POSSIBLY YOU KNOW people who have their noses stuck too high in the sky. Even more likely, you and I may ourselves be such people, for pride is a trait which very easily sinks its nasty roots into a sinful heart.
The Price of Our Perfect Imperfection
It’s a tragedy for us humans that we try to create a flawless image of ourselves. Most of our efforts compass around one common aim: To be perfect, to be the best, better than all else.
But of course, perfect we are not. So one fine day we inevitably draw something unfavorable our way. And since we were never prepared for this, we lose all hope, shutting the door on any potential development, success, and self-improvement from there on. Rather, our worst latent negative energies begin to toll, and we start thinking of ourselves as losers and doomed forever.
How truly fortunate that this is not what our Creator—Perfect, indeed—designed for us imperfects.
Allah, the powerful over all things, continually reminds us in the Gracious Quran that man is inherently humble and helpless before Allah. We are weak. Hence we keep making mistakes throughout our lives, knowingly and unknowingly—mistakes pile up in our walk through the world like mountains.
Undoubtedly true that a believer does his best to avoid error and sin. Yet a believer is still human, weak in the service of his Lord. No man can be successful in being free of all mistakes. The Prophet ﷺ –the human being exemplarily perfected– rises to infallibility by the grace of His Lord’s pleasure in His creation and by way of His inerrant guiding of him and His divinely correcting revelation to him. This reflects in us common human creatures in a way –or it ought to. The attitude expected of man is not that of being flawless or sinless, but that constantly he shall seek forgiveness from the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful. Allah enjoins the faithful thus:
O you who believe! Turn to Allah with sincere repentance, in the hope that your Lord will remit your evil deeds and admit you to Gardens beneath which rivers flow. [Sûrat Al-Tahrim, 66:8]
Real Men Repent
The most telling example of a man whom few might think would cry because of his sins before Allah is ʿUmar. ʿUmar was known for being strong and fearless, so much so that his name alone struck terror in the hearts of the mightiest of his time. Yet it is none other than him about whom it is said that two black streaks ran down his face because of constant weeping over his sins. He feared Allah so much that he once said:
If someone announced from the heavens that everybody will enter Paradise except one person, I would fear that that person would be me.
ʿUmar’s example also sheds light on the fact that a believer doesn’t repent just once for a sin. He may repent and then, in a moment of weakness, repeat the same sin. Nonetheless, Allah is always ready to shower His slaves with His mercy. His grace never ceases to embrace His humble servants, and thus whenever they seek forgiveness for their sins, they are readily forgiven. Thus ʿUmar, in the same report –being the complete and balanced believer he was– added this to the above statement:
And if someone announced that everybody will enter Hell except one, then I would hope that that one person would be me.
Why We Don’t Repent
On many occasions, I have heard people tell me that they vow not to repeat a particular sin, but yet they become weak, give in to Shayṭân’s ploys, and end up committing that sin again. “I don’t think I need to seek Allah’s forgiveness because I know I’ll commit that sin again,” a girl told me some days back.
This is exactly the reason that so many people fall into despair. What is the use of repenting, they think, when they’ll yet again do the same thing for which they just sought forgiveness? I answer with what I had once heard a scholar say on this:
What if you fall sick, will you not take the medicine? Or will you think that sometime in life you might fall sick again, so what’s the use of taking the medicine right now too?
Likewise, do we skip meals, thinking we’ll have food tomorrow or some other day? Ironically, we don’t have food only once, twice, or three times a day, but keep snacking away at anything we can lay our hands on, at times to satiate our hunger, at times only out of sheer yearning or gluttony.
So the next time we are having food, we should also think within ourselves that the way food is pulling us toward itself, becoming the focus of all our attention, so does Allah command our awareness, and He likes us best when we return to Him in repentance.
Mercy and the Believer’s Mindset
Most people misunderstand Allah’s mercy. They commit all evils and then say: “Oh, Allah will forgive me, for He is the All-Merciful.”
True, Allah is the Most Merciful. But so too is He Al-Razzâq, the Provider, and indeed the Best Provider, for He provides all and none provides Him. But here we are found doubting Allah’s promise of providing for us. Day and night we keep struggling to earn a living. Yet in the same way that we put out all our effort to provide for ourselves and our families, we also need to exert ourselves in seeking forgiveness and abandoning the sins from which forgiveness is being sought.
At times it is also the doubt of Allah’s mercy that keeps a man delaying to seek forgiveness. He thinks he has rebelled against Allah so much, and that the One who has been annoyed to all extents can’t ever forgive. Nonetheless, we know from the Quran that our Lord is, indeed, the All-Merciful and grants eternal salvation in response to a sincere repentance:
O my servants who have transgressed against their souls! Do not despair of the mercy of Allah: For Allah forgives all sins, for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Turn to your Lord (in repentance) and bow to His Will, before the penalty comes upon you. Thereafter, you shall not be helped. [Sûrat Al-Zumar, 39:53–54]
So after sinning, one should not feel despair. Rather, we should always turn to Allah in hope and forward sincere repentance to Him. Then we should take all possible care not to repeat that sin.
Truth be told, there is hardly any time left to be wasted in listening to this voice of hope which has been calling to us since ever. But do we really hear it? Do we really want to hear it? Are our ears deaf to this compassionate voice? Do we even remember the times when we have sinned, and then shut our ears to this voice?
It keeps reminding us of our Lord’s promise of forgiveness. It tells us what a great opportunity repentance is which Allah grants to his servants. It tells us that as long as the repentance is sincere, Allah accepts it, and makes it easy for the person to let go of the sins he has sought forgiveness for.
It is never too late for a man to repent, and to shed tears for the wrongdoing he has spent his life in. It is never too late for correcting our ways and starting a bright new life. All we have to do is to take the initiative. A single step toward Him, and, behold, we shall find all the ways lying clear before us.
Let’s take that first step, for without it our lives can’t move onto the blessed path destined for us. Let’s take that step before we lose that single last breath of ours, to which we are inextricably bound.
Let’s take that step before the unseen is revealed…for the door of repentance is still not closed.