Forgive to be forgiven – Friday Sermon

One of the most important concept that must be practiced in our daily life, is the concept of forgiveness. Therefore, in order to be forgiven we must forgive the others. Muslim believers consider the month of Rajab as the month of cultivation, Sha’bān, the month irrigation of the field and Ramadan, the month of reaping and harvesting. Ramadan is also the month of the Ummah, where believers receive their ultimate rewards in different forms at the end of it. A part of the rewards is God forgiving them through His Devine forgiveness. However, besides fasting and performing good deeds during Ramadan with good (īmān) faith, one must also adopt and develop the trait of forgiveness, prior and during Ramadan, so the person may attain rewards and forgiveness by Allah by the end of it.

Among the names of Allah are Afuw and Ghafūr. Both of them have been mentioned in the Qur’an.  Both carry a similar meaning, yet there is a distinguished difference. The latter means that Allah forgives and overlooks many sins, while those sins still remain concealed. The former name indicates that He is not only a forgiving Lord but also someone who completely wipes out one ore more sins.

Just as Allah is attributed with forgiveness and erasing our sins, we should also share this attribute according to our capacity by forgiving people and not keeping their harms attached to our hearts. However, attaining this quality is not an easy task. The main thing which vails many from this quality is their deep attachment with the materialistic world. Those whose hearts are attached to the bliss and the everlasting joy of the Hereafter, recognize that this world is temporary and they easily forgive the people, while realizing that by forgiving others they are not loosing anything, but on the contrary, gaining Devine Forgiveness. The Quran mentions,

خُذِ ٱلْعَفْوَ وَأْمُرْ بِٱلْعُرْفِ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ ٱلْجَٰهِلِينَ

“Be forgiving, enjoin what is good and turn away from the ignorant.” Q (7:199)

According to this verse believers are commanded by Allah to forgive and forget. That is to forgive and erase from your heart the wrong deed that a certain individual has done to you. In other words, when you see your brother not to be reminded immediately of his wrongdoing that he done to you, but to detach your heart from seeing him that way.

Ramadan is approaching and believers need to start getting ready. By getting ready is not only intended to buy fresh dates or get the house ready for Eid, but ultimately attain a spiritual awakening where one would erase the traces of evil from the heart. Satan entices people to commit evil and prevents them from forgiving others. He often whispers to people by making them be reminded of the wrongdoings of others. Therefore, the believer who rejects devil and relies on God by seeking refuge in Him from devil, will have the ability to forgive quick.

An other factor which prevents others from forgiving is also the wrong company. Often people express their feelings of revenge to those around them. This creates rage, hate and irresistibility  to those around, especially to the youth who end up committing major crimes as a result of those wrong feelings. Therefore, believers should always stay away, in particularly during Ramadan from those individuals who are victims of Satan’s whispers and result other in feelings of revenge and hatred.

Forgiveness is a part of the excellent character (al-ihsān). There are times when it is in incumbent upon us to demonstrate justice and there are times when we can simply forgive. Often we see or hear people who despite their abilities could be able to carry on punishments based on justice, yet they show their excellence of their character by forgiving others. In the Quran Allah states,

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِٱلْعَدْلِ وَٱلْإِحْسَٰنِ وَإِيتَآئِ ذِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ ٱلْفَحْشَآءِ وَٱلْمُنكَرِ وَٱلْبَغْىِ ۚ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ

“Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.” Q (16-90).

Forgiving people does not mean allowing ourselves of being victims of oppression, nor unreflecting on injustice committed against us. Otherwise, by allowing oppression to take place while possessing the means of stopping it, the non reactive one may be as bad as the oppressor, if not worse, because he had the ability to stop the evil, yet decided to let it be. Lessons should be learned and preventative causes should take place in order for one to remain immune from the harms. However, one should not result in resentfulness feeling, nor in thinking of taking revenge.

There is a hadith which teaches the believer that forgiveness can be the cause of one’s admission to Paradise. Once, when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was sitting around, he stared laughing. He was asked, What makes you laugh, O Messenger of Allah?  He said, “Two men of my ummah knelt down in front of my Lord, The Exalted, and one of them said, “My Lord! Restore for me the rights from my brother.” Allah, The Exalted said, “ Give to your brother back his rights.” He said, “ My Lord! Nothing is left of my good deeds.” He said (the complainer), “Lord! Let him carry some of my sins.” At that moment, Prophet’s eyes overflowed with tears, then he said, “ Indeed, that day is a massive day where people need their sins to be carried away for them.” Then he said, “Allah, The Almighty, said to the complainer, “Raise your head up and look at the gardens!” And he raised his head up and saw what overwhelmed him of good and grace, and he said, “Lord! For whom is all this?”

Lord, “For whoever pays me its price.”

The complainer, “Lord! Who has that price?”

Lord, “You!”

The complainer, “With what?”

Lord, “With your forgiveness of your brother.”

The complainer, “Lord! I forgive him.”

Lord, “Hold the hand of your brother and enter Paradise both of you.” Then, the Prophet recited (the verse from the Quran), “Keep your duty to God and and adjust the matter of your difference” Q (8:1).

When someone is attracted to forgiveness, Allah assists that person in attaining the quality of peace and patience, regardless of the surrounding. Such people described in the Quran by a honorable name: “the servants of God” (ibād al-Rahmān). Allah states in the Quran,

وَعِبَادُ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى ٱلْأَرْضِ هَوْنًۭا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ ٱلْجَٰهِلُونَ قَالُوا۟ سَلَٰمًۭا

“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace.” Q(25:63)

Forgiveness also makes someone a positive and an optimistic person. By forgiving the shortcomings of others, the believer would naturally incline towards positive traits of the people and would overlook their faults. This makes the believer a positive person, which is the opposite of the pessimist one who is all the time agitated and complains about almost everything. In Arabic there is a wise saying, “Be beautiful (internally) and you will see the existence beautiful”.

We pray that Allah enlightens our minds and our hearts and make us among those who forgive and erase the shortcomings of others and commit to the righteous deeds during this blessed month of Sha’ban.

(Delivered on April 20th 2018 at UICA by Imam Didmar Faja, formatted by Hafiz Fawaaz Hossen)