Religion, Crime and Punishment – FORGIVENESS

Forgiveness As An Attitude Towards Criminals

Forgiveness is very important in both Islam and Christianity. To forgive a criminal does not mean that they are being ‘let off’ for their crime but rather the victim tries to let go of the hatred and anger caused by the criminal’s actions. To forgive is not easy but it is something many religious believers try to do.


Forgiveness in Christianity

  • Central teaching, which lies at the heart of the faith. Jesus taught more about forgiveness than anything else.
  • Jesus said ‘Forgive not seven times but seventy times seven’ meaning that if someone asks for forgiveness then a believer should try to forgive it no matter how hard that is.
  • Forgiveness is also at the heart of the most important Christian prayer, the Lord’s Prayer ‘Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’
  • Jesus told a number of parables which focused on forgiveness such as the Unforgiving Servant and the Lost Son. Both parables emphasise how God is forgiving towards mankind but that also mankind should be forgiving towards one another.


Gee Walker – Anthony Walker’s mother explained why she thought it was important to try and forgive her son’s killers. She said that if she didn’t forgive then it would be easy for bitterness and hatred to take over. She said that these negative emotions ‘Eat you up like cancer’. She also explained how losing her son was a big enough burden to have to carry. She could not carry the hatred and bitterness caused by the crime as well. In this sense forgiveness is more about allowing victims of crime to move on rather than the criminal. In Christianity, forgiveness can be given even if a criminal shows no remorse.



Not all Christians find themselves able to forgive.


A vicar whose daughter was killed in the London terror attacks 10 years ago still cannot forgive the bomber who killed her.

Julie Nicholson’s 24-year-old daughter Jenny, a gifted musician, was among more than 50 people killed in the London bombings on July 7, 2005.

She was the priest-in-charge of St Aidan with St George church, Bristol, but resigned her post months after the bombings in 2006 after being unable to forgive the suicide bombers.


Forgiveness in Islam

Forgiveness in Islam is important although there is a slightly different approach to that found in Christianity. The teachings found in both the Qur’an and the Hadith (Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad) urge Muslims to be forgiving towards others:

 “Be forgiving and control yourself in the face of provocation; give justice to the person who was unfair and unjust to you.” (Hadith – Saying of the Prophet Muhammad)


There are four key concepts or areas of authority linked to forgiveness in Islam:

  1. The Justice of Allah

Muslims believe that Allah is fair and just. Muslims believe that when judgment comes each individual will be held responsible for their actions. If someone has behaved badly and continued to do so until death then they will not be forgiven as this would be unfair. Allah will forgive those who are genuinely sorry and judge people fairly.


  1. The Qur’an

Surah 22:24

“Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good and turn away from the ignorant”


Surah 42:5

“Whoever is patient and forgives, that shows determination”


Not only does the Qur’an encourage Muslims to forgive others it also explains how Allah will forgive:


Surah 25:1

“It is He Who accepts repentance from His servants and pardons evil acts and knows what they do.”


The Qur’an makes is very clear that an individual must be genuinely sorry for their actions to gain forgiveness. This is in contrast to Christianity where forgiveness can still be ‘given’ even if the criminal is not sorry.


Hadith & Sunnah of Muhammad (Sayings & behaviour)

“O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done.” (Muhammad)

Those who have done wrong must ask Allah for forgiveness.



In Islam, remorse or being sorry for your actions is crucial as the above teachings show. Allah is fair, merciful and forgiving as long as an individual shows remorse. This can be done in a number of ways:

  • Through personal prayer with Allah
  • Through travelling on Hajj and completing “The Standing” on Mount Arafat. During this ritual an individual will stand in the heat, ask forgiveness for sins and start over. It is designed to be a rehearsal for the Day of Judgment

If a person does not show remorse then they will be judged and sent to Hell. (See section on the Hajj in Beliefs and Teachings Revision Guide)


Exam Tip – Look at the 12 Mark Q below. Do you know how to answer it? If not, ask your teacher in class or via e mail:

  • ‘It is the duty of all victims to forgive’ (12)

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