[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in South Africa Tour on Nov. 22, 2015]
Our Mission on Earth
This is the mission Allāh swt has given us – to leave all sin. Until we complete and fulfil the mission, we are not the true ‘abd of Allāh swt – we need to leave all disobedience; we need to leave all sin.
We have taken a very lax definition of sin – one approach is legality, and another one is of spirituality.
When we look at the legality approach, it means to leave whatever is unlawful. However, the spiritual approach to sin is that “dhanb” means to say anything, to do anything, to think anything and to feel anything that is even slightly displeasing to Allāh swt or even slightly against the sunnah of Rasūlullah ﷺ
Zāhiri sin (outward sins) is to lie, steal, cheat, have extra marital affairs, romance and lust outside nikāh etc.
First Meaning of Sinning Inwardly
Bātinah (inward sins) are such as unlawful enmity, anger, greed, love for the world (this is the root cause to all sins), pride etc.
Hadith: No-one will enter Jannah if they have even one atom’s weight of pride in their heart – this is an inward sin. One atom’s weight will not allow you to enter Jannah! We need to leave all pride – this is a big task!
Second Meaning of Sinning Inwardly
Another way we can look at this āyah is to stop doing sin outwardly, and stop wanting it inwardly. Some people think as long as I don’t commit sin, it’s okay. If you meet someone and they say they have not killed anyone, but they want to kill people – they fantasise about killing; they look at videos about murder and they are passionate about killing. You would not think this person is okay, you would think they are a psychopath. You would tell them they need help.
In the same way, it is not okay to want any sin. If there is a husband and wife, and the wife tells her husband that I have never betrayed you, but I want to, I think about it. I wish to do it, I’m tempted by other men – would you say “It’s okay honey”? No, you would say “how dare you?”
Allāh swt has authority and so He swt can also say how dare you even feel that lust? Stop doing sin, and stop wanting sin too. Can a person be a true lover when they are tempted by things that their beloved dislikes?
This is the mission Allāh swt has given us. Such a big task. We are surrounded in a society where we are tempted by sins from every direction. There are multimillion dollar strategies to distract us and invite us to sin. And Allāh swt is telling us to leave it entirely – it’s a big task for us.
The Need to Leave Sin a 100%
Some people have this misunderstanding; they have left 90% sin, but they cannot leave that last 10%. Allāh swt has a high standard – even this is not acceptable. Even if you leave 99.9%, this is not okay. It’s a big job. Even in this world, there are some things which we need to do 100%.
Wanting a 100% Standard from the World – Pure Water Example
Say if some of you came to Pakistan and you had an upset stomach, and you needed pure water, now if I gave you 95% pure water, would you drink it? No, you would not – so the water that has to enter your stomach has to be 100% pure, so should we not need to be 100% pure to enter Jannah?
Plane Engine Example
When we travel by plane, they do a complete check of the plane. Would the pilot ever make an announcement that we are running late so we have only checked 95% of the plane. Would we still want to fly? No! We want to take no risk regarding our physical life, so why do we not have that same approach to spiritual health? Anything we feel or think is our bātin; anything we do is our zāhir – we need to leave all sin both outward and inward. It is a lifetime effort.
Do Not Look at the Sin, Look at the Grandeur of the Being You are Sinning Against
There are major and minor sins – yes, but do not look at whether the sin is minor or major, but look at the One who you are sinning against. Look at the majesty, grandeur and might against whom you are sinning, then you will never sin.
Once in Norway, I was being driven by my host and I forgot to wear my seatbelt – in the distance, the host saw one traffic car. You should have seen his state – khashiyah (fear)! He told me ‘Shaykh, Shaykh, wear the seatbelt’ – this would have been a minor offence, but even the lowest level police officer, a traffic cop – had such an impact on him.
Yes, of course, we should be law abiding citizens, but if have so much regard for a traffic law, how much more regard should we have of our Allāh swt! We need to put a belt on our eyesight to protect our rūh (soul)!
We must leave sin entirely – don’t look at the sin, but look at the Being you are sinning against – al-Adhīm, al-Mutakabbir, Dhul Jalāl.
Anatomy of Sin: What Happens When a Believer Sins?
What happens when a person does a sin for the first time? The person who has īmān (belief), they will definitely feel shame and remorse. Every time a believer sins, the first thing that will happen is that they will get the pleasure of the sin, but they will feel remorse.
Which feeling is stronger? If the remorse is stronger, then this person will make an exit – they will seek forgiveness, make isitghfār and tawbah, and they will never repeat that sin. However, if the pleasure is greater, then they will repeat the sin. They will become repeat offenders.
Sinning: The Case of Repeat Offenders
Second time the person commits sin, the remorse will decrease. The third time they commit sin, the remorse will be even less. As the gap grows, it will become more difficult to do tawbah, until their heart becomes numb and dead – it will not feel any hesitation to do that sin.
The tragedy is most of us are like this – there is hardly anyone who can say yā Allāh, I only ever sinned against you once with my tongue/eyes, but I have never done this again.
How the Court of Law Deals with Repeat Offenders
Look at the Court of Law, when someone breaks a law for the first time, the judge is more lenient. But for repeat offenders, no way! They will keep the person in jail if they are not convinced he will stop committing that crime. Look at the justice in this world!
We keep repeating sin – it is like a thread that snaps when we sin and then tawbah (seeking forgiveness) is tying the knot. It will weigh us down. When someone is addicted to a sin, it will be hard to leave that particular sin even if they leave 99% of of other sins.
إِنَّ ٱلنَّفۡسَ لَأَمَّارَةُۢ بِٱلسُّوٓءِ
Verily, the human soul is prone to evil! [12:53]
When we sin, we say we believe in Allāh swt but my nafs commanded me. Allāh swt says, aren’t you stunned at the person who take their whims as their God?!
Fear of Allah: A Prerequisite for Leaving Sin
We have such a lack of shukr (gratefulness) e.g. a person has a nice, pretty wife that has bore him children, yet he still has an affair. This is called hirs and tama’ – an insatiable greed. That person who cannot be loyal to creation cannot be loyal to Creator. When we ask this husband what is wrong with him, he says he could not control himself – why? Because he did not feel the fear! When you allow yourself to be fearless, we will be helpless when it comes to fighting our nafs.
If you really fear Allāh swt, it is call haybah – you will never forget it if you have felt it. It is a gripping fear that shakes you into your senses.
How Much Should We Fear Allah: Example of a Near Death Experience
Once, when I went to Pakistan, we went to a filling station. There was an old road then, and there were some crazy bus drivers who were racing each other. The road is a thousand feet high! When we saw the two buses, Allāhu a’lam how we were saved, but I felt such a fear which I can recall to this day; I can still feel it on this day. This happened over 20 years ago! Have you ever felt this type of fear of Allāh swt? If you feel that fear, you won’t be overwhelmed by your nafs. The Arabs use the term ‘abdun-nafs – slave to their nafs for the person who is overwhelmed by his desires.
The Need for Tasawwuf to Get that Gripping Level of Fear
We need to leave sin entirely and completely. This is why we say sit with mashā’ikh – why? Because when you sit with them, your remorse will go up again. This is why you need suhbah and good company until the remorse becomes more than the feeling of pleasure. When they teach love and fear of Allāh swt, the pleasure for sin will go down!
This is exactly what tasawwuf is – teaching you love and fear of Allāh swt. Once the pleasure goes down and remorse goes up, that is when you can leave sin completely. These two emotions will save you from sin.
مَّنۡ خَشِىَ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنَ بِٱلۡغَيۡبِ
The one who feared the Rahman (The All-Merciful Allah), without seeing Him [50:33]
Some people make this mistake that Allāh swt is just all-Merciful! Look at this āyah – whoever fears “ar-Rahmān” how much fear should one feel when we feel Allāh swt is al-Adhīm, al-Jabbār?
Sinning Alone? But we are Never Alone…
Most people sin when they are alone. There is no concept of ‘alone’ in our religion.
وَهُوَ مَعَكُمۡ أَيۡنَ مَا كُنتُمۡۚ
He swt is with you wherever you are [57:4]
When you think you are alone, in reality, You and Allāh swt are one-on-one! There is no concept of being alone. A great tābi’ī ‘Atā ibn abī Rabāh said, when you want to commit a sin, you close all the doors, seal all the windows, draw all the blinds – you make sure all of creation do not see you… is it only Allāh swt you don’t hold in regard?
There was a time when the young men would feel this fear when they were alone, and they would cry to Allāh swt and now when you leave a young man alone with a computer – Allāhu Akbar.
How Mashaikh Can Help Leave Sin Entirely: Story of Lowering One’s Gaze
Our mashā’ikh have ways to help us leave sin completely. There was someone who said to their Shaykh that I do all the dhikr you tell me, but there is one sin I am stuck on – I work in the market, and I can’t lower my gaze; I cannot resist looking at their beauty. The Shaykh said, I have a task for you, can you do something for me – the young man agreed.
The Shaykh filled a bowl with milk, and said I want you to walk in the market with this bowl of milk from one side of the market to the other – and if you spill even one drop, these two appointed men will beat you up. The young man returned so happy as he had completed the task successfully. The Shaykh said, did you not get distracted by the women in the market?
The young man replied that I was so busy ensuring no drop spills that I did not even look up! The Shaykh told him, the bowl is your heart and the milk is your īmān. In Bukhāri Sharif, Nabī ﷺ has said ‘al-hayā’u minal īmān that modesty is from faith – if you were so careful that the milk does not spill from the bowl, how can you not be careful that īmān does not spill from the heart?
How Can I Continue Sinning and Be Sure not to Get Punished? Funny Story and Wise Anecdote of a Shaykh
There was once a young man who went to Shaykh, and said there is one sin that I just can’t leave, but I still want to go to Jannah – is there any way I can go to Jannah without leaving this sin. The Shaykh replied, I will give you a way that you can continue this sin and still enter Paradise. The young man must have thought, subhān’Allāh, this is my type of Shaykh! So the Shaykh said, next time you want to do that sin, do it outside the sight of Allāh swt – if He does not see you, you will not be put to task.
The young boy replied, o’ Shaykh, Allāh swt can always see me. So the Shaykh said, the second way then is to disobey Him when you are not living in His kingdom. It is wrong to disobey a king in his kingdom, but if you go outside his kingdom, then he cannot take you to task. So the young man said, I cannot do that as to Allāh swt belongs the Heavens and the Earth.
The Shaykh says, okay, the third way is that you hide your sin in such a way that Allāh can never find out! He said Shaykh, how can I hide this sin from Allāh swt when He is al-Alīm! So the Shaykh said the fourth way is that when the angel of death comes then ask them for ten minutes so you can spend that time to make tawbah – the young man replied, I cannot do that either – there is no chance to delay death when it comes.
The Shaykh said, okay, so when you enter your grave, and munkar and nakīr come to ask you questions, just make sure they do not ask the questions - just tell them no admission without permission!
The young man said o’ Shaykh, I cannot say that to them! The Shaykh then said okay, the last way is that on the Day of Judgement, this sin that you did life-long, when Allāh swt issues the command to go to Jahannam to purify yourself for this sin, just refuse the command. The young man said, how can I refuse the command of Allāh swt on the Day of Judgement? So the Shaykh said how can you refuse the command of Allāh swt in this world then? The young man replied, o’ Shaykh, I understand now – I will leave all sin!
Doors to a Sin-Free Life: Taqwah and Tawbah
There are only a few ways really to leave sin – taqwa and tawbah. Taqwa is when you do not do the sin in the first place.
إِنَّ أَڪۡرَمَكُمۡ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ أَتۡقَٮٰكُمۡۚ
Surely the noblest of you, in Allah’s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. [49:13]
but me and you have done sins in our life – we have already stained the fabric of our īmān.
But tawbah is the delete button; it is the stain remover. Tawbah is the delete button which will make the sin disappear forever. The third way is tazkiyah via Jahannam – there will be believers that did sin in the world without tawbah, so in order to purify them, Allāh swt will send them to the fire of Jahannam as long as its required for them to be purified.
Just like the goldsmith melts gold for as long as it takes to separate the other metals from the 24 carat gold, the 24 carat īmān will need to purified so the sinful impurities that they didn’t make tawbah from can be separated. When we don’t have taqwa, and we don’t want to go to Jahannam to be purified, the only thing we have left it tawbah!
Allah swt Loves the Sinner who does Tawbah
There were two young men who were arguing and debating with each other – they saw an old man with a long beard walking so they called out “O’ Shaykh, can you help resolve out argument?” So the old man said, I am not an ‘ālim or a Shaykh, but maybe through my experience in life, I can help you.
So the young men said, we are arguing as to who is more beloved to Allāh swt (There was a time when people argued about this – subhānAllāh) – the disagreement was that, is the person more beloved to Allāh swt who has never sinned or that person who has sinned and then made tawbah? The old man said I am a weaver, and usually that yarn which has broken, I have my special attention on it to ensure it does not break again – so in my opinion, I think it is the one who has repented who is more beloved and gets the special attention from Allāh swt.
How Allah swt Deals with Repeat Offenders
Allāh swt has said in Qur’an:
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلتَّوَّٲبِينَ
Surely Allah loves those who are most repenting. [2:222]
Tā’ib means the person who repents once, but tawwāb means that person who repeatedly makes tawbah, so it is referring to a repeat offender.
It is that person who sins, then makes tawbah, then sins, then makes tawbah again, then sins, then makes tawbah again – so they live their whole life this way that my nafs always defeated me and knocked me down, but every single time I casted my gaze, every single time I sinned, I stood back up again – I spent my whole life repeatedly making tawbah to Allah! Such a person is called tawwāb and Allāh swt loves those who repeatedly make tawbah!
We can make an intention tonight that yā Allāh swt, I have no strength to leave sin, but I present this wish of tawbah due to fear for you, fear of you – yā Allāh swt, You accept this tawbah from me. May Allāh swt make us from the sālihīn, dhākirīn, muttaqīn, tawwābīn believers.