Your life in the present moment is in between the past and the future. So what has preceded can be rectified by tawbah (repentance), nadam (regret) and istighfar (seeking Allaah's forgiveness). And this is something that will neither tire you, nor cause you to toil as you would with strenuous labour. Rather it is an action of the heart. Then as regards the future (then it can be corrected) by withholding yourself from sins. And this abandonment is merely the leaving of something and to be at ease from it. This also is not action of the limbs, which requires you to strive and toil. Rather this is a firm resolve and intention of the heart - which will give rest to your body, heart and thoughts.
So as for what has preceded, then you rectify it with repentance. And as for the future - then you rectify it with firm resolve and intention. Neither of these involves any hardship or exertion of the limbs. But then your attention must be directed to your life in the present - the time between two times. If you waste it, then you have wasted the opportunity to be of the fortunate and saved ones. If you look after it, having rectified the two times - what is before and after it, as we have said - then you will be successful and achieve rest, delight and ever-lasting bliss. However, looking after it is harder than that which comes before and after it, since guarding it involves keeping to that which is most befitting and beneficial for your soul, and that which will bring it success and well-being.
[Imam Ibn ul Qayyim al Jawziyyah - rahmatullahi alaih]
I came across this thought provoking discussion in a hadith commentary which might be of interest to many of us. Not least when there are times when we despair at our lapses, and our wondering if we are in fact going backwards as opposed to forward. We ask Allah (Most High) to make us from those who continually repent for our shortcomings, and protect us from being those who lose all of their spiritual stations due to their sins.
Finally we ask Him to make us from those who (as mentioned below) are from those who after their slipping up and repenting are in a better state than they were before. Amin.
In Mishkat al-Masabih the following hadith is mentioned:
Abdullah bin Masud رضي الله عنه said The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: 'The one who repents from a sin is like the one who has no sin'.
Shaykh Muhammad Idris al-Kandehlawi رحمة اللہ علیه commented in his Taliq al-Sabih (3/118) onwards:
Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim رحمة اللہ علیه said that: A servant if he repents from a sin does he return back to the [spiritual] level (daraja) that he was before the sin which removed him from it, or does he not return to it? There is a difference over it, a group said: He returns to his [previous] level because repentance wipes out the sin in its entirety, and it as if it never was...so he returns back to it by repentance. They said: And because repentance is an immense good action and righteous deed, if his sin had removed him from his level, then his good action by means of his repentance will raise him back to it. This is like the one who falls in a well and he has a compassionate friend who lowers down for him a rope which he can grasp until he rises by it back to his place. Repentance is like this, and righteous action is like this pious friend and compassionate brother.
A group said: He does not return back to his [previous] level and state (haal) because he was not stationary but rather was in ascension, but by sinning he is in descent and freefall...They said: The similitude of this is like the example of two men travelling along a path on one journey, then there occurs for one of them that which makes him turn back or come to a stop, all the while his companion continues travelling. If he finishes his backtracking and stopping and follows the steps of his companion he will never ctach up with him because whenever he reaches a point the other will always be ahead...
I heard Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah رحمة اللہ علیه mention this difference and then say that the correct opinion is that from those who repent is (depending upon the quality and sincerity of repentance):
1. One who does not return to his [previous] level,
2. there are from them he who returns back to his level, and
3. also from them is he who returns back to a higher level than he previously was, and becomes better than he was before the sin...
The Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said: Allah سبحانه و تعالى says,
"O my servants! You sin by night and by day, and I forgive all sins. Therefore, seek forgiveness from Me and I will forgive you."
And in another hadeeth:
"O My servants! All of you are sinners except for the ones I pardoned. Therefore, seek forgiveness from Me and I will forgive you. Whoever knows that I have the power to forgive and he then seeks My forgiveness by My power, I forgive him and I don't mind."
"After repenting from sins and turning over a new leaf, some people experience flashbacks of sinful activities they had once been involved in. Shaytān instigates such flashbacks, intending them to cause disturbance and confusion. Many people are unsettled and worried about such thoughts.
It should be understood that if such thoughts come involuntarily, without a conscious effort to bring them to mind, one should not worry. No attention whatsoever should be paid to them. And because they cause hardship to a believer, patiently putting up with them entails reward."
[Courtesy of In Shaykh's Company: a blog maintained by the students of Shaykh Muhammad Saleem Dhorat hafizahullah]www.shaykh.org
If a believer falls into sin, it's punishment would be repelled from him in ten ways:
1. He repents and therefore Allah سبحانه و تعالى would accept his repentance. The one who repents from a sin is as the one who hasn't sinned.
2. He asks for forgiveness and he would therefore be forgiven.
3. He performs acts of righteousness that would erase his sins, for indeed righteous actions erase sins.
4. His brothers supplicate for him; that his sins be forgiven - while he is alive and after his death.
5. His brothers gift the reward of their actions to him so that Allah سبحانه و تعالى may benefit him through them.
6. That prophet Muhammad - صلى الله عليه وسلم - intercedes for him.
7. That Allah سبحانه و تعالى puts him through trials in the life of this world that would expiate his sins.
8. That Allah سبحانه و تعالى puts him through trials in the Barzakh and the Sa'iqah that would expiate his sins.
9. That Allah سبحانه و تعالى puts him through the trials of the Day of Resurrection and its horrors, that which would expiate his sins.
10. Or that the Most Merciful of the merciful has mercy over him.
Whoever lets these ten pass him by, then let him blame no one but himself, as Allaah the Exalted said in a Hadeeth that was narrated by His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم:
"O My servants, they are only your own deeds, I take them into account for you, and then give (their reward or punishment) back to you. So whoever finds good then let him praise Allah. And whoever finds other than that then let him blame no one but himself."
In a hadeeth reported by Imam Bukhari (رحمه الله), Rasūl Allāh صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
والله إنِّي لأَسْتَغْفِرُ الله وأَتُوبُ إِلَيْه في
اليَوْمِ أَكْثَرَ مِنْ سَبْعِينَ مَرَّةً
"By Allah I seek forgiveness from Allah and repent to him more than seventy times in a day." [Tirmidhi]
A person cannot progress on the path of tazkiyah (spiritual purification) without sincere tawbah (repentance). Tawbah is to return to one's original pure state. The Ulama (scholars) of tazkiyah say that a person should be repentant every moment of the day. Repentance is not only verbal, but more importantly, repentance should be in one's state of heart and mind. The proof of tawbah and it's main component is remorse and one can never be remorseful without remembering one's sins. A person's character should be dripping with remorse and this inspires others to forgive. The true state of tawbah reveals itself in a person's speech, gait and appearance.
This dunya (world) is where sins are committed and a truly repentant person will dislike the dunya because he is trying to flee from sin.
[This short excerpt is based on a brothers' majlis (gathering held for spiritual training) held by Shaykh Abu Yusuf Riyadh ul Haq on 14th July 2001]
Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Salih al-'Uthaymeen رحمه الله said:
"The scholars have differed concerning whether repentance is accepted from sins alongwith persistance upon other sins, or not.
Concerning this there are three sayings of the people of knowledge:
1) From them are those who say: Indeed the repentance from the sins is sound, even if the person is persisting upon other sins. So the repentance from this sin is accepted, and the rest of the sins are upon them, in every circumstance.
2) And from them are those who say: The repentance from the sin is not accepted alongwith persistance upon other sins.
3) And from them are those who make a distinction, so they say: If the sin that is being persisted upon is from the same class as the sin which they are repenting from, then indeed it (the repentance) is not accepted, otherwise it is accepted.
As an example of this: A man repents from interest (ribaa) but, and Allaah's refuge is sought, he drinks intoxicants and is persisting upon drinking intoxicants; so here, there are from the scholars who say: 'Indeed his repentance from interest is not accepted, how can he be repentant to Allah سبحانه وتعالى and he is persisting in His disobedience?'
And some of the scholars say: 'Rather it (his repentance) is accepted, because interest is a thing, and drinking intoxicants is something else.' And this is what Imam an-Nawawi رحمه الله leans towards, and he said: 'Indeed repentance is accepted from sins, where there is persistance upon other than it, according to the people of truth.'
So there is a difference of opinion concerning this, some of them saying it is accepted, some saying it is not accepted. As for if it is from the same class of sin, for example that a man - and Allaah's refuge is sought, is afflicted with fornication/adultery and also with acquaintance with women and looking at them with desire and that which resembles it; then is his repentance from fornication/adultery accepted whilst he still looks at women with desire, or vice versa? There is a difference in this also, so from them (the scholars) are those who say that it is sound, and from them are those who say that his repentance is not sound.
However, that which is correct in this issue is that repentance from sins while persisting in other sins is sound but we do not give such a person the name 'the repentant' meaning with an absolute repentance, and he does not warrant the praise that is given to the taa'iboon (the repentant) because he did not repent with a complete repentance. Rather, his repentance is deficient."
"A man said, 'By Allah! By Allah! Allah will not forgive that person,' at which Allah the Most High said, 'Who is he who swears by Me that I would not forgive so-and-so! I have forgiven so-and-so, and rendered your deeds worthless.'"
During the Khilaafah of Ameerul Mu'mineen Hadrat 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه, a man from Syria, who was strong and firm in stature, used to visit Madeenah regularly. After some time, he stopped and Hadrat 'Umar رضي الله عنه noticed his his absence. Upon enquiry, Hadrat 'Umar رضي الله عنه was informed that his condition had taken a bad turn as he had become an alcoholic. Hadrat 'Umar رضي الله عنه summoned his scribe and dictated the following letter:
"From 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab to so-and-so person. May peace be upon you. I praise Allaah, Who is the only one worthy of worship. He forgives sins, He accepts repentance, He is severe in punishment and He is All-Powerful. There is no deity worthy of worship besides Him and to Him is the return."
Hadrat 'Umar رضي الله عنه then gathered his companions and requested them, "Make du'a for so-and-so person that Allaah opens his heart to accept the truth and that Allaah forgives him."
When the letter reached him, he read it repeatedly, pondering over its message. He was eventually reduced to tears and commited himself to abandoning drinking. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى granted him the ability to give up the evil habit for good.
When Hadrat 'Umar رضي الله عنه heard the news, he wisely advised his companions, "This is how you should handle cases of this nature. If you notice a Muslim brother involved in sin, then rectify and encourage him. Make du'a to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى to forgive him. Do not approach him in a manner whereby you become an accomplice of Shaytan."
"Allah accepts only the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and foolishness and repent soon afterwards; it is they to whom Allah will forgive and Allah is Ever All-Knower, All-Wise. And of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil deeds until death faces one of them and he says: "Now I repent;" nor of those who die while they are disbelievers. For them We have prepared a painful torment."(4:17-18)
Repentance From A Deliberate Sin
Mufti Muhammad Shafi رحمه الله comments,
"At this point, it should be noted that the Holy Qur'an has used the words "in ignorance" which apparently gives an impression that the repentance may be accepted when a sin is committed unintentionally and unknowingly. But if it is committed deliberately, it will not be acceptable. However, according to the explanation of this verse given by the noble Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, the word, "jahalah" (ignorance) here does not mean that a sinning person is not aware of a sin as sin, or has no intention or volition to commit a sin. Instead, it means that it was the insensitivity and heedlessness of a person towards the evil end of sin and its ultimate punishment which became the cause of his audacity to venture into sin, even though he knew a sin as sin, and had approached it with intention and volition as well.
In other words, the word, "jahalah" or ignorance used here is in the sense of carelessness or stupidity. This is supported by an evidence in Surah Yusuf. Sayyidna Yusuf عليه السلام (Joseph) had said to his brothers: Here the brothers have been called, "jahilun", the ignorant ones, although what they did was not the outcome of any error or forgetfulness but they had done that knowingly and with full deliberation. Yet, it is because of their heedlessness towards the evil end of their act that they have been called "jahil" (ignorant).
Abu al-'Aliyah رحمه الله and Qatadah رحمه الله report that the noble Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, agreed that, 'any sin committed by a servant of Allah is, anyway, an act of ignorance, be it deliberate or otherwise.'
The master of exegesis, Mujahid رحمه الله said: "Every one who is doing anything in disobedience to Allah سبحانه و تعالى is, for that matter, ignorant while doing it," even though, on the outside, he may appear to be a person of great learning, (ibn Kathir)
In his Tafsir, al-Bahr al-Muhit, Abu Hayyan رحمه الله has said: "This is just like what has been reported in a hadith - , that is, 'a person who commits zina (adultery) will not be doing so while in a state of being a true Muslim.' It means that the time when he succumbed to the temptation of this evil act, that was the time when he was flung far off from the demand of his faith. For this reason, Sayyidna 'Ikrimah رحمه الله said: , that is, 'everything one does in this mortal world - outside the framework of obedience to Allah سبحانه و تعالى - is ignorance.' The logic is very obvious since the person disobeying Allah سبحانه و تعالى is preferring short-lived pleasures over those ever-lasting; and, anyone who takes the punishment which will last for ever and ever in exchange for this short-lived series of pleasures cannot be called rational, sensible or smart. Such a person would be universally termed as ignorant, even if he knows the evil of his act and has all the intention and resolve to go ahead with it.
The gist of the discussion so far is that the sin that a man commits, deliberately or mistakenly, gets committed due to nothing but jihalat' or ignorance. Therefore, there is a consensus of the entire Muslim ummah on the principle that the repentance of a person who commits some sin deliberately can also be accepted. (al-Bahr al-Muhit)
Incidentally, there is another point worth attention in the present verse which prescribes a condition for the acceptance of repentance -that one should repent soon without delaying it. The Qur'anic words are: "Shortly thereafter." What does "shortly" signify and how much time will come within the limit of "shortly"? The Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم has himself explained this in a hadith, the meaning of which is that Allah Almighty accepts the repentance of His servant until the time he passes into the throes of death and his soul struggles to get out of his rattling throat.'
Muhaddith Ibn Marduwayh رحمه الله has narrated from Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar رضي الله عنهما that he heard the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, saying: 'A believing servant of Allah who repents from his sin a month before his death, or repents a day or a moment earlier, Allah Almighty shall accept his repentance, the condition being that the repentance should be genuine and sincere.' (ibn Kathir)
In short, the explanation of "min qarib" (shortly thereafter) given by the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم himself tells us that virtually man's whole life-time comes under "qarib" and, as such, any repentance which is offered well before death shall be acceptable. However, the repentance made by man while in throes of death is not acceptable. Maulana Ashraf 'Ali Thanavi رحمه الله in his Tafsir Bayan al-Qur'an, has elaborated the subject by saying that man faces two conditions when close to death. Firstly, there is the condition of utter hopelessness when all medicines and efforts fail and man comes to realize that death is round the corner. This is known as the state of conscious suffering.
The second condition relates to what comes after, that is, when the pangs of the departure of human soul begin and the fated time of ghargharah (the onomatopoetic rattling sound emerging from the throat, a herald of approaching death) comes close. This is known as the state of i.e., total despair. The first condition, that is, the condition of conscious suffering comes within the sense of "min qarib" and the repentance made at that time is accepted; but, the repentance in the second condition, that is, the condition of total despair, is not acceptable, for this is a condition when the angels and things belonging to the Hereafter may start appearing before the dying person, and they are not included in the sense of "min qarib".
This explanation given by the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم has been pointed out by the Holy Qur'an itself in the following verse (i.e. verse 18) where it is expressly mentioned that repenting, after the sure signs of death are visible, is not accepted.
So, in the light of this explanation the addition of "min qarib" (shortly thereafter) in this verse serves to indicate that the very lifespan of man is limited in time, and death, which he may think is far away, may actually be quite near.
"Relenting taken by Allah سبحانه و تعالى upon Himself is a form of promise the fulfillment of which is certain. Otherwise the truth is that Allah Almighty does not necessarily owe anything to anyone.
The second verse (18) describes those whose repentance is not acceptable with Allah سبحانه و تعالى, those who fearlessly go on committing sins throughout their entire lives yet, when death stands on their head and the withdrawal of their soul is set in motion and the angels of death start becoming visible, they start offering repentance. How could their repentance become acceptable when they kept running wild with their lives and wasted all opportunities of repenting while there was still time to repent. This is very much like Pharaoh and his people who called out while drowning that they were ready to believe in the Lord of Musa (Moses) عليه السلام and Harun (Aaron) عليه السلام. Naturally, they were told that their declaration of faith at that time was of no consequence, because the time set for it was all over.
The same thing has been pointed out in the last sentence of the verse which says that Allah سبحانه و تعالى also does not accept the repentance of those who die while they are still disbelievers. What is the worth of a declaration of faith right in the middle of one's match with death facing the pangs of the withdrawal of the soul from the body? This confession or this declaration of faith is out of tune with the time and quite worthless now as their punishment stands prepared for them."
What Is Repentance?
After the literal explanation of these two verses, it seems necessary to define Taubah or repentance and determine its real nature and status. In his Ihya' al-'Ulum, Imam al-Ghazali رحمه الله has identified three different situations with regard to committing sins:
The first state is that of total sinlessness, that is, no sin has ever been committed. This is either the hallmark of angels or that of the prophets, may peace be on them. The second stage of getting involved in sin comes when one takes the initiative and ventures into sin and then repeats and persists with it, never feeling ashamed or regretful and never thinking of stopping and abandoning it. This is the degree of the satans and the devils. The third station belongs to human beings, the children of Adam who, immediately after having committed a sin, regret it and resolve firmly not to go near it in future.
This tells us that failing to repent after committing a sin is the style of devils exclusively. Therefore, it is the consensus of the entire Muslim ummah that Taubah is obligatory. The Holy Qur'an says:
"O those who believe, repent before Allah, a sincere repentance; may be your Lord removes from you your sins and admits you to gardens beneath which rivers flow."(66:8)
How generous is the mercy of our Lord! A man spends a whole lifetime in disobeying Him. Nevertheless, when he repents sincerely before his death, not only his sins are forgiven, but he receives much more when he is admitted into the circle of favoured servants of Allah and made an inheritor of Paradise.
In a hadith, the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم has been reported to have said: that is, 'one who repents from sin is loved by Allah and one who has repented from sin is like one who had never committed a sin.' (ibn Majah)
According to some narrations, if a servant of Allah repents from a sin and his repentance finds acceptance with Him, he is not only absolved from having to account for it, but the very record in writing posted by the angels is erased out from his book of deeds so that he may not be disgraced either.
However, what is necessary is that the repentance is genuine and is offered in sincerity. This repentance stands on three pillars.
Firstly, one should regret over and feel ashamed about what he or she has done. According to hadith, 'Taubah is (another name of) remorse'.
Secondly, one should immediately leave off the sin he has committed and he should, for the future too, firmly resolve to stay away from it.
Thirdly, one should think of making amends for what has gone by, that is, he should try to take measures to rectify what has happened in sin to the best of his ability. For example, if he has missed a prayer or a fast, he should make up for it by doing what is known as qada (compensatory worship). If one does not remember the correct number of such missed prayers and fasts, he should think, calculate and come to an estimated number and then go on to offer qada for these in all seriousness. If one finds it impossible to do so all at one time, he could offer, with each salah due at its time, one qada of each salah he missed throughout his life, which is commonly known as 'umri qada. In the same way, one should do his best to make up, as and when convenient, for obligatory fasts he missed by offering qada fasts. May be one has not paid the obligatory zakah due on him; he should, then pay the zakah due on him for previous years as well, paying it all or paying it gradually. God forbid, if one has usurped someone's right, he should return it back to him and if he has hurt someone, he should seek his forgiveness.
But, should it be that one does not regret what he has done, or, despite being regretful, he does not leave off that sin for future, then, this repentance is no repentance even though it may be said a thousand times, as so delightfully put in verse by a Persian poet: Repentance on the lips, rosary in hand, and a heart full of the taste of sin, Sin laughs at my style of seeking forgiveness!
The point being made here is that man, once he repents as stated earlier, and despite having been in all sorts of sins, becomes a servant dear to Allah. And should it ever be that, out of human weakness, one does fall into sin yet another time, he should immediately renew his repentance in the fond hope that this time, like every other time, Allah Almighty shall, being Most-Forgiving, relent towards him. Let me conclude with yet another Persian couplet which says: This is the Court of My Presence, not the Court of Despair. Even if you have broken (the promise in) your repentance, a hundred times, come again!"
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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