Confession in Islam to humans?
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid
Someone may ask: I would like to repent but is it necessary for me to confess to someone and declare my sins before him? Is it a condition of repentance that I should go to a Qadi in the court, recount all my crimes and seek to be punished? and what else the stories of Ma’iz, the Ghamedi woman, and the man who kissed a girl in a garden suggest?
Let me tell you my brother, that a man’s direct contact with his Lord, without any intermediaries, is an important aspect of Unity of Allah, which He demands from us. Says He: “And when My slaves ask you (O Muhammad ) about Me (whether I am close to them or at a distance, let them know the),
I Answer the prayers of him who calls Me.” (Al-Baqarah: 186) And when we admit that repentance is for the sake of Allah, then the confessions of sins should also be to Allah alone. In fact, the words of a prayer of the Prophet are:
i.e., “I acknowledge Your blessings, and confess my sins to You O Lord!”
We are not, by the grace of Allah, like the Christians…the Priest, the Chair of Confession, the certificate of Pardon… and so forth. In contrast Allah says: “Do they not know that it is Allah who accepts the penitence of the penitents?” (Al-Tauba: 104)
As for the administration of punishment as prescribed by the shari’ah and as judged by the courts, what can be said is that it is not necessary for a man to go to the authorities and confess his sins, for him whom Allah has screened it is of no harm if he screens himself. His repentance before his Lord will suffice for him. In fact one of the ninety-nine names of Allah is “Sateer” which means He who screens the sins and shortcomings of His creatures.
As for the Companions of the Prophet such as Ma’iz , or the woman who had adulterated, or the man who had kissed a girl in the garden, they – by admitting their crimes to the Prophet – did something that was not binding upon them. They did so because of their extreme concern for the Hereafter.
The Prophet’s attitude also goes to prove the same in that when Ma’iz went to him he did not pay attention to him, and so he acted with the Ghamedi woman in the beginning, and so too ‘Umar indicated when he said: “Allah would have left it in secret if he had left it in secret,” and the Prophet kept silent as if assenting to the remark.
It is not necessary therefore to go to the courts and confess your sins there. Nor is it required to go to the courts and confess your sins there. Nor is it required to go to the imam of the mosque, or demand that judgment be pronounced. Neither is it necessary to confess to a friend and ask him to lash you indoors, as some people imagine. And from the following story you will know how harmful it can be to consult ignorant people in religious affairs. It is said that a man wanted to repent.
So he went to the imam of a mosque, confessed to him his sins, and asked for a solution. The imam told him: “The first thing you should do is to go to the courts and confess your crimes there. They will punish you according to the shari’ah. Then we will think about how you can repent.” When this man saw that he won’t be able to bear the punishment, he decided not to repent altogether, and went back to his sins.
Let me take this opportunity to tell you O Muslims, that this religion is a trust to us. And it is of utmost importance that we seek its rulings from its proper source. Allah says: “Ask those who know, if you do not know.” And He said: “(As for the) Al-Rahman, ask about Him those who know.” (Al-Furqan: 59)
It is not for every imam of a mosque, or the muezzin, or a professional speech-maker to give opinion in religious affairs. Nor is it for every writer and admonisher to deliver rulings. A common man also, on the other hand, should know whom to consult. Indeed the Prophet himself feared appearance of people who would misguide the people through wrong rulings. And a scholar has said: “Knowledge itself is religion.
Therefore take care as to whom it is you are obtaining from.” Beware therefore, O Muslims, of these pitfalls and go to the trustworthy scholars in matters where you are in doubt.
The last word
Dear brother! O slave of Allah! Allah has opened the door of repentance, so why should you not enter? “Repentance has a door whose span is the distance between East and West,” says a hadith. (And in another version its span is the distance traveled in 70 years). “It will not be closed until the sun rises from the West.”
Listen to the call of Allah: “O My slaves! You sin morning and evening and I forgive all your sins. So call on Me, I’ll forgive you all your sins.”
Allah extends His Hands in the night to forgive the sinner of the day and extends His Hands in the day to forgive the sinner of the night. And He loves to hear excuses. So why don’t you turn to Him.
How beautiful are the words of the repenting man who says: I beseech You O Lord, in the name of Your honor, and (by) my ignominy that You have mercy on me. I beseech You in the name of Your Strength and my weaknesses…Your Self-sufficiency and my dependence. To You I submit my sinning, guilty forelock.
You have many slaves apart from me. But I have no Master save You. There isn’t any refuge but with You nor escape from You except to You. I plead You O Lord, in the manner of the pleading of a destitute, and entreat You in the manner of a broken, down-trodden man.
I beseech You in the manner of a blind man in fear. This is a supplication, O Lord, from one whose head is bowed down before Your Majesty, whose nose is in the dust, whose eyes are filled with tears and whose heart has submitted.
Consider this story; It is reported by a trustworthy man of the past that as he was passing through a street he saw the door of a house open. A woman came out with a child who was crying and pleading while she was pushing him out. She left him outside the house and slammed the door shut in his face.
The child left the door and walked a distance. Then he stopped, looked about, began to think, and not finding any other place but his own house where he could take shelter nor anyone who would care for him as his mother would, he returned to his house dejected, sad. He found the door shut. He sat at the sill, put his cheek on the threshold and slept with tear marks on his cheeks.
He was in this state when the mother opened the door. When she saw him in this state she could not control herself. She bent down, grabbed him to her bosom, began to kiss him and say in tears: “Oh my boy! My dear child! My very soul! Where were you? Didn’t I tell you not to disobey me? Do my bidding, and don’t force me to punish you, while I hate to do that.” Then she carried the child back and closed the door behind her.
That is the story of a mother and a child: the story of disobedience, punishment, return, forgiveness and unbound love. But the Prophet has told us that: “Allah loves His creation more than a woman does her child. “In fact, there is no comparison between the love of a mother for her child and that of Allah whose Mercy encompasses everything. Allah (swt) is immensely pleased with a man when he repents and turns to Him.
And we shall never be deprived of anything by a Lord who is more pleased with the repenting man, than that man who was traveling through an arid land. He dismounted and took shelter under a tree seeking some rest. He lay there with his beast, loaded with food and water, at his side. But when he awoke, lo! The beast was gone.
He began to search for it frantically. He climbed a hill but couldn’t see a trace of it. He climbed another hill and still no trace of it. Finally, when hunger and thirst overtook him, he said, ‘Let me go back to the tree, and lay down there until death overtakes me.’
So he went back to the tree, and lay there with eyes closed – in total despair. And lo! As he opened his eyes and raised his head, there the beast was, right before his very eyes, with all the food and water loaded on it in tact! He rushed to it and picked up its halter. (Can you imagine his happiness) But lo! Allah is happier with a man when he turns to Him seeking His forgiveness, than the man who found his beast when he had lost all hopes.
Know it, my dear brother, that true repentance of every sin also brings with it humility and devotion to Allah, and that pleading of a penitent is very dear to Allah. So that what follows after repentance is obedience of a greater degree to the extent that sometimes Satan regrets that he enticed him into that sin at all. That is why you will see that those who repent become very much changed personalities.
Allah does not abandon a man who comes to Him a penitent. Compare the situation with that of a father who used to look after his son with great love and care, providing him with the best of clothing, food and toys. Then one day the father sent him on an errand. But, as the boy was walking an enemy took hold of him, tied him and carried him away to the land of the enemies.
There his master treated him exactly in the opposite, manner. So that whenever the boy remembered his father and his treatment, his eyes swelled with tears, and the heart with pain. He was in this condition of ill-treatment at the hands of his enemies, when their caravan happened to pass by his father’s place again. As he looked around he found his father standing nearby.
He ran to him and threw himself at him crying “my father, my very father.” His master followed him and was trying to pull him away, but the boy clung to his father, refusing to let him go. What do you think of this father? Do you think he will abandon him to the enemy, refusing to take back the child?
If not, then what is your opinion of the Lord whose love of His creation is greater than the love of a father for his child? When a slave of His runs away from his enemies, and throws himself at the threshold of His door, rolling down in dust before him, saying:
“O my Lord! Have mercy upon him who has no one to show Mercy save You. .. no Helper save you… no refuge save You… no Savior save you… I am Your slave… in Your need… dependent on You… beggar at Your door… You are the refuge… with You is the shelter… there is no refuge but with You nor escape from You except to You…” then surely the Lord is not going to turn him back empty handed.
Come along then. On to the good deeds, to virtuous living, in the company of the righteous, steering yourself safe from deviations after the right direction, and misguidance after guidance. And Allah is with you.
Allah knows best.