It is commonly believed among many Muslims that the Prophet Muhammad once told his followers to:
… make 70 excuses for your brother or sister.
Upon further research, it appears that this quote is not in fact an authentic hadith; it cannot be attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. The greatest evidence of the quote’s origins go back to Hamdun al-Qassar, one of the great early Muslims (d. late 9th century C.E.). It is reported that he said:
“If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for him. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.”
While not Prophetic advice, this should still be considered good, sound advice for any Muslim. While he didn’t use these exact words, the Prophet Muhammad did advise Muslims to cover up the faults of others.
The practice of making 70 excuses helps one to become humble and to be forgiving. In doing so, we recognize that only Allah sees and knows all things, even the secrets of the hearts.
Making excuses for others is a way of stepping into their shoes, to try to see the situation from other possible angles and perspectives. We recognize that we should not be judgmental of others.
Why the number 70? In the ancient Arabic language, seventy was a number that was often used for exaggeration. In modern English, a similar usage would be: “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times!” This does not literally mean 1,000 — it just means so many that one has lost track of counting.
So if you can’t think of seventy, don’t worry. Many people find that once they reach a few dozen, all negative thoughts and feelings have already vanished.
Try These Sample 70 Excuses
- He was having a bad day.
- It was a misunderstanding.
- She didn’t hear me.
- He tried.
- She didn’t have time.
- He had no other choice.
- She didn’t mean it.
- He’s upset about something else.
- It was an accident.
- He’s having problems at work.
- She had an emergency.
- He’s not feeling well today.
- She was in a hurry.
- He didn’t know.
- She got lost.
- He didn’t sleep well.
- The car broke down.
- She didn’t realize.
These excuses may or may not be true… but they could be. How many times have we wished that another person would understand our behavior, if they only knew what we were going through! We may not be able to open up about these reasons, but it is comforting to know that someone may excuse our behavior if they only knew. Giving an excuse to another is a type of charity, and a path to forgiveness.