Knowingly or unknowingly, we all sin and make mistakes. This is something from our nature as human beings that we will never be able to completely overcome. We all fall into that second look or say a white lie or miss a salah (prayer). While we may repent from the sin after, an aspect that is generally forgotten are the very real effects sins have in our lives.
It is from the sunnah (tradition) of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) that He establishes balance and justice. When we sin, we’re transgressing against ourselves, and transgression by definition is an imbalance. This is why in the famous ayah (verse) in Surah Zumar where Allah (swt) tells us not to despair of His Mercy, He doesn’t say, ‘O My slaves who have committed many sins,’ but rather He says, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against themselves‘ (Qur’an 39:53)—highlighting that sin is a transgression and it is against one’s own self.
In order to rectify the imbalance caused by sins, harm may affect a person as a consequence. This is alluded to many times in the Qur’an; for example, Allah (swt) says, “And whatever strikes you of disaster – it is for what your hands have earned; but He pardons much,” (Qur’an 42:30). And He says, “…but what comes to you of evil, [O man], is from yourself […]” (Qur’an 4:79). The Messenger ﷺ (peace be upon him) also indicated the cause and effect relationship between sinning and harm in the following narration, “A man is deprived of provision because of the sins that he commits,” (Ibn Maajah, Hasan).
It is important to realize this relationship between sins and the problems in our lives because a lot of times as humans we tend to deflect the cause of something harmful to someone or something other than ourselves. True, it may be that the harm originated from a source other than us, but it may be that the reason it originated in the first place was the sin we committed. We forget that whatever is happening to us may in fact be a result of a sin that we regarded as insignificant. It is rare that we attribute something evil befalling us as a consequence of our own disobedience to Allah (swt). The Companions and the early Muslims had this understanding of the effects of sin and would actively engage in seeking tawbah (repentence) in order to wipe them out. They understood the reality of actions and the way they affected one’s life.
This is highlighted in their statements and actions. For example, in the famous poem of Imam Shafi’i where he complains to his teacher about bad memory in seeking knowledge, he is advised to cease sin. And Imam Abu Hanifa, when he would be confronted by a fiqh (jurisprudence) issue that he was unable to conclude, would attribute his inability to decipher it to a sin that he had committed and would consequently get up and pray two units of prayer in repentance. In fact, the understanding of this reality was so deep with the early Muslims that they would say that if they disobeyed Allah (swt), they would see the result of their disobedience in the attitudes of their spouses. This understanding of the effects of sin is elaborated further by Abdullah ibn Abbas radi Allahu `anhu (may Allah be pleased with him) who said,
“Good deeds make the face light, give light to the heart and bring about ample provision, physical strength, and love in people’s hearts. Evil deeds make the face dark, give darkness to the heart, and bring about physical weakness, lack of provision and hatred in people’s hearts.”
This statement is interesting because he draws a parallel between the effects of sins and the effects of good deeds. Good deeds result in good whereas evil deeds beget evil. This is a Qur’anic principle as Allah (swt) says, “Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life […]” (Qur’an 16:97) and He says “And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressed life […] ” (Qur’an 20:124).
If we engage in deep self-reflection and self-audit and analyze the problems in our lives, we will definitely find that most of them are a result of our sins. It is important that we try and instill this understanding of the effects of sins within ourselves so that we can actively try to cease from them. It can be asked though, why allow harm to result from sin in this life? Allah (swt) informs us of the wisdom behind this,
“Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness].” (Qur’an 30:41)
The profound truth is that the reason we are harmed by sins in our lives is that it is in fact a Mercy from Allah (swt). Why? To get us to return back to Him in repentance. Would it be better that He allowed us to continue sinning inconsequently and then took us to account altogether on the Day of Judgment? Or is it better that He (swt) gives us some problems as a result of our sins so that we can reflect and return to Him by making tawbah? Going back to the earlier point about balance, it is important to understand as well that the harms that come to us as a result of our sins are the very expiation of our sins. Aisha (ra) narrated that the Messenger ﷺ said,
“No trouble comes to a believer even if it is the pricking of a thorn that it becomes (the means) whereby his sins are effaced or his sins are obliterated.” [Muslim]
Taking all this into account, we can understand that our sins (and our good deeds) have a spiritual consequence that translates into our daily lives even if it is not apparent. The benefit of this is that it will allow us to i) put in more effort to stop sinning; ii) to accurately analyze the problems and harms that befall us so that we can see if it is because of our sins and react accordingly; iii) to actively engage in tawbah and istighfaar (seeking forgiveness) to return to Allah (swt); and iv) to increase in good deeds. Instilling this into ourselves will help us think twice before committing a sin and remove hesitation in doing good deeds. This will, insha’Allah (God willing), allow us to have a closer relationship with Allah (swt) as well as make us more aware and conscious of our actions.
Mansoor, does a sincere and accepted repentance prevent the sin(s) we repented from from coming back to bite us in this world? Like, if I repent from every sin I have ever committed and Allah accepts my repentance, have I removed any chance that a sin I committed in the past will cause me to suffer any harm in this world?
Here is my answer for you:
Umar ibn Al-Khattab reported: Some prisoners of war were brought in front of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and a woman was among them who was breast-feeding. Whenever she found a child among the prisoners, she would take it to her chest and nurse it. The Prophet said to us, “Do you think this woman could throw her child in the fire?” We said, “No, not if she is able to stop it.” The Prophet said, “Allah is more merciful to His servants than a mother is to her child.”
And Allah (swt) says in the Quran (surat Al-Baqarah): And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near
Good point….but are all problems and harms because of sins or are some trials??? Because the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wassallam never sinned but he still faced a number of difficulties in his life…
Assalamaualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh
If you simply say nothing about Allah and His Messenger except what you get from the Quran and sunnah you can avoid such problems.
We know that the Prophet salalahualayhiwasalam was held to a far higher standard-just look at a tafsir of Surah Abasa.
But to exaggerate things, or to say things that aren’t found in the Quran and Sunnah only damages the religion. It creates differences and then problems. Surely the worst of affairs is bidah.
Muhammad ibn Ishaaq ibn Ibraheem, the mawlaa of Thaqif, narrated to us: Abdullah ibn Umar ibn Abaan narrated to us: Hussain ibn Alee Al-Ju’fee narrated to us: from Fudail ibn Iyaad: from Haashim: from Muhammad: from Aboo Hurayrah who said, “Allaah’s Messenger, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, said:
If Allaah were to seize me – and the Son of Maryam – because of what these two have earned [i.e., the thumb and the one next to it] He would punish us and He would not have oppressed us at all.”
Authentic ∣ Saheeh Ibn Hibbaan, no. 656.
I do agree with the article; but that there r many facets to the topic, The wisdom behind most of which r known only to Allah. Somehow i feel the way its written causes more despair than hope.
Its human to sin, it can’t b prevented. But repentence and dua is the backbone of ibaadah. Allah is ar Rahman and Ar- Raheem. So cheers…
Salam Alaikum Sister
You see, in the East we always talk about fear of Allah, to the extent that the word ‘Allah’ is only associated with fear. While in the West we always talk about hope in Allah’s mercy, to the extent that it’s considered ‘depressing’ to think of anything as a punishment from Allah. Two extremes. In reality, Iman is something between the fear of Allah and the hope in His mercy. So I guess it’s all right if there is one article talking about our deeds 🙂 since no one talks about the effects of our deeds here in the West. There is no reason that we shouldn’t fear our sins, there is also no reason why we shouldn’t have faith in Allah’s mercy. Personally, I feel it is better to be humble than to have even a grain’s worth of arrogance in one’s heart.
Thanks for the thoughtful article and for highlighting the link between sin and harm in one’s life. However, it is important to be cautious in overstating the link between sin and problems/trails one may experience: http://huff.to/NxX8TF
“Humility can exist in a lot of different forms, as can arrogance. It’s not OK to pretend that we know the answers to questions that are not for us to know the answers to. I’ll never really be able to tell that girl why, in the grander scheme of things, she was molested as a child. My role is to help her reach her potential best, despite what she had gone through. This would not come from simply saying, “This is a test from God so be patient” or something like that. We have turned many hearts away from God by answering questions on His behalf in ways that make no sense.”
Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh
If you want to answer these questions, look to the book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet salalahualayhiwasalam because this is guidance.
Thank you for this piece. It bought to life something many people say about us being punished in this life for our sins in a new light with deeper meaning. I needed to read this. Jazakhallah
We all are responsible for our actions and we only human and therefore make mistakes,Allah promises us that we will all be tested. To earn our place in Jannah.
Allah created us to worship him,we rely on Him, we depend on Him, so please brothers and sisters, do not make this a debate, just follow Quran And Sunnah.
It is the solution to all our problems.Alhaumdulilah.