Iranian mother Samereh Alinejad looked forward to the closure she’d expected to find at watching her son’s murderer die. No one could have blamed her; losing a child is one of the harshest of life experiences, and losing a child to murder can only inspire a vengeful hatred in the heart of a parent.
Forgiveness looks like a beautiful practice until you’re compelled to forgive someone who’s done lasting damage to your feelings, your self esteem, or even your prospects for a good life. How can we be expected to forgive those who’ve ruined our lives, betrayed our trust, or aren’t even sorry?
At the last moment Samereh decided to forgive her son’s murderer and demand that his life be spared. How was this even possible? What kind of spiritual process leads us to pardon the unpardonable?
How did Yusuf (as) find it in himself to forgive his brothers? How did Mohamed (saws) forgive his enemies and continue to be kind and make dua for them until they repented?
Let’s have a look at what forgiveness is:
- The undeserved extension of mercy to a wongdoer
- The abdication of the right of retribution and demands for recompense
- Most often— and easily— given to those who repent and desire obedience, wanting to restore right relationship with the forgiver— Ask forgiveness for them, [O Muhammad], or do not ask forgiveness for them. If you should ask forgiveness for them seventy times – never will Allah forgive That is because they disbelieved in Allah and His Messenger, and Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people. [Quran 9:80]
- Both general and specific, granted for specific sins or for many, for sins as yet unknown to us, or for the principle of sin operating within us—Those who say, ‘Our Lord, indeed we have believed, so forgive us our sins and protect us from the punishment of the Fire,’ [Quran 3:16]
- Not a protection against all the consequences of our harmful actions
- Worth hurrying toward to avoid punishment, restore right relation with God, and find a wonderful reward—Satan threatens you with poverty and orders you to immorality, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.[Quran 2 :268] . . .And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous. [Quran 3 :133]
- Carries the expectation that the wrongdoer will do the maximum to avoid persisting in sin. And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves [by transgression], remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah? – and [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know. [Quran 3 :135]
But What About Us?
We know that it’s easy for Allah (swt) to forgive those who repent and wish to return to obedience. He knows all, and His compassion and patience are infinite. But what about us? Why should we weak, ignorant creatures be expected to forgive those who wrong us?
Weakness and ignorance aside, forgiving is exactly what Allah (swt) wants us to do.
So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him]. [Quran 3 :159]
Kind speech and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. And Allah is Free of need and Forbearing. [Quran 2 :263]
Let’s look at what not pardoning others will bring you.
- Not forgiving others will make it will be more difficult for you to receive forgiveness from Allah (swt).
- Not forgiving others will destroy your tranquility and poison your enjoyment of the good things in life.
- Not forgiving others will destroy your relationships and isolate you.
- Not forgiving others will keep you from developing into the kind of person you were created to be.
A Tip to Help You Forgive the Wrongdoers in Your Life
We can only imagine what was going through Samereh Alinejad’s mind while watching her son’s murderer at the gallows, but her mental process might have gone something like this:
Remember all the bad things you’ve done for which Allah forgave you. Remember how despite all your sin and error he forgave you and set you on a right path. Remember how He guided you into all good. Take a look at where that road is leading.
Let your heart fill with love and gratitiude. Now extend that love to the person who needs your forgiveness.
May your mind and heart be opened,
The Understand Quran Academy Team