As youths (young men and women) we are at that stage in life and in an environment that we are constantly exposed to temptations and sins. The effect of this is that, what goes on around us affects us, and gradually, we also try to imitate what we see around us. This could be because we do not know that some of these things that we imitate or copy are sinful, or due to weakness of our faith.

The question we should all find answers to are: What exactly are sins and how do we prevent ourselves from falling into them? And if we still fall into sin, how do we make amends? So what exactly are sins? Waabisah ibn Mabad (RA) said, "I came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and he said, "You have come to ask about righteousness and sinfulness?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Consult your head.

Righteousness is that which makes the soul feel tranquil and the head feel tranquil. And sin is that which makes the soul waver and the breast uneasy, even if the people have given you [their] verdict on it and [continue] to give you [their] verdict."" (Ahmad). It was also narrated by al-Nawwaas ibn Samaan (RA) who reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, "Righteousness is good character. And sin is that which wavers in your soul and which you dislike the people finding out about." (Muslim) Sin is defined as an act for which its performer is deserving of blame and censure and it encompasses every form of evil deed, large or small. From the ahadiths quoted above, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) pointed our attention to two important signs of a sin.

One sign is internal, it is a feeling of the soul with respect to the act. The second sign deals with the outward reaction to the act itself. Sin causes a soul to be uneasy, troubled and worried about the consequences of the sin. The soul also hates that anyone should find out about the sin that it has committed. Why do we commit sins? Two clear reasons are that human beings are weak by nature and also the temptations we fall are too many. So we are weak and we easily fall to temptations except those that Allaah protects. Allaah says: "and man was created weak"(Q4: 28).

The temptations are also very many. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "When Allah created Paradise, He said to Jibril: Go and look at it. He went and looked at it, then came and said: O my Lord! By Thy might, no one who hears of it will fail to enter it. He then surrounded it with disagreeable things, and said: Go and look at it, Jibril. He went and looked at it, then came and said: O my Lord! By Thy might, I am afraid that no one will enter it. When Allah created Hell, He said: Go and look at it, Jibril. He went and looked at it, then came and said: O my Lord! By Thy might, no one who hears of it will enter it. He then surrounded it with desirable things and said: Go and look at it, Jibril. He went, looked at it, then came and said: O my Lord! By Thy might and power, I am afraid that no one will remain who does not enter it." (Abu Dawud)

Forgetting the remembrance of Allaah: Allaah says:, "And those who, when they have committed Fahishah (illegal sexual intercourse etc.) or wronged themselves with evil, remember Allaah and ask forgiveness for their sins; - and none can forgive sins but Allaah. - And do not persist in what (wrong) they have done, while they know". (Q3:135). We can see from this verse that we fall into sins in those moments when we forget the remembrance of Allaah. Anytime we find ourselves committing sins, it is out of weakness we forget some attributes of Allaah. Our desires overpower us and we fail to remember that Allaah is AII Seeing, All-Knowing. We also forget that He is severe in punishment. All sins are not equal.

There are major and minor sins. Allaah says: "Those who avoid great sins and AI-Fawahish (illegal sexual intercourse, etc.) except the small faults, verily, your Lord is of vast forgiveness." (Q53:32). And the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing of Allaah be upon him) said: "Five prayers and from one Friday prayer to (the next) Friday prayer is an expiation (ofthe sins committed in between their intervals) if major sins are not committed". (Muslim).

What is evident from the above is that there are major sins and there are minor sins. As should be obvious, the major sins are more grievous than the minor. This should however not make us look down upon those sins that are called minor for they can easily add up and have the effect of the major one. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Beware of small sins! The similitude of the small sins is like a group of people who came down to the depth of a valley; one person amongst them brought a stick (of wood), and another (person) brought another stick (etc); until they collected what was enough to get their bread baked.

It is certain that when the small sins take hold of their possessor, they destroy him (or her)" (Ahmad) Some Major sins Allaah says, "Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from: Join not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children because of poverty- We provide sustenance for you and for them; come not near to AIFawahish (shameful sins, illegal sexual intercourse, etc.) whether committed openly or secretly, and kill not anyone whom Allaah has forbidden, except for a just cause (according to Islamic law). This He has commanded you that you may understand. And come not near to the orphans property, except to improve it, until he (or she) attains the age of full strength; and give full measure and full weight with justice. We burden not any person, but that which he can bear. And whenever you give your word (i.e. judge between men or give evidence, etc.), say the truth even if a near relative is concerned, and fulfill the Covenant of Allaah, This He commands you that you may remember." (Q6:151-152)

The Prophet (peace and blessing of Allaah be upon him) also said, "Avoid the seven great destructive sins." The people enquire, "0 Allahs Messenger! What are they?" He said, "To join others in worship along with Allah, to practice sorcery, to kill the life which Allah has forbidden except for a just cause, (according to Islamic law), to eat up riba (usury), to eat up an orphans wealth, to give back to the enemy and fleeing from the battlefield at the time of fighting, and to accuse chaste women, who never .even think of anything touching chastity and are good believers" (Bukhari).

A bedouin came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said," O Allahs Messenger! What are the biggest sins?" The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, "To join others in worship with Allah." The bedouin said, "What is next?" He said, "To be undutiful to ones parents." The bedouin said, "What is next?" He replied "To take an oath AI Ghamus." The bedouin said, "What is an oath AI-Ghamus?" He said, "The false oath through which one deprives a Muslim of his property (unjustly)." (Bukhari)

Likewise are those sins, which Allaah or His Messenger has stipulated a punishment for or there is a threat of punishment with Hell-Fire. Included in these would be stealing, drinking, persistent lying, fornication etc. The minor sins are those sins and mistakes that have not been specifically mentioned as deserving fixed punishment or having a threat of Hell- Fire III effects of sins It blackens the heart: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, "When a believer sins there is a black spot on his heart, and if he repents and asks pardon his heart is polished; but if he does more it increases till it covers all over his heart. That is the rust mentioned by Allah Most High, Nay, but what they were committing has spread like rust over their hearts" (Tirmidhi).

A heart that has become black completely will not recognize evil for what it is. It leads to more evil and punishment of Allaah: Allaah says: "Evil (sins and disobedience of Allaah, etc.) has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds, etc.), that Allaah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allaah, and begging His Pardon). "(Q30:41).

Seeking Forgiveness from sins: When we commit a sin, we should repent only to Allaah and seek His forgiveness, for He is the only one who forgives and accepts repentance. Allaah says, "And verily, I am indeed Forgiving to him. who repents, believes (in My Oneness, and associates none in worship with Me) and does righteous good deeds, and then remains constant in doing them, (till his death)." (Q20:82) and He says, "Surely, Allaah is Ever the One Who accepts repentance, (and He is) Most Merciful."(Q4:16).

Prophet Nuh (peace be upon him) told his people, "Ask forgiveness from your Lord; Verily, He is Oft-Forgiving"(Q71:10). In fact, Allaah is so merciful (remember He says: "My Mercy overcomes My Anger") that He may forgive all sins committed by the Muslim even if the sinner did not seek His forgiveness except one: shirk. He says, "Verily, Allaah forgives not that partners should be set up with him in worship, but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He pleases" (Q4:48)

Ask Allaah for Forgiveness: We should not take the Mercy of Allaah for granted. Rather we should hurry to ask for forgiveness as soon as we fall into sins. Allaah says: "And whoever does evil or wrongs himself but afterwards seeks Allaahs Forgiveness, he will find Allaah Oft-Forgiving, Most- Merciful." (Q4:110).

So when we commit any sins, lets go right away and ask Allaah for forgiveness. If we are sincere, He will surely forgive us. He says, "Race one with enotner in hastening towards forgiveness from your Lord (Allaah)" (Q57:21)

Maintain your prayers: The five daily prayers are one of the ways by which Allaah forgives some of our sins. The following story narrated by Ibn Masud (RA) demonstrate this: "A man kissed a woman and then came to Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and told him of that, so this Divine Inspiration was revealed to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): "And offer Prayers perfectly at the two ends of the day, and in some hours of the night; (i.e. (five) compulsory prayers). Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds (small sins). That is a reminder for the mindful." (Q11:114)

The man said, "Is this instruction for me only?" The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, "It is for all those of my followers who encounter a similar situation." (Bukhari). So safeguard your daily prayers.

 The most excellent manner of seeking forgiveness: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, "The noblest and most excellent manner of seeking forgiveness . is that the servant says: "Allahumma anta Rabbi la ilaha ilia anta, Anta Khalaqtani wa ana abduka, wa ana ala ahdika wa wadika mastatatu, Audhu bika min Sharri ma sanatu, abuu Laka binimatika alaiya, wa Abu Laka bidhanbi faghfirli innahu la yaghfiru adhdhunuba ilia anta. (O Allaah, You are my Lord. None has the right to be worshipped except You. You created me, and I am Your slave/worshipper. And I am faithful to my covenant and my promise as far as I am able. I seek Your refuge from the evil of what I have done. I acknowledge before You all the favours that You have bestowed upon me. And I confessed all my sins to You. So forgive me, since none can forgive sins except You)." The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) added, "Whoever says it in the day, with firm conviction in it, and dies in that day before evening then he is from the people of Paradise. Whoever says it in the night, with firm conviction in it, and he dies before the morning then he is from the people of Paradise." (Bukhari)

Repentance: Repentance is a specific and deeper form of forgiveness. Once you commit a major sin, then you must repent to Allaah. There are four conditions for a complete repentance: Stopping the sin and not returning to it: Allaah says, "And of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil deeds until death faces one of them and he says: "Now I repent;" (Q4:18).. How can one say he has repented from a sin while he is still actively involved in it. This is not the condition of true and sincere repentance. One would want to put a vast distance between him and the sin.

This also includes avoiding all avenues leading to committing those sins. You should also resolve not to return to the sin after your repentance, Regret for committing the sin: It is not true repentance if you do not have genuine regret over the sin you have committed, It is not to be expected that if by chance you remember the event, you then relish the thought, rather you should feel sorry, Regret for he sin means that if you mistakenly remember the sin, you should feel sorry in your heart rather than feel happy about "those days"!

Returning the right of the oppressed: If one were to steal another persons property, say a radio for instance, repentance would not be complete while you still possess the stolen property, You would even feel reluctant to make use of the stolen property if truly you have repented, Even if you were not making use of the item, mere seeing it would always remind you of the bad old days, So for your peace of mind and complete repentance, return the item to the owner (directly if you can and the consequences are bearable or indirectly),

Perform Salaat-ut- Taubah: Allaah's Messenger (peace and blessing of Allaah be upon him) said, "When a servant (of Allah) commits a sin, and he performs ablution well, and then stands and prays two rakahs, and asks pardon of Allah, Allah pardons him. He then recited this verse: "And those who, when they commit indecency or wrong their souls, remember Allaah" (Q3:135). (Abu Dawud)

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

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