Ibn `Ataa's Words of Wisdom (1)

Ibn `Ataa’ on Repentance and Hope

Really, hope should not be affected by the gravity of one’s mistakes. Rather, one should make a sincere intention to repent to Allah and simply expect His Mercy. The Prophet also said: “Allah says: ‘I am as My servant expects Me to be! So, let him think of Me as he wishes’”. (Reported by Bukhari and Muslim)

Ibn ‘Ataa’ says here: If you find yourself having less hope in Allah when you make a mistake, then realize you are only relying on your work, not on Allah’s Mercy. And this meaning is similar to the meaning of a hadith in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says:

None amongst you can enter Paradise because of his deeds alone”. The companions asked: “Allah’s Messenger, not even you?” The Prophet said: “Not even myself, unless Allah bestows His Forgiveness and Mercy on me”. (Al-Bukhari)

In this hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says: “There is none whose deeds alone would entitle him to get into Paradise.” Does this mean that we lose hope in God’s Mercy? Of course not. What is meant is not to rely on our deeds and to put our trust on the Godly Mercy. This is the same message that Ibn `Ataa’ conveyed in his words of wisdom.

But so much hope should not turn into a feeling of immunity, that is to feel immune and saved from God’s punishment, whatever you do.

{And they say, “The fire will most certainly not touch us for more than a limited number of days}. (Al-Baqarah 2: 8)

The verse was revealed regarding some of the previous nations who had a belief that they are God’s chosen people, regardless of their actions and regardless of whatever they do in this life. Nowadays, some Muslims think that as long as they are Muslims, they can do whatever they want and they will not be harmed. Allah says:

{But none feels secure from God’s deep devising save people who are lost}. (Al-`Araf 7: 99).

Hope should not turn into a false state of immunity or some sort of guarantee that Allah will bestow His Mercy on you no matter what you do. The only guarantee is your actual admission to Paradise. Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

“I would not feel safe from Allah’s deep devising even if one of my feet was in paradise and the other is still outside”.

Thus, we should strike a balance between hope and awe. Balance is a universal law that we have to struggle to find in everything. Balance in repentance is to repent sincerely toAllah, not only out of hope in His Mercy but also out of fear of His repayment.

Some disbelievers have an illusion of hopelessness. They might be interested to turn to their Lord, but they think that He will never forgive the evil they did. Therefore, they continue in their wrong ways. Allah says:

{Your Sustainer has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy – so that if any of you does an evil deed out of ignorance, and thereafter repents and lives righteously, God shall be much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. And thus clearly do We spell out Our messages so that the path of those who are lost in sin might be distinct [from that of the righteous who repent].} (Al-‘An`am 6: 54).

The sinner is the one who rejects this Divine offer of repentance. What is required here is to strike a balance between hope and awe.

Therefore, the first step on this path is to affirm your hope in Allah’s Mercy and simply turn your heart to Him. This is the first stop in your long/short journey.

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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.