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The Quran => Q&As with Joseph Islam - Information Only => : Reader Questions September 20, 2014, 07:50:20 PM

: Questions Regarding Trials & Forgiveness
: Reader Questions September 20, 2014, 07:50:20 PM
: Re: Questions Regarding Trials & Forgiveness
: Joseph Islam September 21, 2014, 05:53:26 PM
As-salam alaykum

Please see my responses below to your questions in red italics:

How will I know if my adversity or my suffering is being meted out to me because I have wronged another soul? How can I distinguish?

Whilst always remainng cognizant of how we treat others and attempting to correct any wrongs we may commit which should remain the sine qua non of any believer's approach, there are many reasons as to why one finds themselves suffering. I have briefly discussed 7 areas of the reasons behind our trials in article [1] below from a Quranic perspective. They are:

In any trial, we must immediately take stock of our actions (something we should do regularly), remain God conscious in thought and practice, and exercise patience whilst attempting to correct any wrongs we may have knowingly committed or continue to commit. Are our actions towards others sincere and with best endeavours and intentions? Are our means to our livelihood lawful? Do we behave haughtily in the land?  These are just some questions that we must ponder upon especially in light of points (5) and (6) above.

Trials also present us with opportunities to reflect which often otherwise, falls by the wayside, as so many become consumed in worldly gain, competition, rivalries and guile.

In the end, only God knows best the complete wisdom behind one's trial. However, the Quran does provide guiding principles as to the nature of our trials and some of those have been discussed in the aforementioned article and points above. It is worth considering these.

Can my children be punished or adverse circumstances afflict them because of the wrongs I have committed?

No soul is held accountable for another’s transgressions. Each soul will only be held responsible for their own sins. Therefore, a child cannot be ‘punished’ for something their parents have done. This is a Quranic principle.

However, adversity can afflict children as a means for trial for the parents. This is a separate matter. Please see points (2) and (5) above which have been further elucidated in the accompanying article.

Children, health and wealth have been declared as mechanisms through which souls shall be trialled so that they can stock of their actions (both parents collectively).

"And know that your wealth and your children are but a trial; and that it is God with Whom lies your highest reward.
003.186 (part)
"Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your wealth and in yourselves…”

It is at difficult times such as these, particularly when suffering afflicts children that the determination and resolve of their parents are under great strain.

The Quran also clearly implies that calamities will also afflict the innocent, the righteous.

"And guard yourselves against a chastisement which cannot fall exclusively (khassah) on those of you who are wrong-doers, and know that God is severe in punishment."
It is not uncommon to find generations finding themselves in strained circumstances as a direct result of the actions of their forefathers. This does not mean that they are answerable for the ills of their forefathers, but cause and effect does often require one people to suffer at the hands of another.

For example, on the account of transgressions by a generation of people (5:24), land was forbidden to them for 40 years. There would undoubtedly be new generations that would be born within those 40 years who would suffer as a direct consequence of the actions of their predecessors, albeit that they would not remain blameworthy for the sins of their forefathers.  Hence, cause and effect does often require one people to suffer as a direct consequence of / at the hands of another.

If I have wronged another soul, how do I go about seeking forgiveness? Do I ask God alone or do I have to seek forgiveness from the person I have wronged as well? What actions do I need to undertake?

We must first and foremost beseech our Lord for forgiveness as He is the one that accepts repentance from His servants:

"It is He Who accepts repentance (tawba) from His servants and pardons / forgives evil acts and He knows what you do."

Any knowing wrong (or one that is realised) should be redressed with sincerity with the individual or parties involved. This is clear from the following verse which expects one to forgive, pardon and to reconcile. This would only be possible if the perpetrator of the wrongdoing admits and approaches the person against whom the wrong has been committed.

"...But if someone pardons and puts things right (makes reconciliation), then his reward is with God. Indeed, He does not love wrongdoers."

Finally, we must consider giving Sadaqah as this has clearly been stated by the Quran as a mechanism to atone one's transgressions.

009:103 - Established as a means for purification
002:196 - Redemption of by way of charity allowed (Hajj ritual)
002:271 - Charity given in secret will help atone some of your sins
002:280 - To waive a debtor's debt strained by difficult circumstances in charity is better for you
005:045 - Charity - an atonement even for the Jews
058:012 - Even for those amidst the Prophet. Offer something in charity before consultations as a purification for you if you can (58:13)
002.072 - Spend for the sake of seeking the Lord's grace. It will be repaid in full.
002.267 - Spend for what is good. Not for things that you yourselves would not like to receive
012.088 - God rewards those that give charity
002:270 - God knows whatever you spend and what you vow to spend
002:271 - Charity done in open is good, but charity given in secret is better
004:114 - Secret charity is allowable and good
033:035 - Charity amongst other good deeds has great rewards with your Lord
063:010 - Spending (in charity) will be good for you on the Day of Judgment
064:016 - Spending (in charity) will be good for your own souls

In the end, it is one's sincere intentions and subsequent sincere actions which will arguably find favour with God, if it is His will.

Do we only receive our punishment in this life, or are our transgressions only judged collectively in the Hereafter?

God guides His servants in many ways and at times, He allows hardship to fester so that one can return to lawfulness, good conduct and take stock and deal with any transgressions that they may have made.

However, the following verses make it clear that punishment is also meted out in this life, first with a view to entice one to grow humble / modest and secondly, as a retribution for their wrongdoings.

"And We did not send a prophet in a town except We seized its people with distress / adversity and affliction / hardship in order that they might humble (tadarra'a) themselves."

"And certainly We sent (messengers) to nations before you then We seized its people with distress / adversity and affliction / hardship in order that they might humble (tadarra'a) themselves."

"And that you should judge between them by what God has revealed, and do not follow their vain desires, and beware of them, lest they tempt you away from part of what God has revealed to you; but if they turn away, then know that God intends to afflict them on account of some of their faults (dhanb); and most surely many of the people are transgressors."

This warning of a worldly punishment was also given to the Prophet:

And had We not given you strength, you would nearly have inclined to them a little. Then We (would) have made you taste double (punishment) in this life, and double (after) death and moreover you would have found none to help you against Us!"

If you have asked God for forgiveness, do you still have to ask the person who you may have wronged? Does the person have to forgive you in order for God to forgive you?

God is not dependant on the will and judgements of His fallible servants. He is wholly independent and Master of the Universe exercising complete authority. If your repentance has been accepted by God, it is arguably irrelevant if an individual forgives you or not. However, it can be argued, that if a soul is truly intent on seeking God's favour then they should make all efforts to correct the wrong that they have committed with the parties involved with an innate intention to incline towards peace and reconciliation, which is a core theme in many verses of the Quran.

However, a believer is also instructed to incline to forgive others if they have been wronged (khudhi -l'afwa - Hold to forgiveness - 7:199). In another verse, God almost twins one's ability to forgive with their own forgiveness.

"...and let them pardon / forgive and overlook. Would you not like that God should forgive you? And God is Forgiving and Merciful."

I hope that helps, God willing


[1] Understanding Our Trials - Why Me?
[2] The Concept of Sadaqah from the Quran