Praise be to Allaah, we praise Him and seek His help. Whomever Allaah guides cannot be led astray, and whomever He leaves astray, cannot be guided. I bear witness that there is no god except Allaah alone, with no partner or associate, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.
Allaah has commanded all the believers to repent, as He says (interpretation of the meaning): “… And all of you beg Allaah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.” [al-Noor 24:31]
People may be divided into two types, those who repent and turn to Allaah, and those who do wrong; there is no third category. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “… And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed zaalimoon (wrong-doers, etc.).” [al-Hujuraat 49:11]. We are living in a time when many people have strayed far from the religion of Allah, and sin and immorality have become so widespread that there is no one who remains free from the taint of evil except for the one who is protected by Allaah.
However, Allaah will not allow but that His light should be perfected, thus many people have awoken from the slumber of negligence. They have become aware of their failure to fulfil their duties towards Allaah, have regretted their carelessness and sin, and so have started to move towards the beacon of repentance. Others have grown weary of this wretched life of misery, and so they are looking for a way out of darkness and into the Light.
But these people face many obstacles which they think stand between them and repentance, some of which exist within their own selves, and others in the world around them.
For this reason I have written this brief work, hoping to clear up this confusion, dispel doubts, explain wisdom and drive away the Shaytaan.
Following an introduction which discusses the dangers of taking sin lightly, I then explain the conditions of repentance, psychological cures, and fataawa (rulings) based on evidence from the Qur’aan and Sunnah which are addressed to those who repent. This is followed by quotations from some of the scholars’ comments, and my own concluding remarks.
I ask Allaah to benefit me and my Muslim brothers through these words. I ask no more from my brothers than that they should pray for me and offer me sincere advice (naseehah). May Allaah accept the repentance of us all.
The danger of taking sin lightly
You should know, may Allaah have mercy on me and on you, that Allaah has commanded His slaves to repent sincerely and has made doing so obligatory. He says (interpretation of the meaning): “O you who believe! Turn to Allaah with sincere repentance…” [al-Tahreem 66:8].
Allaah has given us time to repent before the honourable scribes (kiraaman kaatibeen – recording angels) record our deeds. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The (scribe) on the left hand raises his pen (i.e., delays writing) for six hours [this may refer to six hours of 60 minutes as measured by astronomers, or it may refer to short periods of time during the day or night – Lisaan al-‘Arab] before he records the sinful deed of a Muslim. If he regrets it and seeks Allaah’s forgiveness, the deed is not recorded, otherwise it is recorded as one deed.” (Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer and al-Bayhaqi in Shu’ab al-Eemaan (The Branches of Faith); classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Silsilat al-Ahaadeeth al-Saheehah, 1209). A further respite is granted after the deed has been recorded, up until the moment before death approaches.
The problem is that many people nowadays do not place their hope and fear in Allaah. They disobey Him by committing all manner of sins, day and night. There are those who are being tested by the idea of regarding sins as insignificant, so you may see one of them regarding certain “minor sins” (saghaa’ir) as inconsequential, so he might say, “What harm can it possibly do if I look at or shake hands with a (non-mahram) woman?” They think nothing of looking at women in magazines and on TV shows. Some of them, when they are told that this is haraam, may even facetiously ask, “So how bad can it be? Is it a major sin (kabeerah) or a minor sin (sagheerah)?” Compare this attitude with that reflected in the following reports narrated by Imaam al-Bukhaari (may Allaah have mercy on him):
Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “You do things which in your eyes are less significant than a hair, but at the time of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), we used to count them as things that could destroy a man.”
Ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The believer regards his sin as if he were sitting beneath a mountain which he fears may fall on him, whereas the sinner regards his sin as if a fly lands on his nose and he swipes it away.”
Will these people then understand the seriousness of the matter when they read the following hadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)? “Beware of the minor sins which are often thought of as insignificant, for they are like a group of people who stopped in the bottom of a valley. One of them brought a stick, and another brought a stick, until they had gathered enough to cook their food. These minor sins, if a person is called to account for them, will destroy him.” According to another report, he said: “Beware of minor sins, for they will pile up until they destroy a person.” (Reported by Ahmad; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2686-2687).
The scholars said that when minor sins are accompanied by a lack of shame or remorse, and with no fear of Allaah, and are taken lightly, then there is the risk that they will be counted as major sins. Hence it is said that no minor sin is minor if you persist, and no major sin is major if you keep on seeking forgiveness.
So we say to the one who is in this situation: Do not think about whether the sin is major or minor; think about the One Whom you are disobeying.
In sha Allah, these words will benefit those who are sincere, and who are aware of their sins and shortcomings, and do not insist upon doing wrong and adhering to their faults.
These words are for those who believe in the words of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning): “Declare (O Muhammad) unto My slaves, that truly, I am the oft-Forgiving, the Most-Merciful.” [al-Hijr 15:49] and in His words “And that My Torment is indeed the most painful torment.” [al-Hijr 15:50]. It is essential to keep this balanced view in mind.