Important fataawaa about repentance
You might say: I want to repent, but I know nothing about the rulings concerning repentance. I have many questions about how to repent properly from my sins, how to repay the debts I owe to Allah for the duties towards Him that I have neglected and how to compensate others for the things that I have taken from them or denied them. Is there any answer to all these questions?
Here are some answers that will quench your thirst for knowledge as you return to Allah:
Q1: I fall into sin, then I repent, but my human soul which is prone to evil (my nafs) gets the better of me and I repeat the sin! Does this mean that my first act of repentance is cancelled out and that I still bear the burden of the earlier sin as well as the later sin?
A1: Most of the scholars say that it is not a condition of valid repentance that the person should never commit the sin again. The conditions of valid repentance are that the person should stop the sinful action immediately, feel sincere remorse for having done it, and be determined not to repeat it. If he does repeat it, he is then like a person who has committed a new sin, for which he must repent anew; his previous repentance, however, is still valid.
Q2: Is repentance from one sin valid when I am still guilty of another?
A2. Riba (usury, interest) although he drinks wine, or vice versa, then his repentance is valid, but if he were to repent from dealing in simple interest whilst still dealing in compound interest, then his repentance would not be acceptable. Similarly, if he were to repent from smoking hashish whilst still drinking wine, or vice versa, or he were to repent from committing zinaa with one woman whilst still in a sinful relationship with another, his repentance would be unacceptable. In such cases, all that one is doing is moving from one sin to another within the same category of wrongdoing. (See al-Madaarij)
Q3: I have neglected many rights of Allah in the past, such as prayers, fasting and zakah. What should I do now??
A3: According to the most correct opinion, the person who has neglected prayers in the past does not have to make them up now, because the time when they were due is now over, and he cannot do anything about it. However, he can compensate for them by sincerely repenting, seeking Allahs forgiveness and offering as many naafil (supererogatory) prayers as he can, so that Allah may excuse him.
If the person who has neglected fasting was Muslim at the time when the fasts were due, then he has to make them up and, moreover, he has to feed one poor person for each day of Ramadan that he missed and did not make up before the next Ramadan came, for no reason. This is the expiation for delay in making up fasts, and it remains as such, even if successive Ramadans have come and gone.
Example 1: A man neglected to fast on 3 days of Ramadan in 1400 AH and 5 days of Ramadan in 1401 AH, out of negligence. Several years later, he repented to Allah. He must now make up the eight days on which he did not fast, and feed one poor person for each of the eight missed days.
Example 2: A girl reached the age of puberty (i.e., started her periods) in 1400 AH, but felt too embarrassed to tell her family, so she fasted for the eight days, say, of her period, and did not make up those days later. [These fasts are invalid because a menstruating woman is not allowed to fast. Translator].
It should also be noted here that there is a difference between neglecting prayers and neglecting fasting. There are some scholars who say that the one who deliberately misses a fast with no excuse, cannot make it up later.
The one who has neglected to pay zakat in the past still has to pay it, because it is both the right of Allah and the right of the poor.
(For more information, see Madaarij al-Salient, 1/383)
A4: The governing principle in this case is the hadeeth of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): Whoever has done wrong to his brother, whether it be the matter of honour or of money, let him put it right today, before he is overtaken by a Day on which there will be no dinar or dirham, but any good deeds he has to his credit may be taken and given in compensation to the one he has wronged, and if he has no good deeds to his credit, his victims sins may be taken and added to his own burden instead. (Reported by al-Bukhari)
The only way out for the person who is repenting from such wrongful acts is to give back what he owes to his victims, or to ask for their forgiveness. If they forgive him, then all is well, otherwise he has to pay them back.
Q5: I committed the sin of backbiting about one or more persons, and I slandered others by saying that they had done things of which they were innocent. Do I have to tell them about what I did and ask for their forgiveness? If not, then how do I repent?
A5: This is a matter which requires one to weigh up the pros and cons.
If telling them about the backbiting or slander is not going to make them angry or cause them to hate him, then he should tell them even if only in general terms and ask for their forgiveness. He could say I have wronged you in the past, or I have spoken unfairly about you, and now I have repented to Allah, so please forgive me without going into details, and this is good enough.
One should feel remorse, seek Allahs forgiveness, think about the vileness of this sin, and believe that it is haram.
He should tell the people to whom he uttered the false words that what he said was not true, and he should clear the name of the person about whom the slander was uttered.
He should speak highly of the person he had slandered, in the same gatherings where the backbiting occurred, and mention his good qualities.
He should defend the person about whom he had gossiped in the past, and speak up for him if anyone tries to speak ill of him.
He should pray for forgiveness for him in his absence.
(al-Madaarij, 1/291; al-Mughni maal-Sharh al-Kabeer, 12/78)
We should note here the difference between financial rights and the right to physical safety, on the one hand, and the rights affected by backbiting and slander, on the other. People can benefit from being told about and compensated for their financial rights, and they will be happy, which is why concealing them is not permitted. This is different to the case of offences which concern a mans honour, where disclosing them will only cause more distress and pain.
Q6: How does a murderer repent?
A6: The murderer has violated three rights: the rights of Allah, the rights of his victim, and the rights of his victims heirs.
As regards the rights of Allah, the only way to repay them is to repent.
As regards the rights of his victims heirs, he has to hand himself over to them so that they may avail themselves of their rights. They have three choices: qisaas (retaliation), or diyah (blood money) or they may forgive him.
As regards the rights of the victim, they cannot be compensated in this world. In this case, the scholars say that if the murderers repentance is sincere, Allah will absolve him of the obligation to repay his victim, and will Himself compensate the victim on the Day of Resurrection. This is the soundest opinion. (al-Madaarij, 1/199)
Q7: How does a thief repent?
A7: If the stolen goods are still in his possession, he should return them to their owners. If he has disposed of them or if their value has declined because of wear and tear or the passage of time, then he should repay their original value, unless the owners are willing to forgive him.
Q8: I feel too ashamed and embarrassed to face the people from whom I stole, and I cannot go and confess to them or ask for their forgiveness. What should I do?
A8: There is no sin on you if you look for a way to avoid the unbearable embarrassment of facing them. You could return their property via a third person, asking him not to mention your name, or you could send it by mail, or you could secretly place it where they will find it, or you could use an indirect approach, such as saying, This is what someone owes you. What matters is not naming names, but restoring peoples rightful property to them.
Q9: I used to steal from my fathers pocket in secret. Now I want to repent, but I do not know exactly how much I stole, and I am too ashamed to face him and tell him.
A9: You should estimate the amount you took to the best of your ability, thinking in terms of more rather than less. There is nothing wrong with returning it as secretly as you took it.
Q10: I stole money from some people, and now I have repented, but I do not know where they live. (Another person might say: I embezzled money from a company which has now closed down, or which has transferred elsewhere, or I stole from a store which has now changed its location, and I do not know who owns it.)
A10: This matter is like that discussed by Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) in al-Madaarij (1/388):
|a man in the Muslim army stole from the spoils of war. After some time, he repented, and took what he had stolen to the commander of the army, who refused to accept it, saying, How can I return it to the soldiers when they have dispersed? So (the man) went to Hajjaaj ibn al-Shaair (to ask for his advice). Hajjaaj said: Allah knows the army, He knows their names and the names of their fathers. Pay one-fifth to the rightful owner (i.e., the bayt al-maal or treasury of the Islamic state, to which one-fifth of all spoils of war are to be given), and give the rest in charity on their behalf. Allah will ensure that it reaches them. So the man did as he was advised. When he told Muaawiyah (the khaleefah) about it, he said: If only I had been the one to issue this fatwaa to you, it would be dearer to me than half of what I rule over.|
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) issued a similar fatwaa, which is also mentioned in al-Madaarij.
Q11: I unlawfully seized some wealth that belonged to orphans, and invested it in trade. This brought a profit which multiplied the original amount several times. But now I have begun to fear Allah. How can I repent??
A11: The scholars have expressed several opinions on such cases. The most moderate and equitable of them suggests that you should return the original capital to the orphans, along with half of the profits. This will make you and them, partners, as it were, in the profit, as well as returning the original amount to them (al-Madaarij, 1/392).
A similar ruling also applies in the case of stolen camels or sheep: if they produce offspring, then the original livestock and half of the young should be given to the rightful owner. If the original livestock has died, then its monetary value and half of the young should be handed over.
Q12: A man was working in an airfreight company which stored different kinds of goods, and he stole a cassette recorder from them. Years later, he repented. Should he return the recorder itself, or should he give them the equivalent monetary value or a similar machine, as the original model is no longer to be found on the market?
A12: He should return the original machine, plus an appropriate amount of money to make up for the depreciation in value caused by the passage of time and wear and tear of use. This should be done in a suitable manner, without causing any harm or trouble for himself. If this is not possible, then he should give an equivalent amount in charity on behalf of the original owner.
Q13: I used to have money that was earned from riba (usury or interest), but I have spent it all and have nothing left. Now I want to repent what should I do?
A13: All you have to do is repent sincerely to Allah. Riba is a serious matter, as may be seen from the fact that in the Quran, Allah did not declare war on anyone except on the people who deal in riba. But since the money that was earned from riba is all gone, you do not have to do anything with regard to it.
A14: If a person buys something that cannot be split up like a house or a car with money that is partly halal and partly haram, it is sufficient for him to take an amount equivalent to the haram money from some other wealth that he owns, and pay that in charity, in order to purify the item he owns. If the haram part of the money is due to other people, he has to pay them the equivalent, according to the guidelines laid out in previous questions.
Q15: What should be done with money earned from selling cigarettes, when it has been mixed or saved with other, halal, money?
A15: Anyone who trades in haram things, such as selling musical instruments, haram tapes and cigarettes, when he knows the ruling concerning them, then repents, should give away the profits he made to a good cause. The object is just to get rid of them; this is not counted as an act of charity as such, because Allah is good and pure and only accepts what is good and pure.
Generally speaking, anyone who has wealth earned by haram means and wants to repent should do the following:
If he was not Muslim at the time when he earned the money, he does not have to dispose of it when he repents, because the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not instruct his Companions to dispose of their haram earnings when they embraced Islam.
If he was Muslim at the time when he earned the haram money, and knew that it was haram, then he has to dispose properly of whatever haram money he has at the time he repents.
Q16: A man used to take bribes, but now Allah has guided him to the Straight Path. What should he do with the money that he had earned in the form of bribes?
A16: Either of the following will apply in this case:
Either he took bribes from an oppressed person who was forced to pay bribes in order to gain what was rightfully his because he had no other means of getting his rights. In this case, the one who wants to repent should repay the bribe because it is viewed as having been taken by force.
Or he took the bribe from someone who was as guilty of wrongdoing as he was, and who used bribes as a means of obtaining things that were not rightfully his. In this case, the money should not be returned to the one who paid the bribe, but should be disposed of in a good cause, such as giving it to the poor. The one who wants to repent from taking bribes should also repent from the harm he caused by denying people what was rightfully theirs and giving it to those who did not deserve it.
A17: When a person who used to perform haram services and get paid for them repents, he should dispose of any such earnings that he still has, but he should not return them to the people from whom he took them.
So a prostitute who used to take money for committing zinaa should not give it back to her customers when she repents. The singer who used to accept payment for singing haram songs should not give the money back to his audience when he repents. The one who used to sell wine or drugs should not give the money back to his customers when he repents. The one who used to bear false witness in return for payment should not give the money back to those who used his services when he repents and so on. The reason for this is that if the money is given back to the sinner who paid it, that means that he will have gained both the sin and the haram money (which increases his chances of committing more haram deeds). This is the preferred opinion of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah, and it was considered to be the most correct opinion by his student Ibn al-Qayyim. (al-Madaarij, 1/390)
Q18: There is another matter that has been worrying me. I committed illegal sexual intercourse with a woman. How do I repent from this sin? Is it permissible for me to marry her in order to cover up the affair?
A18: Another man may say that he committed illegal sexual intercourse while he was overseas, and that the woman became pregnant as a result. Is this his child, and is he obliged to send money to meet the childs expenses?
As regards the question about the person who committed illegal sexual intercourse, either of the following situations will apply:
mahr (dowry) as compensation for the harm that he has caused her, and he has to repent sincerely to Allah. If the matter has come to the attention of the authorities, the appropriate punishment is to be carried out on him. (See al-Madaarij, 1/366).
Or he has intercourse with her with her consent. In this case, all that he is required to do is to repent. The child does not take his name and is not regarded as being his at all. He does not have to spend on the child because it is the result of fornication; in this case the child should take the mothers name, not the name of the man who committed fornication.
It is not permitted for a man who is repenting to marry the woman in order to cover up the affair, because Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
Let no man guilty of fornication or adultery marry any but a woman similarly guilty, or an unbeliever: nor let any but such a man or an unbeliever marry such a woman… [al-Noor 24:3]
It is not permitted for a man to marry a woman who is pregnant as the result of fornication, even if it is that mans child, or to marry a woman when one does not know if she is pregnant or not.
If he and the woman both repent sincerely, and she is proven not to be pregnant, then it is permissible for him to marry her and start a new life with her which is pleasing to Allah.
A19: So long as the repentance is sincere on both your parts, you have to be married anew, fulfilling the shari conditions of having a wali (guardian of the bride) and two witnesses. This does not have to be done in court; if it is done at home, this is sufficient.
Q20: A woman says that she married a righteous man, but she did things before marriage that were displeasing to Allah. Now her conscience is troubling her, and she asks whether she has to tell her husband about what she did in the past.
A20: Neither spouse is obliged to tell the other about bad things that they might have done in the past. Anyone who has committed wrongful deeds should conceal them as Allah has concealed him (or her). Sincere repentance is sufficient.
If a man marries a virgin, but it becomes apparent to him at the time of consummation that she is not in fact a virgin because of an immoral act that she committed in the past, he has the right to take back the mahr (dowry) that he had given her and to divorce her. If, however, he sees that she has repented and that Allah has covered her sin, and he decides to stay with her, then he will be amply rewarded by Allah.
Q21: I have repented to Allah, but I still have some haram things in my possession, like musical instruments, tapes and movies. Is it permissible for me to sell them, especially since they are worth a lot of money?
A21: The prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
| When Allah forbids a thing, He also forbids its price. (A saheeh hadeeth reported by Abu Dawood).|
So long as you know that whoever buys these things will use them for haram purposes, it is not permitted for you to sell them to him, because Allah has forbidden this in the ayah (interpretation of the meaning):
| do not help one another in sin and transgression [al-Maaidah 5:2].|
No matter how much worldly wealth you may lose, that which is with Allah is better and more lasting, and He will compensate you by His grace and favour.
O slave of Allah, Allah has opened the gate of repentance for you, so why not enter it? It was reported that repentance has a gate whose width is like the distance between East and West [according to another report: its width is like the distance travelled in seventy years]. It will not be closed until the sun rises from the West. (Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer; see Saheeh al-Jaami, 2177)
Listen to the call of Allah:
|O My slaves, you err night and day, but I forgive all sins, so ask Me for forgiveness and I will forgive you.(Reported by Muslim)|
Allah stretches forth His hand at night to forgive those who have done wrong during the day, and He stretches forth His hand by day to forgive those who have done wrong during the night. Allah loves our apologies and pleas, so why not turn to Him?
How beautiful to Allah are the words of the one who repents:
|O Allah, I ask You by Your power and by my own shame to have mercy on me. I ask You by Your strength and my own weakness, by Your self-sufficiency and my own dependence. To You I submit my lying, sinful forelock. You have many slaves besides me, but I have no Master except You. I have no refuge or escape from You except with You. I beseech you in the manner of a poor and destitute man, I pray to you with the prayer of one who is humble, I call upon you with the supplication of one who is blind and afraid. This is a plea from one whose head is humbled before You, whose nose is in the dust, whose eyes are filled with tears and whose heart has submitted to You.|
It was reported that one of the righteous people was passing through the street when he saw an open door out of which came a boy who was crying and weeping, followed by his mother who was pushing him out. She shut the door in his face, and went back inside. The boy went a short distance away, and stood there, thinking, but he could find no other refuge than the house from which he had been expelled and no one else who would care for him as his mother would. Broken hearted, he went back, and found the door still locked. So he lay down on the doorstep and went to sleep, with the tear marks still streaking his face. A little while later, his mother came out. When she saw him in this state, she could not help herself. She embraced him, kissed him and started to weep, saying: O my son, where did you go? Who would care for you except me? Didn’t I tell you not to disobey me and not to make me punish you, when Allah has made me merciful and caring towards you? Then she picked him up and went back inside.
But the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told us:
| Allah is more compassionate towards His slaves than this mother towards her child. (Reported by Muslim)|
There is no comparison between a mothers compassion and the Mercy of Allah, which encompasses everything. Allah rejoices when His slave repents to Him, and we can never despair of goodness from a Lord who is rejoices. Allah rejoices more over the repentance of a slave when he repents to Him than a man who was travelling through the wilderness and stopped to camp awhile in an isolated and dangerous place, but he had his camel by his side, with his food and drink loaded on it. He sought out the shade of a tree, where he lay down and went to sleep. When he woke up, his camel had disappeared, so he went looking for it. He came to a hill and climbed it, but he could not see anything. He climbed another hill and looked around, but he could not see anything. When heat and thirst overcame him, he said: Let me go back to where I was and sleep there until I die. He went back to the tree and lay down in its shade, despairing of ever seeing his camel again. Whilst he was lying there, he opened his eyes, and saw his camel standing next to him, with its halter dangling and his food and drink still loaded on it, so he grabbed hold of its halter. Allah rejoices even more when the believer repents to Him than this man rejoiced over the return of his camel and his supplies.
(Compiled from saheeh reports; see Tarteeb Saheeh al-Jaami, 4/368)
You should know that sincere repentance brings contrition and humility before Allah, and the pleading of the one who repents is dearly beloved to the Lord of the Worlds.
The believing slave still remembers his sin, and is filled with sorrow and regret. He follows his error with so many acts of obedience and goodness that Shaytaan may even say, Would that I had never led him into this sin in the first place! Thus some of those who repent may become better after repenting than they ever were before.
Allah will never forsake His slave who turns to Him in repentance.
Imagine a boy living with his father, who gives him the best food and drink, dresses him in the finest clothes, gives him the best possible upbringing, and gives him money to spend. He takes care of all the boys interests. But one day his father sends him on an errand, and an enemy comes and captures the boy, ties him up and carries him off to enemy territory. Now the way he is treated is the opposite of the kind treatment his father gave him. Whenever he remembers his fathers kindness, his heart is filled with anguish and grief because of the blessings that he has lost. It so happens that while he is still a prisoner of the enemy, and about to be executed by them, he suddenly turns towards his fathers home, and he sees his father standing nearby. He runs to him and throws himself into his arms, crying O my father, O my father! Look what has happened to your son! with tears streaming down his cheeks. He clings tightly to his father even though the enemy runs after him to snatch him back, and catches up with him.
Do you think the father will give the boy back to the enemy and abandon him? What then do you think of One Who is more merciful towards His slaves than any father or mother towards a child? How do you think Allah will respond when a slave flees from his enemies and throws himself at His door, rolling in the dust and weeping, saying O Lord, have mercy upon the one who has no one to show him mercy except You, no supporter except You, no place of refuge except You, no helper except You, one who is poor and in need of You, one who beseeches You. You are his place of refuge, You are his Source of protection. There is no escape or refuge from You except with You ?
Adapted from islamqa.info/en(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)