Forgiveness in Islam. Jerald Whitehouse Director Global Center for Adventist Muslim Relations. Overview of the Muslim World. Overview of Islam. Muslim beliefs One God (Tawhid) God is Creator of all that exists His will is supreme He sent Messengers (Muhammad the last)
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Forgiveness in Islam Jerald Whitehouse Director Global Center for Adventist Muslim Relations
Overview of Islam • Muslim beliefs • One God (Tawhid) • God is Creator of all that exists • His will is supreme • He sent Messengers (Muhammad the last) • Qur’an is very Word of God • Angels • Satan • Day of Judgment for all mankind individually
Practice of Islam • Five “Pillars” • Profession of faith (shahadah) – “There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God” • Prayer (salah) – dawn (fajr), noon (dhuhr), afternoon (Asr), sunset (Maghrib), evening (Isha). • Charity (Zakat) • Fasting (Sawm) - during month of Ramadan, from dawn to dusk • Pilgrimage (Haj) – to Meccah once during lifetime
The Qur’an • THE authority • The very words of Allah transmitted by Gabriel to Muhammad (SAW) • Confirms previous revelations • Muslims feel that it “completes” previous revelations • Usually memorized and recited • Translations are “meanings” of the Qur’an
Qur’an References • 5:45 – Setting things right is better than retaliation • 3:133-136 • 11:11; 11:3; 11:90 • 14:41 • 2:109 (see note 110 for 3 words for forgiveness) • 2:268 • 3:17 – Characteristics of righteous person • 36:11 – “Good news” of forgiveness • 4:110 • 51:18 • 8:74
Examples of forgiveness in Muslim History • Biographies: • Hudayfah ibn al-Yaman • An Nuayman ibn Amr • Fayruz al Daylami • Abdullah ibn Umr • Khalifa Abu Bakr, Ayesha story • Khalifa Ali bin Talib • Ali in the Holy Qur’an • Ali, the father of Sufism • Social and ethical thought of Ali • Sayings of Ali
God’s attributes • Rahman and rahim (merciful) – 560 x • Ghafur (from word “to protect” commonly translated “forgiveness”)– 230 x • Punisher, inflicter of retribution – 4 x • God’s forgiveness encompasses all S. 39:53 • God’s intercession – “shafa’a” – “The shafa’a of God is, therefore, the merciful Divine help which enables the sinners to excape from the evil consequences of what they have done, when all other means have failed.” Maulana Muhammad Ali
Theological tensions in early Islam • The Khawarij (Kharajiites) – rigid – demanded righteous conduct. Extreme fanaticism and intolerance • “Repent”, “we declare ourselves quit of you” were frequent exclamations. • In reaction, many resorted to “irja” – leave the decision to God, we cannot judge • Accompanying this was the idea of predeterminism, God “creates” all acts • Led to distinction between faith and acts – Sinners continue to be Muslims
Result of “Irja” • Fazlur Rahman, “Revival and Reform in Islam” p. 55 • “Further, the motivation to raise both the level and quality of one’s action and preserve the sense of correcting one’s conduct is weakened both by the doctrine of predestinarianism and “irja” as well as the doctrine of prophetic intercession. That is to say, that with the introduction of this new temper – thanks to predestinarianism, intercessionism, and “irja” – a moral trend does set in which runs counter to the Qur’an and its living, vibrant mission that aims at intensifying human moral energy.”
Counter to “Irja” • “Qadar” – “states that human beings possess free will, or that God has endowed humankind with a free will and that this will is efficacious so that a person is completely free to choose and to act.” (Rahman, p. 39) • Al Ash’ari (founder of “orthodoxy”) rejected the “Qadari” doctine and opted for God “creating” all acts. Humans “appropriate” or “acquire” acts (“kasb”).
Result • “But with Ash’arism a totally new era of belief dawned upon Muslims. From then on, they could not act in reality; human action, indeed, became a mere metaphor devoid of any real meaning. Al-Ash’ari explicitly stated that even a waking person cannot speak in reality. This is certainly in stark contradiction to the very assumptions of law, that humans can choose and act freely, and therefore are responsible. It is true that this particular Ash’ari doctrine of human action is in the nature of a formula and, as such, has little direct bearing on real life. In real life, Muslims continued to go about their daily work. The truth is that Ash’arism held its sway right up until the twentieth century and holds sway even now in the citadels of Islamic conservatism.” (Rahman, p. 60)
Instead of . . . • “The really effective procedure would have been to erect a system of universal ethical values on the basis of an analysis of the moral objectives of the Qur’an.” (Rahman, p. 61) • This did not happen. • “Ijtihad” (personal analysis, struggling to understand) – from “jihad” – was suppressed in favor of “taqlid” (tradition).
Result • This has fed into the rigid, fundamentalism that has little room for tolerance, forgiveness, or openness to diversity. • Have used “jihad” for political and military force. • “In fact, there is nothing fundamentally Islamic about these extremists. They are religious totalitarians, in a long line of extremists of various faiths who seek power by intimidation, violence and thuggery.” (King Abdullah II, of Jordan)
Jihad • (Maulana Muhammad Ali, pp 545-599) • Main points: • “Jihad” from “Jahada” – to struggle (against evil) • S. 29:6 “Whoever strives (jahada), he strives (yujahadu) for his own soul (nefs)” • S. 12:53 “the soul (nefs) is certainly prone to evil.”
Jihad against unbelievers • S. 25:52 “Therefore listen not to the unbelievers, but strive against them (jahadahum) with IT [Qur’an], with a big striving (jihad).” • S. 29:46 “And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury); but say, ‘We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you’ our God and your God is one’ and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)’.”
No compulsion in religion • S. 2:256 “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” • There is no injunction to spread Islam (make believers) by the sword • War was permitted as a matter of survival, for defense (Context of the Meccans intending to annihilate the new Muslim community and Muhammad had to meet this threat with military resistance).
The “sword” verse • S. 9:5 “So when the sacred months have passed away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them” (also 2:191). • In both cases it is against those who have repeatedly broken treaties with the Muslim community, or attacked them first.
Forgiveness, patience better than revenge or defense • S. 42:40-43 “The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: for Allah loveth not those who do wrong. But indeed if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong (done) to them, against such there is no cause of blame. The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrongdoing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice: for such there will be a penalty grievous. But indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs.”
The “shame, honor” factor • This is a cultural factor: • One’s honor rests in ones honesty, keeping a promise, generosity, chastity of the women in the family. • When honor is shamed in any way, the only human response is revenge. • The only solution to increasing revenge is for a mediator to mediate an agreement that preserves the honor of both.
“That ye may learn from each other” • S. 49:13 “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may dispise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you [your honor in God’s sight is your righteousness].”