Repentance in Islam

I can't tell you how much I enjoy reading the daily questions from Islam Q&A. The Islamic scholars there do a very good job of representing Islamic orthodoxy, even if it means taking an unpopular stance like defending slavery or female circumcision (I have posted on both of those topics, just use the search blog command at the top of the page).

And here we find a touching explanation of what repentance is:

[...] You will see that repentance is something more than seeking forgiveness.

Because this is a serious matter, there have to be conditions attached. The scholars mentioned the conditions of repentance, based on aayahs from the Qur’aan and ahaadeeth. There follows a list of some of them:

1 – Giving up the sin immediately.

2 – Regretting what has happened in the past.

3 – Resolving not to go back to it.

4 – Making amends to those whom you have wronged, or asking for their forgiveness.

You should not forget other important matters connected to sincere repentance, such as:

1 – You should give up the sin for the sake of Allaah and not for any other reason such as not being able to do it or repeat it, or being afraid of what people will say, for example.

The person who gives up a sin because it may affect his standing or reputation among people, or because it may cost him his job, cannot be described as having repented.

The person who gives up sins for the sake of his health and strength cannot be described as having repented, such as a person who gives up zinaa (adultery) and immoral actions for fear of contagious deadly diseases, or for fear that they may weaken his body and his memory.

The person who refrains from taking a bribe for fear that it may be being offered by undercover officers cannot be described as having repented.

The person who gives up drinking alcohol and taking drugs because he has become bankrupt cannot be described as having repented.

Similarly, the person who is unable to commit sin because of something that lies beyond his control cannot be described as having repented, such as a liar who becomes paralyzed and loses the power of speech, or an adulterer who loses the ability to engage in intercourse, or a thief who has an accident and loses his limbs. In such cases, a person has to feel regret and stop wishing to commit sin, or he has to feel sorry for what has happened in the past. To someone like this the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Regret is repentance.” (narrated by Ahmad and Ibn Maajah; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 6802)

2 – He should feel repelled by the sin and the harm it causes.

This means that sincere repentance cannot be accompanied by feelings of enjoyment and pleasure when remembering past sins, or wishing to go back to it in the future. [...]


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