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The 5 Apology Languages & Islamic Insights into Forgiveness – Part 1

Qasim Choudhary, USA

In Part I of this series, we provide a brief comparison of Islamic and Christian forgiveness philosophies and explore Dr. Gary Chapman’s concept of the first apology language

We’ve all found ourselves in this situation before—our words or actions have wounded the feelings of someone we care about deeply. Regardless of how many times we utter apologies, they often fall short. It’s as if there’s no clear path towards reconciliation, and the once-strong bond seems to be fading away. So, what steps can we take? In another captivating book, Dr. Gary Chapman, a New York Times best-selling author and renowned family counselor, delves into his insights on fostering healthy relationships, unveiling what he terms as the 5 Apology Languages. According to Dr. Chapman, apologies take on different forms for each individual due to our distinct apology languages. Recognising both another person’s and our own apology language becomes crucial in healing and strengthening our relationships.

As I delved into Dr. Chapman’s perspectives, I couldn’t help but ponder what teachings Islam offers on effective apologies. Does Islam advise us to forgive every transgression? Why is a simple ‘I’m sorry’ not always enough? With these queries in mind, I embarked on a journey to gain a deeper understanding of Islamic philosophy concerning forgiveness and where the 5 languages of apology fit into the equation. 

Forgiveness—Without the Need for an Apology?

Dr. Chapman explains that within the Christian perspective, some advocate for forgiveness even in the absence of an apology. As Prophet Jesus (as) said, ‘If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins either.’[1] In essence, divine forgiveness necessitates forgiving wrongdoers in all circumstances. However, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a notable theologian, challenged this all-encompassing forgiveness, arguing that such forgiveness represents cheap grace—justifying sin without the genuine repentance of the sinner.[2]

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), the Promised Messiah and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community presents a much more balanced and prudent approach in light of the teachings of Islam. He profoundly stated, ‘Sometimes an offender turns away from wrongdoing in consequence of being forgiven, and sometimes forgiveness incites him to further wrongdoing. Therefore, God Almighty directs that we should not develop the habit of forgiving blindly on all occasions.’ [3]

Furthermore, he writes, 

‘In light of the Qur’an neither is punishment praiseworthy in all cases, nor is forgiveness commendable in all circumstances. Rather, it encourages the ability to judge circumstances appropriately. Any retribution or forgiveness ought to be administered in proper accordance with the circumstances and with wisdom, not arbitrarily. This is the true import of the Quran. And unlike the Gospel, the Quran does not encourage you to love your enemies. Rather, it teaches you to dissolve your personal enmities and show compassion to everyone.’[4]

The First Apology Language: Expressing Regret

Let’s start by examining the first apology language outlined by Dr. Chapman. Imagine your spouse asked you to complete an important task, but you forgot. Some might attempt to downplay their partner’s disappointment as a simple human error. However, for those who resonate with this particular apology language, they desire their loved one to convey genuine regret, shame, and pain. Regret prompts reflection on the hurtful action committed. The offended party seeks the offender to experience a degree of the pain they’ve caused, showcasing the sincerity of the apology and the understanding of the wrongdoing. The following is a fitting example that illustrates how expressing regret is a vital element in sustaining robust relationships.

On one occasion, Hazrat Maulvi Nur-ud-Din (ra) who was the closest companion of the Promised Messiah (as) and would go on to become his first successor, or Caliph, misplaced a treatise of the Promised Messiah (as) and became immensely worried as he searched for it. When the Promised Messiah (as) was informed of this, he came and instead it was he who sought pardon from Hazrat Maulvi Nur-ud-Din (ra) for the anxiousness that he had felt for losing the papers. Then, the Promised Messiah (as) said, ‘I regret that you underwent such struggle and toil in search of these papers. It is my belief that Allah the Exalted will bestow upon me something better.[5]

This incident beautifully aligns with the teachings of Islam exemplified by the Promised Messiah (as), highlighting the harmony between his words and actions. As he once stated, ‘Let go of your ego in every way and resolve mutual grievances. Be humble like the wrongdoer, even when you’re in the right, so that you may earn forgiveness.[6]

Part II of this series will delve into Dr. Chapman’s second apology language, drawing an example from the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa)

About the Author: Qasim Choudhary is a graduate of the Ahmadiyya Institute of Languages and Theology in Canada, and serves as an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the United States of America.

ENDNOTES


[1] Matthew 6:15

[2] The 5 Apology Languages, Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, pg. 17, Northfield Publishing, Chicago [2022]

[3] The Philosophy of The Teachings of Islam, pg.62

[4] Noah’s Ark, Islam International Publications Ltd., [2018]  pg.48-49

[5] Malfuzat, Vol.2 pg.180

[6] Noah’s Ark, Islam International Publications Ltd., [2018]  pg. 21

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