Like most Westerners, I don't know much about Islam. Unlike many, I don't think what I see on the nightly news or read in the paper qualifies me to claim that I know a lot. From the media I gain a very biased view, regardless of which brand of Islam we're talking about. Unlike a lot of my cultural compatriots, I have lived side-by-side with Moslem families, I have attended school with Moslem students, I have shared in their celebrations, including Idul Fitri.
Idul Fitri is the Indonesian (and possibly the Malay) spelling of the name of the feast that ends Ramadan. Ramadan is the Moslem holy month of fasting. Like Christmas in the Christian tradition, Idul Fitri is celebrated with a mix common themes and unique traditions throughout the world.
In Indonesia, where I experienced Idul Fitri, one of the common traditions is for individuals to greet each other with the phrase "mohon maaf lahir dan batin", which literally means "Please forgive (me) outwardly and internally". I was told it was a request for forgiveness for the intentional and unintentional hurts of the past year.
One of the things I appreciate about Ambon, where I lived, is that it is not only the Moslems who offer this phrase on Idul Fitri. Others who are not Moslem will offer Idul Fitri greetings to their Moslem friends, including this request for forgiveness.
I know some may roll their eyes and say, "Oh, it's just phrase. It doesn't mean anything." blah-blah-blah. Maybe, maybe not. The individuals I know offer it with a sincere heart that genuinely seeks to let go of the past and move forward.Wouldn't it be nice if just once in a while we could all put aside our religious and philosophical differences, ask for forgiveness of real and perceived hurts, and move on?