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Repentance and Atonement

The love for this life and this world is instinctive; it has been so ordained by Allah. That is why man is always busy in weaving he warp and woof of desires. He loves to amass wealth, has great passion for women; and violence and the desire to avenge him are inborn and is ever tempted to be misguided by negative forces within. So how can he save himself from such temptations? In fact God, out of His mercy, has given man the [opportunity for repentance. Through repentance and atonement man can transform this record of wrong actions into one of good actions and still be rewarded in the life hereafter. God the Almighty is indeed ever-forgiving: “except the one who repents, becomes a true believer, and starts doing good deeds, for then Allah will change his evil deeds into good, and Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Qur’an;25:70). Provided we are genuinely repentant, the door of repentance is open for us as long as we live, and stays open till we draw our last breath-until that hour when the dying man’s soul reaches his throat. It is the hour when we face the truth as conveyed by the Prophet (peace be upon him).

The sum and substance of a person’s repentance will be manifest at that what he labors, as repentance is an expression of voluntary surrender to God, it will be of no avail when a man draws his last breath if he did not opt to repent consciously when he had the chance. This type of last-minute repentance is more an action performed under duress than one done voluntarily. God the Almighty says: “Verily, God’s acceptance of repentance relates only to those who do evil out of ignorance and then repent before their time runs out; and it is they unto whom God will turn again in His mercy – for God is all knowing, wise; whereas repentance shall not be accepted from those who do evil deeds until their dying hour and then say, “Behold, I now repent!” nor from those who die as deniers of truth …”(Qur’an;4:16 -18). Resisting temptation and being determined not to behave sinfully again are among the basic conditions for genuine repentance. For example, you could not accept an apology from someone who throws dirty water at you, apologizes when you complain, but threatens to do the same thing the next day.

Two Aspects of Repentance:

Repentance has two aspects, spiritual and physical. The spiritual aspect is reflected in curability to realize how much damage sinful actions can cause, and the physical aspect represents itself in how you restrain yourself from doing them in the first place by applying the brakes at the right moment ‘the self carries the blame’, however, if it fails to do so. In other words, a crime committed by someone who is not aware of its seriousness is much less when compared to someone who is fully aware of its consequences. The second point regarding repentance is that good actions should predominate – the urge to abide by noble values rather than upholding values which are destructive and corrupt. In other words, repentance should reflect itself in a change of behaviour. The Holy Qur’an states: “When those who believe in Our revelations come to you, say: “Peace be upon you. 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): “However, those who repent after this and mend their ways, then verily Allah is Forgiving, Merciful”(Qur’an;3:89); “except those who repent, reform and let the truth be known; I’ll accept their repentance, for I am the Receiver of Repentance, the Merciful”(Qur’an;2:160).

One has to turn over a new leaf by genuinely trying not to transgress against Divine Law and being determined not to repeat one’s mistakes. But if, despite your resolve, your willpower fails you, or circumstances force you to do wrong, then you repent again, you will be forgiven even if the same situation recurs. However, if your determination weakens and you say to yourself, “Never mind I will fulfill my desire to do such and such a wrongful act this time, and then ask for forgiveness” your repentance is not genuine and will therefore not be accepted. It is sufficient to repent by abstaining from wrongful acts while being fully aware of what you are doing. God in His greatness will forgive you. But say you hurt another human being by stealing his money or hurting him physically, giving false witness, gossiping or blackmailing, etc. In all such instances you need to put things right with the person concerned or receive his forgiveness. In turn God may show you mercy. Otherwise, on the Day of Judgement that person may get credit for all your good actions, while you will have to bear the brunt of his misdeeds. But however many sins are committed, the door of repentance is ever open, and we should never think God will not forgive us. In fact, despairing of his forgiveness is the gravest sin of all: “Oh you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your own selves! Despair not of God’s mercy. Behold, God forgives all sins”(Qur’an;39:53). Thus true repentance is to give up doing what we know is wrong and consciously to do what we know to be right. One should ask for forgiveness from God alone as ordained in the Holy Qur’an: “He brought you into being out of the earth and made you thrive thereon. Ask him, therefore, to forgive you your sins, and then turn towards Him with repentance”(Qur’an;11:61); “Hence ask your Sustainer to forgive you your sins, and then turn towards Him in repentance. For verily my Sustainer is a dispenser of grace, a fount of love” (Qur’an;11:90); “Hence 0 my people, ask your Sustainer to forgive you your sins, and then turn towards Him in repentance”(Qur’an;11:52).

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also addressed the subject of repentance in the same way, urging us to ask for God’s forgiveness and save ourselves from punishment in the life hereafter. Sinful people can be put into various categories, one being those who live and die as infidel, for whom there is no hope of forgiveness: “Verily, God does not forgive the ascribing of Divinity to aught beside Him”(Qur’an;4:48). The fate of believers who do not spend their lives in accordance with the Divine Will, and do not ask for God’s forgiveness, is in the hands of God, who may pardon them if He wishes; And He may punish them in the fire of hell though they may not stay there forever. Other than associating partners with Him, He forgives any lesser sin unto whomever He wills: “Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with him; but He forgives anything else to whom He pleases; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed”(Qur’an;4:48).

No one should underestimate this. As mortals, we are unable to withstand a blaze even for a very short time, so why risk putting ourselves in a position where we might suffer the fire of hell for a long time? Even though God, in His mercy and generosity, forgives those who ask for repentance after they have transgressed, the greatest reward of all is for those who deliberately stay away from temptation, even when it is very strong, because of the deep respect they have in their hearts for the power of God. For example, a man may be Just about to be unfaithful to his wife when he remembers God’s wishes and is tempted no further, even though he is extremely aroused. Only a man who, has been divinely bestowed with a strong will-power is able to restrain himself from getting involved in the first place. Getting embroiled in situations like this is rather like conducting an experiment on a dangerous contagious disease and making sure you inhale the germs at the time. Anyone who survives must have built up a strong immunity, but the chances against him catching the disease would be about one per cent. That example is set in the context of a physical illness. So what about our own transgressions? Indulgence in them does not help us build up our immune systems, so if we want to make sure we keep ourselves centered on ‘God’s Will’ we should avoid mixing with people whose ways could lead us astray. You can judge a man by the company he keeps. In fact there is a popular saying that goes, “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.” Let’s hope that the younger generation realizes the potential danger of these temptations, and pray for their guidance.

Repentance and Atonement: http://wp.me/PCgrB-b2

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