According to numerous sources, the generally accepted notion of forgiveness is defined as not carrying a grudge in your heart against another person.
In Islam, Muslims are encouraged to forgive each other whenever they have wronged. They are asked to bury the hatchet and move forward with a forgiving attitude.
That is why some Muslims say that even if they were given the chance to retaliate, they would choose not to do so.
However, this does not stop you learning from the trial.
It does not mean that the other person did not do wrong, nor does it justify what they did, even when you forgive them. If you trusted someone and they betrayed your trust, it does not mean that you have to trust them again if they have not given you reason to.
But we have to follow the footsteps of the Messenger of Allah (saw) who was abused and taunted, but never retaliated.
Some of us find it difficult to forgive our parents or friends or spouses when they say hurtful things in anger. We hold grudges for years, unable to forget the things people have done to us.
On the one hand, we feel justified in feeling this way. After all, we feel that we are the ones who were wronged. However, bottling things up on the inside is unhealthy at the very least, on both a spiritual and psychological level.
Muhammad (saw) never took revenge on anyone for personal reasons and always forgave even his staunchest enemies. The Prophets wife A’isha said that God’s Messenger never took revenge on his own behalf on anyone. She also said that God’s Messenger was never obscene in his speech, nor was he loud-voiced in the streets, nor did he return evil for evil, but he would rather forgive and pardon.
There are many examples of this in the Prophets own life. The people of the Quraish rebuked him, taunted and mocked at him, beat him and abused him. They tried to kill him and when he escaped to Medinah, they waged many wars against him.
Yet, when he entered Makkah victorious with an army of 10,000, he did not take revenge on anyone.
He forgave everyone. Even his deadliest enemy Abu Sufyan, who fought many battles and who was responsible for much of the earlier suffering of the Muslims was forgiven. The forgiveness extended to anyone who stayed in his house seeking sanctuary.
We also hear that the leaders of T’aif, who engaged scoundrels to throw stones at him when he visited that town in order to invite them to Islam, were also forgiven.
The list of personal examples from the Prophets life goes on. Abdullah bin Ubayy, leader of the hypocrites of Medinah, was forgiven with the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) even offering his funeral prayer as well as praying to God for his forgiveness.
The Qur’an mentions this incident in these words: “And never (O Muhammad) pray for one of them who dies, nor stand by his grave Lo! They disbelieve in God and His Messenger, and they died while they were evil doers.”
Abdullah bin Ubayy worked all his life against Muhammad and Islam and left no stone unturned in bringing him into disrepute and in trying to defeat his mission. He withdrew his 300 supporters in the battle of Uhud and almost broke the backbone of the entire Muslim community. He had engaged in intrigues and acts of hostility against the Prophet of Islam and the Muslims.
“Lo! They who spread the slander are a gang among you Deem it not a bad thing for you; nay, it is good for you Unto every man of them will be paid that which he has earned of the sin; and as for him among them who had the greater share therein, his will be an awful doom”[Qur’aan 24:11]”
We also hear the story of an Abyssinian slave, who killed Hamza, Muhammad’s (saw) uncle, in the battle of Uhud who was also forgiven following the victory of Makkah. The wife of Abu Sufyan had cut the chest of Hamza and torn his liver and heart into pieces in the battle of Uhud. She quietly came to the Prophet and accepted Islam. He recognised her but did not say anything. She was so impressed by his magnanimity and stature that she said, “O God’s Messenger, no tent was more deserted in my eyes than yours; but today no tent is more lovely in my eyes than yours.”
He always repelled evil with the good of forgiveness and kind behaviour, for, in his view, an antidote was better than poison.
He believed and practiced the precept that love could foil hatred and aggression could be won over by forgiveness. He overcame the ignorance of the people with the knowledge of Islam, and the folly and evil of the people with his kind and forgiving treatment. With his forgiveness, he freed people from the bondage of sin and crime, and also made them great friends of Islam.
The essence of his message could be followed up in the following quote.
“Good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with what is better. Then he, between whom and you there was hatred, will become as though he was a bosom friend” [Qur’aan 41:34]
Lastly, we understand that it is natural to be upset when we are wronged but we have to bear in mind that the Prophet (saw) taught us not to break off ties with another Muslim for more than 3 days, recognizing that we need time to cool off.
Please let us learn to forgive as this was a major message and practice of our beloved Prophet.