[Surah Al-Qalam 68:4]
Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish . And if an evil whisper comes to you from Shaitân (Satan) then seek refuge with Allâh. Verily, He is All-Hearer, All-Knower.(Surah al A’raf: 199-200)
The above two verses are from Surah al A'raf which is a Madni Surah. During the Madni Period, the Muslims were gaining influence, yet they were restrained from taking revenge and were told to forgive or pardon. It is said that the content of these two verses is the highest level of character building lessons summed up beautifully. There are four steps to build a good character:
- Show forgiveness
- Enjoin what is good,
- Turn away from the foolish ( Do not face them in their ignorance; Do not get into arguments with them).
- And if an evil whisper comes to you from Shaitân (Satan) then seek refuge with Allâh
Allah appointed the Prophet ﷺ as a teacher for the people. Our Prophet ﷺ has been directed to inculcate these four qualities in his Akhlaq (character), which means that all those who are in the field of religious teaching and preaching need to inculcate these four qualities, too. This treasure of Akhlaq (character) can be considered as the inheritance of the Prophet ﷺ.
The Arabic phrase in the verse is:
Khuzoo- خذُ means “to hold firmly to”. It means that this (is anorder) . It is not an option.
The other word is عفو Afwoo- This term has several meanings but two are more popular.
The first meaning of عفو is that while teaching the people, accept their efficiency in their worship as well as obedience and do not burden them with more expectations by trying to point out their errors constantly. If we are able to understand this meaning and adapt it in our lives, then many of our personal issues can be sorted out. In present times, most of us are dissatisfied with whatever good a person does and are constantly finding faults with them.
The second meaning of عفو is overlooking the faults of critics, especially when you get a chance of taking revenge or to avoid punishing them. Forgiving is prefered over taking revenge. There are some reports about this verse:
When Arch Angel Jibrael came with this verse, the Prophet ﷺ asked him to explain the verse so he could know clearly what Allah Almighty meant by the order. Jibrael replied:
ان اللّه تعالیٰ یامرک ان تعفو عمن ظلمک و تعطی من حرمک و تصل من قطعک
(Tafseer al Qurtubi 345:7)
There are three traits that need to be developed in one’s character as explained by Jibrael:
Wa’fao amman zalamak تعفو عمن ظلمک
Wa’timan haramak و تعطی من حرمک
Silman Qata’at تصل من قطعک
Wa’fao amman zalamak- Forgive those who have harmed you. Never harbour a desire to take revenge from those who have harmed you.
Wa’timan haramat- Give even to those who refused to give you ( when you needed it or asked from them). When we experience such a denial of help in our times of need, many of us decide firmly never to help such a person and we do not extend help when they need it.
They refuse Ma’oon الماعون, any small kindness. It means that another characteristic of malevolent people is that they refuse to give even the most needful, basic necessities to the needy.
For example: If you are expecting more guests in your house and need a larger pot and you request your neighbour to give you his larger pot, but he refuses. But if he comes for help after that, do not take revenge. This is what is meant by the phrase و تعطی من حرمک.
For example: If someone gives a gift to us in our wedding, we return it with an equal or a better gift, but if someone from our neighbours has not given us a gift, we too avoid giving them a gift . This is contrary to the teachings of the above mentioned verse.
Silman Qata’at - Keep good relations even with those relatives who tend to break ties with you.
There is a detailed hadith mentioning nine things in context to his verse- Uqbah ibn Ameer al Juhani (Allah be pleased with him) said:
One day I met Prophet ﷺ on my way and he greeted me. We stood aside and I asked, “In which deeds the salvation of a Believer lies in?”
He replied, “ There are three deeds if a Believer acts upon them, he can be saved (from the punishment of grave and hell fire).
Protecting his tongue, recalling his sins and repenting over them sincerely, Being content in your house (to stay in your house to avoid fitnah)
After some time, I met the Messenger of Allah ﷺ again and he greeted me as he shook his hands with mine. This time he said, “ Should I not inform you about three Surahs which cannot be matched with any surah from the other divine books?”
I said, ‘Yes’.
The Prophet ﷺ continued, “ Surah Ikhlas, Surah Falaq and Surah Naas. Never forget to recite them as much as you can. Do not sleep till you have recited all three of them.”
Uqbah (Allah be pleased with him) said, “By Allah I have never slept without reciting these three Surahs (after that).”
A few days later, I (Uqbah) met the Prophet ﷺ again. I greeted him and shook hands with him. He said, “ Should I not inform you about the most virtuous deed amongst all the virtuous deeds?”
I said, ‘Yes’.
He continued, “ ان تعفو عمن ظلمک و تعطی من حرمك و تصل من قطعک
Wa’fao amman zalamat, Wa’timan haramat, Silman Qata’at
Never harbour a desire to take revenge from those who harm you, give (extend help) even to those who refused to give you (when you needed) and uphold the ties of kinship even with those relatives who tend to break ties with you.
Khuzil Afwoo خذ العفو covers all the qualities mentioned above.
Haris Al Ghausi was a staunch disbeliever and yet he was forgiven by the Messenger of Allah ﷺ in accordance with the teachings of the above verses. It happened that once the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was returning from a battle. One of the enemies had faced a huge loss by the hands of Muslims and he was looking for a way to get revenge. As the caravan of the Muslims proceeded back to Madinah, this man pursued them quietly looking for a chance to take revenge. The tired companions of the Prophet saw a suitable place and decided to take a rest.
The Prophet ﷺ rested under the shade of a tree. Haris al Ghausi saw the opportunity and walked there with a sword to assassinate the Prophet ﷺ. Suddenly the Prophet ﷺ woke up and saw the man in front of him, standing with a sword. His sword was closer than the companions. Haris Al Ghausiexclaimed, “Who can save you from my sword?”
The Prophet ﷺ said, “Allah!”
The moment he said that, the enemy was stunned and his sword fell down. The Prophet ﷺ picked it up and exclaimed , “AllahuAkbar!”
The situation had changed. The companions woke up in a hurry and reached the spot. The Prophet ﷺ narrated the incident to his companions and told Haris Al Ghausi, “ I forgive you”, and let him go. In most of the countries, the crime of attempted assassination of the head of the state is capital punishment, but our Prophet ﷺ forgave such a major crime and did not take revenge.