How to make a fresh start – Part 1
One of the things that we all love about Ramadan is that it allows us to make a fresh start.
There’s just one little problem though: who said that we need to wait until Ramadan to make a fresh start?
Our ummah today has so many problems. Many Muslims are immersed in shirk (the worst of the sins), fornication (and its sisters: pornography and masturbation), anger management issues, family problems, riba (interest), backbiting and tale bearing, etc.
I could go on and on.
We all have issues that we need to straighten out. What are we doing about them though? And what are we supposed to do about them?
We all know that we need to make a fresh start (yes, ALL of us) but how?
Well, there’s a great story that tells us the way to go about doing that:
Abu Said al-Khudri (radiallahu anhu) reported Allah’s Messenger (salallahu alaihi wasallam) as saying: There was a person before you who had killed ninety-nine people and then made an inquiry about the learned persons of the world (who could show him the way to salvation). He was directed to a monk.
He came to him and told him that he had killed ninety-nine people and asked him whether there was any scope for his repentance to be accepted. He said: No. He killed him also and thus completed one hundred.
He then asked about the learned persons of the earth and he was directed to a scholar, and he told him that he had killed one hundred persons and asked him whether there was any scope for his repentance to be accepted. He said: Yes; what stands between you and the repentance? You better go to such and such land; there are people devoted to prayer and worship and you also worship along with them and do not come to the land of yours since it was an evil land (for you).
So he went away and he had hardly covered half the distance when death came to him and there was a dispute between the angels of mercy and the angels of punishment.
The angels of mercy said: This man has come as a penitent and remorseful to Allah and the angels of punishment said: He has done no good at all. Then there came another angel in the form of a human being in order to decide between them. He said: You measure the land to which he has drawn near.
[Allah commanded the earth (from where) he wanted to come out to move itself away and to the other earth (where he wanted to go) to draw nearer.]
They measured it and found him nearer to the land where he intended to go (the land of piety), and so the angels of mercy took possession of it.
Qatada said that Hasan told him that it was said to them that as death approached him, he crawled upon his chest (and managed) to slip in the land of mercy.
[Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth No. 6662. The addition in brackets is from Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth no. 6664]
Here are the lessons that I* learnt from this story:
[*Just so you don’t think that this is some sort of scholarly analysis.]
1) We need to realise that what we are doing is wrong and we have to WANT to change for the better.
From what I’ve personally seen from many people, this seems to be the number one factor as to why some people are unable to change: they simply don’t want to.
Yes, they might claim they want to change but when they are brought face to face with their issues, they simply ignore it.
This man (i.e. the murderer) wanted to change and make a fresh start and due to this, it was made easy for him.
So, admitting our faults and wanting to improve is the first (and most difficult) step towards starting a new life.
2) It does not matter what the sin is.
The sin of the man was murder. The only sin worse than that is shirk.
Some people think that their sins are too great to be forgiven or that they have done too many bad things.
That’s absolutely false.
Allah forgives all sins if a person sincerely repents from them.
So, don’t worry about what you have done in the past, rather focus on repenting from your sins.
3) We need to ask the people of knowledge for advice.
Here is the second factor that causes people to fail: they either don’t ask anyone for help or else they ask the wrong people.
Why don’t people ask for help? Due to embarrassment, of course.
I just have two questions:
a) Is it more embarrassing to commit a sin or to want to repent from that sin?
b) Is it better to be embarrassed in this world or to be embarrassed in the hereafter?
For all those who are too ashamed to ask anyone for advice, think about these two questions.
What type of people should one ask for advice?
Well, the type that Allah asked us to ask: the people of knowledge.
فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“So ask the people of the Scripture, if you know not.” [Surah An-Nahl (16) : 43]
Look at the first man that the murderer asked. Yes, he was a pious man but he didn’t know that Allah had the power to forgive all things. He was NOT a person of knowledge and due to his lack of knowledge, he almost led the murderer astray.
Today, we have many people doling out advice. Unfortunately, many times the advice that they give is contrary to the way of the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alaihi wasallam).
So, if a woman comes to them with marital problems, they give her an amulet (which is shirk).
If a man comes to them complaining about some misfortune, they ask him some information about himself, then proceed to contact the jinn and then feed the poor man some lies about how some of his relatives have used black magic against him.
If a woman comes to them about her inability to have children, they give her some fabricated duas to read.
Subhan Allah, I could go and on. Some of the stories that I’ve heard are beyond ridiculous and I always wonder how anybody could fall for such rubbish.
Why do people fall for it? Well, it’s due to their lack of knowledge.
So, how can one be sure that he/she is going to the right person?
Well, ask the people around you as this man did. Then pray Salatul Istikharah before you talk to the person.
Also, when talking to the person, try to ask him/her for proof from the Quran and the Sunnah.
4) If we’re not satisfied with the reply, we can ask another person of knowledge.
This man could have just said “Forget it. There’s no hope for me. I give up. I’ll just continue murdering people.”
He did not do that. He did not take the easy way out and just give up.
He REALLY wanted to change so he looked for a more suitable person to advise him.
It’s amazing. When people have health issues, they’ll take second and third and even fourth opinions (even though it costs money), because their bodies are very important.
What about our soul? Isn’t that even more important? Should we let it get misguided?
Why don’t people take second or third opinions when it comes to religious issues?
5) One of the qualities of a suitable person is that they open doors for you, not shut the doors on your face.
The scholar first put the murderer at ease by telling him that repentance was still possible. Then he proceeded to give him some practical steps that he would have to take in order to start a new life.
There are many people who are very good at telling others what they should not do but they are not that good when it comes to giving them halal alternatives.
Try to find someone who will sit with you and give you some practical tips on how to make a change.
To be continued….