Let’s Forgive and Forget!

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What is forgiveness? How to forgive?

Human beings are social creatures, living together as families in neighbourhoods, communities, and towns. This economic prosperity is a result of many compromises. People have been victims as well as perpetrators of injustice. However, people have learnt to forgive and move on. It is the quality of being tolerant to others and the spirit of compassion that has been the force de tour of human civilisation and prosperity. The progress of human civilisation is deeply rooted in forgiveness.

Islamic teachings make it obligatory to develop the virtue of forgiveness. It doesn’t just command forgiveness but teaches Allah is the Forgiving, an excellent example of forgiveness. We will also read how wonderfully forgiving the Messenger of Islam (peace be upon him) was.

What are the benefits of forgiveness?

“Forgiveness allows us to let go of the pain in the memory and if we let go of this, we can have the memory but it does not control us. When memory controls us we are the puppets of the past” (The Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut by A. Asseily).

Forgiveness is a virtue for displacing hard feelings, it empowers the victim to release resentment, hatred, malice and thoughts of revenge. What you are doing is dissociating yourself from the negative feelings that keep reminding you of the offence done against you. This diminishes the negative feelings against the other and gives you a sense of control and freedom that results in a happier life.

Research shows that forgiveness has health benefits too. Bitterness, hatred, grudges and desire for revenge are known to increase blood pressure and symptoms of stress. On the other hand, forgiveness leads to improvement in health; this is a result of lower blood pressure, less hostility, less anxiety and depression. Forgiveness is a positive feeling, to build better relationships and win more friends, a remedy for personal, social and well-being.

Read the following beautiful stories of forgiveness from the life of our Master and teacher Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Trip to Taif

The Prophet (peace be upon him) decided to visit Taif a city near Makkah to win over people to Islam. However, the ruling tribe of Thaqif declined to listen, mocked and expelled him from the city. He (peace be upon him) retreated hastily, they ran after him, pelting him with stones and injuring him severely, his sandals were covered in blood. In physical and emotional pain, bleeding and exhausted, he (peace be upon him) took refuge in a vineyard. Feeling helpless and humiliated he (peace be upon him) raised his hands and prayed, “Allah, please consider my weakness, my shortage of means, and the little respect people have of me. Kind God, You are the Lord of the oppressed and you are my Lord. To whom would you leave my fate? To a stranger who insults me? Or to an enemy who dominates me? Your pleasure alone is my objective.”

Sending relief to famine-stricken Makkah

The Muslims had been attacked three times by the Makkans, at Badr, Uhud and the battle of Trenches. But look at the goodness of the Messenger (peace be upon him), when he heard that the Makkans were facing famine, he (peace be upon him) sent a supply of food and 500 gold coins. This incident exemplifies the remarkable character and compassion of the Messenger (peace be upon him) in the face of adversity. Despite having experienced hostility from the Makkans in the form of three battles, the Prophet’s response is a testament to his unwavering commitment to the principles of mercy, empathy and forgiveness.

Conquest of Makkah

The conquest of Makkah is a striking example of the Messenger’s (peace be upon him) forgiveness. After twenty years of hostility, he returned to Makkah with a mighty army. He (peace be upon him) entered humbly with a bowed head, no swagger, and no trappings of a conquering hero. Not a single person was killed during the conquest.

Haykal describes the general amnesty: ‘There was the Quraysh among whom were people Muhammad knew had plotted to kill him, had persecuted him and inflicted upon him and his companions all kind of injury and harm, who fought him at Badr and at Uhud …There, the whole of Quraysh stood totally under Muhammad’s hand, indeed under his feet, totally subject to his command. His heart was free of injustice, of malice, of tyranny or false pride. In the most decisive moment, God gave him power over his enemy. But Muhammad chose to forgive, thereby giving humanity a perfect example of goodness, of truthfulness, of forgiveness.’ (The Life of Muhammad by Muhammad Husayn Haykal).

Why should I forgive the offender?

You will have played and re-played your personal tragedy and hurt movie many times. Now let go of the grudge, the bitterness and hatred because:

  • Letting go of past hurts gives you the freedom to secure the present and prepare for the future.
  • When you stop being a victim you can nourish new healthy ideas. Don’t waste time on hurtful activity.
  • You think that the offender doesn’t deserve forgiveness, but Allah said forgive! You’ve held onto it long enough; it’s time to let it go and enjoy the freedom that comes from forgiveness.