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Sins and the Ability to Repent

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Professor AnsariyanMothers do not give birth to sinful children, and children do not come to this world defiled with sins.

When a baby comes to this life for the first time, his mind is empty of any knowledge, intellect, and information. He is completely ignorant of what is around him. When he comes to this world, he does not know anything, besides crying and suckling. At the same time, when he cries or suckles his mother's breast, he is ignorant of that too. Gradually, instincts, feelings, and lusts move into the circle of his physiological being, and these bodily activities enter into the field of his life. Then the baby begins to learn from the external environment and surroundings and from the conduct of the others what is necessary for him to survive in this life.

As for the body of a baby, it is vulnerable to different kinds of diseases and calamities throughout his life. The same is said about his intellect, soul, spirit, and heart. Concerning morals, he is also liable to commit sins and vices. Hence, sins are accidental to man just as diseases that attack his body. Sin is something accidental and not spontaneous.

Bodily diseases can be cured by following the instructions of a doctor, but intellect, spirit, and soul, when diseased, can be cured by following the instructions of the Almighty and obeying His orders.

If a sinner knows his state and notices his wrongdoing, and he knows what he should do and what he should not do, he must get ready to repent, to turn to Allah, and to follow the instructions of the "Spiritual Doctor", and then he will get out of the circle of sin to the circle of Allah's Mercy. Thus, he gets free of sins and becomes pure, as he has been born.

A sinner cannot pretend that he is unable to repent, because he who is able to commit sins is undoubtedly able to repent of those sins too.

Yes, if we who are able to eat, drink, come and go, talk, get married, work, play sports, travel, and associate with other people will curb all these appetites or activities if a doctor asks us to in order to avoid disease, then we should be able to avoid sins and falling into the abyss of corruption and disobedience. If sinners make excuses for not repenting, Allah will not accept their excuses. If sinners and disobeyers refuse to repent now, Allah will not invite them to repent later.

Sinners must accept the fact that they are able to refrain from sin in any case and any condition. The Qur'anic verses show that Allah is kind to His people, and He accepts their repentance and forgives sinners even if their sins are as vast as the sands of deserts. In fact, Allah may recompense sins with good doings.

Sinners must perceive that if they do not hasten to stop committing sin and being disobedient, and they do not purify their inner beings from sin's dregs, then Allah will torture them severely and punish them for their sins and crimes with the worst punishment.

Allah talks about Himself in the Holy Qur'an by saying:

"The Forgiver of the faults and the Acceptor of repentance, Severe to punish..." (40:3)

Imam Ali (peace be upon him) described God Almighty in Du'a Iftitah by saying, "I have ascertained that You are the Most Merciful of the merciful at the time of forgiveness and mercy, and You are the Severest Punisher at the time of punishment and revenge."

Allah declares to His sinful people His saying:

"Say: 'O my servants who have acted extravagantly against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the Forgiving the Merciful.'" (39:53)

Hence, if we understand the verses of the Qur'an that give us the good news that we have the ability to refrain from sins, and that Allah accepts our repentance and is Forgiving and Merciful, then we have no excuse if we delay repenting and keep on committing sins. Therefore, repenting of sins is a prompt, moral, and rational obligation for all sinners.

If sinners do not hasten to repent, and they refuse to repair what they have committed and to purify themselves from the filth of sin and disobedience, then in the afterlife when they stand before Allah, they will not be excused by appealing to reason, conscience, or wisdom. The Day of Resurrection will come, when sinners will stand with deep regret, calling loudly:

"Were there only a returning for me, I should be of the doers of good." (39:58)

Allah will reply to them:

"Aye! My revelations came to you, but you rejected them, and you were proud, and you were one of the disbelievers." (39:59)

On that day, no excuses will be accepted from sinners. Faith and good deeds alone will save them from torture. Allah emphasizes the inevitable end of such people when saying:

"And had those who are unjust all that is in the earth and the like of it with it, they would certainly offer it as ransom (to be saved) from the evil of the punishment on the Day of Resurrection; and what they never thought of shall become plain to them from Allah." (39:47)

Imam Ali stresses in Du'a Kumayl that there will be no excuse accepted from a sinner when not repenting and turning to Allah, and that Allah has completed His authority over people by saying, "You have the authority over me in all of that, and I have no excuse before Your judgment against me."

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the author's book Repentance: the Cradle of Mercy, available online.

Professor Husayn Ansariyan studied in the Islamic seminary of Qom under the most renowned scholars of the time, including Ayatollah Mar'ashi Najafi, Ayatollah Gulpaygani, and Imam Khomeini. He has written hundreds of books and articles on ethical topics, many of which are available in English on his website.

Author of this article: Professor Husayn Ansariyan
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