ۗ أَلَا تُحِبُّونَ أَنْ يَغْفِرَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
Wal-ya‘fū wal-yaSfaHū; allā tuHibbūna ay-yagfirallāhu lakum. Wallāhu ghafūrur-raHīm
Let them forgive and overlook, do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Sūratun Nūr (No. 24), Āyat 22
Historically, this verse was revealed to remind people not to withdraw their help from others because they were displeased with them after a particular incident. Allah says they should forgive and overlook, and then asks them if they would not like Allah to forgive them. The reminder to forgive is a general one, valid for all people of all times. Holding on to anger and resentment is harmful for the growth of the believer, and there can be no spiritual progress without embracing the cleansing waters of forgiveness and understanding.
This verse not only asks us to forgive, but also to go a step beyond and overlook or disregard the act that angered us. It means to forgive and not follow it up with reproaches. Such is the nobility expected of a believer. Forgiveness without its second stage is not forgiveness at all. To harbor resentment and negativity is to not really have forgiven. When we want Allah to forgive us we are hopeful that He will erase all traces of our sins from the record. That is the complete clemency that should also be practiced with people in this world, so we can deserve and hope for forgiveness from Allah.
Sometimes we mistakenly think of forgiveness and overlooking as a type of weakness. It is letting the other person get away with it, succumbing to oppression, not standing up for yourself, . . . etc. Such are the waswas that Shaytān whispers into our minds. To counter them think of the following:
– Forgiveness is not passive acceptance of wrong done to you. It is an active, intentional gesture that shows the understanding that people err and are vulnerable to making mistakes. It reveals the strength and nobility of the forgiver.
– If people regret their action and did not intend to hurt us, it is only right that we forgive. If they don’t regret, or don’t even understand the hurt they have inflicted even after communication, it is best for our peace of mind and spiritual progress that we overlook. It is a choice we make for ourselves, not for them.
– Forgiveness brings honor, both in this world and in the Hereafter. The Holy Prophet (s) said: Pardon others, for pardoning only increases a servant in honor. So pardon each other, may Allah increase you in honor. (MH, H.12881)
– Forgiveness is like a balm on the wounds that have been inflicted. Without it the anger and hatred are like cankers on the soul, causing constant pain and anguish. The Holy Prophet (s) said: Pardon each other, and the hatred and malice between you will fall away. (MH, H. 12876)
– Forgiveness is the height of nobility. The Holy Prophet (s) once asked his companions: Shall I not inform you of the best of traits of the world and the hereafter; to forgive one who has wronged you, to join with one who has cut off from you, and to give one who has denied you. (MH, H. 12871)
Answer the question that God asks in this verse. If you would like that Allah forgive you, then know that Allah would like you to forgive His creatures. That is enough motivation.
Sources: Tafsīr-e Nūr – Aghae Muhsin Qarā’ati; Mīzānul Hikmah, Muhammadi Rayshahrī