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you” (Al-Tirmidhi). Subhan’Allah (Glory be to Allah) there is no limit to Allah’s forgiveness, even though our mistakes are numerous.

But what’s disheartening is how seldom we are able to forgive each other and how often we are impetuously intolerant toward one another. Islam teaches us that the strongest of servants are those who not only have the strength to suppress their anger when they are tested but also possess an immeasurable capacity to forgive. The Prophet ﷺ said that: “Whoever suffers an injury and forgives (the person responsible), God will raise his status to a higher degree and remove one of his sins” (Al-Tirmidhi). If we can sincerely forgive those who anger us, inwardly and outwardly, then that cleanses our souls from the shaytan (satan) and his negative energy. It is important to disregard vain criticisms and this is the first step toward being tolerant. Of course, this is not done without difficulty because it is hard to understand why those who have caused us grievances wanted to do so in the first place. But this is where the battle with our inner self can take a positive turn and allow us to elevate our iman (faith). This inner struggle is what the Prophet ﷺ called “The Greater Jihad” because it involves tolerance and fighting the evil within ourselves in order to purify our hearts. This is always done for the sake of Allah and to purify our spiritual conditions.

Islam also teaches us that the best kind of forgiveness is answering the oppression of others with kindness. The Prophet ﷺ inspired us with this practice when he said to his followers: “God had ordered me to maintain ties with those who sever ties with me, and to give to those who deprive me, and to forgive those who oppress me.”

The Prophet ﷺ and his companions were so merciful in their conduct that instead of becoming angry with their offenders, they defended them and gave them gifts. What immeasurable acts of compassion. They went beyond human altruism and practiced unmatched generosity. They demonstrated that when we open our hearts and pardon others, we are granting ourselves an inner peace. This is how we can prevent spite from suffocating our hearts, which is crucial because hatred has the ability to make us internally ill. We think that hatred is a means of revenge against those who have harmed us, but by begrudging them we are only harming ourselves. This is because our enemies will never feel our anger, and they live contently as we suffer. When we forgive others, it brings relief to our souls because it is a kind of liberating release. This is because when someone has upset us, they have a power over us because we allowed them to do so.

Life is short. Let us not waste our energy on being angry at our enemies and seeking revenge against them. If we can progressively minimize our spite every day, then soon we will bear no hatred or malice in our hearts, insha’Allah (God willing). This is how we can end conflict amongst ourselves, since it is a day to day issue we face. After all, sometimes our own actions can provoke another person’s wrong doings and we may not be aware of how we contributed to the conflict. We tend to judge the faults of others, while being blind to our own. We forget how we have wronged others, and we only remember how others have wronged us. In the same manner, we forget the good things that others have done for us, and remember only the good that we have done for them. It is an innate human error. But let us try to remember our own shortcomings before we reflect on the shortcomings of others. Let us stop victimizing ourselves and think about how we have victimized others, and then seek their forgiveness. And if they ask our forgiveness, let us always grant it to them. Because the Prophet ﷺ taught us that: “Whoever does not show mercy will not be shown mercy” (Al-Bukhari). And we must keep in mind that however we treat others is how Allah will treat us.

So insha’Allah when someone hurts us, let us try to meet their oppression with kindness and forgive them, even if they are not sorry.

This article was inspired by a lecture by Dr. Aidh Al-Qarni


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sufi_observer View Drop Down

Joined: 28 November 2005
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sufi_observer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 June 2010 at 8:00am
Great article!
There is a story about Jaf'ar as-Sadiq. A man insulted him, and sometime later he went to the man's home. He told him, "When you said certain things to me, I made no reply. If the qualities you attribute to me are really in me, I give you my word that I shall repent of them and not let myself be guilty of them again, but if the qualities you ascribed to me are not really in me, I shall pray to God and beseech Him to pardon you. I forgive you for what you said to me and do not hold it against you." This kindness made such an impression on the man that he fell at the feet of the sage and repented.
I can see three lessons here:
First, Jaf'ar as-Sadiq didn't respond immediately. He held his tongue until he was sure of what he wanted to say and had mastery over his emotions.
Second, he admitted that the man might actually be correct in his accusations. He didn't take a defensive position simply because his pride told him to.
Third, his kind words led to the man being drawn closer to faith.
I'm sure there are many people here who can see other lessons that I missed, but that's a start.

Edited by sufi_observer - 16 June 2010 at 8:01am
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