The difference between regretting sins and and justifying, belittling and normalising sins.


How do we deal with sins and mistakes when we make them?

Certainly we are not angels and we make mistakes but what do we do when we make a mistake? In these verses and similar verses in the Quran, Allah is teaching us how to deal with sins and mistakes.

Allah Almighty said in the Quran:

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا فَعَلُوا فَاحِشَةً أَوْ ظَلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ ذَكَرُوا اللَّهَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا لِذُنُوبِهِمْ وَمَن يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَلَمْ يُصِرُّوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلُوا وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ

أُولَٰئِكَ جَزَاؤُهُم مَّغْفِرَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَجَنَّاتٌ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۚ وَنِعْمَ أَجْرُ الْعَامِلِينَ

And those who, when they commit an indecency or wrong themselves, remember God and ask forgiveness for their sins—and who forgives sins except God? And they do not persist in their wrongdoing while they know.

Those—their reward is forgiveness from their Lord, and gardens beneath which rivers flow, abiding therein forever. How excellent is the reward for their actions. (3:135-136)

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

“‏ كُلُّ بَنِي آدَمَ خَطَّاءٌ وَخَيْرُ الْخَطَّائِينَ التَّوَّابُونَ”

Every son of Adam commits sin, and the best of those who commit sin are those who repent.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

1.      Abandon inward and outward sins

Allah Almighty says abandon inward and outward sin. Inward sin is having the intention to do something bad, to plan to do something sinful, or to feel arrogance, rancour or envy towards someone.

Outward sins are sins that you commit with your limbs, like your hands, your eyes and your legs, in other words – your actions.

وَذَرُوا ظَاهِرَ الْإِثْمِ وَبَاطِنَهُ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْسِبُونَ الْإِثْمَ سَيُجْزَوْنَ بِمَا كَانُوا يَقْتَرِفُونَ

So abandon sin, outward and inward. Those who commit sins will be punished for what they used to commit. (6:120)

2.      Regret sin

If you make a mistake or commit a sin, you should regret it. You are still in the believers’ camp, and this sin might be your way to become closer to Allah, through remorse. ‘When they commit an indecency or wrong themselves, remember God and ask forgiveness for their sins. They seek istighfar and do tawbah.’

3.      The do not persist in sinning.

To err once is human, but to err repeatedly is a matter of great regret. Someone might commit a sin, but the sin is escalated when you do not deny that it is a sin and regret it, but choose to normalise it and justify it.

Sadly we have seen this in the recent Partygate episodes from No. 10 Downing St. Rather than coming clean and admitting the mistake, we have had an endless series of evasive replies, denials and outright lies. If this is not an insult to the nation’s intelligence, what is? How is it viewed in the eyes of God?  Allah forgives you when you admit you were in the wrong. Not when you cover up one lie with a catalogue of new lies. It is not OK to lie!

Do not let minor sins pile up

It is often quoted as a hadith, but it is a saying of Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) that:

There is no minor sin when it is committed persistently, and no major major sin when one repented for it.

Imam Nawawi (died 676 AH / 1277 CE) and other scholars said that a repeated minor sin becomes a major sin, though the majority of scholars, including Imam Shakwani (died 1255 AH/ 1839 CE) say it remains a minor sin. Regardless whether it is major or minor, it is still a sin.

We should not treat any sin lightly. The Prophet (peace be on him) described those will be close to him as those who do not persist in wrongdoing. Do not ever tell yourself your circumstances justify your sin.

The formula for deleting sins

Repent, regret and intend not to repeat a sin: these are the conditions for tawbah nasuh, (sincere repentance).

In order to be forgiven, you need to quit the sin, feel remorse, ask Allah for forgiveness and resolve not to repeat it. Finally if you wronged someone, apologise to them and undo what you did, for instance what what is theirs, or compensate them.

As narrated by Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her):

وروى ابن ماجه (4243) عَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْها قَالَتْ : قَالَ لِي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ( يَا عَائِشَةُ ، إِيَّاكِ وَمُحَقَّرَاتِ الأَعْمَالِ ، فَإِنَّ لَهَا مِنْ اللَّهِ طَالِبًا ) . صححه الألباني في “صحيح ابن ماجه” .

“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said to me: ‘O ‘Aisha, beware of (evil) deeds that are regarded as insignificant, for they have a pursuer from Allah. (i.e. accountability).” (Ibn Majah)

Avoid small sins, as they can accumulate until they destroy you. Al-Ghazali (may Allah be pleased with him) said the frequency of minor sins has a great impact on the blackness of the heart. Like the frequency of drops of water on a stone, it will inevitably cause a hole in it, despite the softness of the water and the hardness of the stone.

Similarly, he said do not underestimate a small child, for the mountains are made of pebbles. Therefore do not underestimate sins, which appear insignificant to you and you brush off as having no consequence.

The example of the believer is like the one who might be crushed by a mountain about to collapse on him. He saves himself by repenting.

Ibn Mas‘ood (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “The believer regards his sins as if he is sitting beneath a mountain that he fears will fall on him, and the evildoer regards his sins as flies that pass in front of his nose and he does like this to them [waving them away with his hand].” (Bukhari)

Check your attitude to sin:

  • Do not underestimate sin.
  • Do not persist in sin.
  • Leave sin and ask Allah’s forgiveness.
  • Repent and regret it and resolve not to repeat a sin.
  • Do not justify your disobedience or your mistake.
  • Disobedience is not permissible.

Our small sins are forgiven when we pray 2 rakahs and ask Allah for forgiveness. Ibn Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

“Verily, when a servant stands to pray, his sins are placed on top of his head and shoulders. Every time he bows or prostrates, they fall away from him.” (ibn Hibban)

We ask Allah Almighty to make us from those who abandon inward and outward sin. We ask Him to make us those who are close to Him and in continuous remembrance of Allah. Ameen.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim Khutba at Muslim World League on 28th Jan 2022.

What is the difference between a minor sin and a major sin:

Ibn ‘Abbas, as mentioned by Abu ‘Ubaydah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and others, held the view that the minor sin is that for which no punishment is specified in this world or the hereafter. It is a sin that is not subject to a hadd (punishment) in this world. A major sin is one which incurs Allah’s curse, divine wrath or warning of Hell.

Every sin for which the doer is warned that he will not enter Paradise or even smell the fragrance of Paradise, or its perpetrator was told he is not one of us, or that he is a wrongdoer – is classified as a major sin.

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.