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(A condensed version of the talk “On repentance” by Sheikh Kamaluddin Ahmed)
Allah (swt) said in the Quran, “Leave (O mankind, all kinds of) sin, open and secret. Verily, those who commit sin will get due recompense for that which they used to commit.” (Al-Anam 6:120)
Hastening to perform Taubah for our sins
In other places in the Quran, Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! Turn to Allah with sincere repentance.” (At-Tahrim 66:8 and Hud 11:3)
Now this word “Taubah” (repentance) is very interesting, because Allah (swt) says “Do Taubah towards Allah.” What it means is that repentance is (what you call in English) a “paradigm shift”. If you’re living a life of sin or are engrossed in one particular sin, you must totally turn away from the sin and orient yourself back towards Allah (swt). Someone who is distant from Allah (swt), His Book and His Messenger (sa) will find it difficult to leave sin.
Four things that ensure acceptance of our repentance
1. Repent to Allah (swt) sincerely
The seeker must promise to Allah (swt) sincerely in his heart that he will never commit the sin again. People say, “How can we say that when we know we will do it again?”
Well, life is like a boxing match, where you have to get up every time you are knocked down. The coach would get happy if you manage to get up after every knock down. Similarly Allah (swt) loves those who try again and again for His Mercy. When your clothes get dirty, you don’t stop washing them thinking, “What is the use when we know that they will get dirty again?” Hence we need to wash ourselves, we need to purify our souls, our intentions hoping that Allah (swt) will forgive us and we won’t repeat that sin.
Once two young men were arguing and they went to an old man to settle their argument. They asked, “Who is more beloved to Allah (swt), he who sins and repents or he who never committed the sin in the first place?” The old man said, “I am not an Islamic scholar; I am a weaver. I can just tell that when I am weaving, I have to follow many threads on my loom. If a thread snaps, I tie it back, but from then on I keep an eye on that thread. So it may be that Allah (swt) keeps a special gaze of mercy on those who break away from Him, but tie themselves back through repentance.” Allah (swt) says in the Quran, “O man! What has made you careless concerning your Lord, the Most Generous?” (Al-Infitar 82:6)
When your clothes get dirty, you don’t stop washing them thinking, “What is the use when we know that they will get dirty again?” Hence we need to wash ourselves, we need to purify our souls
2. Forgive others for the sake of Allah (swt)
It comes in a Hadeeth: “On the Night of Qadr everyone’s prayers are answered except the person who has malice and a grudge against people in his heart.” (Shuab ul Iman)
Hence, we should forgive even if we are justified in being angry. Allah (swt) is justified in being angry with us when we sin; are we more justified in being angry than He is? It would have been completely appropriate for Allah (swt) to punish us immediately whenever we sinned. The second we looked at something that we shouldn’t have, He should have made us blind. In such a case, all of us would be blind, deaf, mute and crippled. If we wish Allah (swt) to accept our repentance, we must forgive others.
Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (ra) writes in one of his books that once there was a man and wife. The wife did something very bad, so much so that the man would have been justified in divorcing her. She asked him to forgive her. He thought, “O Allah (swt), I forgive her for Your sake.” Later the man passed away and somebody saw him in a dream. The man said in the dream, “Allah (swt) forgave me for everything. Allah (swt) said that you forgave her because she was My servant, I forgive you because you are My servant.”
3. Abandon bad company
We must keep ourselves away from the people who bring us closer to sin. Every night in the Isha prayer in Dua Qunut, we declare “O Allah (swt) I will isolate myself and I will repudiate that person who disobeys You.” A bad friend is worse than a snake because when a snake bites you, it sends you to your death, but a bad friend sends you to hellfire. A bad friend is even worse than Shaitan because Shaitan only whispers, but a bad friend takes you toward the sin.
4. Increase in your good deeds
People, who fall into any sin feel ashamed about it and so they stop praying, thinking that how can they face Allah (swt).
Quran says, “Say: O ‘Ibadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Az-Zumar 39:53).
How does Allah (swt) address these people? He doesn’t say “you sinners”, He says “My servants/slaves”. He doesn’t kick them out of the servant hood. He still takes them under His Custody.
Rewards for the Repenting Ones
1. A clean slate
Once repentance is accepted, the person becomes as if he doesn’t have any sins. We should make Dua that Allah (swt) erases each and every aspect of sin from us; May He remove even the memory of the pleasure of the sin.
2. Protection by Allah (swt) from Shaitan
Allah (swt) protects the person from Shaitan. Quran says, “Verily! My slaves (i.e the true believers of Islamic Monotheism), you have no authority over them. And All-Sufficient is your Lord as a Guardian.” (Al-Isra 17:65)
We cannot fight Shaitan, we can only seek Allah’s (swt) protection from him.
3. Acquiring an esteemed rank with Allah (swt)
Allah (swt) will include the person among the ranks of His Beloved. Quran says, “…Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.” (Al-Baqarah 2:222)
There was a man called Hasan al Basri who taught Quran on the command of Hazrat Ali (ra). One of his students was a widowed woman who dedicated her life to raising her son. Her son was a big sinner. She always tried to work on her son and take him to Hasan al Basri to make him leave his sinful ways. The son remained stubborn and did not leave sin. This continued until the time of his death. The mother cried and asked him to repent. Finally the son said that he felt the error of his ways and wanted to repent. He wanted Hasan al Basri to lead his funeral prayer. The mother went to the Sheikh but he refused saying that her son was just fooling her again. When the son got to know about this, he told his mother to drag his corpse around the city and show the people the fate of a sinner and sadly he passed away. Later Hasan al Basri went to meet the mother. He told her that after she had left, he heard a voice saying, “You think you are the friend of Allah (swt), but you refuse to pray the funeral prayer of His friend?”