‘And the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof; but whoso forgives and his act brings about reformation, his reward is with Allah. Surely, He loves not the wrongdoers.’ (42:41)
The teaching of Islam as regards anyone committing wrongdoing or harming another whether in a slight or extreme manner is inclined towards reformation. Concept of punishment is indeed there but it is in conjunction with commandment of forgiveness and pardon just as the aforementioned verse shows. The pivotal point being that any punishment should result in reformation of the wrongdoer.
With reformation as the main objective, before deciding on punishment it should be considered whether it will result in it or not. If reformation is deemed to result from pardon then that should be the option otherwise punishment should be decided on. Forgiveness makes one recipient of Divine reward. And the aforementioned verse ends in clarifying that if excessive punishment is meted out it will be unjust and cruel. This concept of forgiveness and punishment is at the foundation of fairness in individual, communal and indeed international matters.
The real objective of punishment being reformation and moral betterment, Islam teaches to keep in view that emphasis is not only given to punishment, rather it is designed towards reformation. Any punishment given should be in accordance with the crime and if meted out disproportionately, it incurs God’s displeasure.
The most excellent examples of this are found in the blessed model of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). In instances where he felt reformation had taken place he forgave even the bitterest and cruellest of enemies. When the guilty person showed remorse and regret, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) forgave those who had perpetrated grievous cruelty towards him, his family and his Companions.
Hazrat Zainab (may Allah be pleased with her) the Holy Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) daughter was brutally attack during migration. She was expecting at the time and was wounded and miscarried and later her injuries proved fatal. The perpetrator was given the death penalty but he fled. Later, when the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) returned to Medina he came to see the Holy Prophet and explained that he had fled out of fear, he acknowledged his heinous crimes but said he had come after learning of the clemency of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). He acknowledged the ignorant ways he had followed and accepted that God had sent the Holy Prophet for guidance. He confessed his crimes and sought forgiveness. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) forgave him and told him that it was a favour of God on him that he was enabled to accept Islam and repent sincerely.
Ka’b bin Zuhayr wrote vilifying poetry about Muslim ladies attacking their honour. He was duly sentenced. After conquest of Makkah his brother wrote to him asking him to seek forgiveness of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). He came to the Prophet’s Mosque at Fajr time and offered Salat in the company of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Without introducing himself he put it to the Prophet that Ka’b bin Zuhayr wished to seek pardon for his past wrongdoing and whether he could be presented or not. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) agreed. This is when he said that he was Ka’b bin Zuhayr. A Companion got up to kill him when displaying amazing compassion, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said leave him, he is seeking pardon. Later, Ka’b bin Zuhayr presented a poetic eulogy to the Holy Prophet who gave his cloak to Ka’b as a gift.
There are indeed many incidents in the blessed life of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) where he forgave personal enemies, enemies of his close relatives and enemies of Islam who had reformed themselves. However, he gave punishment where he considered punishment was needed. The core of the commandment in Islam is reformation and not seeking revenge.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has elucidated the aforementioned verse of Surah Al Shura in many places, in perhaps more than thirteen of his books as well as in his pronouncements. He states in ‘Philosophy of The Teachings of Islam’:
‘The recompense of an injury is a penalty in proportion thereto; but whoso forgives and effects thereby a reform in the offender, and no harm is apprehended, that is to say, exercises forgiveness on its appropriate occasion, will have his reward with Allah.
This verse shows that the Quran does not teach non-resistance to evil on all occasions, or that mischief makers and wrongdoers should never be punished. Its teaching is that one must consider whether the occasion calls for forgiveness or punishment, and to adopt the course which would be best in the interests both of the offender and the public. Sometimes an offender turns away from wrongdoing in consequence of being forgiven, and sometimes forgiveness incites him to further wrongdoing. Therefore, God Almighty directs that we should not develop the habit of forgiving blindly on all occasions, but should consider carefully whether forgiveness or punishment would be most appropriate, and, therefore, a virtue, in each particular case, and should adopt that course. Some people are so vindictive that they keep in mind the wrongs done to their fathers through generations, and there are others who carry forbearance and forgiveness to the extreme, sometimes even to the limit of shamelessness. They exercise such weakness, forgiveness and forbearance as are utterly inconsistent with dignity, honour, and chastity. Their conduct is a stain on good character and the result of their forgiveness and forbearance is that people are disgusted with them. That is why the Holy Quran attaches the condition of appropriate time and place for the exercise of every moral quality, and does not approve the exercise of a moral quality out of its place.’ (Philosophy of The Teachings of Islam, pp. 62-63)
People who were pardoned by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) had clearly changed. Once reformed, enemies of Islam who committed wrongdoings became pious and served the religion of Islam.
Islam convinces the significance of its commandments is every age. It endorses to take that action which is in the best interest of the perpetrator. Today the champions of human rights have taken a stance which leans to one extreme. No matter how grave a crime, in the name of human compassion criminals are given free rein and many have lost any sense of wrong. These could be contract killers and people who have no regard for anyone. They should be given the death sentence unless in situations where the victim’s family pardons. However, the Western world has amended its laws and has abolished the death penalty in the name of human rights. Yet, while reformation does not take place, crime is on the increase!
Conversely Muslim heads of state have been deposed and rather than take legal recourse to bring them to justice, local people have been used to kill them mercilessly. When local people act in this way they have the backing of other powers.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) wrote: It is written in the Gospels not to contend with evil. The teaching of the Gospels is inclined towards extreme leniency and cannot be put into practice with the exception of specific situations. On the other hand the teaching of Torah is inclined towards the other extreme. It only stresses on one aspect, that of an eye for an eye, an ear for an ear and a teeth for a teeth. It does not even mention pardon and forgiveness. Fact of the matter is that these Books were meant for a specific period and for specific people. Whereas the Holy Qur’an has shown us a pure way which is free of the two extremes and is in exact accordance with human nature. For example the Holy Qur’an states: ‘And the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof; but whoso forgives and his act brings about reformation, his reward is with Allah….’ That is, recompense of an evil committed should be proportionate, but if there is to be pardon, reformation should be the underpinning aspect in that forgiveness. And the forgiveness should not be inconsistent as regards time and place and should be apposite. A person who forgives in this manner will be rewarded by God.
Such is the pure teaching, without any extremes! Recompense is permitted but the incentive to forgive is also in place with the condition of reformation…It is incumbent upon a fair-minded person to compare and assess which teaching is according to human nature and which teaching is such that one’s sense of fairness and conscience repels it. (Tafseer Hazrat Masih e Maud, Vol. 4, pp. 111-112)
Islam teaches that if you forgive someone you should not have any malice toward them. During the Battle of Uhad, wife of Abu Sufyan Hind committed extreme barbarity. She mutilated the body of the Prophet’s uncle Hamza and gouged out his liver and ate it. On the other hand, after the conquest of Makkah, Hind came into an assembly of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) with her face covered. She took bai’at and became Muslim. The Holy Prophet recognised her voice and asked her if she was the wife of Abu Sufyan. She answered that she was but she had accepted Islam with a sincere heart and asked that what had happened in the past be forgiven. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) forgave her. Hind’s life transformed. She sent the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) two roasted goats with the message that her herd was not very large at the time so she was sending little. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) prayed for her and her herd increased tremendously.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) wrote:
‘Recompense of evil should be in proportion to evil committed. But if a person forgives and pardons sin and the pardon results in reformation and not in anything bad, it pleases God and He rewards this action. Thus, in light of the Holy Qur’an neither every situation calls for punishment nor is clemency commendable in every situation. Rather, appropriateness of time and place should be considered. Punishment or pardon should be implemented in accordance with time and place and not liberally. This is what the Qur’an purports. (Tafseer Hazrat Masih e Maud, Vol. 4, p. 105)
The administration of the Jama’at and the office-holders should keep these matters in mind. Relevant departments should try and make recommendations and reach decisions after due consideration and deliberation and ultimately base them on what pleases God. Help should be sought from God through prayers followed by recommendations made to the Khalifa of the time so that the complainant as well as the administration of the Jama’at remains protected against any harmful effect.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) wrote:
If someone hurts you, for example, breaks your tooth or gouges your eye, the punishment is in proportion to the evil committed. However, if you forgive the sin with the view that it results in something good leading onto reformation, for example the perpetrator desists from such acts in future, then pardoning is better and the reward of this will be with God.
Now, notice that the verse addresses both the aspects and has linked punishment and forgiveness with appropriateness of time and place. This indeed is the wise principle on which the world operates. It is indeed sensible to employ both heat and cold according to the appropriateness of time and place. You note that we cannot follow only one kind of diet, rather we alternate our diet seasonally as do we wear appropriate clothes in autumn and in summer. Likewise, our moral condition also requires change according to time and place. There are times when one has to be imposing. Leniency and pardon makes matters worse in such situations. And at other times one needs to be gentle and lenient and demonstrating authority in such situations is considered poor judgement. In short there is a time and place for everything. Thus, a person who does not go by appropriateness of time and place is beast and not man, is brute and not civilised. (Tafseer Hazrat Masih e Maud, Vol. 4, pp. 105-106)
In summer the clothing here [in the West] especially those of women becomes extremely scant while in winter they wear coats and scarves. When Muslim women wear the same kind of scarves to cover their heads in summer it is said that they are being oppressed. Now the Government has started interfering in this regard and the objective is not reformation but it is unfairness and unjust. Recently the Prime Minister said that they are considering to take action against women who cover up in public places or at work place. The worldly laws are being taken to the other extreme which will create disorder and restlessness. Islam speaks against decisions which create disorder and restlessness and states that decision should be based on attaining betterment of individuals.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said: The Holy Qur’an does not deem pointless pardon and clemency as warrantable because it causes decline in human morals and renders everything chaotic. Rather, pardon is allowed where it leads to some reformation. (Tafseer Hazrat Masih e Maud, Vol. 4, p. 108)
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said: The recompose of evil is in proportion to what is committed but if there is forgiveness and the forgiveness is in accordance to time and place with the objective of reformation, its reward is with Allah. For instance, if a thief is left off the hook, he will be emboldened and will go on to commit robbery. Thus it is appropriate to punish him. If one of two employees is embarrassed at a little reprimand and it causes him to better himself, it is not right to punish him strictly. But if the other employee who is deliberately mischievous is forgiven, he will become worse. Thus he should be punished. Now, you say which commandment is appropriate? The one that the Qur’an states or the one which the Gospels present? … The teaching based on pardon in view of reformation is a matchless teaching and is ultimately followed by the civilised people…It is stated that matters should be looked at with every angle of evidence and pondered over with discernment. Forgive if pardoning is beneficial but if the perpetrator is mischievous and wicked then follow: ‘And the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof…’ Other pure teachings of Islam are also based on such principles and are as clear as the day in every age. (Tafseer Hazrat Masih e Maud, Vol. 4, p. 109)
A funeral Prayer in absentia was announced.
Bilal Mahmood Sahib was martyred in Rabwah on 11 January by two unknown assailants on motorbike who fired at him as he walked home in the evening. Bilal Sahib was born in 1989 and was a Waaqif e Nau. He was currently working at the Wasiyyat department. He was married in April 2015 and his wife is expecting their child. Bilal Sahib leaves behind his widow, mother and a brother. May God elevate his station and grant steadfastness to his family.