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Sins and their Means of Forgiveness

Answered as per Shafi'i Fiqh by Darul Iftaa Jordan
When a Muslim commits a sin, what is his punishment in the Hereafter and how can he avoid it? Are there sins that Allah the Almighty wouldn`t forgive as some sinners despair of His mercy?


Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.

In all his affairs, a Muslim must be keen on pleasing Allah the Almighty through obeying His ordinances, and abstaining from His prohibitions. However, when a Muslim commits a sin or violates a teaching of Sharia, he must seek pardon from Allah and make sincere repentance. In this regard, Allah the Exalted says, "Say: "O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of God: for God forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."{Az-Zumar, 53}.

In principle, sin incurs the wrath and anger of Allah and entails punishment in the Hereafter. It could even affect the sinners` worldly life, whether he paid attention to that or not, where his behavior becomes confused, his relationships become unstable, and his business activities meet failure. Therefore, Sharia has offered many means through which a sinner could make repentance.

If the person has committed a major sin, such as apostasy, adultery, usury, drinking intoxicants, disobedience to parents, slandering chaste women, unjustified killing, and eating up orphans` property, then he must make sincere repentance. He can achieve this through doing the following three things: Abstaining from that sin immediately, becoming determined not to commit it again, and having remorse for committing it along with seeking pardon from Allah. If he does these three, Allah will accept his repentance because He the Almighty doesn`t break His promise. He the Exalted said, " He is the One that accepts repentance from His Servants and forgives sins: and He knows all that ye do."{Ash-shura, 25}. However, if that sin was related to the rights of other people. For example, he has taken someone`s money unjustly. In this case, he must give it back.

Out of His mercy and grace, Allah has made several means for obliterating minor sins, but if He the Almighty wills, he may not forgive any sin for He the Exalted said, "Whatever misfortune happens to you, is because on the things your hands have wrought, and for many (of them) He grants forgiveness." {Ash-shura, 30}. Some of these means are: making sincere repentance in accordance with the aforementioned conditions, performing ablution properly, going to the mosque frequently, prostration with humility, fasting Ramadan, performing night prayer, and avoiding major sins. Some evidence on this is as follows: Allah says, " If ye (but) eschew the most heinous of the things which ye are forbidden to do, We shall expel out of you all the evil in you, and admit you to a gate of great honour"{An-Nisa`, 31}. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "Should I not direct you to something by which Allah obliterates the sins and elevates (your) ranks." They said: "Yes, O Messenger of Allah". He said, "Performing Wudu' properly, even in difficulty, frequently going to the mosque, and waiting eagerly for the next Salat (prayer) after a Salat is over; indeed, that is Ar- Ribat". [Muslim]. Moreover, Amr b Sa'id b al-As reported: I was with Uthman, and he called for ablution water and said: I heard Allah's Messenger (PBUH) say: When the time for a prescribed prayer comes, if any Muslim performs ablution well and offers his prayer with humility and bowing, it will be an expiation for his past sins, so long as he has not committed a major sin; and this applies for all times.{Muslim}.

Jurists have stated that persistence in committing minor sins is, in itself, a major sin, because it is an underestimation for the teachings of Sharia. Thus, a Muslim must be keen on seeking Allah`s forgiveness on constant basis, never recommit sins, and never despair of Allah`s mercy. Despair of Allah's mercy is, in itself, a sin, because it is as if a person takes Allah`s mercy and grace lightly. Be it a major or a minor sin, Allah will pardon a person for it once he makes sincere repentance. In addition, it is prohibited to label Muslims as disbelievers for having sinned. Indeed, the one who repents from sin is like one who did not sin and tagging Muslims with disbelief is typical of the doctrine of Khawarij, and it is invalid. It is stated in {Tohfat Al-Mohtaaj, 3/92}, " Every Muslim, even an evil-sinner, will enter Janah/paradise, even after prolonged punishment, contrary to the view of the misguided groups, such as the Mu'tazilah and the Khawarij."

In conclusion, the Muslim who has committed a sin is a believer; not an apostate. However, he must make repentance, never recommit that sin, and he must give rights to whom they belong. If he recommitted that sin, then he must re-repent, renew the pledge of allegiance to Allah, and never despair of His mercy since the one who repents from sin is like one who didn`t sin. The situation of the one who dies before making repentance is in the Hand of Allah. He either forgives or punishes him, and this same meaning is reflected in a verse cited by Al-Lakani in {Jawharat At-Tawheed}. And Allah the Almighty knows the best.

This answer was collected from the official government Iftaa Department of Jordan.

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