Contemporary and Social Issues

The 5 Apology Languages & Islamic Insights into Forgiveness – Part 2

Qasim Choudhary, USA

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.

This short series seeks to find out what Islam teaches about effective apologies, the Islamic philosophy concerning forgiveness and where the 5 apology languages fit into the equation.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at a brief comparison of Islamic and Christian forgiveness philosophies and explore Dr. Gary Chapman’s concept of the first apology language. Click here to read Part 1.

The Second Apology Language: Accepting Responsibility

Why do we find it difficult to say ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I was wrong’? Dr. Chapman attributes this resistance to a sense of self-worth. We often perceive accepting responsibility and apologising as signs of weakness. Similarly, the Promised Messiah and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) acknowledges that our ego can obstruct reconciliation. Many of us instinctively defend ourselves and rationalise our stance. 

For instance, if a child accidentally spills tea on a new carpet, we might react by scolding them harshly. Later, after we’ve cooled down, we might realise our overreaction and justify it internally. However, we refuse to acknowledge our error, leading to strained relationships. 

Islam teaches us that punishment is deemed necessary in specific circumstances, with forgiveness and pardon being preferred when the offender displays a genuine inclination toward reformation. When we examine the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa), we encounter numerous instances where he chose to forgive even his most bitter and merciless adversaries. The Holy Prophet (sa) would extend forgiveness to individuals who, when gripped by guilt, expressed sincere remorse and the potential for self-improvement, even in the face of the gravest of transgressions.

For instance, Hazrat Zainab (ra) the daughter of the Holy Prophet (sa) suffered a brutal attack while she was expecting. She was wounded, resulting in a miscarriage and sustained injuries that went on to prove fatal. The assailant, Habbar, was initially sentenced to death but fled to Iran. But eventually, Habbar, the perpetrator returned and sought to meet the Holy Prophet (sa), acknowledging his crimes, expressing fear as the reason for his flight. He recognised his past ignorant ways and accepted the guidance brought by the Holy Prophet (sa). In a heartfelt confession, he humbly requested forgiveness, which the Holy Prophet (sa) graciously granted. The Holy Prophet (sa) responded with compassion, saying, ‘Habbar if God has planted in your heart the love of Islam, how can I refuse to forgive you? I forgive everything you have done before this.’[1]

In this case, the assailant committed an extremely heinous crime, making forgiveness seem nearly impossible. Fleeing became an instinctive choice because he recognised that he deserved the harshest punishment. However, he eventually took responsibility for his actions, laying the groundwork for reconciliation. At times, we may hesitate to offer an apology, fearing it may not be well-received or effectively alleviate the pain of those we’ve hurt. Such thoughts often stem from a misconception about the true impact and significance of an apology.

As Harriet Lerner, a renowned and well published clinical psychologist writes, ‘An apology isn’t the only chance you ever get to address the underlying issue. The apology is the chance you get to establish the ground for communication. This is an important and often over-looked distinction.’[2]

In Part 3 of this series, we explore Dr. Chapman’s third apology language and illustrate it through a practical incident from the life of the 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.


[1] Hazrat Mirza Bashir-Ud-Din Mahmud Ahmadra, Life of Muhammadsa (Tilford, Surrey: Islam International Publications Ltd., 2013), 167-169.

[2] Why Won’t You Apologize, Harriet Lerner, pg.15 Gallery Books [2017]