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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Repentance/Tawba


The other day I read something in the Quran that scared me. Allah (the Exalted) spelt out the meaning of false repentance and true repentance. It really made me think about the lives that we are leading.

Many of us think it is okay to live a life full of sin and delay repentance until we get old and then we will be ready to put all our desires behind us. Because by that time we shall be so old that we will not be able to commit any sins! So how can someone be sincere in their repentance when they cannot do it now! True repentance is when you can commit sins but turn away for the sake of Allah (the Exalted).

What is the point knowing that we are sinful but not doing something about it? If we were truly intelligent then we would do something and repent in an appropriate manner.

Let us ponder the Quranic passage:

إِنَّمَا ٱلتَّوْبَةُ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ ٱلسُّوۤءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ يَتُوبُونَ مِن قَرِيبٍ فَأُوْلَـٰئِكَ يَتُوبُ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ عَلِيماً حَكِيماً

“Repentance from Allah is for those who commit evil in ignorance then repent from it shortly; those are have (true) repentance; as Allah is all knowing and all wise.”

Quran: Women 4-17

This passage clearly spells out to us the reality of repentance which is when someone does something out of ignorance, realises their mistake and repents. Now if we go back to our previous comments by reflecting on the following verse (4:18).


وَلَيْسَتِ ٱلتَّوْبَةُ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ ٱلسَّيِّئَاتِ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَهُمُ ٱلْمَوْتُ قَالَ إِنِّي تُبْتُ ٱلآنَ وَلاَ ٱلَّذِينَ يَمُوتُونَ وَهُمْ كُفَّارٌ أُوْلَـٰئِكَ أَعْتَدْنَا لَهُمْ عَذَاباً أَلِيماً
“Repentance is not for those who commit evil until death appears to them and say, “Now I repent!” no for those who are dying they are disbelievers and upon them we have prepared an awful punishment.”

That is as clear as it can be. You cannot repent when the soul is being taken out. Up to that moment repentance is valid but when it’s being taken out, the time for repentance has gone. So do not delay your repentance. Start now, stop reading this and repent. Turn back to Allah (the Exalted) make a solemn oath to turn away from sin. Do not procrastinate do it now. The word procrastinate is also interesting as it means putting something off until tomorrow. Who knows where you are going to be tomorrow? There is no time like the present.

A doctor once told me how a non Muslim died. Just before he died he saw the angel of death, sat up in his bed and said what the hell! He was so heavily sedated that this was not medically possible!

Repentance is not when someone does wrong actions and when death is manifest then they say I repent now! Because now I have no choice! Yet how can we think that we are going to survive until we are old and reach our death beds? Many of us are dying now because of health reasons.

Two people, my age, have had heart attacks, one has died. Were they waiting until they were old until they repented? What was the point in that then? Did he die without repentance? How many other people will die because of car accidents and so on? The reality of our situation is that we do not know when we are going to die. So why are we delaying something that would benefit us immensely? Even if you repent a million times a day you’ll find Allah (the Exalted) ready to accept it. Just view the first Quranic verse and it’s as plain as day.

The Quran passage is added to by this hadith:

روى الترمذي عن ابن عمر عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال إن الله يقبل توبة العبد ما لم يُغَرْغِر

Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) reports that the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said, “Allah accepts the repentance of his servant until the gurgle.” (At-Tirmidhi)

The gurgle is the death rattle or the time in which the soul is being pulled out. So the presence of the angel means the time for repentance is over and there is no more acceptance of repentance. This is when the soul is taken out and the door of repentance is closed forever. As are the actions that they could have done except knowledge that benefits people, charity etc.

If a person dies without repentance then the matter is up to Allah (the Exalted) whether they are forgiven or not. 


Word/definition

The first station of the spiritual path is repentance. When you take an oath of allegiance with a spiritual master you put your previous life behind you.

Imam Al-Ghazali (may Allah show him mercy) fourth section of his magnum opus Ihya Al-Ulum Al-deen/Revival of the Religious sciences with the chapter of repentance. The second passage the Imam put this so beautifully, “Repentance from sins is returning to the veiler of shortcomings and knower of the unseen.” (Ihya p.3 Vol4).



Conditions

Repentance has four conditions

1. Remorse over what occurred

2. Leave the sin immediately

3. Determination not to return to the sin

4. If it involves the right of another then it has to be fulfilled. (Risala Qushariyyah p.127) If money or a right has been taken then it needs to be returned.

The greatest sign of repentance is regret as the hadith states; the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said,   
  الندم توبة 
  
"Repentance is regret.”
(Imam Ahmed and Ibn Majah).



Hopelessness and importance of moments

We live in time where tribulations are being poured upon us from every direction. So when we see people deep in sin. We should not be self-righteous and look down at them rather you should look at them with the eye of mercy because you could be in their position.

If you think that you are better than them you lose what this religion is based upon, mercy. You need the mercy of Allah as much as they do and you cannot guarantee that you’ll stay religious or even die Muslim. No one has a guarantee of this because you could slip up and be that alcoholic or drug addict lying in the gutter. If you come across a person in a dire situation then try to help them give them a chance to repent.

There was a drunk person who came to us and asked us some questions. We answered his questions and tried to help him. He is not drinking all the time now and has a job.

Maybe none of this could have happened if we had not helped them. And I could not have helped him if I thought that I was better than him. I looked at him as if I was the drunken man and he was sober. Then I asked myself the question, how would I like to be treated? He still suffers from the drink problem but now he is better than he was. This is a blessing of Allah (the Exalted) and nothing to do with me.

So do you see how important your role is? You can meet people at critical moments in their lives and this can either be a help or be a hindrance to them. And the affect of these moments can change lives forever. Not just the person who are coming into contact with but the lives of those around him. So do not make people lose hope in Allah (the Exalted) or forgiveness because it’s not up to you who gets forgiven.


Never lose hope

So never lose hope that you will never change your ways and that you cannot change your sinful path. You can change your ways and you can become that person that you hope to be. You can become the person of prophetic practice that you could never dream of.

The acceptance of repentance is down to the unbound mercy of Allah (the Exalted) and not up to the things that we think we know about someone. We are not sinless and only the Prophets are perfect and we 'normal' people are prone to trip up sooner or later but when we do, we repent and return. We do not become despondent or hopeless, we move on and continue.

It does not matter how great your sin, the forgiveness of Allah (the Exalted) is greater. Don't ever forget that, ever.

The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said,

  أتبع السيئة الحسنة تمحها

“Follow wrong actions with good actions, erases them.” (At-Tirmidhi).

This is also another way out for those in situations where they need to do something to relieve their guilt. Do something good!



Consider these Quranic passages:


وَهُوَ ٱلَّذِي يَقْبَلُ ٱلتَّوْبَةَ عَنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَعْفُواْ عَنِ ٱلسَّيِّئَاتِ 

“He (Allah) who accepts the repentance of his slave and pardons wrong actions.” (Ashura 42:25)


أَلَمْ يَعْلَمُوۤاْ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ هُوَ يَقْبَلُ ٱلتَّوْبَةَ عَنْ عِبَادِهِ 

“Do you not know that Allah accepts the repentance of his servants?” (Repentance 9:104)

Allah (the Exalted) has given his creation the door of repentance to enter and it is one of the doors of paradise. These passages do not abrogate the first ones because that was talking specifically about death and these are talking about it generally.

There is always hope and nothing is lost until our time runs out. Make the most of the time that you have left and repent then make progress in your journey towards the afterlife.

As for the repentance of the elite, Dhu Noon Al-Misri (may Allah be pleased with him) said,

توبة العوام من الذنوب وتوبة الخواص من الغفلة

“The repentance of the average people is from sins and the repentance of the elite is from heedlessness.” So 'religious' people should not consider them free from the need of repentance we all need to repent, no matter where we are in this religion.

And if you have time then make a supplication for the author who needs to repent more than you do. Be hopeful of forgiveness and never be hopeless. There is always recourse to every problem. Seek repentance from the sins you know, the sins you do not, the open and the secret sins. 

May Allah (the Exalted) forgive and accept repentance from us all.

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