ANY claim to the posses
sion of the attribute of forgiveness has to be matched with the possession and power of the ability to punish, retaliate or avenge. To say, anyone is forgiving just because he has no other option is not an act of forgiveness.
It, therefore, implies that for forgiveness to be accepted as a personality trait, the giver must have the option to do otherwise. Allah`s attribute of being Ghafoor-ur-Rahim (forgiving) is exemplified by many verses of the Holy Quran. Man, being a vicegerent of the Creator, has been blessed too in a minuscule measure with this quality; however men are exhorted by both, the Holy Quran and the Sunnah, to not only be mindful of this feature but also to practise it extensively in daily life. “...But forgive and overlook, till Allah accomplish His purpose. For Allah has power over all things” (II109). We must recognise here the conjunction between `forgiveness` and `power`.
Life is a trust. We are expected to maintain this trust by guiding ourselves towards what is regretful and to avoid the path of sinning. “If anyone does evil or wrongs his own soul, but afterwards, seeks Allah`s forgiveness he will find Allah oft forgiving, most merciful” (IV110). In another verse, the Quran implores humankind, “...but seek the forgiveness of Allah...” (IV106).
God`s messenger was constantly reminded about this significant trait. The Prophet (PBUH) suffered at the hands of the Makkans the worst persecution imaginable, but he was never provoked. He remained glued to the ordinance, “Hold on to forgiveness, command what is right, but turn away from the ignorant” (VII199). Allah in His commandments directs the Prophet to set aside personal insults, injuries and injustices but while doing so he is asked to remain steadfast in inviting all to the call of believing
in the oneness of God.
The emergence of true character is visible only in contradiction of events. Our reaction to that which may not be palatable to our own point of view indicates the quality of one`s belief - presence or invoking of anger belies claim to adherence to the dictates of God; but should the reaction be that of forgiving, it reflects submission.
Forgiveness was a virtue closest to the Prophet`s own heart; it manifested itself in his everyday life predominantly. His energy, endurance and forgiveness from a position of power and his patience and steadfastness against all odds were qualities that Allah had given him in great abundance. When hurt or injured, he showed exemplary patience. He met rudeness and ignorance with politeness and endurance.
Hazrat Ayesha said, “Whenever Allah`s messenger was given the opportunity to choose between affairs he would always choose the easiest and the most convenient. But if it be sinful, he would be as far as he could from it. He never took revenge for himself, but when the sanctity of Allah was violated he would avenge it. That would be for Allah`s sake not for himself.”
Similar was the behaviour of the rightly-guided caliphs and all his companions. Hazrat Ali had floored in combat an infidel; climbing on his chest he asked what would save him. In reaction, the infidel spat on his face. Immediately, Ali dismounted from his chest and set him free. Puzzled and amazed, he asked why Ali didn`t sever his head, which he could have easily done. Ali replied that his spitting in his face had evoked personal anger while he was combating not for himself but for Allah, and hence retaliation would have been in conflict with the virtue of forgiveness. Ali said of the Prophet `He was good natured and kind-hearted; he never spoke a harsh word, and he never found faults. He kept silent when he could not accede to any request.”
Thus, `Love thy enemy` was writ large in the life and character of the Holy Prophet. He exercised forgiveness, always. He forgave such arch enemies of Islam as Abu Sufyan, his wife, Hind, Wahsh, the killer of his beloved uncle Hazrat Hamza, Hibar bin al-Aswad the murderer of his daughter, Zainab, and the Jewish hostess who tried to poison him.
Forgiveness and forbearance are traits that must be inculcated, practised and emphasised, leading to development of a strong character. An Islamic society`s hallmark is forgiveness.