By Ejaz Naqvi
February 16, 2019
Ever since I was a child, I used to hear
the sermons trying to instill the ‘fear of God’ in me, whereby the Imams will
warn us to be straight or else! Decades later, as I started to study the Qur’an
myself, the kind and forgiving nature of God became so apparent making me
wonder why the focus of the clerics was so much on the wrath of God.
I would hear multiple times ‘the correct
way’ to greet, the correct way to bathe, the correct way to step into the
bathroom, the correct way to enter the mosque,
the correct way to offer Salat and fast and so on. If I didn’t, I was
risking having all my good deeds deleted. If I erred a little, I would face the
anger of God. The “right path” was so narrow that it would be impossible not to
stumble and fall out of the mercy of God.
It is true that the Qur’an is full of
warnings for the wrongdoers. But it is also full of the good news. In fact the
prophets, including Prophet Muhammad, are often referred to as Basheer (bearer
of good news) and Nazeer (the warners). For some reason, the clerics got stuck
mostly on the Nazeer part.
Growing up, I thought I would never ever be
able to make it and be on the good side of the Lord. No matter how hard I
worked, if I stumbled a little, all my good deeds would be washed away. It was
as if God had his finger on the ‘delete’ button and ever so ready to use it.
The truth is that He does have his finger on the ‘delete button’, but it is our
sins and wrong actions that He is so willing to delete!
To be perfectly honest, I still don’t know
if ‘I made it’. Only God knows that. Only God is the Judge.
However, I am actually much more hopeful of
God’s mercy. I realize the most commonly repeated attributes of God in the
Qur’an are Rehmaan (the Most Gracious) and Raheem (the Most Merciful).
And in terms of God deleting the good
deeds, the fact is that the Qur’an is full of passages on God’s Mercy and His
Forgiveness. This verse says it all.
Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed
against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all
sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. 39:53
We tend to forget that in Islam, one of the
biggest sins is to lose hope in God’s mercy!
The exegetist differs in their opinion if this verse was revealed in
reference to a particular group of Muslims or a larger group or the entire
humanity. Many do believe it is addressed to all ‘servants’ and all humans are
considered His servants.
does evil or acts unjustly to his soul, then ask forgiveness of Allah, he shall
find Allah Forgiving, Merciful. 4:110
There are other passages that clearly state
that everyone will be rewarded for even an atom’s worth of good deed.
‘Acting unjustly to his own soul’ or
‘transgressed against their souls’ refers to the fact that if we do wrong, we
only hurt ourselves.
One way I look at the Qur’an is that it
gives us plenty of information and education on the consequences of breaking
the law, as well as obeying the law.
I realize the Day of Judgment is also
called the Day of Reckoning (Yaum e Hissab), so I am accountable for my actions
(and inactions). It is also very true that the Qur’an’s description of the
punishment for the wrongdoers and deniers of God’s signs is rather graphic but
its description of the reward and mercy for those who believe AND do good work
is also repetitive and I would argue more prevalent. The Qur’an acknowledges
that humans are not angels and that we are prone to sin, and therefore calls
for us to repent and ask for forgiveness. The greatest sin in Islam is
considered to be associating partners with God. That sin cannot be forgiven,
except when one repents.
does not forgive that anything should be associated with Him, and forgives what
is besides that to whomsoever He pleases; and whoever associates anything with
God, he devises indeed a great sin. 4:48
Many of the ’99 Names of God’ refer to His
Forgiver and the Hider of Faults
Forgiver- this refers to forgiving as in ‘rubbing off’ or in deletion of sins
as if they never occurred!
Like the Qur’an, the Old Testament is also
sometimes viewed as a bearer of a wrathful God, ready to set everything ablaze.
But it too makes many references to God’s forgiveness and mercy.
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and
proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger,
and abounding in loving kindness and truth; who keeps loving kindness for
thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no
means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children
and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” Exodus 34:6-7
Similarly the Gospels make references to
forgiveness on numerous occasions- even more so then the Old Testament.
Salvation and forgiveness are integral part of Christianity. The Gospels add
another element- to forgive each other so God can forgive us- something that is
part of the revered ‘Lord’s prayer’ as taught in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4
….and forgive us
our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Luke 11:4 and Matthew 6:12
Of course I don’t want to ‘take advantage’
of Lord’s forgiveness and continue to wrong myself. But I do realize we are all
humans and that I will err. When I do, I will never lose hope in his immense
mercy and His forgiveness. That’s the biggest hope out there no matter what
Jabir bin Abdullah said that the Messenger of God (peace be upon him) said, “Allah is not merciful to him who is not merciful to people.” (Bukhari, Muslim).