As discussed in the previous chapter, with taqwā or piety, we have to avoid the thorny bushes that are on the road to Allah. We are meant to go back to Allah, but these obstacles keep getting in the way. We are inevitably going to be pricked by a thorn and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
“Every single one of the children of Adam is a sinner.”Every single one of us is going to commit sins, is going to get pricked. We’re going to fall behind and the best amongst us are those who are going to come back to Allah, the best of those who make mistakes are the ones who repent to Allah.
This is very important to understand, after going through the concept of taqwā and not committing sins, Allah mentions that الَلهُ یُِبُّ التَّوَّابِینَ , Allah loves those who repent, again framed within the love of Allah. Allah didn’t create us to not sin. Allah created us to know how to deal with sin properly and there is a major difference between the two. The word tawbah means turning back to Allah, not necessarily that we have removed all the effects of that sin. Realize that even the word “repentance” relates to our relationship with Allah. So, how does that work? Being sinful is part of our humanity, and forgiveness is part of Allah’s attributes. If we pair those two together, then we acknowledge our sinfulness even when we intentionally committed a sin. We acknowledge our sin and we try to get back on the path to Allah. In doing so, we actually raise our degree of favour with Allah, because He loves al-tawwābīn, the penitent, those who turn back to Him. The Prophet (peace be upon him) mentions that “If you were not to sin then Allah would have replaced you with a people who would. Then they would seek forgiveness and would be forgiven by Allah, because He loves to forgive. Allah loves repentance and He loves those who repent.” It is beautiful, that in pairing sin and forgiveness together, in Islam there is no such thing as failure—unless you don’t do anything about that failure.
There is no such thing as a sin that can permanently disqualify you from the love of Allah if you repent afterwards and use that to propel yourself towards Him. What the Prophet (peace be upon him) is teaching us here is the effect of seeking forgiveness on the heart. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that the dark spot placed in the heart by sin is polished, not just removed, by repentance.
As for the effect of repentance on our deeds the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The sin is actually turned into a good deed on your scrolls.” Upon true repentance, that bad deed actually becomes a good deed, a hasanah. As for the effect of repentance on us with regards to Allah’s love: Allah loves the penitent, those who always turn back towards Him.
Repentance means we actually get closer to Allah than we were before we committed the sin, we become more beloved to Him than before. This is why it’s not unjust that Allah created us and gave us the free will to sin, because the degree that He guarantees us for repenting after committing a sin is even greater than that of His sinless creatures, the angels, who have no free will. Penitent human beings ascend even beyond the angels in rank.
Ibn al-Qayyim puts the ideas together and gives us the examples of two Prophets. He explained that Shaytān, the Devil, was delighted when he saw that he had caused Adam’s fall. What he didn’t realize was that when a diver goes into the ocean, he collects pearls at the bottom, and he rises back up again. Adam was better after his tawbah even though he had to come down to this earth. His rank with Allah was higher after his repentance than when he was in Paradise. In the same way Yūnus or Jonas was better after he was swallowed by the whale than he was before it happened. That’s why Allah says: His Lord chose him and made him from the righteous, after he was swallowed by the whale. After Yūnus had prayed to Allah: There is no god but You, how perfect You are and I was amongst the wrong doers. So again our hearts are polished, our sins are turned into good deeds and our ranks ascend in the sight of Allah after we turn back to Him.
We have a Lord that created our past, present, and future. It doesn’t matter what we did in the past because He guaranteed us a better future if we learn how to deal with that past, and that will propel us towards Him. We ask Allah to make us amongst those that are beloved to Him in our repentance and in our sin, and in our good deeds. Ameen.
Excerpt is from Allah Loves by Imam Omar Suleiman
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