Two hadiths related to the issue is as follows:
“All human beings are sinners; the best of the sinners are those who repent.” (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 30) “If you were not to commit sins, Allah would sweep you out of existence and would replace you by other people who would commit sins, and then would ask forgiveness from Allah.” (Muslim, Tawbah, 9, 10, 11)
As it is understood from the hadiths above, man is a creature that has been created with a natural tendency to commit sins and to do good deeds. Committing sins is a property that discriminates man from angels. As it is known, angels are beings that were created out of light and that never commit sins.
Islam is a religion of nature. In Islam, it is accepted that man might commit sins and he is taught the ways of avoiding committing sins. The way of getting rid of the sins and crimes that have been committed and being purified of spiritual impurities is repentance.
Thanks to repentance, a person becomes free of the sins and mistakes; he becomes as clean as if he has not committed those sins. As a matter of fact, the Prophet said the following regarding the issue, “A person who repents from his sin is like the one who has never committed that sin.” (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 30)
Allah calls His slaves to repent as follows: “And O ye Believers! Turn ye all together towards Allah that ye may attain.” (an-Nur, 24/31) In another verse, Allah says to His Prophet: “Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (az-Zumar, 39/53)
In the verse above, Allah orders His Prophet to tell His sinful slaves not to despair of the mercy of Allah because Allah, who is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful, forgives all sins if He wishes. Therefore, the slaves of Allah need to turn toward Allah, surrender to Him and abandon polytheism and all kinds of sins before His wrath comes.
That is, the hadith mentioned in the question should not be understood as something that encourages man to commit sins. On the contrary, it means man tends to commit sins due to his nature; therefore, if he happens to commit a sin, he should know that the door of repentance is open.
What is meant by the expression, “If you were not to commit sins, Allah would create other people who would commit sins” is if man did not have or lost the property of committing sins, Allah would create other beings with the property of committing sins; and those beings would give up committing sins despite that property and would worship Allah.
If they committed sins due to negligence, by mistake or as a result of the deception of Satan, He would forgive their sins.
Those hadiths state the importance of repentance and ask people no matter who they are to turn toward Allah without despairing of the mercy of Allah.
Paradise, which is the place of manifestation for the jamal (beauty) attributes of Allah, is not related to human beings only; Hell, which is the place of manifestation for the jamal (majesty) attributes of Allah, is not a place of manifestation for human beings only, either.
That is, since the attributes of Allah are pre-eternal and post-eternal, they are to be manifest forever. The place of manifestation of those attributes is the hereafter, where Paradise and Hell are located.
That is, the manifestation of the attributes containing jamal attributes is not related to the bounties that are given to human beings only; the manifestation of the attributes containing jalal attributes is not related to the punishment given to human beings only, either.
That is, if there were not any people who passed away and went to the hereafter, Paradise and Hell, which are eternal places of manifestations in the hereafter, which is an eternal land for those attributes to be manifest forever, would exist.
That is, the rewarding of believing people by the bounties of Paradise, and the punishing of deniers by the Hell fire are only some manifestations of jamal and jalal attributes.
That is, Paradise shows the attributes of jamal with all of its beauties, charms, houris, ghilmans and luminous scenery; similarly, Hell is a terrible place of manifestation of the attributes of jalal with its zabanis (angels of Hell), horrible fires with flames, lava, coldness and darkness.
It is possible that Paradise is a center – a light that reflects the light of the existing suns and stars – which are a reflection of the jamal attributes that are manifest in the universe; it is possible that Hell is the source of the elements like fire and heat of the existing celestial bodies, suns and stars, which are a reflection of the jamal attributes that are manifest in the universe. The following statement of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi – which we have summarized – regarding the issue is really meaningful.
“He has made the stars luminous witnesses to the sovereignty of His Dominicality like a feet decked out with electric lights and has shown the sovereignty of His Dominicality and tremendous power. It is not far from the perfect wisdom, tremendous power.
And sovereignty of Dominicality of one thus All-Glorious to make Hell like the boiler of an electric light factory and with it set fire to the stars of the heavens which look to the Hereafter, and give them heat and power.” (Mektubat/Birinci Mektub/3. sual): (Letters/First letter/3rd question)
We find it useful to give an example to clarify the issue:
There are prisons in all of the countries of the world in principle today. It is clear that the existence of prisons is not the element that makes people commit crimes. On the contrary, prisons were built as a precaution because it is known that there will be criminals at all times.
The existence of Hell is like that. That is, people do not commit sins and crimes because Hell exists. Allah created Hell because He has known with His pre-eternal knowledge surrounding everything that there will be people who will commit sins and crimes using their own free will.
We should not forget this: Dominicality has two very clear properties. One of them is to reward those who accept His domination and who obeyHim, and to punish those who do not accept His domination and who disobey Him. Thus, Allah shows the assistance and mercy aspect of His domination by rewarding those who obey Him, and He shows the honor and dignity of His domination by punishing those insolent bandits who disobey Him.
Allah has prepared a reward like Paradise, which is too beautiful to describe, for those who believe in and obey Him; He has also prepared a dungeon like Hell, whose torture is impossible to define, for those who deny Him, His prophets and books. It is very reasonable that the reward and punishment of Allah, who is the greatest, will be as great.
As a matter of fact, those who do not do their best to get rid of the punishment of Allah have attacks of nerves while thinking that the punishment is so near; thus, they want to blame the Quran, which mentions the existence of the punishment.
As a matter of fact, to oppose Allah means to fight with broken hands, which will gain a person nothing but pain.
It is very exemplary that those cowards, who get into a lather when they face a police officer or a soldier, challenge the Creator of all beings.
How else can it be explained that some dishonorable people who kiss the feet and hands of Satan for a very small worldly interest feel too proud to obey Allah, who promises a reward like Paradise?
Why are people put into Hell although they were created with a property to commit sins?
A lesson of truth from Risale-i Nur Collection:
“There needs to be grace and mercy on the right side of a Sultan and torment and discipline on the left side. Reward is what mercy necessitates. Discipline needs punishment. The place of reward and punishment is the hereafter.” (Mesnevî-i Nuriye)
It does not fit a Sultan not to reward those who obey him and not to punish those who disobey him; both are signs of weakness. God Almighty is free of all kinds of weaknesses.
Not to want His torture to be manifest means two things:
The first one means not to inflict any punishment on rebels, transgressors, oppressors. It does not comply with the honor, magnitude, wisdom and justice of Allah. Since this alternative is not possible, there is only one choice left: that men lack disobedience and that they always obey. It is not the definition of human beings but angels.
Man is a being that can commit sins. There is nobody who can say, “It is impossible for me to commit a sin.” Every man approaches the pit of sins and sometimes falls into it one way or another, rarely or often.
We lead our life with a balance of the mind and the heart. However, since man does not consist of the mind and the heart only, he sometimes cannot control his will and commits sins under the influence of primarily the soul, dominant feelings, disobedient emotions, unchecked desires and irresistible delusions.
In fact, Allah has created many different means to make us approach and need Him, and to attract us. For instance, he gave us a feeling like hunger and made us need sustenance; thus, He has shown us that He is ar-Razzaq (the Sustainer) and has made us need Him this way. We, as slaves, ask all of our needs from Him and know Him as ar-Razzaq, the real Sustainer. That is, the name ar-Razzaq necessitates our hunger.
Similarly, we are sinners and Allah is the Forgiver. We make mistakes; Allah forgives us. We disobey Him; He shows mercy on us. We repent; He accepts our repentance. Allah is al-Ghafur (the Forgiver), al-Afuww (the Pardoner), al-Ghaffar (the Forgiving), at-Tawwab (the Acceptor to repentance).
The sins that we commit lead us to those names of Allah. Thus, we know Allah with His names al-Ghafur and al-Ghaffar. As Badiuzzaman Said Nursi says, “The name al-Ghaffar necessitates the existence of sins and the name as-Sattar necessitates the existence of faults.” To put it more clearly, sins need to be committed so that the name al-Ghaffar of Allah will be manifest; faults and mistakes need to be made so that Allah will show He is as-Sattar by covering the fault of His slave.
Our Prophet (pbuh) expresses this truth very nicely in a hadith as follows:
“I swear by Allah, in whose powerful hand is my soul, that if you did not commit any sins, Allah would sweep you out of existence and would replace you by other people who would commit sins and then would ask forgiveness from Allah; and He would forgive them.”1
Repentance as much as the amount of sins
Man is deceived by his soul and Satan; he loses control over his feelings and will; thus he commits a sin; then he regrets having committed it and repents many times. According to what we learn from hadiths, the state of the slave in which he turns toward his Lord despite his sin pleases God Almighty very much.
Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates: “The Messenger of Allah said, reporting from his Lord:
“A slave committed a sin and said, ‘O my Lord! Forgive my sin!’ God Almighty said, ‘My slave committed a sin and knew that he had a Lord who forgave sins or who punished His slave due to his sin.’ Then, the slave committed a sin again and said, ‘O my Lord! Forgive my sin!’
God Almighty said, ‘My slave committed a sin and knew that he had a Lord who forgave sins or who punished His slave due to his sin.’ Then, the slave committed a sin again and said, ‘O my Lord! Forgive my sin!’ God Almighty said, ‘My slave committed a sin and knew that he had a Lord who forgave sins or who punished His slave due to his sin. O my slave! Do whatever you want, I have forgiven you.’.”2
Imam Nawawi, the great hadith scholar, deduces the following judgment from that hadith:
“If sins are repeated a hundred times, even a thousand times or more and if the person repents each time after he has committed a sin, his repentance is accepted. Even if he repents once for all of his sins, his repentance is valid.”
In another hadith, it is stated that if a person who repents repeats his sin seventy times in a day, he will not be regarded as to have insisted on his sin.3
The explanation Hazrat Ali makes regarding the issue is more interesting:
“I am astounded by the situation of a person who has the recipe of salvation but is destroyed. That recipe is repentance.”
Besides, the names al-Ghaffar and at-Tawwab means He who pardons and forgives a lot, who accepts repentance a lot, who forgives one who repents after each sin and who accepts the repentance of a person who repents. If God Almighty forgave His slave only once in his life,
He would not give him any opportunity to commit sins after that. That is, if Allah did not want to forgive, He would not give us the feeling to ask for forgiveness.
On the other hand, it is the grant, grace and gift of God Almighty to forgive sins. As it is stated in the hadith, it is the manifestation of justice to punish people due to their sins. As Said Nursi states, “It is the grace of God Almighty to forgive sins and His justice to punish.”
The generation of the Companions, who were trained and educated by the Prophet (pbuh), perceived that fine point very well. They understood the high names of Allah perfectly and practiced them in their lives. When the hadiths that were reported by them are examined, it will not be difficult to notice the level of their education and the capacity of their understanding.
For instance, Hazrat Anas informs us that no matter how many sins a slave has committed, no matter how many times he has asked for forgiveness, his request will not be left unanswered.
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) says, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) say,
‘Allah stated: O son of Adam! I will forgive you regardless of the magnitude of your sins and no matter how many sins you have committed if you pray to me and expect forgiveness from me. O son of Adam! If you ask forgiveness from me, I will forgive your sins even if they are so much as to fill the skies.
O son of Adam! If you come to me with sins that will fill the earth but without associating partners to me and without being engaged in polytheism, I will welcome you with forgiveness to fill the earth.”4
In a hadith, the Prophet (pbuh) tells us about the repentance of a slave due to a sin that he commits and his turning toward his Lord by likening it to the sorrow and sadness of a person who lives in the desert with his camel as follows:
“A person is in a barren, empty and dangerous land. He has his camel with him. His food and drinks are on the camel. He falls asleep. When he wakes up, he cannot see his camel. He starts to look for it but he cannot find it. While he is in a terrible state due to hunger and thirst, he says to himself, ‘I will go to the place where I was and sleep there till I die.’
He goes there and puts his head on his arm and sleeps to die. He wakes up to see his camel standing nearby. His food and drinks are on the camel. Allah becomes happier than this man when His believing slave repents and asks for forgiveness.”5
Will a mother throw her child into fire?
The mercy, compassion and pity of God Almighty are endless. They are enough for all His slaves and for the whole world. He will not leave His slaves that know Him but cannot refrain from sins and who have been enslaved by their souls on their own. In other words, God Almighty attracts His slave that turns toward Him to His mercy through creating various means.
That is, Allah has not created His slave to punish him; He has not sent him to the world in order to find an opportunity to send him to Hell. A person will not throw his child into fire due to a mistake he has made; likewise, Allah will not deny His endless mercy to the slaves who recognize Him as Lord and will not throw them into Hell.
Hazrat Umar reported us the glad tiding of the Prophet (pbuh) regarding the issue while narrating an incident that he witnessed as follows:
It was just after a battle. There was a woman among the slaves; she had lost her child. She hugged and embraced every child that she saw and suckled them due to her longing for her child. The Messenger of Allah said to the people around him,
– “Do you think this woman can throw her child into fire? They said,
– “No, she won’t.” Thereupon the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,
-”Allah is more merciful to His slave than this woman to her child.6
The hadiths inform us about the endless mercy and forgiveness of God Almighty. Similarly, the verses remind us an important point after giving us the general criteria as an infallible principle: Not to harm the consciousness of slavery and not to transgress the limit of respect toward Allah.
A person should not continue to commit sins after repenting and asking for mercy by thinking, ‘Allah will forgive anyway’ so that the mystery of slavery will not be lost. The Quran points out to this truth as follows:
“And those who having done something to be ashamed of, or wronged their own souls earnestly bring Allah to mind; and ask for forgiveness for their sins,―and who can forgive sins except Allah?,―And are never obstinate in persisting knowingly in (the wrong) they have done.”7
Spiritual elevation through sins
If a slave takes refuge in Allah more seriously and turns toward Him more sincerely due to a sin that he has committed, he can have a spiritual elevation. The Quran describes that truth as changing the sins into rewards.
“Unless he repents, believes, and works righteous deeds, for Allah will change the evil of such persons into good and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”8
God Almighty forgives the sins of those who confess their sins and repent and He also replaces their sins with rewards; thus, the sins change into rewards. Therefore, some hadith scholars say, “There are some sins that are more useful than worshipping for a believer.”
Everybody can make mistakes; or rather, everybody makes mistakes and commits sins. However, there are some good people among sinners. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states that goodness as follows:
“Everybody makes mistakes but the best ones of those who make mistakes are those who repent a lot.”9
Those who make mistakes can be good people by their repentance; what is more, they can be elevated to the degree of being a beloved slave of Allah. This glad tiding, which the Quran shows is one of the best glad tidings that Islam presents to man:
“For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.”10
The Prophet (pbuh) interprets that verse as follows:
“Doubtlessly, Allah loves His slave who repents repeatedly after committing sins repeatedly.”11
Being really aware of this love, our Prophet (pbuh) would repent and ask for forgiveness seventy times and sometimes a hundred times a day although he did not have any sins and he was protected against sins.
However, it is necessary not to misuse this glad tiding by saying demagogic words like, “Since sins change into rewards, is it not better to commit sins first and to repent after that?
First of all, such an approach is contrary to the good manners of slavery. It means to test Allah – God forbid – and not to take religious decrees seriously, which means not to be able to understand the essence of the issue. Against such a misuse, it is stated in many verses that the authority to forgive belongs to Allah and that He will forgive and punish anybody He wishes and attention is attracted to the balance of hope and fear.
Besides, will a person who commits sins thinking, “I will repent anyway” have the chance to repent? Will he live long enough to repent? Does he have a guarantee about it? Or, what is more important, will Allah give Him the opportunity to repent although his attitudes attract the wrath of Allah? They all need to be taken into consideration.
“A person who fulfills fards and avoids committing major sins is saved.”
However, the most important question of a believer who is exposed to the attack of hundreds of sins every day is to try to avoid sins, to keep away from places full of sins and not to approach the doors that are open to sins. In a way, he should drive away evil and keep away from bad deeds. It is very important in this age. A person can reach taqwa only this way. It is fard to abandon a haram, a major sin.
To fulfill a wajib is more rewarding than to fulfill several sunnahs. By sticking to taqwa, turning away once against the attack of thousands of sins hundreds of sins are abandoned; hence hundreds of fards and wajibs are fulfilled. Thus, many good deeds are done by the intention of taqwa and in order to avoid sins. In this age, “a person who fulfills fards and avoids committing major sins is saved.”12
The Quran informs us about that salvation, that is, those who avoid major sins will reach bounties, grants and the bliss of Paradise:
“If ye (but) eschew the most heinous of the things which ye are forbidden to do, We shall expel out of you all the evil in you and admit you to a Gate of great honour.”13
Then, “give life to your life through belief, and adorn it with religious duties. And preserve it by abstaining from sins.”14
1. Muslim, Tawbah 9.
2. Bukhari, Tawhid 35; Muslim, Tawbah 29.
3. Musnad, 5:130.
4. Tirmidhi, Daawat 98.
5. Muslim, Tawbah 3.
6. Bukhari, Adab 19, Muslim, Tawbah 22.
7. Aal-i Imran, 3:135.
8. al-Furqan, 25:70.
9. Tirmidhi, Qiyama 49.
10. al-Baqara, 2:222.
11. Musnad, 1:80.
12. Risale-i Nur Collection, 2:1632.
13. an-Nisa, 4:31.
14. Risale-i Nur Collection, 1:5.
Questions on Islam