Compassion and forgiveness form the nuclei of the various religious and humanist traditions of the world. To err is human, to forgive divine the maxim goes. In Islam one is supposed to recite the names of God as the Most Merciful before doing any action. Similarly in the Christian tradition forgiveness and reconciliation are words that one hears quite often. I have found some forms of forgiveness harder than others. This is especially true for cases where people who may have harmed one repeatedly or people who seem thrive on ill will towards others. Scholars have written volumes on this subject so it might be redundant to quote them here but whenever I think about this particular subject I am always reminded of the words of my father. Every week, without exception, my father asks me to do just this. Thus on every Friday, on my way to the Mosque from my work, for Friday prayers I always call my parents. My father always says the same thing to me but in a friendly manner and never obtrudes, “Pray for the forgiveness of every person regardless of whether they have done good or bad to you. Pray for them even if they have wronged you. Pray for the ones who are deceased and pray that may God forgive them. Even pray the same for the deceased who were not good to us. Each person reaps the reward of what they sow. If you pray for good things for other, God will make good things happen to you.”
For the longest time I found it hard to even conceive of what these words meant. It takes great perseverance, a big heart and peace within oneself to even utter these words. I still do claim to live up to the entirety of the meaning of these words because I do always find myself having with this capacity. One can however aspire towards such a goal. After thinking about this subject multiple times one day I let my world come to a rest and reflected on these words. That is when the realization finally dawned on me. I finally knew what my father had been saying all these years. The following story from the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) flashed before my eye and I finally understood the meaning of forgiveness.
The Messenger of Allah was seated in a gathering with his companions when he looked towards the entrance and said, “A man of Paradise is coming.” At that instance someone who seemed to be very ordinary entered the mosque where they were seated. A companion was curious as to why the Prophet .‘ said this, so he followed the man to his house. This companion told the man that he was a traveler and stayed as a guest. For three days the companion saw nothing unusual, so he finally told the man what the Prophet had said and asked him what was so special. The man thought for a long time and said, ‘There might be one thing — before going to sleep every night I forgive everyone and sleep with a clean heart.’