Islamic Studies Overcoming Hardships Personal Development Spiritual Purification

Breaking the Cycle of Sin

Originally publish April 2010.

“I’ve disappointed myself one too many times in my lifetime. Going for the gold, reaching half way, then giving up as if it was nothing…as if it wasn’t worth it. Each time I do this, I’m left staring at my pitiful reflection in the mirror saying, “What the heck is my problem? What is it that I do not understand? Why do I not see Hell-fire in front of me? Why is it that I am so certain while doing these things that I’m going to Jannah (heaven), all the while justifying my idiosyncrasies with excuses galore?” we don’t take the time to realize why we commit sins, we may never be able to prevent them. There are many different kinds of mistakes, and pinpointing them makes a world of difference.

The first kind of mistake is that of ignorance. In these mistakes, we do not realize the dangers of disobeying the Creator. In times like these, we should take the advice from those who came before us when they said, “Don’t ever look at the smallness of the sin you are committing, rather realize the magnitude of the One you are sinning against.”

The next kind of sin is that which is done to simply follow one’s desire. We know that the action we are doing is wrong, and we know that we are sinning against the Almighty; yet we still do it out of weakness in controlling our own desires. It is in these matters that we need to gain self-control and self-restraint lest we be deemed of those whom Allah speaks about in the Qur’an when He says:


Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah? Then will you not be reminded? (45:23)

Another type of mistake is that which is known as the “Time Zone” Mistake. This is a sin that is directly influenced by a time or place that one is in. This could range from I only do this mistake if I stay up late at night or I only make this mistake when I go visit my friend at her house. These mistakes are the easiest to prevent if we are able to eliminate our entering the specific “Time Zone.” For example, if hanging out with a certain friend always results in you committing a sin, the best way to prevent that sin is to stop hanging out with that friend. At times, however, we are not able to eliminate the “Time Zone” element from our lives, and in cases like these we should resort to putting forth extra effort during the times that we know we are at risk for a specific sin. And of these “Time Zone” mistakes, there is another which is called the “Companion Mistake.” Our friends influence us greatly and when we are around those who sin, we increase our chance of sinning as well.

The worst of all these sins, however, is that sin which is done openly.  The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said: “All of my ummah may be forgiven except those who commit sin openly. It is a kind of committing sin openly if a man does something at night, then morning comes and Allah has concealed his sin, but he says, ‘O So and so, I did such and such last night,’ when his Lord has concealed him (his action) all night but in the morning he reveals that which Allah had concealed for him.”

Once these sins have been recognized, there are some steps that need to be taken. I have heard people say many different things about what to do after a sin is committed, but I find that the six-step remedy is the most comprehensive. These six steps include:

  1. Admitting your mistake;
  2. Repenting to Allah;
  4. Being serious about seeking change;
  5. Always realizing the result of the sin;
  6. And not being a candle – giving light to others and burning yourself.

In the end, we should realize that a doctor is not a doctor because she claimed to be. A surgeon is not a surgeon because she said she’s good with her hands. A teacher is not a teacher because she said, ‘I can teach.’ They first have to take a series of exams, and not everyone passes.


Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? (29:2)

May Allah cause us to be of those who see our mistakes and fix them, and of those who see other people’s mistakes and help them through it.

About the author

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref grew up in a small Texas city and was unexpectedly uprooted to Cairo, Egypt. The shift of countries precipitated a shift in her outlook on life; this, with her enriching experience in community activism—specifically social service, youth work, and Qur’anic Studies—provides for a rather enlightened perspective. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. Thankfully, her main outlet and therapeutic tool is to write, write, write! She keeps her own blog, contributes regularly to various publications, and – most importantly – you’ll find her entries on this site.


  • This article really spoke to me, it’s as if you were talking about me directly (lol, just joking, you know what I mean). Once again the reason why I love this site and the people involve, including brother Suhaib Webb. You guys write about things that are really important and relevant to Muslims living in the west. Thank you very much for the thought provoking and uplifting articles, may ALLAH continue to reward all those involved in this site. By the way, Iman Suhaib, when are going to visit south Florida? Salaams

  • The problem is desire.

    I and I’m sure plenty of other people desire; heaven on earth.
    We want women, money and fine things to eat and drink; all which promised in heaven without the tribulations. We believe in Allah(swt) but then our desires get in our; to watch that movie, to party with friends at the club, hit on cute girls..

    Sometime we control them; sometime we don’t. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe just means I’m weaker than starving kitten when comes to desire.

    I don’t always haram desire. I love peach juice and the best juice I had was in Turkey years ago. And I;m always looking for Turkish peach juice. I had several companies versions. Spent a lot money at high end European stores looking for it. Its just desire.

    So powerful.

    my personal demon is that I’m not married and don’t want to commit a major sin; so I commit a lessor to that one but still is pretty damn bad. I can resist my desires for a couple days or weeks but it comes back and overpowers me…

    I pray for strength; but my prayers are like the stock market.. up and down.

    If we could eliminate desire and keep our belief in Allah(swt). we could be perfect muslims, If any one has surefire to that within 24 hours. Has to be easy or more 99% of people won’t do it. Or fail trying. Pls. post it.

  • “May Allah cause us to be of those who see our mistakes and fix them, and of those who see other people’s mistakes and help them through it.”


  • MashaAllah – just a reminder about companions (in addition to what you have mentioned):

    “Allah ‘s Apostle said, “Allah has some angels who look for those who celebrate the Praises of Allah on the roads and paths. And when they find some people celebrating the Praises of Allah, they call each other, saying, “Come to the object of your pursuit.’ ” He added, “Then the angels encircle them with their wings up to the sky of the world.” He added. “(after those people celebrated the Praises of Allah, and the angels go back), their Lord, asks them (those angels) – though He knows better than them – ‘what do my slaves say?’ The angels reply, ‘They say: Subhan Allah, Allahu Akbar, and Alham-du-lillah, Allah then says ‘Did they see Me?’ The angels reply, ‘No! By Allah, they didn’t see You.’

    “Allah says, How it would have been if they saw Me?’ The angels reply, ‘If they saw You, they would worship You more devoutly and celebrate Your Glory more deeply, and declare Your freedom from any resemblance to anything more often.’ Allah says (to the angels), ‘What do they ask Me for?’ The angels reply, ‘They ask You for Paradise.’ Allah says (to the angels), ‘Did they see it?’ The angels say, ‘No! By Allah, O Lord! They did not see it.’ Allah says, How it would have been if they saw it?’ The angels say, ‘If they saw it, they would have greater covetousness for it and would seek It with greater zeal and would have greater desire for it.’ Allah says, ‘From what do they seek refuge?’ The angels reply, ‘They seek refuge from the (Hell) Fire.’ Allah says, ‘Did they see it?’ The angels say, ‘No By Allah, O Lord! They did not see it.’ Allah says, How it would have been if they saw it?’ The angels say, ‘If they saw it they would flee from it with the extreme fleeing and would have extreme fear from it.’ Then Allah says, ‘I make you witnesses that I have forgiven them.”‘ Allah’s Apostle added, “One of the angels would say, ‘There was so-and-so amongst them, and he was not one of them, but he had just come for some need.’ Allah would say, ‘These are those people whose companions will not be reduced to misery.’ ”

    (recorded in Bukhari and Muslim)

  • subhan Allah this is such a tight, tight post ma sha’ Allah, so needed, barak Allahu fiki wa jazaki Allahu khayran and ameen to your dua`

  • Perfect words to give me better direction and reminder I needed.
    May Allah swt inspire you to write similar posts.
    I am going to print this and post it on my wall. It needs to be read daily. I can honestly say that because I know we sin daily.

    Mash’Allah nice post.

  • to brother mike…one thing i could suggest to u is to increase ur nawafil ways to get closer to nawafil prayers ..those 2 rakahs anytime we think we are going to get weak..or the stronger ones fasting on mondays and thursdays…getting up half an hour before fajr for the tahajjud(qiyamal lail)…and always ..always asking Allah sincerely to keep u steadfast on His faith..make u a stronger obedient salve..and seek protection frm the shaitan and his whisperings…may Allah help us all

  • A man came to the Prophet and said, “O Rasulallah, the laws and conditions of Islam have become too many for me. Tell me something that I can always keep (i.e. in particular, as opposed to the many rules and conditions that must be kept in general).” By reading that the man said there were too many conditions to keep, one must understand that he was unsure that he could keep them all. He wanted something that he would be sure to keep always. The Prophet said: “(I am advising you in one thing:) Keep your tongue always moist with dhikrullah.”
    —— In Ahmad, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, and Ibn Hibban declared it fair (hasan)

    Al-Bayhaqee relates from Ibn ‘Umar radiallaahu ‘anhu that AlIaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “For everything there is a polish, and the polish for the hearts is the dhikr (remembrance) of Allah. There is nothing more potent in saving a person from the punishment of Allah than the dhikr of Allah.” It was said: Not even Jihaad in the path of Allah. So he replied: “Not even if you were to continue striking with your sword until it breaks.”

    Abdullah ibn Umar narrated, “Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, ‘Some hearts become rusty just as iron does when water affects it.’ On being asked what could clear them he replied, ‘A great amount of remembrance of death and recitation of the Quran.’ (Tirmidhi)

    And in the Qur’an:

    In Al-Baqarah, 2:152-157,
    152. Therefore remember Me (by praying, glorifying, etc.). I will remember you, and be grateful to Me (for My countless Favours on you) and never be ungrateful to Me.
    153. O you who believe! Seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer). Truly! Allah is with As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.).

    And also in Al-Kahf, 18:28,
    28. And withhold yourself with those who call on their Lord morning and evening desiring His goodwill, and let not your eyes pass from them, desiring the beauties of this world’s life; and do not follow him whose heart We have made unmindful to Our remembrance, and he follows his low desires and his case is one in which due bounds are exceeded.

    And in Al-Baqarah, 2:268-269,
    268. Shaitan (Satan) threatens you with poverty and orders you to commit Fahsha (evil deeds, illegal sexual intercourse, sins etc.); whereas Allah promises you Forgiveness from Himself and Bounty, and Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.
    269. He grants Hikmah (wisdom) to whom He pleases, and he, to whom Hikmah (wisdom) is granted, is indeed granted abundant good. But none remember (will receive admonition) except men of understanding.

    And in Al-Nisaa, 4:26-28,
    26. Allah desires to explain to you, and to guide you into the ways of those before you, and to turn to you (mercifully), and Allah is Knowing, Wise.
    27. And Allah desires that He should turn to you (mercifully), and those who follow (their) lusts desire that you should deviate (with) a great deviation.
    28. Allah desires that He should make light your burdens, and man is created weak.

    Beginning with myself, we need to strengthen our relationship with Allah, in Salat and with the Qur’an. Never underestimate the power of dua’. Maintain the company of the righteous, no matter how ashamed a person may feel, as it is a trick of Shaytan to make us abandon good company.

    Instead of big but short-lived improvements, we need to focus on small, but consistent improvements in our hearts and our actions. Below are some serious reflections and advice on avoiding the countless haram, countless weak, rootless filth that tries to make us fail time and time again. May Allah grant you and me and all of us forgivenesss and mercy, purify our hearts and make us steadfast on guidance. Ameen.

    (( Editor’s Note: Links removed ))

    • Assalamu Alaikum,

      Can anyone help me by answering this question of mine?

      What if i’ve committed a sin and someone asks me whether i’ve done it or not? Should i tell a lie saying that i haven’t done anything like this? And if i hide it from them, they might take it as an affirmation anyway.

  • From my personal experience I can say that the best strategy against the wickedness of nafs which makes one sin, is to increase knowledge and cultivate goodness, kindness, and mercy, for sinning is often bred by masochism. Treating oneself and others softly and kindly, avoiding backbiting and nourishing good will and opinion will help one a lot. Myself I have always found it very frustrating and ineffective to simply fight the temptation. I think it is definitely a part of the strategy, but only a part of it. Another part also can be to deceive oneself away from sin by playing tricks to one’s nafs. This may sound strange but it actually works if one is aware that the nafs is, among other things, a capricious child that we all carry within ourselves. It only takes to be aware of it and holding to that awareness. Even if one continues sinning, it will help to dissipate the magic that surrounds the sin and gradually weaken the lure of it. This I think is the crucial point, to take off the lure of sin, to see it as it is, ugly and harmful. So alhamdulillah I have found that many habits that I could never resist to and abandon, would at a certain point fall off from my heart and be repulsive to me. We should never forget that God has put elegance in everything He has created and we should employ it and be determined but easy on ourselves. Growing within is the real struggle but we should also recognize what this time is working on us as human beings and where we stand. We should recognize that we are living in a dejjalic world designed to kill the soul in us and we should have no illusions about it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) prohibited hitting one in the face, so if we think about the immense humiliation and depersonalization that we as “world citizens” have all suffered, we should recognize that masochism is more or less the lot of everyone of us and the only remedy to it is to be merciful to ourselves and around and is not mercy the essence of this religion?

    • MashaAllah I couldn’t agree more! We’re so (unnecessarily) hard on ourselves sometimes. It’s okay to feel bad, repent, and work to improve ourselves. Many of us (like myself) would sometimes have a hard time to forgive ourselves, thinking that we must be “perfect” at all times. Allah swt is The Most Forgiving because He knows we will make mistakes. We are not angels. But we are honored when we admit our flaws, apologize, and strive not to repeat the sin.

  • Well, not all doctors are good and fair either. Weary of doctors who really don’t care, and don’t want to treat you because your insurance is not good enough. Those professions who supposedly have the credentials are the ones who can still burn you. 🙁

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