Skeletons in My Closet


An essential piece highlighting the importance and the effect of forgiveness.

My (somewhat colourful) past is gnawing away at me like a particularly troublesome termite that nibbles stealthily inside a piece of furniture. I stand dangerously like the infested chair, threatening to fall at any moment as I brood pensively, my mind entangled in a host of memories best left forgotten.

Since this dunya is a test, obviously we’ve all been heartbroken at some stage or the other. Sometimes because of men, or friends, or sibling,s or colleagues, or bosses – or even parents; I believe we have all had fall-outs which have caused us immense pain and anguish. As time passes, we move on, and it ceases to matter whose fault it was. Sadly though, these incidents leave an indelible mark on our hearts, our minds and our personalities.

Sometimes we’re lucky – we get to talk the matter out and everything gets resolved with both parties at peace. At other times, problems are shoved under the carpet and not spoken about, as though they don’t exist. People with a sound understanding of life and its ways make light of the matter and are able to forget about it; but emotional people like me tend to commit a cardinal sin: that of keeping the animosity inside the heart.

Sometimes you have to face the same people day after day and when you are together, the air is so thick with tension you could cut it with a knife. Yet no one brings up the matter that is eating you up inside, and the silence is full of a certain heaviness that you can’t take. What do you do then?

(As for me, I’d begin with sobbing like a baby, but really my example is generally one which should be avoided at all costs). Gladly there are better ways to control this unfortunate situation. When we’ve been wronged we walk around like a wounded animal, and carry lots of emotional baggage. We nurse our hurt, overflowing with self-pity as though we were a martyr.

To carry so many unresolved stories in your heart is emotionally very draining, and wipes the smile off your face, and you can’t find happiness anywhere. You become like a zombie, with pain and hurt causing rampage under the crust of your skin. Handling this situation requires drastic measures. And what better way to find guidance than to seek for answers within the pages of the glorious Qur’an:

“They should rather pardon and overlook. Would you not love Allah to forgive you? Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an, 24:22)

When it comes to comprehending words of this stature, I can be just a little slow. Since they come from a divine source, I should not question them at all, but still, some queries creep into my brain. Do you have any idea how unfair they were to me? And anyway, it’s not like they’re begging for my forgiveness right?

For instance, when I first started donning the hijab, I was the only one in my entire family and friend circle who wore it. I still remember the first scarf I wore – a gorgeous rust and orange chiffon scarf which I fell in love with. But people of course, were not at all in love with it – nor the idea, nor the hijab. It wasn’t ‘cool’ to cover. I was so – backward. But I had found the guiding light of Allah after adopting many a wrong path and the comments about my ‘saintliness’ sometimes hurt. In the initial burst of enthusiasm that comes when a Muslim ‘returns’ to Islam I had learnt that Allah likes us to lower our gaze from the opposite sex, and by Allah’s grace, I began to do that.

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest.” (An-Nur: 30-31)

Constantly lowering my gaze sparked remarks which embarrassed and humiliated me as people jeered at me without inhibitions. “Hey, are you talking to me – I thought you and the table were having a conversation! Woman, you have issues!” or another favourite, “Are you cross-eyed?” followed by raucous laughter to which everyone present would gladly chime in. It was hayaa, modesty, a very significant part of hijab that made me avert my gaze yet I can almost feel my ears turning red as I recall the number of times people have mocked me because I don’t (or at least try not to) look the opposite gender smack in the eye. If only I’d known how much better I would have felt had I just forgiven those poor souls. But again, that’s only the tip of the ice-berg. Life is full of people who bring you down in a myriad of and sadly much more upsetting ways.

Now comes the really, really important part – to grant them forgiveness for the sake of Allah and in the process rid yourself of the pain. You’re doing this for you. So you can move on with these people and smile at them with a clean heart. This is so that you can bury the skeletons in your closet. Apart from making your heart a whole lot lighter, and taking care of the unsightly zombie that’s been taking your place, you can now eat and sleep well and get lots of ajr (reward) with Allah.

Let’s talk about how easily Prophet Muhammed (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would forgive his persecutors. Who can forget how he (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was treated at Ta’if, and still prayed for the people who stoned him till he had bled? And how when he (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) returned to Makkah, the people who had tormented and troubled him for years (much more than anyone could have ever bothered us) were excused in one gesture of true greatness? Now that’s some example to follow and learn from.

As we all know, Islam is a perfect religion which modern science has agreed with time and again. Even in this instance, scientific experiments prove the importance of being able to forgive. A researcher, Dr. Fred Luskin studied the topic of forgiveness for years at Stanford University. He says:

“If you learn how to forgive, it will be good for you, physically and emotionally.” [1]

There are many other scientific researches that verify the importance of being able to forgive and forget, but there is one practical experiment which is the best of them all. Try it out upon yourself. If you do harbour any resentment, hurt, or grudges for anyone at all, just forgive them. In one sublime moment, your heart will just get so much lighter and mind so much clearer. Tell Allah that you forgive every single person that caused you pain (including yourself), with the hope that Allah Al ‘Afuwwun Kareem will forgive your sins.

As for me, the skeletons of the past are finally buried — washed away as though they were stains in one wave of forgiveness, and I’m never letting them live in my closet again.