Samir Husain – Forgiveness, Friendship and Justice(Plus?)

The concepts of forgiveness, friendship and justice are discussed and analyzed in many ways in the Quran and in Islam in general. These are traits of God as well and, according to many scholars, are therefore attributes which should be striven for in this world in order to be treated in kind by God in the Hereafter. All three of these concepts are also very much interconnected and following one as a philosophy of life usually, in turn, implies that one follows the other. This can be easily shown by using just a few examples.

The concept of forgiveness in Islam is one talked about in many different contexts. God is, Himself, often referred to “oft-forgiving” and the One who forgives. Human beings commit many sins on a daily basis, some minor and some relatively severe. However, the Quran says that all one needs to do is ask God for His forgiveness and God will do what He sees is just. “were it not for God’s forgiveness in His protection of His human subjects, their own misdeeds would have justly destroyed them all.” [1] In one of the lectures, a verse or saying was mentioned that talks about the Quran and says “Of what has been revealed, take the best of it.” [2] With relevance to the concept of forgiveness, if someone has wronged another person, it is just to retaliate in kind, however, forgiving them is probably the best that one can do. Taking one specific example, if a murder is committed, the family of the victim has three choices; kill the murderer in retaliation, accept blood money as payment for the life of the departed, or forgiveness. All of these things are part of the realm of justice as we define it, however, the best thing to do morally would be to forgive the individual responsible as it shows a higher level of moral standing in the eyes of God. “Forgiveness is a human capacity that makes genuine social change possible.” [3]

Friendship in Islam is also a very important concept. From the time of the Prophet (PBUH), his companions and close friends played a vital role in his life with regards to supporting him and his message as well as protecting him from his enemies. The Quran encourages friendship and brotherhood and says: “Hold fast, all together, to Allah’s cord, and do not be divided [into sects]. And remember Allah’s favor upon you when you were enemies, then He brought your hearts together, so you became brothers with His blessing,”[4] This shows just how important community is and also can be seen as something that plays into the example of murder mentioned above. Either forgiving the murderer or accepting blood money as compensation could be seen as a sign of brotherhood, not wanting the murderer’s family to experience the same grief as the victim’s family has experienced.

Justice in Islam is a major theme of Islamic theology and eschatology as one of the prevalent themes of eschatology is the Hereafter and the Day of Judgment where God will punish or reward each individual based on their good or bad deeds committed in this life. Islamic Law or Shari’ah law was is also a big part of the religion, setting certain rules and regulations to be followed by all of mankind. People will be punished or given justice based on their deeds in this life as well using this set of rules. However, it is said in the Quran, according to in-class lectures that “if God were to treat every human with justice, there would be no living being left on Earth.” [5] This, therefore shows how the concept of justice by itself is not necessarily the best of rubrics to follow in life. The concept of “justice-plus”, however, based on higher moral understandings is what humans are judged according to and, morally, is what humans should also embrace. Going back the same example of murder and the three options someone has in terms of “justice”, all three options are legal according to laws of justice. However, forgiveness would be a form of justice-plus in this case as it is the way God would treat His creations as well.

In all three cases, forgiveness played a big role in the hypothetical situation of murder in question. Forgiving the murderer is not only a higher moral action, but also invoked senses of friendship and embraces the concept of justice-plus, even though it is just to retaliate in kind as well. Trying to follow the traits of God is what Muslims should strive for. Even while enforcing justice, forgiveness due to friendship is always an option and these three concepts are very much interconnected. In a society where brotherhood and friendship is prevalent, there would be no need for harsh punishment and “justice” as one friend would not harm another friend. However, even if this were to happen, such an ideal society would acknowledge justice-plus and would forgive the one would committed a wrong. All of these actions of higher moral standing are encouraged in Islam greatly. Just looking at the character of the Prophet, he forgave his Meccan enemies during the conquest of Mecca, despite the amount they persecuted him and his followers during the early stages of Islam. He encouraged brotherhood amongst the Muslims and declared all Muslims to be a single community, ie the Muslim Ummah. He was just with his war prisoners and was never cruel to them and if they earned their freedom, they were given it.

Forgiveness, friendship, and justice are, therefore, major themes in Islamic theology and are all connected to each other in different ways.


[1] Mahallati, In class lecture

[2] Friendship as a Better Paradigm for International and Interfaith Relations: A Qur’anic Perspective, 14

[3] The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism- Abdulaziz Sachedina, 105

[4] Quran (3:103)

[5] Mahallati, In class lecture