Hope and fear: The two wings of a believer
I begin with the Name of Allaah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
There’s no religion on the face of earth that has succeeded in creating a balance between hope and fear like Islam.
“The revelation of the Book (this Qur’an) is from Allaah the All-Mighty, the All-Knower. The Forgiver of sin, the Acceptor of repentance, the Severe in punishment, the Bestower (of favors), none has the right to be worshipped but He, to Him is the final return.” Qur’an 40:2-3
People are divided into two categories with regards to their actions - they either fall into the category of those obeying Allaah or of those disobeying Allaah. Whichever one a person falls into, there is a window opened for him to still connect to Allaah.
He who finds himself in the category of those obeying Allaah should fear falling back into sins, should fear losing his deeds to riya’ (show-off), should fear complacency and holier than though demeanor, should fear arrogance and pride. If he does that, he connects to Allaah more.
Similarly, he who finds himself in the category of those disobeying Allaah, should have hope in the mercy of Allaah, should not despair, should not become defeated, this hope is only kept alive as long as the sinful servant seeks for Allaah’s forgiveness and repents to him, a sincere repentance.
Even shirk, Allaah forgives, provided the mushirk (polytheist) repents and turns back to Allaah before it’s too late. Early is when an 80 year old repents before he dies, while late is when an 18 year old dies without repenting.
The methodology of the Qur’an and nay, the Shariah is that of creating an atmosphere of hope and fear. The message is simple, oh obedient soul, do not become complacent and oh the disobedient soul, do not become despondent.
In his exegesis of Qur’an 40:3, ibn Katheer said: “The Forgiver of sin, the Acceptor of repentance,” means, He forgives sins that have been committed in the past, and He accepts repentance for sins that may be committed in the future, from the one who repents and submits to Him.” (The Severe in punishment,) means, to the one who persists in transgression and prefers the life of this world, who stubbornly turns away from the commands of Allaah and commits sin.
This is Allaah exalted be He, whom the Muslims worship Alone. Are there luckier people than the Muslims?
As long as the sinner is not stubborn by persisting in his sins, he will find it easy to repent and in that lies his or her salvation.
Allaah exalted be He says: “Declare unto My servants that truly I am the Oft-Forgiving, the Most-Merciful. And that My torment is indeed the most painful torment” Q15:49-50.
These two attributes (mercy and punishment) are often mentioned together in the Qur'an, so that people will remain in a state of both hope and fear.
Hence, as an ambassador of Islam, as a scholar, as a student of knowledge, as a preacher, do not ONLY preach fear such that you drive people away from Islam, also do not ONLY preach hope such that you make people lazy in Islam and unmindful of their duties to Allaah. Create a balance between the two extremes.
Allaah the exalted as declared the Muslims as moderates in the true sense of the word, “Thus We have made you (true Muslims) a just and the best nation...”Qur’an 2:143
Ibn Katheer under the Tafseer of Qur’an 40:2 brought an amazing narration from Ibn Abi Hatim and ibn Jarir regarding a man from Sham (Greater Syria) who used to be in the gathering of Umar (RA) and one day, he was absent and Umar bin al-Khattab asked after him And the general gathering answered that, he is not yet sober from his alcohol.
When Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) heard what the gathering said regarding the sin of the man he asked after, he instantly called his scribe and instructed him to write: “From Umar bin al-Khattab to so-and-so the son of so-and-so. Peace be upon you. As for what follows:
Umar (may Allaah e pleased with him) praised Allaah and introduced Allaah to this man that was into alcohol by stating that Allaah, Whom there is no deity worthy of being worshipped but He, the Forgiver of sin, the Acceptor of repentance, the Severe in punishment, the Bestower (of favors), lailaha Illa huwa.
Immediately Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) dispatched the latter to this man that was into alcohol, he now turned to his gathering and said to them: “Pray to Allaah on behalf of your brother that he should accept this with his heart, and that Allaah should accept his repentance.
When Umar’s letter reached this man, he read it repeatedly over and over again and was saying: “The Forgiver of sins, the Acceptor of repentance, the Severe in punishment, indeed I have been warned against His punishment and I have been promised that He will forgive me.”
The crux of it all is that Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) gave the Muslims a general formula regarding their attitude towards the sins of others, he said:”If you see your brother deviating, a manifest deviation, help him out of his sins and put him back on track and pray to Allaah to accept his repentance. But by all means, do not be helpers of Satan against him (by spreading it and not correcting him).
Oh my sisters, oh my brothers, oh sinners (and I guess I am talking to myself), do not become despondent. Likewise, oh he or she whom Allaah has favored with Iman and righteous deeds, strive more and ask for Allaah’s assistance do not allow complacency drag you to destruction.
If you have committed zina, or have consumed alcohol and are still indulging, if you are into clubbing, or have touched what Allaah has forbidden you to touch or walked into that haram gathering, or committed shirk, do not lose hope, repent and Allaah will forgive you. There’s still hope....
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فدعا عمر كاتبه، فقال: اكتب: "من عمر بن الخطاب إلى فلان ابن فلان، سلام عليك، (أما بعد): فاني أحمد إليك الله الذي لا اله الا هو، غافر الذنب وقابل التوب، شديد العقاب، ذي الطول، لا اله الا هو اليه المصير
ثم قال لاصحابه: ادعوا الله لأخيكم ان يقبل بقلبه، وان يتوب الله عليه. فلما بلغ الرجل كتاب عمر جعل يقرؤه ويردده، ويقول: غافر الذنب وقابل التوب شديد العقاب، قد حذرني عقوبته ووعدني ان يغفر لي.
وزاد الحفظ أبو نعيم من حديث جعفر بن برقان: "فلم يزل يردّدها على نفسه، ثم بكى ثم نزع فأحسن النزع فلما بلغ عمر (رضي الله عنه) خبره قال: هكذا فاصنعوا، إذا رأيتم أخا كم زل زلة فسددوه ووفقوه، وادعوا الله له ان يتوب عليه، ولا تكونوا أعوانا للشيطان عليه
The Tafseer of ibn Katheer under Suratul Ghafir verse 2.