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The Laws of Forbearance

Why and how does Allah forgive?Sometimes, a significant part of our life goes past without us turning to Allah or remembering Him in our day-to-day life. However, when a catastrophe or problem arises, the first to whom we turn is He, the Exalted. We immediately flee to Allah and beseech His help desperately and greedily. Despite our past transgressions and sins, we feel secure in the knowledge that Allah will answer our call and come to our rescue.

Why and how does Allah forgive?“And if Allah were to punish men for that which they earned, He would not leave a moving creature on the surface of the earth, but He gives them respite to an appointed term…” (Holy Qur’an, 35:45)

One of the divine laws that govern the metaphysical universe is the law of respite, which is expressed in the above Qur’anic verse. In this verse, Allah the Exalted states that if He were to punish us for our sins and mistakes immediately and proportionately, there would not be a single creature who would not deserve the punishment of annihilation. This is because we all exist by Allah’s blessings and thus we owe to Him our very existence. Despite this, we use our existence and all the secondary blessings that come with it to brazenly sin and transgress against Allah and to ignore His commands and prohibitions nonchalantly.

In this relation, our Imams (peace be upon them) have said in their supplications: “(My Lord), I neither revere you when in public, nor observe You in private.” (Du’a Abu Hamza al-Thumali)

In fact, sometimes we turn away from Allah despite His extreme kindness and goodness towards our sinful selves: “You call me, but I turn away from You, You endear Yourself to me, but I am harsh towards You, You show me Your love, but I do not accept it from You.” (Du’a Iftitah)

Sometimes, a significant part of our life goes past without us turning to Allah or remembering Him in our day-to-day life. However, when a catastrophe or problem arises, the first to whom we turn is He, the Exalted. We immediately flee to Allah and beseech His help desperately and greedily. Despite our past transgressions and sins, we feel secure in the knowledge that Allah will answer our call and come to our rescue: “I become greedy in asking You that which I do not deserve from You…and supplicate to You, feeling secure, and ask You, with a sense of familiarity, I am neither afraid nor apprehensive…” (Ibid.)

This is because we believe that He is: “Allah, the Most Forbearing, the Oft-Forgiving” (3:155), who “gives respite to an appointed term” (35:45) and who does not hasten in punishment.

He gives respite to His creatures because of His attribute of Forbearance. Instead of punishing His creatures, Allah gives us chance after chance to repent and turn back. He gives multiple opportunities to realize our mistakes and wake up to ourselves. This is one of the divine laws Allah has prescribed upon Himself.

As already stated, the source of the law of respite is the attribute of Forbearance, which is related to Allah’s Greatness and Exaltedness: “You, My Lord, are too great in favor and forbearance than to judge me by my deed and to cause me to stumble because of my mistake.” (Du’a Abu Hamza al-Thumali)

There is only one group of people to whom the laws of respite do not apply. This is because they actively excluded themselves from the expansive field of Allah’s Forbearance. These are the people who repeatedly and deliberately ignore and reject great signs of Allah due to their stubbornness: “even if We had sent down unto them angels, and the dead had spoken unto them, and We had gathered together all things before their very eyes, they would not have believed.” (6:111)

Once Allah has sent His greatest and most obvious signs to a group of people and they continue to disbelieve and remain stubborn, then there is no room left for respite, and punishment becomes a mercy for these people in order to prevent from sinning further: “We send not the angels down except with the truth and in that case, they (the disbelievers) would have no respite!” (15:8)

Having come to know this law of respite, we should make sure that we do not reject the signs of Allah or ever become stubborn against Him. If we do sin, we should always repent and turn back to Allah. In fact, we should escape from Allah towards Allah Himself: “I am escaping from You to You, anticipating Your promise to pardon those who possessed good convictions about You.” (Du’a Abu Hamza al-Thumali)

This law should also fill us with absolute hope, that as long as we have sinned because of our errors and not because of continuing arrogance against God, then our sins will always be forgiven if we repent. No matter what lows we reach, we should remember that Allah’s Forbearance and Mercy are greater than our sins and that the door of repentance is always open or will always come to open: “(My Lord) if You were to turn me away from Your door, I would not depart…” (Ibid.) because I “have never seen a generous master, more patient towards a vile slave than You are towards me.” (Du’a Iftitah)

Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a series exploring Divine laws. For the first article, see Divine Laws: Discovering the Secrets of Our World.

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One comment

  1. great stuff, as always. particularly love the Qur’anic ayat, will be memorizing those soon for my working memory. nice touch with the quotes from supplications of our A’imma (as).

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