FALLING INTO SIN
IN TODAY’S SOCIETY, WHAT CAN ONE DO
TO PROTECT HIS EMAAN, IMPROVE HIS CHARACTER AND BE THE MUSLIM HE WANTS
As one of only two Muslims in a small Kentucky
town one summer, it was hard not to notice the stares. Coming from
a mostly Muslim setting, it was a difficult adjustment for the sixth-grader
visiting Christian relatives. “I felt I went from being a perfectly
normal, happy child with many interests and friends, to something
akin to a monster.” Everything about her suddenly became wrong; and
so, beyond the eyes of the Ummah, some set about fixing her. “The
funny thing is that I was taught to have a healthy respect for Allah’s
revelations. And that, in part, is what they used against me. I was
in a nightmare filled with emotional vampires and spiritual cannibals and
I knew this was not the teachings of the honorable Prophet Eesa alayhes
sallam. But I wanted to be liked and accepted.”
The second-generation Muslim, and seventh
generation American, left the town with her faith shaken in a God
who could have put her through that, and in her belief in the inherent
goodness and oneness of people. But mostly her emaan, her faith in
Allah now felt just beyond her reach. Her better instincts had been
dulled. She’d done a few things she felt ashamed of and she sometimes
lapsed into small bouts of depression. There was a small ball of
anger eating at her gut. She didn’t think she could ever tell anyone about
her experiences. She just wanted to be left alone…
Your most valuable possession
In a time when faith in God is many times
considered a weakness, where the relationship between cause and effect
are bandied about as negotiable, emaan may seem like a fantasy at
best, an albatross at worst. The line between right and wrong is
deliberately blurred, redrawn and blurred again. Throughout time-ancient
as well as modern-examples of what comes of the convolutions of mankind
abound. Yet still we allow ourselves to be guided into the web of
the true delusion: that in going against the blueprint for mankind
that Allah reiterates in the Qur’an, we can cheat the fate our own
hands wring, that among ourselves we make adequate lesser gods.
Anyone who contemplates the verses of the
Qur’an will find people are ultimately responsible for their own deeds.
Allah is not unjust to anyone, that the reason behind a person’s
deviations is one’s own self. Deeds, by heart or limb, result in
steadfastness or perversion. They are linked together in the same
fashion a consequence is linked to its cause and an effect to its
influence. And sometimes Allah plots for you a course of hills, valleys
and straightaways that will ultimately make the legs of your deen-your
emaan-lean and well-muscled.
Shoring up your Character
Allah guides those who perform good deeds.
And the more we do, the more guidance we receive. Likewise, evil doing
feeds on itself. Ibn-ul-Qayyim said, “This is because Allah likes
good deeds and rewards on them, and abhors evil deeds, and
punishes for them.” Scholars have taken this truth and crafted
the rule: “Recompense is according to deeds.”
Here are a few Qur’anic verses relating
to the loss of guidance and decrease in emaan:
“So when they turned away (from the
path of Allah), Allah turned their hearts away (from the right path).”
“I shall turn away from My signs
those who behave arrogantly on the earth in a wrongful manner. If
they see all the signs they will not believe in them. And if they
see the way of righteousness, they will not adopt that way.” [7:146].
“And recite to them (Oh, Mohammed)
the story of the one to whom We gave our verses (signs), but he turned
them away, so Satan followed him up, and he became of those who went
astray. Had he willed We would surely have elevated him therewith
but he clung to the earth and followed his own vain desires. So his
description is the that of a dog; if you drive him away, he lolls his
tongue out, or if you leave him alone, he (still) lolls his tongue out.”
The last verse tells us that some even
have knowledge, but instead of applying it, they choose to follow their
whims and worldly desires. In the end they lose their blessing and
stray from Allah.
The young girl was eventually ensconced
within the circle of her Muslim community but she had changed. She felt
disconnected somehow. “I always did good deeds and tried to be helpful.
I made good grades. But I was trying to sort out my relationship
with people and was trying to see myself. My anger had turned to
hatred and I thought that feeling, that rush made me brave. But it
wasn’t my nature, to feed off of that kind of negativity. It wasn’t who
I thought Allah wanted me to be. It wasn’t what my family brought
me up to be. I could never reach my potential holding on to that
baggage. “There was a time when I feared nothing but Allah. And now
I had to admit that I feared what people could do when they discover
you’re different. Going to school, walking to the store, meeting
new people, voicing an opinion…” The more she hid and tried to
blend in, the more obvious it became that she was different. “I didn’t
gossip. I dressed modestly. I stood up for what I felt was right. I
thought globally … I achieved things and some people admired me. But
that made me uncomfortable because I knew that any good that came
my way or through me was the will of Allah. I never really belonged.
I had yet to really stand up for myself, to allow people to get to
know me on my own terms. I had created something of a prison for
myself that only I knew I was in.” Everyone is solely responsible
for his/her deviation. Allah does not oppress anyone. Nor does Allah
turn away servants when they sincerely strive for guidance. Allah
is the most just. And He is the most merciful.
Deviation from the right path and the degradation
of emaan are a result of one’s own deeds and a reflection of one’s
own behavior and character. Muslims must always be aware of that.
They should assume they will face challenges sometimes and be ready
to protect themselves and to heal and to grow. The first step towards
achieving that is to know why and how does it happen. Most times
it isn’t the big wars that defeat a people, it is the little internal
skirmishes which go unmet that eat away at character long before a clear
enemy comes knocking on a half-opened door.
WHEN WE SLIP
Emaan is the core of all actions. It is
the motivation necessary for a Muslim to accomplish whatever needed
to lead a good life. Depending on the strength of his emaan, a person
may or may not be able to abandon sinning, strive against his own
desire and compel his soul to take heed.
The strength of emaan does not only show
itself in the apparent deeds; true emaan actually fills and saturates
the heart. Allah’s Messenger, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, pointed
out “three (factors), whoever has them will find the sweetness of
emaan: that Allah and His Messenger are more beloved to him than
any thing else, that he loves a person solely for the sake of Allah, and
that he hates to revert to disbelieve, as he hates being thrown into
hellfire.” (Bukhari and Muslim) In another hadeeth, Allah’s Messenger,
sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam said, “(He has) experienced the taste of emaan,
who is contented that Allah as his Lord (Rabb), Islam as his religion and
Mohammed as a Prophet.” (Muslim).
We have to be certain that our emaan is
deeply rooted into our hearts. A person may repent to Allah, following
the path of righteousness, yet emaan may not have entered his heart.
So, at the first sign of destructive desires, doubts set in and convictions
dissipate. Signs that this disease has entered the heart include
rigidity of our hearts, courage in committing sins and laziness toward
Balance emaan with Islamic knowledge
Just as a person needs emaan for motivation,
action and strength in the heart, he, likewise, needs knowledge, to do
what is right, rectify his worship and purify his turning to Allah alone.
When emaan and Islamic knowledge are deeply rooted into a person’s heart,
there remains no possibility for him to turn away from the path of righteousness.
“The seizing of amanah (trustworthiness) and emaan (which has been
reported in the authentic hadeeth) is not the seizing of knowledge,”
Ibn-Taymiyyah said, “For it is known that a person may be bequeathed
with emaan even though he lacks knowledge. An emaan like this one
could be snatched from his heart -like the emaan of Bani-Israel after
they saw the calf.
“As for the one bequeathed with both, knowledge
and emaan, emaan is never seized from his breast and such a person
never reverts from Islam. Conversely, if one is bequeathed with Qur’an
alone or emaan alone, emaan can be seized and this is the reality.
We have seen it often that the most to revert from Islam are those
who recite Qur’an, without understanding or emaan, or those who possess
emaan without knowledge and Qur’an. But as for the one who has acquired
Qur’an and emaan, and hence obtained knowledge, for this one, emaan
is never seized from his heart and Allah knows best.” (Majmou’a al-Fatawa
The mere memorization of the Qur’an and
concepts does not mean one has acquired knowledge, especially since the
Qur’an is read by the munafiq (hypocrite), the mu’min (believer) and the
illiterate. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “Knowledge is of two types; knowledge
in the heart and knowledge on the tongue.” So knowledge in the heart
is the useful one while knowledge on the tongue is Allah’s argument
against His servants.”
Seeking Islamic knowledge saves thoughts
from turning to desires and sins because there is no spare time,
and because those things pale in the face of the joy of the revelation
of truth. He will be so engrossed in the pleasure of acquiring knowledge
such that the chance of him looking for activities that may weaken
his emaan or cause him to deviate will be minimum.
Slough the dead skin of sin
Allah says, “You counted it a little thing
while it was very great in the sight of Allah.” [24:15] Some companions
said, as reported by Anas, “You are doing deeds which you view to
be finer than a hair, but we, in the days of the Prophet, sallallaahu
alayhe wa sallam, used to consider them as major sins.” (Bukhari).
Viewing sins as little things has adverse
-The sins multiply in the sight of Allah.
-The path of repentance becomes distant,
since he does not anymore feel a need for it. It is the one who realizes
its severity, adheres to making istighfaar (asking for forgiveness)
and regretfully seeks repentance from Allah who has his sin erased.
-He is drawn to individuals similarly engrossed.
This alone is among the major factors behind a person’s deviation.
Moreover, it results in him avoiding the gatherings where Allah is
remembered. As a result, opportunities that would otherwise
help him remain steadfast on good deeds are missed.
-The sin becomes a hard habit to break.
Even if the sins are minor, they gather around a person leading him
to devastation, as Allah’s Messenger warned. Abdullah bin Mas’ood
said, “Beware of viewing the sins as little for they gather
upon a person till he is devastated and Allah’s Messenger,
sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, has coined a similitude for it as a
group of people stopped in a desert and the cook among them
arrived. So a person would go and bring one stick, and another
one would go and bring one stick till they gathered many of
them, lit a fire and brought to ripeness all that they have thrown
in it.” (Authentic, Ahmad)
Arrogance and pride are traps
These two attributes are among the worst
for man to acquire. Arrogance and pride led Iblis (Satan) astray,
although he was in the company of the angels. That happened because,
Allah tells us, “I (Iblis) am better than him (Adam). You created
me from fire and him You created from clay.” [7:12].
If one does not rid himself of arrogance
and pride, an end similar to that of Satan is a sure result. But
even a little part of them-especially if related to how one views
one’s worship-can very devastating to one’s emaan:
-Claiming perfection leads one to not feel
the need to improve himself through good deeds and other means of nurturing
his emaan. But emaan as stated by scholars either increases or decreases.
Therefore, it will certainly decrease when one does not work hard to increase
it with a lot good deeds.
-Admiring one’s own deeds results in the
gradual relinquishment of worshipping Allah, because worship is based on
humbling oneself to Him and acknowledging that all the gratefulness
is to Allah and to Him alone. How could one be proud of his deeds
while Allah’s Messenger, sallaallahu alayhe wa sallam, used to say,
“None of you will be saved because of his deeds.” They asked, “Not
even you Oh Allah’s Messenger?” He said, “No, not even me, except
that Allah bestows me with His mercy.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
-When one loses the fear of requital it
becomes easy to forget about falling from the straight path. A sense
of security in this aspect can be the first step towards falling
a victim to it. Would such an arrogant person continually beseech
Allah for guidance and seek steadfastness on his path?
-Vanity leads to backbiting and rumor mongering.
Moreover, whomever mocks his brother about a particular sin will
not die till he himself succumbs to it.
As the little sister grew, she continued
to work at healing and finally, through salah, good deeds and study was
able to rid herself of much of the scars of the past. Though it was
painful, she admits she learned some valuable lessons that helped
shape her deen and character, strengthen her emaan and define her
sense of humanity.
Tackle Tarbiyah with Joy
After a person has turned to Allah in repentance,
he leaves behind an enormous amount of evil ideas, perceptions and habits.
It is not possible to get rid of all the past by a mere repentance
to Allah. A personal training effort (Tarbiyah) is required to erase
all the effects. An effort that ingrains the right emaan and sufficient
Islamic knowledge to further pave the road with a firm foundation.
Taking a quick look at the apostasy events that occurred in the days
of the Prophet, sallaallahu alayhe wa sallam, much evidence supports
this fact. Was there any among the Muhajireen or Ansaar who defected?
Were there any defectors among those who witnessed the battle of
Badr? Or the Ridwaan Pledge? Or those who accepted Islam in its initial
phase? Were there any of those among the apostates about whom Allah says,
“Only those are the believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger,
and afterward doubt not but strive with their wealth and their lives for
the cause of Allah. Those, they are the truthful.” [49:15].
Most of the apostates/defectors comprised
those who had just recently entered the circle of Islam and had not
yet received the type of training that would instill emaan and its
branches in their heart. Mere repentance and an apparent change are
neither the first step nor the last. In fact, it is only one step
in the right direction, which is followed by putting in an effort to
attain emaan and taqwa. To attain emaan and taqwa, find a group which assists
through regular encounters. One cannot be expected to experience the fruits
of brotherhood and sisterhood, when isolated and not practically involved
with others. Find an appropriate example that can help one stand up against
daily challenges by holding tight to the rope of Allah altogether.
However, the being within a group must
hinder one from developing his own formidable relationship with Allah
in the form of deeds far away from the sight of people. One must
spend the effort in worship at night, charity, siyaam, seeking knowledge
and so on. One must try to create an intuition of individual responsibility
within himself as it is established in the Qur’an, “Whoever goes
right, then he goes right only for the benefit of his own self. And
whoever goes astray, then he goes astray to his own loss. No one laden
with burdens can bear someone else’s burden.” [17:15].
Furthermore, Allah’s Messenger, sallaallahu
alayhe wa sallam, explains how a person is responsible and accountable
for his own deeds by saying, “There is none among you but his Lord
will speak to him without an interpreter. He will look to his right
and will find only his deeds. He will look to his left and will find
only his deeds…” (Bukhari & Muslim) All this and much more must
make a person aware that his being in a group is good and recommended,
but still it does not exempt him from the individual responsibility
he has to account for on the Day of Judgment.
Predominance of desires
Deviation from the right path is caused
by one of the two factors- either doubt which has mixed with clarity
and truth, or desires which predominated a persons heart and hence,
deviated and obstructed him from the truth and obeying Allah, a factor
clearly noticed in our days.
The ones who repent and turn to Allah are
just as human as any one else- they desire as others do. The problem
of lustful desires begins primarily with an evil look or idea and
ends with flooded actions or an erupted volcano-leading a person
You find a person following the path which
pleases Allah but once he sights something forbidden (e.g., a beautiful
woman), a struggle in his heart begins; the light of emaan is kindled
within him calling him to repent and turn to Allah. Eventually, the
pitch of this call is reduced and the call of the desire rises. In
this way, an immense struggle within begins. At one stage, the call
of emaan might predominate and he overcomes this hurdle, even if
the dust of the sin might have touched him, which he immediately washes
off with repentance and good deeds.
On the other hand, he might respond due
to a weakness in emaan and the light of desire rises and predominates,
ensnaring his heart and obstructing any chances of turning to Allah.
As a result, he falls victim to the sin and can not turn to Allah
in repentance, which would raise him from this downfall. At this
moment, he would say to himself, “You have already been affected by the
dirt of sin, so you might as well keep on going. So many times you have
tried to repent, but to no avail. You are weak, there remains no
hope for you to repent, and your way is different from that of the
The ugly gut of excessiveness
Whenever Allah commands us to do something,
Satan incites us to fall into either extreme-either exaggerating
the act on one hand or be negligent and careless about it on the
other. Even though the latter is a common phenomenon with many, Satan
chooses to incite one towards the opposite extreme of exaggeration
and immoderation. Accordingly, we have been warned against taking
such an approach as Allah says, “Say, O people of the scripture,
exceed not the units in your religion.” [5:77].
And Allah’s Messenger, sallaallahu alayhe
wa sallam, said, “Beware of ghulow (excessiveness) in religion, for
indeed, what devastated those before you was ghulow in religion.”
(Nisaai) In another hadeeth he said, “Those who go to extremes (in
preaching their religion) were killed and destroyed.” (Muslim).
Being immoderate in worship is a deviation
in itself, but nevertheless, it is not the end of the road. When
a person takes the first step towards immoderation, he overloads
himself in a manner while an easier path could have been opted for.
One might be capable of enduring this path
for some time, but eventually after recognizing the tiresome effort
he had to sacrifice, he starts contemplating a retrieve. But here,
the excitement which led him in the first place to chose the
road of extreme immoderation will not be sufficient to return
him to the road of balance and moderation. In fact, it will transfer
him to the opposite extreme of negligence and carelessness. None
of this overburdening approach is encouraged in Islam since
we should always remember that our deeds alone are not good
enough for us to enter Jannah. Allah’s Messenger, sallaallahu
alayhe wa sallam, clarified this by saying, “Be moderate and practice
the same in proportion and know that your deeds will not make you
enter Jannah and the most beloved deeds to Allah are those which
are regularly done even if they were little.”
Choose friends wisely
There is no doubt that the company of
friends influences the formation of our characters. For this reason,
Allah’s Messenger, said, “A person is influenced by his companions
religion, so watch who your companions are.” (Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi)
This influence is acquired from two aspects:
1. The first is acquired in the company
of relatives, neighbors, school and all those with whom a person
is compelled to spend time.
2. The second type of influence is acquired
within more religious company which is likely to meet those who are
less concerned. Though they pray and fast, they are less serious
in carrying the message of Islam, dawah, sacrifice, etc. And if a
person’s faith is weak and is inclined towards desire and negligence,
he will find comfort in this company.
The effects of this influence become apparent
through certain factors that include doing things he never used to
do before. He begins considering those on the deviated path as examples
in life and as a result, he starts imitating them saying, “If he
can do this, why can’t I?”
He begins to please others at the expense
of pleasing Allah by performing actions never done before or abandoning
some good deeds. He abandons, for example, praying sunnah, or starts
showing up late for congregation salah, starts getting used to watching
and hearing forbidden things- as a result, he even stops forbidding
the evil. All this is no doubt a consequence of weak emaan and the
influence of either a bad company or a group who are less serious
with Islam and more inclined towards desire.
On the Path to Righteousness
Change can happen sometimes in the blink
of an adjusted perspective. For many Muslims living in the West,
it is simply the realization that it is just as hard to live in a
self-styled prison of ego and desire as it is to strive toward the
right path. Freedom of choice and religion only develops and grows
when it is exercised.
There is no doubt that the diagnosis of
the causes behind an individual’s deviation is a primary step towards
treatment. But what is the cure?
Concentrate on tarbiyah (constant self-development)
particularly from the spiritual aspect. See everyday challenges as an opportunity
to exercise truth, patience, good deeds, courage and constancy. One
is encouraged to nurture his emaan by performing righteous deeds as Allah
says, “O you who believe, believe in Allah and His Messenger…” [4:136]
Usually, emaan is present in the hearts of people but still, they are
encouraged to nurture and increase it.
Be sincere and truthful to Allah.
Ikhlaas (sincerity) is a privileged characteristic
for those who seek Allah’s pleasure. Its absence displaces a person’s
deeds, and it is a requirement by everyone as Allah says, “And they
were commanded not, but that they should worship Allah, making their
religion sincere for him and offer salahs perfectly and give zakah
and that is the right religion.” [98:5]
Ibn-Al-Qayyim, may Allah’s mercy be upon
him, further clarifies the effect of Ikhlaas and truthfulness on
a persons perseverance on the path of Islam. He said, “A person experiences
difficulty in abandoning (bad) habits and customs only if he does
so for the sake of other than Allah. As for he who abandons them
truthfully and sincerely with his heart, he does not experience any
difficulty except in the first attempt, to be tested whether he was truthful
or not. So if he remains a little patient during that difficulty, desire
would not last any longer.”
Being fearful of an evil death
A sincere believer must be overwhelmed
with the fear of dying in a state that would displease Allah. This
was the condition of the righteous predecessors- due to a constant
fear of an evil death while in a state of Islam since, if a person
falls victim to a sin, a state of negligence and transgression, it
overpowers his heart and mind. A state in which his light is extinguished,
and his vision blocked- a moment when no reminder would benefit- here,
death might surprise him. He would die in a state that would attain
the wrath of Allah. Therefore, one must always be fearful of an evil
death and hence, use every moment in a manner that pleases Allah,
even though uncertain whether it is accepted by Allah or not. He
says, “And those who give that which they give (good deeds) with their
hearts full of fear (whether accepted or not) because they are sure
to return to their Lord (for reckoning).” [23:60]
Supplication is a Muslim’s refuge and
resort when he is encountered with hardship in this world. One must
always turn to Allah and seek His assistance. Allah’s Messenger used
to supplicate, “O rotator/turner of the heart, make my heart
steadfast on your religion.” (Tirmidhi) And he also used to
say, “O Allah, increase my knowledge and do not let my heart deviate
(from the truth) after you have guided me and grant me mercy
from You. Truly, you are the bestower.” [3:8] These and many
other forms and occasions of supplication makes one realize his need
to invoke Allah for guidance searching for its causes and abstaining
from all that blocks a persons urge to obtain it.
Persistence in doing good
The best of deeds and the most beloved
of it are those which a person does constantly as Allah’s Messenger
said, “And the most beloved of deeds to Allah are those which are
regularly done even if they were little.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
Regular persistence in doing good deeds eventually becomes a habit
and a part of ones daily life after an initial struggle to practice it.
This persistence in good deeds (salahs, charity, siyaam, and thikr…)
will make one live in the light of steadfastness and righteousness,
and far away from deviation and its causes.
Advice and counseling
When someone starts showing the signs
of deviation, he must be immediately advised, as it is one of the
rights on a fellow Muslim. Jabir bin Abdullah said, “I made a pledge
to Allah’s Messenger to offer salah, pay zakah and advice every Muslim.”
(Bukhari & Muslim) Counseling one another was the trend practiced
by the companions of the Messenger of Allah and if any of them showed
any signs of weakness, they would never hesitate in advising him. This
must be our case. We must not ignore anyone at the time of his weakness
in emaan, because such ignorance is a way of assisting Satan against
Participating in the dawah work
There are many fruits obtained doing dawah.
One who strives in seeking guidance for people is certainly guided by Allah.
The one, who calls people to do good deeds, will in turn be motivated
to perform the deeds he is asking people to do. Being involved in
dawah keeps one from acts that might result in deviation. There is
a sweetness of emaan a person feels when he observes people turning
to Allah instead of observing things forbidden by Him.
After spending some time pondering over
this problem and its causes and remedies it is clear that emaan is a blessing
for which we each must strive. If it is missing, it is we who misunderstand
or underestimate the power of our relationship with Allah. We must
acknowledge the great value of strong emaan. It is a lifelong challenge
we must accept with joy. And for those who succeed, they will be
the first to acknowledge that it is not due to their mental agility
or consistent efforts as much as it is a bounty from Allah, a bounty
that deserves to be protected and cared for in our hearts and in our