Ethics In Islam
Forgiving, instead of taking revenge, is a great virtue and a fine quality in human character. It is one of the Attributes of Allaah and is very much liked by Him, so much so that among His many attributive names one is "Afuw-wun", which means "The Forgiver". Similarly "Gha-fi-run" (One who forgives), "Gha-fi-run" (The Oft-Forgiving), and "Ghaf-fa-run" (The Forgiver) are also His attributive names and are indicative of His quality of forgiveness. Had there been no such Attributes of Allaah He would have annihilated this sinful world in no time.
"If Allaah were to punish men for their sins He would not have left any single living being on Earth." (S. 16:61)
He is so very kind that in spite of their sins He allows the sinners their ways and seek forgiveness which He readily awards,
"It is He who accepts repentances from His creatures and forgives their misdeeds." (S. 42: 25)
although He has the power to destroy everything and every one all at once.
"He can destroy everybody for his misdeeds if He likes." (S. 42: 34)
In the Qur'aan describing His attributes of Forgiveness, Allaah has called Himself "Ghafir" (One Who Forgives) at two places, Ghaffarun (The Forgiver) at five places, Afuwwun (The Oft-Forgiving) at more than seventy places. These Attributes He has mentioned so that His servants shall under His Attributes of Forgiveness, Pardon and Kindness, create the spirit of forgiving the faults and mistakes of their fellow-beings and be good and kind to them. When Allaah, Who is the Master of everything, Sustainer of the world, under Whose authority is the whole universe and Who is competent and All-Powerful to take revenge from His servants at fault, forgives all His servants who are ashamed of their wrong deeds and plead for His Forgiveness, how man, who is weak and indigent, and has no power or competence to take revenge from the weakest of his enemies, can not forgive his fellow-brothers for their faults and wrong doings. If one forgives the mistakes and faults of others, then this will be a wise act in obedience to the Sunnah of the Prophet. We must remember that when we forgive others for their mistakes and faults, Allaah may, we hope, forgive us for our mistakes, faults and sins. The Qur'aan instructs us in this direction as under.
"Let them forgive and overlook. Do you not wish that Allaah should forgive you? For Allaah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (S. 24: 22)
In this Verse, there is a very important lesson of forgiveness for mankind which has been given in a very polite, kind as well as emphatic way. This reveals that man should forgive and forget the faults of his fellow beings if he repents and mends his ways. If Allaah forgives us, who are we to refuse forgiveness to our fellows? Hence there is an advantage in this act of forgiving, i.e., if we will forget our fellows in this world, Allaah will forgive us in the Hereafter.
When we know that Allaah is "The Forgiver", "The Pardoner", "The Oft-Forgiving", then it is appropriate that we shall also create in our heart and mind the quality of forgiveness. We should not be the prey of narrow-mindedness but we should adopt a liberal and generous attitude. If one commits a fault or causes some provocation by his wrong act, then you will be presently flared up and you will soon react to take revenge. You may be able to do so and the revenge may cool down the fire of anger burning in your inner self. But if you overpower your anger and forgive the fault of your fellow-being, it will be a better act. This act of forgiving will be liked by Allaah and He will in recompense not only forgive your faults and sins but will award you high places in the Paradise by His Kindness and Grace.
The Qur'aan has described the quality of suppressing of anger and forgiving of men at fault and those who practise them. At one place in the Qur'aan, the magnanimity and the virtues of forgiveness and kindness, adoring the character of devoted servants, have been mentioned by Allaah in the Qur'aan as under:
"And, when they are angry even then forgive;" (S. 42: 37)
Forgiveness is an attribute of Allaah, which saves man from disappointment and despair and ensures continuity of life. Suppression of anger is a great restraint on the evil of the 'self' which protects both family and the society from disintegration. Thus to save man and his society, the Kind Prophet instructed the faithful:
"You continue to meet one who breaks off his relations with you; you forgive one who oppresses you; you be kind to one who harms you." (Al-Hadi)
This is the noble teaching of the Prophet which guides us and shows us light at every step where the violent feelings of revenge, animosity, anger etc. are working in our worldly life. In other words, man has been taught to be good in the circumstances where his feelings go against an oppressor and forgive him.
Hazrat Mistah (Razi-ya-laa-hu 'an-hu), a Companion of the Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Sal-lal-laa-hu 'alai-hi wa-aa-li-wa-sal-lam), was a relative of Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddque (Razi-yal-laa-hu 'an-hu). He was given financial support by Hazrat Abu Bakr. When the enemies of Islam, in conspiracy with the hypocrites, slandered Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqa (Razi-yal-laa-hu 'an-ha), a few simple and innocent Muslims also allied with them. But the enemies could not prove the alleged slander. Consequently, they were awarded punishment of whipping by the Command of Allaah. Hazrat Mistah was also among them. Therefore, after this incident, Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique stopped the financial aid he extended to Hazrat Mistah. Allaah Almighty, even in this condition, not only commanded him to forgive and forget the fault of Hazrat Mistah but also directed him to re-start his financial help to him. This is the high standard of ethics taught by Islam. In this context, all Muslims are also commanded to show generosity and magnanimity in such circumstances. In the Qur'aan, He says:
"Let not those among you who are endowed with grace and amplitude of means resolve by oath against helping their kinsmen, those in want, and those who have left their homes in Allaah's cause: let them forgive and overlook, do you not wish that Allaah should forgive you? (S. 24: 22)
Islam has taught its followers high standards of ethics and character in every branch of life, and instructed to follow them both in peace and tranquility as well as in anger and excitement. Islam thus cultivates in the world peace, mutual affection and good treatment etc. Forgiving and overlooking of the faults and mistakes committed by others are of great importance in Islam. In the worldly life man comes in contact with his fellow-beings of different temperament and behaviour and it is all possible that their manner and conduct may not be of his liking. Their actions or words may provoke him and irritate him. Naturally then the fire of revenge will flare up in his heart and soon a fight may take place. If a man suppresses his anger and the fire of revenge at that time and forgives the opponent then he performs a virtuous deed of very high standard, and Allaah, in recompense to that noble deed, promises to forgive him and award him Paradise, which is equal to land and sky in its vastness. The Qur'aan commands people to make efforts for gaining Paradise by performing this deed:
"Be quick in the race of forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous, - those who spend (freely) whether in prosperity, or in adversity, who restrain anger and pardon (all) men..." (S. 3: 133-134)
The Kind Prophet appreciated and praised as great virtuous people those who forgive, overlook and cover the faults of others. Hazrat Ubi bin Ka'ab (Razi-yal-laa-hu 'an-hu) reported the Kind Prophet saying:
"One who thinks it good that (on the Doomsday) he should be awarded the best building and high position in the Paradise, he should then forgive one who does excessiveness to him; forgo his claim to him who refutes his claim."
Hazrat Abdullah bin Abbas (Razi-yal-laa-hu 'an-hu) reported the Kind Prophet saying:
"When the Doomsday will set in then (in the Field of Judgment) a proclaimer will call, on behalf of Allaah, the people who forgave the faults of people to come to the Court of Allaah and receive their rewards."