The Repentant Sinner

Anas (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu) narrated that the Messenger (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Every son of Ādam commits sin, and the best of those who commit sin are those who repent.”[1]

Some of us sin a lot, and some of us sin a little, but this article is not about naming and shaming people or making anyone feel bad. If ever there were a person I should do that to, it would most certainly be me. This post is not even about going in-depth about the types of sins, or the severity of some compared to others, and other things like this.

I only want to discuss repentance, and how it—along with sinning—is one of the most fundamental aspects of our lives as Muslims. Obviously, repentance is a necessary part of life, but so too is sinning, because without the ability to sin, repentance would have no use to us.

We are born sinless, but did you know that for those of us who seek Allāh’s forgiveness after sinning, it is as though we have never sinned?

Abu ‘Ubaydah b. ‘Abdullāh b. Mas‘ūd narrated that his father (radiy Allāhu ‘anhumā) said: The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

“The one who repents from sin is like one who did not sin.”[2]

Isn’t it something quite profound how we can sin constantly, but as long as we sincerely repent, our sins will be forgiven and wiped from our list of deeds? It makes one wonder how sins can actually bring a person closer to Allāh through asking for forgiveness, because it might just be that He puts a particular test in someone’s life—be it a problem with lowering the gaze, or controlling one’s tongue, or being disobedient to one’s parents—to make or break that person; whether they respond the right way or not in trying to seek Allāh’s help and forgiveness, and not giving in under the pressure.

It makes sense because Allāh did not create us without the tendency to sin. The Father of Mankind, Ādam (‘alayhi al-Salām) and the Mother of Mankind, his wife Hawā (‘alayha al-Salām) lived in Paradise, but then Shaytān (the Devil) lured them into sinning, and Allāh took them out of Paradise and put them on Earth. Isn’t it something odd that all people, regardless of religious or non-religious background, have an urge to sin?

Look at the one who deceived Ādam and Hawā (‘alayhumā al-Salām). Shaytān sinned by disobeying Allāh, but unlike our Mother and Father, Shaytān did not repent.

“And We have certainly created you, [O Mankind], and given you [human] form. Then We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Ādam,” so they prostrated, except for Iblīs. He was not of those who prostrated:

[Allāh] said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?” [Satan] said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.” [Allāh] said, “Descend from Paradise, for it is not for you to be arrogant therein. So get out, indeed, you are of the debased.” [Satan] said, “Reprieve me until the Day they are resurrected.” [Allāh] said, “Indeed, you are of those reprieved.” [Satan] said, “Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [to You].” [Allāh] said, “Get out of Paradise, reproached and expelled. Whoever follows you among them, I will surely fill Hell with you, all together.”
“O Ādam, dwell, you and your wife in Paradise, and eat from wherever you will, but do not approach this tree, lest you be among the wrongdoers.”

But Satan whispered to them to make apparent to them that which was concealed from them of their private parts. He said, “Your Lord did not forbid you this tree except that you become angels or become of the immortal.” And he swore [by Allāh] to them, “Indeed, I am to you from among the sincere advisors.” So he made them fall, through deception, and when they tasted of the tree, their private parts became apparent to them, and they began to fasten together over themselves from the leaves of Paradise. Their Lord called to them, “Did I not forbid you from that tree and tell you that Satan is to you a clear enemy?” They said, “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.” [Allāh] said, “Descend, being to one another enemies. For you on the Earth is a place of settlement and enjoyment for a time.” He said, “Therein you will live, and therein you will die, and from it you will be brought forth.”

O children of Ādam, We have bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your private parts and as adornment, but the clothing of righteousness – that is best. That is from the signs of Allāh, perhaps they will remember.

O children of Ādam, let not Satan tempt you as he removed your parents from Paradise, stripping them of their clothing to show them their private parts. Indeed, he [Satan] sees you, he and his tribe, from where you do not see them. Indeed, We have made the devils allies to those who do not believe.[3]

We cannot let ourselves go with sinning. Despite sinning being unavoidable, with even the very first of mankind having sinned, we cannot consider sins as small, because perhaps a sin in our eyes that we see as very unimportant is the opposite to Allāh. He might wish to make that one sin enormous, so who are we to judge whether one sin is bigger than another? This is not to do with minor and major sins, but that we should treat each sin as heavy, because that way, perhaps Allāh will look at it as something small.

It is reported that Abu Ayyūb al-Ansāri (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu) said:

“A person might do a single good deed, rely on it, and forget sins that he regards insignificant, but then meet Allāh (on the Day of Judgment) with those sins surrounding him. (Another) man might commit a sin, but never stop fearing its consequences, until he meets Allāh safe and sound.”[4]

The act of repentance needs to be sincere. It is really important that we get repentance right, because if one of the following criteria are missed out, we can be certain that we were not sincere when we asked Allāh to forgive us:

– Giving up the sin
– Regretting having done the sin
– Making the firm intention to never go back to the sin
– Returning anything stolen from others, or seeking their forgiveness if we have hurt others, as this category of sin is not as simple as those between us and Allāh.[5]
I sometimes feel a sinking feeling in my stomach, and everything seems to affect me in the worst of ways. I ask myself if it is my sins overwhelming me, or if it is me taking it all too much to heart. In truth, it is the fact that I sin but do not seek repentance enough. When Shaytān comes, he clouds my vision of seeing how Allāh is ready and eager to forgive me. It is something we all need to help one another to fight. It does not matter what sin we have committed: Allāh is there for us as long as we truly seek His forgiveness, and He only wants to forgive His slave of their sins.

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu) that the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

“If you were to commit sins until your sins reach the Heaven, then you repented, your repentance would be accepted.”[6]

What purpose would Paradise have if we were not created with a desire to sin? Would it not be questioning Allāh’s Wisdom? Everything has its role in this world. I know that at times when we give in and sin, we feel helpless, but we have to pick ourselves up and say to ourselves, “I am a servant of Allāh, so Who do I think is the One I need to go to for help?” Al-Ghafūr (the Most Forgiving), Al-Rahīm (the Most Merciful), so we should speak to Him, through du’ā (supplication) and through salāt (prayer), because what more do we really have in this life other than making du’ā, salāt, and tawbah (repentance)?

It is reported that Talq b. Habīb (rahimahu Allāh) said:

“The right of Allāh is too great and heavy for the creation to fulfill, and the blessings of Allāh are too many to enumerate, but you should remain repentant, morning and evening.”[7]

Know that the door of repentance only closes if you think it has. Shaytān is always hungry to make us feel like we are destitute, but it is our job to fight that. Otherwise, if we keep saying something to ourselves, we will believe it sooner or later, even if it is false. So what gives us the right to not fight Shaytān? What gives us the right to feel pathetic when Allāh is watching us constantly? What do we think He feels about us when we do not even pause to ask Him for help? How often do we just put Him to one side and try to talk to others about our sins, when He is the One who conceals them from the sight of people?

Abu Ayyūb al-Ansāri (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu) reported that Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

“If you were not to commit sins, Allāh would have swept you out of existence and would have replaced you with another people who have committed sin, and then asked forgiveness from Him, and He would have granted them pardon.”[8]

At times, we all feel our desires try to take us over, and we like to let our anger out instead of staying calm. We cannot control our tongues much of the time, and we all have a bad habit we constantly engage in. But no matter how much we sin, we have to understand that all is not lost. Nothing is lost permanently. Even if we have committed a really disgusting sin, what makes us feel so bad that we cannot ask Allāh for forgiveness?

It is only the evil in our souls and Shaytān that cause us to become depressed and feel down.

Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair in the Mercy of Allāh. Indeed, Allāh forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”[9]

For those of us who say, “But I don’t feel like when I repent that it’s accepted,” there are signs that one can feel when our repentance truly is accepted. If we trust in Allāh and truly believe in Him, we will believe in His Qur’ān and His Messenger (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam).

So do not feel like this world is over. Instead, feel like wishing for blessings in life and for Allāh to accept our forgiveness, no matter how often we find ourselves sinning. It is only sincerity and the correct steps towards repentance that are really important.

Shaqīq al-Balkhi (rahimahu Allāh) was once asked: “What is the mark of [true] repentance?”

He replied: “Continued crying over past sins, deep fear of falling into them again, staying away from bad company, and keeping the company of good people.”[10]

It is narrated that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would seek Allāh’s forgiveness at least seventy times in a day. Another narration says that he would seek it a hundred times in a day, and in another, it is said that he would seek it over a hundred times in only one gathering. All this from a man who was sinless.

It was narrated that Ibn `Umar (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu) said:

“We used to count that the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said one hundred times in a gathering:

‘Rabb ighfir lī wa tub `alayya innaka ant Al-Tawwāb Al-Rahīm’ (O Allāh, forgive me and accept my repentance, for You are the Accepter of repentance, the Most Merciful).”[11]

Is it for ‘banter’ that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) sought Allāh’s forgiveness in so many different situations and so often, every single day? He was free of sin, but he was perfectly humble. What do we even attempt to show? Why do we think it is that he said the following in prayer? This is something we say all the time.

It was narrated from Hudhayfah (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu), that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would say between the two prostrations in prayer:

“Rabb ighfir lī, Rabb ighfir lī

“O Lord forgive me, O Lord forgive me”[12]

Sins may blacken the heart, but sincere repentance whitens it. Shaytān never repented, and never will do, but our Mother and Father (‘alayhumā al-Salām) did, so we have a choice.

Never lose hope. Remember, we have Allāh as long as we always try to turn to Him before we return to Him.



[1] Sunan Ibn Mājah 4251

[2] Sunan Ibn Mājah 4250

[3] Al-Qur’ān 17:11-28

[4] Ibn Hajar, Fatḥ Al-Bārī

[5] Acceptance of Repentance –

[6] Sunan Ibn Mājah 4248

[7] Ibn Abī al-Dunya, Al-Tawbah 62

[8] Sahīh Muslim 2748

[9] Al-Qur’ān 39:53

[10] Abu Bakr al-Daynūri, Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir Al-‘Ilm 2645

[11] Sunan Ibn Mājah 3814

[12] Sunan Ibn Mājah 897

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