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.
One might say: “I want to repent, but who can guarantee that Allaah will forgive me if I do so? I want to follow the Straight Path, but I feel very hesitant. If I knew for sure that Allaah would forgive me, I would definitely repent.”
I would say in response that these feelings of hesitation are the same as those experienced by the Sahaabah themselves. If you think seriously about the following two reports, the feelings you have will be dispelled, in sha Allaah.
Imaam Muslim (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported the story of how ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas (may Allaah be pleased with him) came to Islam: “…When Allaah put the love of Islam into my heart, I came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said: ‘Stretch forth your hand so that I may give bay’ah (pledge of allegiance) to you. He stretched forth his hand, but I pulled my own hand back. He asked, ‘What is the matter, O ‘Amr?’ I said, ‘There is a condition.’ He asked, ‘What is the condition?’ I said: ‘That I be forgiven.’ He said: ‘Do you not know, O ‘Amr, that Islam wipes out whatever came before, hijrah (migration for the sake of Allah) wipes out whatever came before, and Hajj wipes out whatever came before?’”
Imaam Muslim reported from Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with them both) that some people among the mushrikeen killed, and killed a great deal, and they committed adultery, and did it a great deal. Then they came to Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said: “What you say and advocate is good, if only you could tell us that there is any expiation for what we have done.” Then Allaah revealed the words (interpretation of the meanings): “And those who invoke not any other god along with Allaah, nor kill such life as Allaah has forbidden, except for just cause, nor commit illegal sexual intercourse – and whoever does this shall receive the punishment.” [al-Furqaan 25:68]; “Say: ‘O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allaah…” [al-Zumar 39:53].
You might say: “I want to repent, but my sins are many indeed. There is no kind of immoral act, no kind of sin, imaginable or otherwise, that I have not committed. It is so bad that I do not know if Allaah can forgive me for the things that I have done over the years.”
In response, I would tell you that this is not a unique problem; it is one that is shared by many of those who wish to repent. Let me give you the example of a young man who asked this question once. He began his career of sin at a very early age, and by the time he was only seventeen, he already had a long record of committing every kind of immoral act, major and minor, with all kinds of people, old and young alike. He had even abused a little girl. Added to this was a long list of thefts. Then he said: “I have repented to Allaah. I now pray tahajjud some nights, and I fast every Monday and Thursday, and I read Qur’aan after Fajr prayers. Will my repentance be of any avail?”
The guiding principle for us Muslims is to refer to the Qur’aan and Sunnah when we look for rulings, solutions and remedies. When we refer this matter to the Qur’aan, we find that Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Say: ‘O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allaah, verily Allaah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. And turn in repentance and in obedience with true faith to your Lord and submit to Him…” [al-Zumar 39:53-54].
This is the answer to this particular problem. The matter is quite clear and needs no further explanation.
The feeling that one’s sins are too great to be forgiven by Allaah stems from a number of factors:
The absence of certain faith on the part of the slave in the vastness of Allaah’s mercy
A lack of faith in the ability of Allaah to forgive all sins
Weakness in one aspect of the heart’s action, namely hope
Failure to understand the effect of repentance in wiping out sins
We will answer all these points here:
It is sufficient to quote the words of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning): “… and My Mercy embraces all things…” [al-A’raaf 7:156]
It is sufficient to quote the saheeh hadeeth qudsi: “Allaah says: “Whoever knows that I am able to forgive all sins, I shall forgive him, and I shall not mind, so long as he does not associate anything with Me.’” (Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, and by al-Haakim; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4330). This refers to when the slave meets his Lord in the Hereafter.
This may be remedied by referring to the hadeeth qudsi: “ ‘O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and put your hope in Me, I will forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, if your sins were to reach the clouds of the sky, and you were to ask me for forgiveness, I will forgive you and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, if you were to come to Me with sins nearly the size of the earth, and you were to meet Me not associating anything with Me, then I would bring you forgiveness nearly the size of (the earth).’” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4338).
It is sufficient to quote the hadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “The one who repents from his sin is like the one who did not sin in the first place.” (Reported by Ibn Maajah; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 3008).