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Is It OK Not To Forgive Someone Who Has Done Wrong To You?

Author: Babar Ahmad

A young lady wrote to me last week asking if I might write something about this topic. Let’s call her Khadijah.

Khadijah explained how her husband was a nice man but her in-laws and their relatives had tormented her until her heart was full of hatred and bitterness towards them.

She said that she was brought up by her own parents to be forgiving and forbearing towards all people, to forgive those who had wronged her.

She had tried that for a while but the level of the torment, sustained over many years, was such that it had and has affected her mentally as a person and she finds it difficult to move on.

Alas, this is not the first time I’ve heard of situations such as this. A relative of mine went through something similar.

People who know my story often tell me how remarkable it is that I have forgiven the police officers who tortured me in 2003 and left me with 73 injuries from head to toe.

I say to these people,

“Who said I have forgiven them? They never apologised to me and in fact, they have shown no remorse so I have not forgiven them. However, I have no desire to take revenge against them and hence I have not allowed myself to be shackled to them.”

Not wishing to take revenge on someone and forgiving them are two different things.

In my case, I have left the matter to Allah. He will give me justice at a time and in a way that He considers best.

If He has told me, “This is My Department, you don’t worry about it, you just live your life,” then why should I kill myself with pain?

The worst thing to say to someone who has been wronged is, “Forgive them, let it go. Forgive and forget.”

All they have to say to you is, “Well, it’s easy for you to say that when you have not gone through what I have gone through.”

“You haven’t been physically and psychologically tormented for years by your husband’s mother.”

“You haven’t been stripped naked and tortured by police officers who jeered and mocked you and your religion.”

“You haven’t lost all your life savings by someone you trusted who defrauded you.”

Allah says in the Quran:

“And if you take retribution, then take retribution equal to the amount that you were harmed. But if you are patient then verily that is better for those who are patient.” [16:126]

And

“Allah does not like the public mention of evil except in the case of one who was wronged. And Allah is All-Hearing and All-Knowing.” [4:148]

There are two things we learn from these two verses.

Firstly, injustice is a very serious matter in the sight of Allah.

Secondly, the wronged person has a choice whether to forgive or not, but he is under no obligation to do so.

The Prophets Moses and Noah prayed for the destruction of their people while the Prophets Abraham and Muhammad, peace be upon them all, asked Allah to forgive them.

No God orders His servants to bear injustice and not do anything about it. Those who claim that somehow God commands His servants to be passive in the face of injustice, lie against God.

The important point is that the choice of whether or not or if or when to forgive, lies with the wronged person, not anyone else.

In other words, no-one can tell or pressure you to forgive someone who has done wrong to you. It is entirely your choice.

There then arises the question of holding bitterness in one’s heart. When you hold bitterness in your heart towards someone who has wronged you, you shackle yourself to them.

Again, no-one can tell you if or when to cleanse your heart of bitterness towards someone who has wronged you. It is entirely your choice.

When people ask me why I don’t hold any anger, hatred or bitterness towards those who were wrong to me, I tell them that although I have not forgiven them, it takes energy to hate and be bitter and I have no desire to waste my energy doing that.

After 11 years in shackles, I have no desire to spend the rest of my life shackled to those who were wrong to me. Instead, I want to get back at my tormentors by living well.

As George Herbert once said, “Living well is the best revenge.”