“Whoever does evil or wrongs himself but then seeks Allah’s forgiveness…”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-Nisaa’:

وَمَن يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا أَوْ يَظْلِمْ نَفْسَهُ ثُمَّ يَسْتَغْفِرِ‌ اللَّـهَ يَجِدِ اللَّـهَ غَفُورً‌ا رَّ‌حِيمًا * وَمَن يَكْسِبْ إِثْمًا فَإِنَّمَا يَكْسِبُهُ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا

And whoever does evil or wrongs himself but afterwards seeks Allah’s Forgiveness, he will find Allah Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. * And whoever earns sin, he earns it only against himself. And Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise. [4:110-111]

In the midst of his commentary on the surrounding ayaat, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following points of benefit regarding these two ayaat:

ـ { وَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا أَوْ يَظْلِمْ نَفْسَهُ ثُمَّ يَسْتَغْفِرِ اللَّهَ يَجِدِ اللَّهَ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا } أي: من تجرأ على المعاصي واقتحم على الإثم ثم استغفر الله استغفارا تاما يستلزم الإقرار بالذنب والندم عليه والإقلاع والعزم على أن لا يعود. فهذا قد وعده من لا يخلف الميعاد بالمغفرة والرحمة. فيغفر له ما صدر منه من الذنب، ويزيل عنه ما ترتب عليه من النقص والعيب، ويعيد إليه ما تقدم من الأعمال الصالحة، ويوفقه فيما يستقبله من عمره، ولا يجعل ذنبه حائلا عن توفيقه، لأنه قد غفره، وإذا غفره غفر ما يترتب عليه. ـ

وَمَن يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا أَوْ يَظْلِمْ نَفْسَهُ ثُمَّ يَسْتَغْفِرِ‌ اللَّـهَ يَجِدِ اللَّـهَ غَفُورً‌ا رَّ‌حِيمًا

And whoever does evil or wrongs himself but afterwards seeks Allah’s Forgiveness, he will find Allah Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Meaning: whoever commits acts of disobedience and engages in wrongdoing and subsequently seeks the forgiveness of Allah with a complete seeking of forgiveness, which requires admission of the sin, regret of committing it, leaving the sin, and resolving not to return to it. In this case, then the One who does not break His promises [i.e. Allah] has promised him forgiveness and mercy. So He forgives him of the sins he had done, and He lifts the deficiencies and harms which resulted from those sins off of him, and He returns what he had previously done of righteous good deeds to him, and He grants him the accord to do well in what remains of his lifespan – not making his sin an obstacle to his success – for He has forgiven him. And when Allah forgives someone of their sin, He forgives what would have resulted from that sin.

واعلم أن عمل السوء عند الإطلاق يشمل سائر المعاصي، الصغيرة والكبيرة، وسمي “سوءًا” لكونه يسوء عامله بعقوبته، ولكونه في نفسه سيئًا غير حسن. ـ

And you should know that ‘amal al-soo’a [evil acts] – when referred to without any further qualification – include all forms of disobedience – both major and minor. And evil deeds are called soo’a [lit. “damage”] because they worsen the doer as a result of their impending punishment, and because they are a harm to his person, not a source of good.

وكذلك ظلم النفس عند الإطلاق يشمل ظلمها بالشرك فما دونه. ولكن عند اقتران أحدهما بالآخر قد يفسر كل واحد منهما بما يناسبه، فيفسر عمل  السوء هنا بالظلم الذي يسوء الناس، وهو ظلمهم في دمائهم وأموالهم وأعراضهم. ـ

And likewise, thulm al-nafs [wronging one’s self] – when referred to without any further qualification – includes wronging one’s self by committing shirk as well as whatever is less than that. However, when one of these terms occurs with the other, then each may be interpreted with what suits it. So ‘amal al-soo’a is interpreted here as wrongdoing which harms others, and that is wronging them in respect to their blood, their wealth or their honors.

 ويفسر ظلم النفس بالظلم والمعاصي التي بين الله وبين عبده، وسمي ظلم النفس “ظلما” لأن نفس العبد ليست ملكا له يتصرف فيها بما يشاء، وإنما هي ملك لله تعالى قد جعلها أمانة عند العبد وأمره أن يقيمها على طريق العدل، بإلزامها للصراط المستقيم علمًا وعملاً، فيسعى في تعليمها ما أمر به ويسعى في العمل بما يجب، فسعيه في غير هذا الطريق ظلم لنفسه وخيانة وعدول بها عن العدل، الذي ضده الجور والظلم. ـ

And thulm al-nafs is interpreted as wrongdoing and disobedience which a slave commits against Allah. And thulm al-nafs is called thulm because the slave does not have ownership of his soul such that he can use it however he pleases. Rather, the ownership belongs only to Allah and He has made it a trust to His slave, and He has commanded him to behave justly with it by maintaining it upon the Straight Path – both in terms of knowledge and action. So the slave should hasten in learning what he has been commanded to do regarding it, and he should hasten to do what is obligatory. So any hastening with he does for any other purpose is an act of injustice against his soul, a betrayal, and an abandonment of justice – with the opposite of justice being transgression and injustice.

ثم قال { وَمَنْ يَكْسِبْ إِثْمًا فَإِنَّمَا يَكْسِبُهُ عَلَى نَفْسِهِ } وهذا يشمل كل ما يؤثم من صغير وكبير، فمن كسب سيئة فإن عقوبتها الدنيوية والأخروية على نفسه، لا تتعداها إلى غيرها، كما قال تعالى: { وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى } ـ

Next Allah said:

وَمَن يَكْسِبْ إِثْمًا فَإِنَّمَا يَكْسِبُهُ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِ

And whoever earns sin, he earns it only against himself

And this included every act of transgression – whether major or minor. So whoever earns a sin, then the punishment of that sin in this life and in the next falls upon his own self; it does not transfer onto others, just as Allah has said:

وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى

And no bearer of burdens shall bear another’s burdens

لكن إذا ظهرت السيئات فلم تنكر عمت عقوبتها وشمل إثمها، فلا تخرج أيضا عن حكم هذه الآية الكريمة، لأن من ترك الإنكار الواجب فقد كسب سيئة. ـ

However, if sins become widespread and they are not censured, then their punishment becomes general and their sin broadens to include others. And that does not contradict what this noble ayah necessitates, because whoever leaves off the obligatory censuring has earned a sin.

وفي هذا بيان عدل الله وحكمته، أنه لا يعاقب أحدا بذنب أحد، ولا يعاقب أحدا أكثر من العقوبة الناشئة عن ذنبه، ولهذا قال: { وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا } أي: له العلم الكامل والحكمة التامة.ـ

And this contains a demonstration of Allah’s justice and wisdom, for He does not punish anyone for the sin of another, nor does He punish anyone beyond the punishment resulting from their sin. And so Allah said:

وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا

And Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise

ومن علمه وحكمته أنه يعلم الذنب وما صدر منه، والسبب الداعي لفعله، والعقوبة المترتبة على فعله، ويعلم حالة المذنب، أنه إن صدر منه الذنب بغلبة دواعي نفسه الأمارة بالسوء مع إنابته إلى ربه في كثير من أوقاته، أنه سيغفر له ويوفقه للتوبة.ـ

And from His knowledge and wisdom is that He knows the sin which emanated from which person, as well as the cause which enticed him to commit it, as well as the punishment which results from its commission. And He knows the situation of the sinner, that if the sin emanated from him due to being overwhelmed by the temptations of his lower self which were enjoining evil despite his regular practice of turning to his Lord most of the time, then He will forgive him and grant him the accord to repent.

 وإن صدر منه بتجرئه على المحارم استخفافا بنظر ربه، وتهاونا بعقابه، فإن هذا بعيد من المغفرة بعيد من التوفيق للتوبة. ـ

But if the sin emanated from him due to his transgression into the forbidden matters resulting from his taking the watchfulness of Allah lightly and thinking little of the impending punishment, then in this case he is far removed from forgiveness and far removed from being granted to accord to repent.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 217-218]

See also: Whoever is guided or errs, it is only for or against himself: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: The Story of the Town by the Sea: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Questions and Answers on Tawbah from ibn Taymiyah

See also: Allah invites the disbelievers to repent: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: “the Disbelievers – they are the Thaalimoon”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: The meaning of al-Thulm: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

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3 thoughts on ““Whoever does evil or wrongs himself but then seeks Allah’s forgiveness…”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

  1. Pingback: Whoever is guided or errs, it is only for or against himself: Tafsir al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Allah implores the disbelievers to repent: Tafsir al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: Questions and Answers on Tawbah from Ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

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