LIVE AND LET LIVE
If you really want to move on, however, the best way is to forgive the one who wronged you.
Do you think that Prophet Muhammad SAW was exempted from emotional pain? He was cast out of his home; ridiculed, insulted and abused by his community, and there were even several attempts on his life, both by assassination and in the battlefield. He was invited to deliver the Message in Taif but was driven out with stones and rocks by its inhabitants. What would we have done in his shoes? Would we be lamenting about it for years to come? Would we have plotted vengeance and the retaliated once we had the means to do so? Or would we have done what he did, which was to complain to Allah of his own shortcomings and to pray for the enlightenment and forgiveness of those who humiliated and attacked him?
When he was forced to migrate to Madina from his beloved birthplace and hometown, did our Prophet SAW spend days and nights weeping about all the injustice done to him? No, he stayed focused on the much bigger goal – his mission in life. When Mecca was ultimately conquered, did he make an example of his oppressors? No, he forgave, granted them amnesty, and moved on. He did not dwell on the past.
If you think that the standards set by the Prophet SAW are unrealistic, then examine the accomplishments of the Companions. In the early days of Islam, they suffered the worst possible persecution and betrayals by their own flesh and blood. It was brother against brother, father against son. They were tortured, assaulted, boycotted, starved and imprisoned, they had to see their loved ones perish in the brutal hands of the disbelievers. Yet when their persecutors repented and turned to Islam, they forgave. The slate was wiped clean. They moved on to achieve their goals in life, their unity in the Islamic brotherhood taking precedence above all else.
The difference between us and them is that their love and hate were only for the cause of Allah. They did not get waylaid by their own petty emotions and desires. They did not obsess over failed relationships, insignificant issues or emotional grievances. They had a goal in life, and did not allow any other agenda to distract them from that goal.
Would Islam have spread if the Companions had adopted our attitude of holding on to the past, harbouring grudges and being occupied with problems which are, in comparison to what they faced, wholly insignificant? When push comes to shove, how many of us treat our friends and families worse than we would a stranger on the street, because of some small issue that was blown out of proportion?
Have we, as Muslims, lost so much of our ultimate goal in life that we have let our emotional disasters dominate our thoughts and hearts? Have we let our own personal trivialities made us forget our ultimate purpose in life? If so, isn’t it time to move on?
THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS
What is forgiveness? This action has a deep significance. Forgiveness brings closure to the incident.
This is monumentally difficult and requires supreme emotional discipline. So why should we forgive, and let the other person get away scot free?
On an emotional level, when you forgive, it is a testament to the strength of your character. You have chosen to rise above the pain and instead of playing the victim. You have placed a clear barrier beyond which the past is no longer capable of hurting you. In this, you have fully assigned the matter to Allah to deal with the wrongdoer, but you yourself bear no grudge against them, and choose instead to take the more noble path.
You cannot claim that you have forgiven someone, and yet when the person is in your company, you glare at them or give them the silent treatment. Worse, when you still mention a past wrong. That means that you are still festering negativity against the wrongdoer, and still bringing the incident back to life, back to the forefront of your thoughts. True forgiveness requires developing emotional amnesia.
The effects of this are immense and liberating. For one thing, your mind will stop being cluttered with the past. With forgiveness, you wash away the hurt and close the chapter once and for all. The emotional cleansing complete, the true healing will begin, and your heart will be light and free. When you forgive, you display mercy, a characteristic beloved to Allah.
You forgive for your own salvation, for one of the ways of ensuring that Allah treats you with mercy is if you treat your fellow man with mercy. You unchain yourself from the weight of emotional baggage. When you forgive, you will stop thinking of the unpleasant incidents, and this in turns releases and enables you to occupy your heart, mind and time with things that are more refreshing and significant, such as focusing on the present and strengthening your ties with Allah.
When you forgive, that is when you stop oppressing yourself for the wrongs that others have done to you. Ultimately, the benefits of such forgiveness to yourself outweigh that of the person you forgave.
Forgiveness takes time. It takes effort. And in many cases, it takes several tries before one can sincerely admit to himself that all is forgiven. But it is worth it, for with forgiveness, you can then bring the matter to finality and write a new chapter for yourself.
ERASING THE PAST
There is also a higher level of forgiveness, which is erasing the wrong. There are narrated reports a man being granted Paradise, not because of any extraordinary amount of worship on his part, but because he slept with a clean heart (i.e. not harbouring any ill feelings to anyone) every night. There is also another report of a group of people entering jannah directly without reckoning – these are the people who not only forgave, but erased all traces of the wrongdoing from their hearts and thoughts – as if the wrong never occurred in the first place. Erasing is evidenced when the person prays for Allah to forgive the sins of the wrongdoer and to wipe his record clean.
Of course this is not an easy act. Forgiving is a difficult task, and transcending this even more so. In Islam, the truly valuable things come with high price tags. It involves sacrifice – in this case, of our pride and need for vindication.
Do we think that Allah does not know the extent of our pain, the chain of injustice that led up to it? Of course He knows, for He knows the innermost contents of our hearts. He knows all the private and intimate details of our individual distress. Allah knows the measure of our suffering, and of our own inner conflict when we try to forgive and forget. It goes against all our natural instincts. That is why the corresponding reward is exceptionally high – jannah without accountability.
Whether or not Allah accepts your supplication is a different matter. What is relevant is that you have done your part between you, the wrongdoer, and Allah. It is often said that one of the ways to taste the sweetness of iman is to pray for the forgiveness of someone who has oppressed you, and anyone who has undergone this will agree that this is one of the most beautiful tranquil feelings ever known.