Forgiveness in Real Islam

The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) was the living guide who taught us how to understand the Holy Qur’an. God the All Wise says in the Holy Qur’an;

‘Those who spend (of that which God has given them)

in ease and austerity,

those who control their wrath,

And are forgiving to human kind;

God loves the good.’

(Holy Qur’an, Surah al Imraan, 134)

‘..A kind word and forgiveness

is better than charity followed by injury.’

(Holy Qur’an, Surah al-Baqarah, 263)

The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) was an exemplar of forgiveness and mercy and he often demonstrated the principle of ‘love thy enemy’ in action.

One time a Bedouin tried to assassinate him with a sword, but he found that God would not let him strike the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) with it, but rather than have the would be murderer punished the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) forgave him and called him to Islam and there were a number of other instances in which the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) demonstrated this way, but the greatest of all was when the Muslims liberated Makkah and the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) forgave dozens of those people who had once been the most brutal enemies, so long as they repented from their crimes.

He even forgave Habbar bin al-Aswad who had murdered his beloved daughter Lady Zainab and Wahshi who had assassinated his beloved uncle Hamza (raa). Even when people treated him in the most unpleasant ways the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) would remain calm and forgiving.

The Companion Anas ibn Malik (raa) recorded how once the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) was walking with him, wearing a woollen Abyssinian shawl, when a Bedouin came to them and took hold of the Prophet’s shawl tugging it and begging for him to give him some wealth.

Even though the impolite rustic had tugged so much that he left marks upon the skin of the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace), he only smiled and instructed that he be provided with a gift from the treasury according to his needs (Bukhari & Muslim).

The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) once asked his Companions (raa) whether they would like him to tell them of something that would raise them up in the eyes of God. Of course, they answered that they would like to know such a thing and therefore he told them,

Show patience towards those people

who behave foolishly towards you,

forgive those who do wrong against you,

give to those who deny you

and strengthen your ties

with those who break away from you.

(Al Tabarani)

The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) taught that where there had been disagreements amongst families or other groups people must show mercy and magnanimity and that where arguments had occurred people should heal their relationships and rejoin ties with forgiveness. It is reported that he once explained;

The joiner of ties isn’t the one

who returns goodness with goodness,

the joiner of ties is the one

with whom you sever ties but he rejoins them.


The noblest of beings is evidently

man and the humblest a dog,

but the wise agree that

a grateful dog is better than an ungrateful man.

A dog never forgets a morsel received even if you throw a stone at him a hundred times.

Yet if you cherish a lowly man for a lifetime, he will suddenly fight with you over a little thing .


Bayazid (Abu Yazid) Bistami (800-874 CE) was a great Persian Sufi from the city of Bastam. Before Bayazid most Sufis had followed the path of quiet piety, but Bayazid was so much intoxicated with love for his Creator that he would often enter into states of seeming emotional inebriation through it.

Not only did he seek to serve Allah, but also for his ego to become annihilated (fana) in the selfless service of his Lord.  Those people who came into contact with Bayazid were captivated with him and either perplexed or illuminated by his paradoxical sayings.

When Bayazid was 74 years old a person asked him his age. He explained that in fact he was only four years old. When the person asked him how this could be he explained that for seventy years he had been veiled, but for only four had he been truly born.

Wise Muslims have explained that if someone wishes to count any person’s faults that they should count their own and they have reminded us that it is better to forgive a guilty person than to decry an innocent one.

One dark nigt  Bayazid (ra) was walking home through the cemetery when a drunken young noble came towards him whilst playing a lute. Bayazid exclaimed ‘Allah save us’ and the youth lifted his lute in the air and then smashed it down on the unfortunate Sufi’s head, ruining the lute and injuring him.

Bayazid returned home to his Khanqa and when morning came he asked one of his Dervish companions how much did a lute cost and upon receiving his answer he wrapped this amount in a cloth with a sweetmeat and had it sent to the youth.

With it he sent the message ‘Last night you struck me with your lute, breaking it. Accept this money in compensation. The sweetmeat is to remove the sorrow from your heart over the lute’s destruction’.

When the young nobleman received this message and gift his guilt and remorse lead him to go to Abu Yazid and apologize and from then on he repented from his former wicked ways, such is the power that Allah has placed in good manners and forgiveness.

Islam teaches true tolerance that is based upon the Wisdom of the Divine Laws sent by God. This tolerance pervades the lives of the true believers and they know that intolerance and rancour lead to great personal loss (a bad attitude ruins a good deed just as vinegar spoils honey) and therefore e they ignore Satan’s incitements to anger and continue to treat others well even if those others behave in unpleasant or incorrigible ways. The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) was a great exemplar of tolerance.

The Companion Abu Hurairah (raa) recorded how one time a rustic Arab entered the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah and started to urinate in there (from his ignorance). Many of those who were in the Mosque wished to chase the man away or to beat him, but the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) stopped them and redirected them to simply clean the defiled area with water. He explained to them that ‘You have not been sent to make things difficult for people, but rather, to make things easy for them’ (Bukhari, Sahih).

The Companion Abdullah ibn Hudhafah (raa) was a jolly and playful man who would spend much time playing the fool and engaged in jokes to the extent that one day people complained of him to the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace). Yet rather than support the censorious attitude that the complainer held towards Abdullah ibn Hudhafah (raa) the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) explained;

‘Leave him be,

for deep down he has great love

for God and His Messenger’

(Ibn Asakir).

The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) once explained that the best way to have revenge upon one who has disobeyed God in some matter concerning you (i.e. deprived you of your right to proper treatment) is to obey God in whatever concerns him, meaning that you should treat him/her properly and give him/her good in return for their evil (from Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir).

I noticed this old article on Sheikh Hamza Yusuf’s Sandala website. It is well worth a read.

Generous Tolerance in Islam

and its Effects on the Life of the Muslim

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