Forgiveness – the binder of the Ummah

My brothers and sisters, if I were to try to answer the impossible question, ‘What is the greatest quality of Rasoolullahﷺ’s character which is evidence of his Divine mission, that he is the Messenger of Allah?’ I would say it is his forgiving nature. His ability to forgive anyone, no matter how much that person may have tried to or harmed him. This is truly something that we need to reflect on and then examine ourselves to see where we stand. What will we say to Allah when we are asked why we couldn’t forgive someone for hurting our ego, when the one we claim to follow forgave those who harmed him physically, emotionally, and materially? They killed his closest friends and companions, including his daughter. They did their best to malign his blessed name and reputation. They tried to kill him many times. They banished him from his motherland. They stole his property. They did their best to destroy him and his mission. Yet when he had the power of life and death over them, he said to them what Yusuf (AS) said to his brothers:

قَالَ لَا تَثْرِيبَ عَلَيْكُمُ ٱلْيَوْمَ يَغْفِرُ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَهُوَ أَرْحَمُ ٱلرَّٰحِمِينَ

Yusuf 12: 92    He said: No reproach on you this day, may Allah forgive you, and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!

That is why the people of Makkah after it was conquered are called At-Tulaqa – the Freed Slaves of Rasoolullahﷺ. Not only is this remarkable but what is even more so is the fact that he did not demand any compensation for himself or his companions who had been forced out of Makkah and had gone to Madina as refugees. This shows his dignity and the amazing trust and respect that his Sahaba had for him. Though almost every one of them had lost everything they owned when they went to Madina, not even one protested or expressed any disagreement with Rasoolullahﷺ’s decision to forgive everyone. What must be appreciated is not only the nobility and magnanimity of this action but the sheer brilliance of the masterstroke whereby in a society ridden with the spirit of vendetta and revenge, Rasoolullahﷺ removed any reason for it, from that day onwards. Rasoolullahﷺ eliminated his enemies, not by killing them, but by killing enmity. As they say, the rest is history.

One thing that I can say with total certainty is that if Rasoolullahﷺ had extracted retribution which he was well justified in doing, he would have opened the doors to resentment and the plotting of evil against himself and his mission which would have sabotaged the work of presenting Islam to his people. When people felt secure from danger of warfare, their hearts opened to the message of Islam and the whole Arabian Peninsula accepted Islam without any wars, bloodshed, or force. It was his ability to forgive which is the adhesive of the Ummah, the Brotherhood of Faith that he created in Madina. He forgave and those who experienced that forgiveness, forgave and a culture of tolerance and mutual respect emerged. It is this magnanimity of spirit and bigheartedness that made Rasoolullahﷺ so beloved to all those who surrounded him and changed the hearts even of those who had been his enemies to start with. Khalid bin Waleed (R) and Abu Sufyan (R) and others, who were his sworn enemies became his greatest supporters.

Before I go further let me as you the real operative question: If you agree with what I said about Rasoolullah, who are you willing to forgive?

I call the magnanimity and forgiveness in Rasoolullahﷺ’s character a sign of his prophethood because it reflects the attribute of the One who sent him, Allah. Allah comforted sinners and those who disobey Him:

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ 

Zumar 39: 53.      Say: “O ‘Ibadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

It is human nature to distance yourself from those who disobey, rebel against, and offend you. But it is Allah’s attribute to draw them close, to promise forgiveness and His mercy. When Khalid bin Waleed (R) and Amr ibn Al-Aas (R) came to Madina to accept Islam, Rasoolullahﷺ welcomed them and put his own shawl on the ground for Khalid bin Waleed (R) to sit on. Then when they had accepted Islam, he made Khalid bin Waleed (R) the CIC of the army and gave him the title of Saifullah – Sword of Allah. When Wahshi bin Harb (R) came to accept Islam, Rasoolullahﷺ accepted his Bayah (oath of allegiance) and only said to him, “When you come into my majlis sit to the side where I can’t see you because when I look at you, my grief for my uncle’s death is renewed.” The question I want to leave with myself and you is to ask how we, who claim to be the followers of Muhammadﷺ should behave when someone offends or wrongs us? To behave like Rasoolullahﷺ, we must break free of the slavery of our egos and emulate Muhammadﷺ knowing that Allah loves those who do this.

In Islam while justice is primary and supreme, the Law recommends forgiveness over and above justice. Islamic Criminal Law is the only law in the world which permits the aggrieved to forgive the transgressor without any compensation. This is unique to Allah’s Law, who said:

وَجَزَٰٓؤُا۟ سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِّثْلُهَا فَمَنْ عَفَا وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَجْرُهُۥ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ إِنَّهُۥ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ

Shura 42: 40.  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 (oppressors).

And He said:

وَلَمَن صَبَرَ وَغَفَرَ إِنَّ ذَلِكَ لَمِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

Shura 42: 43. And verily, whosoever shows patience and forgives that would truly be from the things recommended by Allah.

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (R) reported: Rasoolullah, said, “Verily, I know who will be the last to come out of the Jahannam and the last to enter Jannah. He is a man who will come out of Jahannam crawling. Allah will say to him: Go and enter Jannah. The man will go but he will imagine that it is full, so he will return and say: O Rabb, I have found it full. Allah will say: Go and enter Jannah and you will have as much as the world and ten times more. The man will say: Do you mock me or laugh at me while you are the King?” [Bukhari & Muslim].

This is Allah’s generosity for the last one to come out of Jahannam. We ask Allah for Jannah without Hisaab (accounting).

Narrated Abu Huraira (R), “Rasoolullah said, “Allah says: ‘I am just as My slave thinks I am, (i.e., I will do for him what he thinks I can do for him) and I am with him if He remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in a group of people, I remember him in a group that is better than they; and if he comes one span nearer to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him; and if he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.’ ” [Bukhari]

See the Mercy of Allah who loves to forgive. All we need to do is stop being arrogant and stop defying Allah and repent and turn to Him.

Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas (RA) said: Rasoolullah said, “If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allah), Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety and will provide sustenance for him from where he does not expect.” [Abu Dawud].

Shaddad bin Aus (R) said: Rasoolullah said, “The best dua for seeking forgiveness (Syed-ul- Istighfar) is to say: ‘Allahumma Anta Rabbi, la ilaha illa Anta, khalaqtani wa ana ‘abduka, wa ana ‘ala ‘ahdika wa wa’dika mastata’tu, a’udhu bika min sharri ma sana’tu, abu’u laka bini’matika ‘alayya, wa abu’u bidhambi faghfir li, fa innahu la yaghfirudh-dhunuba illa Anta. (O Allah! You are my Rabb. There is nobody worthy of worship except You. You have created me, and I am Your slave, and I hold to Your Covenant as far as I can. I seek refuge in You from the evil of what I have done. I acknowledge the favors that You have bestowed upon me, and I confess my sins. Pardon me, for none but You has the power to pardon).’ He who makes this dua during the day with firm belief in it and dies on the same day (before the evening), he will be one of the dwellers of Jannah; and if anyone makes this dua at night with firm belief in it and dies before the morning, he will be one of the dwellers of Jannah.” [Bukhari]

Anas bin Malik (R) said: I heard Rasoolullah saying, “Allah said: ‘O son of Adam! I shall go on forgiving you so long as you worship Me (alone) and aspire for My forgiveness whatever may be your sins. O son of Adam! I do not care even if your sins pile up to the sky and if you beg pardon of Me, I will forgive you. O son of Adam! If you come to Me with an earth full of sins and meet Me, not associating anything with Me in worship, I will certainly grant you as much pardon as will fill the earth.”‘  [Sunan Tirmidhi].

Rasoolullah said, “I guarantee a house in Jannah for one who gives up arguing, even if he is right; and I guarantee a house in the middle of Jannah for one who abandons lying even for the sake of fun; and I guarantee a house in the highest part of Jannah for one who has good manners.” [Abu Dawud]

However, there are some things which prevent us from going to Jannah. It is essential to get rid of these things if we have them in our lives. Bearing grudges is one of the worst of them. To carry a grudge is like carrying a live burning coal in your hand. It only burns you.

Abu Hurairah (R) said: Rasoolullah said, “It is not lawful for a Muslim to forsake his (Muslim) brother beyond three days; and whosoever does so for more than three days, and dies, will certainly enter Jahannam.”[Abu Dawud]

Let us clean our hearts. Grudges are garbage. Discard them now. As mentioned earlier, a grudge is like a live coal in your hand. It burns only you. The one who you are holding the grudge against, doesn’t care. You only harm yourself. This makes no sense at all, especially when Allah promised forgiveness to the one who forgives and discards the grudge.

Abdullah ibn Amr (R) reported: Rasoolullah said, “The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” [Sunan Tirmidhi]

“Be merciful to others and you will receive mercy. Forgive others and Allah will forgive you.” [Musnad Ahmad]

And finally, ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf (R) said:  Rasoolullah said: “There are three things concerning which, by the One in Whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, I would certainly swear an oath: Wealth does not decrease because of charity, so give charity; no man pardons another for some mistreatment, seeking thereby the pleasure of Allah, but Allah will raise him in status thereby; and no one asks of people but Allah will increase his poverty.” [Musnad Ahmad]

I remind myself and you that there is perhaps none of us who was more wronged, harmed, and oppressed than Rasoolullahﷺ by his own family, tribe, and people. Yet he forgave them all. So, what is our excuse for bearing grudges and refusing to forgive others? Don’t we want Allah to forgive us? Then what are we waiting for? The best time to do any good deed is right now. Let us forgive whoever it is right away. Whatever they may do, let us do our part and forgive them for the sake of Allah from Whom we beg for forgiveness for ourselves.