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30 Reasons for Redemption

Muslema Purmul
3 May 2012

by Muslema Purmul Scholars have often noted that a Muslim should have an almost balanced level of fear and hope in Allah , while their hope in Him should actually be more due to the hadith (narrations) of the Prophet : “When Allah completed the creation, He wrote in His Book which is with Him on His Throne, „My Mercy overpowers My Anger.‟” (Bukhari) Yet despite this encouragement from scholars, many Muslims seem to ache from an unhealthy level of guilt and disapproval in themselves, and thus suffer from too little hope in Allah . Subhan Allah, Glory be to God, the shaytan (devil) approaches us through extremes. He comes to some Muslims through the doors of complete negligence in order to prevent them from tawbah (repentance). Yet, he actually comes to others through their humility and tricks them into thinking that feeling excessively guilty all the time for their mistakes and shortcomings is an act of worship. When they accept this approach, it becomes a habit of their nafs (ego). Guilt becomes excessive and a tool against their iman (faith) when it actually prevents a person from real tawbah, because they feel their sins are too heavy, or too oft-repeated, and there is little hope for them to get better. They dread going back to Allah because they are overwhelmed by shame. They may even ask Allah for forgiveness but deep down, they feel they are not worthy of it and they begin to doubt themselves in everything they do, and doubt Allah‟s Love for them, and sometimes give up and indulge even more in sins because of their feeling of hopelessness. There are a number of mistakes in this approach. First, the word „tawbah‟ does not mean excessive guilt nor does it mean despising oneself. Tawbah is translated to mean „repentance‟ but comes from the Arabic root which means “to return to.” This is the same root as the Beautiful Name of Allah al-Tawwaab. So the one making tawbah is simply returning to Allah while He is Oft-Returning to them in His infinite Mercy. The second mistake is when the Muslim creates a lot of fiction around their mistakes making them bigger than they actually are, accusing themselves of much worse than what was actually done. They lack having mercy on their own selves in an effort to be sincere, but in doing so actually make it harder for themselves to turn back to Allah as they lose hope. Another form of fiction created around guilt is when the person feels guilty about something which Allah will not ask them about. It isn‟t a sin or shortcoming of theirs in the first place, but they feel responsible and guilty. Allah is Greater than His needing His servants to torture themselves in this way. The third mistake is even if the sin was something bigger in nature, the guilty person who wants to return to Allah should focus on Allah‟s Greatness and not the size of their sin. Now this is an interesting point to

reflect on. Those whom the shaytan tries to reach through negligence are advised by our predecessors, “Don‟t think about the sin being minor, think about the Greatness of the One you are sinning against.” Similarly, those whom the shaytan tries to hinder through excessive guilt, must also be advised “Do not look at the size of the sin, but the Greatness of the One Who has promised His forgiveness.” To think that mistakes are simply too big or too repeated for the forgiveness of Allah is a form of doubting Allah infinite Mercy. It is a materialistic approach, subconsciously limiting His Forgiveness to the human constructs of forgiveness we find in the world. The question is not “Will Allah forgive us?” The question is “Will we turn to Him?” The Forgiveness of al-Ghafur, al-Afuww, (the Forgiving, the Pardoner) is greater than anything we can imagine. The fourth mistake is that Allah doesn‟t want us to despise ourselves. He wants us to feel regret in disobeying Him, to turn back to Him seeking His forgiveness, to have the determination not to do it again, and if other people were harmed then to return their rights. These are the conditions of tawbah as outlined by Imam Nawawi in Riyadh al-Saliheen. The initial feeling of regret and guilt is simply the key to the whole process. One should not get stuck staring at the key, but use it to unlock the door of seeking forgiveness, and open the door with the determination of not going back, in order to walk into the room of redemption, the room of getting closer to Allah by returning to Him. It is hope in His Mercy that drives this process and moves a person from simply focusing on the key of regret to actually using it to propel oneself closer to Allah . One of the signs that a person carries disapproval of themselves is when they need or seek attention or approval from others in order to feel good. Even acting arrogantly can actually be a sign of personal insecurity rooted in unhealthy guilt. It‟s amazing to think how a disease that enters through an extreme approach to humility (excessive guilt and despair) actually can lead to its opposite extreme in arrogance. Whatever the guilt is rooted in must be confronted, allowing the person to take their lessons, mend their ways and move forward. When it comes to repenting from harmful addictions, part of one‟s determination to not return to the sin should include seeking the help of a counselor or therapist. Real tawbah is not about getting stuck in an endless cycle of excessive guilt and returning to sin. Ibn Al-Qayyim mentioned in Jawab al-Kafi a line in which the excessively guilty person describes his diseased state, “I drank a cup to taste its pleasure then drank another to heal its pain.” As Ramadan is the opportune month to purify ourselves from our diseases, I wanted to compile a list of Quranic verses, ahadith, and sayings that remind us how Allah welcomes our returning to Him, our true tawbah. He is repeatedly assuring us of His Mercy and Forgiveness, not asking us to despise ourselves. Tawbah is about removing the sin from one‟s path in order to draw even closer to Allah than before. Every sinful mistake is an opportunity and a signal that it is time to grow in our relationship with Allah ; and as we turn to Him walking, He turns to us rushing. Tawbah as such is an act of redemption and elevation, not despair: