By J. Samia Mair
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
It’s a good time to forgive, even if you missed the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, where according to our beloved Messenger (saas), there are no other days in which righteous actions are more beloved to Allah (swt).
The Messenger of Allah (saas) said: “There are no days during which the righteous action is so pleasing to Allah than these days (i.e., the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah).” He was asked: “O Messenger of Allah, not even Jihad in the Cause of Allah?” He replied: “Not even Jihad in the Cause of Allah, except in case one goes forth with his life and his property and does not return with either of it.” (Bukhari)
But that doesn’t mean we wait until next Dhul-Hijjah to seek closeness to Allah (swt) through righteous actions. It just means that we set the intention for next year to utilize those days to the best of our ability as we perform righteous actions throughout the year. But let’s get back to the topic of this blog. Forgiveness is huge in Islam as we all know. A quick search of the word ‘forgive’ in a Qur’an App on my cellphone gives 144 results in 50 surahs (chapters). As way of comparison, the word “mercy” appears 156 times in 44 surahs, and the word “garden” 150 results in 64 surahs. Since I’m searching in English, the number may not correlate directly with the Arabic but these results demonstrate that forgiveness is a dominant theme in the Qur’an and consequently the deen (religion).
However, this blog article isn’t about the virtue of forgiveness as it assumes we understand that or are willing to accept it as accurate. This article is about forgiving and how one goes about it because like many things we learn, it is one thing to understand something in your head, but quite another to have accepted it in your heart. And with forgiveness, like other virtues, you can’t really fool yourself that you have done it if you really haven’t–at least not for very long. Anger, resentment, and hurt affect us physically. They weigh us down, like a stone placed upon our chest. When they subside, it literally feels like a weight has been lifted off of us. Forgiveness may rest in the heart but it affects our minds, bodies, and spirits. Forgiveness is palpable, and if that doesn’t ring true, it might be time to ask ourselves if we truly have ever forgiven.
Truly forgiving people who have upset, angered, or hurt you isn’t easy. For me, it starts with giving myself a pep talk. I try to run through all the virtues and blessings of forgiving. I find it extremely helpful to remember the story of the man whom the Prophet (saas) described as a person of Paradise because he never went to sleep with rancor in his heart for another Muslim, Musnad Ahmad; sound) and many other stories of forgiveness in the Seerah. I remind myself that forgiveness is my goal. I recite the two verses in the Qur’an that particularly address getting rid of rancor in your heart (9:15 & 59:10), and I pray for that person that Allah (swt) grants him or her better than what I hope for myself and my family. And then I wait. Forgiveness can often take a long time–perhaps years. Forgiveness requires sabr (patience), a great deal of it at times. And it is only with Allah’s (swt) mercy that one can forgive.
But this is only part of the process of forgiveness. The second part doesn’t involve the other person at all–or at least not directly. Nothing happens without Allah’s will:
Say: Never will we be struck except by what Allah has decreed for us; He is our protector. And upon Allah let the believers rely. (9:51)
Everything that happens to us, good and bad, happens because Allah (swt) has willed that. A tribulation might wipe away sins, elevate our spiritual status, be a test, or have some other benefit to us in this world or the next. We might never see the wisdom or mercy in something that happens, but our trust in Allah (swt) helps us to accept that it is there. The other person then becomes a vehicle through which Allah’s will is implemented. This, of course, does not negate free will or responsibility for our actions, but the focus becomes on our vertical relationship with Allah (swt) and not the horizontal interaction with another one of Allah’s creatures. In this part of the process, one is not trying so much to actively forgive someone else, but seeking to make sure that he or she is right with Allah (swt).
It’s a good time to forgive – indeed, every day is a good time to forgive.
J. Samia Mair is the author of five children’s books, the most recent Zak and His Good Intentions (2014) and The Great Race to Sycamore Street (2013). She is a Staff Writer for SISTERS Magazine and Discover, The magazine for curious Muslim kids and has published in magazines, books, anthologies, online magazines, scientific journals and elsewhere. She currently is working on a sequel to both recent books and on a historical novel.
© IIPH 2015