Forgiveness in The Arab and Islamic Contexts

Between Theology and Practice


  • Mohammed Abu-Nimer,

  • Ilham Nasser

Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Ph.D., International Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), School of International Service (SIS), American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC, 20016,

Illham Nasser, College of Education and Human Development, Thompson Hall, suite 1010, George Mason University, University dr., Fairfax, VA, 22030,


This essay explores the current and historical meaning of forgiveness in Arab and Islamic cultural and religious contexts. It also hopes to encourage further empirical research on this understudied topic in both religious and peacebuilding studies. In addition to the perceived meaning of forgiveness in an Arab Islamic context, this essay examines the links between forgiveness and reconciliation. Relying on religious sources including the Qur'an and Hadith, as well as certain events in Islamic history, the essay identifies various ways to conceptualize and explain the meaning of forgiveness. This theoretical and conceptual segment is followed by a section which explores current perceptions of forgiveness among Arab Muslim teachers in five different communities. The empirical data for this analysis is based on a larger comparative regional study that has been completed through surveys and structured interviews with educators from Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Palestinians from the West Bank and Israel. Our study concluded that the teachers' perceptions of forgiveness were mainly derived from religious sources and identities and that Islamic religious discourse provided a solid foundation for framing the meaning of forgiveness.