Using Ramadan To Forgive Those Who Have Hurt Us In The Past
Throughout Ramadan, the dua that we make the most is, “O Allah, you are Forgiving and love forgiveness, so forgive me”, how hard would it be to make this dua for someone who walks around with huge emotional baggage and trauma.
اللْهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُعَنِّي
Allahumma innaka `afuwwun tuhibbul `afwa fa`fu `annee
Asking for forgiveness for our own sins while not letting go of the sins committed by others surely is problematic. The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.
Heartache and emotional pain are visceral, you can’t reason your way out of heartache and emotional pain. This is why spiritual sermons often do motivate people but they don’t often allow healing and give closure to the chronic pain. So many people put superficial Band-Aids and try to emotionally and spiritually bypass their pain. This coping strategy for many people never works and often affects relationships and the general quality of life. How do any of these brave, wonderful, inspirational individuals who despite their heartache and brokenness try every single day to be the best version of themselves? They try hard not to let their past affect their present but the past drags them down daily and they sink in the quicksand of pain and hopelessness and then try and pull hard onto the rope of Allah’s glory and mercy and try to stand tall till they stumble again. This vicious cycle is painful and exhausting as cognitively they know forgiveness and letting go is the only way forward.
These are some of my clients. A boy who was sexually abused at the age of 6 by his uncle, he is now in his 30s, a girl who was constantly beaten by her mother who had rage issues due to her abusive marriage, she is now in her mid-20s. The wife who was betrayed by her spouse who watched porn and visited sex workers for the last 10 years of their marriage. A daughter-in-law who was kept in toxic conditions at the start of her marriage when all she wanted was to receive love and acceptance from her in-laws. A young boy whose father never allowed him to eat at the table with the rest of the family as for some reason he found his presence irritating, he is now in his 40s and like all of them carries the emotional baggage and struggles to let go. All of these people want to forgive and forget the past. They all wanted to move on but they struggled because they didn’t know how to. Alhamdulillah through Allah’s mercy and guidance most of these people have managed to give closure and have moved on after working through their trauma and finding solace and closure both spiritually and psychologically.
Below are some suggestions which some of those who are hoping to use these blessed days of Ramadan to seek forgiveness perhaps would like to also forgive others.
Make the intention that you want to park the past and let go of the hurt and upset that you carry with you as baggage, which you know has slowed down your emotional and spiritual growth over the years. Accept that you are ready to move on as this is for your own sake and you are taking the first step towards your healing and recovery.
Acknowledge that by forgiving the perpetrators you are not invalidating your feelings and emotions nor will this minimise your reality. What they put you through was wrong and there is no justification for that. But you now recognise and accept that you cannot stay stuck in the past as reliving the trauma has to stop and you want to learn how to move on. You have a choice to create healthy boundaries and take control of the relationship. The Prophet ﷺ decided to forgive Hind who cut out Hamza’s liver and chewed it before spitting it out. RasulAllah ﷺ’s grief was recorded by Abdullah ibn Mas’ud ,
“We have never seen the Messenger of Allah weeping so much as he was for Hamza bin ‘Abdul Muttalib.
But remember he ﷺ told Hind not to ever come in front of him as he did not want to be reminded of the pain. He forgave her but created healthy boundaries and validated his own emotions and feelings.
Remind yourself that you are not defined by your past and by you letting go of it does not mean that Allah has done so too. The Prophet ﷺ said,
“No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.”
Start paying attention and start listening to your physical response when you are reminded of the trauma and the past. The more you learn to regulate your body the more you will start living in the present. Please remember that you cannot talk your way out of the past neither can you reason with your emotions. Focus on bringing yourself back to here and now every time you have a trauma trigger. You can learn breathing and grounding techniques that are extremely effective and are very easy to practice.
Start living in the present as much as you can, a painful past is only a prison cell that suffocates us, and the only thing that grows there is the poisonous memories which like weeds suck the nutrients out of our soul.
Remember that all the Prophets of Allah, all the Awaliyah, and beloved people have always prayed for their enemies. Our beloved Prophet repeatedly prayed for his enemies,
My Lord, forgive my people for they do not know, (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī).
So start by trying to implement this Sunnah, think about praying for those who have wronged you. Making Dua for someone who has hurt us is indeed so hard. But if it comes from a position of choice then it can be spiritually transformative. This is when you start letting go, gradually one step at a time. The dark and murky stain of resentment and upsetness starts fading away each time your tongue makes dua. Remember when you make dua for others in their absence the angels make dua for you. This is hard, so in your brokenness, say to Allah, “I don’t want to pray for them but will do so as you have told me to.”
Change your vocabulary, start using different words, stop using words that perpetuate the past and the trauma. The more you focus on using neutral words the wound will start healing. Language can help us shift from a victim mindset to a growth mindset, which can be both transformative and liberating. At the same time, the spiritual shift from cursing others to blessing them will facilitate emotional healing, Insha’Allah.
Remember that you can’t change how you feel and that is fine, it will take time, talk to Allah and ask him to wash your heart, as He alone is the Turner of hearts. Also, make sure that you start looking after yourself and start practicing self-care and self-compassion.
Remember forgiveness and letting go doesn’t happen overnight, you start by making the intention and doing it for the sake of Allah and yourself. The biggest beneficiary of forgiveness is you, Allah says,
‘A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds retaliation’; but whosoever forgoes it as a freewill offering, that shall be for him an expiation” (5;45).
Letting go is not only an opportunity to unshackle from the poisonous past but is also a means to gain eternal bliss and sakinah. This leads to experiencing Ridah, the feeling of contentment and being okay knowing that Allah has got our back no matter what. This is after all the ultimate purpose of all struggle, to get to the state of nafs e mutmainah.
Don’t spiritually bypass the pain, you must acknowledge the pain, validate the hurt, express it, go through channels of self-healing, therapy, personal growth as seeking help is vital. Once you start working on yourself then you can reframe your past and choose to live by faith and not just by your feelings, Insha’Allah. Remember when you do what’s right although you might feel wrong about it at the time, that where spiritual growth starts happening, and gradually you can learn to let go.
I sincerely pray that we all will make the most of these blessed nights and will make genuine intention to give closure to the old wounds and will unshackle ourselves by the strength and power of forgiveness Insha’Allah.