1) Disregarding One’s Sins
From the things that prevent one from tawbah (repentance) is paying little attention to the sins he commits and belittling the sins he falls into, i.e., thinking that one does not have to repent from them and considering them as carrying a light punishment. This is a sign of one being led astray and we ask Allāh for health and strength. Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “You indulge in (bad) actions which are no more significant to you than a hair, while we considered them in the time of the Messenger to be great destructive sins.” (Bukhari, 6492)
“The major sins are the sins one commits and then considers them to be insignificant and underrates them.”
Consequently, it is not befitting for the one who has belief in Allāh and His Messenger ﷺ to underestimate the sins that he commits, but rather he should consider them to be great. This will enable him to make tawbah (repentance) and become remorseful over whatever sin he commits.
Al-Awzā’ī used to say: “The major sins are the sins one commits and then considers them to be insignificant and underrates them.” And he also used to say: “A man persisting in a sin is a sign that he considers it to be a small sin.”
Ibn ‘Abbās said: “Any sin a person persists upon is a big sin, and the sin a person repents from is not a big sin.”
Fudayl ibn ‘Iyād said: “Depending on how much one underestimates a sin will depend on how great it is with Allāh, and any sin one deems to be a great destroying sin, will be deemed in Allāh’s sight a small sin.”
2) Having Many Expectations
Yahya Ibn Mu’adh said: “Of the things that prevent the people from tawbah (repentance) is (too) many expectations.”
Shaytan (the devil) always strives to discourage the believer by saying to him: ‘take your time with regards to this, what is the rush? You have all the time in the world.’ As a result Shaytan deceives and makes the person procrastinate and the slave dies while sinning.
Allah the Most High says in the Qur’an:
يُنَادُونَهُمْ أَلَمْ نَكُن مَّعَكُمْ ۖ قَالُوا۟ بَلَىٰ وَلَـٰكِنَّكُمْ فَتَنتُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَتَرَبَّصْتُمْ وَٱرْتَبْتُمْ وَغَرَّتْكُمُ ٱلْأَمَانِىُّ حَتَّىٰ جَآءَ أَمْرُ ٱللَّهِ وَغَرَّكُم بِٱللَّهِ ٱلْغَرُورُ
“The Hypocrites will call to the believers: ‘Were we not with you?’ The believers will reply: ‘Yes! But you led yourselves into temptations; you looked forward for our destruction; you doubted (in faith); and you were deceived by false desires till the Command of Allah came to pass. And the chief deceiver (Shaytan) deceived you concerning Allah.’ [Quran 57:14]
Ibn ‘Abbās said regarding this verse: “But you led yourselves into temptations” that this means with your desires. Allāh says with regard to tawbah, “And you were deceived by false desires” meaning, you procrastinated with regard
s to righteous deeds. “Till the Command of Allah came to pass” means till death over took you. “And the chief deceiver deceived you concerning Allah” means the Shaytan.’
Shaytan (the devil) always strives to discourage the believer by saying to him: ‘take your time with regards to this, what is the rush?’
Therefore the steadfast, upright believer should make good use of his time and not procrastinate. He should give up living a life of longing, hoping and expecting so much in the future. Some of the Salaf used to say: “Be weary of procrastinating and always putting off things, for indeed it is something from Shaytan (the devil) and his forces.”
This is the example of a steadfast believer who lives a life minimizing his expectations and hopes. His example is that of a group of travelers during their travels, when they arrive at a town preparing to settle, acquiring (only) what they need, and then moving on to their next destination.
This is the true description of the believer in this world. He is merely passing through, so he only takes from it what he will need for his journey and has no time to do much procrastinating and delaying every opportunity that passes his way.
Abu Ali Ru’thabani said: “One of the things many are misled by is relying solely upon the mercy of Allāh. By doing so, they refrain from tawbah due to the fact that they believe Allah will always have mercy upon them.”
So the worst of the people are those who consider their sins not to be great and they are misled by this, believing that Allah will forgive them whether they repent or not.
Umar Ibn Thar’ra said: “O people who wrong themselves by disobeying their Lord, do not be misled into believing Allāh will always be merciful to you; be wary of such a delusion because Allah says:
فَلَمَّآ ءَاسَفُونَا ٱنتَقَمْنَا مِنْهُمْ فَأَغْرَقْنَـٰهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ
“So when they angered Us, We punished them and drowned them all.” [Quran 43:55]“
So do not think you cannot go to the Hell-Fire for just one sin you commit because Allāh says:
وَلَا يَخَافُ عُقْبَـٰهَا
“So he feared not the consequences thereof…” [Quran 91:151]
Did not a woman go to the Hell-Fire because of how she treated her cat? It is narrated that the Messenger ﷺ said:
“A woman was punished in Hell because of the cat which she had confined until it died. She did not give it food to eat or water to drink while it was confined, nor did she free it so that it might eat the vermin of the earth.” [Bukhari]
“Do not be misled into believing Allāh will always be merciful to you…”
A man might say a single word, and by it be thrown deep into the Hell-Fire.
“A person utters a word thoughtlessly (i.e. without thinking about its being good or not) and, as a result of this, he will fall down into the Fire of Hell deeper than the distance between the east and the west.” [Bukhari]
One of the greatest reasons why one falls into sin is carelessness, being heedless of Allah and being heedless of Allah’s punishment.
Someone preoccupied with worldly affairs will live a life of misery and destruction. The only way one can free himself from being heedless of Allāh is to be reminded, as Allah says in the Qur’an:
وَذَكِّرْ فَإِنَّ ٱلذِّكْرَىٰ تَنفَعُ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
“And remind, for indeed the reminder benefits the believers.” [Quran 51:55]
Muhammad Ibn Yunus reported: We were with Zabir Albāni, when a man said to him: “Advise us O Abu Abdur-Rahman!” He replied to them: “Be wary about which state you die upon, and that you do not die in a state of negligence.”
Allah, the Most High says in the Qur’ān:
قُلْ يَـٰعِبَادِىَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا۟ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا۟ مِن رَّحْمَةِ ٱللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلْغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ
Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allāh. Indeed, Allāh forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful. [Quran 39: 53]
Therefore, it is not befitting that a true believer distances himself from tawbah. Do not despair and think that Allāh will not accept your tawbah. Indeed, Allah is the Most Merciful, who always forgives his repenting slaves, and none despairs from the mercy of Allah except the disbelieving people. What one is ordered to do is to have a good opinion of Allah in all his affairs, even in the last moments of his life.
It is narrated from Nu’man ibn Bashir, who said regarding the statement of Allāh:
وَلَا تُلْقُوا۟ بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى ٱلتَّهْلُكَةِ ۛ
And do not throw yourselves into destruction. [Quran 2:195]
“If any of you sins he should not throw himself into destruction by saying ‘Allāh will not forgive me.’ Rather, he should ask Allāh for forgiveness – as Allah forgives all sins.”
A man once asked al-Barā’ Ibn Hazm: “O Abu Ammar, the statement of Allah: “And do not throw yourselves into destruction” – is this referring to a man who throws himself into destruction by meeting and fighting with his enemies until they kill him?” Nu’mān replied: “No this is not what is meant. Rather, what is meant is that a man commits a sin and then says Allāh will not forgive me!”
The slave is misled into believing that due to the fact he has done many righteous deeds he will be saved regardless of whatever sins he commits. He understands this from the statement of Allāh the Most High:
إِنَّ ٱلْحَسَنَـٰتِ يُذْهِبْنَ ٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِ ۚ
“Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds.” [Quran 11:114]
So he gives up tawbah altogether. Ibn ‘Awn said: “Do not rely only on your many deeds, because you do not know whether Allāh will accept them or not. Do not feel you are saved by the mere fact that you have made tawbah because is there any guarantee that Allāh will accept your tawbah? Your actions are concealed from you and you do not know what Allāh does with them. Maybe some could be recorded amongst the successful or maybe they could be recorded amongst the losers doomed to the Fire.”
Excerpted from the book ‘Purify My Heart’
[Also read: How To Deal With Doubts About Islam]