O Allah, if tonight there is hatred in our hearts, change it to love. If our hearts are dirty make them clean. If our hearts got hurt, heal them. O Allah, please see our tears. Change the sorrow of anyone reading this prayer into happiness. Reserve your mercy for us Your servants, who love you so much. Forgive our sins Allah. Please forgive them. Ameen
Welcome to Step 8 of Recovery: forgiveness, this is one of the most crucial steps in recovery. Forgiveness cleanses the heart and sets one free. I present to you this Step with the help of Yormi.
Step 8: Forgiveness
“Forgiveness is the crown of greatness.” – Imam Ali (ra)
Like a scale of preference, enlist the names of people who you have strong and inhumane issues with and bind yourself to make amends – beg for forgiveness.
Before our recovery, our addictive lifestyles were like a tornado full of destructive energy that cut through our relationships, leaving much wreckage behind, hurting our soul.
Step 8 was an opportunity to make a plan to clean up the wreckage and rebuild all that could be saved. When we felt the freedom of our souls directly from God as we worked on step 7, we felt eager to reach out to others and to mend broken relationships. We learned, however, that impulsively rushing to make amends without taking time for prayer and perhaps counsel from a trusted spiritual counselor, such as an imam or other Islam instructors, could be as detrimental as not making amends. Step 8 was an assurance against harming others when we began contacting them in step 9.
Before we could rebuild relationships, we needed to identify the relationships that were damaged. We began to list people we had harmed, but many of us found we could not list these people without being distracted by feelings of resentment toward those who had harmed us. We honestly confessed our negative feelings to Allah. In response, He showed us that we faced the same decision as a man who, having been forgiven of all his debts, needed to forgive others. We could almost hear Allah say to us, as is supported by the following verse of the Holy Quran:
“O my servants, who have transgressed against their own souls, despair not of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful”.
(Surah az-Zumar 39:53)
If you find yourself facing this problem, you may need to do what many of us have done. Before you make a list of people from whom you need to seek forgiveness, first, list those people you need to forgive. Don’t be surprised if some names appear on both lists. People often get caught in terrible cycles of exchanging hurts with others. To break these cycles of mutual resentment, someone has to be willing to forgive.
To begin this process of forgiveness, we once more found the tool of writing to be invaluable. Next to the names of the people we needed to forgive, we recorded the way we originally felt when the hurtful incidents happened and what we were still tempted to feel. The list helped us be specific in our prayers as we shared with the Allah all our unresolved feelings. We plead for the grace of Allah to help us extend to others the same mercy He gives us. If we found people on our lists that we had an especially difficult time forgiving, we took to Allah’s benevolent counsel to pray for their welfare, asking all the blessings for them that we would want for ourselves.
As we prayed for help to forgive others—even if it felt insincere at first—we were eventually blessed with a miraculous sense of compassion. Even in extreme situations, people who have taken this approach have received the ability to forgive far beyond themselves.
I know of a certain young devotee who spent several weeks writing about his childhood and praying for his abusive Uncle, his guardian. He testifies with joy that almighty Allah has relieved him of his negative, painful feelings toward his uncle. In making a similar effort, we have learned that by making a thorough inventory of our resentments and acknowledging them to his maker, we finally ceased to be victims of those who hurt us. Once we honestly attempted to let go of offenses toward us, we found we were able to finish our lists of those we hoped would forgive us.
As you reach this point and begin your list, you should pray for guidance from Allah.
These guidelines may help. Ask yourself, “Is there anyone in my life, past or present, who I feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, or ashamed around?”
Write down their names, and resist the temptation to justify your feelings or excuse your negative actions toward them. Include those you meant to hurt, of course, and also those you did not intend to hurt. Include those who have passed away and those you have no idea how to contact. You will deal with these special cases when you take step 9. For now, as you work through step 8, focus on your willingness to be rigorous and unrelenting in your honesty.
To be thorough, look for things you neglected to do or things you left undone that hurt others. Don’t leave out little things. Think honestly about the harm you caused others as you indulged in your addiction, even if you were not aggressive toward them. Admit the harm you did to loved ones and friends by being irresponsible, irritable, critical, impatient, and dishonorable. Look for anything large or small that added to another person’s burdens or that saddened or challenged someone. Look for lies you told or promises you broke and ways you manipulated or used others. List everyone who was affected. You may find your step 4 inventory a useful guide in this process. Even if you are a renowned politician who still has a heart and is devoted, you too can make your list of opposition you have bitterness against and you have vowed to revenge through the dirty judgments, deadly scheme or planned disgrace.
Don’t you remember? Not having hope in Allah and despairing of His mercy is a great sin and an act of kufr. Allah quotes Prophet Yaqoob (alaiyhis-salam) in the Quran:
Indeed, no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people.
(Surah Yusuf 12:87)
Allah also says: One must be hopeful of Allah’s mercy and forgiveness and fearful of His punishment. It is this fear that should lead one to seek Allah’s forgiveness with hope.
Know that Allah is severe in punishment and that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
(Surat al-Maaidah 5:98)
Finally, after you have listed everyone you have harmed, add one more name to the list—your own. When you indulged in your addictions, you harmed yourself as well as others.
As you work, remember that step 8 is not an exercise in casting guilt or shame on anyone—either yourself or those on your lists. God will lift the burdens of guilt and shame as you take one more honest look at troubles in your relationships and your part in them. By becoming willing to make amends, you benefit from the peace of knowing that Allah is pleased with your efforts. This step helps you take the actions that enable to set you free from your past. Being willing, you become ready to take the next step, 9.
How much can you imagine if every heart is pure and free, no prejudice, no hate? Peace and unity abounds and we all are sacred happy and free more like the holy land.
In step 8, you begin an amazing adventure in relating with a new heart to yourself, to others, and to life. You are ready to contribute peace to the world rather than add contention and negative feelings. You are willing to give up judging anyone unrighteously and to stop taking inventory of others’ lives and faults. You are ready to stop minimizing your own behavior or making excuses for it. You are willing to take another thorough inventory—this time of those you have harmed.
Although you may be terrified to consider it, you can become willing to meet the people on your list when the opportunity arises. You can prepare to do all you can to make amends to them. You can live by faith in the Lord, not in fear of what others might do. You can become willing in step 8 to live a life guided by principles rather than by shame or fear.
Seek the gift of charity; pray for others
For thousands of years, people have read Allah’s injunctions through his prophet Muhammad (saw) and other great messengers who once treaded this earth; their great discourse on charity and tried to model their lives after it. Many have struggled to have charity and have often fallen woefully short of doing so.
In preparation for making amends, many of us have found the following exercise helpful. Think of someone for whom you have had hard feelings. For two weeks, deliberately pray for him or her each day. Keep a record of changes in your thoughts and feelings about that person.
Call out to Him with fear and hope.
(Surat al-Araaf 7:56)
Also, they forsake their beds to call Allah in fear and hope.
(Surat as-Sajdah 32:16)
Study and Understanding
The following scriptures and statements from the clerics of Islam may help you as you take step 8. Use the Quran and the following for meditation, study, and exhortation.
Peaceable followers of Allah
In the first seven steps, you began a process of becoming a peaceable follower of Islam. When you are at peace with the Your Creator, you are better prepared to be at peace with others. What other steps do you need to take to be at peace with the people in your life?
Write about the wisdom of taking the steps in order.
The idea of making amends can be frightening if you focus on doing it perfectly. How can you trust in the almighty’s perfect love for you and for the person from whom you seek forgiveness strengthen your resolve to make restitution wherever possible?
Even though you may fear that some people will reject your efforts to make peace with them, do not let this fear keep you from putting them on your list and preparing yourself to reach out to them. The blessings are far greater than the pain. Study these verses, and write about the blessings of becoming willing to make amends.
The nearer we get to our Allah, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs. . . . If you would have Allah have mercy on you, have mercy on one another
Without Allah, we are all perishing, imperfect souls. How does it help you to know that in taking step 8 you are one perishing soul preparing to make amends to another perishing soul?
Forgiving and asking forgiveness for a single wrongdoing is easier than forgiving or asking forgiveness for longstanding situations filled with multiple offenses. Think about relationships, past or present, where multiple offenses have occurred and will need to be forgiven. How can you gain strength to forgive and seek forgiveness?
Prophet Muhammad taught that to fail to forgive others is a greater sin than the original trespass or offense. How is refusing to forgive yourself or someone else the equivalent of denying the peace of Islam?
How do resentment and bitterness damage you physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
“Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind” (Jo Smith).
On Completing Step 8, Next Step 9 Inshallah