Sunday, November 05, 2006

Seeking forgiveness from others

i must say one of the posts that generated a lot of response has been the post maaf zahir dan batin. I didnt publish all the responses but everyone who responded interesting unanimously echoed the same sentiments... which is how its easy to expect others to seek forgiveness from us and how impossible it is for us to seek forgiveness from others... also in the western cultures, its common to see people say sorry to strangers but not to those they know. i really thank everyone who responded with these observations because indeed it has inspired me to write another post on this.

well lets ponder why its easy to expect others to seek forgiveness from us and how impossible it is for us to seek forgiveness from others. the act of seeking forgiveness requires us to naturally lower ourselves, swallow our pride and bruise our ego as i mentioned in my earlier post. this act is much painful and difficult than accepting the forgiveness from someone else. in my own community i have seen kinsmen not talking to their siblings or relatives for decades even though this is unIslamic in nature. frankly i dont know what do they really gain. many however i have seen to relent and grow soft and seek forgiveness when they grow old, where the reality of death hits them. but the reality of death is ever present. what is really the main obstacle that makes it impossible for one to seek forgiveness from the one he/she has wronged, is the conviction that he/she is correct. this inability to feel a wrong to be a wrong can only arise within a dark and dead heart. today unfortunately our hearts are as dark and disabled as they can be. how? the very forces that drives this world do little to illuminate our heart and capitalist culture strives to disable our heart since only a disabled heart can support consumerism and capitalism. when we also loose the sense of adab, the justice in us dies, and our wrong will never appear as a wrong. abundance of ibadah (ritualistic acts of worship) wont instill adab in us. we need to meticulous inculcate it within our hearts.

now as for the observation that in the west, it is easy to say sorry to strangers but not to family, relatives and those within our lives, well that is also fast becoming true in eastern cultures that are westernized and capitalist. strangers remain outside our boundaries and they dont have a large number of responsibilities towards us unlike family members or relatives. hence when one wrongs a stranger even as little as forgetting to hold the door, the apology comes fast. however when one wrongs a family member even gravely such as neglecting parents (which is common in west), its always about weighing the wrongs of the family members versus the wrongs of that person and biasedly magnifying the former and trivializing the latter. in the "me, myself, my dog, my car, my house, my lawn, my computer, my career" culture saying sorry to the stranger comes from political correctness. since the stranger has no responsibilities to the one, the person does not want to exceed the stranger in who wronged who more. however in the case of a person and his/her family, relatives, the debate about who wronged who is never ending and the person with only reason with his/her ego and never be forthcoming with forgiveness. this phenomenon which may be typical to the west today and fast becoming common in capitalist, consumerist cultures of the east will one day become typical everywhere with the globalization of capitalism.

now there is another thing about forgiveness. accepting forgiveness from someone who wronged us. when i was younger i too had great difficulty forgiving those who wronged me. today i can do that. however some of those who wronged me still never stop at it and venomously lurk for opportunities, even though this might sound bizarre. hence in order to avoid conflicts, confrontations or to protect myself, i avoid them and some misinterpret that as refusal to forgive them. i still greet them, wish them, shake their hands but stay away from any further interaction to protect myself. i dont know if this is right and i pray God to guide me. but what i know is totally wrong is refusing to forgive one who has wronged us and is willing to seek forgiveness either sincerely or otherwise. if we dont forgive others we must never expect God to forgive us. i have come across numerous people who refuse to forgive and truely this is a character of the devil. if we dont forgive those who wrong us when they seek forgiveness, then what else are we to do with them or what else do we want them to do for us to forgive them? us avenging them? them destroying themselves to earn our forgiveness? indeed that is what we are seeking when we refuse to forgive them. that is why we descend to the wretchedness of the wicked and vile devil when we refuse mercy on others who seek it from us.


At 10:38 PM, Anonymous seeker94 said...

Salaam Brother JT,

I've been thinking over what you wrote here, for some time now. Irving ( just posted something on forgiveness so I think I'll share my thoughts with you now. I'm sorry if you find I've misinterpreted something you've written. Please forgive my unintentional blunder if that is the case.

Over the last ten years, my own experiences with the 'maaf zahir & batin' exchanges have been extremely negative. The people I know will say 'maaf zahir & batin', cry, hug each other, make a big display out of it, then before they even leave the house, go on to behave badly to the person they've just asked forgiveness from. I've seen this often and it's become a meaningless ritual for this group of people. It's also become meaningless to me to such an extent that (although I love Ramadhan), I've never ever looked forward to the month of Shawal.
However, looking at your piece on 'maaf zahir and batin', I've learnt (for the first time) that this ritual actually means something to some people. So I must say thanks for showing me that.

I am not sure if I can agree with what you said - how its easy to expect others to seek forgiveness from us and how impossible it is for us to seek forgiveness from others.

Seeking forgiveness from others is usually not a problem for me. The difficulty is when I do not realise that I have offended someone, and I'm left wondering what happened. I suppose the 'maaf zahir & batin' ritual is for these cases. The trouble is that it has become so ritualistic & meaningless that it usually leaves me dissatified. Do you know that strange/odd/amused look that born muslims give to converts when we do some things (like saying maaf zahir & batin)? - it's really unpleasant. I've learnt to be rather 'thick-skinned' but it's still not easy.

My own experiences have taught me not to expect others to seek forgiveness from me. In fact, I can safely say that I've never had anyone ask forgiveness from me for anything although I've been wronged so many, many times. I believe in trusting Allah swt and just moving on (or at least trying), instead of dwelling on the incident and expecting the other person to come to his senses and ask me for forgiveness.

Which bring me to my last point regarding your last paragraph. I find that when I tell myself I've forgiven someone, somehow, I usually never ever forget the bad deed. Even though I (like you) also do greet these persons & talk with them on a superficial level, I find that I also tend to avoid any further interaction with them if possible. I find myself wondering if perhaps I am deluding myself in saying/thinking I have forgiven these persons. I wonder if I know what forgiveness really means?!

Well, I'm sorry for this long-winded and disjointed comment. I hope you can figure out what I'm trying to say.

Please forgive me if I've written something I should not have.


At 4:23 AM, Blogger ney_reed said...

wassalam seeker94

i truely appreciate what you said.very meaningful.

"my own experiences with the 'maaf zahir & batin' exchanges have been extremely negative. "

what you say is the other side of the coin in the case of seeking forgiveness. "Sorry" is probably the most common and often mentioned word/phrase of seeking forgiveness said by mankind today. in how many instances it really means that and in how many instances it really means "hey..ignore what i just did"? i guess for the case of malays having used the phrase 'maaf zahir dan batin' more often than us non-malays tend to face the risk of becoming immune to the meaning of it. perhaps in a decade or two if i am not conscious and sincere of the meaning, the phrase will loose meaning in me too.

"I am not sure if I can agree with what you said - how its easy to expect others to seek forgiveness from us and how impossible it is for us to seek forgiveness from others."

you see personally speaking i too have been wronged too many times that i no longer can naturally sit and expect others who wrong me will seek forgiveness from me. however for you and me, we have adopted that attitude after our initial attitude of expecting others to seek forgiveness from us when they wrong us. we only gave it up cos nobody seem to be quite doing :)

i have had to handle disputes and conflicts between two or more parties since my national service days in different environments such as domestic, labour relations, politics etc . in every case where both sides wronged each other , you will see how both sides will demand apology from the other side instead of giving it first and they wont do that only if they, like us, had given up that hope of receiving any apology.

i really liked your part of the comments which ended "I wonder if I know what forgiveness really means?!"... i agree with every one that you mention there... i myself am trying to discover this... however i only minimize communications with those who apologize only if they had earlier cheated me/got me into trouble etc... its more of the fear that they will do it again... a kinda once bitten twice shy thingy... i dunno if its right.. but its kinda scary... i cant tell myself i am being paranoid because i have had many experiences of being cheated or sabotaged and then when i continued interaction after they apologized they did it happened again:)
but i must say i tell myself i gotto not only forgive but also not minimize communication in instances where the individual hurt my feelings, annoyed me etc. we do it to others so we gotto go easy on others when they do it to us. this awareness came only through some tough learning curve Allah employed for me:) i love this analogy i use for myself and tell people also... drop your anger and bitterness like a glass cup and shatter it when you hear that sorry... life is too short to keep it...

i'm still waiting for a learning curve from Allah to teach me on how to not only forgive the earlier group but also interact them in the best possible way i.e. minimize relations or normalize relations...

seeker94... i am so glad you posted your comments... forgiveness is such a large topic we can never fully cover in blogs... at the same time, very sadly its hardly covered in adequate time,space and depth in our schools, families, personal lives, societies... do you hear politicians talking about seeking and giving forgiveness? they just talk about building weapons instead of strengthening bilateral understanding and diplomacy. patriot missles can stop incoming enemy missles but what can stop launch of enemy missles? an enemy's heart pausing that convinced thought to launch that missle. pls dont tell this to politicians :)

two lira
ney reed

At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I did not read this entry before. It's interesting that you should mention how you avoided those who did wrong against you although you've forgiven them. I also faced something like that, and avoided those who wronged me, and they too thought this was a sign I did not forgive them.

But really, it became clear to me that my existence in their lives, or my interaction with them can only cause harm to them, and to me. Thus, by avoiding them, I saw it as a means of helping them from causing harm to themselves and me.

I stopped trying to explain this concept to the person who has wronged me because she insisted forgiving = putting things back to what they used to be. Forgiving, may actually involve avoiding a person if he/she cannot stop himself/herself from wronging you. I personally think this is the best thing to do, esp in cases where the person obviously hasn't changed.

As I commented earlier, it is when you see the oppressor as the oppressed, that you've freed yourself...

As for asking forgiveness, I don't know whether we are used to such openness...I once asked forgiveness from someone for gossiping about him and it tooks him months to react at all...I thought maybe next time I should just say "Maaf Zahir & Batin" instead of being so specific! :)


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