By now, it should be clear that I constantly oscillate between poles. Mercy, forgiveness, regret, remorse on one side. Bitterness, anger, contempt, self-pity on the other. It’s a battle to remain merciful, as we’re called to. It’s a struggle to remain contrite, holding oneself to account.

Sometimes that bitterness wins, holding sway, causing me to splurge my rancour onto the page. Momentarily, anyway. “You were wronged!” come those inner declarations, remembering the tales of a friend, long afterwards. But in the end, I still don’t know if that was true. And even if it was, decades have passed since then.

So the pendulum swings the other way once more, forcing me to retract my egotistical words, and remember my pledge to forgive and forget, and to think the best of all involved, and to remember them daily in my prayers, to ask for the best for them in all of their affairs. And so this is what I do, hoping for the best for them, for now.

Perhaps we will hold the pendulum for a while now, intent on imagining all of the subsequent imagining to be true. Perhaps one day my heart will settle, my ego tamed, my pride diminished. Perhaps one day, my words will be true: I forgive you. Please forgive me too.

Called to forgive

It’s funny that while we feel the need to forgive or be forgiven by some, others we simply forget completely. In secondary school, I was tormented for nearly five years without pause by boys on the school bus, every single evening on the journey home. But today I can’t remember them at all: I don’t even recall their faces. I certainly don’t remember their names.

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My detractors

I was sitting with my best friend in the college canteen, when an Asian girl sat down with us. Soon we were having a friendly chat. She was explaining that her whole family had converted from Islam to Sikhism for marriage. Though I knew nothing about either tradition then, I found this conversation fascinating.

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The act of forgiving

To say, “I forgive.” To me, these are not just words. It took a lot for me first to forgive and then to seek forgiveness for events that had once traumatised me. The truth behind those events, I don’t suppose I will ever know in this life. We have the day of judgement for that.

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“Be forgiving. Be forgiving. Be forgiving.” This, a reminder to my self, whenever that inner voice returns to churning over the past. That voice says, “They wronged you!” and, listening to it, I begin to feel bitter once more, penning a great screed. No, but moments later, I remind myself, “Forgive, forgive, forgive.” These the inner battles.


I apologise for what I need to apologise for. But I also apologise for my apologies. I apologise for returning from oblivion, reawakening all that was forgotten. I apologise for my self-centred ego, seeking to be heard, or recalled. I apologise for everything, borne of a manic outpouring of my soul. Really, forgive me. Forgive me.

Sanity check

I have just purged a massive project, deleting every single file and every copy on every backup disk. Gigabytes of data. Months, if not years of work.

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Temiz bir vicdanın

Even after nearly twenty-one years of marriage, my Turkish is extremely lamentable. To date, I have only been able to manage small talk and enough to cover essential shopping. But there’s a Turkish proverb that springs to mind these days: something about a clean conscience. About making amends to move forward. To lift a weight off your shoulders.


The more I consider things, the more blameworthy I conclude I was. The more I think of it, the more I realise my assumptions were completely erroneous.

I guess that is the real benefit of recent writing: not that I may one day publish something, but that I’ve realised I was wrong in so much I once thought to be true.

So much to regret. God forgive me. What a fool I have been.

Rumour mill

The difference between the victim and the perpetrator is that the victim remembers absolutely everything and the perpetrator remembers nothing at all. That’s probably why I remember every slander and pervasive lie so vividly.

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Salamun qawlam mir Rabbir Raheem

Whatever wrong is done to us, we still remember those that wronged us in our prayers. Whatever wrong we have done to others, we seek their forgiveness and the mercy of our Lord. Such is the path of peace.

Peace… a word from the Most Merciful Lord.

Forgive and forget

I am stirred awake in the middle of the night by these thoughts: “Why do I still think the best of people who treated me really badly?” Why is it that, even after everything, I still petition on their behalf in my prayers?

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Clearer vision

I am a fool, I know it. I have been unjust, it is true. I jumped to conclusions unwarranted. I was blinded by my ignorance and an immature sense of entitlement. Self-absorbed, I couldn’t appreciate reality. I couldn’t see beyond my blues.

A heart at rest

There is no time-machine to put back what once went wrong. But there is the pen, capable of scrawling “sorry” on a piece of paper. There is humility, capable of saying, “I was wrong.” There is the heart, capable of forgiving. The soul, capable of remorse.

The power of writing

When you’re young, it can be difficult to make sense of the world. When you’re older, you have the benefit of hindsight and maturity. Things that once were painful or troubling can be viewed with different eyes with the passage of time. Grudges we once carried with us disintegrate eventually, as we finally find ourselves able to put ourselves in another’s shoes.

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Letters of apology

I spent much of the past year writing letters of apology to people I believe I’ve wronged along the way. Nearly every one of them replied either, “I have no idea what you’re on about” or “It’s all water under the bridge”. That’s nice of them, but I know it has all been written down by a scribe recording our lives in full. Certainly, I hope I am forgiven, but still I fear my scales. Perhaps I will overcome those fears the day I get around to forgiving myself.

On apologies

It is possible, of course, that I am simply losing my mind. Perhaps it is a consequence of experiencing Groundhog Day over and over through the pandemic. Or perhaps it is a whisperer whispering into my heart.

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Dear brave one

I remember the first time I ever set eyes on you. I was sitting in the student common room when my Pakistani companion pointed at you and asked me: “Can you guess where she’s from?”

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Dear unknown

I don’t know your name. I have a vague recollection of it, though I have no idea how I would ever have known it, so may just as easily have imagined it. Perhaps it does not matter, except that it means I have no hope of ever actually reaching out and finding you.  

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An open letter to everyone I wronged

There is a line in one of my favourite songs, Sol, by Blanco White:

If I need no forgiveness
I’m all but forgotten
Lost in the changing of the tides

How very true this is.

Continue reading “An open letter to everyone I wronged”

Dear fallen idol

I don’t know if anyone really cares about your latest heart-to-heart; your apology, if you can call it that. For whatever it is worth, it is not me — nor your brothers and sisters in humanity at large — to whom you owe words of penitence or remorse. These are just words of desperation; the clamour of the ego, seeking to be loved once more. If the common folk have turned their backs on you, no matter; rejoice in those that still run to your aid, embracing you, indifferent to all that has come to pass. There is no need to say sorry before all the world in a video meant to go viral. Just make amends with those you wronged. Continue reading “Dear fallen idol”

Whom He wills

If you have wronged yourself, but have managed not to wrong others in the process, have faith that your Lord is forgiving and merciful. The door to repentance is open wide.

If you have wronged others, but have managed to rectify your affairs with those you wronged, may Allah have mercy on you: may He accept your sincere repentance and replace your bad deeds with good. Continue reading “Whom He wills”

These weights

True repentance is undoubtedly liberating, but that does not make it easy. Sometimes it means letting go of all that you have become attached to, to reject a part of yourself, or to turn away from what you treasure, or desire, or wish for beyond the worlds. But in the end you know that you have no other choice: you let go of everything that holds you back, no matter how much it means to you, because you want to regain the favour of your Lord. In your heart there is a pain; a feeling of alienation. You are distant from faith and all that was once so dear to you. It is clear what is wrong and where the problem lies: you know it is a step you have to take. But it is the most difficult step. To say sorry and to tear down the wall that separates you from your Lord. To replace one set of investments with another better than it. To be patient and sincere and to take that final step, to make everything right. Yes repentance is truly liberating, but it exacts a heavy price from the soul.

Freak show

Why do we have to expose the man with the foul mouth on the train?

These are the contradictions of our society. We demand more investment in Mental Health services for people suffering from schizophrenia, depression, post traumatic stress disorder and addiction. But when we encounter people exhibiting signs of mental health issues in public, our natural reaction is anything but compassionate.

The behaviour of the latest individual to fall foul of the communal censors was clearly unacceptable and unpleasant for his victim… but he was shown swigging wine from a bottle and was clearly over-intoxicated.

The wise before us worked amidst the despised, seeking to reform their body and soul. Our generation secretly records them on the ever-present smart phone and uploads the video to YouTube, like a modern-day freak-show, where it can the be Liked and Shared a million times over, even by those claiming to follow the Prophetic Path.

Rest assured, there is nothing Prophetic about these acts. The Messengers were friends to the poor, the slave, the sick, to women and men, to those cast out by society… even to their avowed enemies. Yes, the Messengers would have reached out to that racist in the train.