By Zaynub Zafar
Attitude 1: ” Oh no! I’ve done it yet again. And after all those promises to Allah- there’s no point trying to stop.!…”
Attitude 2: “It’s OK, no big deal really. I mean sure, it’s bad, but it’s a minor sin. Besides, everyone does it. I will repent later. Can’t be that bad…”
We have two groups of people (not just these two…), when it comes to the concept of sinning. Because it is Shaytan’s way, always, to either make the believer very laid-back about sinning regarding deen (as in the case of attitude 2), or extremely zealous (attitude 1). Needless to say, both are unhealthy for our religious commitments; moderation, my dear readers, is the key.
At times, for that mental satisfaction of ‘saving’ ourselves from sinning, we feel it is alright to commit minor sins here and there. Our attitude is very relaxed; we do them comfortably and don’t even cringe. Au contraire’, such a phenomena can also have reverse effects, by making us extremely conscious about sinning, which is good, of course. But, it becomes a nuisance when even a single slip leads us to hopelessness and despair, and shatters our resolve. Because we want to be perfectionists. Flawless. Angelic. Impeccable- something that is quite impossible.
What then, should be the behaviour of a Muslim towards sinning? Well, simply put, we are required to ‘sin less’ and not be sinless.
Let me explain further.
Allah never asked us to be perfect, all we were told to do was to TRY. So as long as we try our very best, with pure intentions, that’s all that matters really.
“Say: O ‘Ibaadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allaah, verily, Allaah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Quran; al-Zumar:53].
Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And those who, when they have committed fahishah (illegal sexual intercourse) or wronged themselves with evil, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their sins; — and none can forgive sins but Allah — and do not persist in what (wrong) they have done, while they know.” [Quran; al Imran:135-136]
Ibn Katheer said:
The words “and do not persist in what (wrong) they have done” mean: they repent from their sins and quickly turn to Allah, and they do not persist in their sins, rather they give it up, and if they do it again, they repent to Him again. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer)
Where major sins are concerned, we do need to run away, like we would normally run away from something disastrous. Dangerous. But every once in a while, everyone slips. To err is human after all, and while this shouldn’t be used an excuse to commit minor sins on and off, our nips and slips should lead us to REGRET and remorse- not DESPAIR. There is a difference between the two feelings. Regret is repentance. Regret will make us give up the sin, infuse the feeling of guilt and motivate us to do better next time. Despair will lead us to frustration, hopelessness and, in some cases, even to adopting evil as a lifestyle, because we see “no point” in trying…
And again, with minor sins, we need to be careful. We have to avoid them as well, because perpetual minor sinning continues to decrease our resistance towards the major sins and takes away the feeling of repentance, from one’s heart.
“Beware of minor sins, like a people who camped in the bottom of a valley, and one man brought a stick, another man brought a stick, and so on, until they managed to bake their bread. There are some insignificant sins which, once (they accumulate) and a person is questioned about them, they lead to his doom.” (Narrated by Ahmad, 2/223. Its isnaad is hasan)
To conclude, bear in mind, that you will commit minor sins from time to time. Don’t let that get you. Repent every time, plan again, refuel yourself with a new motivation and move on more intelligently. And don’t lose hope, even if you repeat the same sin a 1000 times. Just make sure you follow it up with SINCERE regret and repentance each time and the resolve to never go back to it again. Avoid sinning as much as possible. If it happens again, repeat the process. They say practice makes perfect. Practice good deeds, practice conscious efforts to diminish bad deeds and sins, and before you know it, you’ll be like that beautiful butterfly that left its gooey (and ugly) past behind.
It was said to al-Hasan al-Basri: ‘Would not any one of us feel ashamed before his Lord to seek forgiveness from his sin then go back to it, then seek forgiveness then go back to it? He said: The shaytan would like you to feel that way; never give up seeking forgiveness.’
Uplifting, isn’t it?
The Bottom line:
Being defeated by Shaytan every now and then is not defeat. Defeat is when we refuse to try. Keep trying. Because it’s hard to defeat someone who never stops trying.
Fall down seven times, stand up eight.
Remember, where there’s a will, there’s a way.