We are all human and sometimes tend to lose the path for a while. What do we do when we realise we were wrong?
How do we ensure that our repentance is sincere, consistent and successful?
There are four main steps one must take to repent:
Stop the sin.
Regret deeply and truly for the sin you committed.
Return to Allah for forgiveness.
Make a strong intention never to return to that same sin again.
There is also a fifth step:
If the sin involved infringing on the rights of other people, then one must return the infringed rights back to the individual to whom they belong.
However, many people find that their repentance begins strong, but then slowly they get weaker and fall back into committing the sin only a short while later. So, to ensure that we stay true to our repentance and keep our promises to Allah, here are some tips that may help us:
Believe that Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful
You hear many people say “there’s no point in stopping my sin because I’ve wronged so much I don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, He’ll never forgive me.” If you are one of those people then STOP RIGHT THERE!
How can you think that way, when Allah says in the Holy Qur’an over and over again that He is All-Forgiving and Most Compassionate? How can you lose faith in Allah’s mercy? He created you and He knows your weaknesses and your faults. Everyone in the world makes mistakes, what makes you the best, is if you turn to Allah and beg for forgiveness.
Here are only a couple of the many examples where Allah mentions in the Qur’an, His love for those who repent and promises to forgive with mercy and compassion.
“And seek forgiveness of Allah. Indeed Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Qur’an: Chapter 73, Verse 20]
“And whoever does a wrong or wrongs himself but then seeks forgiveness will find Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” [Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verse 110]
We must never think that Allah will not forgive us. Repent with sincerity and remember that Allah loves His servants and Allah will accept your repentance.
Pinpoint the Source of Your Sin
There are many types of sins. No matter how big or small a sin is, once we decide to give it up and want to successfully repent to Allah, it is of utmost importance for us to locate the main source of this sin and keep away from it to the best of our ability. The source may be a friend, a certain place that you go to sitting, at your computer alone or watching tv alone. If the sin is related to the computer or the TV or other such appliances, we should not eliminate them completely from our lives. Instead we should try to find a way that helps us use these resources for good rather than evil. It is always good to try and have people around you when using these resources so that you feel stronger and surround yourself with people who remind you to stay on the right path, for it is always easy to stray when alone and vulnerable.
If you find that the source of the sin is a friend, then you should cut ties with this friend. It will not always be an easy task. However if it must be done, then do it for the sake of Allah and He shall reward you immensely for it In sha Allah.
If the sin is more like missing prayers or not fasting in Ramadan, we may try to pinpoint the reason we commit the sin. It may be, that your mind is occupied with other things which are distracting you from the fundamental worship of Allah. In this case we should try to eliminate these distractions from our lives or try to organise our time to sustain balanced lives which include our worship in our daily lives. Some tips to organise your time so as to stay away from distractions:
Rally Your Support Team
The people around you have a huge impact on the way you behave. At a time when you want to repent to Allah and you sincerely feel bad about the sins that you have committed, you don’t want to be alone. You may find that your family can be a HUGE support for you at times like this. They can remind you of what you are trying to do. They will listen to you and support you through all your struggles to give up your sin.
Friends are also really important. I cannot stress enough how important it is to choose your friends wisely. Peer pressure IS real. Even if you think that you are strong and you will not fall again, your friends can pressure you into returning to what you used to do.
Your friends should be those who support you in whatever you do and better yet, they join you and work with you towards the goal of becoming a better person. They encourage you to attend lectures and workshops, and join you in volunteering for good causes.
The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. [Qur’an: Chapter 9, Verse 71]
Most importantly, at times when you’re feeling weak and fear that you may go back to sinning, your friends should be there to help you get back up, steadfast and strong.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “The example of a good companion (who sits with you) in comparison with a bad one, is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith’s bellows (or furnace); from the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes or your house, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof.” [Bukhari]
You could find good company by becoming a regular at your local mosque and socialising with the people you meet there. You can also attend public lectures to find like-minded friends. You are guaranteed to find practicing Muslims who are willing to be part of your support system. Even in your own home, be open with your family – mother, father, siblings or spouse – about the changes you want to make in your life and ask for their help!
The last and final point stresses on how important it is for you to stay connected with Islam and the Muslim Ummah. It is very uplifting for the soul when you are surrounded by Muslims seeking knowledge together and worshipping together. Make an effort to visit the mosque regularly and attend Islamic lectures and workshops. Keeping yourself busy with useful Islamic events and surrounded with the Islamic community takes your mind off the worldly things, which may trigger your urge to commit the sin once more.
Staying connected also helps your connection to Allah. Reading the Qur’an regularly and performing your prayers on time, including the sunnah prayers, keeps the connection lines between yourself and Allah strong.
Once you feel that Islam encompasses all parts of your life and that you are truly close to Allah, it will be hard for shaytan to drag you back to your old sins. However, always remember to continuously keep asking Allah for guidance and protection. Keep asking for His forgiveness as He is the Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.
No matter what sins you have committed, there is always a way to repent and start afresh. Always have faith in Allah, fear His wrath and love Him for His mercy. Surround yourself with as much support and motivation as you possibly can and keep your intentions clear. May Allah support us all on our journey through the right path AMEEN!