When one thinks of those whom Allāh ﷻ loves, the image that comes to mind is often an individual who is frequently in the Masjid for long periods of time, someone who dresses a particular way and is constantly engaged in worship. We often attach the love of Allāh ﷻ to the worship and the piety of an individual, and this is true; Allāh ﷻ does love those who make effort to worship him and be pious. Allāh ﷻ says in various places about those whom he loves:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

Indeed, Allāh loves those who strive for excellence[1]

وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الصَّابِرِينَ

And Allāh loves those who are patient[2]

 إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ

Indeed, Allāh loves those who rely on him[3]

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ

Indeed, Allāh loves those who act justly[4]

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَّقِينَ

Indeed, Allāh loves those who are pious[5]

However, aside from these different types of people whom Allāh ﷻ has declared his love for, there is another group of people are also mentioned:

Allāh ﷻ says:

 إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِينَ وَيُحِبُّ الْمُتَطَهِّرِينَ

Indeed, Allāh loves those who repent and those who purify themselves[6]

From this ayah, it is then made clear that sincere repentance earns a person the love of Allah. It serves as a beacon of hope for those believers who have fallen despondent from earning the love and pleasure of Allāh. It is that same despondency that makes a person falsely assume that his sins could never be forgiven, thus causing him to further spiral downwards into the depths of his sins until he meets Allāh ﷻ in a state devoid of repentance and filled with sin. It is this goal that the Shaytān works towards as he declared:

قَالَ فَبِمَا أَغْوَيْتَنِي لَأَقْعُدَنَّ لَهُمْ صِرَاطَكَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ * ثُمَّ لَآتِيَنَّهُمْ مِنْ بَيْنِ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ وَعَنْ أَيْمَانِهِمْ وَعَنْ شَمَائِلِهِمْ وَلَا تَجِدُ أَكْثَرَهُمْ شَاكِرِينَ

He said: ‘Due to you letting me go astray, I will sit in wait for them on your straight path – Then I will come to them from in front of them, from behind them, from their right side and their left side. And you will not find most of them grateful.’[7]

It is therefore paramount then, that we remain hopeful in Allāh ﷻ and we do not become despondent in him. But what is despondency caused by?

Despondency has three principal causes:

The first and most grave cause is a lack of knowledge regarding Allāh ﷻ and his attributes. When a person does not know Allāh ﷻ adequately, he remains in darkness, stumbling about confused and hopeless of finding certainty in anything. As Al-Bustī (May Allah have mercy on him) says

ويا أخا الجهلِ لو أصبحتَ في لُجَجٍ *** فأنـت ما بينهمـا لا شـكَّ ظمآنُ
Oh, Brother of ignorance, even if you were to end up in large waves *** Without a doubt you’d still be thirsty amongst them![8]

When a person knows Allāh ﷻ, his attributes and he ponders over what he can observe of the power of Allāh ﷻ, he finds something most sought after by all of mankind … ‘certainty’. This is especially true when we reflect on this within the context of our conversation. Allāh ﷻ has multiple attributes that refer to either his mercy and more specifically his forgiveness. Let us list these names:

  1. ‘The most merciful’ – الرحمن
  2. ‘The most beneficent’ – الرحيم
  3. ‘The most forgiving’ – الغفار
  4. ‘The most kind’ – اللطيف
  5. ‘The most forbearing’ – الحليم
  6. ‘The oft-forgiving’ – الغفور
  7. ‘The one who always accepts repentance’ – التواب
  8. ‘The one who pardons’ – العفو
  9. ‘The most benign’ – الرؤوف

Each one of these names of Allāh ﷻ all point towards the same thing, the enormous amount of mercy, forgiveness and kindness that Allāh ﷻ shows to his creation. However, they all contain subtleties that allow us to understand this one aspect regarding Allāh ﷻ from different perspectives. But this is a topic in and of itself and therefore requires its own space for a comprehensive discussion.

What can be seen here at the very least, is the emphasis that Allāh has placed on his mercy. We see a manifestation of the Hadith Qudsi in which the Prophet ﷺ narrated that Allāh ﷻ said:

‘Indeed my mercy precedes my wrath’.[9]

We can see that clearly demonstrated in the attributes of Allāh ﷻ  themselves. If a person does not know this, however, he will remain under the torment of his sins without hope.

A second because we find that causes despondency is related to the first, in that it is connected to a lack of knowledge. However, here it is caused by not knowing the nature and severity of sins in the eyes of Allah ﷻ. No doubt, there are major sins that cause a person to enter the hellfire and receive punishment. That is the qualitative measure of these sins. Despite this, the quantitative measure of every sin you commit remains 1 regardless of the gravity of the sin or the circumstances in which it was committed.

However, when you perform any good deed, be it a single prayer or even a smile to a random person out of kindness. This is multiplied by a minimum of 10 in terms of quantitative value and then further multiplied depending on the extent of sincerity and the quality of the action itself. Then the reward of that action is further multiplied if it so happens to coincide with a virtuous time or place. For example, Praying Salāh in the Masjid al-Harām in Ramadān in the last ten nights, and praying it to the best of your ability fulfilling all of the even preferable (Mustahhab) aspects of Salāh. The reward of this will be multiplied greatly compared to praying any normal Salah in your home on a random Monday without having fulfilled the extra virtuous actions. The Prophet ﷺ mentioned,

‘Good deeds are worth ten deeds like it, until 700 multiplications, until many more multiplications (beyond that)’.[10]

These good deeds themselves are also a means of wiping out all minor sins that a person accumulates whilst a specific good deed – repentance- is needed for major sins. As Allāh ﷻ says

إِنَّ الحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ السَّيِّئَاتِ

Indeed, good deeds wipe out bad deeds[11]

Why is all of this important?

It is a demonstration of how we understand the following words of Allah ﷻ:

وَاللَّهُ يُرِيدُ أَن يَتُوبَ عَلَيْكُمْ

And Allāh  wants to forgive you[12]

The one who feels despondent cannot deny the odds have been stacked in his favour. It, therefore, does not behove him to remain despondent after understanding Allāh ﷻ  and the nature of sin in Islam. Even if he committed many major sins, should he repent to Allāh ﷻ  just once, then Allāh ﷻ  would forgive him, pardon him and wipe his record clean until none of the creation would remember having witnessed him committing such a sin including the angels recording his deeds.

The third cause of despondency is a fear of returning to sins after having repented. A person may sincerely repent to Allāh ﷻ  after committing a serious sin, but for some reason he reoffends, he renews his repentance but he returns to it once again and he continues like this until he gives up on himself and his repentance altogether. He then remains trapped by his sin hopelessly shackled by it.

Al-Hasan al-Basri was asked the following:

`Oh Abu Sa’īd! A man sins and then repents, then he sins and then he repents, then he sins and then he repents… until when?!’ He replied ‘I only know this to be a characteristic of the believers.[13]

What does this mean? The Imam is referring to two things here:

  1. The frequent propensity to commit sin
  2. The immediate repentance from those sins.

 The first here is a characteristic that encompasses believers and non-believers alike. The Prophet ﷺ said:

‘All of the children of Ādam are sinners. Whilst the second is what separates the believers from the non-believers, as the Prophet ﷺ continued ‘and the best of those who sin are those who repent’.[14]

Therefore, we must come to terms with the fact that we are filled with faults and are prone to making mistakes. This is how Allah ﷻ created us as He himself declares:

وَخُلِقَ الْإِنسَانُ ضَعِيفًا

And mankind was created weak[15]

However, alongside this, we must also realise that we are responsible for acting upon our unlawful desires and we are responsible for making things right when we do slip. We should never despair that our constant failure to stop sinning will result in Allah not forgiving us. As the Prophet ﷺ said

‘If you did not sin, Allāh ﷻ would have removed you and brought people who did sin and then seek forgiveness and then he would forgive them’[16]

Read these beautiful words mentioned by Ibn al-Qayyim (May Allāh ﷻ have mercy on him) in this regard: ‘A sin may sometimes be more beneficial for a slave when repentance is attached to it than many normal acts of worship. This is the meaning of the statement made by one of the Salaf: ‘A slave may do a sin, and then enter Jannah on account of it. He may do a good deed but then enter hellfire on account of it’.

They said ‘How can that be?!’

He replied:

‘He does sin and it continues to be at the forefront of his mind, when he stands, sits, and walks. Every time he remembers it, it brings about regret and repentance and seeking forgiveness from him. That then becomes the reason for his salvation! Whilst he may do a good deed, and that continues to be at the forefront of his mind, when he stands, sits, and walks. Every time he remembers it brings about conceit and arrogance and thus it becomes the cause of his destruction’.[17]

Therefore, remaining hopeful in the aftermath of being confronted by one’s own weaknesses, faults and deficiencies becomes essential to maintaining a good relationship with Allāh. As it is mentioned in a Hadith Qudsi that Muhammad ﷺ said that Allāh ﷻ said: ‘I am as my slave thinks of me’[18]. So as long as a person remains hopeful in Allāh that He will forgive them and continue to forgive them as long as they continue to repent after committing sins, Allāh ﷻ by his own declaration will continue to forgive and show mercy to him.

[1] Surah al-Baqarah: 195

[2] Surah Āl-Imrān: 146

[3] Surah Āl-Imrān: 159

[4] Surah Al-Mā’idah: 42

[5] Surah Tawbah: 7

[6] Surah al-Baqarah: 222

[7] Surah A’rāf: 16

[8] ‘Unwān al-Hikam by Imam Abu al-Fath Ali b. Muhammad b. al-Husain al-Busti l

[9] Sahīh al-Bukhāri No. 7453

[10] Sahīh al-Bukhāri No. 6491

[11] Surah Hūd:114

[12] Surah al-Nisā: 27

[13] Kitāb al-Zuhd by Imam Ahmad Page 332. No. 1613

[14] Sunan Ibn Mājah No. 4251

[15] Surah al-Nisā: 28

[16] Sahīh Muslim No. 2749

[17] Madārij al-Sālikīn 299:1

[18] Sahih al-Bukhari Kitab al-Tawheed: 7505