21.8 Error and Forgiveness
It is difficult to accept defeat when it is one's own fault, but even more difficult to accept it when it is not one's own fault, but the fault of others. To be cheated of victory over Quraysh when it was within his grasp, to be defeated after the long years of patient perseverance and sacrifice, and all because of man's love for the things of this world. He had done all he could and victory would have been his had not some of the archers disobeyed and some of the soldiers failed to pursue the enemy. This must have been very difficult for the Messenger to accept. What does a general do when he loses the battle because of the insubordination of some of his soldiers? For Mohamed this was not just a battle for a city but a struggle for the survival of Islam. The years of struggle and sacrifice might have all been in vain.
At this bitter moment, the holy verses came down to console and guide him with the following words:
By the mercy of Allah you have softened towards them.
Had you been rough, hard-hearted,
they would have dispersed away from you.
So pardon them, ask forgiveness for them and consult them in affairs.
Once you make a decision, then trust in Allah.
Allah loves those who trust in Him. (2:159)
The Koran ordered him to forgive them, as Allah in His mercy forgives the erring, and not only was he to forgive them, but to call them to him and consult them in affairs, thus restoring their self-respect.
Allah taught His slaves a lesson that was hard and bitter, but once it was over, He restored to them their self esteem by making the Messenger, whom they all loved and revered, forgive them and consult with them. As we shall see, immediately after, they were commanded to carry arms again in the name of Allah and their self-confidence was restored. They were still the soldiers of Allah even after this terrible trespass that had plunged many of them in deep despair. To save those who err unwittingly one does not crush them or make them despair, but opens the way to them to redeem themselves by renewed effort.
The Messenger - and indirectly all Muslims - were made to perceive new heights of forgiveness, new horizons in understanding.