As human beings, sinning and erring come to us naturally and at times persistently. Frenzy gets the better of us and we end up committing sins that we may feel ashamed of. Though this is unbecoming of us yet if we realize the blemish and immediately turn in penitence to God and make amends, we have been given glad tidings of forgiveness by the Almighty:
It is incumbent upon God to forgive only those who commit a sin while being overwhelmed with emotions and then quickly repent. It is they who are forgiven by God. God is All-Knowing and Wise. (4:17)
Sinning continuously, at times, takes us deeper into sin and reduces our inclination to seek forgiveness. If we continue to sin after repeated repentance, we are overcome with frustration and hopelessness. We think that since we are so incorrigible and return to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree in spite of frequent bouts of repentance, how can God forgive such a habitual sinner? It may be worthwhile to note that instilling hopelessness in us is one of the greatest weapons of Satan. In Arabic, his name is Iblis which means one who has eternally lost hope. Hence, he wants to make all his targets lose hope like him. It is here that we need to stand up after every fall and take hold of ourselves after every transgression. We must never lose hope in God's mercy even if we sin persistently. The above verse of the Qur'an says that every time person repents after being overwhelmed by emotions, God will forgive him. It does not say that this clemency of God is not for persistent sinners.
What thus needs to be understood is that it is not the sin which counts as much as our attitude after it. Like lost sheep that have wandered away from the herd, we need to get back into the herd minded by the supreme shepherd.
Moreover, let us not hate sinners; let us hate their sins. We ourselves are no less sinners. Hating sinners will be like hating our own selves. It also is worthwhile to note that however much we may try, we cannot rid ourselves from sins entirely. Saints we may become for a while but not forever. Even saints can slip because to falter and err comes to us naturally. So let us behave as humans.
Finally, in choosing to become saints or sinners, let us choose to become saintly sinners: whenever we sin, we should feel embarrassed, repent before God and go on to make amends wherever possible.
(Dr Shehzad Saleem)