Restore Hope Through Repentance
By Sh. Ali Mashhour
“And those who do not invoke with Allah another deity or kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed], except by right, and do not commit unlawful sexual intercourse. And whoever should do that will meet a penalty. Multiplied for them is the punishment on the Day of Resurrection, and they will abide therein humiliated. Except for those who repent, believe and do righteous work. For them, Allah will replace their evil deeds with good. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful. And those who repent and do righteousness do indeed turn to Allah with [accepted] repentance” (Quran 25:68-71).
In these verses, Allah the most high, articulates three types of transgressions which represent three categories of sin. He alludes to these three categories by mentioning the most heinous of each category of sin. To properly understand these verses we need to understand the categories of sin which make themselves apparent throughout the Quran.
First, there is the gravest of all sins which Allah has deemed inexcusable and utterly most heinous; transgression in terms of the sole right of Allah to be worshipped alone without any partners. This is the worst of all sins. Second, is transgression in the rights of others by means of unlawfully taking the life of another human being. Third, is the transgression against one’s own soul that does not involve the immediate infringement on the rights of another. The worst of this type of transgression and the sin in this category which wreaks the most havoc on the soul is fornication.
In a narration collected by both Bukhari and Muslim, Ibn Mas’ood narrates that he asked the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him): “What is the gravest sin?” To which the Prophet (PBUH) responded: “That you worship another along with Allah in spite that it is Allah (alone) who has created you.” Ibn Mas’ood then asked: “What is most grave after that?” The Messenger of Allah replied: “That you kill your own children for fear that they would infringe upon your sustenance.” Ibn Mas’ood finally asked: “What is most severe after that? The Prophet (PBUH) said: “That you fornicate with your neighbor’s spouse.”
Through this narration, we see three categories of sin denoted by way of mentioning the worst of each. When we study the texts of the Quran and Sunnah, we see this pattern repeated often. For instance, Allah mainly speaks in the Quran of the people of paradise and their opposites the people of the hellfire, but what about those in between? Those who have mixed good and bad, righteousness and sinfulness? The Quran is meant to be a reference that is not only comprehensive but concise. Hence, Allah addresses and dwells mostly upon extreme examples: idolatry, murder, and adultery. We then are to deduce the ruling of the less extreme.
When Allah speaks of those who disbelieve in their hearts and consequently their actions follow suit, we deduce that their faith is contaminated with impurities and some of their actions are of the disbelievers. This is similar to a painter who starts with primary colors to make other colors and doesn’t have the color gray at their disposal. Instead, they need black and white from which to make any shade of gray for the intended task. Likewise, when Allah explains to us one extreme or primary condition, we can derive other shades from which are applicable to the present.
In the end, the verses remind us that Allah’s mercy always prevails and that we should never give up hope in receiving or restoring Allah’s favor. Those who sin but repent in good conscious, turn to Allah, and follow their renewed intentions with purposeful actions, are promised forgiveness and acceptance.