by Amina Ashraf
Ahmed is a very practicing Muslim. He prays on time every day, goes to the masjid regularly, and volunteers at the Sunday School. But he has a problem with backbiting about his friends. He knows it’s not allowed, but he just can’t seem to stop. Whenever he feels guilty about it, a voice whispers, “You’re such a hypocrite! You feel guilty about backbiting and you still pray! Don’t you feel ashamed of yourself? Allah will never forgive a hypocrite like you.” That voice makes him feel like he’s not good enough to even pray, so sometimes he wonders if he should.
‘Abdullah is an average Muslim. He goes to the masjid during Ramadan and prays once in a while. He enjoys hanging out with friends on the weekends at the club and having a few drinks. Whenever his parents try to get him to quit these activities, he responds with: “There are Muslims who are killing people, committing zina and never pray. At least I pray, okay? Allah is the Most-Forgiving, so stop making it into a big deal!”
The conflicts Ahmed and ‘Abdullah are facing are very common among many Muslims. The solution lies in their thinking processes. As Muslims, we have to remember to stay balanced. In Ahmed’s case, he needs to stop focusing on how great the sin is and remember that Allah’s Mercy is greater. Allah tells us in the Quran:
Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” Qur’an (39:53)
You see, it’s never too late to ask forgiveness (unless you’re dead).
Anas Bin Malik [رضى الله عنه] narrated: “I heard the Messenger of Allah [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] say, “Allah the Almighty said: O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it.” [Al-Tirmidhi, no. 3608]
Shaytan wants you to feel hopeless so that you’ll never ask for forgiveness and delve even deeper into sin without realizing it.
On the other hand, we have ‘Abdullah. He needs to remember not to view his sins as small and insignificant, but rather think of the Greatness of the One he is sinning against! It reminds me of the following hadith:
Abdullah bin Masood [رضى الله عنه] 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 wipes it away.” [Mishkat and Sahih Bukhari]
It’s important to reflect on the difference between Iblees versus Adam (AS) and Hawa. Iblees was a devout servant to Allah, but when he was ordered to bow down to Adam (AS), his pride wouldn’t allow it. Instead of repenting, he showed more arrogance thinking he was greater than Adam (AS). Adam (AS) and Hawa also sinned, but unlike Iblees, they repented to Allah. One gets kicked out of Jannah and is cursed for eternity, the other two are able to work their way back to Jannah and are honored throughout history!
Now that we’ve seen the two extremes and how important it is to be balanced, let’s learn of the requirements of making repentance. You mean saying “astaghfur Allah” is not enough? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. There are actually four steps for repentance (and an additional fifth step, if it applies):
- Stop the sin.
- Regret deeply and truly for the sin you committed.
- Return to Allah and ask for forgiveness.
- Make a strong, sincere intention never to return to that same sin again.
- Return the dues to the one who was wronged or offer expiation for that sin.
Another action you can take after sinning is doing a good deed. Alhumdulilah Allah is so Merciful that He counts good deeds at least ten times and a sin only once. An authentic Hadith reported by Imam Abu Dawod that the prophet (S.A.W.) said: “If a servant does a bad deed, then he makes a good wudu, and pray two Rak’ahs and seek Allah’s forgiveness, then Allah will forgive him.” Ibn Abbas, radiyallahu ‘anhu, reported that the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, related from his Lord (glorified and exalted be He):
“Verily Allah has recorded the good deeds and the evil deeds.” Then he clarified that: “Whosoever intends to do a good deed but does not do it, Allah records it with Himself as a complete good deed; but if he intends it and does it, Allah records it with Himself as ten good deeds, up to seven hundred times, or more than that. But if he intends to do an evil deed and does not do it, Allah records it with Himself as a complete good deed; but if he intends it and does it, Allah records it down as one single evil deed.” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]
So next time you find yourself veering towards one of the extremes like Ahmed and ‘Abdullah, remember that this is a ploy from Shaytan. You can respond to him by yelling, “I know what you’re up to, you devil!” but be sure no one else is around, or they’ll think you’re crazy. Try following the steps and follow it up with a good deed and in sha Allah you’ll be forgiven!