“To err is human, to forgive, divine.” ― Alexander Pope,
‘Forgiveness’ is such a simple word but one of the most difficult thing to do. There are two limbs of forgiveness; one, is to seek forgiveness and two, to forgive. Most of us have trouble with both. Well…at least I did.
There were many of times, when people irritated me or roused my anger. I used to have very short fuse. I simply can’t abide by rude people. They trigger my provocation button immediately that I always feel like giving them a 101 on manners on the spot. I also can’t stand arrogant people. I just feel the need to knock them off their high horses and put them in their place. Well, now, I just forgive and walk away.
Growing up, I had my fair share of heartache and broken hearts. At that point of time, silly as it seemed,I felt that whenever I suffered a broken heart, my world had come to an end. How tragic isn’t it? Not as tragic as Romeo and Juliet but close enough. However, I had my fair share of breaking people’s heart too and that is something I’m never proud of.
I remember during the hajj course which my husband and I attended, the facilitator mentioned to us that one of the best things to do before going on the sacred journey is to seek forgiveness and to forgive. The reason being is that, we do not know if we would survive the whole experience and make the journey back. It could be that it has been written in the books, that our soul will reach its final destination in Haram, therefore, it is best to set our book of deeds in order.
Okay…like I said, ‘forgiveness’ is such a simple word but a very difficult thing to do. I mean, what if the wrong was committed ions of years ago? Am I still required to apologise? There must be a loophole some where, I just need to find it so I seek the opinion of the Wise Owl. He told me, “ sister, the fact that the wrong was committed years ago, does not erase the sin unless that person forgives you.” Oh man….!!!! Then, a light bulb appeared and I asked him, “God is merciful and forgiving so can I just ask for forgiveness from Him instead?” I was grinning as I thought I have found my loophole, a shortcut! Truth be told is that, I did not think I had the guts to face the people whom I have wronged and ask for forgiveness. It was partly ego and also shame. To my dismay the Wise Owl replied, “no sister, it doesn’t work that way. God will only forgive sins between you and Him but not between you and another person. The right to forgive belongs to that person and only him or her can forgive you.” Well..that effectively wiped off the grin of my face!
“Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon (all) men;- for Allah loves those who do good;”
Surah Al-Imran 3:134
“but forgive them, and overlook (their misdeeds): for Allah loveth those who are kind.”
Surah Al-Ma’ida 5:13
Hhmm…..I had a choice to make. I was about to embark on a journey of a lifetime, with the ardent hope that God will accept my sacrifices and pardon all my sins. If I wanted God to forgive me, I need to seek for forgiveness and forgive others first. Also, if I don’t do it, I can I live with the guilt?
“The Prophet (peace be upon us) said:
There was a merchant who used to extend credit to people. If he found one of his customers to be in straightened means, he would say to his assistants: “Forgive them their debt, perhaps Allah will forgive us.” Allah did forgive him. [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (2078) and Sahīh Muslim (1562)]
There is no ‘escape clause’ so, after dragging my feet, I finally gathered my courage to start my mammoth task. I started listing down all the names of the people whom I have wronged dated from the moment I reached puberty (why? Because that was the time when I was held responsible for my own deeds and actions) Geez…!!! What a long list!!!! I told myself…it has to be done so I have to do this!
Next, I had to track all of them down so I started slowly. The first step is always the hardest but I found that once I got started, it got easier. I was determined to find everyone on the list or at least, most of it, before I leave.
How did they react? Well, some were very receptive and some were not. We can’t win them all but the bottom line is that we have tried and we have done our part. That is enough. During my quest, I also learned some humbling lessons in forgiveness. There were some whom had forgiven me immediately after I committed the wrong. They have such pure hearts that they forgave me even before I apologised and even forgotten about it. To me, they are truly gifted people. To be able to forgive others easily is actually a gift from God Al Mighty. For some people like me, I have to work hard to achieve the task and it did not come easily to me then.
There were some who were genuinely touched my gesture and naturally accepted my apologies. These people made me feel that my efforts were worthwhile.
For each ‘sorry’ I uttered, I felt a tiny weight was lifted off my chest and shoulders. Pretty soon, I didn’t feel like I was going to collapse underneath the weight of all the guilt. Did I finish my list? Of course not!!! I told you it was a very long list! But, the main thing is that I have started and I have gotten over ¾ of the list so I am making progress. I prayed that if I die in Haram before finishing my list, God will still give me brownie points for intention and for trying. I need to point out here that, when I apologised, I did not confess to any crime as the person whom I have wronged may not be aware of the wrongdoing. To confess to my crime, would be like opening a can of worms that could lead to further complications or world war 3! Plus, if God had hid my sins, then I should not be the one to announce it. So, I just asked for forgiveness for ANY wrongdoings that I may have done.
The Prophet SAW had said “Everyone in my Ummah will be granted forgiveness except those who announce their sins”.
(Narraated by Imam Muslim)
Now, we come to the second limb of forgiveness. The forgiving part. As human, it is natural that we carry a grudge over acts wrongly committed against us. Some of us (I’m no exception) spend our time imagining the perpetrator of the crime being burned at the stakes or shot down by a shooting squad. As horrid it may seems, it is a human thing.
In one of our little chit-chats, the Wise Owl said to me, “sister, forgive everyone and be happy. If you forgive, you can continue with your life.” So, I took his advice and starting forgiving those whom I felt had wronged me. I started with the oldest and most painful scars and worked my way down. Bit by bit, I felt my heart slowly came to life again. It was like, I was peeling off the black dots that was surrounding my heart. After I forgave all, I felt so much lighter. I also found that once I forgave, I could forget. I could move on and not be stuck in the past. Logically, there is nothing I can do about the past. I can’t change it but I can learn from it. No amount of tears or feeling of hatred will undo the act. Carrying a grudge is actually very exhausting.
“The Prophet ﷺ said that: “Whoever suffers an injury and forgives (the person responsible), God will raise his status to a higher degree and remove one of his sins” (Al-Tirmidhi)
Prophet ﷺ said that: “Whoever does not show mercy will not be shown mercy” (Al-Bukhari).
Now, it is easier for me to say ‘sorry’ and I have learned to forgive even before the person apologise. Like everything else, practice makes perfect. To seek forgiveness and to forgive, is not a ‘one-off’ thing. It is something we need to do on a daily basis. To seek for forgiveness is a lesson in humility and to forgive is a lesson on mercy. Both are very important components in the process of purification our souls…
The Messenger of Allah was seated in a gathering with the Sahabah when he looked towards the entrance and said, “A man of Paradise is coming.” At that instance someone who seemed to be very ordinary entered the mosque where they were seated. A Sahabi WaS curious as to why the Prophet .‘ said this, so he followed the man to his house. This Sahabi told the man that he was a traveler and stayed as a guest. For three days the Sahabi saw nothing unusual, so he finally told the man what the Prophet had said and asked him what was so special. The man thought for a long time and said, “There might be one thing — before going to sleep every night I forgive everyone and sleep with a clean heart." (Hadith)
My advice to you is, start asking for forgiveness and start forgiving. Trust me, you will be a better person, In Shaa Allah….