Rights for Those Who Repent by Sh. Ahmed Arafat
As humans, we are all susceptible to committing sins and yet, the best amongst sinners are those who repent. Even though to err is human, those who turn to Allah may hear insensitive comments, notice suspicious glances, or experience social rejection. In compassion with newcomers and to draw them closer to Allah, Imam al-Jilani (d. 561 AH/1166AD) explained four rights for those who repent:
Those who seek Allah should not only be welcomed but loved as well. This right is Quranically grounded by Allah: “Indeed, Allah loves those who repent and those who purify themselves”(Quran 2:222). Failing to show love is a sign of spiritual pride. Furthermore, our hearts should be filled with joy as we see someone coming back to Allah. As the newcomers expect to receive Allah’s love, they deserve to sense our love as well.
The second right is to pray sincerely for their istiqamah or steadfastness of those who repent, especially in the beginning of their repentance as they will feel the pain of separation from their old habits. Furthermore, the new lifestyle could come with challenges and obstacles; not all will be sunshine and roses. Sincere prayers emanate from a heart that has compassion for people and a pure desire for their transformation. Being kind hearted is a prerequisite for dealing with those who are seeking repentance. The Quran describes the Prophet as, “A Messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Your suffering distresses him: he is deeply concerned for you and full of kindness and mercy toward the believers” (Quran 9:128).
We should always keep in mind that sin and forgiveness are between the sinner and Allah, alone. There are those who sin against Allah, but Allah promises them forgiveness when they turn to Him in repentance. So, we have no right to interfere in this relationship. Reminding people of their past transgressions could make them give up on their new life as they feel incapable of overcoming the new changes.
Muslims with compassionate hearts will always seize each opportunity to uplift and strengthen each other. Newcomers deserve to take comfort in the ease of our smiles and the willingness of our hearts to help. Building a loving relationship with them and inviting them to the masjid’s classes will help them improve and strengthen their relationship with Allah.
5. Patience (I added this to the list)
Many of us tend to demand too much, too soon from newcomers and expect them to start with what we have developed over many years without realizing the patience this requires. If we insist that an infant must eat adult food, for example, we will certainly damage their growth. In the same sense, we must exercise an immense degree of patience and tolerance when dealing with new Muslims and those who repent so that they too, will find their way to faithfulness, insha’Allah. We ask Allah to fill our hearts with love, prayer, forgiveness, friendship, and patience.