"Truly Allah does not guide a people until they change what is in themselves."
There are some of us who have gone away from the path of Allah and are afraid to return. We, who are afraid to return to Allah's path, we, who are rejecting Allah's friendship, we, who are very na´ve, are also very foolish. We must not let Shaytaan deceive us. He promises us fun in this world, enjoyment of the worldly life, full of wealth, popularity, women/men, parties: plain enjoyment of the life of the world. Those who believe his promises have been trapped. For, Allah says in verse 268 of Suratul Baqarah, "The devil promises you destitution (extreme poverty) and enjoins on you lewdness (indecency), but Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself with bounty. Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing."
"He promises them and stirs up desires in them, and Satan promises them only to beguile." (Suratun-Nisaa 4:120)
As Sheikh Riyadh al-Haq said in his lecture: There are some of us who have a Satanic perception. For example, we think, 'Oh, because I'm a very bad person, I shouldn't pray salah. Because I'm a very bad person, I shouldn't observe sunnah. Because I'm a very bad person, I shouldn't keep a beard in trying to follow the sunnah of Rasoolullah (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) because people will think I'm holy and I may appear to be holy, but I'm not.' This type of person thinks, 'I am so holy that I have this great understanding of myself to be evil and sinful. And I'm very humble. I'm very honest about myself.' This is Satanic perception. (The same could go with a sister's hijab.) A person should never stop doing something good simply because a person thinks of what others may think and fears that, 'I am so evil that even this little (good) thing will not be accepted.' This is despair and despair is haram in the deen of Allah. One who despairs in Allah's mercy, Allah will despair him of His mercy, but if one is hopeful in Allah's mercy and forgiveness, Allah will deal with him accordingly. He will not deprive him of His forgiveness. Allah says:
"O my servants, who have transgressed against their own souls! Do not despair in the mercy of Allah; for Allah forgives all sins; He is oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Suratuz-Zumar 39:53)
Abu Sa'id (radiyallahu anhu) reported a narration in which he said that the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said: "Truly the devil said, 'By my honor, O Lord, I shall never stop misguiding Your servants so long as life remains in their bodies.' The Almighty replied, 'By My Honor, I shall never stop forgiving them so long as they ask forgiveness from Me.'"
Sheikh Shibli (rahmatullahi alaiyh) narrates an incident in which he was involved: "Once we were traveling in a caravan of travelers and were set upon by a gang of thieves and they surrounded the caravan and threatened us. All were Muslim men. They took our belongings and dragged us along to their hideout. They took us to their leader. The leader was in the hideout with the rest, so when they came to their leader, the thieves made a display of all the spoils of war and a display of everything they had gained in the raid and a lot of the things they had were dried foods, since travelers take dried foods on journeys, so the thieves were presenting these dried foods to their leader. The leader said, 'No, no, I'm fasting.' I couldn't contain myself, so I said, 'Subhannallah! You raid, you loot, you steal, you are the leader of a gang of thieves and you say you are fasting?' The leader replied (to me), 'Listen, I always try and keep something in which I could have the hope and mercy and forgiveness of Allah. I do not cut myself off totally from Allah azzowajal and I know how evil I am and despite my evil and despite my sins, I always try to hold on to something and for me, it is the fast.'" Sheikh Shibli continues, "Later, we reached the holy land of Makkah and I saw a person doing tawaaf around the Ka'bah and he had become extremely thin and frail because of excessive worship and ibaadah. And he was doing the dhikr of Allah and he was doing tawaaf around the Ka'bah with much fervor and with great feeling and devotion. When I looked at him closely, it was the same leader of the gang of thieves, so I went up to him to inquire and he said, 'Exactly as I told you, I always hold on to something in which I could have the hope in the mercy of Allah and through these fasts, Allah azzowajal gave me the towfique to repent and change.'" (End of part of lecture delivered by Sheikh Riyadh al-Haq.)
Subhannallah! Look at the mercy of Allah! How He accepted a good deed from a man who was terrorizing his own Muslim brethren by raiding and stealing from them. Allah gave him the ability to repent and change.
Another Satanic idea we shouldn't have in our heads is, "Oh, I'm not ready to change now because I want to enjoy life or when I do change I want to change all at once." Firstly, how do we know that in the future we will be given the chance to turn our lives around and devote ourselves to being true Muslims? How do we know when Izrael (alaiyhis-salam), the angel of death, will come to take our souls, instead of just visiting everyday, praying and hoping to take us to Allah soon? It is wrong to think 'I will do this, I will do that' without the will of Allah and we know not what the will of Allah is. Secondly, let it be known to those who wish to change all at once, it is impossible. The Qur'an, itself, came at a very gradual process, a period of twenty-three years. Let me give an example to show the process of gradual change. The example I'll use is alcohol. In the Qur'an (2:219), Allah says: "They ask you (Muhammad) about strong drink and games of chance (gambling). Say: In both is great sin and utility for men, but the sin of them is greater than their usefulness" This ayah says that intoxicants, such as alcohol, have advantages and disadvantages, but the disadvantages are greater and that using intoxicants is a great sin. After a period of time, a second verse was revealed about alcohol (4:43): "O you who believe! Do not pray while you are drunk, until you know that which you utter" In other words, do not approach salah while you have had alcohol or other intoxicants. This verse sets limitations, while the first verse only warned. Finally, a third ayah (verse) was revealed and this time, it prohibited alcohol (5:90): "O you who believe! Strong drink, games of chance, idols, and divining arrows (fortune-telling) are only an infamy (disgracefulness) of Satan's handiwork. Refrain from it so that you may be successful." The revelations of the Holy Qur'an were finally completed after twenty-three years. Why didn't Allah just reveal the Qur'an all at once? There are many reasons. One of them is that the Arabs of the time were so far astray that if they were told to refrain from a sin, like alcohol, all of a sudden, they would not have done it. This was even confirmed by a saying of A'isha (radiyallahu anha).
While the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) was in Makkah for thirteen years, the verses that were revealed, during that time, mostly dealt with the iman and Islamic behavior of a Muslim and after that was set, Allah revealed laws and regulations, because then, they would be able to handle it and obey. So, the Sahaba, themselves, changed gradually and Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) spent thirteen years in Makkah perfecting their iman before he migrated to Madinah. So, even the beloved companions of Rasoolullah (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) changed step-by-step and not all at once. The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "If you were to put the acts of Abu Bakr on one side and the acts of my whole Ummah on the other side, the acts of Abu Bakr would outweigh the whole Ummah." This is how strong the iman of this Sahabi was after so much devotion, time, and effort, and love he had for Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam).
Remember the story of the man who killed 99 men. For those who cannot recall or don't know the story, a man had mercilessly killed 99 men. He, at a time in his life, started to feel remorse and guilt over what he had done. He went to a religious man and asked him if he could repent over what he had done and if he would be forgiven. The man told him, "No." So, he killed him, and the total he had now murdered was 100 men. He then visited another religious preacher and this man told him, "Yes, you can repent, but you must go to this place." So, the killer, set out on his trip to his destination. On the way, he died. The angels of mercy and the angels of punishment came at the same time to take the soul. The angels of mercy argued that he had a pure intention of repenting and would've done so and deserved to be forgiven, but the angels of punishment added that he had mercilessly killed 100 men! So, Allah sent a third angel to settle the dispute. This angel came up with a solution: Measure the distance from where the man set off from to his body and then measure the distance from his body to his destination. If he is closer to his destination, the angels of mercy will take his soul. If not, the soul will be in the hands of the angels of punishment. By the will and mercy of Allah, the man was only a few inches closer to his destination and, Alhumdulillah, the angels of mercy took his soul. Look at the great kindness of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. He forgave a man, who had pitilessly killed one hundred men. Why? Because he had a firm, pure intention of asking for Allah's forgiveness without despair and, "Allah loves those who turn to Him." (2:222) What more could one say to convince a person of how forgiving the Lord of Kindness, the King of all kinds, the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, truly is?
"Allah is Lord of Kindness to mankind, but most of mankind gives not thanks." (Suratul Baqarah 2:243)
If, by the will of Allah, we make the intention of changing ourselves, we must try to change gradually with the hope of Allah's mercy and forgiveness. There will be times when it will seem like we will be astray forever, but this is a thought from Satan to discourage us, so always remember Allah's mercy and how much He loves to forgive and never give up. For some, the change takes only months, for others it takes longer, but we can do it as long as we have confidence in ourselves as well as confidence and faith in Allah, our Creator. It can be done by following the guidance of Allah's words and by the teachings and examples of His final Messenger (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam).
In conclusion, we must try our best to change ourselves from the level of the animals to the heights of the angels and we must be hopeful of Allah's forgiveness, His kindness, His mercy, and His guidance. And we must help each other, as Muslim brothers and sisters, in reaching to become the highest of the high, Insha Allah.
May Allah bestow upon us His mercy and His forgiveness. May Allah give us the towfique to want to change, to repent, and to turn our hearts to Him. May He give us the towfique to shake off the Shayaateen that hold us back from taking His path, the path of success. May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala give us the towfique to become such servants that strive for His pleasure in all that we do. Ameen.
Ash hadu alla ilaha illallahu wa ash hadu anna Muhammadan abduhu wa Rasooluh.
I declare that there is no God, but Allah, and that Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) is the servant and the final messenger of Allah.