My friend broke down in tears as she was telling me of the injustice she was suffering at the hand of her tormentors. They were causing her a good deal of stress and making her want to quit, to move, to get as far away from them as possible. I was torn between rushing over and hugging her and trying to pretend I didn’t see her tears. Not because I didn’t empathize, but because it seemed she was trying to hide her tears and also because I wanted to hear the rest of what she was trying to say. Isn’t it strange how sympathy makes us break down even more and become incoherent?
In the Qur’an Allah has described the Believers as “those who avoid major sins and acts of indecency and when they are angry they forgive.” (al-Shura 42:37) Later in the same Surah Allah says, “The reward of the evil is the evil thereof, but whosoever forgives and makes amends, his reward is upon Allah.” (al-Shura 42:40) In another place the Qur’an says, ìIf you punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith you were afflicted. But if you endure patiently, indeed it is better for the patient. Endure you patiently. Your patience is not except through the help of Allah (al-Nahl 16:126-127)
Misery and suffering is what they inflicted on her and with sudden conviction, misery and suffering is what she prayed would befall them. She wanted them to get a taste of their own medicine and prayed that Allah bestow all manner of evil and torment on them. As she said this a certain satisfied glee entered her voice and I could imagine that her thoughts were full of vengeance.
Suddenly I felt very uncomfortable. Wouldn’t your time be better spent praying for your own well being rather than expending energy praying for ill to befall others I asked her. Pray for patience, pray for success and pray for change. Try and understand what is happening. What are you doing right now that’s making them treat you like an outsider? What can you do to change that?
She told me that I didn’t understand, that under any other circumstances she wouldn’t pray for harm to befall others, but these people deserved what they got and she was really looking forward to the day her dua’s were visited on them.
That conversation took place many months ago, but it stays with me still because revenge is something I’m not comfortable with for many reasons. First of all, revenge is hardly ever fair. How can you measure that your revenge is commensurate with what befell you? If someone hits you and you hit them back, how can you measure that the force you hit them with is equal to the one they hit you with? If someone kills your loved one and you kill them, how do you measure the value of your loved one’s life against the life of their killer? If you remove an eye in exchange for yours, will that return your eye?
As Muslims our biggest hope in life is Allah’s mercy and forgiveness. How can we seek forgiveness for all our crimes and sins which happen daily, if when we are presented with an opportunity to show mercy and forgiveness we deny it? When I was much younger I told Allah that I have forgiven everyone who has ever wronged me and who will ever wrong me with one caveat; that the only person I don’t forgive is the one who hasn’t forgiven me, or the only time I don’t forgive someone is if on the day of judgement I need my scales to weigh heavier. But as I look back on that faulty logic I realize that there is no negotiation when it comes to forgiveness. You need to forgive completely, not because the pain you feel is any less, but because you hope that Allah will also look upon you with mercy and forgiveness.
Revenge might give you momentary satisfaction, but will it be worth it on the day when you seek the mercy of your Lord and you remember that you couldn’t offer forgiveness to someone else? Allah is Al-Ghafur the Oft Forgiving and he loves that attribute in his servants. We cannot expect Allah’s forgiveness unless we also forgive those who do wrong to us. Forgiving each other, even forgiving one’s enemies is one of the most important Islamic teachings.
In one Hadith the Blessed Prophet said that Allah has commanded him about nine things. One of them he mentioned was “that I forgive those who wrong me.” The Blessed Prophet was a very forgiving person who always managed to forgive his enemies.
When he went to Ta’if to preach the message of Allah, its people mistreated him. They abused him and hit him with stones. He left the city humiliated and wounded. When he took shelter under a tree, the angel of Allah visited him and told him that Allah had sent him to destroy the people of Ta’if because of their sin of mistreating the Blessed Prophet. The Blessed Prophet prayed to Allah to save the people of Ta’if because he believed that their actions were a result of ignorance. Rather than feel vindicated and feel elated that they would be punished, he said, ìO Allah, guide these people, because they did not know what they were doing.î
When the Muslims defeated the Makkans and the Blessed Prophet triumphed over the enemies of Islam including those that had tortured and killed Muslims over the years, he asked them, ìWhat do you think I shall do to you now?î. Knowing all the suffering they had put the Muslims through the only thing they could do was beg for his mercy. In response the Blessed Prophet said “today I shall say to you what Joseph (referring to Prophet Yusuf alayhis-salam as mentioned in the Qur’an, Yusuf 12:92) said to his brothers, ëNo blame on you today. Go, you are all free.” Due to his mercy and forgiveness, they all eventually embraced Islam.
Islam emphasizes justice and punishment for wrong doers, but it equally emphasizes mercy, kindness and love. The next time you feel like taking revenge, ask yourself if what that person has done to you is as bad as what the Makkans did do the Blessed Prophet or what Yusuf AS’s brothers did to him. If they could forgive those acts of betrayal and hurt, can’t you also show forgiveness?
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you, Jumuah Mubarak!