Repentance in Islam
THE IMPORTANCE OF REPENTANCE
Repentance is extremely important in Islam since the beginning of the creation of mankind, when Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, and that by itself was a sin and they repented to Allah Azza wa Jal . That is why the Almighty descended them to Earth with the promise that if they do well and their descendents they will go to Paradise.
Satan, on the other hand, whom sin gravely and seduced Adam and Eve to eat from the forbidden tree or from the forbidden fruit did not repent and that is why he was doomed to Hell for eternity. If you look at the attributes and names of Allah Al mighty you will find that among them is Al-Tawab (the one who accepts repentance of others) and this is an ongoing process. Therefore it is essential for us to know that repentance is not only for those who are sinful, it is even for those who are pious and full of rightness. They themselves never the less have to repent.
The Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) told us that: “Men by nature are sinful and the best of these sinful people are those who keep on repenting, and he, himself the Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) who never committed a sin, told us that ”O, people ask Allah Azza wa Jal for forgiveness and repent to him because I personally ask Allah for forgiveness and repent to Him more than one hundred times in a day”, and this is the Prophet, the Messenger of Allah who never did anything that we can consider to be sinful.
Why do we repent?
If you do not acknowledge a mistake you will not fix it, if you do not acknowledge an illness or a disease you will never treat it. That is why, firstly you have to identify the sins you have to repent from.
Scholars said that Repentance is divided into two sections:
1. Preferred repentance
2. Obligatory repentance
Therefore it is preferred for you to repent from doing things that are not recommended, and it is preferred for you to repent from not doing the preferred things you are instructed to do.
For example: It is recommended that you pray 2 rakkas after Maghreb prayer. Now, if you do not do this, is highly recommended to repent from this. You repent for doing and you repent from not doing, so things that are recommended to do, if you don’t do them you have to repent, and things that you are not recommended to do, but you still do them, you are recommended to repent for those.
For example: if you keep on eating and drinking with your left hand. The majority of scholars say that this is not recommended, though the authentic verdict is it is forbidden, but let go with the majority for this example. So it is recommended for you to repent from this action, and this is the recommended repentance.
Now we move on to obligatory repentance.
It is obligatory for you to repent from committing a sin. It is obligatory for you to repent from not performing the obligatory acts of worship that you are told to do.
For example: A person that drinks alcohol he has to repent from drinking, because this is a major sin. A person who does not pray with the congregation in the masjeed though he is capable of doing this he is obliged to repent from this sin.
There are 6 conditions for repentance:
1. It has to be for the sake of Allah
For example: a person that smokes and he develops cancer or a person that drinks and he develops liver-cancer and the doctor comes and tells him: “Listen if you don’t stop now, you are going to die” so the guy says holding the bottle in his hands: “for sure I am going to miss you” and after this he says: “Well, I am going to repent”. Now, his repentance is not for the sake of Allah, his repentance is because he is afraid he is going to die, so his repentance is not accepted.
A person that goes to a rich man’s house to rob him, but in the moment he gets there he founds the police patrol, so he says: “ups! I think I m going repent for today” and leaves. This repentance, as well is not accepted. Your repentance has to be only for the sake of Allah.
2. Abandoning the sin immediately
For example: If I am committing a sin, I have to repent now. It is not acceptable to repent next summer as people do, because if you are indulging yourself in a sin you have to repent and stop immediately. If you say: “No, I am going to go on for a couple of weeks and then repent”. This is not acceptable.
And this is the case when the companions who use to drink alcohol, (because it was permissible then) and immediately when the verse of the Quran came and said it is forbidden “so stay away from it” no one finished their glass he was drinking from. Immediately they toasted it away.
But if a person says: “Well I have the bad habit of smoking, I am going to kick the habit in Ramadan” and Ramadan is 6 or 5 months away .This is not acceptable because you are timing your repentance.
3. The Intention not to do it again
For example: There are sins which are connected with seasons. A lots of people travel during summer to different countries, and there they fornicate, drink, gamble and so on, and when they come back to their hometown they say: “I have done wrong to myself, I have sin a loot so I repent to Allah and they call their travel agent and say: “Listen next august don’t forget to book me my ticket to Rio”. This is not acceptable because this repentance is not complete.
4. You must feel real burning remorse
You can be sincere, you can quit on the spot, you can intend not to do it again but you don’t feel the remorse so you enjoy what you did. That is why the Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) told us that remorse is repentance. Three simple words: remorse is repentance.
If you are sad, if you fell that your heart is boiling because you fell the remorse of doing this sin, then I give you the glad tidings that Allah has forgiven your sins, with the remorse, but without the remorse u have a big problem.
5. The time
Your repentance has to be in the time where it is valid. We have a private time and we have a general time. So a private or individual time is for each one of us and this individual time is before your soul reaches your throat, this is second before you die and like the Pharaoh did, when he started drowning, he realized that he is going to die, though he was claiming to be God then he said “I believe in what Musa was preaching and I believe in the God who Musa was calling for”. Allah told him: “Is it now you want to repent? It is too late because you are dying and is no way for you to repent”.
So this is the time of individuals, if you repent before this time your repentance is accepted, but if your soul is just to come out and you realized that you are dying for sure then your repentance is not accepted.
As for the general time which is for all mankind this is at the end of time when the sun will rise from the West. The Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) tells us that repentance is accepted if the time does not come when the sun rises from the West.
How can we repent?
This question was addressed by the companions of al-Hasan al-Basry when they came to him and said: O scholar, we have a problem, we sin, and when we conclude, we seek the forgiveness of Allah and we repent and then we sin again, and then we repent and then we sin again and we repent and ask forgiveness and we sin again and then we are shamed of our Lord so we do not repent or ask for forgiveness because we are shame.
Hassan al Basry said that: “By Allah this is exactly what Sheitan wants for you. The more you repent Allah accepts your repentances the minute you stop, then it is Sheitan’s game and he is happy because you are not seeking the forgiveness of Allah Azza wa Jal, which leads us to another thing the prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “that all mankind are sinful and the best among them are those who keep on repenting”.
There is a beautiful Qudsy Hadith when the prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) says: Whenever a servant of Allah sins and asks Allah for forgiveness, Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala says: “My servant has sin and he is asking me for forgiveness knowing that I forgive sins and I give repentance. And the man sins again and seeks the forgiveness of Allah and Allah says the same thing and he does it for the third time and Allah says the same thing, and he does it for the fourth time and Allah says the same thing. Which means that our Lord, our God, Allah Almighty is a loving, forgiven God and is not like what people seem to talk about the God of Muslims has been a God of Hell, a God of punishment, this is the wrong idea completely, because Islam tells us that our lord is most Forgiving.
So the more you sin and you have this remorse in your heart, you are sad about it and you want to do something about it, but it comes back to you, the more you ask Allah for forgiveness and you repent at the end of the day you will be successful.
But the problem is that sheitan doesn’t leaves you alone, he comes to you and says: “Listen you are doing this every second or every two or three minutes, why not delay it until the end of the day and repent then. If you do this, one of the condition which is – immediately abandon the sin- has been missed, and even if you do this at the end of the day you do it for two or three days a couple of weeks maybe, one month at maximum and then you will completely ignore the idea of repentance and you will think that what have done was not a big sin, not major sin, which means that it’s ok to do.
Which is the biggest sin that does not have repentance?
The greatest sin of all is to associate someone/something else with Allah. The greatest sin of all is not to believe in Allah, not to believe in the religion of Allah, not to believe in the Oneness of Allah. This is the biggest sin, but if you repent from this big sin Allah will accept you.
There are certain crimes that are punished by the Islamic law:
Killing others, stealing, slandering, adultery, drinking intoxicants and few more, these are punished by the Islamic law with certain punishments. If a person does any of the previous but repents before the authority catches him, Allah al mighty will accept his repentance.
If a person has a girlfriend and they have been living together for a few years, but they repent, Allah will accept their repentance because He is the most Forgiven.
Now, these are the crimes that we have a fixed punishment on, there are other crimes that do not have any punishment though they might be far greater than these mentioned.
For example: Being bad to your parents is a far greater sin than adultery, though is not punished in this life, because it is so grave it is so serious that no punishment in this world will be enough, and what is waiting up stairs is way beyond your imagination. So, the punishment in this life is not limited to chopping heads and hands and lashing, there are further punishments that you may not even see. The depression you have is a punishment, poverty, illness, being far from Allah is by far the greatest punishment of Allah.
It was reported that a man of the sons of Israel was praying to Allah and he was saying: “O Lord, so many times I sin and yet you are not punish me, and Allah almighty revealed to the prophet of their time “go to this man and tell him: o my servant so many punishments I have and you do not feel, it is the hardness of your heart. The lack of tears that do not come from your eyes, and feeling that you are doing fine is a punishment only if you could feel and sense this.”
There are different ways of punishments but because we are away from Allah Aza wa Jal and as long as we have our cars, good house, and our bank account is big then my Lord love’s me and this is a very big mistake.
What about a man who is punished by the Islamic law and he repents and goes back to Allah. Is he punished also in the next life for that crime? If a stealing man is under arrest and he repented will his repentance be accepted? What happens if he is under arrest but he doesn’t repent? And he gets the punishment from the Islamic law?
And this takes us to number six of condition which we did not mention.
Wherever the crime is between you and another human being, then in order for you to repent, you have to clear your record with him in the sense that if I took money from you weather I borrowed it and then I said that I don’t take anything from you and you don’t have any prove, or I stole from you, if I slandered you, or backbit you, said lies about you, and you don’t know about this then Islam tells me that in order for me to repent, I have to clear my records with you in the sense that wherever I stole I have to give it back, if I borrowed money I have to return it back, if I said something wrong about you, if I hit you, I have to seek your forgiveness. If this is done, then Allah Azza wa Jal will accept my repentance, and this brings us to another issue and that is “ok, I can bring back the money and give it back to you but this means that you if you gone report me and maybe this will cause more harm than good”, so scholars say you have to return the money, but you don’t have to return it directly, you can deposited in his bank account, you can put it under his door mat, and if there is no way possible to return the money back to him and this is realized and imagine if I stole money from someone and this person left the country or died.
If he left the country I don’t know where he lived so what would I do? The scholars say that the money and spend it in the means of charity (give it to a poor person, an orphan, to someone who is going to marry (mosques are not acceptable because must be build except with pure money)
You have to spend this money on the intention that the reward goes to the one you stole from. If you do this then your repentance is accepted.
What happens if the authority arrest a person who did something that is wrong and then he was sentenced to be either executed, or because he stole money he has to have his hand chop off, or because he drank alcohol he must be wiped 80 lashes on his back, and what happens if the guy was arrested, sentenced, yet he did not repent, scholars say that the grace of Allah, The Mercy of Allah, stated that the punishment has been implemented this erases his sin, even he did not repent, because Allah is so Generous that he does not combine two punishments on the same felony..so imagine my hand was chopped off and then when I go in the Day of Judgment, Allah will throw me in Hell because I stole money this is double jeopardy and this is not the case in our religion alhamdu li Allah.
All tips of sins as long as you repent before your soul goes out then is accepted, and this is part of the Generosity and Kindness of our Lord, of Allah Azza wa Jal He, created us, and he knows that we are not perfect. He knows that by nature we are sinful, and He almighty enjoys when we ask Him for forgiveness so, no matter what you do providing that you are asking Allah for forgiveness, then He will forgive your sin providing that the conditions are fulfill in the sense that: I could sin and ask for forgiveness with my tong only by seeing: o Allah I seek your forgiveness ,but deep in the heart I didn’t mean it, so this intention only Allah knows about it, the remorse only Allah knows about it, if you don’t have the remorse and you say: “well I am just repenting just in case I die today” do you find the remorse in your heart? “Well, no, but who knows?” Allah knows.
So repentance for all kind of sins is accepted because Allah is forgiving.
There is a general repentance, you by nature you have to be repenting, but for each and individual sin there has to be repentance because you cannot come at the end of the day and say: “O, Allah I am repenting from all” ok can you count them? “yes I can, I repent from looking at females without any legitimate right, I am repenting from swearing, I am repenting from slandering, from gambling, oh I cannot repent from smoking, I did not think at that, so I skip this”. Therefore general repentance it is not accepted because you have to have remorse for each and individual sin you have committed, but in general terms you have to repent every day, but when it comes at the end of the day this particular sin has to have it’s particular repentance.
If the sins are between me and Allah, and not me and another person the same methodology is applied: it has to be sincere, it has to be on the spot, I have to intend not to do it again, I have to have the remorse and it has to be in the valid time. The sincerity and the level of repentance with definitely grow the heavier and bigger the sin is. For example if someone watches movies and watching movies is a sin because it involves looking at the opposite sex, listening to movies and so on, but if you are watching a documentary that adds value to you then this is ok, it is permissible.
I cannot compare watching movies to fornicating and when you are repenting from this you have to have far greater remorse from fornicating, which is a major sin, then from watching movies which is a minor sin. The methodology and the conditions are the same.
Allah knows your intention and what is in your hart, so if you sin and repent with the intention of doing again and again this is not repentance because there is no remorse in it.
Repentance is not physical, it is a feeling. The Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) told us that the master of asking Allah for forgiveness is a supplication. It is a long supplication, but you acknowledge in it that Allah is your Lord and you are his servant and that he has created you and you worship him and that he controls his life and you accept his judgment and that your sins are so overwhelming and that you confess them and that His blessings and good tidings are again so overwhelming and you acknowledge them and therefore you seek His forgiveness because no one else can forgive you. It is extremely important for every Muslim to say it every day and every night, after fajr prayer and after magreb prayer and the Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) sais that whoever says it before he goes to bed and dies, he is bound to go to Heaven and whoever sais it in the morning and dies is bound to go to heaven.
As for praying, fasting, performing pilgrimage these are all good deeds that ads value. The Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) sais that the 5 daily prayers, umrah to the following umrah, hajj, Ramadan to the following Ramadan, all of these Allah will forgive the sins between them, which means that the more good deeds you do, the more sins you will have because god deeds erase the bad ones.
Is it permissible to fast in the day I did not wake up for fajr?
No, this is not permissible because Satan exceeds his ways and control over persons because you are innovating. People missed fajr prayer at the time of the Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam), the Prophet himself missed fajr prayer as they were traveling as the authentic hadith said that one time they were traveling in the desert and they were spending the night in one area; the prophet asked his companions who will wake up them for fajr prayer and Bilal offered so Bilal was awake during the night but he just put his head near one of the camels and he felled asleep and they all waked up when the sun was in the middle of the sky so the Prophet asked Bilal what happened and he answered: “By Allah whatever made you sleep, made me fall asleep.
So the Prophet felled asleep, but he never told the others that they have to chop a hand or a leg, or to perform umrah. By punishing yourself (fasting, spending money) whenever you miss a prayer you are adding something to our religion, you are innovating and you are making this form of worship a punishment. You should perform this worship sincerely to Allah, not as a form of punishment because at the end of the day you will end up hating fasting. It is wrong to worship Allah only by punishment, look at the reward you will get if you pray fajr on time
How to repent if I do not fast a day in Ramadan?
There are forms of punishment for sins, whether there is a sin you have committed or it is an obligatory thing that you have abandon, so there are sins like drinking alcohol, fornicating and there are obligatory things that you did not do, which are also considered a sin such as fasting Ramadan. If you do not fast a day of Ramadan this is a sin by itself, so how can I repent?
1. The conditions we have mentioned
2. Compensating it
This does not apply to all, in the sense that if I missed few years of prayer, the authentic opinion is that you can do the prayers again. If you miss a prayer because you overslept or you forgot, then yes you can pray it the minute you wake up, or the minute you remember. Other than that, if you intentional abandon a prayer, let’s says magreb prayer and you do not forget about it and isha prayer comes in, then if you pray maghreb prayer it is not accepted. Scholars say that the hadtih of the Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam): “Whomever sleeps a prayer of forgets about it he has to pray the minute he wakes up or he remembers it”. Scholars say that the Prophet gave 2 reasons, sleeping and forgetting, but those who leave it intentional, the Prophet says that prayer was meant to do it on time