Sinning and Hastily Repenting

Committing sins and falling into error is an unavoidable human trait, such that Allh’s Messenger Sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam said, “By the One in whose hand is my soul, if you were not to commit sin, Allah would have swept you out of existence and would have brought about another people who commit sin, and then seek forgiveness, and He would then forgive them.” [1] He also said, “All the children of Adam sin repeatedly, and the best of those who sin repeatedly are those who repent frequently.”[2]

Repenting to Allah (tawbah) is one of the greatest characteristics of people of faith; Allh the Most High says, ‘‘...and turn to Allh in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.”[3] He also says, ‘‘O you who have believed, repent to Allh with sincere repentance. Perhaps your Lord will remove from you your misdeeds and admit you into gardens beneath which rivers flow [on] the Day when Allh will not disgrace the Prophet and those who believed with him. Their light will proceed before them and on their right; they will say, “Our Lord, perfect for us our light and forgive us. Indeed, You are over all things competent”.”[4]

Ibn al-Qayyim defines repentance by stating that ‘the reality of repentance is to have regret for that which one has committed in the past, to disassociate oneself from it in the here and now and to have the resolve to not return to it in the future.’[5]

When a servant happens to slip and disobey Allh the Most High, if he is righteous, two inseparable qualities are manifested.

The first is swift remorse and return to Allah – the heart that is alive with mn (faith) neither continues disobediently nor continues transgressing; it is quick in resorting back to his Lord in repentance. Allh the Most High says, “And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves [by transgression], remember Allh and so seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allh? – and [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know.”[6] He also says, “And whoever does a wrong or wrongs himself but then seeks forgiveness of Allh will find Allh Forgiving and Merciful.”[7] He also says, “And Paradise will be brought near to the righteous, not far. [It will be said], “This is what you were promised – for every awwb and keeper [of His covenant]. Who feared the Most Merciful unseen and came with a heart returning [in repentance]”.”[8] Ibn Kathr said, ‘Awwb means one who continually returns, repents and renounces.’[9]

The second quality is not to regard disobedience as a trivial matter. The righteous servant does not regard sinning as being insignificant regardless how negligible the sin is classified as being. This is remaining true to the saying of Allh’s Messenger Sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam, “Beware of small sins, for the example of slight sins is that of a group of travellers who broke their journey in a valley. Then one of them brought in a stick and another came up with another piece until they were able to gather enough to bake their bread. Remember! If a person is held to account for his small sins, surely they will destroy him.”[10] This is why our righteous forefathers, may Allh be pleased with them, would take the utmost care not to fall into sin (whether major or minor); Anas Ibn Mlik said “You people do deeds which seem in your eyes as minute as a strand of hair while we used to consider those very deeds during the life-time of the Prophet as destructive sins.”[11]

We find  ‘Abdullh bin Mas‘d relating to us that “A believer sees his sins as if he were sitting under a mountain, which he is afraid may fall on him; whereas the wicked person considers his sins as flies passing over his nose and he just drives them away like this.”[12] Abu Shihb (the sub-narrator) moved his hand over his nose in illustration. Al-Hfidh Ibn Hajar commented, writing that ‘Ibn Ab Jamrah said, “The reason for this is that the believer’s heart is illuminated and if he sees within himself something which works against the illumination of his heart that disturbs him. The wisdom of using the mountain in the simile is that it could be possible to find some form of rescue from other matters that could well ruin him in contrast to a mountain: if it were to topple over him this would mean sure death in most cases.”

The point is that fear dominates the believer because of the strength of imn he has so he feels unsafe from possible punishment as a result of disobedience. This is the trait of the Muslim: ever fearful and conscious; he holds as insignificant his righteous actions and is fearful of any minor infraction (against God).’[13]

Source: This article is part of a free translation of al-Iftqar ila Allah, Lubb al-'Ubudiyyah by Ahmad al-Suwayan

[1] Related by Ahmad, vol. 20. P.344, no. 13049 and al-Tirmidh, vol. 4, p.659, no.2499.
[2] Muslim, vo. 4, p. 2106, no. 2749
[3] Srah al-Nr, 24:31
[4] Srah al-Tarm, 66:8
[5] Madrij al-Slikn, vol. 1, p. 199
[6] Srah l ‘Imrn, 3:135
[7] Srah al-Nis’, 4:110
[8] Srah Qf, 50:31-33
[9] Tafsr al-Qur’n al-‘Azm, vol. 4, p. 229
[10] Related by Ahmad, vol. 37. P.467, no. 22808
[11] Al-Bukhr, vol. 11, p. 329, no. 6492
[12] Al-Bukhr, vol. 11, p. 102, no. 6308
[13] Fath al-Bri’, vol. 11, p. 105