Criticizing The Sinner Who Has Repented
Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said: Come and be with Allaah, and draw close to Him in an abode of peace, with no exhaustion or tiredness or suffering via the closest and easiest routes. You are in a time between two times, which in fact is your life, your current time, between the past and the future. What has passed can be set right by repentance and regret and prayers for forgiveness, and that is something which will not exhaust you or tire you out and is not difficult. Rather it is an action of the heart. As for the future, you should refrain from committing sin, and refraining from sin will give you a great deal of peace of mind. It is not a physical action that is too hard to do, rather it is resolve and firm intention, which will bring physical and mental peace.
But what matters is your life, which is your time between two times. If you waste it you will lose happiness and salvation. But if you take care of the present as well as correcting the past and the future as described above, then you will be saved and will have peace of mind, pleasure and tranquillity.
Taking care of it is more difficult than setting right that which comes before and after it, for taking care of it requires you to do that which is best and most beneficial for you, and which is most likely to bring happiness, and people differ greatly with regard to that.
[Source: Al-Fawaa’id (117).]
Those who fall into sin are of different types:
Some of them repent and turn back to their Lord, or else the punishment (hadd) is carried out on them. So it is not permissible to criticize them because their souls have been purified by their repentance or the punishment. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The one who repents from sin is like one who has never sinned.” (Narrated by Ibn Maajah, 4240; classed as saheeh by al-Busayri in al-Zawaa’id, commentary on Sunan Ibn Maajah).
Some of them commit sin but they do not do it openly. Anyone who comes to know of that has to advise the person and cover his faults.
And some of them commit sin openly. They should also be advised, and others should be warned against them to whatever extent is appropriate.
Regarding criticizing the sinner who has repented, Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
It may be that what he meant is that your criticizing your brother for his sin is an even greater sin than his, because it means that you feel pride in your obedience and you are praising yourself for that, and claiming to be free from sin, whereas your brother has fallen into sin. But it may be that his feeling humble because of his sin and what has happened to him, such as his feeling humble and submissive, thinking less of himself, ridding himself of pious pretensions, arrogance and self-admiration, standing before Allaah with his head bowed, his gaze lowered and his heart broken – it may be that all of that is better for him than your feeling proud of your obedience, thinking that you are doing much good, believing that by doing so you are important, and reminding Allaah and mankind of that.
How close this sinner is to the mercy of Allaah, and how close this conceited one is to the wrath of Allaah! A sin that leads to humility is more beloved to Him than an act of obedience which fills a person with conceit. If you sleep all night then wake up feeling regret (for not having prayed qiyaam al-layl), that may be better for you than if you were to pray all night and wake up in the morning filled with self-admiration. For the deeds of the one who admires himself are not accepted. Perhaps your laughing whilst admitting to shortcomings is better than your weeping with piety but being filled with conceit.
The groaning of the sinners is more beloved to Allaah than the tasbeeh of the conceited.
It may be that by means of this sin, Allaah has caused him to drink the medicine that will cure a fatal disease which you also have, but you do not realize it. Allaah has reason for what He does to both those who are obedient and those who sin, which are known to no-one except Him, and which no one recognizes except those who have insight, and then only within the limits of human understanding; beyond that there are reasons which are not even known to the honourable scribes (i.e., the recording angels).
The Prophet said: “If the slave woman of any one of you commits adultery, let him carry out the punishment on her and not criticize.” And Yoosuf (peace be upon him) said: “No reproach on you this day” [Surah Yoosuf 12:92 – interpretation of the meaning]. For the scale is in the hand of Allaah, and the ruling is His. The point is to carry out the punishment (prescribed by Allaah) and not to shame and criticize. No one feels safe from what has been decreed for them and from the power of His decree except those who are ignorant of Allaah.
Allaah said to the one who had more knowledge of Him than anyone else and was closer to Him: “And had We not made you stand firm, you would nearly have inclined to them a little”[Surah al-Israa’ 17:74 – interpretation of the meaning]. And Yoosuf said: “Unless You turn away their plot from me, I will feel inclined towards them and be one (of those who commit sin and deserve blame or those who do deeds) of the ignorant”[Surah Yoosuf 12:33 – interpretation of the meaning].
One of the ways in which the Messenger of Allaah used to swear was “No, by the One who turns hearts.” And he said, “There is no heart which is not between two of the fingers of the Most Merciful. If He wills He guides it aright and if He wills He sends it astray.” Then he said, “O Allaah, the one Who turns hearts over, make our hearts steadfast in adhering to Your religion. O Allaah, musrif al-Quloob, sirf our hearts to obey You.”
For more information on the hadeeth, kindly read: Your Heart is in between Allah’s Fingers
[Source: Madaarij al-Saalikeen, (1/177, 178) of Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (rahimahulaah)]