Question: Is a lack of forgiveness considered a sin?
Allah, Most High says: “We have not created the heavens and the earth and everything in between except for a purpose. And the Hour is certain to come, so forgive graciously.” [Quran, 15:85]
The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to mankind.” [Bukhari, Al-Sahih]
The great companion, Umar ibn al Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) said: “Anyone who does not show mercy will not be shown mercy. Anyone who does not forgive will not be forgiven. Anyone who does not pardon will not be pardoned or protected.” [Bukhari, Adab al-Mufrad]
Forgiveness is a pillar of the religion and an absolute sunna of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) forgave those who used to harm, slander, and attack him like Abu Sufyan Ibn Harb and Wahshi ibn Harb.
Imam Ghazali (Allah have mercy on him) mentions that one of the pious said: “You should seek out seventy excuses for your brother’s misdeed. If your heart does not accept any of them then you should turn the blame on yourself saying: “How hard is your heart! Your brother pleads seventy excuses yet you will not accept him! Indeed you are the one at fault, not your brother.” [Al Ghazali, Ihya Ulum al-Din]
Forgiveness attracts the forgiveness of Allah, Most High. Not being forgiving is a means to distancing yourself from the mercy of Allah, Most High.
If one does not forgive due to pride, arrogance, or vanity then that is sinful due to those attributes being absolutely blameworthy and impermissible.
If one does not forgive because they are not yet ready emotionally, they must make the intention to forgive and ask Allah, Most High to open their heart and fill it with mercy. Reading the stories from the life of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is beneficial in this pursuit.
Forgiving someone does not mean that one must be best friends with them. Forgiveness is to overlook the fault of another human being because Allah, Most High, loves this and will show you forgiveness.
No matter what someone does to us, we should always follow the principle: “Dislike the action, not the one doing it.”
May Allah, Most High reward you for your desire to increase in knowledge.
And Allah knows best,
[Ustadh] Omar Popal
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani