CHAPTER - 7
THE MANIFESTATION OF FAITH
· The marks of perfect faith are displayed clearly in the actions and behavior of the believer.
· The Islamic law (Shari’a) has ordained that man should first adopt all possible means and methods and should , then pray to Allah for positive results of his efforts.
· Reliance (Tawakkul) does not consist in sitting idle and setting aside the use of all methods and the laws of nature fashioned by Allah.
· The believer’s point of view is that religious ties are stronger than the blood ties and the bond of creed is more vital than the bond of lineage.
A student who knows that his examinations are only a week away, but spends his time having fun instead of studying, does not realize how near his exams are. Similarly, someone may ask you the way, listen carefully to your detailed instructions and set out in the opposite direction' With regards to the last example, the person's reaction shows that his does not trust you completely. In the same way, we can say that faith is reflected in the actions and behaviour of a believer.
Faith and Actions: Faith and action are inseparable. Action is a consequence of faith, a cherished fruit, and an outward expression of inner conviction. This is why God has, in the Holy Qur’an, associated faith with good action: “They only are the (true) believers whose hearts feel fear when God is mentioned, and when His revelations are recited unto them they increase their faith, and who trust in their Lord”(Qur’an;8:2); “They only are the (true) believers who believe in God and his messenger and, when they are with him on some common errand, go not away until they have asked leave of him. Lo! those who ask leave of thee, those are they who believe in God and His messenger. So, if they ask thy leave for some affair of theirs, give leave to whom thou wilt of them and ask for them forgiveness of God. Lo! God is forgiving, merciful” (Qur’an;24:62); “Successful indeed are the believers who are humble in their prayers and who shun vain conversation, and who are payers of poor due, and who guard their modesty-save from their wives or the (slaves) that their right hands possess, for then they are not blameworthy, but whosoever! craveth beyond that, such are transgressors, and honour their commitments and their covenants, and who pay heed to their prayers”(Qur’an;23:1-9); “It is not righteousness that you turn your face to the east and the west, but righteous is he who believeth God and the Last Day the angels and the Scripture and the Prophets; and gives wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observes proper worship and pay the poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the God-fearing”(Qur’an;2:177).
Increase in Faith: Some scholars consider faith to be a total and indivisible concept, so they hold that a person has to be either a believer or an unbeliever: there can be no intermediate stage, and faith is therefore constant and neither increases nor decreases. But the majority of scholars link faith with good actions and consider it as varying in degrees, in proportion to these 'actions. In fact, this is the view expressly stated in the Holy Qur’an: “... and when the revelations of God are recited unto them they increase their faith”(Qur’an;8:2); “As for those who believe, it has increased them in faith”(Qur’an;9:124); “... and all this but increased their faith and their readiness to surrender (themselves unto God)”(Qur’an;33:22).
Negligence and Belief: Scholars of the traditional school of thought all agree that someone who commits a forbidden act but accepts it as forbidden, or he neglects some thing obligatory , but accepts it as obligatory, he is entitled for punishment in the Hereafter but he will not be deemed an infidel nor he be committed to hell for ever. It is with this significance and meaning that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that an adulterer is not a believer at the time he commits adultery. In other words, he fails to realize that God is watching him, for if he were aware of this he would refrain from such an act out of fear and modesty. Someone planning an adulterous affair may be caught by his father in the nick of time. In this case, will his sense of modesty stop him from fulfilling his plan? If his sense of modesty and respect for his father can prevent him from carrying out such an affair, it will become all the more imperative when he thinks of God.
Fruits of Faith: Actions performed with sincerity are the fruits of faith. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) summed up this point eloquently and precisely in the following Hadith: "Worship God as though you see Him. If you do not see Him, He verily sees you.
Dhikr (Remembrance of God):
One of the fruits of faith is to remember Allah (Dhikr) at all times. To recollect, having read about a very pious man who asked his uncle, also a pious and God-fearing individual with whom he had spent his early years: "Uncle, what should I do in order to become like you?" “Say the following phrase three times a day: Verily God is looking at me; verily God is observing me!” his uncle told him. He did so for a week, and then his uncle asked him to repeat it three times after each prayer for another week, and finally he taught him to repeat it straight from his heart without physically pronouncing the words. Dhikr is the subject to which the Holy Qur’an most draws our attention, and no other subject has been emphasized so much, and no other person has been commended and praised by God in the Holy Book as the one who abides by Dhikr. Linguistically the word Dhikr has two meanings: Dhikr from the heart and Dhikr through speech, both of which have; been used in the Holy Qur’an. Therefore if you wish to be included among those who are constantly God-conscious, you should remember Him from the bottom of you heart and with the power of your intellect. Your efforts with regard to this should be reflected in your conduct and behaviour wherever you are: on your own, in the company of friends, in the street - and whatever mood you are in. You should only do what is acceptable to God.
Whatever you do should be done with the intention of obedience to Him, and this includes abstention from what is forbidden. Your indulgence in what is allowed should be with the intention of seeking His reward. -And if you have two different choices always go for the one which is nearer to God and farther from the temptation to being misled. If you are caught off guard and are drawn away from the path of God, but realize what you have done later, you always have the chance to repent and ask for forgiveness. “Verily, they who are conscious of God bethink themselves (of Him) whenever any dark suggestion from Satan touches them - whereupon, lo! they begin to see things clearly”(Qur’an;7:201). The best way of remembering God is coordinating and integrating the way you speak with the way you feel. Anything you say coming from a mind preoccupied with something else unrelated to the matter at hand, holds no real meaning. For example, a street vendor wanting to sell his wares may repeat, "God is generous'" to attract people's attention to what he is selling, rather than because he is really remembering God. Similarly we cannot take someone seriously who is drinking alcohol, or singing crude songs while talking about God. The best forms of Dhikr are those words uttered when we recite the Holy Qur’an, while kneeling and prostrating in prayer or as suggested by our Prophet (peace be upon him). These days, congregations of Dhikr are performed in a way that is regarded unfavorably in Islam. Dhikr performed through dance or other movements and making rather strange sounds are also not allowed, unless such dancing is performed by someone in a state of divine ecstasy.
The Condition of Fear and Hope: One form of remembering God is to 'fear' Him - to be in awe of Him - and to be aware of how we can suffer if we forget Him, and to hope for His pardon. Let us examine those two concepts in detail. We must always bear in mind that God settles an account quickly and we soon feel great discomfort when we lose our way and forget Him. A real awareness of this 'punishment' makes us eager to please Him, as we realise that this makes us feel much more comfortable and at ease. While this realization induces fear in us, recognition of His readiness to forgive reminds us of His great compassion and generosity and consequently inspires us with hope. A God-fearing heart will always receive His mercy: “Verily, none but people who deny the truth can ever lose hope of God's life-giving mercy”(Qur’an;12:87). A person who lives in an illusion of hopes without being aware of God's power may feel that he is protected from what is in store for him. God says about such people: “But none feels secure from God's deep devising save people who are already lost”(Qur’an;7:99). As mentioned earlier there is no similarity between the Creator and the created. This means that the fear you have for the Creator is not the same as the fear you have for His Creatures. For example you would be terrified if a lion confronted you, showing its teeth, and you were unarmed and unable to protect yourself. But fear of God is completely different. You might be able to ward off the lion's attack but you cannot ward off what is willed by God. Here is another example. You may be caught in a violent flood and panic that it will sweep you away. But that fear is not like the fear of God Who has caused the flood and Who, if He so desires, has the power to stop it or cause it to flow again. It may be possible to escape from the flood, whereas there is no escape from the suffering of God's punishment when it occurs. Fear of illness, hardships, loss of your near and dear ones, 'financial loss, etc., cannot equal the fear of God the Omnipotent and Omniscient. If He wills He may cause you great hardship. And if He wills He may spare you. But no creature can cure you of any illness which your Creator has inflicted on you. A Muslim must therefore be aware of the importance of both ‘hope’ and ‘fear’. This can be demonstrated very simply in our prayer, when we utter the phrase, "God the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful", followed by "Lord of the Day, of Judgement". Unfortunately most Muslims these days put more importance on hope and pardon, than on fear and punishment. However, this does not mean that a devout Muslim should grow complacent simply because he performs all the duties God has ordained and abstains from what is forbidden. He should continue exerting himself and aspire for a privileged position in the next life, and not be like the student who just manages to scrape through his exams without getting a high grade.
Reliance on God (Tawakkul):
God the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an: “..if you do (really) believe in Allah then in Him put your trust if you submit (your will to His)”(Qur’an;10:84): “God loves those who place their trust in Him”(Qur’an;3:159). What is the meaning and significance of tawakkul? We stated earlier that God has created both good and bad, and that the laws He has laid down for the universe contain the means for achieving both. Does tawakkul mean therefore that we can abdicate responsibility for what happens, saying that everything is God's responsibility? There were among the Sufis those who interpreted tawakkul as meaning they could abandon their responsibilities and instead of earning their living, they waited for work to find them without taking action to look for it. If one of them fell sick they left him without medical care, hoping he would be cured without medicine or treatment. They would also travel across the desert without food or water, expecting to be bestowed with whatever they required without making, any effort. They had the same attitude towards seeking knowledge. To prove their point they would misquote the verse from the Holy Qur’an which reads: “And remain conscious of God, since it is God Who teaches you”(Qur’an;2:282) But this is only a portion of a verse, and anyone reading the whole of it would realise that the meaning they claimed is not the true interpretation. Allah says: “O believers! When you deal with each other in lending for a fixed period of time, put it in writing. Let a scribe write it down with justice between the parties. The scribe, who is given the gift of literacy by Allah, should not refuse to write; he is under obligation to write. Let him who incurs the liability (debtor) dictate, fearing Allah his Lord and not diminishing anything from the settlement. If the borrower is mentally unsound or weak or is unable to dictate himself, let the guardian of his interests dictate for him with justice. Let two witnesses from among you bear witness to all such documents, if two men cannot be found, then one man and two women of your choice should bear witness, so that if one of the women forgets anything the other may remind her. The witnesses must not refuse when they are called upon to do so. You must not be averse to writing (your contract) for a future period, whether it is a small matter or big. This action is more just for you in the sight of Allah, because it facilitates the establishment of evidence and is the best way to remove all doubts; but if it is a common commercial transaction concluded on the spot among yourselves, there is no blame on you if you do not put it in writing. You should have witnesses when you make commercial transactions. Let no harm be done to the scribe or witnesses; and if you do so, you shall be guilty of transgression. Fear Allah; it is Allah that teaches you and Allah has knowledge of everything” Qur’an;2:282).
Even if we were to accept their statement for the sake of argument and presume that we can attain knowledge simply by being conscious of God, we could still reason by saying that God-consciousness is attained by abiding by what is ordained by God. As He ordains the seeking of knowledge, anyone failing to abide by that is not a truly God-conscious person, and therefore his attitude is contrary to Divine guidance. There are people, who live only to make money, and their whole lives are orientated towards that goal, and there are people who believe that the means justify the end, and that it is by means alone that logical results are achieved. In fact such an assumption is contrary to reality because the desired result is often not achieved, in spite of the availability of the means. For example, two patients in hospital may receive identical treatment from the same doctor and one may recover while the 'other may die. Similarly, a farmer could use the latest methods and machinery, sow the best quality seeds and fertilize his land with the best fertilizer available, yet a cold spell or some other drastic weather conditions could lay waste to all his efforts. Therefore the means alone cannot produce the end result. However, it is not sensible to ignore them altogether.
The right course is to be led by Divine guidance. We can employ all the means at our disposal and pray to God to grant us the result rather like; tying a camel and entrusting its safety to God, or preparing yourself as well as you can for an exam, and trusting God and praying to Him for your success. This is the true meaning of Tawakkul (trust in God). It does not mean ignoring whatever is at our disposal to get a job done, nor should we disregard the universal laws He has laid down: at the same time, however, we must be aware of the fact that God alone bestows what is good or bad. We need the means to achieving what we wish, and employing the means available to us is away of obeying God. However, we cannot resort to the means alone as the results are in God's hands. Therefore, anyone genuinely trusting God will use every lawful means at his disposal to achieve his goal and will firmly believe that it is God Who grants success.
Gratitude represents the sense of contentment we feel with whatever comes our way, good or bad. God says in the Holy Qur’an: “He who is grateful (unto God) is but grateful for the good of his own self”(Qur’an;31:12); “God will requite all who are grateful (to Him)”(Qur’an;3:144). Being grateful for whatever befalls us, believing that it comes from God, is a fruit of faith. Normally we express gratitude to someone who has been good to us, but that person is only a channel through which God has granted us that good, By the same token we also feel guilty if we de not express our thanks to that person. So what can be said about our immense gratitude to God, Who has granted us the power of our senses of perception, the functions of all our organs, besides granting us health and safety, the earth from which we can survive, and countless other blessings, so many that we could never make a statistical record of them!
Man does not always realise the value of God's blessings on him until he is deprived of them. Someone with bad toothache would realise what a blessing it would be not to have any more pain, but once the pain has gone he may forget the blessing. We realise the blessings of having money when we have financial difficulties. And look how restless we become when there is a power cut and our home is plunged into darkness. Once the power comes back though, we forget to appreciate it. So is it not necessary to thank God for His countless blessings on you? This can be done through words and actions. The words of gratitude we can often repeat are, "Praise be to God. Oh my Lord unto You be all praise!". Showing gratitude through action is sharing what you enjoy with others. A rich man would show his gratitude by helping the poor, a strong person would help the weak, a person in authority can always stand by truth and justice; if, for instance, you are enjoying a five course meal while your neighbour is starving, it would be an act of ingratitude to God on your part if you do not give a share of your food to your neighbor. Actions speak louder than words, and it isn't enough just to repeat the words. "Praise be to God!" a thousand times. You can express your gratitude to God by truly appreciating whatever you have been given, without being discontented or greedy or envying others who have more than you do. So a truly grateful person is grateful at heart, and contented with what God has given him. He will help the poor and the needy and continuously express his gratitude to God.
A Muslim enjoys two different kinds of blessings, good fortune, for which he gives thanks, recognizing it as a reward from God, and patience: if misfortune comes his way he is patient and realizes that in the long run he will receive a reward from God. The reward God grants a poor man who puts up with his poverty with fortitude will be equal to, if not more than, the reward to a rich man who is grateful to God. “.. And most certainly shall We grant unto those who are patient in adversity their reward, in accordance with the best that they ever did”(Qur’an;16:96). Life in this world is not an eternal bed of roses, and there are bound to be prickly patches, like illness, financial loss or betrayal by a friend. Such crises are all part of life. An Arab poet said: Life has confronted you with many unsavory things. Whereas you wished it to be pure of all dirt and anything unsavory. He who yearns ever for the cool shades of time. Is like one who craves for the warmth of fire in the midst of winter. God says in the Holy Qur’an:“We shall surely test your steadfastness with fear and famine, with loss of property, life and produce. Give good news to those who endure with patience; who, when afflicted with calamity, say: "We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return.” (Qur’an;2:155- 156).
You cannot escape from problems and crises, but you have a choice either to bear them with patience or to rebel against them. The latter reaction solves nothing and only makes you more miserable. Dealing with problems with perseverance is the first category of patience. The second category is self-control. A young man may be surrounded by beautiful girls flaunting themselves at him, and he may feel sexually aroused, but his fear of God will make him lower his gaze, refusing to cross the threshold of the door to forbidden pleasure, even though it is wide open. An employee may be offered a bribe equal to six months' salary, but refuses to accept it even though he may need it desperately; or a student may have the opportunity to look up the answers in his book while he is taking an exam, but refrains, in spite of the fact that he would be sure to pass if he cheated. All these are acts of restraint representing patience. We are always tempted to follow our desires, even though we know that giving in to them is bad for us. But the person who, even though he is surrounded by temptations, manages to steer clear of them is truly patient.
The third category of patience is adhering to God's will. Like the performance of prayers, especially fajr, (early morning before sun rise) when we have to get out of our warm beds to pray (Salah), the observance of Ramadan, particularly during the summer months when we cannot drink, and the payment of Zakat and giving of alms, even though we may be reluctant to part with our money. However, all these acts represent our obedience to God's commands. Leading a spiritual life in this day and age when we see so much evil acts being happening all around, can be rather like a man holding a hot poker in his hand! A religious person may be laughed at and humiliated by the public, or even persecuted by those in power. Some people may have a cut in their salaries or be banished from their countries because of their religious beliefs. But anyone who firmly sticks to his beliefs, despite such trials and tribulation, is like those whom God has described in the following verses: “... those who, having attained to patience in adversity, in their Sustainer place their trust”(Qur’an;16:42); “Those who will be given their reward twice over because they are patient and repel evil with good and spend of that We have provided them”(Qur’an;28:54); “But none is granted it, save those who are steadfast, and none is granted it save the owner of great happiness”(Qur’an;41:35).
Submission to God's Will (Compliance of Shari’a):
It has already been mentioned that faith is an aspect of the heart and a territory known only to God. However, outward appearances can be observed by everyone, and we therefore differentiate a believer from a nonbeliever through his actions and words. Thus Islam is the manifestation of inner faith. The meaning of the word 'Islam' is to submit. A child submits to his parents because he trusts them, and we submit to our partners out of love and desire, and a person who has been defeated submits or surrenders to his conquerors. This last example is based on fear of the victor. But a believer submits to God's will totally and unconditionally. He obeys every command, even though he may not know the reason behind it or the benefit to be derived from it, and he stays away from whatever God has forbidden, without necessarily understanding the reason behind the prohibition. This submission has two aspects. The first is practical and can be observed in the form of obedience in actions and speech, points which we shall be discussing later when discussing Islam as a practical faith. The other aspect concerns our mental attitude, which is what we shall be discussing now while we are talking about faith.
This second aspect refers to our inner acceptance of God's will. It is a contentment which brings peace of mind and therefore gives us the courage of our conviction. As a result of such contentment, we have no difficulty in carrying out our duties and keeping away from what is forbidden, without hesitation or complaint. God the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an; “But nay, by thy Lord, they will not believe (in truth) until they make thee judge of what is in dispute between them”(Qur’an;4:65) (which is the practical aspect): “... and find within themselves no dislike of that which thou decidest, and submit with full submission”(Qur’an;4:65) (which is the inner, mental aspect). This represents our mental attitude. It is clear from these verses that faith in God depends basically on our being convinced in our hearts about the rightness of the Divine Command, and therefore we can accept it with full satisfaction. The only response of believers whenever they face the judgement of God and His Apostle can therefore be no other than: “We have heard and we pay heed! - and it is they, they who shall attain to a happy state”(Qur’an;24:51).
Some people always want to know the wisdom behind what is required of them. It is as if they would like to withhold their compliance until they know about it. But this wisdom can be perceived either through the actual text, or by inference - or it may not be perceived at all. In the case that it cannot be perceived, does this mean we disobey our Lord? How would you feel if you had a child who refused to obey you without first knowing the wisdom and reasons behind, whatever it is you want him to do? You would probably think he was rather strange. Perhaps you want to satisfy his curiosity, but because the matter is urgent, you have no time to explain. On the other hand it may be something which needs to be kept secret. But if your son still fails to understand the situation and insists on knowing the reason, you would find his: behaviour defiant, and expect him to obey you because he is your son and you are his parent- Similarly, a military officer refusing to carry out the commander's orders without first knowing the reasons and purpose behind them, would probably end up being court martialled. Yet God's precedence over his worshippers is far beyond that of parents over their children or army officers over-soldiers.
It is His precedence that we obey Him in all respects, regardless of whether they are in harmony with our own desires; or not. It is not for us to look for proof and to strain our minds to' find a viewpoint from the books of jurisprudence to support; our inclinations. And we should not take the foreign vacillations and traditions which we have imbibed into our; culture in form and content as authoritative evidence against the Divine Writ, 'tailor-making' the text to suit our own interpretation. We have done this even at the risk of going outside the principles of Islamic teaching in case our religion contradicts the values and traditions of foreign civilizations. But if in the future the values of society change, and we shift from Western ideals to those of the East, will we have to look for yet more interpretations? We should mention our position regarding concepts such as democracy, capitalism or socialism in this context. Sometimes, we praise democracy and say it is in harmony with Islam, and when it suits our interest we may take the opposing view and say that socialism is in tune with Islam, thus wavering between paradoxical views merely to please the powers that be. But these are not the right sources of guidance. We should refer for this guidance and redress our problems only through the Divine Writ (Qur’an), and be satisfied with it. This would be the position of believers who genuinely believe in the truth of Islam.
Concord and Discord:
Rigidity and flexibility to love and hate for God's sake are also proofs of faith, For example, we may love someone who is religious and God-fearing even though we do not gain any material benefit from him. And we may dislike an arrogant unbeliever, even though he has not done us any harm. We may have very close links with him, but we still dislike him and keep away from him because the bond of brotherhood in religion is stronger than the brotherhood based on kinship or affinity, or the fraternity of lineage and nobility by birth. Prophet Noah's (peace be upon him) son was, by Divine Writ, excluded from his family because of his blasphemy- God Almighty has ordained that there should be no friendship and peaceful coexistence between believers and adamant transgressors against religion. There is no Divine sanction for "peaceful coexistence" however strong the relations may be between the two parties. The Holy Qur’an states: “You will never find any people who believe in Allah and the last Day on friendly terms with those who oppose Allah and His Messenger, even though they be their fathers, their sons, their brothers or their relatives…”Qur’an;58:22).
This does not mean that they are compelled to accept Islam. However, it does mean that they should be prevented from creating obstacles in the path of Islam and from opposing its message. They are most welcome to accept our religion if they are convinced about it and become one of us, enjoying the rights and privileges we enjoy and taking on the same responsibilities. Or, if they wish, they may keep to their own religion, in which case we shall reciprocate and maintain peace with them, as long as they do not oppose our faith: “Allah does not forbid you to be kind and equitable to those who had neither fought against your faith nor driven you out of your homes. In fact Allah loves the equitable”(Qur’an;60:8). This means that a believer's feelings of love and dislike are purely for the sake of his religion. His love is expressed through his generosity, courtesy, patience and sacrifice. He may humiliate himself for his brother's sake and take this in his stride, or sacrifice something which he really needs for his brother's sake. His feelings of hatred for God's sake become manifest through his anger and resentment. He fights with the enemies of Islam, in the defense of Islam with extreme courage and fortitude. He is therefore at the same time flexible and rigid, hard and kind. He reserves his tolerance and kindness for his brothers in Faith, and his harshness and vehemence are directed towards the enemies of his faith and evil forces. The Holy Qur’an states; Muhammad is God’s Apostle, and those who are with him are firm and unyielding towards the disbelievers. (Qur’an;48:29): “... humble towards the believers, proud toward all who deny the truth: (people) who strive hard in God's cause, and do not fear to be censured by anyone who might censure; them”(Qur’an;5:54). These verses describe the attitude of believers when they spared no effort for the sake of striving hard in God's cause (jihad). But when we gave up jihad and did not abide by God's. Will, and started fighting among ourselves and were submissive in the face of our enemies, God caused us to suffer greatly by allowing us to be dominated by those who do not fear Him or have any mercy for us. Such people have ruled our lands and become masters.
Repentance and Atonement:
The love for this life and this world is instinctive; it has been so ordained by Allah. That is why man is always busy in weaving he warp and woof of desires. He loves to amass wealth, has great passion for women; and violence and the desire to avenge him are inborn and is ever tempted to be misguided by negative forces within. So how can he save himself from such temptations? In fact God, out of His mercy, has given man the [opportunity for repentance. Through repentance and atonement man can transform this record of wrong actions into one of good actions and still be rewarded in the life hereafter. God the Almighty is indeed ever-forgiving: “except the one who repents, becomes a true believer, and starts doing good deeds, for then Allah will change his evil deeds into good, and Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Qur’an;25:70). Provided we are genuinely repentant, the door of repentance is open for us as long as we live, and stays open till we draw our last breath-until that hour when the dying man's soul reaches his throat. It is the hour when we face the truth as conveyed by the Prophet (peace be upon him).
The sum and substance of a person's repentance will be manifest at that what he labors, as repentance is an expression of voluntary surrender to God, it will be of no avail when a man draws his last breath if he did not opt to repent consciously when he had the chance. This type of last-minute repentance is more an action performed under duress than one done voluntarily. God the Almighty says: “Verily, God's acceptance of repentance relates only to those who do evil out of ignorance and then repent before their time runs out; and it is they unto whom God will turn again in His mercy - for God is all knowing, wise; whereas repentance shall not be accepted from those who do evil deeds until their dying hour and then say, "Behold, I now repent!" nor from those who die as deniers of truth ...”(Qur’an;4:16 -18). Resisting temptation and being determined not to behave sinfully again are among the basic conditions for genuine repentance. For example, you could not accept an apology from someone who throws dirty water at you, apologizes when you complain, but threatens to do the same thing the next day.
Repentance has two aspects, spiritual and physical. The spiritual aspect is reflected in curability to realize how much damage sinful actions can cause, and the physical aspect represents itself in how you restrain yourself from doing them in the first place by applying the brakes at the right moment ‘the self carries the blame', however, if it fails to do so. In other words, a crime committed by someone who is not aware of its seriousness is much less when compared to someone who is fully aware of its consequences. The second point regarding repentance is that good actions should predominate - the urge to abide by noble values rather than upholding values which are destructive and corrupt. In other words, repentance should reflect itself in a change of behaviour. The Holy Qur’an states: “When those who believe in Our revelations come to you, say: "Peace be upon you. Your Lord has decreed mercy upon Himself. If anyone among you commits evil because of ignorance and thereafter repents and mends his ways; you will find Allah Forgiving, Merciful."(Qur’an;6:54): “However, those who repent after this and mend their ways, then verily Allah is Forgiving, Merciful”(Qur’an;3:89); “except those who repent, reform and let the truth be known; I'll accept their repentance, for I am the Receiver of Repentance, the Merciful”(Qur’an;2:160).
One has to turn over a new leaf by genuinely trying not to transgress against Divine Law and being determined not to repeat one's mistakes. But if, despite your resolve, your willpower fails you, or circumstances force you to do wrong, then you repent again, you will be forgiven even if the same situation recurs. However, if your determination weakens and you say to yourself, "Never mind I will fulfill my desire to do such and such a wrongful act this time, and then ask for forgiveness" your repentance is not genuine and will therefore not be accepted. It is sufficient to repent by abstaining from wrongful acts while being fully aware of what you are doing. God in His greatness will forgive you. But say you hurt another human being by stealing his money or hurting him physically, giving false witness, gossiping or blackmailing, etc. In all such instances you need to put things right with the person concerned or receive his forgiveness. In turn God may show you mercy. Otherwise, on the Day of Judgement that person may get credit for all your good actions, while you will have to bear the brunt of his misdeeds. But however many sins are committed, the door of repentance is ever open, and we should never think God will not forgive us. In fact, despairing of his forgiveness is the gravest sin of all: “Oh you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your own selves! Despair not of God's mercy. Behold, God forgives all sins”(Qur’an;39:53). Thus true repentance is to give up doing what we know is wrong and consciously to do what we know to be right. One should ask for forgiveness from God alone as ordained in the Holy Qur’an: “He brought you into being out of the earth and made you thrive thereon. Ask him, therefore, to forgive you your sins, and then turn towards Him with repentance”(Qur’an;11:61); “Hence ask your Sustainer to forgive you your sins, and then turn towards Him in repentance. For verily my Sustainer is a dispenser of grace, a fount of love” (Qur’an;11:90); “Hence 0 my people, ask your Sustainer to forgive you your sins, and then turn towards Him in repentance”(Qur’an;11:52).
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also addressed the subject of repentance in the same way, urging us to ask for God's forgiveness and save ourselves from punishment in the life hereafter. Sinful people can be put into various categories, one being those who live and die as infidel, for whom there is no hope of forgiveness: “Verily, God does not forgive the ascribing of Divinity to aught beside Him”(Qur’an;4:48). The fate of believers who do not spend their lives in accordance with the Divine Will, and do not ask for God's forgiveness, is in the hands of God, who may pardon them if He wishes; And He may punish them in the fire of hell though they may not stay there forever. Other than associating partners with Him, He forgives any lesser sin unto whomever He wills: “Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with him; but He forgives anything else to whom He pleases; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed”(Qur’an;4:48).
No one should underestimate this. As mortals, we are unable to withstand a blaze even for a very short time, so why risk putting ourselves in a position where we might suffer the fire of hell for a long time? Even though God, in His mercy and generosity, forgives those who ask for repentance after they have transgressed, the greatest reward of all is for those who deliberately stay away from temptation, even when it is very strong, because of the deep respect they have in their hearts for the power of God. For example, a man may be Just about to be unfaithful to his wife when he remembers God's wishes and is tempted no further, even though he is extremely aroused. Only a man who, has been divinely bestowed with a strong will-power is able to restrain himself from getting involved in the first place. Getting embroiled in situations like this is rather like conducting an experiment on a dangerous contagious disease and making sure you inhale the germs at the time. Anyone who survives must have built up a strong immunity, but the chances against him catching the disease would be about one per cent. That example is set in the context of a physical illness. So what about our own transgressions? Indulgence in them does not help us build up our immune systems, so if we want to make sure we keep ourselves centered on ‘God’s Will’ we should avoid mixing with people whose ways could lead us astray. You can judge a man by the company he keeps. In fact there is a popular saying that goes, "Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are." Let's hope that the younger generation realizes the potential danger of these temptations, and pray for their guidance.
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