Tolerance and forgiveness

( Power of forgiveness / Forgiveness in Islam / benefits of tolerance )

For each one of us, Eid has its own special meaning. Other than the festive and joyful feeling that Eid brings, it also becomes an occasion to reunite and reconcile. Eid for some of us becomes a means to forgive and refresh our relations with those who we might have distanced from.

Looking at forgiveness as an act of kindness was a difficult concept for me to adjust to. The difference between right and wrong actions are known to all and as per popular culture, a person deserves to be treated as per their choice of action. I believed for a very long time that forgiveness was only for those who err in ignorance. The idea that forgiveness was for those who wrong consciously, was totally unthinkable.

As years pass, the definition of forgiveness cleared itself to become something more than just rid a person from sin. It further offshoots into elevating the one who was wronged.

And hasten towards forgiveness from your Lord and a Paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, prepared for those mindful (of Allah). (They are) those who donate in prosperity and adversity, control their anger and pardon others. And Allah loves the good-doers. (Surah Al Imran, Verse 133-134)

On Eid Al-Adha, I found myself thinking a lot about this and how it has developed as a concept in my life. Firstly, it is important to understand that this is a very powerful trait of Allah (subhan wa’taala). He is the Most forgiving (Al-‘Afuw) one. He continuously and constantly forgives His slaves who have wronged themselves. He pardons those asking for forgiveness and guides those who are yet to take that path towards Him.

“. . . And let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Surah An-Nur, verse 22)

Upon enhancing this trait, a person gains nothing less than closeness to Allah (swt). This is also coupled with the essence of being human. One does eventually feel that as humans all are susceptible to mistakes and wrong doings. There are times in a person’s life when he / she has wronged people and expect their forgiveness. And therefore, it becomes a liability for everyone to forgive their Muslim brethren.

On a conscious level forgiveness is divided into three parts:

  • Seeking justice

A person might not be able to forgive those who wronged them until they seek justice for it. To seek revenge in a similar and equivalent intensity is allowed in Islam. This helps a person to avenge for the wrong done to them and move on with life once the situation is sorted. However, one needs to be careful that they don’t end up developing undesirable traits. For example, a person might have good character, but whenever they come across toxic people, they start reacting similarly. This attribute penetrates into their behaviour and they lose their good nature to become like those, they once disliked. This happens due to their inability to forgive, and one should try to save themselves from it.

  • Allah is the best Judge

It is better to allow Allah (swt) to judge between us and the one who has wronged us. This negates any mistakes from our side and Allah’s revenge is absolutely accurate. Not rushing into demanding justice and delaying it, further confirms that a person will receive it with Allah’s infinite mercy. It is more satisfying than seeking justice through a person or any institution.

  • Forgive, and gain Allah’s forgiveness

To forgive someone for their wrong doings (even if they have not asked to be forgiven) is the most difficult reaction. It can only be achieved by those with best character.

Moreover, forgiveness brings peace to both, the one who wronged and the one who was wronged. For those who repent and refrain from committing evil deeds, they are truly those who want to better themselves. And with that is attached the act of kindness and humility. Even though injustice towards Allah’s creation is highly disliked, if one decides to mend his / her ways they deserve a chance to do so. If in this regard, a person decides to not forgive those who have wronged them, then it means that their hearts have hardened, and they have been deluded with self-piety and self-righteousness.  

One might think, then what about those who never seek forgiveness. They have no remorse or guilt for their action. Do they deserve to be forgiven?  The answer is yes. As taught by our beloved prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) the act of pardoning and ignoring is the purest form of character. This is the best level of faith a person can portray. However,  having the courage to forgive someone who doesn’t feel guilty for their deeds is a very rare character. And the duration of time needed to be able to do so, differs from one person to another. Humans are naturally created diverse and different emotionally, physically, intellectually, etc. Thus, the ability to forgive differs too.

Some may be able to overcome the pain quickly. While others require more time. The cause of hurt differs too from one person to another. Thus, what can be forgiven easily by a person may not be so for another. A person may have forgiven many wrongdoings. However, a certain wrongdoing may be too painful for him / her to forgive. Thus, it is alright if a Muslim cannot and would not want to forgive because he / she is not ready yet. It is fine to want justice for a certain ill-treatment done to them.

But once justice has been served, they need to overcome their feeling of hate and resentment towards those who have wronged them. This has to be done to save themselves from harming their character and their relationship with Allah (swt). They also need to do this so that they can follow in footsteps of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). It is only when we forgive people, are we able to forget all the sorrow we have faced and start living a better, optimistic life.

رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَا أَنْفُسَنَا وَإِنْ لَمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ

“Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers.”

(Surah Al-A’raf, Verse 23)