Forgiveness lies at the heart of many spiritual and ethical traditions. But it can be one of the most difficult teachings to live up to. Forgiveness requires an extraordinary struggle against the bruised ego. The bigger the hurt, the more difficult it is to forgive.
The way in which the Quranic philosophy of forgiveness relates to the human being is two-fold. First, at the heart of Islamic spirituality is the idea that we have a share, no matter how small in comparison to God, of divine attributes by virtue of the life-giving and divinely originating soul (ruh) that is breathed into us by the angels when we are still foetuses in our mother’s womb. It is our spiritual task to cultivate and grow these beautiful attributes within our soul and character in order to draw closer to the divine. Forgiveness is an opportunity to adorn our souls with godliness.
Second, there’s a deep sense that the way we treat others is the way that we will be treated by God. In other words, if we wish for God to be gentle to us, then we must be gentle unto others. This is reflected in what is referred to as the foundational Prophetic teaching — the first saying attributed from the Prophet (hadith) that a teacher of hadith imparts to his or her student — which states: “Show mercy towards those on earth and the One above the heavens will show mercy toward you.”
Forgiveness is love’s way of healing us. Forgiveness has an intimate relationship with mercy that soothes pain, dissolves anger and releases attitudes that serve our own life’s potential and humanity. Forgiveness is a journey that develops and requires the kind of courage that changes lives in wonderful ways. This courage increasingly compels us to seek truth and compassion. Along the way, love’s presence sustains us when our effort is great. As we espouse forgiveness, we get to know how to express ourselves in this world.
The lessons one learns when it comes to forgiveness are several. The most important one is learning not to say “It’s okay” when it’s clearly not. Forgiveness is a choice and not a requirement in each of our relationships and before offering forgiveness one must acknowledge and understand one’s own feelings and emotions. This gives us the opportunity to know ourselves better and grow. The only person one’s forgiveness should influence is oneself. Forgiveness is a way of freeing one’s soul and moving on with an open heart! As Tony Robbins said, “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself”.
Moin Qazi is a well-known banker, author and Islamic researcher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org