On forgiveness, ‘reasoned forgetfulness’ in Islam


In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent the Merciful.“O My servants who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of the Almighty: verily, He forgives all sins. Truly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran 39:53)

Brethren, I was considering my options for today’s sermon’s when suddenly I chanced upon the works of one of our exemplars and scholars in this faith. I chanced upon his works and sayings on the importance of and the inherent value in forgiveness and I could not resist the urge to share same with you today. I thought doing that was germane for many reasons. Perhaps the most important of them all is that hardly does a day pass us by except that we commit one infraction or the other either against the Almighty or our fellow men and women. In fact Prophet Muhammad once alluded to this when he said that every son of Adam is prone to commit error and sins but the very best of them are those who seek forgiveness of their sins each time they do so.

Thus it came to pass that I chanced upon one of his works in my daily dialogic encounters with the past in the present, in my unceasing effort to make sense of the nonsense in our reality. I chanced upon the works of Shaykh al-Shinqity and I found his perspective on forgiveness highly inspiring and irresistible. But first, let me remind you, briefly, of who he was. Yes. He is now late; the same way we shall all be late. Remember to every arrival is a departure; once it has a beginning, it shall have an end; once it is dated it must expire.

He was named Muhammad al-Amin. He was a son to Muhammad al-Mukhtar Sidi Ahmad al-Mukhtar al-Shinqiti. He was orphanated very early in life. He consequently came under the care of his uncle. He memorized the Quran before the age of ten while also studying concise booklets in the Fiqh of Imam Malik. He later went on to study all sciences under the scholars of his area. Soon, he emerged as one of the scholars of Mauritania. He travelled to Makkah and Madinah where he achieved renown and popularity for his knowledge. He died on the 17th of Zhul Hijjah 1393 AH. His janazah (Muslim prayer for the dead) was led by Shaykh ‘Abdul ‘Aziz bn Baaz in the Haram in Makkah.

During one of the educational sessions he used to hold for his numerous students and followers, someone asked him: “With what would you advise me in preparation for the seasons of worship”?. Imam al-Shinqity was said to have responded saying: “The best way to enter the season of worship is indulgence in lots of Istigfar (seeking of forgiveness of one’s sins from the Almighty). This is because sins of the servant are impediments against earthly and eternal success. No servant of the Most High would engage in seeking forgiveness of his sins but that his heart becomes purified.

If hitherto he was a weak person, his seeking of forgiveness of his sins would make him strong; if he were to be sick, he would be cured, if he were to be in tribulation, he would be rescued; if he were to be in the wilderness of life, he would be granted direction and redemption; if he were to be unsettled, he would be granted tranquility. Surely seeking forgiveness is the only valid patrimony bequeathed to us by Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace and mercies of the Almighty).

“Ibn Kathir is reported to have said: Whoever achieves renown for seeking forgiveness of his sins, the Almighty would facilitate for him his sustenance, his affairs would be made easy…Contemplate the import of this statement by Umar bn. Khattab: If lightening were to strike from heaven, it would not affect someone who engages in seeking forgiveness of his sins constantly”.

Brethren, you would agree with me that seeking forgiveness is not only a virtue extolled by the Quran but also an obligation. We are constantly reminded to seek redemption and rescue from our sins by our Creator in the last testament because without that we are fated to a life of incertitude and disquisitions.

Remember Prophet Nuh (a.s). The Quran tells us that he spent nine hundred and fifty years in the ministry as a caller, a proselytizer and a missionary to his recalcitrant and highly importunate nation. Prophet Nuh was sent with no other message to his people other than for them to testify that He the Almighty is one, that he (Prophet Nuh) was His messenger and that they should seek forgiveness of their sins. The Quran captures this eloquently thus: The Almighty says: ‘Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. He will send rain (sustenance) from the sky upon you in showers and give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers”(Quran 71: 10-12).

In other words, sins and infractions of His will usually lead to cessation of divine blessing while seeking forgiveness serves as catalyst for divine redemption. Meanwhile while it is a virtue to seek His mercies and forgiveness, believers are equally enjoined in Islam to adopt the virtue of forgiveness in their interactions with others, no matter their faith, creed or class. You cannot expect divine redemption while you hold others permanently for their inadequacies and errors. This is probably why the Qur’an describes believers as “those who avoid major sins and acts of indecencies and when they are angry they forgive.” (Quran 42:37). He says again: “The reward of evil is evil thereof, but whosoever forgives and makes amends, his reward is upon the Almighty.” (Quran 42:40) In another portion of the book, the Almighty says: “If you punish, then punish with the like of that which you were afflicted; but if you endure patiently, indeed it is better for the patient…(Quran 16:126-127)

Brethren, the Almighty loves forgiveness of His servants such that He ascribes unto Himself attributes such as al-Gafur, al-Gaffar, al-Afuwwu among others. In one Hadith, the Prophet says that the Almighty commanded him thus: “that I forgive those who do wrong to me”. I have since learnt that a marriage in which couples refuse to imbibe forgiveness and ‘reasoned forgetfulness” as virtues is destined for the rocks and dissolution.
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