ChristianityIn the New Testament, Jesus speaks of the importance of Christians forgiving or showing mercy towards others. The Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Parable of the unforgiving servant are perhaps the best known instances of such teaching and practice of forgiveness.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly spoke of forgiveness, ?Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.? Matthew 5:7 ?Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.? Matthew 5:23-24 ?And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.? Mark 11:25 ?But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.? Luke 6:27-29 ?Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.? Luke 6:36 ?Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.? Luke 6:37
Elsewhere, it is said, “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'” Matthew 18:21-22
Jesus asked for God’s forgiveness of those who crucified him. “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'” Luke 23: 34 In his time, Jesus created controversy among the Pharisees, when he told people their sins were forgiven. “The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?'” Luke 5:21
The Christian statement on forgiveness is best demonstrated in the Gospel message itself, that God the Father, chose to forgive mankind not for their own merit, but by unmerited favor. Unlike other religions, a Christian’s forgiveness is given because of Christ’s sacrifice, and cannot be deserved by any works done by the believer. Out of the basis of this forgiveness, believers are motivated to forgive all debts without compensation, because of their debt that Christ forgave at His own expense.
Islam teaches that God (Allah) is ‘The Most Forgiving’, and is the original source of all forgiveness. Forgiveness often requires the repentance of those being forgiven. Depending on the type of wrong committed, forgiveness can come either directly from Allah, or from one’s fellow man who received the wrong. In the case of divine forgiveness, the asking for divine forgiveness by repentance is important. In the case of human forgiveness, it is important to both forgive, and to be forgiven.
Allah does not forgive idol worship (if maintained until death), and He forgives lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who idolizes any idol beside Allah has strayed far astray. (Qur’an 4:116) But if he returns to Allah and pleads sincerely for forgiveness and abandons worshiping other than the one and only God, He will be forgiven.
The Qur’an never allows for violent behavior on the part of Muslim believers, except in the cases of defending one’s religion, one’s life, or one’s property. Outside of this, the Qur’an makes no allowances for violent behavior. From time to time certain Muslims have interpreted such Qur’anic allowances for defensive violence, to include what other Muslims have viewed more as unwarranted and overly aggressive violence. This interpretative debate about when to forgive and when to aggressively attack or defend continues to this day within the Muslim community.
The Qur’an makes it clear that, whenever possible, it is better to forgive another than to attack another. The Qur’an describes the believers (Muslims) as those who, avoid gross sins and vice, and when angered they forgive. (Qur’an 42:37) and says that. Although the just compensation for an injustice is an equivalent retribution, those who pardon and maintain righteousness are rewarded by Allah. He does not love the unjust. (Qur’an 42:40).
To receive forgiveness from Allah there are three requirements.
1.Recognizing the offense itself and its admission before Allah.
2.Making a commitment not to repeat the offense.
3.Asking for forgiveness from Allah.
If the offense was committed against another human being, or against society, a fourth condition is added.
1.Recognizing the offense before those against whom offense was committed and before Allah.
2.Committing oneself not to repeat the offense.
3.Remorse is more than saying sorry so do whatever needs to be done to rectify the offense and ask for pardon from the offended party.
4.Asking Allah for forgiveness.
There are no particular words to say for asking forgiveness. However, Muslims are taught many phrases and words to keep repeating daily asking Allah’s forgiveness. For example
Astaghfiru-Allah, “I ask forgiveness from Allah”
Subhanaka-Allah humma wa bi hamdika wa ash-hadu al la Ilaha illa Anta astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, “Glory be to You, Allah, and with You Praise and I bear witness that there is no deity but You, I ask Your forgiveness and I return to You”.
Islamic teaching presents the Prophet Muhammad as an example of someone who would forgive others for their ignorance, even those who might have once considered themselves to be his enemies. One example of Muhammad’s practice of forgiveness can be found in the Hadith, the body of early Islamic literature about the life of Muhammad. This account is as follows:
The Prophet was the most forgiving person. He was ever ready to forgive his enemies. When he went to Ta?if to preach the message of Allah, its people mistreated him, abused him and hit him with stones. He left the city humiliated and wounded. When he took shelter under a tree, the angel of Allah visited him and told him that Allah sent him to destroy the people of Ta?if because of their sin of maltreating their Prophet. Muhammad prayed to Allah to save the people of Ta’if, because what they did was out of their ignorance.
In Judaism, if a person causes harm, but then sincerely and honestly apologizes to the wronged individual and tries to rectify the wrong, the wronged individual is religiously required to grant forgiveness:
“It is forbidden to be obdurate (resistant to persuasion) and not allow yourself to be appeased. On the other hand, one should be easily appeased and find it difficult to become angry. When asked by an offender for forgiveness, one should forgive with a sincere mind and a willing spirit. . . forgiveness is natural to the seed of Israel.” (Mishneh Torah, Teshuvah 2:10)
In Judaism, one must go to those he has harmed in order to be entitled to forgiveness. One who sincerely apologizes three times for a wrong committed against another has fulfilled his or her obligation to seek forgiveness. (Shulchan Aruch) OC 606:1 This means that, unlike in Christianity, in Judaism a person cannot obtain forgiveness from God for wrongs the person has done to other people. This is why the Tefila Zaka meditation, which is recited just before Yom Kippur, closes with the following:
“I know that there is no one so righteous that they have not wronged another, financially or physically, through deed or speech. This pains my heart within me, because wrongs between humans and their fellow are not atoned by Yom Kippur, until the wronged one is appeased. Because of this, my heart breaks within me, and my bones tremble; for even the day of death does not atone for such sins. Therefore I prostrate and beg before You, to have mercy on me, and grant me grace, compassion, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all people. For behold, I forgive with a final and resolved forgiveness anyone who has wronged me, whether in person or property, even if they slandered me, or spread falsehoods against me. So I release anyone who has injured me either in person or in property, or has committed any manner of sin that one may commit against another, except for legally enforceable business obligations, and except for someone who has deliberately harmed me because the one doing harm thinks “I can get away with harming this person because this person will forgive me”. Except for these two, I fully and finally forgive everyone; may no one be punished because of me. And just as I forgive everyone, so may You grant me grace in the eyes of others, that they too forgive me absolutely.”
Thus the “reward” for forgiving others is not God’s forgiveness for wrongs done to others, but rather help in obtaining forgiveness from the other person.
Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, summarized: “it is not that God forgives, while human beings do not. To the contrary, we believe that just as only God can forgive sins against God, so only human beings can forgive sins against human beings.”
Jews observe a Day of Atonement Yom Kippur on the day before God makes decisions regarding what will happen during the coming year. Just prior to Yom Kippur, Jews will ask forgiveness of those they have wronged during the prior year. During Yom Kippur itself, Jews fast and pray for God’s forgiveness for the transgressions they have made against God in the prior year. Sincere repentance is required, and once again, God can only forgive one for the sins one has committed against God, this is why it is necessary for Jews also to seek the forgiveness of those people who they have wronged.
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