About Sin, Repentance, and Intercession - 2
By Dr Basheer Ahmed Khan
Garden Grove, CA
Man continues to commit lots of mistakes, not because he is a sinner by nature, but because Allah has created the world full of temptations and has permitted Satan to swerve man from the right path through these temptations and satanical suggestions (Ch17 V64). As our life on this earth is a test in self-restraint, there was no point of the test if there were no temptations and no incitement to succumb to them; and if we were punished immediately by God or by the moral police for our slips then these temptations could be only imaginative and not real.
God subjects man to this insidious test as a training exercise to improve the understanding of man about good and bad and correct himself and his future course. By subjecting man to this test God wants man to understand the consequences of evil action and shun them and accepts good behavior not just because of the fear of law or as a moral and religious obligation, but as the right imperative. If man develops this attitude life becomes blissful and peaceful and dispensation of justice and establishment of peace on the earth becomes easy and inexpensive.
Those who commit sin may lessen the burden of their sin on their souls by confession. Punishment may act as deterrent, but individuals and societies can reform and rejuvenate through repentance alone. One who repents is more likely to reform than one who is punished. God has kept the door of repentance to free man from the sense of guilt and shame that creates a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, and to elate him to continue on the journey of life as a normal person That is why Allah encourages people who are overburdened by the effects of their sins to seek forgiveness from an ever forgiving God and not to lose hope. (Ch39 V53). Allah likes nothing more than a sinful man returning to Him with repentance (Riyad us Saliheen 442). This mercy of Allah is because Allah knows the difficulty into which He has put his vicegerent by permitting the cunning Satan to deceive him and how easy it is for this impatient and forgetful man to be deceived and suffer. An Urdu poet has described this reality of repentance in the following couplet beautifully:
Mukhad-dar Ke Gunahon par bhi ye khood hotha hai Shar min da
Farishte Aadmi ki Bar tha-ri ka Raaz Kya Janein.
It is difficult for ethereal angels to understand the greatness of the earthly man who is repentant for the sins which are decreed for him by God to put him into trouble and bring him back to the right path. Every saint they say has a shameful past. But the “Saints” who dwell in their sinful life are not Saints but Satans.
Some people consider this forgiveness on repentance is a blanket defeating the whole purpose of the test. Qur’an being the last guidance for mankind has enunciated the condition of repentance to assure forgiveness lest the hope of forgiveness through repentance emboldens man to commit more and more heinous sins. The conditions which are laid out to ensure mercy of God to embrace a repenting person are: Mistake must be done in ignorance; repentance must be immediate after its realization. Mistakes are not made deliberately and repeated till the time of death (Ch4 V17-18). Repentance should be sincere with conviction of heart and not just the word of mouth (Ch66 V8). Once the person knows that a certain action is wrong he should not repeat it and he should be optimistic about forgiveness and acceptance of his repentance by Allah (Ch3 V135). The people affected by our mistake must be compensated for Allah to pardon the sins related to violation of the right of people (Hukhookh Ul Ebad). Allah does not forgive excesses which we commit on fellow human beings till they forgive us. Having outlined these conditions for repentance Allah has kept the prerogative of forgiveness to Himself, and He can forgive whomsoever He wants because He alone is aware of the circumstance in which His servant committed a sin and the sincerity with which the sinner has repented (Ch2 V284). But those who want to run their writ in the name of God feign to assume this authority.
If people have not rusted their heart (Tirmizi 3334) and do not keep on committing sins with impunity and crass cupidity, these rules of repentance will create a society in which sin will remain a sin and those committing it will commit them under duress with a sense of guilt and will have a chance to redeem themselves.
Once we rust our hearts by being rebellious against morality, sin will become the greatest virtue and people will vie with one another to demonstrate their adeptness in it and take our world to abyss. To be safe from sins in a regimental society is not a great achievement but to refrain from it in a free society is the real test of vicegerent. We are hurting ourselves and our societies by either being generous in ignoring the danger of sins and committing them with impunity or by punishing even small mistakes with severe punishment to make dangerous criminals out of misbehaving people. Thus we fail to establish a just society in our capacity as the true vicegerent of God.
As this world is a place of test and not a place to receive full justice there has always been a balance of uncompensated virtue and unpunished vice which is taken care of by The Just God on the day of judgement. On this day God will reward those who suffered for their goodness and punish those who enjoyed the fruits of their evil deeds in this world causing hardship to billions of others. (One may read my article “Belief in Resurrection is the way to Salvation” in Pakistan Link dated Jan 24, 2014). On this day he gives some people permission to intercede and seek clemency. These people will speak nothing but truth and Allah will accept their intercession (Ch21 V28)
The concept of intercession is the most abused religious concept. This has made people become complacent about their evil deeds in the hope of getting clemency through these intercessors. We have therefore invented many intercessors and are running a business of intercession. Because of this many people have started to discredit not just the concept of intercession but the whole religion. Intercession is a reality about which the Qur’an has spoken, but this will be just and balanced one (Ch78 V38). I don’t know much about the various intercessors which people have invented. I will restrict myself to the reality of intercession of Muhammad SA as described by him in a hadith in Sahih and reproduced by Imam Nuawi in Riyad us Saliheen (hadith #1866). Following is the gist of that long hadith.
On the day of judgement Allah’s anger will be extreme because of the failure of men who have returned to His presence after causing so much pain and suffering to fellow human beings by ignoring the guidance of messenger and their own senses and sensibility which He had endowed upon them. Because of immense heat and lack of water people will be restless and will go to all the prophets requesting them to supplicate with God for relief. Every prophet declines to appear before God presenting one or the other weakness that they had in their worldly life. It is sheer high- headedness for us to be hopeful of God’s mercy with our lives full of sin, when the prophets are afraid to stand before God because of one weakness in their life. They all refer their followers to Muhammad SA, and it is understandable because of the life he lived and the legacy he left. Muhammad SA prostrates before Allah. All the people who had prostrated before in their earthly lives, and there will be billions of them, will prostrate with him. Allah puts into the mouth of Muhammad SA supplication as he is prostrating which was never given to anyone before. Allah’s anger will cool and He will ask Muhammad SA to raise his head and assures him of acceptance of his supplication. But those who were arrogant to prostrate before Him in their worldly lives will not be able to prostrate that day and will stand out as black sheep on this tough day (Ch68 V43).
I am leaving the other details of this hadith because there are various interpretations to them that kill the very spirit of the Qur’an and Hadith and the utility of the concept. I will quote another hadith to show how just this intercession will be. After the acceptance of this supplication Nabi SA will be permitted to give water to the forgiven people from his pond “Hauz e Kausar”. Some of the people who come to take the cup from him will be whisked away by angels. Nabi SA will say that they are my companions and he will be told, indeed they are your companions but you don’t know what actions they did after you (Shabbeer Ahmed Usmani in his tafseer of the verse 109 of Chapter 8 of Qur’an). There are various interpretations to this hadith also. I will leave for the truth of these interpretations to play out on that day rather than comment on it without any knowledge. What Nabi SA has told is truth. What causes skepticism about this or any other hadith is our farfetched interpretations to justify our opinions.
Allah has ruled out any other form of intercession based on false hope in the following verse in which he says: No one can intercede on behalf of anybody except the one I am pleased with and they also will be trembling before Me that day (Ch21 V28).