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Should Muslims Try to “Turn the Other Cheek”?



Reply Date

Jul 14, 2017


Jesus said to turn the other cheek. Does the Qur'an teach Muslims to do the same, and forgive those who have wronged you? Or does the Qur'an teach retaliation?



turn cheek

Peace, dear reader,

Thanks for your question.

Imagine this: You are a wealthy, charitable man. You’ve been aiding a poor family member and spending generously on him and his family regularly. You have been doing this for years.

One day, false rumors spread about the chastity and honor of your own daughter.

The man you’ve been helping- instead of defending you and your daughter- started engaging in slandering your daughter who is absolutely innocent, forgetting everything you’ve ever done for him and your countless favors upon him.

Not only was he ungrateful, but he also committed what would harm you the most: slandering the honor of your beloved chaste daughter.

Now, how would you react…as a father?

True Story from the Past

This is not a hypothetical scenario. This is exactly what happened to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him), the companion of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him).

When this happened, Abu Bakr didn’t think of major retaliation against those who slandered his daughter. He only thought of cutting the aid he had been giving them.

But then, Allah Almighty revealed verses from above seven heavens to discipline this behavior. The Almighty said:

And let not those of virtue among you and wealth swear not to give [aid] to their relatives and the needy and the emigrants for the cause of Allah, and let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (Qur’an 24: 22)

Allah instructed him to pardon those who harmed him, and not only that but to continue to be generous towards them.

After the revelation of this verse, Abu Bakr started giving this person even more than he used to give before.

So, to answer your question, yes Islam teaches forgiveness. But, we have to highlight two issues here.

Islam Is About Balance

First, Islam is a complete way of life. It teaches forgiveness, but it also teaches justice and balance.

There is a right time and place for everything. Any extreme behavior—whether towards leniency/pacifism or harshness/revenge—will not lead to a balanced, upright life. So, wisdom is necessary.

Allah Almighty sent His Last and Final Messenger, Muhammad, to do the following:

Certainly did Allah confer [great] favor upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom, although they had been before in manifest error. (Qur’an 3:164)

Purification necessitates mastery of the self so it won’t retaliate for its own pleasure or ego. Rather, one should only do so when upholding the Truth and Justice. Compromising Truth and Justice leads to major corruption on earth.

To illustrate this point, Allah says:

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do. (Qur’an 5:8)

Examples of Forgiveness from the Quran and Sunnah

When it comes to forgiveness, there are many incidents in the Seerah (biography of the Prophet) where he (peace be upon him) was insulted, hurt, disrespected and even beaten (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him the Noble Beloved).

Yet, never once did he retaliate for his own self or encouraged retaliation for one’s own self.

He (peace and blessings upon him) said:

The strong man is not one who is good at wrestling, but the strong man is one who controls himself in a fit of rage. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

And Allah Almighty said:

And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous Who spend [in the cause of Allah] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good. (Qur’an 3:133-134)

In addition to that, He Almighty taught us:

Not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend. (Qur’an 41:34)

When Justice is Better than Forgiveness

Now, in other situations, one needs to lean towards justice.

Allah Almighty said:

And if two factions among the believers should fight, then make settlement between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the ordinance of Allah. And if it returns, then make settlement between them in justice and act justly. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy. (Qur’an 49: 9-10)

So, justice here is instructed to prevent oppression or transgression and to put things back in order.

Forgiveness is necessary, but if you are going to turn the cheek to every criminal, murderer, rapist and those who insist on inflicting harm on others, then you will be aiding in spreading destruction and corruption.

Allah tells us:

Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded. (Qur’an 16: 90)

Two Prophets, One Message

Having said that, I remind you the essence of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) are the same as the most authentic teachings of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him).

Islam is the continuation of the Truth that The One Creator revealed from the beginning of time.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, ‘My similitude in comparison with the other prophets before me, is that of a man who has built a house nicely and beautifully, except for a place of one brick in a corner. The people go about it and wonder at its beauty, but say: ‘Would that this brick be put in its place!’ So I am that brick, and I am the last of the Prophets.’ [Sahih Al Bukhari]

The message of Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) is the summation and completion of the messages of all prophets before him. The Creator doesn’t confuse people by sending multiple religions.

It has always been the same message from the beginning which all Prophets came to convey: worship your One God and follow His messengers.

We invite you to read the Qur’an thoroughly to enrich your perspective even further. It is conveniently accessible to anyone who seeks it.

And please don’t hesitate to send us more questions, we’ll gladly answer them.

Peace be upon you.

Satisfy your curiosity by checking out these other helpful links:

The Power of Forgiveness: An Islamic Perspective


What Is Anger & How to Control It?


Muslims Following Jesus: Any Disagreement?


The Prophet of Mercy & Forgiveness


Is Pacifism Always The Best Route in Life?

About Dina Mohamed Basiony

Dina Mohamed Basiony is a writer based in Cairo, Egypt. She is the Chief Editor of She specializes in Islam and spirituality. Dina holds an MA and BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from the American University in Cairo.

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