بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله، وبعد:
وَمَا ڪَانَ ٱللَّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُمۡ وَأَنتَ فِيہِمۡۚ وَمَا كَانَ ٱللَّهُ مُعَذِّبَهُمۡ وَهُمۡ يَسۡتَغۡفِرُونَ
And Allah would not punish them while you (Muhammad, SAW) are amongst them, nor will He punish them while they seek Allah's Forgiveness (Quran 8:33)
Allah, most Gracious and Merciful, in the above ayah equated seeking His forgiveness to the physical, actual presence in a community of His Beloved Messenger (Peace and Blessing be upon him, and upon his family and companions). This means that such a community would be blessed and protected by Allah (SWT) from harm and punishment, in sha Allah (if He wills), and that they will be following in the Prophet’s (SAW) noble tradition and pleasing Allah Almighty. They demonstrate that they were previously negligent and/or guilty of iniquity and are striving to reform, beginning with purifying themselves. Divine Providence would therefore decree mercy on them, and Divine Justice would see no reason to subject them to any torment, and Allah, the Most Wise, knows best.
Our Lord is Most Forgiving and Compassionate, and loves to pardon and demonstrate His love and generosity to all, and especially to His obedient slaves. He (SWT) describes Himself in numerous places as a Benevolent and Mercy-Giving God, instead of as a malicious and vengeful god. For example, He says that He (SWT) is “Ever Gracious and Merciful to humanity” (Quran 2:143), ”Ever Kind to His servants” (42:19), and that “My Mercy encompasses everything” (7:156). Subhanallah, how glorious and perfect is Allah Almighty. No sin is greater than Allah’s Mercy! (To believe otherwise is kufr or disbelief.) This indeed is the Love that Allah (SWT) has for His Creation: “And He is All-Forgiving, All-Loving” (85:14).
Allah’s Compassion is expressed also by giving us respite in this world, and in His capacity to forgive all sins in the Hereafter, except disbelief and polytheism (4:48 & 116). After all, it is beyond reason that Allah would forgive someone who does not believe in Him at all. Allah Almighty, in His All-Encompassing Mercy, not only gives us respite, he in fact reaches out to us, calling us back to Him, inviting also the heedless and disobedient to come closer and seek forgiveness; and when Allah (SWT) takes the first step towards us in anything, or is pleased by the action, He does not reject the pleas and the supplications. Consider this Hadith:
عن أبي موسى عبد الله بن قيس الأشعري رضي الله عنه عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: " إن الله تعالى يبسط يده بالليل ليتوب مسيء النهار، ويبسط يده بالنهار ليتوب مسيء الليل حتى تطلع الشمس من مغربها."
Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said: "Allah, the Exalted, will continue to stretch out His Hand in the night so that the sinners of the day may repent, and will continue to stretch His Hand in the daytime so that the sinners of the night may repent, until the sun rises from the west". (Muslim)
We are all sinners without question, and we must, therefore, hasten to repent sincerely and regularly to Allah for the sins that we know of and those that we don't know of, no matter how small (minor) or how big (major), including also any doubts in Allah, disbelief and atheism, and disavowing Islam and apostasy. But It has to be done before it is too late - that is when death comes or at the end of time, when everyone (in both situations) will certainly believe in Allah, but not out of choice.
Tawbah is the key to success and the constant companion of the believer throughout his/her sojourn back to the Creator and to Jannah, by the Will and Grace of Allah. It is the starting point, the (regular) stopping points and the end of the journey. Allah (SWT) instructed Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in Surat al-Nasr, at the completion of his mission and in preparation of meeting his Maker - even after Allah’s “victory” and ultimate help came with the message being embraced by “crowds”: “Glorify the praises of your Lord and seek His forgiveness, for certainly He is Ever-Accepting of Repentance.” (110:1-3). Allah Almighty, the Most Wise, also says:
وَتُوبُوٓاْ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تُفۡلِحُونَ
And turn to Allah in repentance all together, O believers, so that you may be successful. (Quran 24:31)
Besides implying that believers should exhort each other to repent and perhaps also follow up on that with them, Allah (SWT) refers to repentance as a collective duty too, and as a reason for the success of the believers in this world and the Hereafter: Repentance results in solace and comfort in the heart and peace of mind, and in strong and confident communities and (individual and group) salvation by defeating Satan and attaining Paradise; Praise, indeed, is due ultimately to Allah alone. More importantly though, true repentance, or a genuine return to Allah (SWT), regulates how a believer interacts with his/her Lord and produces reforms in specific and general conduct in themselves and in that of the societies within which they live. This is how we can start to live in accordance with the commands of Allah (SWT) and the tradition of His noble Prophet (SAW).
Repentance can, furthermore, help to take one out of the depths of depression and anxiety, and from a feeling of loneliness and despair. We should always seek refuge and help from Allah (SWT), along with our repentance. That is what saved the three companions of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Ka’b ibn Malik, Hilal ibn Umayyah and Murrah ibn Rabi’ (RAA/may Allah be pleased with them), who through initial reluctance and no excuse, did not join the Tabuk Campaign in the ninth year AH. They had, subsequently, deeply regretted their negligence and confessed their error and guilt, openly and with all honesty. Their repentance was accepted, but not before a period of 50 days of chastisement, boycott and distress, but also accompanied by continuous seeking of forgiveness on their part. It was a bitter lesson for all, but, in the end, Allah, Most Kind, manifested His Gentleness and Compassion in His pardon to them. After describing the Mercy and Repentance He bestowed on the Prophet (SAW) and his devoted companions - some of whom had “almost faltered”, repeating the word “taaba / تاب ”, that is “turning to them in mercy” or “accepting their repentance” (9:117), Allah Almighty says (again note the repetition of the same word in question: taaba / turn to or repent):
وَعَلَى ٱلثَّلَـٰثَةِ ٱلَّذِينَ خُلِّفُواْ حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا ضَاقَتۡ عَلَيۡہِمُ ٱلۡأَرۡضُ بِمَا رَحُبَتۡ وَضَاقَتۡ عَلَيۡهِمۡ أَنفُسُهُمۡ وَظَنُّوٓاْ أَن لَّا مَلۡجَأَ مِنَ ٱللَّهِ إِلَّآ إِلَيۡهِ ثُمَّ تَابَ عَلَيۡهِمۡ لِيَتُوبُوٓاْۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ هُوَ ٱلتَّوَّابُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ
And (He also turned in mercy) to the three who had remained behind, those for whom the earth, despite its vastness, seemed to close in on them, and their souls were torn in anguish. They knew that there was no refuge from Allah except in Him. Then, He turned to them in Mercy so that they might repent (and accepted their repentance). Surely, Allah alone is the Acceptor of repentance, Most Merciful. (Quran 9:118)
May Allah Almighty bless us with the light of the Quran and the Sunnah, and grant us the benefit of the guidance in their teachings. We seek His Pardon and Acceptance. He is our Master and Lord, Most Gracious, Most Majestic. His Peace and Salutations be upon our Prophet Muhammd (SAW), his family and companions, and on us all!