Moving Forward Through Forgiveness

October 4, 2015

Despite all the past history of mankind, despite all the past oppression, despite all of the fear and distrust, we still all have to learn to love our brothers and to forgive them. Islam addresses two aspects of forgiveness: 1) Allah’s forgiveness; 2) Human forgiveness.

There are three accepted requirements for forgiveness from G-d.

(1) Recognizing the offense and admitting it before G-d.

(2) Making a commitment not to repeat the offense.

(3) Asking for forgiveness from G-d.

If these conditions are met in sincerity, forgiveness from G-d is assured, and our sincerity protects us from repeating the same offense again. In addition, G-d will change his punishment for the offense into a reward.

If the offense was committed against another human being or society, a fourth condition is added and the order is changed.

(1) Recognizing the offense before those against whom offense was

committed and before G-d.

(2) Committing oneself not to repeat the offense.

(3) Doing whatever needs to be done to rectify the offense (within reason) and asking pardon of the offended party.

(4) Asking G-d for forgiveness.

This added requirement cannot but help heal the wounds of society. It is society as a whole that suffers from the wrongs we vent upon each other. Many of you will remember in the early days of the penal system in which doing time was referred to as “paying your debt to society.”

“In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.” [1]

When Prophet entered the city of Makkah on Friday, Ramadan, 8 A.H. (January 530 A.D.) after his victory, the Prophet -peace be upon him- had in front of him some of his staunchest enemies–those who fought him for many years, persecuted his followers and killed many of them. He had full power to do whatever he wanted to punish them for their crimes. It is reported that the Prophet -peace be upon him- asked them, “What do you think I shall do to you now?” They pleaded for mercy. The Prophet said: “I say to you what Joseph said to his brothers: ‘No reproach is upon you today; may Allah forgive you and He is the most compassionate of the compassionates. Go away; you are free.” Soon they all came and accepted Islam at his hands.

A Hadith is related by Al-Bukhari on the authority of two of the Prophet’s (pbuh) companions, Abu Saeed Al-Khudri and Abu Hurairah which quote the Prophet as saying: “Whatever befalls a Muslim of exhaustion, illness, worry, grief, nuisance or trouble, even though it may be no more than a prick of a thorn, earns him forgiveness by Allah of some of his sins.”

[1] The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace, Jack Kornfield