Sunday 28 March 2021

The Verse of Mercy: Those who have committed excesses should not despair of Allah's Mercy - Surely Allah forgives all sins

If sinners and wrong doers have been warned to be ready to be thrown into the hell fire, there is still glad tidings for those wrong doers who instantly repent their misdeeds and ask for forgiveness of their Creator. Allah in all His Might and being the Most Merciful has promised to forgive all sins on sincere repentance and amendment of conduct. 

Qur'an is replete with such promises, one such is made in the 53rd verse of Surah 39. Az Zumar. OWing to the promise of mercy made in this verse, this ayat is called The Verse of Mercy:

قُلۡ يٰعِبَادِىَ الَّذِيۡنَ اَسۡرَفُوۡا عَلٰٓى اَنۡفُسِهِمۡ لَا تَقۡنَطُوۡا مِنۡ رَّحۡمَةِ اللّٰهِ​ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ يَغۡفِرُ الذُّنُوۡبَ جَمِيۡعًا​ ؕ اِنَّهٗ هُوَ الۡغَفُوۡرُ الرَّحِيۡمُ‏ 
(39:53) Tell them, (O Prophet): “My servants who have committed excesses against themselves, do not despair of Allah's Mercy. Surely Allah forgives all sins. He is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Some commentators have given a strange interpretation to these words. They say that Allah Himself has commanded the Prophet (peace be upon him) to address the people as “My servants” therefore, all men are the servants of the Prophet (peace be upon him). This interpretation is no interpretation at all but a worst distortion of the meaning of the Quran and indeed tampering with the Word of Allah. If this interpretation were correct, it would falsify and negate the whole Quran. For the Quran, from the beginning to the end, establishes the concept that men are the servants of Allah alone, and its whole message revolves around the point that they should serve none but One Allah alone. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself was Allah’s servant. Allah had sent him not as rabb (sustainer, providence) but as a Messenger so that he should himself serve Him and teach the other people also to serve Him alone. After all, how can a sensible person believe that the Prophet (peace be upon him) might have one day stood up before the disbelieving Quraish of Makkah and made the sudden proclamation: You are in fact the slaves of Muhammad and not of al-Uzzah and ash- Shams. (We seek Allah’s refuge from this).

The address here is to all mankind. There is no weighty argument to regard only the believers as the addressees. As has been observed by Allama Ibn Kathir, to address such a thing to the common men does not mean that Allah forgives all sins without repentance, but Allah Himself has explained in the following verses that sins are forgiven only when the sinner turns to Allah’s worship and service and adopts obedience to the message sent down by Him. As a matter of fact, this verse brought a message of hope for those people who had committed mortal sins like murder, adultery, theft, robbery, etc. in the days of ignorance, and had despaired whether they would ever be forgiven. To them it has been said: Do not despair of Allah’s mercy; whatever you might have done in the past, if you sincerely turn to your Lord’s obedience, you will be forgiven every sin. The same interpretation of this verse has been given by Ibn Abbas, Qatadah, Mujahid and Ibn Zaid. (Ibn Jarir, Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmidhi). 

For further explanation, see (Surah Al-Furqan, Ayats 70-71), the explanation reproduced herein under:
This is a good news for those people who repented and reformed themselves, for they will have the benefit of the general amnesty contained in (verse 70). This was regarded as a great blessing by the true servants because very few of those who embraced Islam had been free from those vices during their ignorance, and were terrified by the threat contained in (verses 63-69), but this amnesty not only redeemed them but filled them with hope.
Many instances of such people, who sincerely repented and reformed their lives, have been related in the traditions. For instance, Ibn Jarir and Tabarani have related an incident from Abu Hurairah, who says: One day when 1 returned home after offering the lsha prayer in the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Mosque, I saw a woman standing at my door. I saluted her and walked into my room, closed the door and busied myself in voluntary worship. After a while she knocked at the door. I opened the door and asked what she wanted. She said that she had come with a problem: She had committed zina, had become pregnant, given birth to a child and then killed it. She wanted to know if there was any chance of her sin being forgiven. I replied in the negative. She went back grief-stricken, exclaiming, Ah! this beautiful body was created for the fire! The next morning, after the prayer, when I related the night’s incident before the Prophet (peace be upon him), he said: You gave a very wrong answer, Abu Hurairah: Haven’t you read the Quranic verse which says: (Those) who do not invoke any deity other than Allah...except the one who may have repented (after those sins) and have believed and done righteous deeds? Hearing this from the Prophet (peace be upon him), I went out in search of the woman, and had her traced again at the Isha time. I gave her the good news and told her what the Prophet (peace be upon him) had said in reply to her question. She immediately fell prostrate on the ground and thanked Allah, Who had opened a way for her forgiveness. Then she offered repentance and set a slave-girl, along with her son, free.
A similar incident about an old man has been related in the traditions. He came before the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: O Messenger of Allah, all my life has passed in sin, there is no sin which I have not committed; so much so that if my sins were to be distributed over the people of the whole world, they would all be doomed. Is there any way out for my forgiveness? The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked him: Have you embraced Islam? He said: I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the Messenger of Allah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Go back, Allah is All-Forgiving and has the power to change your evil deeds into good deeds. He asked: Is it about all my crimes and errors? The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: Yes, it is about all your crimes and errors. (Ibn Kathir).
Tafsir Ibn-Kathir: The Call to repent before Punishment comes

This Ayah is a call to all sinners, be they disbelievers or others, to repent and turn to Allah. This Ayah tells us that Allah, may He be blessed and exalted, will forgive all the sins of those who repent to Him and turn back to Him, no matter what or how many his sins are, even if they are like the foam of the sea. This cannot be interpreted as meaning that sins will be forgiven without repentance, because Shirk can only be forgiven for the one who repents from it. Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said that some of the people of Shirk killed many people and committed Zina (illegal sexual acts) to a great extent; they came to Muhammad and said, "What you are saying and calling us to is good; if only you could tell us that there is an expiation for what we have done.'' 

Then the following Ayat were revealed: 
(And those who invoke not any other god along with Allah, nor kill such person as Allah has forbidden, except for just cause, nor commit illegal sexual intercourse) (25:68).
(Say: "O My servants who have transgressed against themselves! Despair not of the mercy of Allah.) This was also recorded by Muslim, Abu Dawud and An-Nasa'i. 
What is meant by the first Ayah (25:68) is: (Except those who repent and believe, and do righteous deeds) (25:70). 
Imam Ahmad recorded that Asma' bint Yazid, said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah reciting, (إِنَّهُ عَمَلٌ غَيْرُ صَـلِحٍ verily, his work is unrighteous) (11:46). And I heard him say: (قُلْ يَاعِبَادِي الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَى أَنْفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِنْ رَحْمَةِ اللهِ إِنَّ اللهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا وَلَا يُبَالِي إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ) (Say: "O My servants who have transgressed against themselves! Despair not of the mercy of Allah, verily, Allah forgives all sins He does not reckon him Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful).'' This was also recorded by Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi. All of these Hadiths indicate that what is meant is that Allah forgives all sins provided that a person repents. Additionally, one must not despair of the mercy of Allah even if his sins are many and great, for the door of repentance and mercy is expansive. 

Allah says: 
(Know they not that Allah accepts repentance from His servants) (9:104).
(And whoever does evil or wrongs himself but afterwards seeks Allah's forgiveness, he will find Allah Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) (4:110). 
Concerning the hypocrites, Allah says: Verily, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depth (grade) of the Fire; no helper will you find for them. Except those who repent, and do righteous good deeds) (4:145-146). 
(Surely, disbelievers are those who said: "Allah is the third of the three (in a Trinity).'' But there is no god but One. And if they cease not from what they say, verily, a painful torment will befall on the disbelievers among them.) (5:73). 
(Will they not turn in repentance to Allah and ask His forgiveness For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) (5:74) 
(Verily, those who put into trial the believing men and believing women (by torturing them), and then do not turn in repentance (to Allah)) (85: 10). 
Al-Hasan Al-Basri, may Allah have mercy on him, said, "Look at this generosity and kindness! They killed His close friends but He still called them to repentance and forgiveness.'' There are many Ayat on this topic. The Two Sahihs record the Hadith of Abu Sa`id, may Allah be pleased with him, from Messenger of Allah about the man who killed ninety-nine people. Later on, he regretted it and asked a worshipper among the Children of Israel whether he could repent. He told him no, so he killed him, thus completing one hundred. Then he asked one of their scholars whether he could repent. He said, "What is stopping you from repenting' Then he told him to go to a town where Allah was worshipped. He set out for that town, but death came to him while he was on the road. The angels of mercy and the angels of punishment disputed over him, so Allah commanded them to measure the distance between the two towns; whichever he was closer to was the one to which he belonged. They found that he was closer to the town he was heading for, so the angels of mercy took him. It was said that when he was dying, he moved himself (towards that town), and Allah commanded the good town to move closer to him and the other town to move away. This is basic meaning of the Hadith; we have quoted it in full elsewhere. 

`Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, commented on the Ayah: (Say: "O My servants who have transgressed against themselves! Despair not of the mercy of Allah, verily, Allah forgives all sins...'') Allah invites all to His forgiveness; those who claim that the Messiah is God, those who claim that the Messiah is the son of God, those who claim that `Uzayr is the son of God, those who claim that Allah is poor, those who claim that the Hand of Allah is tied up, and those who say that Allah is the third of three ﴿Trinity﴾. 

Allah says to all of these: 
(Will they not turn in repentance to Allah and ask His forgiveness For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) (5:74). And He calls to repentance the one who says something even worse than that, the one who says, `I am your Lord most high,' and says: ("I know not that you have a god other than me.'') (28:38). 
Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "Anyone who makes the servants of Allah despair of His mercy after this, has rejected the Book of Allah, but a person cannot repent until Allah decrees that he should repent.'' 

At-Tabarani recorded that Shutayr bin Shakal said, "I heard Ibn Mas`ud say, `The greatest Ayah in the Book of Allah is: ( اللَّهُ لاَ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الْحَىُّ الْقَيُّومُ Allah! None has the right to be worshipped but He, the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists) (2:255).

The most comprehensive Ayah in the Qur'an concerning good and evil is
( إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإْحْسَانِ Verily, Allah enjoins justice and Al-Ihsan) (16:90).
And the Ayah in the Qur'an which brings the most relief is in Surat Az-Zumar
(قُلْ يعِبَادِىَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُواْ عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ لاَ تَقْنَطُواْ مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ Say: "O My servants who have transgressed against themselves! Despair not of the mercy of Allah.') 
And the clearest Ayah in the Qur'an about reliance on Allah is
(وَمَن يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُ مَخْرَجاًوَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لاَ يَحْتَسِبُ and whosoever has Taqwa of Allah, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine) (65:2-3).' Masruq said to him; `You have spoken the truth.'

Muhammad Asad Explanation: Sc... "whenever the sinner repents and turns to Him": cf., for instance, 6:54 - "Your Sustainer has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy - so that if any of you does a bad deed out of ignorance, and thereafter repents and lives righteously, He shall be [found] much forgiving, a dispenser of grace"; or 4:110 - "he who does evil or [otherwise] sins against himself, and thereafter prays God to forgive him, shall find God much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace". 

Tafsir Ibnu Kastir: [5] Said Ibn ‘Abbas: “This was revealed about the people of Mecca who said: ‘Muhammad claims that whoever has worshipped idols and killed souls which Allah has made inviolable will not be forgiven; how are we expected to embrace Islam and migrate when we have in the past worshipped other deities besides Allah and killed souls which Allah has made inviolable?’ And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse”. 

Said Ibn ‘Umar: “This verse was revealed about ‘Ayyash ibn Abi Rabi‘ah, al-Walid ibn al-Walid and a group of people who had accepted Islam but later on renounced it after being tortured and tried. We used to say: ‘Allah will never accept the repentance or return of these people; people who renounced their religion because of some torture they faced’. And so this verse was revealed. ‘Umar was a scribe. He wrote the verse and sent it to ‘Ayyash ibn Abi Rabi‘ah, al-Walid ibn al-Walid and those people. They embraced Islam and migrated to Medina”. 

‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad al-Sarraj informed us, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Kazari, ‘Ali ibn‘Abd al-‘Aziz, al-Qasim ibn Salam> Hajjaj, Ibn Jurayj, Ya‘la ibn Muslim, Sa‘id ibn Jubayr, Ibn ‘Abbas who related that some idolaters who had killed a great number of people and committed adultery numerous times went to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and said: “What you say and call people to is fine, if only you inform us that there is an expiation for the wrongs that we have committed. And so this verse was revealed (Say: O My slaves who have been prodigal to their own hurt! Despair not of the mercy of Allah)”. This was narrated by Bukhari, Ibrahim ibn Musa, Hisham ibn Yusuf, Ibn Jurayj. Abu Ishaq al-Muqri’ informed us, Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Husayn ibn Muhammad al-Dinawari, Abu Bakr ibn Khurjah>Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Sulayman, Muhammad ibn al-‘Ala’, Yunus ibn Bukayr, Muhammad ibnIshaq, Nafi‘, Ibn ‘Umar. ‘Umar who said: “When we gathered for migration, myself, ‘Ayyash ibn AbiRabi‘ah and Hisham ibn al-‘As ibn Wa’il set an appointment between us. We said: ‘We shall meet at al-Manasif, Banu Ghifar’s site for entering Ihram. If some of us do not make it, it means they have been stopped and the others should proceed ahead’. ‘Ayyash and I made it but Hisham was stopped and was tortured until he renounced Islam. We then made it to Medina. We used to say: ‘Allah will never accept the repentance of these people: they have known Allah and His Messenger but then renounced their faith because of a worldly affliction that has befallen them’. But Allah, exalted is He, revealed (Say: O My slaves who have been prodigal to their own hurt! Despair not of the mercy of Allah) up to His words (Is not the home of the scorners in Hell?) [39:60]”. ‘Umar said: “I wrote these verses with my own hands and sent them to Hisham”. Hisham said: “When I received the verses, I went to Tuwa and prayed ‘O Allah, grant me understanding of these verses. I knew then that they were revealed about us; I therefore mounted my camel and joined the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace”. 

It is also related that this verse was revealed about Wahshiyy, the killer of Hamzah, may Allah’s mercy and good pleasure be with him. We have already mentioned this at the end of Surah al-Furqan. 

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
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • 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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