FALLING INTO SIN
IN TODAY'S SOCIETY, WHAT CAN ONE DO TO PROTECT HIS EMAAN, IMPROVE HIS
CHARACTER AND BE THE MUSLIM HE WANTS TO BE?
As one of only two Muslims in a small Kentucky town one summer, it was
hard not to notice the stares. Coming from a mostly Muslim setting, it
was a difficult adjustment for the sixth-grader visiting Christian
relatives. "I felt I went from being a perfectly normal, happy child
with many interests and friends, to something akin to a monster."
Everything about her suddenly became wrong; and so, beyond the eyes of
the Ummah, some set about fixing her. "The funny thing is that I was
taught to have a healthy respect for Allah's revelations. And that, in
part, is what they used against me. I was in a nightmare filled with
emotional vampires and spiritual cannibals and I knew this was not the
teachings of the honorable Prophet Eesa alayhes sallam. But I wanted to
be liked and accepted."
The second-generation Muslim, and seventh generation American, left the
town with her faith shaken in a God who could have put her through
that, and in her belief in the inherent goodness and oneness of people.
But mostly her emaan, her faith in Allah now felt just beyond her
reach. Her better instincts had been dulled. She'd done a few things
she felt ashamed of and she sometimes lapsed into small bouts of
depression. There was a small ball of anger eating at her gut. She
didn't think she could ever tell anyone about her experiences. She just
wanted to be left alone...
Your most valuable possession
In a time when faith in God is many times considered a weakness, where
the relationship between cause and effect are bandied about as
negotiable, emaan may seem like a fantasy at best, an albatross at
worst. The line between right and wrong is deliberately blurred,
redrawn and blurred again. Throughout time-ancient as well as
modern-examples of what comes of the convolutions of mankind abound.
Yet still we allow ourselves to be guided into the web of the true
delusion: that in going against the blueprint for mankind that Allah
reiterates in the Qur'an, we can cheat the fate our own hands wring,
that among ourselves we make adequate lesser gods.
Anyone who contemplates the verses of the Qur'an will find people are
ultimately responsible for their own deeds. Allah is not unjust to
anyone, that the reason behind a person's deviations is one's own self.
Deeds, by heart or limb, result in steadfastness or perversion. They
are linked together in the same fashion a consequence is linked to its
cause and an effect to its influence. And sometimes Allah plots for you
a course of hills, valleys and straightaways that will ultimately make
the legs of your deen-your emaan-lean and well-muscled.
Shoring up your Character
Allah guides those who perform good deeds. And the more we do, the more
guidance we receive. Likewise, evil doing feeds on itself. Ibn-ul-Qayyim
said, "This is because Allah likes good deeds and rewards on them, and
abhors evil deeds, and punishes for them." Scholars have taken this
truth and crafted the rule: "Recompense is according to deeds."
Here are a few Qur'anic verses relating to the loss of guidance and
decrease in emaan:
"So when they turned away (from the path of Allah), Allah turned their
hearts away (from the right path)." [61:5]
"I shall turn away from My signs those who behave arrogantly on the
earth in a wrongful manner. If they see all the signs they will not
believe in them. And if they see the way of righteousness, they will
not adopt that way." [7:146].
"And recite to them (Oh, Mohammed) the story of the one to whom We gave
our verses (signs), but he turned them away, so Satan followed him up,
and he became of those who went astray. Had he willed We would surely
have elevated him therewith but he clung to the earth and followed his
own vain desires. So his description is the that of a dog; if you drive
him away, he lolls his tongue out, or if you leave him alone, he
(still) lolls his tongue out." [7:175-176].
The last verse tells us that some even have knowledge, but instead of
applying it, they choose to follow their whims and worldly desires. In
the end they lose their blessing and stray from Allah.
The young girl was eventually ensconced within the circle of her Muslim
community but she had changed. She felt disconnected somehow. "I always
did good deeds and tried to be helpful. I made good grades. But I was
trying to sort out my relationship with people and was trying to see
myself. My anger had turned to hatred and I thought that feeling, that
rush made me brave. But it wasn't my nature, to feed off of that kind
of negativity. It wasn't who I thought Allah wanted me to be. It wasn't
what my family brought me up to be. I could never reach my potential
holding on to that baggage. "There was a time when I feared nothing but
Allah. And now I had to admit that I feared what people could do when
they discover you're different. Going to school, walking to the store,
meeting new people, voicing an opinion..." The more she hid and tried
to blend in, the more obvious it became that she was different. "I
didn't gossip. I dressed modestly. I stood up for what I felt was right.
I thought globally ... I achieved things and some people admired me.
But that made me uncomfortable because I knew that any good that came
my way or through me was the will of Allah. I never really belonged. I
had yet to really stand up for myself, to allow people to get to know
me on my own terms. I had created something of a prison for myself that
only I knew I was in." Everyone is solely responsible for his/her
deviation. Allah does not oppress anyone. Nor does Allah turn away
servants when they sincerely strive for guidance. Allah is the most
just. And He is the most merciful.
Deviation from the right path and the degradation of emaan are a result
of one's own deeds and a reflection of one's own behavior and
character. Muslims must always be aware of that. They should assume
they will face challenges sometimes and be ready to protect themselves
and to heal and to grow. The first step towards achieving that is to
know why and how does it happen. Most times it isn't the big wars that
defeat a people, it is the little internal skirmishes which go unmet
that eat away at character long before a clear enemy comes knocking on
a half-opened door.
WHEN WE SLIP
Emaan is the core of all actions. It is the motivation necessary for a
Muslim to accomplish whatever needed to lead a good life. Depending on
the strength of his emaan, a person may or may not be able to abandon
sinning, strive against his own desire and compel his soul to take
The strength of emaan does not only show itself in the apparent deeds;
true emaan actually fills and saturates the heart. Allah's Messenger,
sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, pointed out "three (factors), whoever has
them will find the sweetness of emaan: that Allah and His Messenger are
more beloved to him than any thing else, that he loves a person solely
for the sake of Allah, and that he hates to revert to disbelieve, as he
hates being thrown into hellfire." (Bukhari and Muslim) In another
hadeeth, Allah's Messenger, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam said, "(He
has) experienced the taste of emaan, who is contented that Allah as his
Lord (Rabb), Islam as his religion and Mohammed as a Prophet."
We have to be certain that our emaan is deeply rooted into our hearts. A
person may repent to Allah, following the path of righteousness, yet
emaan may not have entered his heart. So, at the first sign of
destructive desires, doubts set in and convictions dissipate. Signs
that this disease has entered the heart include rigidity of our
hearts, courage in committing sins and laziness toward good deeds.
Balance emaan with Islamic knowledge
Just as a person needs emaan for motivation, action and strength in the
heart, he, likewise, needs knowledge, to do what is right, rectify his
worship and purify his turning to Allah alone. When emaan and Islamic
knowledge are deeply rooted into a person's heart, there remains no
possibility for him to turn away from the path of righteousness. "The
seizing of amanah (trustworthiness) and emaan (which has been reported
in the authentic hadeeth) is not the seizing of knowledge,"
Ibn-Taymiyyah said, "For it is known that a person may be bequeathed
with emaan even though he lacks knowledge. An emaan like this one could
be snatched from his heart -like the emaan of Bani-Israel after they
saw the calf.
"As for the one bequeathed with both, knowledge and emaan, emaan is
never seized from his breast and such a person never reverts from
Islam. Conversely, if one is bequeathed with Qur'an alone or emaan
alone, emaan can be seized and this is the reality. We have seen it
often that the most to revert from Islam are those who recite Qur'an,
without understanding or emaan, or those who possess emaan without
knowledge and Qur'an. But as for the one who has acquired Qur'an and
emaan, and hence obtained knowledge, for this one, emaan is never
seized from his heart and Allah knows best." (Majmou'a al-Fatawa
The mere memorization of the Qur'an and concepts does not mean one has
acquired knowledge, especially since the Qur'an is read by the munafiq
(hypocrite), the mu'min (believer) and the illiterate. Al-Hasan Al-Basri
said, "Knowledge is of two types; knowledge in the heart and knowledge
on the tongue." So knowledge in the heart is the useful one while
knowledge on the tongue is Allah's argument against His servants."
Seeking Islamic knowledge saves thoughts from turning to desires and
sins because there is no spare time, and because those things pale in
the face of the joy of the revelation of truth. He will be so engrossed
in the pleasure of acquiring knowledge such that the chance of him
looking for activities that may weaken his emaan or cause him to
deviate will be minimum.
Slough the dead skin of sin
Allah says, "You counted it a little thing while it was very great in
the sight of Allah." [24:15] Some companions said, as reported by Anas,
"You are doing deeds which you view to be finer than a hair, but we, in
the days of the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, used to consider
them as major sins." (Bukhari).
Viewing sins as little things has adverse effects:
-The sins multiply in the sight of Allah.
-The path of repentance becomes distant, since he does not anymore feel
a need for it. It is the one who realizes its severity, adheres to
making istighfaar (asking for forgiveness) and regretfully seeks
repentance from Allah who has his sin erased.
-He is drawn to individuals similarly engrossed. This alone is among the
major factors behind a person's deviation. Moreover, it results in him
avoiding the gatherings where Allah is remembered. As a result,
opportunities that would otherwise help him remain steadfast on good
deeds are missed.
-The sin becomes a hard habit to break. Even if the sins are minor, they
gather around a person leading him to devastation, as Allah's Messenger
warned. Abdullah bin Mas'ood said, "Beware of viewing the sins as
little for they gather upon a person till he is devastated and
Allah's Messenger, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, has coined a
similitude for it as a group of people stopped in a desert and the
cook among them arrived. So a person would go and bring one stick,
and another one would go and bring one stick till they gathered many
of them, lit a fire and brought to ripeness all that they have thrown
in it." (Authentic, Ahmad)
Arrogance and pride are traps
These two attributes are among the worst for man to acquire. Arrogance
and pride led Iblis (Satan) astray, although he was in the company of
the angels. That happened because, Allah tells us, "I (Iblis) am better
than him (Adam). You created me from fire and him You created from
If one does not rid himself of arrogance and pride, an end similar to
that of Satan is a sure result. But even a little part of
them-especially if related to how one views one's worship-can very
devastating to one's emaan:
-Claiming perfection leads one to not feel the need to improve himself
through good deeds and other means of nurturing his emaan. But emaan as
stated by scholars either increases or decreases. Therefore, it will
certainly decrease when one does not work hard to increase it with a lot
-Admiring one's own deeds results in the gradual relinquishment of
worshipping Allah, because worship is based on humbling oneself to Him
and acknowledging that all the gratefulness is to Allah and to Him
alone. How could one be proud of his deeds while Allah's Messenger,
sallaallahu alayhe wa sallam, used to say, "None of you will be saved
because of his deeds." They asked, "Not even you Oh Allah's Messenger?"
He said, "No, not even me, except that Allah bestows me with His
mercy." (Bukhari and Muslim)
-When one loses the fear of requital it becomes easy to forget about
falling from the straight path. A sense of security in this aspect can
be the first step towards falling a victim to it. Would such an
arrogant person continually beseech Allah for guidance and seek
steadfastness on his path?
-Vanity leads to backbiting and rumor mongering. Moreover, whomever
mocks his brother about a particular sin will not die till he himself
succumbs to it.
As the little sister grew, she continued to work at healing and finally,
through salah, good deeds and study was able to rid herself of much of
the scars of the past. Though it was painful, she admits she learned
some valuable lessons that helped shape her deen and character,
strengthen her emaan and define her sense of humanity.
Tackle Tarbiyah with Joy
After a person has turned to Allah in repentance, he leaves behind an
enormous amount of evil ideas, perceptions and habits. It is not
possible to get rid of all the past by a mere repentance to Allah. A
personal training effort (Tarbiyah) is required to erase all the
effects. An effort that ingrains the right emaan and sufficient Islamic
knowledge to further pave the road with a firm foundation. Taking a
quick look at the apostasy events that occurred in the days of the
Prophet, sallaallahu alayhe wa sallam, much evidence supports this
fact. Was there any among the Muhajireen or Ansaar who defected? Were
there any defectors among those who witnessed the battle of Badr? Or
the Ridwaan Pledge? Or those who accepted Islam in its initial phase?
Were there any of those among the apostates about whom Allah says,
"Only those are the believers who have believed in Allah and His
Messenger, and afterward doubt not but strive with their wealth and
their lives for the cause of Allah. Those, they are the truthful."
Most of the apostates/defectors comprised those who had just recently
entered the circle of Islam and had not yet received the type of
training that would instill emaan and its branches in their heart. Mere
repentance and an apparent change are neither the first step nor the
last. In fact, it is only one step in the right direction, which is
followed by putting in an effort to attain emaan and taqwa. To attain
emaan and taqwa, find a group which assists through regular encounters.
One cannot be expected to experience the fruits of brotherhood and
sisterhood, when isolated and not practically involved with others.
Find an appropriate example that can help one stand up against daily
challenges by holding tight to the rope of Allah altogether.
However, the being within a group must hinder one from developing his
own formidable relationship with Allah in the form of deeds far away
from the sight of people. One must spend the effort in worship at
night, charity, siyaam, seeking knowledge and so on. One must try to
create an intuition of individual responsibility within himself as it
is established in the Qur'an, "Whoever goes right, then he goes right
only for the benefit of his own self. And whoever goes astray, then he
goes astray to his own loss. No one laden with burdens can bear someone
else's burden." [17:15].
Furthermore, Allah's Messenger, sallaallahu alayhe wa sallam, explains
how a person is responsible and accountable for his own deeds by
saying, "There is none among you but his Lord will speak to him without
an interpreter. He will look to his right and will find only his deeds.
He will look to his left and will find only his deeds..." (Bukhari &
Muslim) All this and much more must make a person aware that his being
in a group is good and recommended, but still it does not exempt him
from the individual responsibility he has to account for on the Day of
Predominance of desires
Deviation from the right path is caused by one of the two factors-
either doubt which has mixed with clarity and truth, or desires which
predominated a persons heart and hence, deviated and obstructed him
from the truth and obeying Allah, a factor clearly noticed in our days.
The ones who repent and turn to Allah are just as human as any one else-
they desire as others do. The problem of lustful desires begins
primarily with an evil look or idea and ends with flooded actions or an
erupted volcano-leading a person to perversion.
You find a person following the path which pleases Allah but once he
sights something forbidden (e.g., a beautiful woman), a struggle in his
heart begins; the light of emaan is kindled within him calling him to
repent and turn to Allah. Eventually, the pitch of this call is reduced
and the call of the desire rises. In this way, an immense struggle
within begins. At one stage, the call of emaan might predominate and he
overcomes this hurdle, even if the dust of the sin might have touched
him, which he immediately washes off with repentance and good deeds.
On the other hand, he might respond due to a weakness in emaan and the
light of desire rises and predominates, ensnaring his heart and
obstructing any chances of turning to Allah. As a result, he falls
victim to the sin and can not turn to Allah in repentance, which would
raise him from this downfall. At this moment, he would say to himself,
"You have already been affected by the dirt of sin, so you might as
well keep on going. So many times you have tried to repent, but to no
avail. You are weak, there remains no hope for you to repent, and your
way is different from that of the pious!"
The ugly gut of excessiveness
Whenever Allah commands us to do something, Satan incites us to fall
into either extreme-either exaggerating the act on one hand or be
negligent and careless about it on the other. Even though the latter is
a common phenomenon with many, Satan chooses to incite one towards the
opposite extreme of exaggeration and immoderation. Accordingly, we have
been warned against taking such an approach as Allah says, "Say, O
people of the scripture, exceed not the units in your religion."
And Allah's Messenger, sallaallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "Beware of
ghulow (excessiveness) in religion, for indeed, what devastated those
before you was ghulow in religion." (Nisaai) In another hadeeth he
said, "Those who go to extremes (in preaching their religion) were
killed and destroyed." (Muslim).
Being immoderate in worship is a deviation in itself, but nevertheless,
it is not the end of the road. When a person takes the first step
towards immoderation, he overloads himself in a manner while an easier
path could have been opted for.
One might be capable of enduring this path for some time, but eventually
after recognizing the tiresome effort he had to sacrifice, he starts
contemplating a retrieve. But here, the excitement which led him in the
first place to chose the road of extreme immoderation will not be
sufficient to return him to the road of balance and moderation. In
fact, it will transfer him to the opposite extreme of negligence and
carelessness. None of this overburdening approach is encouraged in
Islam since we should always remember that our deeds alone are not
good enough for us to enter Jannah. Allah's Messenger, sallaallahu
alayhe wa sallam, clarified this by saying, "Be moderate and practice
the same in proportion and know that your deeds will not make you
enter Jannah and the most beloved deeds to Allah are those which are
regularly done even if they were little."
Choose friends wisely
There is no doubt that the company of friends influences the formation
of our characters. For this reason, Allah's Messenger, said, "A person
is influenced by his companions religion, so watch who your companions
are." (Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi) This influence is acquired from two
1. The first is acquired in the company of relatives, neighbors, school
and all those with whom a person is compelled to spend time.
2. The second type of influence is acquired within more religious
company which is likely to meet those who are less concerned. Though
they pray and fast, they are less serious in carrying the message of
Islam, dawah, sacrifice, etc. And if a person's faith is weak and is
inclined towards desire and negligence, he will find comfort in this
The effects of this influence become apparent through certain factors
that include doing things he never used to do before. He begins
considering those on the deviated path as examples in life and as a
result, he starts imitating them saying, "If he can do this, why can't
He begins to please others at the expense of pleasing Allah by
performing actions never done before or abandoning some good deeds. He
abandons, for example, praying sunnah, or starts showing up late for
congregation salah, starts getting used to watching and hearing
forbidden things- as a result, he even stops forbidding the evil. All
this is no doubt a consequence of weak emaan and the influence of
either a bad company or a group who are less serious with Islam and
more inclined towards desire.
On the Path to Righteousness
Change can happen sometimes in the blink of an adjusted perspective. For
many Muslims living in the West, it is simply the realization that it
is just as hard to live in a self-styled prison of ego and desire as it
is to strive toward the right path. Freedom of choice and religion only
develops and grows when it is exercised.
There is no doubt that the diagnosis of the causes behind an
individual's deviation is a primary step towards treatment. But what is
Concentrate on tarbiyah (constant self-development)
particularly from the spiritual aspect. See everyday challenges as an
opportunity to exercise truth, patience, good deeds, courage and
constancy. One is encouraged to nurture his emaan by performing
righteous deeds as Allah says, "O you who believe, believe in Allah and
His Messenger..." [4:136] Usually, emaan is present in the hearts of
people but still, they are encouraged to nurture and increase it.
Be sincere and truthful to Allah.
Ikhlaas (sincerity) is a privileged characteristic for those who seek
Allah's pleasure. Its absence displaces a person's deeds, and it is a
requirement by everyone as Allah says, "And they were commanded not,
but that they should worship Allah, making their religion sincere for
him and offer salahs perfectly and give zakah and that is the right
Ibn-Al-Qayyim, may Allah's mercy be upon him, further clarifies the
effect of Ikhlaas and truthfulness on a persons perseverance on the
path of Islam. He said, "A person experiences difficulty in abandoning
(bad) habits and customs only if he does so for the sake of other than
Allah. As for he who abandons them truthfully and sincerely with his
heart, he does not experience any difficulty except in the first
attempt, to be tested whether he was truthful or not. So if he remains
a little patient during that difficulty, desire would not last any
Being fearful of an evil death
A sincere believer must be overwhelmed with the fear of dying in a state
that would displease Allah. This was the condition of the righteous
predecessors- due to a constant fear of an evil death while in a state
of Islam since, if a person falls victim to a sin, a state of
negligence and transgression, it overpowers his heart and mind. A state
in which his light is extinguished, and his vision blocked- a moment
when no reminder would benefit- here, death might surprise him. He
would die in a state that would attain the wrath of Allah. Therefore,
one must always be fearful of an evil death and hence, use every moment
in a manner that pleases Allah, even though uncertain whether it is
accepted by Allah or not. He says, "And those who give that which they
give (good deeds) with their hearts full of fear (whether accepted or
not) because they are sure to return to their Lord (for reckoning)."
Supplication is a Muslim's refuge and resort when he is encountered with
hardship in this world. One must always turn to Allah and seek His
assistance. Allah's Messenger used to supplicate, "O rotator/turner of
the heart, make my heart steadfast on your religion." (Tirmidhi) And
he also used to say, "O Allah, increase my knowledge and do not let my
heart deviate (from the truth) after you have guided me and grant me
mercy from You. Truly, you are the bestower." [3:8] These and many
other forms and occasions of supplication makes one realize his need
to invoke Allah for guidance searching for its causes and abstaining
from all that blocks a persons urge to obtain it.
Persistence in doing good
The best of deeds and the most beloved of it are those which a person
does constantly as Allah's Messenger said, "And the most beloved of
deeds to Allah are those which are regularly done even if they were
little." (Bukhari & Muslim) Regular persistence in doing good deeds
eventually becomes a habit and a part of ones daily life after an
initial struggle to practice it. This persistence in good deeds
(salahs, charity, siyaam, and thikr...) will make one live in the light
of steadfastness and righteousness, and far away from deviation and its
Advice and counseling
When someone starts showing the signs of deviation, he must be
immediately advised, as it is one of the rights on a fellow Muslim.
Jabir bin Abdullah said, "I made a pledge to Allah's Messenger to offer
salah, pay zakah and advice every Muslim." (Bukhari & Muslim)
Counseling one another was the trend practiced by the companions of the
Messenger of Allah and if any of them showed any signs of weakness,
they would never hesitate in advising him. This must be our case. We
must not ignore anyone at the time of his weakness in emaan, because
such ignorance is a way of assisting Satan against our brother.
Participating in the dawah work
There are many fruits obtained doing dawah. One who strives in seeking
guidance for people is certainly guided by Allah. The one, who calls
people to do good deeds, will in turn be motivated to perform the deeds
he is asking people to do. Being involved in dawah keeps one from acts
that might result in deviation. There is a sweetness of emaan a person
feels when he observes people turning to Allah instead of observing
things forbidden by Him.
After spending some time pondering over this problem and its causes and
remedies it is clear that emaan is a blessing for which we each must
strive. If it is missing, it is we who misunderstand or underestimate
the power of our relationship with Allah. We must acknowledge the great
value of strong emaan. It is a lifelong challenge we must accept with
joy. And for those who succeed, they will be the first to acknowledge
that it is not due to their mental agility or consistent efforts as
much as it is a bounty from Allah, a bounty that deserves to be
protected and cared for in our hearts and in our lives.