The Doors of Repentance are Always Open

Until they Aren’t

This post was inspired by something I read on Fajr’s blog many years ago. Jazahallahu khaira.

One day we may find ourselves looking back on our lives and realizing that we haven’t truly lived. That we could have done better. Should have done better. That we should have lived a more virtuous and beneficial life.

It is one of the worst regrets a person can feel. To lay on your deathbed in regret because you weren’t really happy or content with your life, that you didn’t pay attention to your relationship with Allah ‘azza wa jal, that you deprived yourself of the opportunity to experience the sweetness of faith. This deep regret that overtakes souls at the point of death or after death, is mentioned a number of times in the Quran.

In Arabic, it’s called hasra – حسرة.

It is a type of regret that is coupled with pain, grief, and sorrow. A piercing regret that severs and cuts up a person from the inside. One of the places where Allah mentions this soul-consuming regret is a passage in Surat Az-Zumar.

Before Allah mentions it, however, He warns us. Sternly. Twice.

وَأَنِيبُوا إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ وَأَسْلِمُوا لَهُ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ الْعَذَابُ ثُمَّ لَا تُنصَرُونَ

And turn in repentance to your Lord and submit to Him before the torment comes to you, then you will not be helped.

وَاتَّبِعُوا أَحْسَنَ مَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكُم مِّن رَّبِّكُم مِّن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ الْعَذَابُ بَغْتَةً وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَشْعُرُونَ

And follow the best of what was revealed to you from your Lord before the torment comes upon you suddenly while you do not perceive.

The repetition is for emphasis. To draw our attention. To get us to pay attention. To what? Allah answers in the very next verse.

أَن تَقُولَ نَفْسٌ يَا حَسْرَتَا عَلَىٰ مَا فَرَّطتُ فِي جَنبِ اللَّهِ وَإِن كُنتُ لَمِنَ السَّاخِرِينَ

Lest a soul should say, ‘Oh [how great is] my regret over what I neglected in regard to Allah and that I was among the mockers.’

Allah warns us twice in succession against becoming these souls of despair and regret. He continues this sorrowful scene,

أَوْ تَقُولَ لَوْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ هَدَانِي لَكُنتُ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِينَ

Or [lest] it say, ‘If only Allah had guided me, I would have been among the righteous.’

أَوْ تَقُولَ حِينَ تَرَى الْعَذَابَ لَوْ أَنَّ لِي كَرَّةً فَأَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

Or [lest] it say when it sees the punishment, ‘If only I had another turn so I could be among the doers of good.’

La ilaha illa Allah. Imagine our souls going through this agony. These words on our lips. Regret, pain, grief, and sorrow in the realization that it’s the end of the line. There’s no turning back. No second chances.

At that point brothers and sisters, IT WILL BE TOO LATE!

The soul is in such a state of desperation that it even tries to blame Allah, saying “if only Allah had guided me!” But the truth is what the Most High says in the next verse,

بَلَىٰ قَدْ جَاءَتْكَ آيَاتِي فَكَذَّبْتَ بِهَا وَاسْتَكْبَرْتَ وَكُنتَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ

But yes, there had come to you My verses, but you denied them and were arrogant, and you were among the disbelievers.

Allah will shut us down if we try to blame him. Imagine if we are told,

“I blessed you with my greatest blessing, Islam, but you didn’t care for it. I sent you my Quran in a language you understand, yet you didn’t bother to read it, let alone act on it. I sent you sign after sign, warning after warning, guidance after guidance, yet you disregarded them all. I had even commanded the pen to write on the Preserved Tablet, 50,000 years before the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, that you will read a blog post on Becoming the Alpha Muslim… Decreed that you will hear my verses recited to you, explained to you, my warning conveyed to… Decreed that the author would beg you to turn back to Me before it’s too late… YET YOU STILL DIDN’T LISTEN!”

وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ تَرَى الَّذِينَ كَذَبُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ وُجُوهُهُم مُّسْوَدَّةٌ ۚ أَلَيْسَ فِي جَهَنَّمَ مَثْوًى لِّلْمُتَكَبِّرِينَ

And on the Day of Resurrection, you will see those who lied about Allah [with] their faces blackened. Is there not in Hell a residence for the arrogant?

As they say, coulda shoulda woulda.

Come, come, whoever you are

It is the way of Allah with regard to revelation, and a recurring theme in the Quran, that He motivates us through hope and fear. He encourages us through glad tidings of reward and scares us through warnings of punishment.

In Arabic, it’s called at-targhib wa ‘t-tarhib – الترغيب والترهيب, which roughly translates to encouragement and intimidation.

So the passage we discussed earlier is what? It’s tarhib. Just before it, in the immediately preceding verse actually, is the targhib.

Allah says,

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.’

This verse is the most hopeful verse in the entire Quran. Just listening to it makes one feel relaxed and at peace. This the reality of Allah’s attitude towards us – Forgiveness and Mercy in the infinitude.

However, this forgiveness and mercy are on His terms, not ours. His forgiveness and mercy are not unconditional; they have a condition. The condition is that you turn to him in repentance, seeking his forgiveness.

That’s why, immediately after this verse that fills us with hope in our Lord, he mentions the condition and what will happen to us if we don’t fulfill it.

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ يَقُولُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَنَا عِنْدَ ظَنِّ عَبْدِي بِي وَأَنَا مَعَهُ حِينَ يَذْكُرُنِي إِنْ ذَكَرَنِي فِي نَفْسِهِ ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي نَفْسِي وَإِنْ ذَكَرَنِي فِي مَلإٍ ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي مَلإٍ هُمْ خَيْرٌ مِنْهُمْ وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ مِنِّي شِبْرًا تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ ذِرَاعًا وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَىَّ ذِرَاعًا تَقَرَّبْتُ مِنْهُ بَاعًا وَإِنْ أَتَانِي يَمْشِي أَتَيْتُهُ هَرْوَلَةً ‏

Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) said,

“Allah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said,

‘Allah عزّ وجلّ said,

‘I am as my slave perceives me to be and I am with him whenever he remembers Me. If he remembers Me to himself I remember him to Myself. If he remembers Me in an assembly I remember him in an assembly better than his. If he draws closer to Me by the hand-span I draw closer to him by the cubit, If he draws closer to Me by the cubit I draw closer to him by the arm length and If he strides towards Me I run towards him.””

O slaves of Allah, let us turn back to Allah. We need Him. He doesn’t need us. He’s right there waiting for us to come back to Him. He’s offered us true happiness in this World and eternal bliss in the Hereafter.

Let’s take him up on His offer.

Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come. – Jalal Ad-Din Al-Rumi

Exalted is your Lord, the Lord of Might, far above that which they ascribe unto Him, may peace upon all the Messengers, and all praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all Creation.

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