Conditions for the acceptance of repentance : I want to Repent but …
Posted March 18, 2012on:
Conditions for the acceptance of repentance
The word tawbah (“repentance”) conveys a profound meaning, one which carries great implications. It is not, as many people think, the matter of mere lip-service, after uttering which a person may then continue in his sin. If you ponder the meaning of the aayah (interpretation of the meaning): “… Seek the forgiveness of your Lord, and turn to Him in repentance…” [Hood 11:3], you will see that repentance is something which is over and above seeking for forgiveness.
Such a great and important matter must necessarily have conditions attached to it. The scholars have described the conditions of repentance, based on the Qur’aan and Sunnah. They include:
Immediate cessation of the sin.
Regret for what is past
Determination not to return to the sin
Restitution of victims’ rights, or seeking their forgiveness
Some scholars have also mentioned more details as conditions of sincere repentance, which we quote below with some examples:
1. That the sin should be given up only for the sake of Allaah, not for any other reason, such as being unable to do it, or being afraid of what people will say.
The person who gives up his sin because of its negative impact on his reputation and standing among people, or on his work, cannot be described as one who repents.
The person who gives up his sin for reasons of health and strength, such as one who gives up promiscuity and immorality because he is afraid of contagious killer diseases, or because it weakens his body and his memory, cannot be described as one who repents.
The person who refuses to accept a bribe because he fears that the person offering it may be from the law enforcement agency, operating under cover, cannot be described as one who repents.
The one who does not drink wine or take drugs just because he does not have the money with which to buy them cannot be described as one who repents.
The one who does not commit a sin because of reasons beyond his control cannot be described as one who repents. So the liar who is robbed of the power of speech, the adulterer who becomes impotent, the thief who loses his limbs in an accident… all of them must feel remorse for what they have done and give up any wish to do it again. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Remorse is repentance.” (Reported by Ahmad and Ibn Maajah; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 6802).
In the sight of Allaah, the one who is incapable of committing a deed but has the desire to do it is the same as one who does do it. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There are only four kinds of people in this world. (The first is) a slave whom Allaah has blessed with wealth and knowledge, and he fears Allaah with regard to them, and uses them to uphold family ties, and acknowledges the rights that Allaah has over them. He has the highest status. (The second is) a slave to whom Allah has given knowledge, but not wealth. His intention is sincere, and he says, ‘If only I had wealth, I would do (good deeds) like so-and-so (the first slave).’ He will be rewarded according to his intention, so their reward will be equal. (The third is) a slave to whom Allaah has given wealth, but not knowledge. He spends his money aimlessly, neither fearing Allaah with regard to it nor using it to uphold family ties nor acknowledging the rights that Allaah has over it. He has the lowest status. (The fourth is) a slave to whom Allaah has given neither wealth nor money. He says, ‘If only I had wealth, I would do (bad deeds) like so-and-so (the third slave). He will be punished according to his intention, so their burden of sin will be equal.” (Reported by Ahmad and al-Tirmidhi, and classed as saheeh in Al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb, 1/9).
2. The one who repents should feel that his sin is repulsive and harmful. This means that if a person repents sincerely, he cannot derive any feelings of pleasure or enjoyment when he remembers his past sins, or wish to repeat them in the future. In his books Al-Daa’ wa’l-Dawaa’ and al-Fawaa’id, Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) mentions many of the harmful effects of sin, including the following:
Loss of knowledge – feelings of alienation in the heart – difficulty in all one’s affairs – physical weakness – loss of the desire to obey Allaah – absence of blessing – lack of success by the help of Allaah (tawfeeq) – tightness in the chest, i.e., unhappiness – generation of evil deeds – habituation to sin – disgrace in the sight of Allaah – disgrace in the sight of people – the curse of the animals – the dress of shame – sealing of the heart and being included in the curse of Allaah – not having du’aa’s answered – corruption on land and on sea – lack of self-respect or honour – loss of a sense of shame – loss of blessings – incurring the wrath of Allaah – feelings of alarm and dismay in the heart of the sinner – falling into the clutches of Shaytaan – an unhappy end – the punishment of the Hereafter.
This description of the harmful consequences of sin would make anyone want to keep away from sin altogether, but some people no sooner give up one kind of sin but they fall prey to another kind, for numerous reasons, including the following:
They think the new sin is less serious
They have a greater inclination towards it, and their desire for it is stronger
Because circumstances are more conducive to this sin than others, which may require more effort; the means of committing it are readily available and widespread
His friends are all committing this sin, and it is too hard for him to separate himself from them
Because the sin is a means of gaining status among his companions, and he is not willing to give up his status, so he continues in his sin. This is what happens to some of those who are in positions of what may be described as gang leadership. Such a thing happened to the shameless poet Abu Nawaas, when (another poet) Abu’l-‘Ataahiyah sought to advise him concerning some of his sins. Abu Nawaas responded:
“Do you see me, O ‘Ataahi, giving up these amusements,
Do you see me losing my status among my people for a life of piety?”
The slave should hasten to repent, because delay is in itself a sin for which repentance is required.
He should have the fear that his repentance may have been lacking in some way, and he should not assume that it has been accepted, so he cannot remain complacent or feel secure against the Plan of Allaah.
He should make up for duties that he has neglected in the past, such as payment of zakaat which he withheld in the past – because it is due to Allaah and it is the right of the poor – and so on.
He should avoid the place where the sin was committed if his presence there will lead to him committing the same sin again.
He should shun those who helped him to commit the sin.
(The above is taken from Fawaa’id hadeeth qaatil al-mi’ah (what we can learn from the hadeeth about the one who killed a hundred people), which we will quote below).
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Friends on that Day will be foes one to another, except al-muttaqoon (the pious).” [al-Zukhruf 43:67]
Bad friends will curse one another on the Day of Judgement, which is why when you repent, you should keep away from them, shun them, and warn others about them if they do not respond to your da’wah and advice. You should not let Shaytaan tempt you to go back to them on the grounds that you want to advise them, especially when you know yourself to be weak and unable to resist this temptation. There are many cases of people falling back into sin because they went back to the company of bad friends.
He should destroy the haraam things in his possession, such as alcoholic drinks, musical instruments (like ‘ood – a stringed instrument – and mizmaar – a wind instrument), haraam pictures and films, worthless literature and statues. They should be broken, destroyed and burnt. This getting rid of all the trappings of jaahiliyyah at the point of turning over a new leaf is absolutely essential. How often has the keeping of such things been the cause of their owners reneging on their repentance and going astray after having been guided! May Allaah help us to remain steadfast.
He should choose righteous friends who will help him, instead of those bad friends. He should strive to attend gatherings where Allaah is remembered and where he may gain more knowledge. He should fill his time with worthwhile pursuits so that Shaytaan will not find ways to remind him of the past.
He should rebuild his body which has been fed on unlawful things, by obeying Allaah and striving to nourish it with only lawful things, so that it will become strong.
He should repent before the death-rattle appears in his throat (i.e., before death is imminent), and before the sun rises in the West [one of the major Signs of the Day of Judgement], as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever repents before the death rattle reaches his throat, Allaah will accept it from him” (reported by Ahmad and al-Tirmidhi, Saheeh al-Jaami’, 6132) and “Whoever repents before the sun rises in the West, Allaah will accept his repentance” (reported by Muslim).
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