The Hajj Apology Letter —A Complete Cop Out from Actually Apologizing

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Sep 252014

The Hajj Apology Letter —A Complete Cop Out from Actually Apologizing

An Op-Ed Piece by Hammada El-Mahsen



Hajj emailI tried to avoid it because it made me cringe. But there it was again on my Facebook newsfeed, the same time as it was last year. There were half a dozen. All of them had the same cliché melodramatic voice of pity laced with a solemn request for forgiveness. I like to call them the ‘apology letters’; posts from scores of Muslims who seek to repent before they embark on the annual pilgrimage, the Hajj.

The letters come in many packages. Some provide compositions with polished English and grammar to demonstrate a more serious tone. Others simply write a few sentences expressing regret and bitterness towards others—these are the ones that are done usually prior to boarding the plane which will take them to Saudi Arabia and eventually, Mecca. But they all deliver a rather cold and impartial objective. A few years ago I asked a friend what made him send such a formal letter through a social media outlet just before he left for Hajj. He said it was convenient. There’s nothing to it. Simply draft a post, review it for grammar and shoot it out to f friends who are led to believe that the act of sending a memo so “heartfelt” would be satisfactory for those recipients that apparently felt hurt at some point in their lives by the sender. It’s a great little setup.

Repentance is a big deal in Islam. It’s practically required that you reconcile, resolve any ill-feeling towards a family member or friend especially before you partake in Hajj. Common sense would lead us to believe that a process of actually meeting the party(s) who you had an altercation with would be beneficial in reconciling any grievable differences. Perhaps a phone call would suffice if a face-to-face was out of the question due to say, wide geographical separation; even an email directly to the source would be a step up. But a default letter made out to the public asking for forgiveness? Are you serious?

It seems as if Facebook, Twitter and Google have carved out their own niche, by making a rather earnest act, which is without a doubt, very tough but courageous thing to do, into nothing more than avoiding the dirty work. Conversely, maybe people are perfectly fine receiving a notice from a ‘frenemy.’ They could treat it as admirable and go along their day knowing well that they were provided an apology shared with another 300 people, many of who never even had a problem with the author. It could also be that these recipients will be doing the very same thing when they decide to attend Hajj.

I suppose it’s a defense mechanism. Saying you’re sorry takes a lot of balls. Everyone assumes its easy, until they have to do it. The worse the situation, the harder it is to say I was wrong. But isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Who decided to go on auto-pilot by mass mailing an apology letter? And how is this in anyway being remorseful? War and Peace author Leo Tolstoy once said, “I sit on a man’s back, choking him, and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by any means possible, except getting off his back.” In other words, it’s easy to convey a feeling of remorse allow others to assume that we are channeling sorrow while we rejoice in their appreciation for conducting an act of dignity. But nothing has been done to truly alleviate the weight. If a friend had problems with you, why would they think that a letter directed at no one could serve as a solution?

We’re all so tuned in with the online world that nowadays, much like texting, it’s not about the message, so much that it’s about a message.  It has no substance, just a point. It’s accepted for intention rather than a possible means to an end. Society changes as we move forward. What we did last year seems antiquated. We don’t normally follow things long enough in the fast pace world to cherish the moment. We surrender to future. But that doesn’t mean we relinquish our principles and even moreso, our ethics. Don’t get me wrong. It would be lovely to go through life by mitigating our relationship conflicts from a distance. The artificial use of technology substitutes for emotional reality. We quell our innermost fear by providing it with a placebo that tells it to take it easy and that there is a way out of here. Most ominously, we’re interpreting what we are supposed to do and making it “convenient.”

Okra readers let us know your thought: Would you ask for forgiveness by sending out a mass Facebook post before you went on Hajj?  Or is it not cool?

Nov 282013

Tween Takes a Gamble on Obscure Hadith-Winds up in Hospital Emergency Room

By Nazia Ali

fly hadith minnesota emergency room joke satire article newsMinneapolis, MN—In an attempt to impress friends, a 13 year-old boy dunked a fly into his drink then drank it to demonstrate the validity of a reputable but rather uncanny Hadith, only to be rushed to an emergency room 30 minutes later in what was a respiratory allergic reaction to traces of insect microorganisms.

Saad Bashiri, a 7th grade student from the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington, was taken to Fairview Southdale Hospital after trying to prove he would be perfectly fine by adding a fly topping to his vanilla milkshake. Not surprisingly, the crowd of more than a dozen onlookers cheered him on as he proceeded to drown the insect into the cup, taking it out, then quickly finishing off the tasty beverage.

“What I can recollect from his muttering when the paramedics brought him in was he couldn’t believe how gangster a little fly was,” explained Chief Medical Doctor, Gabe Kotter. “They are in fact, lethal bitches.”

“He just took the shake down man!” laughed Bashiri’s friend, Sameer Haniyeh. “He even told us that if you see a fly in your house, don’t kill it, but take it for a dip in your favorite Capri Sun!” Haniyeh stated that about 10 minutes after the stunt, while Bashiri was getting high-fives, his face went white. Bashiri then grabbed his stomach, fell to the floor and went into a convulsion. That’s when Haniyeh knew something wasn’t right. “I dialed 911 as fast as possible. Common sense is going to tell you that he’s probably going to get sick.”

The Hadith (Hadiths are defined as traditions containing proverbs of the Prophet Muhammad) in inquiry stems from supposed collective sources which state if a housefly falls into the drink of an individual, the person should immerse it in the liquid then remove it, as one of the wings “has the disease and the other has the cure.” While a handful of contemporary scholars have validated the authenticity of the saying, none have ever made the attempt to pull it off.

“Oh, ya—don’t think I would ever want drink anything after a fly has been in it ya know,” said Dr. Hans Andersen, a Muslim convert, who spent 20 years studying Islamic theology at Al-Azhar in Cairo, later pursuing a Doctorate in Religion at Duke University. Andersen scoffed at the idea of taking the hadith literally, knowing well that flies carry the viruses of numerous diseases. He added only children with a certain level of stupidity should experiment in such health risks. “You betcha that this kid wanted to basically eat a fly and then tell his pals that it’s no big deal. Epic failure.”

“He’s always doing crazy stuff,” said Bashiri’s older sister Maaria. “I mean one week he’s trying to learn how to Dougie. The next week he’s trying to get on the roof with a trampoline. This week he decided to drink a fly. He’s thirteen. What do you want from him?”

Bashiri said he was inspired after catching the tail-end of a Friday sermon, in which the speaker said to live up to the actions of Hadiths. “He kind of, in his own way egged me on,” said Bashiri, despite no reports the speaker in question, Sheikh Waleed Abbas, ever coerced him.

Abbas, who was told about the incident, closed his eyes and put his hands over his face when he heard of the incident, exclaiming he perhaps needs to tone down the pep rally each time he brings up something which could perhaps sound a little dangerous.

“It’s like I need to put a disclaimer out there, the way they do in action commercials, which says in bold Do Not Attempt Stunt,” the Sheikh said. “It’s bizarre what people are willing to do.”