Friday Sermon: Repentance and Forgiveness

By Babatunde Jose

“And verily, I am indeed Forgiving to him who repents, believes (in My Oneness, and associates none in worship with Me) and does righteous good deeds, and then remains constant in doing them, (till his death).” [Ta-Ha 20:82]

At all times, we should be making supplications seeking the forgiveness of Allah for our minor and major sins and transgressions. Allah is a forgiving God and somewhere in one of the good books, we read: “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live? Ezekiel 18:23. We should therefore seek refuge in Allah from the evil of what we have done.

The benefits of asking for forgiveness is the wiping out sins, covering our defects, infallibility and the satisfaction of being forgiven, and the hope of entering Jannah.

During his old age, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, a renowned scholar of Islam and a famous theologian, was travelling when he stopped by a town. After salah (prayer), he wanted to stay for the night in the mosque. Owing to his humility, he had not introduced himself to anyone.

Failing to recognize Ahmad bin Hanbal, the caretaker of the mosque refused to let him stay in the mosque. A baker, whose shop was nearby, watched this scene and took pity on Imam Ahmed. He invited the Imam to stay with him for the night.

He watched as the baker mixed and kneaded the dough, tended the fire, and pulled hot loves from the oven, all the while uttering remembrances of Allah and Istighfar (asking for Allah’s forgiveness). In the morning, the Imam eagerly asked his host about the latter’s continual seeking of forgiveness. The baker said it had become like second nature, and Imam Ahmad then asked whether the man had experienced any reward from this practice. The baker answered, “By Allah! No dua I made except that it was answered but one.” When Ibn Hanbal asked what that unanswered prayer was, the baker responded: “To see the famed Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal.” At this, tears came to Ibn Hanbal’s eyes, and he told the baker, “I am Ahmed ibn Hanbal!” “By Allah! I was brought to your place so that you can have your wish come true.”

He will send rain from the sky upon you in continuing showers. And give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers. (71:12) See also Sura Hud (11:52)

Except for him who repents and believes and acts righteously from among them for such God will replace their mentioned evil deeds with good deeds in the Hereafter for God is ever Forgiving Merciful that is He is ever possessed of such attributes. (25:70)

If the slave repents and seeks Allah’s forgiveness for that error or sin, the Angel does not record it. And if the slave does not ask Allah for forgiveness, the Angel records it once. (Muslim). So, whenever we sin, let us rush to His forgiveness.

No anecdote exemplifies this need for asking for forgiveness better than the ‘parable of the wicked man’. Wicked man to us, but Allah’s tool in imparting a lesson to man. Razak was born a Muslim in a Akriboto village. All his life he was a non-conformist. Quick to anger, he was as temperamental as they come. Of the five pillars of Islam, he never imbibed any, except that there was God who reigns from heaven. He was a member of various traditional cults and during the Egungun festival, Razak had his own masquerade called ‘Afelolaiye’. Always rearing to foment unrest in the community, he was feared like Fadeyi Oloro in Koto Orun: An evil creature, who claims to use the skull of small children to drink palm wine.

One day, there came a preacher to the town who organized a 3-day vigil. Razak attended this vigil, and his takeaway was the promise of redemption for a repentant soul.

He went to an Islamic cleric to enquire on what he should do to get redemption. To his utter disappointment, the cleric told him that redemption was not for sinners like him. In annoyance, he beheaded the man. He went to another cleric who suffered the same fate.

The last cleric explained the process of redemption to him in detail, emphasizing the need for repentance and asking Allah for forgiveness. He was asked to leave the town for another abode where he would start life afresh and follow all the tenets of Allah and ask for forgiveness always.

Razak left the town with the intention of turning a new leaf. All actions we are told shall be judged by their intentions as seen by the All-knowing Allah. Our man had travelled some distance when he met his death.

The Angels of record asked Allah what to do with His slave. This is where the mathematics of judgement came into play. Allah asked the Angels to measure the distance from where he was coming from and the distance to where he was going. The Angels found that he was nearer to his destinations than to where he was coming from. Allah’s verdict: Razak was granted redemption and rewarded with Jannatul Firdous!

May Allah cause our acts to be recorded in the good books and reward us with Al-Jannatul Firdous.

The doors of repentance are always open, therefore, do not delay your repentance in a hope of tomorrow, as tomorrow is uncertain. Repent now and make it a habit to ask Allah’s forgiveness by reciting “Astaghfirullah”.

How many of us will cross that threshold between redemption and damnation? Who will be fortunate to receive Allah’s pass mark? Which one of us will have his iniquities written off like that of Razak and be given a ‘ get out of jail card? How many of us are Razaks but who have not repented and discarded our cloak of wickedness and garments of iniquities? How many of us have turned a new leaf and made the decision to jettison the life of debauchery and fornication, the life of robbing our fellowmen of their patrimony, stealing from the common purse, and spreading evil and corruption in the land? It is getting late and the night, nay, the grave beckons.  We are getting to the tipping point to the day Allah will ask the Angels of measure to survey the course of our journey. Will we make the cut-off mark? Let us reflect and examine our lives, it is not too late to change. Let us render what is Caesar’s to Caesar and give unto God what is His.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend. 


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