Bear with me – this is long.
And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves [by transgression], remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah ? – and [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know. (3:135)
Transliteration: Waallatheena itha faAAaloo fahishatan aw thalamoo anfusahum zakaroo Allaha faistaghfaroo lithunoobihim waman yaghfiru alththunooba illa Allahu walam yusirroo AAala ma faAAaloo wahum yaAAlamoona
I don’t usually put the transliteration, and note I’m not explaining an ayah from the Quran – I’m not a scholar, not even a student of knowledge so I don’t have the authority to do that. This is actually taken from a lecture by Nouman Ali Khan – I’m just reiterating what he said – in writing form.
The people of Jannah are people who commit an immorality or wrong themselves – the term used is ‘fahisha’ – which is something that can be with the eyes, in action with a deed, with words, or going towards someone or something, but it’s something shameless. Something you do to fulfill a lust. And then Allah adds – ‘aw thalamoo anfusahum ‘ or ‘wrongs themselves’- which is not the same as fahisha, it’s something you do that brings harm to yourself like jealousy or backbiting or slander or cursing that have no benefit whatsoever in this worldly life, but you do it anyway. So those who commit fahisha whether it be on the internet, glancing at a billboard on the subway, watching something they shouldn’t, or wrong themselves, Allah says “zakaroo Allaha faistaghfaroo lithunoobihim”. He doesn’t even say ‘summa zakaroo Allah’ or ‘fa zakaroo Allah’, as in He doesn’t say ‘thereafter they remembered Allah’ or ‘soon they remembered Allah’. It’s not after the action was committed that they remembered Allah but it’s immediate – almost simultaneously – that they remembered Allah.
But this act of itself is hard to do. To sin and then automatically remember Allah.
Think of it this way – when you’re late to class, you don’t usually make a grand entrance. You creep your way to the back of the class and sit down quietly without making eye contact with anyone. When you’re late to work you don’t prance into the office, you kind of hide from the boss and go into your cubicle. When you get a bad report card when you were younger, you didn’t walk inside your home the way you normally do – you turn the door knob slowly and then quickly rush to your room and close the door and pretend to be asleep. Why? Cause we are embarrassed or ashamed to face our teachers or our boss or our parents. Likewise, when we commit a sin, we are shamed to meet Allah.
How many of you have heard a voice in your head saying “You just did all that haram and now you’re going to pray in front of Allah? You’re going to stand in front of Allah? You hypocrite. What kind of double life are you leading?”
I know a fair number of sisters who want to be hijabis but they feel as if they sin so much that they need to fix everything before becoming a hijabi. But I think it’s just Shaytaan saying “Oh, you want to tell the world you’re muslim? People are gonna think you’re a good muslim if you wear hijab but you’re not really a good muslim. Then you’re just a hypocrite. You’re pretending to be good.”
Yep, we’ve all heard those sentences before. That’s shaytaan’s way of pulling us further away. We’re supposed to use our sins to make us repent and get closer to Allah but then Shaytaan comes in and uses our sins as an excuse for us not to face Allah. But who are you going to go to? At the end of the day, you’re going to face Allah eventually. Let’s use an example: A child throws a tantrum in the supermarket so the mother ignores him and lets him sit on the floor or maybe even gets mad and yells at the child. What does the child do? A few minutes later the child is still clinging onto the feet of his mother. Why? Because everyone else in the supermarket is a stranger. Because even if he angers his mother, even if he does something bad, it’s his mother. And at the end of the day – she’ll take him back and he knows that. She’s mom after all. And she’s the only one he can go to. Similarly – at the end of the day we will face Allah. So why should we shy away from Him?
And after that part of the ayah Allah adds a condition to this: ‘and who do not persist in what they have done while they know’ which is those who don’t keep committing the sin once they know it’s sinful. It’s like this: you commit a sin and then you ask forgiveness from Allah but in the back of your mind you think “I’ll probably do it again two weeks from now, good thing there’s tawbah (forgiveness).” In the back of your mind you’re looking forward to two weeks later. If you already have this defeated mentality, this characteristic of the people of Jannah does not apply.
BUT – on the flip side there is more. There are those who genuinely mention Allah and seek His forgiveness with nothing in the back of their mind and makes the intention never to commit the act again, but falls into sin again. We’re human, it happens. But it’s something that happened much later or by accident, not a cycle where you do it and then seek forgiveness and then do it again.
The last section is referring to those who KNOW they will commit the sin again – who persistently do it. These people do not fall into the category of those who commit fahisha and remember Allah because these people have a cycle of sinning.
So what we learn from this is that the people of Jannah aren’t sin-free. It’s what they did after the sin that got them to Jannah. Real Istighfar is when you feel remorse, when you feel ashamed for what you did.