The Beautiful Absolution

The Beautiful Absolution

al-ssaf’h al-jameel

This notion is referred to in verse 15:85. Obviously this verse is profound and has many dimensions and it was brought to my attention through Abdur Rahman corner blog.

What really caught my attention was the last part of it;

“So tolerate with beautiful tolerance. 15:85”

فَاصْفَحِ الصَّفْحَ الْجَمِيلَ

This particular part alludes to an extremely important notion which I believe all Muslims, including myself, ought to remember and cherish. Looking at most English translations of Quran we find often render the term “issfa’h” into “forgive” or “pardon”. This meaning however is not wrong but does not reflect its true dimensions. Should the Arabic word, which is employed in this verse; “issfa’h” means “forgive” or “pardon”, as suggested, then the Arabic equivalent should have been ” ighfir” or “i’foo” respectively. But according to the Arabic usage of the term “issfa’h” is derived from “ssaf’ha-face or page” and such meaning would convey an interesting notion in respect to tolerance and that is when we tolerate or forbear or “nassfa’h“, ill-treatment towards us, then as if we are turning a page on this specific bad situation. So saf’h means; absolution, forbearance, tolerance where ” ‘afoo” or “ighfir” means pardon and “forgive” respectively.

According to Quran commentary of albaqli (1); states that “alssfa’h al-jamil is defined as; “to sympathize with the sinner by removing the shame (of sin) from him, and to offer a remedy for the pains of remorse in his heart. It is narrated from ‘amro bin dinar(ra), from Muhammad bin al-hanafiyya (ra), from Ali (as) that the meaning of “alssfa’h al-jamil is; “The satisfaction without reproaching”. And some others have stated that “ssaf’h-tolerance” has neither rebuke nor followed by contempt, and the return to the previous status of relationship which was before the conflict.” In other words it is to show tolerance and forbearance in the face of ill-treatment by others without having to resort to reproaching and keeping any contempt in the heart

Accordingly “ssaf’h-forbearance or absolution”, is a higher definition than forgiveness in respect to human manners and values because in the act of pardon-‘afoo, may retain some of the bad feelings and it may be accompanied by some reproaching words regarding the specific dispute which led to the initial conflict. Whereas, “ssaf’h-forbearance or tolerance, it does not retain any bad feelings nor accompanied by any reproaching words as such.

Furthermore, the notion of “ssaf’h” has two levels of spiritual hierarchy. The first one is just simply “ssaf’h” and the second one is “al-ssaf’h al-jameel-the beautiful tolerance or forbearance” which is of a higher reality of human ethics and character. This verse is calling upon Man to exercise the highest form of tolerance “al ssaf’h aljameel“, which is the way of the Prophets.

Furthermore to see the difference between the two terms “ssaf’h and ‘afoo-tolerance and pardon respectively, we can see both words been employed together in the same verse, which would definitely highlight the difference in their meanings;

2:109 None the less, pardon and forbear,

faoAAfoo waisfahoo

فَاعْفُواْ وَاصْفَحُواْ حَتَّى يَأْتِيَ اللّهُ بِأَمْرِهِ إِنَّ اللّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (2:109)

In this above verse 2:109 we find the word “faoAAfoo-to pardon, then followed by the term “issfa’hoo-tolerate or forget” . Hence there is a clear difference in the meaning of both terms, otherwise they would not be employed both of them one after the other in the same verse.

Furthermore, It is fair to say that due to the high reality of the notion of “al-ssaf’h aljameel-beautiful tolerance”,  and its relationship to the Universal Love, this notion have become the back bone of Mystical Islam. It is worth mentioning here that this verse teaches us to truly connect to the Ultimate Truth through this powerful conduct which is a true representation of the Universal Beauty and that is the Beloved; as stated by the holy Prophet of Islam in describing God that “Allah is Beautiful and loves Beauty”. All acts are to be taken one more level and that is to its beauty. From an ideal perspective the Quran teaches that tolerance alone is a good step but a beautiful tolerance is an ideal act.  And patience alone is good step but a Beautiful Patience (2)  is an ideal act. And the same with every act is to be taken to that exalted Level of beauty which is to connect to the Beloved.

And Allah knows best


(1) tafsir al-Ba’qli, ‘ara’is albayan fi haqaiq alQuran, 404 hijri; translated by Adill Hissan.

(2) see verses; 12:18 and 12:83

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