Repentance

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(part 1 of 3): Door to Salvation Description:  The means of salvation from an Islamic perspective. Part 1: The Islamic teachings on sin and ...

(part 1 of 3): Door to Salvation

Description: The means of salvation from an Islamic perspective. Part 1: The Islamic teachings on sin and salvation.
Objectives
·       Learn the Islamic view with regards to sins.
·       Learn the meaning of repentance from an Islamic perspective.
·       Appreciate the Mercy of Allah with regards to repentance.
Sin and salvation are issues of profound human concern in all faiths.  Unless someone’s sense of right and wrong is distorted, human beings are conscious of their sins and realize they will be held accountable.  Psychologically, human beings respond to bad behavior by feeling guilt.  Naturally, all religious systems offer some method of releasing man from the burden of sin.  Generally, they either guarantee salvation by faith alone or through individual works and striving.
In this lesson we will learn the Islamic teachings on sin and salvation.  In the second lesson we will learn the condition to be met for repentance to be valid.  In the third and last part, we will learn some beautiful words of penitence from the Quran and the Prophet.

What is Sin?

How does Islam view sins? What are major sins in Islam?
All sins are not equal.  They are categorized into grave or major sins and lesser sins.  A major sin is one which God threatens with punishment in Hell, His curse, or displeasure.  The rest are considered lesser sins.
Some major sins can actually take a person outside the fold of Islam. An example of this is Shirk, the greatest of major sins.  The purpose of human creation is to worship Allah alone.  Shirk defies this purpose.  Not only can no one be worshipped apart from Allah, absolutely no one else can be worshipped along with Him.  Once, the Prophet Muhammad asked:
Shall I not inform you about the greatest of the major sins?”
The Companions replied, ‘Yes.’
He explained: “To join others in worship with Allah and to be undutiful to one’s parents.” (Saheeh Al-BukhariSaheeh Muslim)
Some of the major sins are sorcery, homicide, drinking intoxicants, homosexuality, fornication and theft.

What is Repentance?

Repentance is the process of turning away from sin and amending one’s life.  It is to feel regret and sorrow.  The Arabic word for it is tawbah which literally means ‘to return.’  Islamically, repentance is the act of leaving what Allah has prohibited and returningto what He has commanded.
A fundamental principle of Islam is that man is born sinless in a state of submission to Allah known, as the fitrah:
“Every child is born in a state of fitrah, then his parents make him a Jew, a Christian, or a Magian.” (Saheeh Al-BukhariSaheeh Muslim)
Through sin, man turns away from Allah, and through repentance, he ‘returns’ to God.  Through repentance, he returns to his original, sinless state of fitrah.
In Islam, repentance is an act of worship through which humans achieve salvation, as Allah commands the faithful:
“And turn all of you in repentance to Allah, O believers, in order that you may be successful.” (Quran 24:31)
The Prophet of Islam encouraged his Companions to turn to Allah in repentance regularly:
“O people, turn to Allah in repentance and seek His forgiveness.” (Saheeh Muslim)

The Warm Embrace of Divine Mercy

Divine mercy wraps all existence in its fold.  The Mercy is intimately close to every one of us, waiting to embrace when we are ready.  Islam recognizes the human propensity to sin, for God has created man weak.  The Prophet stated:
“All of Adam’s descendants constantly err, but the best of those who constantly err are those who constantly repent.” (Al-TirmidhiIbn MajahAhmadHakim)
At the same time, Allah lets us know He forgives sins:
“Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against their souls!  Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins, for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most-Merciful.’” (Quran 39:53)
Prophet Muhammad was charged to convey this good news to all:
“Tell My servants that indeed I am the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran 15:49)

1.       Allah Accepts Repentance

“Allah wishes to accept your repentance, but those who follow their lusts, wish that you (believers) should deviate tremendously away from the Right Path.” (Quran 4:27)
“Know they not that Allah accepts repentance from His slaves, and receives their gifts of charity, and that it is Allah who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.” (Quran 9:104)

2.       Allah Loves the Sinner who Repents

“For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly.” (Quran 2:222)
The Prophet, may Allah praise him, said:
“If mankind were not to commit sins, Allah would create other creatures who would commit sins, then He would forgive them, for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al-TirmidhiIbn MajahMusnad)

3. Allah is Delighted When the Sinner Repents Because He Realizes He Has a Lord Who Forgives Sins!

The Prophet said:
“Allah is more delighted with the repentance of His slave when he repents, than any of you would be if (he found his) camel, which he had been riding in a barren desert, has escaped from him carrying his food and drink, and he had despaired of it, and come to a tree and lain down in its shade, then while he was despairing of it, the camel came and stood by his side, and he seized its reins and cried out in joy, ‘O Allah, You are my servant and I am your Lord!’ – he would make this mistake out of his excessive joy.” (Saheeh Muslim)

4. Gate of Repentance is Open Day and Night

Forgiveness for sins is not limited to a specific day of the year.  Divine mercy extends forgiveness every day and every night of the year.  The Prophet said:
“Allah extends His Hand at night to accept the repentance of one who has sinned during the day; and He extends His Hand during the day to accept the repentance of one who has sinned during the night – until the sun rises from the West[1].” (Saheeh Muslim)

5. Allah Accepts Repentance Even If Sins Are Repeated

In a hadeeth qudsi[2]  the Prophet said:
“A man committed a sin, then said, ‘O my Lord, forgive my sin,’ so Allah said, ‘My slave has sinned, then he realized that he has a Lord who can forgive sins and can punish him for it.’  Then the man repeated the sin, then said, ‘O my Lord, forgive my sin.’  Allah said, ‘My slave has sinned, then he realized that he has a Lord who can forgive sins and can punish him for it.’  The man repeated the sin (the third time), then he said, ‘O my Lord, forgive my sin,’ and Allah said, ‘My slave has sinned, then he realized that he has a Lord who can forgive sins and can punish him for it.  Do what you wish, for I have forgiven you.’” (Saheeh Muslim)
It should be clear from what was mentioned before that the person in this hadeeth had the intention not to repeat  that sin, but fell into it again due to his natural human propensity, and Allah forgave him due to his sorrow, and belief that God would forgive Him.

6. Entering Islam Erases All Previous Sins

The Prophet has explained that accepting Islam effaces all previous sins of the new Muslim, no matter how serious they were with one condition: the new Muslim accepts Islam sincerely.  Some people asked Allah’s Messenger, “O Messenger of Allah!  Will we be held responsible for what we did during the days of ignorance before accepting Islam?”  He replied:
“Whoever accepts Islam sincerely will not be held to account, but one who does so hypocritically will be accountable for the time before Islam and after.”  (Saheeh Al-BukhariSaheeh Muslim)
From the infinite mercy of Allah, if one repents for their sin or enter Islam, their previous sins are turned into good deeds. Allah says:
“Except those who repent and believe (in Islamic Monotheism), and do righteous deeds, for those, Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran 25:70)


Footnotes:
[1] A sign of the Day of Judgment. When that day comes and the Sun rises from the West, no repentance will be accepted.
[2] A hadeeth Qudsi is a hadeeth in which the Prophet directly narrates a saying from Allah, using the first person “I”.

Repentance (part 2 of 3): Conditions of Repentance

Description: The means of salvation from an Islamic perspective. Part 2: The conditions to be met for repentance to be valid.
Objectives
·       Learn the conditions to be met for repentance to be valid.
·       Appreciate the manifestation of Divine Mercy and Forgiveness in the observance of Islamic rituals.
·       Be aware of the time frame set by Allah within which repentance is accepted.
As with all acts of worship in Islam, a sinner must repent sincerely to Allah alone, and for His pleasure alone, as only He can pardon sin.
“And who forgives sins besides Allah?” (Quran 3:135)
Love of God should be the motivating force behind the act of repentance, accompanied with hope for His reward and fear of His punishment.  The desire should not be to win admiration or praise from people.  One must confess his sins to Allah as He alone can forgive them.  If Allah has kept a sinner’s wicked deeds a secret, he should not expose them by discussing them with friends, as the Prophet said:
“All the people of my Nation may be pardoned for their sins except those who publicize them.” (Saheeh Al-BukhariAl-TirmidhiAbu Daud)
Certain conditions must be met for repentance to be valid.  They ensure sincerity is met and rights of God and men are observed.  Due to the various Quranic verses and hadeeths of the Prophet, may Allah praise him, repentance is not valid unless these conditions are met.

1st Condition:   Stop It

If he is in the midst of performing that sin and he repents, he must immediately stop it.  How can a person expect his repentance to be accepted while he is still satiating his desires?  A verbal expression of remorse not backed by abstinence is a senseless ritual that lacks sincerity. 

2nd Condition: Feel Sorrow

Feeling remorse that one has sinned against God is the essence of repentance.  The guilt of having sinned leads to self-condemnation, without which a person will relish the memories of his sins.  A person must not regard the sin as miniscule, but rather feel that He has acted against the Magnificent Who created him, provides for Him, guided him, and continues to shower His blessings upon him. Is it befitting that we go against One Who is constantly good to us? If ones does not feel remorse, then they are not truly repenting from that sin, but rather they are just saying some words without meaning. Thus the Prophet, may Allah praise him, said:
“Feeling remorse is repentance.” (Ibn Majah)

3rd Condition: Resolve Not To Repeat the Sin

Sorrow should be accompanied with a firm intention not to repeat the sin, or else how can someone feel sorry but plan to sin again?  True sorrow produces a strong desire not to repeat the sin again. Allah says:
“…And those who when they commit an indecency or do injustice to their souls, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their faults-- and who forgives the faults but Allah, and (who) do not persist in what they have done…” (Quran 3:135-136)

4th Condition: Returning the Rights of Others

If one had violated the right of a fellow human, it must be restored to guarantee that he is forgiven.  For example, a person must return what he stole.  If one does not do so, these unfulfilled rights will be taken from the sinner’s ‘account’ of virtuous deeds on the Day of Judgment.  If the owner is unavailable, the property should be given to a close relative of his.  If no relative can be found, it should be donated to the poor.  Backbiting and slander are also rights of fellow human beings that must be restored by seeking forgiveness for him.
The past wrong is corrected by feeling remorse, the present by stopping the sin, and the future is addressed by a firm resolve not to return to the sin.
True repentance involves certain feelings in the heart, words that express it, and deeds to back it.  A sinner should be driven to make amends and set things aright.  Allah has tied good deeds with repentance:
“Whoever repents and does good deeds has truly repented to Allah.” (Quran 25:71)
If one truly repents and follows that with righteous deeds, not only will that sin be forgiven, but Allah, our of His infinite Grace, erases those evil deeds from his record and changes them to good deeds. Allah, the most Merciful, full of Grace, said:
“Except those who repent and believe (in Islamic Monotheism), and do righteous deeds, for those, Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran 25:70)
Divine mercy manifests itself in some beautiful ways for the repentant. Islamic ritual observances have a deep spiritual dimension; they continuously expiate sins of the faithful. Wudoo’salah, fasting, and Hajj wipe out sins when they are performed by the letter and spirit of Islamic Law.

Wudoo’

“When a servant of Allah washes his face, every sin he contemplated with his eyes will be washed away with the last drop of water; when he washes his hands, every sin they committed will be washed off from his hands with the last drop of water; and when he washes his feet, every sin towards which his feet have walked will be washed away with the last drop of water.  So that he comes out pure from all sins.” (Saheeh Muslim)

Salah

“The obligatory prayers of the one who properly performed wudoo’ as Allah the Exalted enjoined on him, will be an expiation for sins committed between them.” (Saheeh Muslim)

Friday Prayer (Jumu’ah Salah)

“If anyone performs wudoo’ well, then comes to the Friday prayer, listens and keeps silent, his sins between then and the next Jumu’ah plus those of three extra days will be forgiven.” (Saheeh MuslimAbu Daud)

Fasting (Sawm)

“All the previous sins of the one who fasts the month of Ramadan out of faith and seeking his reward from the Lord, will be forgiven.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Hajj Pilgrimage

“Whoever makes pilgrimage to the House (Kaaba) and does not have sexual relations with his wife nor commits sins (during Hajj) will return (sinless) the way his mother bore him.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Of course, these are all referring to lesser sins[1]  and mistakes that one may look over. As for the greater sins, repentance from God must be sought, or the person may be help liable on the Day of Judgment.

Repent Before It is Too Late

Allah has set a timeframe for repentance.  When tawba is not a voluntary act of penitence, but escape from the inevitable, it is no longer accepted.
First, a person has all his living days to repent, but when death approaches, regret and sorrow are useless.  Allah informs us:
“But repentance is not [accepted] of those who [continue to] do evil deeds up until, when death comes to one of them, he says, ‘Indeed, I have repented now,’ or of those who die while they are disbelievers.  For them We have prepared a painful punishment.” (Quran 4:18)
For this reason, a person must repent for their sin as soon as they realize it. One does not know when they are to die, and death may seize them before they repent. Second, repentance will also not be accepted upon the appearance of some of the major signs of the Judgment Day herald the end of world.  Even if the unbelievers were to declare their belief in Islam, it will be futile.
“When three things appear, faith will not benefit one who has not previously believed or has not derived any good from his faith: the rising of the sun from its place of setting[2], the Anti-Christ[3], and the beast of the earth[4].” (Saheeh Muslim)


Footnotes:
[1] The difference between greater and lesser sins will be explained in a later lesson, God willing.
[2] On that day, the Sun will rise from the West instead of the East.
[3] A person who will appear at the end of time who will perform supernatural feats and make false claims.
[4] The appearance of the ‘Beast of the Earth’ is another sign of Judgment Day.

Repentance (part 3 of 3): Prayers of Repentance

Description: The means of salvation from an Islamic perspective. Part 3: Prayers of repentance from the Qur'an and Sunnah.
Objectives
·       Appreciate the prayers of repentance from the Quran and Sunnah as being superior to manmade invocations in terms of language, words and expression.
·       Memorize several invocations of repentance from the Quran and Sunnah.
A Muslim may choose any language and wording to express feelings of remorse and return to God as long as they do not contain expressions contrary to the prophetic teachings.  At the same time, prayers taught by Allah Himself in the Final Revelation, the Quran, or through His Prophet are superior in that they comprise of direct, comprehensive words reflecting humility and proper etiquette of addressing the divine.  Using the words of God in itself is an act of worship for which one will receive additional reward.  Also, the Prophet knew his Lord best and was the most humble of men and intimately close to His Lord.  Consequently, his prayers have a special potency in attracting divine grace, not to mention that many of these words were revealed by God through Gabriel.
I highly encourage my new Muslim brothers and sisters to memorize the words of God and His Prophet to approach their Lord in repentance.  You can say them in English at first, because unlike salah these prayers are not required to be said in Arabic.  But with time, please try to memorize the Arabic text using the transliteration provided.  For one, it brings us back to the source of revelation.  For another, Arabic is the language that unifies all Muslims together.  Remember, God is the source of our strength!
First, we will learn the ‘best prayer of forgiveness.’ The Prophet Muhammad, may Allah praise him, said:
‘Anyone who says it during the day, firmly believing in it, and dies before the evening; or says it in the evening, firmly believing in it, and dies before the following morning, will be among the people of Paradise.’

Transliterated Text

“Allah-humma ’Anta Rób-bee laa ’ilaaha il-la ’Ant.  Kha-laq-ta-ni wa ana ’abduka wa ana ’alaa ’ah-dika wa wa’dika mas-ta-tó’t.  ’A’oodhu bika min sharri ma san’at.  ’Aboo-u la-ka bi ni’mati-ka ’alayy, wa ’aboo-u bi dhan-bee faghfir-lee fa ’in-nahu laa yaghfir udh-dhunuba ’il-la ’Ant.”
“O Allah, You are my Lord.  There is no true god besides You.  You created me and I am your slave, following Your covenant and Your promise as much as I can.  I seek refuge in You from the evil I have done.  I acknowledge before You Your blessings bestowed on me and I confess to You my sins.  So forgive me, for surely, no one can forgive sins except You.” (Saheeh Al-BukhariAbu Dawood)

Prayers from Quran

1.    “Rub-bana in-nana samiAAna munadiyan yunadee lil-eemani an aminoo birub-bikum faamanna rub-bana faighfir lana thunoobana wakaffir AAanna sayyi-atina watawaffana maAAa al-abrar.”
“Our Lord, indeed we have heard a caller [i.e., Prophet Muhammad] calling to faith, [saying], ‘Believe in your Lord,’ and we have believed.  Our Lord so forgive us our sins and remove from us our misdeeds and cause us to die with the righteous.” (Quran 3:193)
2.    “Rabbi ighfir wairham waanta khayru ar-rahimeen.”
“My Lord, forgive and have mercy, and You are the best of the merciful.” (Quran 23:118)
3.    “Rabbana thalamna anfusana wa-in lam taghfir lana watarhamna lanakoonanna minal-khaasireen.”
“Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers.” (Quran 7:23)

Short Prayers of the Prophet

1.    When a person would accept Islam, the Prophet would teach him salah and instruct him to beseech God with the words:
“Allah-humma igh-fir lee war-ham-nee wah-dinee war-zuqnee.”
“O Allah, forgive me, have mercy on me, guide me, and provide for me.” (Saheeh Muslim)
2.    Whoever says:
‘Subhan-Allahi wa-bi-hamdi-hi.’
100 times, his sins will be removed from him even if they are like the foam on the ocean.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
3.    The Prophet taught us words to be said at the end of a gathering to atone for whatever takes place in it.
“Subhana-kalla humma wa-bi-hamdika.  Ash-hadu al-laa ilaa-haa illaa anta.As-tagh-fi-roo-ka wa-atoobu ilaay-ka.”
“How perfect are You, O Allah, and praised! I testify that there is no true god besides You.  I ask Your forgiveness and turn to You in repentance.” Al-TirmidhīAbu Da'wūd,Hakīm)

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