Restore Hope Through Repentance
“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 representing three sin categories. 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 types of corruption apparent throughout the Quran.
- First, there is the gravest of all sins that Allah has deemed inexcusable and utterly most heinous; transgression in terms of Allah’s sole right to be worshipped alone without any partners. This is the worst of all sins.
- Second is transgression in others’ rights through unlawfully taking the life of another human being.
- The third transgression is against one’s soul that does not involve the direct infringement of another’s rights. The worst type of offense that 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 ﷺ: “What is the gravest sin?” To which the Prophet ﷺ 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 ﷺ said: “That you fornicate with your neighbor’s spouse.”
Through this narration, we see three categories of sin denoted by 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 says the people of paradise and their opposites: the people of hellfire. What about those in-between? Those who have mixed good and evil, righteousness and sinfulness? The Quran is 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 severe.
When Allah speaks of those who disbelieve in their hearts, and consequently, their actions follow suit, we can deduce that their faith is contaminated, and their behavior is 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 one extreme or primary condition to us, we can derive other shades from which apply 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.
By Sh. Ali Mashhour