The Hajj Apology Letter —A Complete Cop Out from Actually Apologizing
An Op-Ed Piece by Hammada El-Mahsen
I 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?