Friday 19 February 2021

Allah's acceptance of repentance is only for those who commit evil and then soon repent

Man is always attracted to evil and lewdness and falls into the evil temptations of the Satan. Some repent soon after but many keep on falling in the pit of sins and find difficult to retreat. Some are found saying that their life has so much been ruined by the evil doings that they lose hope in being forgiven by Allah. 

But they forget that Allah is the most gracious and merciful Who awaits His servants to show sincere remorse and regret so that they should be forgiven. So much so that Allah promises that He will continue to forgive those who repent their sins and seek forgiveness from Him till just before the angel of death knocks at their door. 

We are sharing two verses (verses 17-18) from Surah 4. An Nisa (The Women) in which both extremes of Allah's promise of forgiveness are spelt out:

اِنَّمَا التَّوۡبَةُ عَلَى اللّٰهِ لِلَّذِيۡنَ يَعۡمَلُوۡنَ السُّوۡٓءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ يَتُوۡبُوۡنَ مِنۡ قَرِيۡبٍ فَاُولٰٓـئِكَ يَتُوۡبُ اللّٰهُ عَلَيۡهِمۡ​ؕ وَكَانَ اللّٰهُ عَلِيۡمًا حَكِيۡمًا‏ 
(4:17) (And remember that) Allah's acceptance of repentance is only for those who commit evil out of ignorance and then soon repent. It is towards such persons that Allah turns graciously. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

وَلَيۡسَتِ التَّوۡبَةُ لِلَّذِيۡنَ يَعۡمَلُوۡنَ السَّيِّاٰتِ​ ۚ حَتّٰۤى اِذَا حَضَرَ اَحَدَهُمُ الۡمَوۡتُ قَالَ اِنِّىۡ تُبۡتُ الۡـٰٔنَ وَلَا الَّذِيۡنَ يَمُوۡتُوۡنَ وَهُمۡ كُفَّارٌ ​ؕ اُولٰٓـئِكَ اَعۡتَدۡنَا لَهُمۡ عَذَابًا اَ لِيۡمًا‏ 
(4:18) But of no avail is repentance of those who do evil until death approaches any one of them and then he says: 'Now I repent.' Nor is the repentance of those who die in the state of unbelief of any avail to them. For them We have kept in readiness a painful chastisement.

The Arabic word tawbah means 'to return, to come back'. A man's tawbah after he has sinned means that God's servant, who had turned away from his Master in disobedience, has repented, and has returned to obedience and service. On the other hand, tawbah on the part of God means that the attention of the Master, which had turned away from His erring servant, has once again turned towards him. In this verse, however, God makes it clear to His servants that tawbah is acceptable only from those who commit errors inadvertently and out of ignorance. Such persons will always find the door of God open for them whenever they turn to Him in repentance.

But this tawbah is not for those who pile sin upon sin throughout their lives in sheer indifference to God and who cry for pardon as soon as they see the angel of death approaching. The Prophet (peace be on him) has warned against this attitude in the following words: 'God accepts the repentance of a slave until the gurgling (of death) begins.' (Tirmidhi, 'Da'wat', 98; Ibn Majah, 'Zuhd', 30; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 2, pp. 132 and 153, and vol. 3, pp. 425 - Ed.) For when the last leaf of a man's book of life has been turned, what opportunity remains for a man to return to righteous conduct? Likewise, if a person spends even the very last moment of his life in a state of disbelief and then on the threshold of the Next Life he comes to discover that the facts are quite contrary to what he had imagined, what sense is there for him to seek forgiveness?

Note the fine touch. A sin may be fashionable, and people may sin together without compunction. When one of them is faced with Death, he repents, but that sort of repentance is no good.

Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir of these two verses notes that Repentance is Accepted Until one Faces death. Allah states that He accepts repentance of the servant who commits an error in ignorance and then repents, even just before he sees the angel who captures the soul, before his soul reaches his throat. Mujahid and others said, "Every person who disobeys Allah by mistake, or intentionally is ignorant, until he refrains from the sin.'' Qatadah said that Abu Al-`Aliyah narrated that the Companions of the Messenger of Allah used to say, "Every sin that the servant commits, he commits out of ignorance.'' `Abdur-Razzaq narrated that, Ma`mar said that Qatadah said that, the Companions of the Messenger of Allah agreed that every sin that is committed by intention or otherwise, is committed in ignorance.'' Ibn Jurayj said, "Abdullah bin Kathir narrated to me that Mujahid said, `Every person who disobeys Allah (even willfully), is ignorant while committing the act of disobedience.''' Ibn Jurayj said, "`Ata' bin Abi Rabah told me something similar.'' Abu Salih said that Ibn `Abbas commented, "It is because of one's ignorance that he commits the error.'' 
`Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said about the Ayah, (and repent soon (afterwards)), "Until just before he (or she) looks at the angel of death.'' Ad-Dahhak said, "Every thing before death is `soon ﴿afterwards﴾.''' Al-Hasan Al-Basri said about the Ayah, (and repent soon afterwards), "Just before his last breath leaves his throat.'' `Ikrimah said, "All of this life is `soon ﴿afterwards﴾.''' 
Imam Ahmad recorded that Ibn `Umar said that the Messenger said, (Allah accepts the repentance of the servant as long as the soul does not reach the throat.) This Hadith was also collected by At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, and At-Tirmidhi said, "Hasan Gharib''. By mistake, Ibn Majah mentioned that this Hadith was narrated through `Abdullah bin `Amr. However, what is correct is that `Abdullah bin `Umar bin Al-Khattab was the narrator. 
Allah said, (It is they to whom Allah will forgive and Allah is Ever All-Knower, All-Wise.) Surely, when hope in continued living diminishes, the angel of death comes forth and the soul reaches the throat, approaches the chest and arrives at the state where it is being gradually pulled out, then there is no accepted repentance, nor a way out of that certain end. 
Hence Allah's statements, (And of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil deeds until death faces one of them and he says: "Now I repent,'') and, (So when they saw Our punishment, they said: "We believe in Allah Alone...'') [40:84] Allah decided that repentance shall not be accepted from the people of the earth when the sun rises from the west, as Allah said, (The day that some of the signs of your Lord do come, no good will it do to a person to believe then, if he believed not before, nor earned good through his faith.) [6:158]. 
Allah said, (nor of those who die while they are disbelievers.) Consequently, when the disbeliever dies while still a disbeliever and polytheist, his sorrow and repentance shall not avail him. If he were to ransom himself, even with the earth's fill of gold, it will not be accepted from him. Ibn `Abbas, Abu Al-`Aliyah and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said that the Ayah: (nor of those who die while they are disbelievers), was revealed about the people of Shirk. 
Imam Ahmad recorded that Usamah bin Salman said that Abu Dharr said that the Messenger of Allah said, (Allah accepts the repentance of His servant, or forgives His servant, as long as the veil does not drop.) They asked, "And what does the drop of the veil mean '' He said, (When the soul is removed while one is a polytheist.) Allah then said, (For them We have prepared a painful torment), torment that is severe, eternal and enormous.
Muhammad Asad Explanation
The expression min qarib " مِنۡ قَرِيۡبٍ ", which here implies nearness in time, could also be rendered as "soon", i.e., soon after having committed the evil deed; most of the classical commentators however, hold that in this context it denotes the time before the actual approach of death. This interpretation is borne out by the next verse.
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation
The actual word is: جَہَالَۃ. Though it also means “ignorance” it is predominantly used to mean committing a sin or some mischief while being overwhelmed by emotions. Thus in Arabic it generally occurs as an oposite of self-control (hilm) instead of knowledge (‘ilm).
The Qur’an has determined these two cases of acceptance or rejection of repentance. After this, one case remains: a person was not able to repent right after his sin; however, he did not delay repentance till his death. In this case, the Qur’an is silent and in the words of Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, this silence creates hope as well as fear and the purport of the Qur’an also seems that one should remain between hope and fear in this case. He says that in spite of this what comes to his mind is the fact that such people would hopefully attain salvation through the intercession of the Prophet (sws) because in their case there is no reason for it to be prohibited.(See: Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 2, 267)

Verse By Verse Quran Study Circle Explanation: Lessons:

  • We learn that a person may commit a sin for several reasons. It could be that he did not know that it was a sin. Or it could be that he knew it was a sin but he fell for his temptations and committed an act of disobedience.
  • We learn after one realizes his mistake then he should not delay repentance because no one knows when they will take their last breath. One must sincerely turn to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in repentance immediately after realizing their mistake.
  • Repentance will not be accepted at the time of death, therefore do not miss your chances.

So how should one repent? First of all we must accept the responsibility of having sinned or done something not accepted by Allah: We must recognize that we have done wrong. Then second we should sincerely regret our wrongdoing: We must have true remorse for doing wrong and for the pain and problems we've caused. And in case someone has been hurt, we must seek his forgiveness. And then we must make a sincere resolve for not repeating  sin or wrongdoing or evil thing: We must be committed never to repeat the act regardless of the temptations or situation. 

But since man is so weak to control himself, he may falter again. So he must repeat the steps mentioned above and continue doing and Allah promises to accept his repentance and will forgive him. But one must not delay his repentance for one never knows when death befalls him, for then when angel of death approaches him and he sees his death is now inevitable, then he has ran out of time and for such sinners, the verse 18 quoted above should serve as a warning.
May Allah help us understand Qur'ān and help us to act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. Aameen.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'anYou may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.
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Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Qur'ān from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Qur'ān officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. [2]  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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