Forgiveness is a virtue highly emphasized in Islam. As the Quran says, “Let them pardon and overlook. Would you not love for Allah to forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Quran 24:22). Holding on to grudges and refusing to forgive others can be detrimental to our spiritual, emotional, and even physical health. In this article, we will explore why forgiveness is so important in Islam, the barriers that prevent us from forgiving, and practical steps we can take to foster forgiveness and let go of past hurts.

Why is Forgiveness Important in Islam?

Forgiveness is central to the Islamic faith for several reasons:

  • Allah is Al-Ghaffar, the Most Forgiving. We are encouraged to emulate this divine attribute and forgive others just as Allah forgives us.
  • Seeking forgiveness cleanses our hearts of negative emotions like anger and resentment. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “Forgiveness washes sins away.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)
  • Forgiveness fosters unity and strong social bonds. Holding grudges divides people and communities. Allah commands us to pardon others to maintain brotherhood in Islam. As the Quran states, “Pardon one another to foster Islamic brotherhood.” (24:22)
  • We all commit mistakes and sins. Just as we desire Allah’s mercy, we must show mercy to fellow humans by forgiving their wrongdoings. The Prophet (SAW) said: “Be merciful to those on earth, and the One above the heavens will be merciful to you.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhi)
  • Forgiveness lightens our hearts and gives us peace. Holding on to anger and pain is a heavy burden. Letting go allows us to move forward positively.
  • On the Day of Judgement, Allah will only forgive those who forgave others in this world. Forgiving others could earn us Paradise.

Clearly, forgiveness has tremendous importance in Islam. When we forgive, we follow Allah’s Way and embody the virtues He loves to see in believers.

Why Do We Struggle to Forgive?

Despite understanding its merits, most of us struggle to truly forgive and let go of past hurts. Some common reasons we find it hard to forgive include:

The wound is too deep

Some injustices cut too deep. The pain inflicted on us was severe, or the betrayal committed was unimaginable. In such cases, our natural reaction is to hold resentment rather than instantly forgive.

Lack of repentance

We expect the offender to apologize and show remorse before considering forgiveness. If they act arrogantly and don’t repent their actions, it infuriates us even more.

Fear the offense will repeat

We worry that if we forgive, the person may hurt us again. Holding a grudge feels like self-protection.

Seeking justice

Particularly if the offense was severe or criminal, we want justice before forgiveness. We feel the need for the offender to “pay” for their wrong action first.

Peer pressure

Sometimes our family or friends discourage us from forgiving someone who hurt us. Forgiveness may be framed as weakness.

The pain still feels fresh

Even long after the incident, certain triggers can reignite the original anger and pain. The wounds reopen easily.

Personality factors

Some of us are just wired to hold on to grudges more than others. We may have difficulty letting things go.

While these factors make forgiveness challenging, it is not impossible with conscious effort and the help of Allah.

Steps to Work Towards Forgiveness

Forgiving someone who hurt you deeply is a process that takes time, courage and wisdom. Here are some practical tips that can help:

1. Make the intention and pray for help

Everything begins with the right intent. Firmly intend to forgive the person, for the sake of Allah. Make dua for strength and guidance in letting go of anger and resentment. Ask Allah to soften your heart and fill it with mercy.

2. Reflect on your own need for forgiveness

Nobody is perfect. We have all made mistakes and sinned, intentionally or unintentionally hurting others too. We constantly do actions that require Allah’s forgiveness. Remembering our own shortcomings makes it easier to pardon fellow humans.

3. Try to understand why they did it

People often hurt others out of their own pain, weaknesses and circumstances. The offense probably says more about them than you. Understanding why people do harmful things allows empathy. Their issues don’t justify their actions, but may provide insight into their psychology.

4. Consider their positives

Shaitan magnifies people’s bad deeds and makes us forget their good qualities and our positive history with them. Remind yourself of their virtues, humanity and shared experiences. Nobody is all good or bad. Appreciating people’s complete self makes forgiveness easier.

5. Don’t obsess over what happened

Constant rumination over how they hurt you reinforces the pain. Catch yourself dwelling, redirect your thoughts elsewhere, and don’t keep rehashing the incident. Accept it happened and look ahead.

6. Forgive yourself too

Sometimes we hold guilt or blame ourselves for what happened. Forgive yourself for any perceived mistakes or flaws. If Allah has forgiven you, you don’t need to punish yourself.

7. Don’t wait for an apology

Hoping they will apologize gives them power over your peace. Forgiveness is the power to free yourself, regardless of their remorse. However, if they do apologize sincerely, consider accepting it.

8. Distance yourself if needed

If proximity to the person reopens wounds, cut contact temporarily or permanently, if possible. Distance provides time for hurt to heal and objectivity to return. It doesn’t mean you are unforgiving.

9. Release your rights over them

Umar ibn Al-Khattab defined forgiveness as “granting pardon by cancelling your right (of retaliation) over the one who oppressed you and abandoning your desire to punish them.” Release your normal right to retaliate or seek punishment, and desire the best for them.

10. Replace negative thoughts with positive prayers

Whenever resentment resurfaces, consciously counter it with prayers of blessing for the person. Supplicate for their guidance, wellbeing and your own healing. Positive prayers create positive feelings.

11. Write a forgiveness letter

Writing down your hurt feelings and consciously releasing them can provide emotional closure. Writing that you forgive them without sending the letter can be therapeutic. If you send it, keep it concise without accusing.

12. Perform good deeds

Doing voluntary acts of worship and charity cleanses emotions and earns Allah’s mercy. Sadaqah removes ill feelings and calamities. Make it a habit to do regular good deeds, even small ones.

13. Be patient and persevere

Forgiveness takes time and phases. You may forgive verbally but still feel hurt. Be patient with yourself and keep praying for inner peace. Let go of expectations and let Allah heal your wounds.

With conscious effort, these tips can help us emulate the Prophet’s beautiful example of forgiveness despite suffering abuses and injuries from enemies. When Prophet Muhammad (SAW) forgave rather than sought revenge, he transformed bitter enemies into close companions. We too must forgive others and not allow pain to breed more pain. For the sake of Allah, actively foster mercy and pardon. Make the intention to forgive today.

Remember These Key Points

  • Forgiveness has tremendous spiritual value in Islam and is greatly rewarded by Allah.
  • Overcoming our natural resistance to forgive requires wisdom, patience and courage.
  • Reflecting on our own need for mercy, trying to understand offenders’ context, and replacing negativity with positivity are some useful strategies.
  • Take small progressive steps to forgive. Distance yourself temporarily if needed, but don’t wait for an apology to grant your own pardon.
  • Keep praying to Allah to purify your heart and nurture forgiveness. His help and mercy are with those who show mercy to others.

May Allah make it easy for us to forgive others just as He constantly forgives us. Ameen. Forgiveness is a decision, not just an emotion – make the choice to forgive today and reap its blessings.

BY: Aisha Ali

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