This past Ramadan, I’ve been fascinated by the concept of redemption and forgiveness in Islam. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “This is a month, the first part of which brings Allah’s Mercy, the middle of which brings Allah’s forgiveness, and the last part of which brings emancipation from hellfire” (Hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari). In one of my previous blog posts, I offered some friendly reminders in hopes of bringing to attention some of the mental health-related challenges that people can go through during Ramadan. After writing that post, I couldn’t help but reflect deeply on all of the different ways that people can struggle before, during, and after Ramadan, especially leading up to Ramadan.
Sometimes, it can feel like we’re drowning in sin and question whether we can redeem ourselves in this holy month and if we even have the willpower to get through Ramadan whilst abstaining from everything sinful. I thought about all the Muslims that struggle with substance addiction who despite sometimes experiencing excruciating withdrawal symptoms, do their best to persevere through Ramadan. Muslims who perhaps prior to Ramadan were not openly practicing and in their efforts during Ramadan to reconnect with Allah will likely have to endure judgmental looks from others. Shame and guilt can really eat people away and sometimes cause them to distance themselves from their religion and their community. So if we see someone doing their best to be pious in the days/months leading up to Ramadan, then the best we can do is to help bring each other closer to Allah (SWT). There’s an entire ayah in the Quran that speaks directly to this.
In the Quran, Allah (SWT) says: “Help one another in acts of piety and righteousness. And do not assist each other in acts of sinfulness and transgression. And be aware of Allah. Verily, Allah is severe in punishment” (Quran 5:2).
I also reflected on how when other people’s sins are made public for whatever reason;
- We should never hold that against them. There’s a saying that really speaks to this concept. “If one night you see someone committing a sin, tomorrow do not look at him as a sinner. He may have repented during the night and you did not know.” The best that we can do in a situation like this is either to advise the person in private and if you love them, pray for Allah (SWT) to guide them on the right path. Remember, we as Muslims are advised, “Whosoever conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and the Hereafter. Allah will aid a servant (of His) so long as the servant aids his brother.” There are many teachings in the Quran and sunnah about the proper ways of dealing with these matters which don’t involve ridiculing the person or airing out their business to the rest of the world.
- We shouldn’t be hypocrites by pointing the finger at people’s shortcomings and acting like we are sinless. There are a lot of people on this planet who may seem pious at first glance but commit sins behind closed doors and behind other people’s backs. There are people who commit adultery, backbite, watch/read pornographic content, people who don’t pray, are selfish with their wealth and don’t give to charity. Those who are disrespectful to their parents, and have anger management issues, the list can go on and on. In a way, not having your sins revealed to the world is a sign of mercy from Allah (SWT) as he’s the only one who knows your true intentions and what lies in your heart.
Everyone sins. Humans are bound to commit sin which is why a big part of our test in this life is fighting our own nafs (our ego, desires & temptations). Repenting for our sins and seeking forgiveness from Allah (swt) when we transgress is therefore crucial. God didn’t create us to be perfect, this world is filled with trials and tribulations…. “Every son of Adam commits sin, and the best of those who commit sin are those who repent.” Repentance is really what differentiates believers and disbelievers. Repentance shows that you’re still god-conscious and the natural way of life as a Muslim is to continuously, time and time again return back to our lord, repent and seek forgiveness.
Despite knowing all of this, I know there are people who will still continue to struggle to deal with the weight of their past sins. Shame, guilt, and a lack of confidence in their ability to change can cause someone to be stuck in a limbo of negative thoughts that perhaps they’re too far gone to be granted forgiveness. For those people, I want to leave you with this reminder. One phrase we are urged to repeat throughout our days is this….. “In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful“. God’s mercy is infinite. Among his 99 names are “al-Ghafir, the Forgiver, al-Ghaffar, the Frequent Forgiver, al-Ghafur, the Extensive Forgiver, the one who forgives over and over and over again.” With that in mind, we should never despair and think we are undeserving of Allah’s forgiveness, all we have to do is ask for forgiveness with a sincere heart.
There is a hadith whereby the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) says: Allah the Almighty said: 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 your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.”
عَنْ أَنَسٍ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ ، قَالَ : سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللهِ صَلَّى الله عَلَيْهِ وَ سَلَّمَ ، يَقُولُ : قَالَ اللهُ تَعَالَى : يَا ابْنَ ادَمَ ، إِنَّكَ مَا دَعَوْتََنِي وَرَجَوْتَنِي ، غَفَرْتُ لَكَ عَلَى مَا كَانَ مِنْكَ وَلَا أُبالِي . يا ابْنَ ادَمَ :لَوْ بَلَغَتْ ذُنُوبُكَ عَنانَ السَّماءِ ثُم َّ اسْتَغْفَرْتَني ، غَفَرْتُ لَكَ . يَا ابْنَ ادَمَ : إِنَّكَ لَوْ أَتَيْتَنِي بِقُرَابِ الأَرْضِ خَطَايا ثُمَّ لَقِيتَني لَا تُشْرِكُ بِي شَيْأً ، لَأَتيْتُكَ بِقُرَابِها مَغْفِرَةً رواهُ الترمذي (وكذلك أحمد) وسنده حسن
Ultimately, a big part of Ramadan is about enhancing our spiritual well-being, and breaking out of old habits and behaviors. Hopefully whilst abstaining from sinful actions, we build more effective stepping blocks to healthier ways of living. May Allah (SWT) make the journey easy for all of us.
Until next time, take care. 🙂