“I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.” (Booker T. Washington)
We were studying Surah Yusuf. We read the Ayah where Yusuf (as) reassures his step-brothers that Allah (swt) will forgive them, implying that he himself has already forgiven them. Later, Yaqub (as) also tells his sons that he will soon seek forgiveness for them from Allah (swt). It made me think how easy it can actually be for a human to forgive another human, who has constantly been transgressing his rights.
Prophets of Allah (swt) are models for us to emulate, and we can only do so if we put their teachings into practice. If you have been tortured (mentally or physically), if your rights have been trampled upon or if your life has been made miserable and you feel that a particular person is responsible for it, then how easy is it to forgive?
This question led me to Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) example in Taif. The inhumane treatment meted out to him, as a result of his call to the truth, shows the level of brutality a human being can possibly have towards another. But what was his response? He did not talk about revenge. All he was concerned about was his relationship with Allah (swt) – he was desperate to know whether this trial was a result of Allah’s (swt) anger or otherwise. All that mattered to him was that his Lord should be pleased with him. As long as he had that bounty, other issues were trivial. Allah (swt) was his primary concern.
Why is it that when we face a similar situation, our reaction is entirely different? This is because our primary concern is people, leaving Allah (swt) only as the second. Aisha (rta) has narrated: “Allah’s Apostle (saw) never took revenge for his own self in any matter presented to him till Allah’s limits were exceeded, in which case he would take revenge for Allah’s sake.” (Bukhari)
We need to set our priorities right. We need to realize that Allah’s (swt) pleasure is what truly matters. When our purpose becomes to gain the pleasure of Allah (swt), then forgiving others becomes possible.
Islam is a comprehensive religion that caters to the whole of humanity, keeping their strengths and weaknesses in consideration. It also gives us space for our own unique circumstances in life. If the threat from the other person is of an ongoing nature, we are granted the right to choose how to deal with such a person. The Prophet (sa) informed us that the supplication of the oppressed does not go unanswered.
Allah (swt) says: “The recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof, but whoever forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah. Verily, He likes not the Zalimun. And indeed whosoever takes revenge after he has suffered wrong, for such there is no way (of blame) against them. The way (of blame) is only against those who oppress men and wrongly rebel in the earth without justification, for such there will be a painful torment. And verily, whosoever shows patience and forgives that would truly be from the things recommended by Allah.” (Ash-Shura 42:40-43)
Thus, everything depends upon our attitude – a positive mind will be full of hope, while a negative-minded person will remain dissatisfied and vengeful. From the early generations of Islam, we learn about a person who slandered a scholar. In return, the scholar gave him a gift of dates. Later, when asked about the gift, he said: “Because he did good to me (i.e., on the Day of Judgement, the man would have to give him some of his good deeds or take from him some of his bad ones due to this offence).”
Ibrahim At-Tamimi once said: “When a man wrongs me, I pay him back with an act of mercy.”
However, we must never forget that no one can harm us, if Allah (swt) has ordained our well-being, and no one can save us from harm, if Allah (swt) wishes so. Nothing happens outside the Decree of Allah (swt). When someone hurts you, take it as a test from Allah (swt) and handle it with wisdom.
So then, what should be our response? Allah (swt) tells us: “And those who remain patient, seeking their Lord’s Countenance, perform As-Salat, and spend out of that which We have bestowed on them, secretly and openly, and defend evil with good, for such there is a good end.” (Rad 13:22) This Ayah holds a strong message – repel evil with good, injustice with forgiveness.
Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated: “A man said to Prophet Muhammad (sa): ‘I have relatives, I try to keep the ties of relationship with them, but they sever relations with me; I treat them kindly, but they treat me badly; I am gentle with them, but they are rough to me.’ He (sa) replied: “If you are as you say, it is as if you are feeding them hot ashes, and you will be with a supporter against them from Allah (swt), as long as you continue to do so.’” (Muslim)
Prophet Muhammad (sa) has said: “No one is wronged and bears it with patience, but Allah (swt) will increase him in honour.” (At-Tirmidhi)
At-Tabarani recorded that Prophet Muhammad (sa) has said: “Whoever seeks forgiveness for the believing men and women, then a good deed will be written for him for every single believing man and woman.”
Allah (swt) says: “The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! He, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend. But none is granted it (the above quality) except those who are patient, and none is granted it except the owner of the great portion (of the happiness in the Hereafter i.e. Paradise and in this world of a high moral character). (Fussilat 41: 34-35)
May Allah (swt) grant us the patience to forgive others and the ability to turn our foes into our friends. Ameen.