Feeling Regret and Shame As They Should Be Felt

Shaykh

Shaikh Rabīʿ ibn Hādī Al-Madkhalī, may Allāh protect him, said:

When a person has fallen into sins and repented sincerely from them, while still continuing to regret what he has done, he does not then go about doing whatever he feels like, with no one able to hold him back; rather, shame and discomfort in front of Allāh continue to haunt him, for [having fallen into] those sins, even if he were to have repented, believed, and done good deeds [thereafter].

Look at the prophets, and from them, the ones who had the greatest resolve—how they don’t forget these mistakes [or sins] they have fallen into, may Allāh increase them in al-ṣalāh[1] and al-salām.[2] When the horrors on the Day of Resurrection become severe upon mankind, on that terrifying, difficult day, [the day] the Sun gets so close [to people], that there is nothing between them and it but the distance of a mīl. The narrator [of the ḥadīth mentioning these affairs] said he did not know [which was intended], the [word] mīl that [refers to] a measurement of distance or the mīl [that refers to] the stick that is used to apply kohl [to one’s eyes].

[This is] as [found] in the ḥadīth of al-shafāʿah [intercession]:

I [the Prophet ﷺ] am the leader of all mankind on the Day of Resurrection. Do you know [the reason] for that? Allāh will bring all mankind together, the first ones and the last ones, on a single, wide, flat expanse of land [such that], were one of them to call out, [the furthest among them] would be able to hear him, all of them within sight [of one another].

And the Sun will come [down] close [to them]. People will then reach [a level] of distress and anguish that they cannot handle or bear. [Some] people will say: “Don’t you see what has come upon you? Will you not look for one to intercede with your Lord on your behalf?”

Then some people will say to others: “You must get Ādam.”

So they will come to Ādam and say to him:

You are the father of all mankind. Allāh created you with His hands and blew the soul [that He created and that belongs to Him] into you. And He commanded the angels, so they prostrated to you [out of respect to you and out of obeying their Lord]. Intercede with your Lord on our behalf. Don’t you see what [circumstances] we’re in? Don’t you see what we’ve come to?

Upon this, Ādam will say:

Indeed, my Lord has become angry this day [to a degree] the like of which He has never [reached] before it and will never [reach] after it. Indeed, He had made forbidden for me the Tree, and then I disobeyed Him. [I hope I can just save] myself; [I hope I can just save] myself; [I hope I can just save] myself. Go to other than me. Go to Nūḥ.

So he will mention his sin, and he will say: “[I hope I can just save] myself; [I hope I can just save] myself.” He had [already] repented from this sin. He had eaten from the Tree; that is to say, the Devil had sworn to him, had taken a solemn oath before him that, by Allāh, he was most certainly one of those who give sincere advice for the good of others. So [Ādam] got deceived by this sworn [statement] and solemnly affirmed oath, and he ate—he and his wife—from the [Tree of] Paradise. So Allāh, All-Great and All-High, punished him by expelling him from Paradise.

He had made a sincere repentance:

قَالَا رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَا أَنْفُسَنَا وَإِنْ لَمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ

[Ādam and Ḥawwāʾ] said: O our Lord, we have indeed wronged ourselves; if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will most certainly be among those who lose [in this life and the Hereafter]. (Al-Aʿrāf, 23)

So Allāh accepted his repentance; preferred him for prophethood; chose him for Himself; selected him; and imparted upon him teachings from [Himself], All-Great and All-High, by means of which he could apply himself to worshiping Allāh and which he could [also] convey to his offspring, may Allāh increase him in al-ṣalāh and al-salām.

One sin. He ate what he ate [just] one time, and he never forgot it his [whole] life [all the way] to the Day of Resurrection. This is true īmān[3] and al-ḥayāʾ.[4] When a person is missing al-ḥayāʾ, he falls upon [his own] destruction and brings destruction [upon others]. [We] seek refuge with Allāh [from that].

Then they come to Nūḥ, may Allāh increase him in al-ṣalāh and al-salām, the second father of mankind and the one who remained 950 years calling to Allāh, All-Great and All-High, night and day, privately and publicly. May Allāh increase him in al-ṣalāh and al-salām. They ask him to intercede, saying:

O Nūḥ, indeed, you are the first of all the Messengers [sent] to people on Earth, and Allāh has indeed called you a grateful slave. Intercede with your Lord on our behalf. Don’t you see what [circumstances] we’re in?

And he will then say:

Indeed, my Lord has become angry this day [to a degree] the like of which He has never [reached] before it and will never [reach] after it; indeed, I had [been granted] one [guaranteed] supplication—[and] I made it against my [own] people. [I hope I can just save] myself; [I hope I can just save] myself. [I hope I can just save] myself. Go to other than me. Go to Ibrāhīm.

He doesn’t mean he [made that supplication] out of revenge against them or to [satisfy] some desire he had within him; rather, Allāh had made him realize that [his people] would never repent to Allāh and that there was no hope in their turning back with repentance. So they deserved destruction from Allāh, and so Allāh, All-Great and All-High, drowned them.

[Nūḥ] counted this [supplication of his for their destruction] as a sin—Allāhu akbar[5]—when in reality it was not a sin. But, [out of] tremendous feelings and great ḥayāʾ, he never forgot this up to the Day of Resurrection.

Ibrāhīm, may Allāh increase him in al-ṣalāh and al-salām, is the best of the prophets after Muḥammad, may Allāh increase him in al-ṣalāh and al-salām, the khalīl[6] of Allāh. They ask him to intercede [on their behalf], and he then mentions things that are called lies, [but] they were [actually] equivocal statements [that he had said for Allāh’s sake].

They say, “[…] Allāh took you as a khalīl,” to which Ibrāhīm says:

Indeed, my Lord has become angry this day [to a degree] the like of which He has never [reached] before it and will never [reach] after it, and indeed, I lied three [times …]. [I hope I can just save] myself; [I hope I can just save] myself. [I hope I can just save] myself. Go to other than me. Go to Mūsá.

He mentions what he sees to have been a sin—he hasn’t forgotten it—while [the things he called lies] were [only equivocal statements that had been said …] for Allāh’s sake. Some scholars have said: “His lies are better than our truth telling, are of greater virtue than our truth telling.” Yes, by Allāh.

He said, “I am saqīm[7] and [then, after the idolaters had left him], went about smashing the idols; and he had [his own] interpretation [for what he meant by saqīm], which he was using as an equivocal word.

[On another occasion], he said, “This is my sister,” [referring to] his wife, she being his sister in Islam.[8] But he considered [his saying that] to have been a sin and a lie, when it was [actually only] an equivocal statement and one that is [considered to be] truth for Allāh—she is indeed his sister in Islam—[but Ibrāhīm] counted it as a lie.

Look at the prophets, how they see their [own] deeds, and how they evaluate these deeds [of theirs]! May Allāh increase them in al-ṣalāh and al-salām.

Mūsá, may Allāh increase him in al-ṣalāh and al-salām, hit a Coptic man, an aggressor, a transgressor, a disbeliever, one harming a Muslim from among the Children of Isrāʾīl. So [Mūsá] came and hit him, but he didn’t want to kill him. [The man] died, [Mūsá] having finished him off [with a single stroke].

[Mūsá] considered it a sin; Allāh [had] accepted his repentance; and [Mūsá] had regretted it [while still alive] in this current world […]. Yet he mentions it as a sin [on the Day of Resurrection] and makes it [his] excuse for not putting [himself] up for intercession: How can I intercede when I’ve done such-and-such?! So he says:

Indeed, my Lord has become angry this day [to a degree] the like of which He has never [reached] before it and will never [reach] after it, and indeed, I took the life of a soul I had not been commanded to take the life of. [I hope I can just save] myself; [I hope I can just save] myself. [I hope I can just save] myself. Go to other than me. Go to ʿĪsá.[9] How can I intercede for these peoples while I’m the one who did such-and-such?

May Allāh increase [the prophets] in al-ṣalāh and al-salām.

So are there among us anyone who holds himself to account over bigger deeds than these? These [deeds of theirs], were they ours, would have been good deeds—we’d have counted them as good deeds!

So a person must have a sense of shame before his Lord Almighty and Majestic because Allāh is always aware, [always] watchful over [all] the movements of [our] limbs and [all] the things that occur to our [minds and] souls. No secret is hidden from Him. Were you to go down and dive into the earth 1000 km and do there, under the many layers of darkness of the earth [above you], the very tiniest of sins, Allāh would see you and be fully aware of you.

How, O my brother, can you carry on with sins and go about doing whatever you feel like, no one able to hold you back, no feeling of discomfort or shame before Allāh All-Great and All-High—no care or concern at all.

You find some people lying; fabricating or slandering; making false accusations and defaming; backbiting; doing [this], doing [that], without feeling a single pang [of guilt or shame] inside him. Where’s the īmān?! Where are any feelings that are noble?!

Source: Majjālis Tadhkiriyyah fī Tafsīr Āyāt Qurʾāniyyah, pp. 66-69.


Footnotes

[1]: Allāh’s mention of someone with praise to the highest gathering of angels (tr.)

[2]: Allāh’s protection from all harms and faults (tr.)

[3]: Īmān is speech, action, and belief; it increases with acts of obedience to Allāh and decreases with acts of disobedience to Him (tr.).

[4]: restraining oneself from unseemly things out of a sense of shame or shyness (tr.)

[5]: i.e., “Allāh is the greatest,” said here also to express amazement (tr.)

[6]: i.e., one chosen by Allāh for highest level of love from Allāh; only he and the Prophet ﷺ are at this level. (tr.)

[7]: His people took this equivocal word to mean “sick” or “struck by a plague,” while he meant another one of its meanings like “weak,” “sick at heart seeing you worship idols instead of Allāh alone,” or other than that. Refer to Ibn Kathīr’s explanation of Al-Ṣaffāt, verse 89. (tr.)

[8]: He said this equivocal statement when an oppressive ruler in Egypt wanted to take Ibrāhīm’s wife Sara; saying Sara was his sister was safer for him since a husband would likely be killed. In the end, Allāh protected Sara from any harm. Refer to full ḥadīth in Ṣaḥīḥ Al-Bukhārī. (tr.)

[9]: The ḥadīth of al-shafāʿah [intercession] is reported by Al-Bukhārī, no. 4712, and Muslim, no. 194, from the ḥadīth of Abū Hurairah.