Walking out of the masjid (mosque), I observe an old man crying. Praying in a dark corner he asks of his Lord for forgiveness. Looking at this man, I remember that I too must have sinned today. I turn back and have a seat. I ask Allah for His forgiveness, for He says in the Qur'an: "...and whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed zaalimoon (wrongful oppressors)" [al-Hujuraat 49:11]. I do not wish to be amongst the zaalimoon.
In today's society, people can be classified into two categories: those who sin and repent, and those who merely sin. It is the latter of the two that tend to lead a life of misery. In my opinion, the western society we live in leaves us no choice but to sin on a daily basis. Going to University and being present in such an environment exposes us to situations in which we inadvertently sin. Nevertheless, it is important to realize our mistakes and repent rather than isolate ourselves from such a society. Note however, I am not saying that it is justified to sin just as long as we repent. We should sincerely attempt to avoid displeasing Allah, and when having recognized that we have displeased Him, ask Him for His forgiveness.
The act of repentance is based upon an important premise: that we realize when we have made a mistake. Quite often, we take sin lightly; this is the trap of the Satan. We degrade our sins to being sagheer (minor) when they may not necessarily be. We claim: "How bad can it be to look at pictures of the opposite gender in magazines? So what if I smoke once in a while?" However, two narrations by Imam al-Bukhari clarify the dangers of such an attitude:
Anas (may Allah 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 Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), we used to count them as things that could destroy a man". And Ibn Mas'ood (may Allah 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".
Furthermore, there is danger in even performing minor sins. When we perform minor sins, quite often they accompany no guilt for performing them. "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" [Shaykh Salih al-Munajjid, "I Want to Repent But..."]. As a result, we should continuously evaluate our actions, and ensure that we are not committing any sins. It is irrelevant that sins that we commit are major or minor, but that we are disobeying the command of Allah which is in turn, disliked by Him. We should try our best to not displease Him.
After realizing one's mistake and prior to repenting, two things must be done. Firstly, one should feel remorse and guilt for performing the sin. This should translate into a sincere intention to not repeat that sin. Secondly, we must perform good deeds so as to help counter the effects of that sin. A sahih (authentic) hadith clarifies this:
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "The one who does bad deeds then does good deeds is like a man who wears a tight coat of mail which almost chokes him; when he does a good deed, it becomes a little looser, and as he does more good deeds it becomes even looser, until it falls off him and drops to the ground".
The chance to repent is never lost. Once a sin is committed, kiraaman kaatibeen (the recording angels) delay writing our deeds for a certain amount of time. If one regrets the sin, and repents during this time seeking Allah's forgiveness, the angel does not record the sin. Furthermore, even after the angel records the sin, one can regret and ask Allah for His forgiveness allowing the sin to be wiped from our record. Until we die, we can always ask Allah for His forgiveness.
We sin, time and time again. Yet we can only hope that Allah will forgive us. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told us: "Allah is more compassionate towards His slaves than this mother towards her child". Let us then turn to Allah to repent. Let us do good and forbid evil. Let us be in the company of righteous people. Let us avoid deviation after having been guided aright. May Allah remain our source of light in the darkness, for whomever Allah guides cannot be led astray, and whomever He leaves astray, cannot be guided.
Brother Al-Mundhir is a contributing writer for youngmuslimscanada.