The Role of Forgiveness in Islamic Psychology

Forgiveness plays a pivotal role in fostering mutual love, understanding, and harmonious relationships within Islamic communities. In Islamic psychology, it is not merely a moral virtue but a powerful psychological decision that contributes to the overall well-being of individuals. This article explores the significance of forgiveness, drawing from both Islamic teachings and modern psychological perspectives.

Forgiveness, in its essence, is a conscious and deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance towards those who have harmed us. It’s an act of mercy and compassion, irrespective of whether the wrongdoer deserves forgiveness. This concept aligns with the teachings of Islam, emphasising the importance of compassion and understanding.

According to Kornfield (2011), forgiveness, in particular, is the capacity to let go, to release the suffering, sorrows, and burdens of the pains and betrayals of the past, and instead to choose the mystery of love.

Luskin (2010), has defined forgiveness in psychological perspectives, stating that forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they deserve your forgiveness.

In Islamic psychology, forgiveness is a spiritual and psychological voluntary decision an individual takes to release the burden of suffering and sorrows instead of choosing to take revenge.

One example of Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) practice of forgiveness can be found in the Hadith, as follows:

“When the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) went to Ta’if to preach the message of Allah, its people mistreated him, 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 sent him to destroy the people of Ta’if because of their sin of maltreating him. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) prayed to Allah to save the people of Ta’if because what they did was out of their ignorance.”

Aisha (RA) reported that the Messenger of Allah (SAW), said:

“O Allah, You are forgiving and generous. You love to forgive.” [Sunan At-Tirmidhi]

Abu Hurairah (RA) said I heard the Messenger of Allah (SAW) saying:

“I swear by Allah that I seek Allah’s Pardon and turn to Him in repentance more than seventy times a day.” [Bukhari]

Luskin’s definition of forgiveness (2010), underlines the psychological dimensions of this act. It is about letting go of past grievances, freeing oneself from the burdens of pain and betrayal, and choosing the path of love and compassion. Such an approach aligns with Islamic values, which encourages believers to let go of grudges and seek reconciliation.

  • Luskin (2010) outlines nine practical steps to forgiveness, which can be effectively applied in Islamic communities. These steps promote emotional healing and are in sync with the teachings of Islam, fostering peace and understanding:

1. Know Your Feelings: Acknowledge and express your feelings about the situation, sharing them with trusted individuals.

2. Self-Commitment: Recognize that forgiveness is for your well-being, not for the wrongdoer.

3. Reconciliation Not Required: Forgiveness doesn’t necessitate reconciliation; it’s about finding inner peace.

4. Perspective Shift: Understand that most of your distress comes from current emotions, not past grievances.

5. Stress Management: Use stress-reduction techniques to soothe your body’s response.

6. Manage Expectations: Avoid expecting things from others that they may not give. 

7. Seek Alternative Paths: Look for ways to meet your goals that don’t rely on the offence.

8. Focus on Positivity: Shift your energy toward appreciation and kindness in your life.

9. Reflect on Forgiveness: Remember your choice to forgive as a heroic act.

          There are two kinds of forgiveness in Islam: Allah’s Forgiveness and Human’s Forgiveness. We as human beings need both since we make mistakes in our relations with Allah as well as our relations with each other. In Islam, all that is needed is to recognise the mistake or sin, improve it and seek forgiveness from Allah Almighty and also from other human beings (Gusau, 2023).

Islam places a strong emphasis on forgiveness, with numerous references in the Quran and Hadith.

The Quran mentions forgiveness over 100 times. Some of the verses include:

In Quran:

“The reward of the evil is the evil thereof, but whosoever forgives and makes amends, his reward is upon Allah.” (Qur’an, 42:40)

“Whosoever desires honour, power, and glory then to Allah belongs all honour, power, and glory [and one can get honour, power, and glory only by worshipping Allah (Alone)]. To Him ascend (all) the goodly words i.e. and the righteous deeds exalt it (the goodly words i.e. the goodly words are not accepted by Allah unless and until they are followed by good deeds), but those who plot evils, – theirs will be a severe torment. And the plotting of such will perish.” (Qur’an, 35:10)

“That [is so]. And whoever responds [to injustice] with the equivalent of that with which he was harmed and then is tyrannised – Allah will surely aid him. Indeed, Allah is Pardoning and Forgiving.” (Qur’an, 22:60)

“And [saying], “Seek Forgiveness of your Lord and repent to Him, [and] He Will Let you enjoy a good provision.” (Qur’an, 11: 3)

“And say, ‘Relieve us of our burdens.’ We will [then] forgive your sins for you, and We will Increase the doers of good [in goodness and reward].” (Qur’an, 2: 58)

“A kind and courteous word and forgiveness are (much) better than the charity that is followed by (such an emotional) abuse. Allah is free of all wants and the most Forbearing.” (Qur’an, 2:263)

In Hadith:

“I guarantee a house in Jannah (Paradise) for one who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right; and I guarantee a house in the middle of Jannah (Paradise) for one who abandons lying even for the sake of fun; and I guarantee a house in the highest part of Jannah (Paradise) for one who has good manners.” (Abu Dawud)

“It is not permissible for a man to forsake his Muslim brother for more than three days, each of them turning away from the other when they meet. The better of them is the one who gives the greeting of salam first.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

“When the believers pass safely over (the bridge across) Hell, they will be stopped at a bridge (the Sirat) between Hell and Paradise where they will retaliate against one another for the injustices done among them in the world, and when they are purified of all their sins, they will be admitted to Paradise. By Him in Whose hands the life of Muhammad is, everybody will recognise his dwelling in Paradise better than he recognises his dwelling in this world.” (Bukhari)

          In conclusion, forgiveness is not only a vital element of Islamic psychology but also a universally significant concept with profound psychological benefits. By understanding and practising forgiveness, individuals and communities can achieve greater peace, harmony, and emotional well-being. This article underscores the importance of forgiveness from both Islamic and psychological perspectives, and we hope it serves as a guide to nurturing more forgiving and compassionate communities.

3 thoughts on “The Role of Forgiveness in Islamic Psychology

  1. Fathima S B N says:

    Such a beautiful reminder! Forgiveness will indeed raise our heights infront of people and The Lord. In sha Allah 💗🤲🏾

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