The Tender Act of Forgiveness

Mufti Aasim Rashid
May 6, 2024

Sometimes we hurt others; whether intentionally or not, and sometimes others hurt us. A powerful sentiment that we might dismiss when damage has been inflicted is yielding to forgiveness instead of resorting to vengefulness. Forgiving is central to our flourishing as a Muslim — it is a prophetic trait that is the pathway to greater rewards.


The Prophet ﷺ, who is the best of mankind, proved that forbearance is an emblem of his prophethood. No one was tested more than him, and yet, no one was more forgiving than him. 

Throughout his existence, he ﷺ suffered from horrid abuse; physically and emotionally, which magnified daily. However, his benevolence made him forgo the natural fury and frustration that flows, and he kept on moving forward from all the pain he endured.

Forgiving the Prophetic Way

The Prophet’s tolerance outweighed his anger at all times, and he had an exceptionally forgiving nature. Regardless the difficult circumstances, he ﷺ was able to look past his grievances and went the extra mile to forgive each and every one of his offenders every day, without expecting an exact reciprocation. 

In the face of his perpetrators, in many instances, we see the Prophet ﷺ taking the high road and showing compassion toward them, despite being challenged by them. One such incident that exemplified such behavior was during the expedition of Dhat al-Riqa’. 

While the Muslims were resting in their camp, the Prophet ﷺ took a nap under a tree and hung his sword on it. A Bedouin man snuck in and snatched his sword. Wielding it, he threatened to kill the Prophet ﷺ with his very own sword. The man uttered:

تخافني‏؟‏ ‏

“Are you afraid of me?”, but the Prophet ﷺ replied in the negative.

Feeling as if he had full control over the Prophet ﷺ, he then asked:

فمن يمنعك مني‏؟‏

“Who will then protect you from me?” And with full of certitude, the Prophet ﷺ responded Allah, thrice.

As soon as these words came out of the Prophet’s mouth, the sword fell from the man’s hand.

The Prophet ﷺ picked it up and posed the same question:

 ‏من يمنعك مني‏؟

“Who will protect you from me?” The man who was now in a compromised situation immediately pleaded:

كن خير آخذ

“Please forgive me”

The Companions gathered around the Prophet ﷺ and came to his defense, but the Prophet ﷺ let the man get away scot-free.

Before the man went away, the Prophet ﷺ said:

 ‏تشهد أن لا إله إلا الله ، وأني رسول الله‏؟‏ ‏

“On condition you testify that there is none worthy of worship but Allah and that I am His Messenger.”

Nevertheless, the man rejected to give an undertaking but gave his resolve:

 لا، ولكني أعاهدك أن لا أقاتلك ولا أكون مع قوم يقاتلونك، فخلى سبيله، فأتى أصحابه

“No, but I promise you that I shall not fight against you, nor shall I be with those who fight with you.” 

Despite having full authority, the Prophet ﷺ let the man walk away unscathed and he did it so nobly. And the effect of him choosing clemency not penalty, did in fact bring more good than harm; it resulted in the man willingly choosing his own peace settlement. 

This honorable display of the Prophet’s empathy and mercy which was often witnessed by his Companions, similarly trickled down to them. For indeed, the best of the ummah learnt from the finest teacher — and it equally became their distinction. 

A Reason to Forgive

Forgiveness can become complicated, especially when the wrongdoer is connected through familial ties — it takes a significant amount of self-control to make amends and repair the harm. We find that this challenge rings true even for the noblest of the Companions, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq RA. 

After Allah exonerated ‘Aisha RA, and declared her innocence through revelation in the incident of Ifk, which put the Prophet ﷺ and his family in grave misery, it was brought to the attention of her father, Abu Bakr, that one of her accusers embroiled in the slander was his own cousin, Mistah ibn Uthatha, whom he had been financially supporting.

Subsequently, in what is considered to be a mild and tempered response from a loving father, Abu Bakr resolutely vowed not to sustain the man who defamed his daughter any longer. Following Abu Bakr’s retaliation, Allah articulated in a clearly composed verse in Surah an-Nur:

وَلَا يَأْتَلِ أُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلْفَضْلِ مِنكُمْ وَٱلسَّعَةِ أَن يُؤْتُوٓا۟ أُو۟لِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْمَسَـٰكِينَ وَٱلْمُهَـٰجِرِينَ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ ۖ وَلْيَعْفُوا۟ وَلْيَصْفَحُوٓا۟ ۗ أَلَا تُحِبُّونَ أَن يَغْفِرَ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ غَفُورٌۭ رَّحِيمٌ

And let not those of virtue among you and wealth swear not to give [aid] to their relatives and the needy and the emigrants for the cause of Allah, and let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (24:22)

In this powerful reminder, Allah instructs us to forgive and forgo; shedding light on the immense virtue of pardoning others in exchange for His pardon. Although it may be difficult to relinquish a claim against a wrongdoer, we are forewarned that a person’s inadvertent mistakes, in no way detracts them from their notable attributes that are more worthy in the lens of Allah. And by looking past our grievances, we, in turn, become worthier in His sight.

These divine words stirred Abu Bakr’s soul, to the extent that he retracted his oath and continued spending on Mistah until the end of his life. The truthful one certainly emulated the prophetic quality of forbearance. And in exercising  restraint and allowing forgiveness to emanate in his heart, he liberated himself from Allah’s displeasure and left this world in the highest rank — a tall order we yearn for. That is the sole reason to forgive. 

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