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Ibn `Ataa’ on Repentance and Hope

Ibn `Ataa’ on Repentance and Hope

The first condition is feeling sorry for the mistake. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Remorse is repentance“. (Reported by Ibn Hibban and Ibn Majah.)

The second condition is to refrain from committing the mistake itself, because it takes a hypocrite to continue with the mistake while claiming repentance from it, doesn’t it?

The third condition is to have a sincere determination never to repeat the same mistake in the future. One cannot feel regret about a mistake and give it up, while having an intention to commit the mistake again in the near or far future.

But if it happens that – God forbid – one falls in the same error again, the only way out is to repeat the same process again, that is to renew the repentance, renew remorse and regret, and decide not to fall again. And so on. One must know that Allah is Most Forgiving and Most Merciful. God does not mind accepting one’s (sincere) repentance again and again. On the contrary, God is ‘happy’ when His servant repents to Him, as the Prophet said.

As for the fourth condition, scholars said that if the mistake one has committed has to do with people’s rights, one have to give this right back. For example, if one unlawfully takes something without deserving it, it has to be returned. If injustice is committed, it has to be corrected. Scholars also mentioned that one has to seek people’s pardon if one speaks ill of them. And so on.

Ibn `Ataa’ assumes that you have fulfilled these conditions, and adds that you have to have a feeling of hope in your Lord. This is not a ‘condition’ but rather an ethic (withAllah).

{They have the hope of the Mercy of Allah: for God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace}. (Al-Baqarah 2: 218)

Sometimes, hope is lost when one asks himself: How should I look forward to Allah’s grace after making all these mistakes? How is Allah going to accept my repentance? This questioning itself is a mistake! A feeling that your mistakes are too great and too many for Allah to forgive them goes against the very belief in Allah, The Merciful. This will make one lose hope in Allah’s mercy and eventually leads to despair and hopelessness.

{And who -other than those who have utterly lost their way- could ever abandon the hope of their Sustainer’s grace?}.(Al Hijr 15:56)

Therefore, if I lose hope, then I am not really relying on Allah. Rather, I am relying on my weak self, limited mind, and humble actions. Of course, this does not mean that I stop working and say that I have hope. This is also wrong. Relying on Allah is a feeling in the heart while the body is in action.

What Ibn `Ataa’ says here is that, no matter how grave one’s mistakes are, they should not affect his hope in Allah’s mercy. This is because if one repents sincerely to Allah,Allah surely will accept his/her repentance. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said:

“A person who has repented of a sin sincerely is exactly like the person who has never sinned at all” (Reported by Ibn Majah).

And he said:

“Allah says: ‘O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind! O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I would forgive you, and I shall not mind’”. ( Reported by At-Tirmidhi).


About Dr. Jasser Auda

Jasser Auda is a Professor and Al-Shatibi Chair of Maqasid Studies at the International Peace College South Africa, the Executive Director of the Maqasid Institute, a global think tank based in London, and a Visiting Professor of Islamic Law at Carleton University in Canada. He is a Founding and Board Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, Fellow of the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India, and General Secretary of Yaqazat Feker, a popular youth organization in Egypt. He has a PhD in the philosophy of Islamic law from University of Wales in the UK, and a PhD in systems analysis from University of Waterloo in Canada. Early in his life, he memorized the Quran and studied Fiqh, Usul and Hadith in the halaqas of Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo. He previously worked as: Founding Director of the Maqasid Center in the Philosophy of Islamic Law in London; Founding Deputy Director of the Center for Islamic Ethics in Doha; professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Alexandria University in Egypt, Islamic University of Novi Pazar in Sanjaq, Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, and the American University of Sharjah. He lectured and trained on Islam, its law, spirituality and ethics in dozens of other universities and organizations around the world. He wrote 25 books in Arabic and English, some of which were translated to 25 languages.

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