I Want to Repent, But ...
The repentance of one who killed a hundred
Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet of Allah (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 Allah. 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 took his soul, 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 Allah.’ 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.”
Will I be forgiven ?
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 Allah can forgive me for the things that I have done over the years.”
In response, this is not a unique problem; it is one that is shared by many of those who wish to repent. The guiding principle for one is to refer to the Qur’aan and Sunnah when one looks for rulings, solutions and remedies. When one refers 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 Allah, verily Allah 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].
The feeling that one’s sins are too great to be forgiven by Allah stems from a number of factors:
The absence of certain faith on the part of the slave in the vastness of Allah’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 hope
Failure to understand the effect of repentance in wiping out sins.
It is sufficient to quote the words of Allah (interpretation of the meaning): “… and My Mercy embraces all things…” [al-A’raaf 7:156]
It is sufficient to quote the saheeh hadeeth qudsi: “Allaah says: “Whoever knows that I am able to forgive all sins, I shall forgive him, and I shall not mind, so long as he does not associate anything with Me.’” (Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, and by al-Haakim; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4330). This refers to when the slave meets his Lord in the Hereafter.
This may be remedied by referring to the hadeeth qudsi: “ ‘O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and put your hope in Me, I will forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, if your sins were to reach the clouds of the sky, and you were to ask me for forgiveness, I will forgive you and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, if you were to come to Me with sins nearly the size of the earth, and you were to meet Me not associating anything with Me, then I would bring you forgiveness nearly the size of (the earth).’” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4338).
It is sufficient to quote the hadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): “The one who repents from his sin is like the one who did not sin in the first place.” (Reported by Ibn Maajah; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 3008).
What should I do when I have sinned?
You might ask: “ If I commit a sin, how can I repent from it straightaway? Is there anything that I should do straight after committing a sin? ”
The answer is that there are two things which should be done after committing a sin. The first is to feel remorse in one's heart; seek forgiveness and to be determined not to repeat the sin. This is the result of fearing Allaah. The second is to undertake some physical action to do different kinds of good deeds.
My sins haunt me
You might say: “I committed many sins, and I have repented, but my sins pursue me and I am haunted by what I have done. My memories disturb my sleep and do not let me have any rest. How can I free myself?”
Some advise that these feelings are evidence of sincere repentance. This is essentially remorse, and remorse is repentance. But you can look at your past with hope: the hope that Allah will forgive you. Do not despair of the mercy of Allah, for He says (interpretation of the meaning): “And who despairs of the Mercy of his Lord except those who are astray?” [al-Hijr 15:56]
Ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The gravest of major sins are to associate partners with Allah, to feel secure against the plan of Allah and to despair of the mercy of Allah. (Reported by ‘Abd al-Razzaaq and classed as saheeh by al-Haythami and Ibn Katheer).
In the process of moving towards Allah, the believer is always motivated by both fear of Allah and hope of His mercy. One or other of them may prevail at times of need. If he sins, the fear of Allah overwhelms him, and so he repents. When one repents, the hope of Allah’s mercy fills one's heart and one tries one's best not to return to that particular sin.
Source: Excerpt from: " I Want to Repent, But ..." book by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid.
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