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Chapter-3: Repentance and Mercy

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Anyone who, at the end of any particular day in his life, examines what he/she may have said or done is bound to come to the conclusion that he has committed several sins. If the feeling of guilt lingers with us for a long while, and increases day after day, then life will acquire a very gloomy aspect. We will feel that we have no hope of salvation. Our sins can only increase and they will inevitably do away with our good deeds. But this is not how Islam views the whole issue of disobedience and sin
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Its outlook constantly embrace the prospect of forgiveness and reward due to His Mercy, Allah says:
“Your Lord has decreed mercy upon Himself. If anyone among you commits evil because of ignorance and thereafter repents and mends his ways; you will find Allah Forgiving, Merciful.”(Qur’an;6:54). “Surely Allah will never forgive the one who commits the sin of ascribing partners to Him and may forgive anyone else if He so pleases. Who so ascribes partners unto Allah has wandered far astray.”(Qur’an;4:116). “Say: "O my Servants (believers) who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful. Turn ye to your Lord (in repentance) and bow to His (Will) before the Penalty comes on you:” (Qur’an;39:53-54); “If anyone does evil or wrongs his own soul and then seeks Allah's forgiveness, he will find Allah Forgiving, Merciful.”(Qur’an;4:110). “However, the one who has repented in this life, and believed, and done good deeds may hope to be among those who will achieve salvation.”(Qur’an;28:67).
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Even in the case of offences that carry mandatory punishment, Islam prefers that the offender follows the alternative course, which is to repent and make amends. The Prophet [peace be upon him] says: “If you do any of these offences and are duly punished for it in this life, the punishment atones for it. If you keep it between you and God, then it is up to God to either forgive or punish you on the Day of Resurrection.” This means that repentance is the key to what one should do after committing any sin. Repentance means acknowledgement of one’s error, genuine regret for having committed it and a firm resolve not to do it again. If one truly repents of one’s sins and prays to God for forgiveness, then God accepts one’s repentance He has promised that and God’s promises always come true.
It may be added here that if the sinful actions involves something due to other people, he should restore to them what is rightfully theirs. Thus a person who commits theft should combine his repentance with returning what he has stolen. A person who slanders another in front of a group of people should contact those people and put the record straight to them, speaking well of the person whom he had slandered.
Intercession of Prophet (pbuh) for Believers:
There is also a hadith related by Abu Hurairah and recorded by Ahmad and Muslim in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) said; "Every prophet has a special supplication that is answered. Every prophet hastened to make his supplication, but I concealed mine and will use it for my nation on the Day of Resurrection. It will be granted--Allah willing--to whoever dies without associating any partners with Allah." Al-Bukhari also recorded that Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "The person who will be the happiest due to my intercession is the one who says, 'There is no god but Allah' sincerely from his heart." [Extracted from Fiqah-us-Sunnah, volume.1, Number.77b].

Virtues Remove Evils:

Any good action or kind word, which we may do or say, will be credited to us. It will earn us a reward and the cumulative effect of our reward will erase at least a commensurate number of our sins. Moreover, a good is given a reward, which is equivalent to at least ten times its value. A sin or an act of disobedience is recorded at its simple value. Therefore, a small act of kindness erases a sin, which is ten times more serious. Allah says: “Indeed virtues remove evils..”(Qur’an;11:114 ); “Repel evil with good” (Qur’an;23:96, 13:22, 41:34).
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Sincere Repentance:

It is again re-emphasized that Allah has left the door always open for repentance of one's sins. For a cardinal sin to be forgiven, a resolve is needed not to indulge in it again. He has also committed Himself to turn with forgiveness to anyone who genuinely turns to Him in repentance. Therefore, when we wrong ourselves by committing a sin, we should turn to Allah and declare our repentance and pray for forgiveness. If we are sincere and genuine, then Allah will undoubtedly forgive us. The mark of genuine repentance is the resolve not to repeat the offense. Even if one yields to temptation again and does the same offense another time, his first repentance is accepted as well as his second, if on both occasions he is honest and sincere and has really regretted committing the offense: “He knows what is in the heavens and on earth: and He knows what you conceal and what you reveal: yes Allah knows well the (secrets) of (all) hearts.”(Qur’an;64:4).
Islam recognizes that human beings, being as they are, may yield to temptation and commit sins. As long as they are not so hardened in sin that they do not bother about the offense at all, forgiveness is possible. Indeed, it is likely, provided that the offense is followed by genuine regret and a clear intention to refrain from doing it again. That concept allows Muslims to have the reassurance that forgiveness is always possible. Islam does not like its followers to go about with the specter of Divine punishment always hanging over their heads. Indeed, it prefers that they always have the prospect of being forgiven. There is another element, which ensures forgiveness. Allah describes His servants with certain qualities including refraining from cardinal sins. He threatens those who indulge in them with punishment, except one who turns to Allah in repentance, believes and does something good. Allah will change the evil deeds of such people into good ones. Allah is indeed much forgiving, merciful. Allah says: "avoid the cardinal of sins and gross indecencies, and are guilty of only small offence, surely for them your Lord will have abundant forgiveness…”(Qur’an;53:32). That Qur’anic verse shows us the way to forgiveness. It is easily achieved if we follow our bad deeds with good ones. The doors of repentance remain open until a person is in the final throes of death. Pharaoh just before drowning, cried out: "I believe that there is no god but Him in Whom the Children of Israel believe” but it was not accepted and his body made as a sign for the successive generations (Qur’an;10:90-92).

Sins, Crimes and Shari’a:

Most of the sins, especially related with the dealings with other human beings fall in to the category of crimes punishable though courts established under Shari’a (Islamic law), those which remain undiscovered will be punished hereafter. In Islamic society, the term law has a wider significance than it does in the modern secular West, because Islamic law includes both legal and moral imperatives. For the same reason, not all-Islamic laws can be stated as formal legal rules or enforced by the courts. Much of it like sin of  backbiting (Qur’an;49:12) not  greeting (Qur’an;24:27) etc depends on conscience alone.
Qur’an in verses 24:30-31, while explaining the required behavior of Muslims in mixed traffic and gatherings of males and females, ordains the believing men and women to lower their gaze, guard their modesty, and to (alway) turn to God in repentance for bliss. Violation of any one of the commandments mentioned these verses constitute a sin (punishable in hereafter), however since punishment has not been prescribed here so in legal terms; a Muslim man staring at women can not be punished in the court of law, though he is committing a sin. Since such violations are possible due to  "man has been created weak" (Qur’an;4:28), the implication of the general call at the end of verse 24:31, to repentance is because no one is ever free of faults and temptations so much so that even the Prophet (pbuh) used to say, "Verily, I turn unto Him in repentance a hundred times every day" (Ibn Hanbal, Bukhari and Bayhaqi, all of them on the authority of 'Abd Allah ibn 'Umar).
While the state can not implement every aspect of Islam through force of law, in the religious matters, the scholars think that state has the responsibility of making arrangements to: 1) establish Salah (regular prayers) and 2) system of Zakah (obligatory charity), 3) enjoining right and forbidding evil, taking inference form Qur’an: “These are the people who, if We establish them (in power, authority) in the land, will establish Salah and pay Zakah, enjoin right and forbid evil; the final decision of all affairs is in the hands of Allah.”(Qur’an;22:41), “…but if they repent and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.”(Qur’an;9:5). Some scholars think that implementation in all other matters, should be left to the individuals through persuasion to enjoining good and forbidding evil.
The implementation methodology of injunctions could be deduced from guidance provided by Allah: “Make due allowance for man’s nature, and enjoin the doing of what is right (amr bil a’rif); and leave alone all those who choose to remain ignorant.”(Qur’an;7:199). While explaining this verse Muhammad Asad writes: “According to Zamakhshari, khudh-al-‘awf means: ‘Accept what comes easily to thee (or ‘what is willingly accorded to thee’) of doings and the nature of men, and make things easy (for them), without causing them undue hardship (khulf); and do not demand of them efforts that may be too difficult for them.’ This interpretation – which has been adopted many other classical commentators as well–is based on the identical explanation of the phrase khudh al ‘awf  by ‘Abd Allah ibn az- Zubayr and his brother ‘Urwah (Bukhari), as well as by A’ishah and, in the next generation, by Hihsam ibn ‘Urwah and Mujahid (Reference; Tibri, Baghawai and Ibn Kathir). Thus, in accordance with the Qur’anic statements that “man has been created weak”(Qur’an;4:28) and that “God does not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear”(Qur’an;2:286, 6:152, 7:42 & 23:62), the believer is admonished to make due allowance for human nature and not to be too harsh with those who err. [May be due to this aspect forgiveness from sin and exemption from Hadd was granted by Allah according to a Hadith: Narrated by AbuUmamah (Sahih Muslim Hadith, 1292)]. This admonition is the more remarkable as it follows immediately upon a discourse on the most unforgivable of all sins- the ascribing of divine powers or qualities to any one or anything but God.” It may also be kept in view that the man is also under trial :“Every soul shall have a taste of death: and We test you by evil and by good by way of trial: to Us must ye return.”(Qura’n;21:35).

Use of force as being done by non state groups (Taliban), forcing the men to keep beard, women to cover face, not to attend schools and colleges etc is considered as deviation. It is the responsibility of the well established government in a Muslim society which is competent to execute punishments after fair trial according to Shari’a while taking care of all the requirements of justice. Similarly to the performing Hajj and many other rituals and religious obligations are left to the individual Muslims for which they is answerable to Allah. The Bible also emphasizes similar aspects: “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.  And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (1 Peter; 3:10-13)