Ten Tools to Strengthen Ourselves against Sin
We need to cultivate in ourselves qualities that will help us stay away from sin and make it easy for us to repent when we fall into sin. The following ten qualities can give us the strength and resolve we need:
1. A strong resolve. The strength and weakness of our resolve is an important factor in whether we are going to fall into sin. It is one of the reasons why people exhibit inconsistent behaviour, repenting today and sinning tomorrow, then repenting again on the next.
There are ways to strengthen our resolve. We can to turn our hearts to Allah, beseech Him in supplication, and keep wholesome company. An optimistic outlook also helps, as is developing the habit of trying again after failure and avoiding despair.
2. Asking Allah’s help. We should beseech Allah in our supplications and ask Him to make us sincere in our repentance and accept it from us. Abraham used to call upon Allah with the words: “Our Lord, make us Muslims [in submission] to You and make our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You, and show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Pardoner of Sins, the Merciful.” [Sūrah al-Baqarah: 128]
Prophet Muhammad used to say, “My Lord! Forgive me and pardon my sins. Indeed, You are the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī (3434) and Sunan Abī Dāwūd (1516)]
3. Keeping away from environments that tempt us to commit sin. People are like the company they keep. And they will be resurrected in the Hereafter along with them.
4. Avoiding pessimism and despair. These negative feelings are Satan’s biggest window into our hearts. Those who commit sin often have a defeatist attitude. It is impermissible for a Muslim to dwell in despair. Allah says: “Never despair of Allah’s mercy. No one despairs of Allah’s mercy except the unbelieving people.” [Sūrah Yūsuf: 87]
We can help ourselves avoid despair by remembering the Prophet’s words: “I swear by Him in whose hand is my soul, if you were a people who never sinned, Allah would take you away and replace you with a people who would sin and then ask His forgiveness so He could forgive them.” [Sahīh Muslim (2749)]
We should also remember that the Prophet said: “All the descendants of Adam are sinners, and the best of sinners are those who repent.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī (2499)]
5. Striving to do good. All people are capable of doing good. We should engage more in prayer, reading the Qur’an , asking Allah’s forgiveness, fasting, and His remembrance. We should call other people to righteousness and discourage them from sin. We should be kind to our parents and help others. We should do whatever good we can. Allah says: “And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. This is a reminder for the mindful. And be patient, for Allah will not let the reward of the righteous be lost.” [Sūrah Hūd: 114-115]
6. Sincerity to Allah. When we are sincere to our Lord, and therefore sincere in our repentance, Allah helps us and makes things easy for us. In the Qur’an Allah mentions those who will be punished, then says: “Except for those who repent, correct themselves, hold fast to Allah , and are sincere in their religion for Allah, for those will be with the believers. And Allah is going to give the believers a great reward.” [Sūrah al-Nisā’: 146]
7. Avoid Distant Hopes. Be aware that life is short The Prophet said to Ibn `Umar: “Be in this world as if you are a stranger of a wayfarer on the road.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī: 6416]
Ibn `Umar would later comment on this by saying: “When you go to sleep at night, do not expect to wake up the next morning, and when you wake up, do not expect to live until nightfall. Take advantage of your health while you have it, and take advantage of your life while you are still alive.”
8. Contemplating the harmful effects of sin. These are many. They include:
A. Being deprived of religious knowledge: This knowledge is the path to Paradise. Knowledge is the light that Allah places in our hearts, and sins extinguish this light. When the eminent jurist al-Shāfi`ī was a child studying under Mālik, Mālik notices his keen intellect and quick understanding. He gave al-Shāfi`ī the following advice: “I see that Allah has placed light in your heart. Do not extinguish it with the darkness of sin.”
B. Being deprived of sustenance: In the same way that piety draws Allah’s provisions near, abandoning piety draws poverty near. Allah says: “Whoever fears Allah, he will make for him a way out and provide for him from where he does not expect.” [Sūrah al-Talāq: 2-3]
Many people amass huge amounts of wealth and then lose it all in a sinful business deal or squander it in ways that they know are displeasing to their Lord.
C. Finding life’s difficulties compounded: Allah makes things easy for his righteous servants. He says: “And whoever fears Allah, He will make matters easy for him.” [Sūrah al-Talāq: 4]
The opposite is equally true. The effects of sin even affect the sinful person’s servants and vehicles. They become a source of worry and stress. It is out of Allah’s mercy that everyone enjoys the world, whether they are believers or unbelievers, righteous people or sinners. However, nearness to Allah is a source of contentment and inner peace. Allah says: “Those who believe in Allah, He guides their hearts aright.” [Sūrah al-Taghābun: 11] and: “It is only through the remembrance of Allah that the heart finds ease.” [Sūrah al-Ra`d: 28]
D. Living in disgrace: Those who pay and receive bribes are disgraceful people, even if they amass millions. Those who engage in wanton sexual behaviour are debased and shameful in themselves.
The opposite is true for the righteous. Allah says: “Whoever desires honour and might [should know that] all honour and might belong to Allah.” [Sūrah Fātir: 10] When believers conduct themselves with righteousness, it makes them feel confident and at ease. It is related that the Prophet said: “Honesty brings peace of mind, while lying brings troubled thoughts.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī (2518)]
E. Spoiling life’s blessings: Sin is a form of thanklessness for Allah’s blessings. We show gratitude to Him by obeying Him and fulfilling our duties to Him. How many women live carefree lives in happy homes until they start indulging in sin and find their happiness turn to grief. How many young men fall into sin to find their lives unravelling and the world constricting around them.
F. Having a straightened life in this world, and punishment in the Hereafter. Allah says: “Whoever turns away from My remembrance, his will be a narrow life, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Judgment.” [Sūrah Tāhā: 124]
Some of those who deny Allah might live happily in this world because they resort to the appropriate means to attain their worldly goals. Allah says: “He had been happy among his people.” [Sūrah al-Inshiqāq: 13] This is because Allah is just and generous. Likewise, a believer might be beset by worries and anxiety because of psychological problems or due to childhood trauma, or on account of some tragedy. Mental illnesses are like physical ones, and patience is the best treatment for all sicknesses and difficulties.
9. Contemplating Allah’s wisdom in creating sin and giving people the ability to choose sin. This is because there are two kinds devotion we show Allah. The first is the devotion of the mind. We believe in Allah, submit to Him, and ponder His signs in Creation. We also keep dubious thoughts from our minds and remedy them by remembering our lord and seeking knowledge.
Then there is the devotion of our hearts. We love Allah, fear Him, and pin our hopes on Him. We abstain from indulging our base desires and perpetrating sins.
People can transgress with their minds and with their hearts. A good example of a transgression of the mind is what befell Satan. His sin was not based wholly upon his passions. He also laboured under the false notion that he was superior to Adam, and therefore refused to bow down to Adam when Allah commanded him to do so. Because of this disobedience, Allah cursed him.
This is different from what befell Adam and Eve when they ate the forbidden fruit. That was on account of their inner passions and desires. As a consequence, Allah forgave Adam and Eve and favoured them after the turned to Him in repentance. This was not the case for Satan, because his false notions prevented him from repenting and consequently deprived him of Allah’s mercy.
This teaches us the importance of being humble and soft-hearted in the reverence and devotion we show Allah. Sometimes we fall into sin to keep us humble and prevent us from becoming conceited on account of our deeds. It is related that the Prophet said: “If you never sinned, I fear you would fall into something worse: You would become conceited.” [Shu`ab al-Īmān (7255)]
This is why we should never despair of Allah accepting our repentance. We should always hope for His forgiveness. This is true even if we succumb to sin repeatedly, even after repenting for it.
10. Atoning for sins. Atonement takes many forms. Some are things that are decreed to befall us that we do not choose to bring about, like sickness, hardships in life, the pain of death, and the trials of the Day of Judgment. When we show patience in the face of such adversities, we receive more blessings and the atonement for our sins is greater.
Other forms of atonement are actions that we choose to carry out of our own free will. One of these is to ask Allah for forgiveness and doing good deeds. Allah says: “Ask your Lord’s forgiveness. Indeed, He is Most Forgiving.” [Sūrah Nūh: 10] and: “Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds.” [Sūrah Hūd: 114]
We can wipe away our sins by spending in charity, honouring our parents, maintaining family ties, and showing kindness to others. Believers should hasten to crowd out their sins with all the good deeds they perform. We should strive to have our good deeds outweigh our sins in the balance on the Day of Judgement. We should reign in our sins so they do not proliferate and consume our time and energy. We are defined by the preponderance of our deeds. When what we do is overwhelmingly good, we are good people, even if we have a few shortcomings. Those who are overwhelmingly bad in their conduct are bad people.
Satan causes some people to fall into perdition after committing a small sin by making them despair. Indeed, despair is a greater sin, because it makes the person stop trying to make amends and do what is right. That person then slops further and further into sin.
We must ask Allah to protect us and guide our hearts. We ask Him to cover our faults , give us relief from what distresses us, illuminate our paths for us, and forgive us our sins.
Source: en.islamtoday.net (May 6, 2014)