Question 82 : Assalaamu ‘alaykum Dear Respected Shaikhs,
I received the following below from one of my friends.
*Is it normal for the supplication, “Astaghfirallah”, to invoke connotations of guilt and shame. So by extension, if we are to seek forgiveness 70 times a day (one way through this supplication) we are to feel guilt and shame on a daily basis?
Now that I’ve written this down, it has got me thinking to maybe mould the relationship with the supplication with one to the mercy of Allah. The less sins we need to ask forgiveness for, the more that turns into a conversation of mercy.
Thanks for talking through this with me.
Answer : Walaikumussalam Brother,
This topic of feeling guilt and shame over sins, the way it is understood by some non Muslim religions, potentially has disastrous outcome whereas the way it is understood in Islam has very personally healthy and socially beneficial outcomes, alhamdulillah!
In Islam part of tawbah (repentance) is to ask Allah’s forgiveness for our sin, feel remorse for it which includes a healthy balanced degree/type of guilt and shame.
When a person realises that he/she is a slave possession of the Almighty Creator, their Lord, Sustainer, Most Compassionate and Forgiving, then a person knows that any sin committed is wrongly using a body God created for what He did not give permission to use it for. Hence comes in the guilt of doing that out of a fleeting temptation and resulting degree of shame for being an abuser of God’s rights upon us. However, God Himself informed us in Islam that “every human being sins and the best of sinners are those most frequent to repent”. Also we learn from a long hadith that when a person tries earnestly to not sin, then they do sin out of temptation that they failed to overcome due tobits strength, then so long as they are trying genuinely to not sin, God forgives them for ever what is done with that genuine try to reform. Hence a Muslim feels remorse over the mistake but knows his place as a human being a slave of God who God forgives so long as trying. Also the Prophet (s.a.w) informed us that were we not to sin, God would have replaced us with other creation that would sin and as a result know their own weakness and strength, thus not be arrogant but become more aware of their humble nature.
To sum up a few points, in Islam a Muslim is told by God via His guidance that every human is required to TRY to not sin but that God knows they will fail at times but so long as their failure makes them remain or increase in humility as a human towards God, then they have still succeeded in one thing (humbling of self to God, turning to Him to be better in future) despite failing in one thing (sin). Thus the mark of a true believer is to try to not sin knowing that at times they will fail but so long as they try and turn to God seeking sincere forgiveness feeling guilty of and shameful over their mistake then God will forgive their sin as though it mever happened, and use that to continue in future better aware of weakness so as to try better to not repeat. It is this realistic expectation of trying to reform, knowing that is all that God expects, it is this that contributes to a HEALTHY BALANCE between guilt / shame over the past failure on one hand and yet in the other hand an empowering sense of hope and optimism of forgiveness and a better future that is in their
hand to make, knowing that another failure with sincere remorse will again be totally forgiven so long as it is a genuine attempt at reform. Knowing that everyone sins, that God forgives and wipes your ‘slate of bad deeds clean’ if you felt guilty, shameful and aplogetic over the sin (rather than exulting in sin), this helps to not feel a disempowering guilt and shame, and instead to feel empowered that it is human to sin and so long as we feel apologetic for it and try to reform, we are back on the pathway to Paradise.
I repeated myself but only to emphasise the points being made under different contexts. Hope that clarifies despite the unprepared spontaneous answer.