The Grudge that Stole Christmas

وَنَزَعْنَا مَا فِى صُدُورِهِم مِّنْ غِلٍّ إِخْوَٰنًا عَلَىٰ سُرُرٍ مُّتَقَـٰبِلِينَ

[15:47] We will remove whatever rancour there is in their breasts; [intimate like] friends, [they will be reclining] on couches, facing one another.

Though Muslims do not generally participate in Christmas celebrations, they do tend to enjoy the winter holiday season, especially the opportunities that present themselves for them to spend time with family and friends. But perhaps nothing makes for a sour and boring vacation than long held grudges between family and friends. Grudges are such a problematic vice that the Qurān and ḥadīth have specifically chosen to speak about it. When the Qurān recounts the blessings people will enjoy in paradise, it sometimes mentions blessings of a material nature, but at times it mentions blessings of an ethical nature. An example of the latter is present in [15:47] and [7:43] where the Qurān mentions that Allah (swt) will remove grudges from the people of paradise and that this is one of the blessings people will enjoy in paradise.

What is of importance in the verse is the word naz’ – loosely translated in English as “to remove”. However, one does not use this verb when they remove – for example – a glass from a table. Rather this verb would be used when someone uproots a tree from the ground. The use of this verb for grudges implies that they implant their roots deep into us. The fact that Allah (swt) will bless the people of paradise by uprooting these animosities and grudges also shows that people are not always capable of removing these grudges on their own during their lifetime due to the difficulty in doing so. Some noble people will leave this world without any grudges, but there will be others who will leave this world with grudges. Those who leave this world with grudges may still enter paradise due to their other good deeds and in those cases, Allah (swt) will directly interfere and remove these grudges as the verses indicate.

People who hold grudges against others can never have true serenity; their mind is always occupied with what they hold against others. For such people, even if all the blessings of the world are given to them, they will not be able to enjoy life. In fact, ‘Allāmah Ṭabāṭabā’ī in a discussion on one of the aforementioned verses says that the pleasure of being able to live a life without grudges is the “greatest of pleasures”.[1]

At times the onus is upon us to remove grudges that we may hold against one another. As mentioned, this is not an easy task and requires a lot of will-power, sincerity and supplicating for Allah’s (swt) assistance. But what do we do when we know others hold a grudge against us? Often when we know someone holds a grudge against us, it is natural for us to behave in a carefree and harsh manner with them. However, as per what is found in the Islamic textual tradition, we see that there is a lot of encouragement in us doing whatever we can to dispel someone else’s grudge against us by being soft-hearted and lenient.

In Du’ā Makārim al-Akhlāq it says:

“O Allah, bless Muḥammad and his family, give me the grace that I can counter one who is dishonest to me with good advice, reward one who forsakes me with goodness, repay one who deprives me with free giving, and recompense one who cuts me off with union, oppose one who backbites about me with a good mention of him, give thanks for good, and overlook evil.”

In the words of Imam ‘Alī (a) we find him saying:

“Swallow your anger because I did not find a sweeter thing than it in the end, and nothing more pleasant in consequence. Be lenient to him who is harsh to you for it is likely that he will shortly become lenient to you. Treat your enemy with favours, because this is sweeter of the two successes.”

Such behaviour not only has a positive impact on your own soul, but it can also impact the individual who holds animosity against you. This is because this behaviour originates in a principle which the Imam (a) himself mentions as follows: “Be lenient to him who is harsh to you, for it is likely that he will shortly become lenient to you.” This is a general principle for all human interactions and it is not something that works only for those who are religious. This principle will work for anyone who uses it properly and for any situation where one interacts with others – be it family relationships, friends, work colleagues, or even on a political level.

So this holiday season, you take the initiative and be lenient towards a relative or friend who you know holds a grudge against you. Invite them over for food, perhaps go out together and break the ice, or just simply reach out to them asking an update on their well-being. By the grace of Allah (swt) you will find them eventually becoming lenient towards you and that they will eventually do away with their animosity towards you.

[1] Al-Mīzān, v. 8, pg. 116. The English translation is available on pg. 170. He says:

“Having rancour in the heart is among the greatest impediments of having an enjoyable life. In our interactions with anyone, we tend to get along and have an amiable relationship with them as long as what we observe from them is compatible with our views and values. But if we observe something unsatisfactory from the person, our hearts will be agitated with rancour, our relationship sours, and our friendship fades away. If God takes rancor away from our hearts, then nothing that we observe from others would disturb us whatsoever, and in that lies the greatest of pleasures.”

* Featured Image: A Christmas tree located in Parsian Hotel in Tehran – though this picture was not taken by me, I did take a similar picture in 2014 at the same hotel which I cannot locate anymore.

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