Sincere repentance has certain conditions without which it is neither correct nor accepted. These are as follows:
A disbeliever’s repentance is not correct because his disbelief negates his claim to repent. A disbeliever’s repentance is entering into Islam. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said, “But repentance is not (accepted) of those who (continue to) do evil deeds up until, when death comes to one of them, he says, ‘Indeed, I have repented now,’ or of those who die while they are disbelievers. For them We have prepared a painful punishment.” [an-Nisa 4: 18]
It means that if a disbeliever seeks repentance for his sins then it will not be accepted. It is because he is negating the first condition of repentance: believing in Islam. Therefore, his repentance is not correct. However, when he enters into Islam, all his past sins will be forgiven. He is like a new born baby free from any sins. His acceptance of true faith is his repentance. He does not need to repent for his past sins separately. SubhanAllah, the mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala!
The ayah mentioned in the text us teaches that if a person dies as a disbeliever then there is no hope for his forgiveness. Even if his family prays for him, their prayers for him will not be accepted. This tells us the gravity of this matter. If we are Muslims but our loved ones are not, then we must hasten to convey the message of Islam to them. If they don’t listen to us then we must not stop praying for their guidance for as long as they are alive. Once a person dies there is no hope of his salvation. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala protect us from this trial.
This also teaches us that Muslims need to protect and value their emaan. Being born in a Muslim family should not be taken for granted. It is a great favor of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala that He decided to deliver us to Muslim parents.
2. Repenting Sincerely for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala
Thus, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala does not accept deeds except those which are sincerely for Him; no one should have any share in it. And sometimes man repents from sins because he is unable to do them, for example, not having money to buy alcohol. So, he repents from consuming alcohol, however, in his heart he believes had he any money he would have purchased a bottle. Such repentance is false and not correct because he did not sincerely repent to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said, “So worship Allah , [being] sincere to Him in religion. Unquestionably, for Allah is the pure religion.” [az-Zumar 39: 2-3]
It means that if a person gives up on a sin because of another being such as fear of one’s parents, spouse or a friend, then such a repentance will not be accepted. As we have stated many times, as Muslims our utmost concern should be: What does Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala want from me? What can I do to attain His pleasure? Are there any activities that I am involved in that displease Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala? A person should then give up on those sins and do that which pleases Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. If Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is pleased with someone then there is no chance that His servants will be displeased from the person.
Instead of having fear of other people in our hearts, the only fear that we should have is that of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. We learned in our Tafseer posts that almost every command is followed by a reminder of Taqwa [Allah-consciousness]. Nothing can stop us from sins or doing wrong except the fear of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Many children are only waiting to be out of the sight of their parents so that they can do what they are being stopped from. People wait for others to go to sleep so that they can use the phone or the Internet and watch what they are not supposed to watch. Instead of instilling the fear of parents, one’s spouse, any other person or even Jinn and Shaytan, children should be informed about the love and punishment of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Whatever we do, our major concern should be our Creator. If He is pleased with us, then nothing else in our lives matters. If we learn Taqwa and teach it to our children as well, then we can be free of constant unnecessary worries.
It also means that we need to check our intention when doing any act of worship. For example, many people fast with the intention of dieting or losing weight. With such an intention a person will only reach his goal but get not reward for fasting.
Many times it is seen that people change themselves in the presence of other people. For example, you come to the Qur’an class modestly dressed with your hair properly concealed. The same evening when you attend a family gathering, the abaya is gone and your hair have been left loose. This is not correct. It means that we only change our behavior in the presence of certain individuals but knowledge has not touched our heart. We should remember that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is everywhere even if people cannot see what we do in our private lives or what we hide in our hearts.
These lessons give us a reminder, over and over again, to check our intentions and make them sincere for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Deeds are according to their intentions and for every person is what he intends.”
And Farooq ‘Umar ibn Khattab radhiAllahu ‘anhu used to pray in these words: O Allah! Make all my deeds good, and sincere for Your Countenance, and do not keep share for anyone in it. (Aameen)
This is a du’a that we should remember. After doing any good deed, we should not just ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to accept it but also to keep it free from Shirk.
3. Distancing from Sins
So, repentance cannot be considered correct while someone is persisting in sins…but if one slips and again commits the sin despite seeking repentance and his repentance fulfilled the conditions and he intended to distance from the sin, then his prior repentance does not become invalid. But he needs to do another Tawbah and this will go on.
Nawawi says: When man repents fulfilling the conditions, then again sins, so it will be recorded as another sin, and his (first) repentance does not become invalid.
And Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah says: When he repents correctly his sins will be forgiven and if he returns to sin then he will again have to repent and when he repents Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will again accept his repentance.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala acknowledges that His servants will keep slipping until they reach their graves. However, a person should not lose hope. If he errs, he should immediately turn to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in repentance. Whenever a servant asks Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for forgiveness, He forgives him. However, the condition is to be sincere in one’s repentance. Indeed, He is patient with His servants.
4. Confessing One’s Sins
Because this is not possible that one repents from something that he does not consider a sin. It is similar to a man who innovates something in religion that is not present in it. He does not count his innovation [biddah] as a sin, in fact, he is seeking nearness to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala through his innovation.
And about the incident of Ifq [slandering of ‘A’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha] it appears in the hadeeth that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said to ‘A’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha:
O ‘A’ishah! Such-and-such has reached me regarding you, if you are innocent then Allah will declare your innocence. And if you have committed a sin then seek forgiveness from Allah and repent to Him because when a slave confesses (his mistakes) and repents then Allah accepts his repentance.
And from here we learn that the danger of disobedience is less than that of innovation [biddah] because usually one repents from disobedience and as far as innovation is concerned then usually one does not repent from it.
Innovation is a sin that we do not even consider a sin. Many of us have innovated these ways to get closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala but the condition for a deed to be accepted is that it should be sincerely for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and on the way of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Any newly invented way of worship that was not taught by the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would be rejected. This is something that we take too lightly. People start arguing if you tell them such-and-such act is not proven from the Sunnah. They ask how this can be a sin when they are only reciting the Words of Allah, some words of remembrance or fasting on selected dates.
Here we learn that innovation is a sin. It is not a mean for earning a reward. Therefore, it is important for us to acknowledge the sins that we are committing or have committed in the past, and seek sincere repentance for them.
How can one stay away from innovation? Seek true knowledge. Do not merely follow people, also study your Deen. We should know what is in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of our Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Without gaining knowledge, we will always be dependent on other people and will never learn whether we are following the Sunnah or an innovation.