Every day the sun rises, questions arise about life and living; questions that demand urgent answers and responses. It was while considering which of those questions to engage today when suddenly I chanced upon the works of one of our exemplars and scholars in this faith. I chanced upon his works and sayings on the importance of and the inherent value in forgiveness and I could not resist the urge to share same with you today. I thought doing that was germane for many reasons. Perhaps the most important of them all is that hardly does a day pass us by than us committing one infraction or the other either against the Almighty or our fellow men and women. In fact, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) once alluded to this when he said that every son of Adam is prone to commit error and sins, but the very best of them are those who seek forgiveness of their sins each time they do so.
Thus, it came to pass that I chanced upon one of his works in my daily dialogic encounters with the past in the present, in my unceasing effort to make sense of the nonsense in our reality. I chanced upon the works of Shaykh al-Shinqity and I found his perspective on forgiveness highly inspiring and irresistible. But first, let me remind you, briefly, of who he was. Yes. He is now late; the same way we shall all be late. Remember, to every arrival is a departure; once it has a beginning, it shall have an end; once it is dated it must expire.
He was named Muhammad al-Amin. He was a son to Muhammad al-Mukhtar Sidi Ahmad al-Mukhtar al-Shinqiti. He was orphaned very early in life. He consequently came under the care of his uncle. He memorized the Quran before the age of 10 while also studying concise booklets in the Fiqh of Imam Malik. He later went on to study all sciences under the scholars of his area. Soon, he emerged as one of the scholars of Mauritania. He travelled to Makkah and Madinah where he achieved renown and popularity for his knowledge. He died on the 17th of Zhul Hijjah 1393 AH. His janazah (Muslim prayer for the dead) was led by Shaykh ‘Abdul ‘Aziz bn Baaz in the Haram in Makkah.
During one of the educational sessions he used to hold for his numerous students and followers, someone asked him: “With what would you advise me in preparation for the seasons of worship?”. Imam al-Shinqity was said to have responded saying: “The best way to enter the season of worship is indulgence in lots of Istigfar (seeking of forgiveness of one’s sins from the Almighty). This is because sins of the servant are impediments against earthly and eternal success. No servant of the Most High would engage in seeking forgiveness of his sins but that his heart becomes purified. If hitherto he was a weak person, his seeking of forgiveness of his sins would make him strong; if he were to be sick, he would be cured, if he were to be in tribulation, he would be rescued; if he were to be in the wilderness of life, he would be granted direction and redemption; if he were to be unsettled, he would be granted tranquility. Surely seeking forgiveness is the only valid patrimony bequeathed to us by Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace and mercies of the Almighty).
Remember Prophet Nuh (a.s). The Quran tells us that he spent nine hundred and fifty years in the ministry as a caller, a proselytizer and a missionary to his recalcitrant and highly importunate nation. Prophet Nuh was sent with no other message to his people other than for them to testify that He the Almighty is one, that he (Prophet Nuh) was His messenger and that they should seek forgiveness of their sins. The Quran captures this eloquently thus: The Almighty says: ‘Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. He will send rain (sustenance) from the sky upon you in showers and give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers”(Quran 71: 10-12).
Brethren, the Almighty loves forgiveness of His servants such that He ascribes unto Himself attributes such as al-Gafur, al-Gaffar, al-Afuwwu among others. In one Hadith, the Prophet says that the Almighty commanded him thus: “that I forgive those who do wrong to me”.
I have since learnt that a marriage in which couples refuse to imbibe forgiveness and ‘reasoned forgetfulness” as virtues is destined for the rocks and dissolution.
(08122465111 for text messages)
Afis Ayinde Oladosu Ph.D
Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies
Dean, Faculty of Arts,
University of Ibadan,