20 Ramadan 1442

If you didn’t know, it’s become a practice for some Muslims to send a mass text or email to ask for forgiveness before a major life event like Ramadan.

I might have done this when I was a teenager. I no longer do this because it feels disingenuous.

Case in point – right before this Ramadan began, a person who has caused me immense harm over the years sent a flurry of memes and quotes about the virtues of forgiveness. It’s what we call a “non-apology”—and over the years, I’ve appreciated the robust conversation folks have been having about apologies and forgiveness in these social media streets.

Recently, a friend shared that—after YEARS—a colleague apologized for his Islamophobia. The apology recognized the specific harm caused as well as the context and audience of that harm. It’s a good apology—the kind that has the capacity for repairing relationships.

My mom often tells us that we should not lose sleep over those who have injured us. She says that one day—if their heart is not dead—they will approach you themselves to seek forgiveness when you have long forgotten and moved on—because they will have lost sleep about it for years.

In my own life, my mom’s prophecy has come true several times.

The apology that made me laugh at the person giving it—a teenager who apologized for being a jerk when I was 4 and he was 6. I was 13 and he was 15 when he apologized, and I forgave him.

The most unexpected—a man apologized to me on his wedding day. As we made our way to leave the reception, he ran after us. In front of my family, he said he had spoken unkind, untrue words to and about me, and he knew even as he did it that he was wrong. It clearly weighed on him for years. I forgave him.

The apology that made me laugh at myself—a young woman came to Cairo from the U.S. after a family death. She didn’t have a place to stay and nobody she knew was offering—so I told her she could stay with me until she found one. One day, she confessed she was a mean girl to me when I lived in Chicago. She even narrated the moment of her intended injury. I could not remember; I always thought she was a perfectly nice person. That revelation made me laugh at myself. She wanted my forgiveness because she clearly felt guilty—and although she was clearly ineffective in committing the personal injury she had intended, I told her all was forgiven.


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