I Want to Repent, But ...
Book by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid
Praise be to Allaah, we praise Him and seek His help. Whomever Allaah guides cannot be led astray, and whomever He leaves astray, cannot be guided. I bear witness that there is no god except Allaah alone, with no partner or associate, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.
Allaah has commanded all the believers to repent, as He says (interpretation of the meaning): “… And all of you beg Allaah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.” [al-Noor 24:31]
People may be divided into two types, those who repent and turn to Allaah, and those who do wrong; there is no third category. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “… And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed zaalimoon (wrong-doers, etc.).” [al-Hujuraat 49:11]. We are living in a time when many people have strayed far from the religion of Allah, and sin and immorality have become so widespread that there is no one who remains free from the taint of evil except for the one who is protected by Allaah.
However, Allaah will not allow but that His light should be perfected, thus many people have awoken from the slumber of negligence. They have become aware of their failure to fulfil their duties towards Allaah, have regretted their carelessness and sin, and so have started to move towards the beacon of repentance. Others have grown weary of this wretched life of misery, and so they are looking for a way out of darkness and into the Light.
But these people face many obstacles which they think stand between them and repentance, some of which exist within their own selves, and others in the world around them.
For this reason I have written this brief work, hoping to clear up this confusion, dispel doubts, explain wisdom and drive away the Shaytaan.
Following an introduction which discusses the dangers of taking sin lightly, I then explain the conditions of repentance, psychological cures, and fataawa (rulings) based on evidence from the Qur’aan and Sunnah which are addressed to those who repent. This is followed by quotations from some of the scholars’ comments, and my own concluding remarks.
I ask Allaah to benefit me and my Muslim brothers through these words. I ask no more from my brothers than that they should pray for me and offer me sincere advice (naseehah). May Allaah accept the repentance of us all.
Ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The believer regards his sin as if he were sitting beneath a mountain which he fears may fall on him, whereas the sinner regards his sin as if a fly lands on his nose and he swipes it away.”
Will these people then understand the seriousness of the matter when they read the following hadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)? “Beware of the minor sins which are often thought of as insignificant, for they are like a group of people who stopped in the bottom of a valley. One of them brought a stick, and another brought a stick, until they had gathered enough to cook their food. These minor sins, if a person is called to account for them, will destroy him.” According to another report, he said: “Beware of minor sins, for they will pile up until they destroy a person.” (Reported by Ahmad; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2686-2687).
The scholars said that when minor sins are accompanied by a lack of shame or remorse, and with no fear of Allaah, and are taken lightly, then there is the risk that they will be counted as major sins. Hence it is said that no minor sin is minor if you persist, and no major sin is major if you keep on seeking forgiveness.
So we say to the one who is in this situation: Do not think about whether the sin is major or minor; think about the One Whom you are disobeying.
In sha Allah, these words will benefit those who are sincere, and who are aware of their sins and shortcomings, and do not insist upon doing wrong and adhering to their faults.
These words are for those who believe in the words of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning): “Declare (O Muhammad) unto My slaves, that truly, I am the oft-Forgiving, the Most-Merciful.” [al-Hijr 15:49] and in His words “And that My Torment is indeed the most painful torment.” [al-Hijr 15:50]. It is essential to keep this balanced view in mind.
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There are only four kinds of people in this world. (The first is) a slave whom Allaah has blessed with wealth and knowledge, and he fears Allaah with regard to them, and uses them to uphold family ties, and acknowledges the rights that Allaah has over them. He has the highest status. (The second is) a slave to whom Allah has given knowledge, but not wealth. His intention is sincere, and he says, ‘If only I had wealth, I would do (good deeds) like so-and-so (the first slave).’ He will be rewarded according to his intention, so their reward will be equal. (The third is) a slave to whom Allaah has given wealth, but not knowledge. He spends his money aimlessly, neither fearing Allaah with regard to it nor using it to uphold family ties nor acknowledging the rights that Allaah has over it. He has the lowest status. (The fourth is) a slave to whom Allaah has given neither wealth nor money. He says, ‘If only I had wealth, I would do (bad deeds) like so-and-so (the third slave). He will be punished according to his intention, so their burden of sin will be equal.” (Reported by Ahmad and al-Tirmidhi, and classed as saheeh in Al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb, 1/9).
2. The one who repents should feel that his sin is repulsive and harmful. This means that if a person repents sincerely, he cannot derive any feelings of pleasure or enjoyment when he remembers his past sins, or wish to repeat them in the future. In his books Al-Daa’ wa’l-Dawaa’ and al-Fawaa’id, Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) mentions many of the harmful effects of sin, including the following:
Loss of knowledge – feelings of alienation in the heart – difficulty in all one’s affairs – physical weakness – loss of the desire to obey Allaah – absence of blessing – lack of success by the help of Allaah (tawfeeq) – tightness in the chest, i.e., unhappiness – generation of evil deeds – habituation to sin – disgrace in the sight of Allaah – disgrace in the sight of people – the curse of the animals – the dress of shame – sealing of the heart and being included in the curse of Allaah – not having du’aa’s answered – corruption on land and on sea – lack of self-respect or honour – loss of a sense of shame – loss of blessings – incurring the wrath of Allaah – feelings of alarm and dismay in the heart of the sinner – falling into the clutches of Shaytaan – an unhappy end – the punishment of the Hereafter.
This description of the harmful consequences of sin would make anyone want to keep away from sin altogether, but some people no sooner give up one kind of sin but they fall prey to another kind, for numerous reasons, including the following:
They think the new sin is less serious
They have a greater inclination towards it, and their desire for it is stronger
Because circumstances are more conducive to this sin than others, which may require more effort; the means of committing it are readily available and widespread
His friends are all committing this sin, and it is too hard for him to separate himself from them(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him):
Buraydah (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that Maa’iz ibn Maalik al-Aslami came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said: “O Messenger of Allaah, I have wronged myself by committing adultery, and I want you to purify me.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) turned him away. The next day, he came back and said: “O Messenger of Allaah, I have committed adultery,” and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) turned him away a second time. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sent for his people and asked them, “Do you know of anything wrong with him mentally? Have you ever noticed any strange behaviour on his part?” They said, “What we know is that he is of sound mind. He is among the righteous people, as far as we can see.” Maa’iz came back a third time, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sent for his people too, and they told him that there was nothing wrong with him or with his mind. On the fourth day, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had a hole dug for him, and commanded that he should be stoned. The Ghaamidi woman came and said, “O Messenger of Allaah, I have committed adultery, so purify me.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) turned her away. The next day, she came back and asked, “Why are you turning me away? Perhaps you are turning me away as you turned Maa’iz away, but by Allaah I am pregnant.” He said, “Then no (I will not carry out the punishment). Go away until you have given birth.” When she had given birth, she brought the child wrapped in a cloth and said, “Here, I have given birth to him.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Go away and breastfeed him until he is weaned.” When she had weaned him, she brought the child, holding a piece of bread in his hand, and said: “O Messenger of Allaah, here he is, I have weaned him and he is eating solid food now.” The child was given to one of the Muslims to take care of, then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) ordered that a chest-deep hole be dug for her, and that she be stoned. Khaalid ibn al-Waleed picked up a stone and threw it at her head. Blood spurted out onto his face and he swore at her. The Prophet of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) heard what he said, and told him: “Take it easy, O Khaalid! By Him in Whose hand is my soul, she has repented in such a way that if the tax-gatherer had done so, he would have been forgiven.” (Reported by Muslim)..(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said: “What you say and advocate is good, if only you could tell us that there is any expiation for what we have done.” Then Allaah revealed the words (interpretation of the meanings): “And those who invoke not any other god along with Allaah, nor kill such life as Allaah has forbidden, except for just cause, nor commit illegal sexual intercourse – and whoever does this shall receive the punishment.” [al-Furqaan 25:68]; “Say: ‘O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allaah…” [al-Zumar 39:53].
You might say: “I want to repent, but my sins are many indeed. There is no kind of immoral act, no kind of sin, imaginable or otherwise, that I have not committed. It is so bad that I do not know if Allaah can forgive me for the things that I have done over the years.”
In response, I would tell you that this is not a unique problem; it is one that is shared by many of those who wish to repent. Let me give you the example of a young man who asked this question once. He began his career of sin at a very early age, and by the time he was only seventeen, he already had a long record of committing every kind of immoral act, major and minor, with all kinds of people, old and young alike. He had even abused a little girl. Added to this was a long list of thefts. Then he said: “I have repented to Allaah. I now pray tahajjud some nights, and I fast every Monday and Thursday, and I read Qur’aan after Fajr prayers. Will my repentance be of any avail?”
The guiding principle for us Muslims is to refer to the Qur’aan and Sunnah when we look for rulings, solutions and remedies. When we refer this matter to the Qur’aan, we find that Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Say: ‘O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allaah, verily Allaah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. And turn in repentance and in obedience with true faith to your Lord and submit to Him…” [al-Zumar 39:53-54].
This is the answer to this particular problem. The matter is quite clear and needs no further explanation.
The feeling that one’s sins are too great to be forgiven by Allaah stems from a number of factors:
The absence of certain faith on the part of the slave in the vastness of Allaah’s mercy
A lack of faith in the ability of Allaah to forgive all sins
Weakness in one aspect of the heart’s action, namely hopee
Failure to understand the effect of repentance in wiping out sins
We will answer all these points here:(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There was among the people who came before you a man who killed ninety-nine people. Then he asked about the most knowledgeable person on earth, and was directed to a hermit, so he went to him, told him that he had killed ninety-nine people, and asked if he could be forgiven. The hermit said, ‘No,’ so he killed him, thus completing one hundred. Then he asked about the most knowledgeable person on earth and was directed to a scholar. He told him that he had killed one hundred people, and asked whether he could be forgiven. The scholar said, ‘Yes, what could possibly come between you and repentance? Go to such-and-such a town, for in it there are people who worship Allaah. Go and worship with them, and do not go back to your own town, for it is a bad place.” So the man set off, but when he was halfway there, the angel of death came to him, and the angels of mercy and the angels of wrath began to argue over him. The angels of mercy said: ‘He had repented and was seeking Allaah.’ The angels of wrath said: ‘He never did any good thing.’ An angel in human form came to them, and they asked him to decide the matter. He said: ‘Measure the distance between the two lands (his home town and the town he was headed for), and whichever of the two he is closest to is the one to which he belongs.’ So they measured the distance, and found that he was closer to the town for which he had been headed, so the angels of mercy took him.” (Agreed upon). According to a report in al-Saheeh: “The righteous town was a hand-span closer, so he was counted as one of its people.” According to another report in al-Saheeh: “Allaah commanded (the evil town) to move away, and (the righteous town) to move closer, and said: ‘Measure the distance between them,’ and they found him to be a hand-span closer to the righteous town, so he was forgiven.”
What then can come between a person and repentance? Do you think that your sins are any greater than the sins of this man, whose repentance Allaah accepted? So why despair? The matter is even greater than this. Think about the words of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning): “And those who invoke not any other god along with Allaah, nor kill such life as Allaah has forbidden, except for just cause, nor commit illegal sexual intercourse – and whoever does this shall receive the punishment. The torment shall be doubled to him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein in disgrace; except those who repent and believe, and do righteous deeds; for those, Allaah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allaah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [al-Furqaan 25:68-70].
Stop and think about that phrase: “… Allaah will change their sins into good deeds…” [al-Furqaan 25:70]. This will explain to you the immense grace and favour of Allaah. The scholars have defined this change as being of two types:
Changing bad characteristics into good ones, so that shirk is changed into true faith, fornication into chastity, lies into truthfulness, treachery into trustworthiness, etc.
Changing evil deeds that one has committed into good deeds on the Day of Resurrection. Think about the words “…Allaah will change their sins into good deeds…”. It does not say that one bad deed will be exchanged for a good deed (of equal weight). It could be less, the same, or more, in number or in weight. It will depend on the sincerity of the one who repents. Can you imagine any greater favour than this? See how this divine generosity is further explained in the following hadeeth:(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) supporting himself with a stick] and said: “What do you think of a man who has committed every sin, not leaving out any sin, major or minor [according to another report: if his sins were to be divided among all the people of the world, they would destroy them]. Can such a man repent?” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asked, “Have you become Muslim?” He said: “I bear witness that there is no god except Allaah and that you are the messenger of Allaah.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Do good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and Allaah will turn them all into good deeds for you.” He asked, “What about my acts of treachery and immorality?” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Yes, (those too).” The man said, “Allaahu akbarr (Allaah is most great)!” and kept glorifying Allaah until he was out of sight.
(Al-Haythami said: a similar version was reported by al-Tabaraani and al-Bazzaar. The men of al-Bazzaar’s isnaad are the men of saheeh apart from Muhammad ibn Haaroon Abi Nasheetah, who is thiqah. Al-Majma’ 1/36. Al-Mundhiri said in al-Targheeb: its isnaad is jayyid qawiy, 4/113. Ibn Hajar said in al-Isaabah 4/149 that it meets the conditions of saheeh.)
At this point the one who is seeking to repent may ask: “When I was astray and not even praying, which meant I was beyond the pale of Islam, I did do some good deeds. Will I be rewarded for these deeds after I repent, or are they lost in the wind?”
The answer to this question may be found in the following hadeeth: ‘Urwah ibn al-Zubayr reported that Hakeem ibn Hizaam told him that he said to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “O Messenger of Allaah, do you think that I will be rewarded for the (good) things like giving charity, freeing slaves and upholding family ties that I did during the Jaahiliyyah (days of ignorance before Islam)?” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “You became Muslim because of the good that you had already done.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari).