Friday, September 28, 2012

The Sad and Bad of "Sorry"

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

There are two main ways that I generally hear the word "sorry" being used. The first is as an apology for doing something hurtful, damaging, or mistakenly. Examples of this are, "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings."  "I'm sorry I hit you." "I'm sorry I broke your toy." This I call the "sad sorry," as it expresses, or is supposed to express, regret over doing something. The "sad sorry" is the one that can be avoided the majority of the time by thought before action, self control in the face of strong emotion, and consideration and respect of others and their property. The sad sorry is the fourth element required for tawbah (repentance) to be accepted. The first three are knowing what you have done is wrong and why, truly feeling regret and sorrow in your heart about doing such a wrong, and resolving never to do such a wrong again, followed by the fourth element, to apologize or remedy the wrong with the person(s) involved.

The second type of "sorry" is to show regret or commiseration with someone else over something that has befallen them. Examples of this are," I'm sorry to hear that your father died." "I'm sorry to hear that you've been so sick." "I'm sorry to hear that you lost your job." "I'm sorry that happened; it's just not fair." This I call the "bad sorry," as it expresses displeasure, disagreement, or nonacceptance of Allah's Decree. The "bad sorry" is extremely dangerous, as it negates at-tawheed. To believe that there is something better, more appropriate, or fairer than what Allah has willed, or to imagine that something has happened outside of Allah's will and control, is denying His Lordship, Names, and Attributes. This can possibly remove one from Islam, because if it isn't at-tawheed, then it is shirk.

General culture, not Islamic culture, has conditioned many to automatically say "sorry" as a commiserating response to anyone who faces a test or trial. However it goes against all that we know as Muslims, because if Allah LOVES you, He tests you. What befalls you was decreed and written in Al Lawh Al Mahfoodth literally thousands of years before you were created. We plan and Allah plans, but Allah's plan is the one that prevails and the one that is perfect.

Such is our misguidance, that should someone say they have terminal cancer and their brother or sister in Islam responds with, al hamdul'Illah or mashaa'Allah, they will be infuriated and offended. They think, "Where is the sympathy? Where is the anger at how unfair this is to me?"  However, to acknowledge that it is from Allah and that He has written it, and so it is accepted as His Qadr, is not only correct, but rewarded. It is important that we remind ourselves of that fact constantly in the face of all the tests and enormous trials members of our Ummah are put to. It is also da'wah, because in saying,"Al hamdul'Illahi 'ala kully haal," (All praises are due to Allah in every situation) and, "Qadr Allahi wa maa shaa fa'al," (It is preordained by Allah and He does as He wills) one reminds the other of the correct outlook and how they should respond and think if they want their test to be a blessing of expiation, elevation in rank in Jennah, or a life-saving lesson. Some of you will recall when I wrote about my miscarriages (13 total up to March 2012, mashaa'Allah) that whenever someone said they were sorry, I would say don't be sorry for it is Allah's special plan for me and there is nothing but gain and benefit in it for me.

Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

وإن أصابك شيء فلا تقل لو أني فعلت كذا لكان كذا وكذا لكن قل قدر الله وما شاء فعل

“…And if something (bad) befalls you, do not say, ‘Had I only done such-and-such, then such-and-such would have happened, rather say: Qadrullaahi, wa maa shaa’ fa’ala (This is from the Qadr of Allaah, and He does whatever He wills).” [Muslim]
So rather, in these situations, say, "Qadr Allahi wa maa shaa fa'al," and if the person is not in a good frame of mind about their test, remind them of the blessings in it. Give examples of times when they, or you, or someone else you mutually know has gone through a test and been rewarded with something far better afterwards. Remind them of the trials and hardships of our beloved Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and the prophets Nuh, Ibraheem, Lut, and Ayoob alayhum as salaam, which put our small tests in perspective. Do a reality check and ask, "Are you upset with Allah's Decree?" Encourage others and remind yourself to embrace ALL that Allah sends you, to trust and know with certainty that it is for your own good and best end, and give thanks for it seeking the lessons, benefit, and rewards that it brings.

May our words acknowledge, honor, and thank our Creator, and may our hearts love Him for ALL He sends us - ameen.


  1. SubhaanaAllaah I have never thought about it that way. There are so many things we say daily that are wrong islamiclly but we never pay attention to it out of ignorece, may Allaah save us from it.

    BaarakaAllaahu feek ukhtee Mai, I have benefitted from this post. May Allaah love you.

  2. We feeki barak Allah Umm Abdul Awwal.

    It is so important to ask Allah to show us our errors and to keep learning, especially about aspects of tawheed, because it entails not just acknowledging tawheed, but also avoiding all that contradicts that.

    Al hamdul'Illah that you have benefited from this, and may Allah give you far more than what you have asked for me - ameen!

  3. I always feel uncomfortable saying something like, "I'm sorry for your loss" or other sorrys that fall in your second category but it's with non-Muslims who may or may not believe in God (I don't really know, this stuff is private) so I'm not sure what I should say. If appropriate, I try to lean towards "It was meant to be" when talking to a person about their life situation or for a death I just focus on saying that it's sad or saying something good about the person... It's hard to stay away from those sorrys...

    1. Yes Candice, it is hard to find appropriate words for people who are not-Muslim. I find that focusing on the person's feelings rather than the actual death helps. I do say, "It was their time." Whether someone agrees with that concept or not is not in my control, but it is inoffensive on my part, inshaa'Allah. However, I do say that I understand how much they will miss that person in their lives and emphasize that part of healing is to remember all the good things about them and be grateful for the time they had together.

      Sometimes, I just cannot say anything, especially when the attitude is that it's not fair. Then I just think to myself, better to be quiet and let my sad look be interpreted however they would like, even though it really is due to their misconceptions.

      May Allah guide us all to the words and actions that please Him - ameen!

  4. I don't think it means that at all. When you say 'sorry to hear your Dad dies' or whatever, you are expressing sympathy with the person's pain - you are sorry they have to endure it, you are sorry you can't ease it. It's a poor human being who can see a person suffering and not wish it not to be so. If someone had said to me when my Dad died of cancer 'oh well, it's what was written for him, get over it' I think I might have punched them square in the face - I am fully aware it is Qadr; that much is plainly self-evident. But it was the kindness of people who empathised and wished they could help - the milk of human kindliness - that eased my heart. And we are all tested, but then part of the test of someones else's pain is to others around him to rush to ease it. And if they don't then that is written as a sin. To see someone hungry and naked and say 'oh it is Qadr' - no; you are sorry they are suffering and you help.

    1. As salaamu alaykum wa Rahmatullah Debbie.

      I never said anything to imply that we should say something as heartless as your quote of, "Oh well, it was written for him, get over it." Please don't add something to my words or imply a callousness that doesn't exist. Perhaps if you read my response to Candice, you would see that there is no negation of sympathy,empathy, words of condolence, or acts of support.

      However to say you are sorry someone has to endure something is another matter, as Allah willed it for them...and that is most certainly not something I would utter regret about. I think it is very clearly stated in my writing that we are talking about a sorry that is attached to the feelings of it being unfair, undeserved, or unreasonable, whereas Allah and His tests are never any of those things.

      If I see someone naked and hungry, I may well help them as best I can, bot I would not say I'm sotry, I'd just extend the helping hand. I cannot oppose Allah's will with my words, I can simply fulfill the rights a fellow human being has over me.

      I am ever grateful that we are given guidelines by our beloved Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) in such situations, knowing that the best response when someone dies is to say, "Inna l'Illaha wa inna ilayhi raaji'oon." and for other situations, the other responses in this post. We were given the words pleasing to Allah and beneficial to the recipient, and told to extend every help to our brothers and sisters in times of need and otherwise. In sticking to the examples given to us, we cannot go wrong and inshaa Allah, will always please Allahm in both word and deed- ameen.