Forgiveness, Recompense & Peace
Updated: Jul 30, 2022
skip to GUILT & FORGIVENESS IN GENERAL TERMS
skip to ALLAH'S POWER & DECREE; or OUR ACCEPTANCE OF THE "GOOD" AND THE "BAD" OF IT
skip to THE PARTICULARS OF REPENTENCE IN AL-ISLAM
skip to CHOOSING TO WITHHOLD OR GRANT FORGIVENESS
skip to REMEMBRANCE OF ALLAH AS PREDICATE TO PEACE
skip to WHAT IF THERE'S SOMEONE I CAN'T FORGIVE?
skip to I'M READY TO FORGIVE SOMEONE
or TO SEEK OR OFFER RECONCILATION
BLAME, GUILT, CONTRITION & FORGIVENESS IN GENERAL TERMS
Before looking at ayaat and ahadith, I’ll begin describing blame, guilt, and forgiveness in generic terms in relation to the situations people find themselves in, regardless of religion. They’re things commonly experienced and observed.
What it means to forgive and the tendency to grant or withhold forgiveness differs whether it involves harm among two or more people, or if a person does wrong on their own without directly harming others. Because, many times, a person finds something blameworthy about their own selves and they feel guilt over something no other human even cares, recalls, or even knows about at all.
Meanwhile, placing blame on the self or others can be healthy or justifiable motivators for needed reform, rectifications, sanctions, or punishments on all scales and levels of society and within each individual. Human conscience, it's often referred to. Blame, however, can be improperly inflated, over or under, into self-loathing on one end of the spectrum or narcissism and manipulative lying on the other. That includes when humans lie to themselves, as in delusion or denial. Whoever deceives themselves about their own selves, may not even be able to recognize having done something wrong.
In other cases, a person who prefers not to let go of something others did to them, has the right to compensation or amends. That's true and necessary.
Some accusers, however, will exaggerate or contrive shame upon those vulnerable to manipulation. Some people take the blame game too far. A person stuck on blaming others will be callous, cynical, or obtuse, a toxic person who sends others on guilt trips, and the like. A full-on narcissist will 1) alternate moments of seeming love with absolute derision, both personality patterns formulated for 2) the purpose of getting what they want for themselves, though 3) they’ll probably just waste whatever blood they suck from their victims. That sounds gruesome, but humans really do behave this way sometimes.
On the far other end of the spectrum are the times a person aches over harm they’ve done to others, and they can’t find a way to fix it. That, too, can become obsessive and pervade areas of a personality or confidence. How a person handles guilt or dishes out blame—their principles and values or lack thereof—can unleash a their capabilities or severely limit them.
To effectively describe mitigation of or escape from harmful or unnecessary blame or guilt, however, requires a surprising digression on the power structure of the universe, including how small we are, in some ways, even to each other. That's where we’ll take one step closer to eventually examining some of what Islam says on these matters of blaming and forgiving.
ALLAH'S POWER & DECREE
Everything in the universe exists by Allah’s Decree and Power. There is no Power except with Allah. When any other being seemingly creates something out of nothing or otherwise defies expectations at the scale of a miracle, and the like of that, then this is still by Allah’s Power. Moses’s splitting of the red sea is a prime example. Allah told Moses to strike the sea with his staff and then Allah split the sea, not Moses.
Prophet Moses could not do that of his own volition. That was a mu’jizah, a miracle. There’s another kind of miracle called a karamah. That’s for non-prophets, like when Umar, Allah be pleased with him, saw the battlefield many miles away and spoke to the Muslim commander based on what he could see. And ad-Dajjaal will do the unexpected, but, again, by Allah’s Power, just like you, me, or anyone . . . picking up a cup of tea and taking a sip is utterly impossible unless Allah Wills.
Ultimately, the only Power behind anything in the universe is Allah. I’ve explained elsewhere, in writing and even a video, how it really doesn’t matter how Allah incorporated our individual intentionality into the creations of His divine Will. I’ve spoken many times before about how free will and preordainment are not mutually exclusive, though that may feel like a paradox. But don’t get hung up on that.
Rather, never forget that we are created whereas Allah is not created. That’s the fundamental difference and how and why it is totally forbidden to associate partners with Allah or to make comparison or dismissive explanation with His names, His Attributes, and what they imply about the how of His actions. And Allah knows best.
Somehow, it’s easy for someone who believes in God to accept that God created the universe from nothing. But that’s not necessarily any easier to explain than how God’s will (qadaa’ in accordance with qadr and alawhul-Mahfooz; preordainment) and our choosing (nia; so called “free will”) are not mutually exclusive or contradictory concepts. Perhaps simultaneous would be a better description, because Allah says, “You cannot will, unless Allah wills” (al-Qur’an 81:29, simplification of al-Hilali & Muhsin Khan interpretation).
And Allah knows best.
I’m not writing to parse these ideas much more deeply than that. Quite like the other articles of faith in al-Islam, which comprise the core of our aqeedah, there are limits to human understanding and there are matters, even, of which it is sunnah to avoid asking about.
Suffice it to say, then, that Allah is able to do all things that suit Him to do. He’s able to do what we have no ability to comprehend, let alone explain. If that weren’t the case, then, perhaps, Allah, Himself would be in need of a creator. I take refuge with Allah from that absurdity.
OUR ACCEPTANCE OF THE "GOOD" AND THE "BAD" OF DIVINE DECREE
Even the awful things humans do to each other is part of our rizq, our provision, from Allah, and by His Wisdom. On the authority of Abu Abbas Abdullah bin Abbas and graded as good and sound by at-Tirmidhi (from several narrations):
One day I was behind the Prophet ﷺ (riding on the same mount) and he said, "O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allah [alone]; and if you seek help, then seek help from Allah [alone]. And know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you except with what Allah had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”
"Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. Recognize and acknowledge Allah in times of ease and prosperity, and He will remember you in times of adversity. And know that what has passed you by (and you have failed to attain) was not going to befall you, and what has befallen you was not going to pass you by. And know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and hardship with ease."
Also, consider 6:157:
Whoever Allah sends astray, for him there will be no guide. And whoever Allah guides, for him there will be no misleader” (39:36-37). And, yet, Allah also says, “We will recompense those who turn away from Our verses with the worst of punishment for their having turned away.
There are some loads lifted from our shoulders, there, while other weight is added. Firstly, we can't reject whatever happens to us. We can hold others accountable, but we have to do as Allah suggests in Surah al-Baqarah 2:155-157:
And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sâbirun (the patient) who, when afflicted with calamity, say: 'Truly! To Allâh we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.' They are those on whom are the Salawât (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided-ones.
You might know the actual Arabic words.
إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّآ إِلَيۡهِ رَٲجِعُونَ
innaa lillaahi wa innaaaa ilayhi raji'oon
Verily, we belong to Allah and to Allah we will return.
We should be proactive and even ambitious, but meanwhile accept the fundamental reality that our circumstances in this life are temporary states within a greater temporary state. That's why the believer lives in this life as a traveler. Or they're like a bird entering one window (birth) and exiting another (death).
The second thing we have to shoulder is that we are very much responsible for our intentions even though everything we do is with Allah’s Permission in fulfillment of His Divine Wisdom in its ultimate outcome. We don't blame Allah for our sins. We know very well that we are all the time making choices in ourselves, often ones that commission action. So, a person has to accept accountability. And there’s no undoing this reality, apart from Allah’s forgiveness.
Allah says, "And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much" (42:30).
It can seem heavy to a person to accept that whatever wrongs they commit, Allah will either hold them accountable in some way or forgive them. But there is fear and hope, both. Ibn Taymiyyah said that the believer is like a bird whose head is eemaan (faith) and two wings are fear and hope. That’s where the balance in Islam begins, and extends beyond that toward mercy and forgiveness, because, as Abu Huraira reported, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “When Allah completed the creation, He wrote in His book with Him upon the Throne: Verily, My mercy prevails over My wrath” (Saheeh 3194; Saheeh Muslim 2751).
Further comfort comes in knowing that whatever capacity for harm you or I have, we are not powerful enough to throw a fellow human off of their preordained path. Quite the opposite, horrible experiences are part of a person’s preordained path.
Everything that happens to us has potential for extraordinary purpose and meaning. As horrible as human behavior has been and is, including all the things you or I regret or still feel embarrassment over if we think of them, the present life is short and sufferable for all of us, especially if compared to an eternity of punishment. I believe that’s real. And recompense is possible, or, at least, you or I can seek it so long as we’re alive.
Ultimately, a person has to ask themselves what they've done with whatever opportunity Allah gives them to learn and grow and receive reward. One of my favorite sayings of the Prophet ﷺ in Saheeh al-Bukhari
How wonderful the affair of the believer is! Indeed, all of his (or their, as it could be any believer’s) affairs are good for him. This is for no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is grateful to Allah, which is good for him. And if something bad happens to him, he has patience, which is good for him.
THE PARTICULARS OF REPENTENCE IN AL-ISLAM
It’s not that we must forgive, ignore, bypass, or overlook harms done to us every time or immediately or without some way of making things right. Thus, likewise, we can’t expect others to forgive us, either, merely by saying “sorry” or “we broke bread together back in the day, so all’s good.” Further, there are certain violations of Allah’s limits which call for specific expiations.
“Sorry” isn’t always good enough. No, actually, the scholars of al-Islam say there are conditions to seeking forgiveness in order to have hope your repentance will be accepted. I’ve heard up to eight of them from credible teachers.
Here’s my simple way to paraphrase the message: If a wrong is done without direct violation upon the rights of others, then the abiding conditions of tawbah (repentance) entail ceasing the wrongdoing, regretting it, and sincerely intending not to do it again. Allah has prescribed many ways to simply seek his forgiveness even if our sins were like the foam on the ocean. That's the most general situation, and most private to accomplish.
But, then, there’s a fourth condition in the case of wrong that does directly overstep the bounds with others among creation. It’s not that harming ourselves doesn’t harm the world. But, specifically, when we’ve wronged others, we also have to make it right with them as a condition of making it right with Allah.
As well, there are major sins that require specific means of expiation between a person and Allah beyond the three core conditions of repentance. This could be like if a person broke their fast in Ramadan without any valid excuse. They just did it on an impulse or whatever it was and they did it consciously knowing it was a sin to do so. In that case, the person must pray two consecutive months in addition to Ramadan. And if, part way through, the penitent person misses a day, the count starts over.
That's very difficult. Maybe some out there don't feel that would be difficult, but I think it would be. There are many ahadith in which this is prescribed, along with various options, like manumitting a slave or feeding 60 poor people, depending on the capabilities of the person seeking Allah's forgiveness.
I find one particular hadith particularly endearing as regards our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. In Saheeh al-Bukhari volume 3, book 31, numbers 157 and 158 (very similar), Abu Hurayrah narrates thus:
A man came to the Prophet and said, "I had sexual intercourse with my wife on Ramadan (while fasting)." The Prophet asked him, "Can you afford to manumit a slave?" He replied in the negative. The Prophet asked him, "Can you fast for two successive months?" He replied in the negative. He asked him, "Can you afford to feed sixty poor persons?" He replied in the negative.
Then a basket full of dates was brought to the Prophet and he said (to that man), "Feed (poor people) with this by way of atonement." He said, "(Should I feed it) to poorer people than we? There is no poorer house than ours between its (Medina's) mountains." The Prophet said, "Then feed your family with it."
There's very little chance to speak after a hadith like that. Allah is Merciful. Sincerity is key. Allah forgave a prostitute because she gave water to a thirsty dog. Allah forgave a murderer who merely intended to change his life. But, Allah does not forgive dying while associating partners with Him.
In 4:48, Allah says,
Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him (in worship), but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He wills; and whoever sets up partners with Allah in worship, he has indeed invented a tremendous sin.
CHOOSING TO EITHER WITHHOLD OR GRANT SOMEONE ELSE FORGIVENESS
Restraint and reserve from seeking revenge or retribution are ideal. In some cases it's mere compensation, like in the case of accidents or negligence where all parties amicably settle. There are good reasons to hold people accountable, too.
But, not forgiving someone is a powerful trap to place on someone. I beg for Allah’s Mercy in the case someone doesn’t forgive me, that He knows I would like to make anything and everything right, if I have a chance. Nonetheless, withholding forgiveness can be a harm to the accused in a way that circulates or festers. And, when abused, perhaps it could be called a trap because, to a great extent, the whole situation of making something right is at the whim of the person who feels wronged.
With these things in mind, read surah Ash-Shura, the 42nd chapter of al-Qur’an, verses 40-44:
The recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof, but whoever forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is with Allah. Verily, He likes not the Zaalimoon (oppressors, polytheists, and wrong-doers). 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 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. And whomsoever Allah sends astray, for him there is no Walee (protector, helper, guardian) after Him.
Focus in on those last two lines. Allah recommends forgiveness and then mentions those who go astray. And this interpretation says “sends” while others interpret it as “leaves to stray,” to perhaps make Allah sound less active. That’s why it was important to talk, earlier, about how the Divine Decree doesn’t operate in a manner comprehensible to the human mind. We can’t make a diagram, model, or other depiction or even metaphor to explain the literal how Almighty Allah does anything.
Regardless, Allah gives us a choice as to whether to forgive each other, but it is a Divine recommendation, and Allah does not recommend except that which is good for us.
REMEMBRANCE OF ALLAH AS PREDICATE TO PEACE
Remember Allah and glorifying Allah above all that's falsely associated with Him. Refresh the ears with expression of correct belief among the messages of our environment.
And that goes up to a limit. For example, no one can precisely or “scientifically” explain Allah's actions. They can't even be approximated. Again, because if they could be explained with our science, then that would reduce Allah to a creature, which is impossible.
Richard Penrose doesn't believe current iterations of science can even explain human consciousness (not Newtonian physics, not relativity, not quantum mechanics). That, to be able to scientifically describe human consciousness, humanity will need a new iteration of science, itself. So, again, we have niyyah (intention), and that niyyah is incorporated into what Allah already wrote in alw-ul-Mahfooz, and we have no idea how. And that's because Allah is different than His creation.
However, Allah is responsive to our supplications and good deeds as reflected in His periodic decree, like that he sends down with the angels on laylatul-Qadr. This is what the Prophet ﷺ was referring to when he said, “Nothing can change the Divine decree except dua” (Musnad Ahmad, 5/677; Ibn Majah, 90; Jami` Al-Tirmidhi, 139, classed as hasan by Albani) and “Nothing increases one’s life-span except good deeds, and nothing repels Divine Decree except du’a. And very, a person may be deprived for sustenance due to a sin that he does!” (narrated by Ibn Majah #90 and confirmed authentic by Albani as-Sahihah #154).
When we’re kind to our parents or when we pray for protection from illness, Allah might change His periodic decree upon us, from what He had sent down with the angels. This shows that Allah is responsive to us. Alhamdulillaah.
However, our deeds or dua, the subsequent change in the periodic decree, and Allah’s response, all of that, Allah had written prior to creating the universe as we know it, and, then, He said that the pens have been lifted and the pages dried (in many ahadith, including a the section of this post on the conditions of repentance).
The Prophet ﷺ said, "Everything has a reality, and a person will never reach the reality of faith until he knows really well that what has reached him (of good or bad) was never meant to miss him, and what has missed him was never meant to reach him”
Ahmad: 27490; authenticated by Albani).
There is no need to ask how Allah wrote our choices before we made them. We believe that it's possible for Allah do that because Allah is the Unique. But we can't explain how Allah does that.
One person asked me what I saw in al-Qur’an, like what about it impresses me. But, first, they told me what they thought of it. They see al-Quran as jumbled and the language of Allah seems arrogant to this person. I appreciated them being transparent with me. That’s what’s needed for real exchange of ideas. It’s one of those times, though, which are hard for me to forgive myself for because, on the spot, I gave a weak answer.
But that motivated me to keep thinking about the answer and led me to now where I want to write down what I wish I would have said. I guess that sounds like it could take hours, but all I mean is that I’ll take a few minutes to go back to sitting at my dinner table or wherever having talked with, I believe, an espoused atheist, if I recall. Probably chatting with someone and telling them about the encounter. And it occurred to me how very, very correct the atheist was in a certain way, but then absolutely wrong in their conclusion at the time we talked.
As I sat there discussing it after the fact, it occurred to me, that, yes, if anything in the creation starts to sound like the Speaker of al-Qur’an, as if it referred to their own self, not Allah . . . if anyone sounded like Allah sounds in al-Qur’an, in other words . . . yes, that would absolutely be arrogant.
About a third of al-Qur’an emphasizes that very point and the only way to become Muslim is to testifying that, yes, indeed, there is absolutely nothing in all of creation that is worthy of being worshiped, which includes anything sounding as if they are worthy of worship.
But, Allah as the Speaker of al-Qur’an doesn’t sound arrogant, because Allah is the Creator of the universe and is not like the universe.
What I wanted to emphasize, most of all to the atheist (or agnostic? I’m really not certain) is that when Allah orders, for example, all of humanity to pray to Him in all parts of the day, that’s guidance, not arrogance because Allah is, actually, worthy. Whereas that sort of devotion to something in the creation would be absurd, and, yet, people do it regularly and if they stop, they’re prone to relapses of inflating some matter of worldly life.
Look in a telescope or microscope. What a believer professes is that they connect with the One Who has His Own Attributes different than the creation using directions that Creator provided them. And, then, that allows them greater trust in God and less fear or doubt in their present circumstances, even through a lot of difficulty.
When a person wants to become a Muslim, the first of two testimonies is to bear witness that none has the right to be worshiped except Allah. The second, of course, is to testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. It’s a particularly transformative one of the many ways Allah prescribed to expiate sins or get closer to Allah, which continue throughout a Muslim’s life. Allah says, “Whosoever submits his face (himself) to Allah, while he is a Muhsin (good-doer, i.e. performs good deeds totally for Allah’s sake without any show-off or to gain praise or fame and does them in accordance with the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger Muhammad), then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold.”
In al-Saheeh it is narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet ﷺ said, “The people who will be most deserving of my intercession will be those who say Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah sincerely from their hearts or their souls.”
And the primary way we demonstrate sincerity is through prayer to Allah, which keeps that grip firm. The Messenger ﷺ compared a praying person to someone who bathed five times a day. They are clean or, if not, they get clean right away.
Allah loves those who repent. The companion Anas, Allah be pleased with him, said that he heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ convey Allah’s statement: “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it” (related by at-Tirmidhi and by Ahmad ibn Hanbal and is graded saheeh on sunnah.com).
Given such a powerful promise of hope, the Muslim seeks any available means to seek forgiveness from Allah.
So, finally, perhaps it will be no surprise at all, if it ever was, that another way to seek Allah’s forgiveness is to forgive others. Allah says, “And let not those among you who are blessed with graces and wealth swear not to give (any sort of help) to their kinsmen. Al-Masaakin (the poor), and those who left their homes for Allah’s Cause: Let them pardon and forgive. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
And, this hadith, should really inspire a believer to forgive:
Anas ibn Malik reported: We were sitting with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and he said, "Coming upon you now is a man from the people of Paradise." A man from the Ansar came whose beard was disheveled by the water of ablution and he was carrying both of his shoes with his left hand. The next day the Prophet repeated the same words, and the man came in the same condition. The third day the Prophet repeated the same again, and the man came in the same condition. When the Prophet stood up to leave, Abdullah ibn Amr followed the man and he said, 'I am in a dispute with my father and I have sworn not to enter my home for three days. May I stay with you?' The man said yes.
Abdullah stayed three nights with the man but he never saw him praying at night. Whenever he went to bed, he would remember Allah and rest until he woke up for morning prayer. Abdullah said that he never heard anything but good words from his mouth. When three nights had passed and he did not see anything special about his actions, Abdullah asked him, “O servant of Allah, I have not been in dispute with my father nor have I cut relations with him. I heard the Prophet say three times that a man from the people of Paradise was coming to us and then you came. I thought I should stay with you to see what you are doing that I should follow, but I did not see you do anything special. Why did the Prophet speak highly of you?” The man said, “I am as you have seen.” When Abdullah was about to leave, the man said, “I am as you have seen, except that I do not find dishonesty in my soul towards the Muslims and I do not envy anyone because of the good that Allah has given them.” Abdullah said, “This is what you have achieved and it is something we have not accomplished" (Musnad Aḥmad 12286;sahih according to Ibn Kathir).
This sahabah who the Prophet ﷺ highlighted, explicitly confirming his status, which is not the case for any of us. That companion, Allah be pleased with him, perhaps he was letting go of all the messy matters we get into with each other, like vindictiveness, thievery, power-plays, etc. Matters that complicate our hearts and trouble our consciousness.
This hadeeth was narrated by at-Tirmidhi (2442), Ahmad (1630) and Ibn Hibbaan (722) from al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) who conveyed that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt, for truth leads to reassurance and lies lead to uncertainty” (classed as saheeh by Albani).
There's a hadith in Ahmed that goes further, but I cannot authenticate it. It would seem to ward someone off from accepting well founded advice that something were permissible given a case where the heart is averse to something or it makes a person doubt about matters that are certain in al-Islam.
When we get ourselves entangled, there's a price we pay, and, so, forgiving can be a way of cutting your losses and turning them into gains.
Here's what Hopkin's Medecine says:
Whether it’s a simple spat with your spouse or long-held resentment toward a family member or friend, unresolved conflict can go deeper than you may realize—it may be affecting your physical health. The good news: Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.
There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.
I'm sure the science goes much deeper and there must be caveats and even flipsides.
Imagine receiving recompense for something that hurt you very, very badly. Recompense that lifts your spirit and makes the incidents easier to accept. It's important to recompense, just as it's important to give people a chance to do so, even if that's really hard.
That brings us to the toughest part of this subject matter.
WHAT IF THERE'S SOMEONE I CAN'T FORGIVE
Khaythama reported: Abdullah ibn Amr, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “A time will come to people when they gather and pray in the mosques, yet there will not be a believer among them” (Kitab al-Iman 97; sahih according to Albani).
That's a frightening hadith. But who is it that hurts us worst, from our enemies? The answer can vary by individual, but I wonder, more specifically, who diminishes, complicates, and attempts to supplant al-Islam on the earth?
Let's do a rundown of our enemies. Obviously, we occasionally hurt ourselves (some hurt themselves terribly, unfortunately). Family and friends sometimes hurt us. But they may, overall, be supporters, and besides Allah rewards goodness even to cruel family members and neighbors. And, yet, unfortunately, even these can be our enemies, at least for some time in some way.
But, as well, ash-Shaytan beckons us to harm ourselves and others, beautifying or justifying rash or poisonous behavior and thought life.
But at the community level, this is what Allah says in al-Qur'an 9:107-108 of another sort of enemy:
And as for those who put up a mosque by way of harm and disbelief, and to disunite the believers, and as an outpost for those who warred against Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad SAW) aforetime, they will indeed swear that their intention is nothing but good. Allah bears witness that they are certainly liars.
Never stand you therein. Verily, the mosque whose foundation was laid from the first day on piety is more worthy that you stand therein (to pray). In it are men who love to clean and to purify themselves. And Allah loves those who make themselves clean and pure.
Allah is telling our Prophet ﷺ and the sahabah that they could not sanction the masjid erected by hypocrites of that time. It was a place from which they launched de facto attacks on Islam and the early Muslims.
There are certain campaigns of harmfulness, then, which must be rooted out and resisted or at least turned away from and escaped. Forgiveness doesn't come into those processes as much, unless someone from the other side has a chance of heart.
The Prophet ﷺ and the early sahabah are among those who endured persecution, even. The Quraysh had placed guts (perhaps a placenta) on his while he was praying and the people of Taif cut his feed and hurled stones at him. His companions were reduced, at a point, to eating leaves and camel skin. And, yet, he prayed on the graves of hypocrites until Allah forbade him from doing that.
The more general approach, then, is as the Prophet said, "Do not be suspicious, for suspicion is the height of falsehood, nor bear a grudge or enmity against each other, nor be jealous of each other, nor indulge in backbiting, nor pry into the secrets of one another, nor try unreasonably to excel one another, nor turn your faces against each other, but O bondsmen of Allah! Live like brothers as Allah has commanded” (Bukhari & Muslim).
If at all possible, the path described in this hadith is preferable, and another famous hadith says that two should not remain angry with each other longer than three days. Still another declares the relatively higher status of whichever of the offended parties first opens their arms for reconciliation.
But none of these ahadith describe passivity when faced with plots against Islam or the schemes of oppressors of any kind. Perhaps that entails, sometimes, not forgiving, or, at least, forgiveness isn't applicable within that state of affairs.
What I would caution against is letting anyone get your goat or make you compromise your soul or to lose hope. There is a limit, even to the honor due our parents if they divert us from Allah and His Messenger ﷺ.
But that does not mean harboring storms of anger in one's heart. The Prophet ﷺ said, "Laa taghdab," which means, "Don't become angry." I'm reminded of the story of Ali throwing down his sword, but I can't authenticate that. If it's daef, then it's still a metaphor for what it says at the start of the most sound books of ahadith.
We are rewarded based on our intentions. If we seek recompense or we warn against someone or we hold someone accountable, that may be in our rights and that may even be the very best course of action. But it should be for the right reasons and within reasonable bounds if we absolutely cannot forgive someone during a given time or without some change in circumstances.
I'M READY TO FORGIVE SOMEONE
I think if a person looks back on their life, they may be able to identify positive transitions that came out of a difficult process of getting themselves to a point that you can let go of something. And, then, there are firmer believers who feel immediately close with Allah when faced with a calamity or a small difficulty.
That could anything from a disfiguring accident to the lights flickering. The Prophet ﷺ said, "I belong to Allah and to Allah I will return," when a light went out and Aisha was surprised that he would recite that ayah for such a very small issue. But he told her that even that is a trial for the believer.
The person who is most up to date accepting the realities decreed on them, they're thinking about what Allah is telling them by it and they're listening to Allah very hard. And they learn and take benefit right away when troubles, big or small, become apparent.
We say, "Alhamdulilllaah, a'ala kuli hal." The du'a' or dhikhr of the Prophet is to say, "The praises are for Allah in on all conditions." And, he said, "QadarUllaah masha'a fa'al," which means that Allah decrees as He pleases.
The difficulty becomes as a medicine for such a person, even the harms done to them by others. The best we can do is learn from it and earn Allah's reward through patience and following up evil by doing good deeds that will replace harm with prosperity.
This sets a better president as a foundation for good akhlaaq (character, behavior). Someone once told Imam Ahmed that nine tenths of good character is overlooking the faults of others. The Imam disagreed. He said it's ten tenths, 100%. There's peace in the midst of chaos with this attitude.
But it's hard to achieve that peace while the heart is full of old gripes. If you didn't forgive your father or sister or schoolmate from years ago, why would you forgive someone who hurts you now? This is the dilemma. Withholding forgiveness sets a president for the future: in a given situation, where you've been decreed a case of lemons . . . will you make lemonade or walk away sour? Whatever you choose, it can become a negative pattern, whereas forgiveness is necessarily freeing.
I'M READY TO SEEK OR OFFER RECONCILATION
I already disclaimed that, of course, I can't cover everything there is to say about forgiveness in Islam. But there are two sorts of human undertakings I've not thus far sufficiently highlighted even in overview.
Sometimes we have to be the person who reaches out and offers to make something right. It could be we really owe it to someone to do that. Or, it could be that we do that as a sacrifice to repair a relationship.
Perhaps, too, though, it's possible even for a person who was wronged to nobly go out of their way to provide hope or opportunity for reconciliation. We live with discord to the point we take it for granted, but no one can stop you from exercising forbearance or finding creative solutions among those who quarrel.
And Allah rewards, regardless how a person is received when they attempt to arrange for peace on the earth. Allah values even the mere attempt, while He knows what is in the chests of those who refuse to return good with good.
I'M READY TO FORGIVE MYSELF
One student of knowledge and teacher, Edward David, while he was still learning, gave me an analogy for how to practice Islam, or how firm to be with one's self. He said it's like a belt. don't wear it so tightly that you eventually have to take it off and your pants start drooping. But, also, don't wear it so loose that your pants droop even with it on. Something like that, with the idea to take a middle path, as Allah calls the ummah in the very midpoint of surah al-Baqarah, that the Muslims are a balanced nation.
The Prophet ﷺ said, "Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded; and gain strength by worshiping i the mornings, the nights" (Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, Fath-ul-Bari, p. 102, vol. 1).
One sahabah, Ka'b ibn Malik Al-Sulamy, repented for forty days while he waited to see if Allah would accept from him and forgive his delaying to go out with the Muslims to face their enemy. He made no excuse for himself. He owned up to what he'd done and he regretted it. And Allah forgive him. The Prophet ﷺ told Ka'b it was the best day for him since he'd been born, the day Allah revealed, "And He did forgive the three (who did not join Tabook) till for them the earth, vast as it is, was straitened and their own selves were straitened to them, and they perceived that there is no fleeing from Allah, and no refuge but with Him. Then, He forgave them (accepted their repentance), that they might beg for His pardon. Verily, Allâh is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, Most Merciful" (al-Qur'an, Surah Tawbah, 9:118).
We should own up to everything we deliberately do or say, and we should be humble in front of Allah. And, then, we should have hope Allah will forgive us and help us to do better. Allah provides many opportunities before it's too late.
And then we should trustingly seek tranquility in prayer, remembrance, and wisdom until we die as Muslims. Allah says, "And die not except in a state of Islam" (3:102). We ought not let anything distract us from that goal.