The Messenger of Allah SAW was sitting with a group of the Sahabah (ra) in the mosque and he said “A man will now enter [who is] from the people of Paradise.” and a sahabi (companion) walked in. Later it happened again, and then a third time. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘aas (ra) wanted to find out what was so special about this man, so he asked the man if he could stay over his house for 3 days. The man allowed him to stay. ‘Abdullah noticed that the man didn’t do anything out of the ordinary: He didn’t fast all the time, he slept some of the night and prayed some of the night, and so on. So after the 3 days, ‘Abdullah told him the real reason why he requested to stay with him, and he asked him what it was that could be the reason why he was from the people of Jannah.
The man (ra) couldn’t think of anything, but after a bit he said “Every night, before I go to sleep, I forgive whoever has wronged me. I remove any bad feelings towards anyone from my heart.”
(Kitab al-Zuhd by Ibn al-Myouubarak – Number 694)
I think about this excerpt a lot.
- How can you forgive people?
- How can you forgive yourself?
Intentionally or unintentionally, people do you dirty. How can you ever forgive them? How can you walk away without the slightest grudge or anger or a tiny wish for them to suffer the same, if not worse? Instead, you forgive them. Can a human really achieve that?
There are people who are able to dismiss the insult immediately, pray for the offenders to be better, and leave the place like nothing happened. Perceiving the offenders were sent from God as a form to test them and to cleanse whatever blackness in the heart that exists, they willingly accept the hurdle. There is no need to get built up over the trial. There is no need to feel infuriated. Live and let live.
On the other hand, there are people like me, who let anger overwhelm us upon the coming of a person difficult to handle. We get frustrated. We spit mean comments occasionally. We walk away unhappy. We let the resentment linger in us for the rest of the day. No – we let the resentment linger in us for the rest of our lives. We don’t forgive and we don’t forget.
So how do people like myself achieve the ticket to Jannah as mentioned in the hadith?
All of the emotions we have might come along naturally but to let them stay, to let them spread in us like a disease, is a choice.
The immense anger, sadness and disappointment we experience are like vehicles constructed by a manufacturer (our consciousness.) We can turn their engines on and let them drive along highways (our veins, strings of thoughts). We have the choice to let these powerful emotions run in our bodies for days and dominate us.
But we also have the choice to let them stay in that factory, stationary. We can let them be there. We can have the pleasure of their presence but not let them overthrow us. Because we have the keys. They cannot hurt us without our consent.
“It’s a metaphor, see: you put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” – John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
It’s a disposition to feel what is already part of being a human but we have the capability to limit and guide these emotions. I believe this is one of the many solutions to moderate emotional fluctuations.
Pro-tip from long term analysis:
If you find it difficult to forgive immediately, try to supplicate for your offenders first. Supplications are positive, constructive, just and profanity-free by nature. You’ll find it easier to forgive them soon after. Embrace the influence of the Oft-Forgiving (الغفور) and Most-Forbearing’s (الحليم) essence, and subsequently dismiss negativity from your life in His name. Forgive what God would forgive.
A question: what other methods do you use to persuade yourself to forgive others?