Allah سبحانه وتعالى says in the Qur’an-al-Karim:
وَذَرُوا ظَاهِرَ الْإِثْمِ وَبَاطِنَهُ
It means that you should leave all the sins that you commit:
– the ones that you commit openly(externally/outwardly) – ظَاهِرَ
– and the ones that you commit secretly(inwardly/internally) – بَاطِنَه
Definition of sin
• To break any of the commandments of Allah سبحانه وتعالى, to violate any of His rules, to go against any of His Ahkam
• To break or refuse to follow or not believe in any of the established Sunnah’s of RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم
Explanation of ظَاهِرَ & بَاطِنَه
We all know that ظَاهِرَ are the outward or apparent sins that include: lying, cheating, eating pork, drinking alcohol etc.
These are the internal or inner sins. They include: malice & hatred for your fellow Muslims, envy, inability to control your gaze, unlawful desires, greed, love of wealth, love of the dunya, ujub – conceit pride and arrogance etc.
Know that just as it is haram to do an external sin it is equally haram to do an inner sin. E.g. Just as it is extremely reprehensible for us to eat even one morsel of pork similarly it is as haram to have one drop of takabbur inside your heart.
Allah سبحانه وتعالى has equated both of these sins in this ayah that we must leave all the external sins and all the internal sins that we commit.
Allah سبحانه وتعالى is asking us not just to stop committing sins but stay far away from them by using the word:
Which means ‘stay away from, abstain, refrain’ i.e. keep yourself far away from all of these sins; do not even go near these sins.
Live wire example
Now, if there is a live wire – a 1000 bolt electric wire, a child or even an adult will stay away from that wire. He will not come anywhere near that wire.
Why? Because there’s so much danger involved to the physical body if he touches that wire that he’s going to keep a comfortable distance to be on the safe side. Well, just like that the heart of a true believer should not only keep away from involving himself in that sin he’s being told to refrain even from coming close to sin.
This is actually the hidden/deeper meaning of the Arabic Word ذَرُو – It means don’t just stop committing sins, don’t even go near that sin. That is the whole philosophy of our Shari’ah that it closes all the paths that lead to sin i.e. it nips the evil in the bud. It doesn’t even let you come near a sin – a place of sin, an opportunity of sin, a person of sin.
A sin in the spirit of the believer is like a cancer
Ullema equate sins to cancer i.e. when a person has a cancerous part in his body. He only has two options: He would either have to get it operated i.e. remove the cancerous part of his body OR if he doesn’t do that than the cancer will spread out in the entire body, poison it and he will die.
Just like that a sin in the spirit of the believer is like a cancer and unless he removes [refrains from] the sin, the evil effects of it will permeate the entire rooh and leave him spiritually dead.
Even the smallest of sins is still disobedience of the Creator
Hafiz Ibn-e-Qayyum rahimahullah wrote that: ‘O My friend don’t look at how small or big is the sin that you commit but instead you should reflect at how great the being is against whom you are sinning.”
So we cannot even consider the slightest of our sins as being trivial. There is no justified reason for committing a sin on purpose
Having haya before Allah سبحانه وتعالى
Imam Ata ibn-e-abi-raba rahimahullah, who was the teacher of Imam Bukhari rahimuhullah, once told his students that:
“When you sin you close all the doors from which the creation can see you, you lock all the windows to hide your sin from everyone but are unable to close the door through which the Creator can see you sinning. What reasonable answer could we give to Allah سبحانه وتعالى on the Day of Judgment if Allah سبحانه وتعالى asks us “Oh my servant, You were so careful in concealing your sin from everyone, you were so ashamed of your sin that you tried to bury it with all your possible efforts in unveiling it in front of the creation but you felt no shame in doing that sin in front of ME? Do I have less value in your eyes than all of creation?”
What defensible reply could we give to this question to that being who gave us the life we live, who blessed us with his uncountable blessings except the silence of our guilt but then it would be too late.
Ibadah is like itr; Sins like garbage
Our Mashaikh explain it in this way that our Ibadah is like itr and our sins like garbage. Now, imagine that if a person is sitting in the middle of a garbage dump then even if he empties a whole bottle of itr on himself it will have no effect on him. So, if person is not willing to leave his sins, then what is the use of talking to him about dhikr.
But on the other hand, if he were to leave sins i.e. takes himself out of the garbage dump, even a few drops of itr would be enough to make him fragrant. So, it means that we must leave all our sins and repent from each and every one of them.
How to distinguish between Nafs & Shaytan
Shaytan and our Nafs are two beings that convince us to do an act of sin.
How can we distinguish that whether that sin is because of Shaytan or because of our Nafs?
According to our Mashaikh when you think of doing a sin, and you suppress it and control yourself, but the same thought keeps on coming again and again and again then that is actually the sinful desire of your Nafs. It fools us in committing a sin over and over again. Our Nafs is like that unruly stubborn child that keeps on insisting on doing a sin until and unless you fall for it.
On the other hand, when the thought of doing a sin comes in your mind and you suppress it and then another thought of doing a different sin comes to your mind and then again another sinful thought enters your mind than it’s a sign that Shaytan trying to convince us to do a sin. Shaytan doesn’t care what type of sin you do, he isn’t stubborn like our Nafs, its main purpose is to just make us do any sin and when he fails, he tries to stop us from doing anything that is good.
Consequences of our sins in this world
It’s a principle of science that: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So, for each and every sin that we do, there will be an effect in our life because of it. When a person sins, Allah سبحانه وتعالى lights a small flame of worry in his life. It may be come from his wife, children, subordinates, job etc.
Hastening to perform Taubah for our sins
The strange problem in us as Muslims is not that we sin; rather it is that we don’t hasten in making Taubah. In fact, the tragedy is that we delay in making Taubah and seeking Allah سبحانه وتعالى’s forgiveness, that we’ll make Taubah later and even go so far to think that ‘Let me just commit this sin one last time’
Three things that increase the severity of a sin
• The first thing is to do that sin over and over again, to fool oneself in committing that sin again in the name of “last time”. Every time we do a sin thinking that it’s the very last and final time we are doing it, that is just another successful effort in addicting our self to that sin. Every one of us is weak in leaving one or more than one particular sin.
• The second thing is that when we lose the hesitation, the embarrassment in doing a sin that certainly boosts the magnitude of that sin. As we start becoming unaware of the severity of our sin, then this behavior tends to create a new person in us who is not ashamed of doing anything, the sinner inside us becomes over confident.
• The third thing is that since a person looses the guilt in doing a sin, his heart hardens so much that he brags about his sins; he shares it with his friends.
Four things that ensure acceptance of our repentance
1. The first thing is that a person must repent sincerely
He must feel extremely guilty about his actions and promise Allah سبحانه وتعالى that he would never ever commit that sin again. We question that how can we make such a big promise when we know that we are going to do that sin again.
It comes in a Hadith that “On the day of judgment a person will be raised who lived his life in the same way, he would do a sin and then he would repent to Allah سبحانه وتعالى then he would do a sin and then again he would repent to Allah سبحانه وتعالى, Allah سبحانه وتعالى will say to his angels that look at this servant of mine truly the shaytan and the nafs were never relented in making him sin but my servant he was also unrelenting in making his repentance to me, so because of his unrelenting repentance to me I(Allah) will forgive him”.
We should never delay in repenting to Allah سبحانه وتعالى by letting our self thinking that what is the use of our Taubah when we know we will do the same sin again?
When our clothes get dirty we don’t stop washing them thinking that what the use is when we know they will get dirty again. Similarly we need to wash ourselves, we need to purify our souls, our intentions hoping that Allah the most merciful will forgive us and we won’t do that sin again.
2. The second condition is that we must forgive others for the sake of Allah سبحانه وتعالى
It comes in a Hadith that: “On the Night of Qadr everyone’s prayers are answered except that person who has grudge, malice against his fellow brother.”
In our worldly relations it happens many times that when someone says something bad to us we feel hatred, anger for them. No matter if we are justified in our anger but still we must forgive them for the sake of Allah سبحانه وتعالى. If we think that we are reasonable in being angry on someone then we should also reflect that certainly Allah سبحانه وتعالى is more than just reasonable in being angry with us. We sin against our creator and still he forgives us then what right do we have in not forgiving others.
3. We must abandon the bad company
The third thing for the acceptance of our Taubah is to stay away from anyone who invites us to sin. We must isolate ourselves from everything that leads us to sin.
4. The fourth condition is that we increase our good deeds
We should never despair of the mercy of the Allah سبحانه وتعالى. No matter how deep we sin, Allah سبحانه وتعالى’s mercy is greater than our sin. We should have full faith that no matter how bad we are Allah سبحانه وتعالى will forgive us if we repent truly and we should continue in fulfilling our duties as a believer, we should do more good deeds and be hopeful for Allah’s mercy.
[This is not a transcription of Shaykh’s bayan, but inspired from his talk on leaving sin, dated 09.25.2008.]