When One Plans to Sin but then Does Not: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-An’aam, Allah describes the Day of Judgement by saying:

مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا ۖ وَمَن جَاءَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ فَلَا يُجْزَىٰ إِلَّا مِثْلَهَا وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ

Whoever comes [on the Day of Judgement] with a good deed will have ten times the like thereof, and whoever comes with an evil deed will not be recompensed except the like thereof; and they will not be wronged. [6:160]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir gave a thorough and beneficial explanation of this ayah in part of his famous book of tafsir. He began by linking it to another related ayah, and then proceeded to mention several slightly different and seemingly contradictory hadith narrations on the same subject before explaining how these differences could be reconciled and understood properly:

وهذه الآية الكريمة مفصلة لما أجمل في الآية الأخرى ، وهي قوله : ( من جاء بالحسنة فله خير منها ) [ النمل : 89 ] ، وقد وردت الأحاديث مطابقة لهذه الآية ، كما قال الإمام أحمد بن حنبل ، رحمه الله : حدثنا عفان ، حدثنا جعفر بن سليمان ، حدثنا الجعد أبو عثمان ، عن أبي رجاء العطاردي ، عن ابن عباس ، رضي الله عنهما ، عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، فيما يروي عن ربه ، عز وجل قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ” إن ربكم عز وجل رحيم ، من هم بحسنة فلم يعملها كتبت له حسنة ، فإن عملها كتبت له عشرا إلى سبعمائة ، إلى أضعاف كثيرة . ومن هم بسيئة فلم يعملها كتبت له حسنة ، فإن عملها كتبت له واحدة ، أو يمحوها الله ، عز وجل ، ولا يهلك على الله إلا هالك ” ورواه البخاري ، ومسلم ، والنسائي ، من حديث الجعد بن أبي عثمان ، به . ـ

This great ayah serves to clarify what was previously only mentioned in a general sense in another ayah, that ayah being Allah’s statement:

مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ خَيْرٌ مِّنْهَا

Whoever comes with a good deed with have something better than that … [27:89]

and a number of hadith narrations have been transmitted which fall in the same vein as this ayah, such as what Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said … that ibn ‘Abbaas relayed something of what Allah’s Messenger conveyed from his Lord. He said: Allah’s Messenger said:

Allah, the Mighty and Exalted, is merciful to the believers. Whoever intends to do a good deed but then does not actually do it will have one good deed recorded for him. But if he does do that good deed, he will have ten up to seven hundred or even higher multiples of good deeds recorded for him. And whoever intends to do a sin but then does not actually do it will have one good deed recorded for him. But if he does do that sin, it will be recorded as a single sin for him. Or Allah may even wipe that sin out. And Allah does not subject anyone to destruction except those who persist in sinfulness.

This was recorded by al-Bukari, Muslim, and al-Nasaa’i from the hadith of Ja’d ibn Abi ‘Uthman.

وقال الإمام أحمد أيضا : حدثنا معاوية ، حدثنا الأعمش ، عن المعرور بن سويد ، عن أبي ذر ، رضي الله عنه ، قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ” يقول الله ، عز وجل : من عمل حسنة فله عشر أمثالها وأزيد . ومن عمل سيئة فجزاؤها مثلها أو أغفر . ومن عمل قراب الأرض خطيئة ثم لقيني لا يشرك بي شيئا جعلت له مثلها مغفرة . ومن اقترب إلي شبرا اقتربت إليه ذراعا ، ومن اقترب إلي ذراعا اقتربت إليه باعا ، ومن أتاني يمشي أتيته هرولة ” ورواه مسلم عن أبي كريب ، عن أبي معاوية ، به . وعن أبي بكر بن أبي شيبة ، عن وكيع ، عن الأعمش ، به . ورواه ابن ماجه ، عن علي بن محمد الطنافسي ، عن وكيع ، به . ـ

Imam Ahmad also recorded … that Abu Dharr said: Allah’s Messenger said:

Allah says, “Whoever does a good deed will have the reward of ten like it or even more. Whoever does a sin, then his recompense will be equivalent to it, or I will forgive him. Whoever does an earth’s worth of sins but then meets Me without having associated any partners with Me, I will make an equivalent amount of forgiveness for him. Whoever draws closer to Me by a palm’s space I will come closer to him by a cubit, and whoever draws closer to Me by cubit I will draw closer to him by two hand-spans, and whoever comes to Me walking I will come to him rushing.

This was recorded by Muslim and ibn Majah.

وقال الحافظ أبو يعلى الموصلي : حدثنا شيبان ، حدثنا حماد ، حدثنا ثابت ، عن أنس بن مالك ، رضي الله عنه ، أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : ” من هم بحسنة فلم يعملها كتبت له حسنة ، فإن عملها كتبت له عشرا . ومن هم بسيئة فلم يعملها لم يكتب عليه شيء ، فإن عملها كتبت عليه سيئة واحدة ” ـ

al-haafidh Aby Ya’la al-Mowsili recorded … that Anas ibn Malik relayed that Allah’s Messenger said:

Whoever intends to do a good deed but then does not perform it will have one good deed written for him, but if he does carry it out he will have ten good deeds written for him. And whoever intends to do a sin but then does not perform it will not have anything written against him, but if he does carry it out then he will have a single sin written against him.

واعلم أن تارك السيئة الذي لا يعملها على ثلاثة أقسام : تارة يتركها لله عز وجل فهذا تكتب له حسنة على كفه عنها لله تعالى ، وهذا عمل ونية; ولهذا جاء أنه يكتب له حسنة ، كما جاء [ ص: 379 ] في بعض ألفاظ الصحيح : ” فإنما تركها من جرائي ” أي : من أجلي . وتارة يتركها نسيانا وذهولا عنها ، فهذا لا له ولا عليه; لأنه لم ينو خيرا ولا فعل شرا . وتارة يتركها عجزا وكسلا بعد السعي في أسبابها والتلبس بما يقرب منها ، فهذا يتنزل منزلة فاعلها ، كما جاء في الحديث ، في الصحيحين : ” إذا تواجه المسلمان بسيفيهما فالقاتل والمقتول في النار ” قالوا : يا رسول الله ، هذا القاتل ، فما بال المقتول؟ قال : ” إنه كان حريصا على قتل صاحبه ” ـ

Now, you should understand that leaving off a sin can fall into one of these three categories:

1. Sometimes a person may leave a sin for the sake of Allah, and so this would be recorded as a good deed for him since he abstained from that sin for the sake of Allah. This abstaining involves both action and intention on his part. That it why it comes in some narrations that it will be written as a good deed for him, as is mentioned in some authentically transmitted wordings, ” … for he only left the sin for My sake.”

2. Sometimes a person leaves off a sin out of forgetfulness or being distracted from it. In this case, it is neither for him nor against him because he neither intended good nor committed a sin.

3. Sometimes a person would leave off a sin out of inability or laziness after having already expended some effort towards the causes and steps leading up to that sin. So this is treated in the same was as having actually committed the sin, as comes in the hadith recorded by both al-Bukhari and Muslim that

“If two Muslims confront each other with their swords, then both the killer and the killed will be in the Hellfire.” The Companions asked, “O Messenger of Allah, we understand about the killer, but what about the one who was killed?” He replied, “He had wanted to kill the other one.”

قال الإمام أبو يعلى الموصلي : حدثنا مجاهد بن موسى ، حدثنا علي – وحدثنا الحسن بن الصباح وأبو خيثمة – قالا حدثنا إسحاق بن سليمان ، كلاهما عن موسى بن عبيدة ، عن أبي بكر بن عبيد الله بن أنس ، عن جده أنس قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ” من هم بحسنة كتب الله له حسنة ، فإن عملها كتبت له عشرا . ومن هم بسيئة لم تكتب عليه حتى يعملها ، فإن عملها كتبت عليه سيئة ، فإن تركها كتبت له حسنة . يقول الله تعالى : إنما تركها من مخافتي ” هذا لفظ حديث مجاهد – يعني ابن موسى . ـ

Imam Abu Ya’la al-Mawsili recorded that … Anas ibn Malik relayed that Allah’s Messenger said:

Whoever intends to do a good deed, Allah will write one good deed for him, and then if he actually does do it he will have ten good deeds written for him. Whoever intends to commit a sin will not have anything written against him until he actually does it: if he does do it then he will have a single sin written against him, but if he abstains from it then he will have a good deed written for him. Allah says, “He only left it out of fear of Me.”

This was the wording of the hadith of Mujahid, i.e. ibn Moosaa.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 3/378-379]

See also: Tawbah for the Different Categories of Sins: Tafsir al-Qurtubi [Forthcoming, inshaAllaah]

See also: Questions and Answers on Tawbah from Ibn Taymiyah

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

See also: Responding to Allah’s Blessings with Indifference: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “When One Plans to Sin but then Does Not: Tafsir ibn Kathir

  1. JazakAllahu Khayr for everything on this website and on the telegram channel. May Allah purify your intentions and keep you right. Aameen. Thoroughly benefit from the unique content Alhamdoulillah

    • Ameen, and for you as well! Alhamdulillaah, we ask Allah to make these efforts a source of benefit for the original authors, the translator, and whoever comes across them.

  2. Pingback: Responding to Allah’s Blessings with Indifference: Tafsir ibn Kathir | Tulayhah

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.