April 27, 2001

The Intricacies of Sin


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 Shaytaan. 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

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.

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