Beautiful Example, Forgiveness Habit, Infinite Divinity
Issue 1042 » March 15, 2019 - Rajab 8, 1440
Al-Ahzab (The Confederates) Sura 33: Verse 21
This is among a number of verses that establish the importance of obeying the Prophet and following his example, even in matters not addressed directly by the Quran. In the immediate context, the beautiful example that is found in the Prophet refers to being steadfast in combat and holding one's ground, but this verse is also among the most important regarding the position of the Prophet in Islam in general. Although his function as God's messenger is unique and inimitable, the Prophet's words and actions are considered to provide the archetype of a life lived in full submission to God.
Regarding the Prophet's example, Ali ibn Abi Talib is reported to have said, "He was the most generous of people, the most truthful of the people in speech, the gentlest of them in temperament, and the noblest of them in social affability. If someone saw him unexpectedly, he was awestruck by him, and if someone associated with him knowingly, he loved him. ... I have never seen the like of him, either before him or after him."
The example provided by the Prophet is for those who look forward to reward from God or to the meeting with God, thus for those who believe in the Resurrection. In this context, and remember God much can be seen as a reference to the heart of the prophetic example, since to live in accord with the prophetic model is to live in constant remembrance of God.
"The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary" - Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Forgiveness is often a one-time, one-issue experience for most of us. Someone harms us, they may or may not ask us for forgiveness, and we offer it.
Many of us do it for the sake of Allah, remembering that, as Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, once said, "All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best of sinners are those who repent" (Ibn Majah). Or we may do it because forgiveness benefits us psychologically and physically.
Regardless of the reasons, for many of us, forgiveness is not a habit we engage in a systematic, regular manner. But this is key to gaining its spiritual, psychological, and health benefits.
One of the best examples can be found in the following incident found in Kitab al-Zuhd by Ibn al-Mubarak, Number 694:
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, was sitting with a group of the Companions in the Masjid and he said, "A man will now enter (who is) from the people of Paradise." The man walked in. Later it happened again, and then a third time.
Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-Aas wanted to find out what was so special about this individual, so he asked the man if he could stay over at his house for three days, making an excuse to stay. The man allowed him to do so.
Observing him carefully in his home, 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 three 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.
His host couldn't think of anything, but after some time, 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."
Forgiveness was as natural to this man as brushing our teeth before bed is for the rest of us. It was something he had developed the habit of "just doing". It became part of his life in an integral way, the way prayer, fasting, paying Zakah and other acts of worship are for a Muslim. And how many of us offer these Ibadat while holding grudges, bitterness, and resentment toward family members, friends, or strangers.
Similarly, the following Hadith gives us an even stronger incentive to forgive regularly.
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "The deeds of people would be presented every week on two days, Monday and Thursday, and every believing servant would be granted pardon except the one in whose (heart) there is rancour against his brother and it would be said: Leave them and put them off until they are turned to reconciliation" (Muslim).
"Cultivating The Forgiveness Habit" - Samana Siddiqui
It is well known that the word Islam means submission, and the basic Islamic demand is that human beings submit themselves to God, and to no one else and nothing else. Human beings should struggle to defeat their weaknesses, control their urges, and gain mastery over themselves. Only by gaining mastery over the self can that self be meaningfully submitted to God. If the self is controlled or mastered by the ego, urges, fears, anxieties, desires, and whim, then attempting to submit this highly compromised self is not very meaningful—one cannot submit what he does not control in the first place.
Furthermore, according to the Quran, human beings are God's viceroys and agents on this earth. They possess a divinely delegated power to civilize the earth (tamir al-ard), and they are commanded not to corrupt it. Human beings are individually accountable and no human being can carry the sins of another or be held responsible in the Hereafter for the actions of the other. Since human beings are directly accountable to God, their submission to God necessarily means that they submit to no other. Surrendering one's will or autonomy to another human being is like reneging on the relationship of agency with God. Every person, as a direct agent of God, must exercise his or her conscience and mind and be fully responsible for his or her thoughts and actions. If a person surrenders his autonomy to another, in effect, such a person is violating the terms of his agency. Such a person would be assigning his agency responsibilities to another person and defaulting on his fiduciary duties towards God.
Thus, the first obligation of a Muslim is to gain control and mastery over himself; the second obligation is to ensure that he does not unlawfully surrender his will and autonomy as an agent to another; and the third obligation is to surrender fully and completely to God. However, this act of surrender cannot be grudging or based on desperation and cannot arise out of a sense that there is no alternative but to surrender. To surrender out of anxiety or fear of punishment is better than defying God, but it is a meaningless and empty submission. Submission must be anchored in feelings of longing and love. Submission is not merely a physical act of resignation and acceptance. Rather, genuine submission must be guided by a longing and love for union with the Divine. Therefore, those who submit do not find fulfillment simply in obedience but in love—a love for the very Divinity from which they came.
"The Epistemology of the Truth in Modern Islam" - Khaled Abou El Fadl