Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, click over to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author email alert above.
Both being forgiving and seeking forgiveness are strongly emphasized in most religious traditions. This includes Islam. The guidelines for both can be somewhat ambiguous though. Time and time again I run into people who say they've tried to be apologetic, and the onus of the acceptance now lies on the one that has felt wronged. My saying of I'm sorry should suffice, despite feelings of hurt and pain that I've put you through. What more can I do? Similarly, I've met many who have felt wronged and hurt and despite best attempts of those who are seeking forgiveness, it's just not good enough. You said you were sorry but I think you don't really mean it or I think that you can do better. In the end, it's our subjective standard that usually dictates what is acceptable and what isn't.
We may or may not acknowledge it, but most expect to be treated a certain way, but then fail to treat others in a similar fashion. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is a mindset that escapes many of us. We become quite selfish in our worldview and see our efforts as being acceptable but the efforts of others as lacking. We always expect more for ourselves, but not from ourselves. But Ramadan is about learning to cut out the excess, not just in terms of food and drink, but from all facets of our life including the needs of our egos. Our own sense of entitlement becomes a main thing that keeps us from seeking forgiveness when we hurt others, or accepting people's apologies when we have been wronged. I can somehow always justify why things went the way that they did. I am always willing to make excuses for myself, but so rarely willing to make excuses for others.
The month of Ramadan on a whole is about understanding yourself and learning to see the world through a lense of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. The last 10 days of it emphasize these values even moreso. Meanwhile, Muslims all over the world will stand for hours and hours in prayer seeking God's forgiveness and asking of Him that which their hearts desire. But how can one expect forgiveness when we are ourselves are not forgiving? How can one seek forgiveness when we do not seek forgiveness from each other?
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said "Allah is not Merciful to those who are not merciful to mankind."
That mercy and forgiveness has to be as unconditional as possible. One that applies to people of all races, cultures, social classes, and skin colors -- not just those that match my own. It applies to people whom I love and who love me just as it applies to those whom l have wronged and who have wronged me. If I have room to fix it, what keeps me from doing so?
In these last nights of Ramadan, if you have hurt someone, apologize to them. If someone has hurt you, try your best to forgive them for it. This world has enough rage, anger, and egos in it. Now it's in need of some mercy, given and upheld to the best of our abilities. A kind of mercy that doesn't make us feel better, but makes the world better.