WHAT SHALL I DO WHEN I HAVE SINNED ?
What shall I do when I have sinned?
Repentance of the man who committed a hundred murders
Abu Sa’id Sa’d b. Malik b. Sinan al-Khudri says that the Prophet said: “There was a man among a people before you who committed ninety-nine murders. Then he inquired about the most knowledgeable man on earth and he was led to a monk. He went to him and told him that he had killed ninety-nine people and asked him if it was possible for him to repent. The monk told him: ‘NO!’ So the man killed him also and completed his hundred. Then he inquired about the most knowledgeable man on earth and was led to a scholar. He went to him and told him that he had killed a hundred people and asked him if there was repentance for him. The man told him, ‘Yes. And what can come in between you and repentance?’ ‘Then he told him, ‘Go to such and such a town for in it live people who are devoted to God. Devote yourself there to God in their company and do not come back to your own town for it is an evil place.’
So the man started towards that town. However, while he was halfway through the journey death overtook him. The angels of ‘mercy’ and ‘punishment’ descended and began to argue over him. The angels of mercy said: ‘This man had repented and was seeking his Lord, (therefore he is our share),’ while the angels of punishment claimed that, ‘he had never done a good thing in life,’ (so he was their share). While they were thus arguing, another angel arrived in the form of a man. They decided to accept him as their arbitrator. He said: ‘Measure the earth between the two towns and let him be assigned to the fate of the one he is nearer to.’ When they measured they found him nearer to the town he was heading towards. So the angels of mercy took him away.”
Now, what can come in between a man and repentance? O you who imagine that your sins are too great – do you think that your sins are greater than those of that man (the murderer of a hundred souls) to whom Allah turned in mercy? Why should you despair? Indeed crimes can be even greater than this and yet they will be forgiven (with true repentance).
Consider this: Says Allah, glorified be He: “(The true servants of Allah are those) who do not call upon another god with Allah, who do not slay the soul Allah has forbidden, save by right, and do not commit adultery. And whosoever does that shall meet the price of sin. His chastisement will be doubled on the Day of Reckoning and he will abide therein for ever – save him who repented, believed and did righteous deeds, such are those whose evil deeds will Allah change into good ones. Allah indeed is very Forgiving, very compassionate.” (Al-Furqan:68-70)
Consider the words: “Such are those whose evil deeds will Allah change into good ones.” It shows the magnanimity of Allah. And the scholars have said that the changing will be of two kinds. First, the change of a man’s evil qualities into good ones (in this world itself). For instance of polytheism into monotheism, adultery into chastity, untruthfulness into truthfulness, deceit into honesty, etc. And second, the change of evil deeds into good ones on the day of Judgment.
Also consider the words: “The evil deeds will be changed into good ones.” Allah didn’t specify whether He will change every evil deed into a good one of equal magnitude. Rather it was left open and can be lesser, equal, or even greater – depending upon the quality and sincerity of repentance. This is yet another grace from our Lord. The following hadith brings out this point:
Abdul Rahman bin Jubair narrates on the a Prophet , on whom be peace, (another report suggests that a very old man whose eye-lashes had fallen over his eyes stood before the Prophet supporting himself on a cane), and said: “What will you say of a man who did not leave an evil deed – major or minor – but he committed it. (Another report has it that there wasn’t an evil deed that he left uncommitted to the extent that was they to be divided between the people of the world, they would destroy them all). Is there repentance for him?” The Prophet asked him: “Have you embraced Islam?” He said: “Yes! I testify that there is no god but Allah and that you are His Messenger.” The Prophet told him: “Do good deeds (now onwards) and stay away from evil. Allah will change all of them into good ones.” The man said: “And my treacheries debaucheries?” The Prophet said: “Yes (them too)”. The man cried out: “Allah is great” and kept repeating until he disappeared from the sight.
What shall I do when I have sinned?
Someone may ask: How do I go about repenting from a sin? Do I just say, “I repent” and that’s it, or is there anything to be done after that?
The Answer is, there are basically two things that should be immediately done. The first is an act of the heart viz. to sincerely regret the sins of the past. The second is an act of the body viz. to bring up some good deeds, starting with two cycles of Prayer of repentance. The following is a hadith in support:
Abu Bakr, says: “I heard the Prophet, say, ‘There isn’t a man who, when he commits a sin, rises, makes ablution, and offers two rakaa of Prayers, but Allah forgives him his sins.’ Then the Prophet recited the verse: ‘Those (are the true believers) who but Allah forgives the sins? They do not insist upon the sins they have committed, and they know (that Allah is Forgiving).’ “ (Al-Imran:135)
There are other reports that describe more in detail how these two cycles of Prayers of repentance must be offered. For instance:
1. There isn’t a man who makes ablution (and does it well), but sins fall off the limbs of the body with the last drop of water.
And doing an ablution well includes saying the bismillah in the beginning, and some other prayer-words after it such as:
“I bear witness that there is no deity save Allah, the One, and I also bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.” Or, “O Allah! Make me of the repenting, and make me of the purified.” Or, “O Allah! With praises to You, I bear witness that there is no deity but You. I seek your forgiveness and turn to you in repentance.”
2. Offers two rakaa of Prayers.
3. Does them with full presence of mind and heart.
4. Commits no mistake within the Prayers.
5.Does not speak to himself within them.
6.Recites the prayer-words in them well and in humility.
7. Then seeks Allah’s forgiveness.
1. His past sins are forgiven.
2. He can be assured of Paradise.
And then, as these things have been achieved he should now increase his good deeds to the extent possible. Don’t you see what Umar did when he had committed the mistake of arguing with the Prophet, at Hudaibiyya. He used to offer special act of worship, (like fasting, almsgiving, etc.), to atone for that sin. Consider also the following hadith.
“He who commits some evil deeds, and then turns to do good deeds is like the man who had on him a tight-fitting coat of mail made of steel, so tight, it would almost choke him. Then he did a good deed and it opened up a little for him. And then he followed it up with another and it opened up a little for him. And then he followed it up with another and it opened up a little more until it became so loose as to fall off to the ground.”
So you see how good deeds release a man from the clutches of past sins and liberate him from the tension that they cause. Let me at this point offer you the abridged version of an incident which is laden with lessons.
Ibn Masud says a man came to the Prophet and said: “O Apostle of Allah, I found a woman in a garden and did everything to her except having sex: I kissed her and hugged her and so on, but I didn’t go beyond this. So judge me as you wish.” The Prophet said nothing in reply and the man went away. Upon this ‘Umar remarked: “Allah would have left it in secret if he had left it in secret.” The Prophet looked in the direction the man had gone and said: “Call him back.” When they called him back he recited him the following verse: “Establish Prayers at the two ends of the day and early part of the night. Indeed good deeds wipe out evil ones. And this (Quran) is a reminder unto the mindful.” (Hud:114)
Upon hearing this Muadh (and according to another report ‘Umar ) said: “O Apostle of Allah, is this for him alone or (the rule) is common?” He replied: “No it is common.”
The companions of sin chase me
You may say: I would like to repent and change my ways but my former evil companions pursue me wherever I go. No sooner do they know of a change in me than they launch an attack on me, and I feel weak against them. What shall I do?
The Answer is, bear with patience for this is the way of Allah. This is how He tries His slaves in order for everyone to know who the true ones are and who the phony, and, in order that He may distinguish the pervert from the righteous.
Once you have taken the path to virtue, persevere. These evil people who are Satan of the jinn and men will conspire with each other in order to turn you back from the path of reformation, therefore, listen to them not. They will say about what you are attempting that this is an infatuation that will not last, that it is a passing crisis and soon you will recover, and so on. In fact, it was heard that a man said about his former companion who had begun to change his life, ‘What evil he has fallen into?!’
No wonder that when a young man put down the receiver refusing to talk to his former girlfriend after he had decided he will change his life, she dialed him after a few days to tell him that she hoped by then he was cured of his evil inspirations! It is for such situations that Allah has revealed: “Say, I take refuge with the Lord of the people, the King of the people, the God of the people… from the evil of the secret whisperings..” (Al-Nas:1-6) Is your Lord then more worthy of obedience or these evil companions?
One of the means these evil companions of sin will employ to entice you will be to remind you of the pleasures of the sins of the past, through mementos, messages, pictures, letters and so on. But do not pay attention to them, and be reminded of the story of Kab b, Malik. He was a Companion of the Prophet who had stayed back from the Tabuk campaign. When, as a punishment, the Prophet ordered that he was to be boycotted by everyone until Allah cleared him, the Ghassanid king wrote to him a letter in which he said: “I am to learn that your (man meaning the Prophet ) has abandoned you. But you are not the kind of person that should be belittled and wasted. Join us. We will treat you much better.” What was the reaction of the Companion? Says he: “When I read the letter, I said to myself, this is yet another trial from my Lord. Then I threw it to the fire.”
This is how, my dear young man or woman, you should treat those things sent to you to win you back, burn them to ashes and: “Be patient. Allah’s promise is true. And let not those who do not believe weaken you.” (Al-Rum:60)
They threaten me
You may say, I want to repent but my old companions threaten me that they will reveal my past activities, and publish my secrets among the people, using those pictures and other proofs they have and thus disgrace me. What shall I do?
We say, fight against these friends of the devil. And rest assured that the tricks of the devils are weak. These are some of the tactics of Satan but will avail nothing before the patience and perseverance of a believer firm in his belief. And also know that if you try to please them and yield to them there is no end to their demands on you. You will destroy yourself altogether in the end. Rather do not pay attention to them, do what is right and say: “Allah is enough for me. He is the best of the supporters.” The Prophet himself, when he feared a people, used to pray in words:
“O, Allah! We beseech You to take them by their throats. And seek for ourselves Your protection against their mischief’s.”
True, it is not always easy. That girl, for instance, is in a great fix who is told by her former boyfriend that he has recorded all her conversations, and has preserved all the pictures, and will send them to her relatives if she will refuse to date with him. She is certainly not in an enviable situation. This is exactly what happened with those singers and actors that repented. Their former friends and companions distributed some of their pictures in the markets in order to apply psychological pressure on them and force them back to their own company. But Allah is with those who repent, who fear Him. He is the Friend of the believers in Him. He does not waste them. He does not ignore them. Never has it happened that a man sought His protection and He refused him. Also, know that with every hardship comes ease, and after every impasse comes an opening.
We offer you at this juncture the story of a Companion of the Prophet who used to help in the escape and emigration of the weak people from Makkah to Madinah. The report runs as follows:
” There was a man in Makkah called Marthad b. Abu Marthad. He used to help in the escape of the captured Muslims at Makkah until they had reached Madinah. There was also a woman in Makkah called ‘Anaq. She was his girlfriend. This Marthad had promised a prisoner help in his escape to Madinah. He narrates the story himself. Says he: ‘I went to the place (where the man was imprisoned) and hid under the shadow of one of the Makkan walls. It was a full moon night. It so happened that ‘Anaq passed by. She saw my shadow by the side of the wall, and when she reached me, she recognized me. “Is that Marthad?” she asked. I said, “Yes”. “Welcome!” she said, “come and spend the night with me.” I said: “Dear ‘Anaq, Allah has forbidden fornication.” Suddenly she cried out: “People! Here is the man who used to steal away your prisoners.” Some eight men began to chase me. I climbed a mountain (outside of Makkah) called Khandama and hid in a cave. They were right on top of me at the mouth of the cave. But Allah blinded them and they returned giving up the chase. (After it was all cool) I also returned and picked up the tied prisoner. By God, he was a heavy man. I carried him until we had reached the grasslands. Then I freed him (from his chains). Then I carried him again (probably he was injured ) – and he gave me a hard time. At last, we reached Madinah. There, when I went to meet the Prophet I asked him if he would allow me to marry ‘Anaq. I asked him the question twice but he gave no reply until Allah Most High revealed: “An adulterer does not marry but an adulteress or an idolatress. And an adulteress does not marry but an adulterer or an idolater.” (Al-Noor: 3)
The Prophet told me: “Marthad! A fornicator does not marry but a fornicatress or an idolatress, and a fornicatress does not marry but a fornicator or an idolater. Therefore don’t marry her.” ‘ Do you see how Allah defends those who believe in Him, and how He bestows His favors upon them?
Nevertheless, let us suppose that worse comes worst, they publish things about you that you hate to be published. But you can always explain your position to the people. Tell them, yes, once I was in the wrong but now I have repented. What do those who are publishing these things want of me now?
And let us all remember that true disgrace is that of the Hereafter when a man will be exposed not in the presence of a hundred or two hundred, thousand or two thousand people, but in the presence of millions of jinn, the angels and men starting from Adam till the last man. To the prayer than of Ibrahim who said: “And, O Lord! Degrade me not upon the Day they will be raised up. The day when neither wealth nor the offsprings shall be of any profit; save he who will come to Allah with a pure heart.” (As-Shu’ara’:87-89)
And seek strength with the following prayer-words of the Prophet: “O Allah! Screen our secrets and grant us peace in place of fear. O Allah! Help us direct our vengeance toward those who wrong us, and help us against those who oppress us. O Allah! Let not our enemies nor those who envy us rejoice over (our failures).”
Past sins haunt me
You may say: I committed many sins, but even after I have repented, I am haunted by their memories. They spoil my simple pleasures and the quiet of my nights. What’s the solution?
Our Answer to you, dear brother in Islam is as proofs of the sincerity of your repentance. This indeed is the regret that is desirable: the regret which has been equated with repentance. But your hope should be that Allah will forgive all the sins. And do not despair for Allah says: “And despair not but those that are misguided.” (al-Hijr: 56) Ibn Masud is reported to have said: “The greatest of sins are:
1. To ascribe partners unto Allah,
2. To be unmindful of Allah’s strategy, and,
3.To despair of Allah’s mercy.”
A believer is always between fear and hope. Maybe one of them will weigh more on him in a particular situation. For instance, when he sins fear overwhelms him and which drives him to repent. But when he has repented then hope overtakes him and he seeks forgiveness.