If a person commits a sin (which one would tend to think is minor i.e. cheating on tests, yet is actually very serious) that he has repented for in the past, does that not nullify the prior repentance? If a person feels sorry for having done something, yet is overcome by temptation after such repentance and commits the same sin again, can the person have hopes of being forgiven simply for the remorse once felt? Finally, should a person not bother repenting for something he knows he may end up committing as a sin later, despite the fact that somewhere in that person’s heart, there is fear of God? In such a case, would it not be better to ask for forgiveness after succumbing to temptation and just hope that God would forgive instead of punishing?
True repentance actually implies that the person is:
Truly remorseful and ashamed of having done something, which God does not like;
Willing and ready, wherever possible, to undo the effects, which he is aware of, of the wrong or sin that he had committed;
Committed to correct his behavior and refrain, to all possible extent, from the wrong or sin, which he had committed in the past.
As one can easily see, most of the factors that account for true repentance are, in fact, internal to the heart and soul of the repenting individual and, therefore, may not be verifiable on a purely human standard. Nevertheless, the concerned individual is, generally, quite aware of the presence of these factors in his repentance. If these factors are present in a person’s repentance, then, however grave a sin the person may have committed, he can hope for the forgiveness of the Just. While, on the other hand, if these factors are not present, then the apparent repentance of the person are merely words, which are worthless if they lack the required spirit.
It should also be clear from the foregoing explanation that true repentance must, as a condition of its truthfulness, entail a commitment to correct one’s behavior and to sincerely try to refrain from that sin in future. This indeed is an essential condition. Nevertheless, we know that even strong commitments can sometimes fail. Such failures, even though they do not affect the sincerity or the truthfulness of his remorse, repentance and commitment for correction, yet they do indicate that the person has a weakness for the particular sin. This realization and appreciation of a grave weakness should further strengthen the person’s commitment to try and save himself from getting trapped in Satan’s seductions, especially with reference to that particular sin. The individual, under such circumstances should revitalize his efforts of saving himself from the wrong, return to the path of repentance and correction and continue his journey towards God’s paradise, with renewed vigor. Under no circumstances, should an individual lose hope in God’s mercy. We must remember that in the final analysis, it is not perfection that is required from us, but our sincere efforts in the way of self-purification and cleansing that would, insha’Allah, qualify us for the eternal bliss of paradise. We must remember that the doors of repentance remain wide open, for each individual, till the time of his death; and we must not forget that seducing a person into losing hope in God’s mercy and forgiveness is the ultimate victory of Satan.
Therefore, even if Satan succeeds in inciting us to return to an extremely grave sin, even after we have committed to refrain from it, we must turn back to the path of the Merciful with increased vigor and commitment.
I hope this helps.
December 27, 2001