The Prophet ﷺ said,
“Verily, when the servant commits a sin a black spot appears upon his heart. If he abandons the sin, seeks forgiveness, and repents, then his heart will be polished. If he returns to the sin, the blackness will be increased until it overcomes his heart. It is the covering that Allah has mentioned: ‘No, but on their hearts is a covering because of what they have earned’[83:14].”
The Importance of This Topic
A key question we must always ask ourselves as the weeks fly by one Friday to the next is ‘how are we changing?’ Change is a natural phenomenon of our world; whether it is the seasons, our bodies, our age, the night and the day. But of the most important changes – one that should be changing for the better – is our relationship with The Almighty.
In this khutbah, we will explore a major barrier towards that change. A disease that we are all inflicted by. That envelopes our hearts with darkness. Casts shadows on our faces. Weakens our resolve.
And that disease, is sinning.
No One Is Perfect
As Allah SWT says in Surah An-Najm, “Indeed, your Lord is vast in forgiveness. He was most knowing of you when He produced you from the earth and when you were fetuses in the wombs of your mothers. So do not claim yourselves to be pure; He is most knowing of who fears Him.” [53:32]
And so before we begin, we must humble ourselves as indicated above. We need to acknowledge that every single one of us sins. Whether that is the minor sin or the major sin. The public sin, or the private sin. The internal sin or the external sin. So don’t think to yourself, “aha alhamdulillah, he’s finally doing a khutbah about sinning, so-and-so really needs to hear this” or “if only this person was here to have a dose of this!” No, not at all! In fact, if you’re thinking that to yourself, you need this khutbah more than anyone else. So let’s pay attention and try to connect with what is being said insha’Allah.
Hardening of the Heart
Of the most significant effects of persistent sinning that remains unchecked, is that it hardens the heart. As The Prophet ﷺ said, “Verily, when the servant commits a sin a black spot appears upon his heart. If he abandons the sin, seeks forgiveness, and repents, then his heart will be polished. If he returns to the sin, the blackness will be increased until it overcomes his heart. It is the covering that Allah has mentioned: ‘No, but on their hearts is a covering because of what they have earned’.” [Tirmidhi]
To put it into relatable terms – taking the human body and its homeostasis as an example – this can be contrasted with our spiritual set point changing. What may have affected us once upon a time – causing our spiritual alarm bells to ring – have now become blunted. We hit the snooze one too many times, and soon enough, our heart stops waking up. It has died.
And the effects of that are deadly.
We may start justifying behaviour we once never thought of justifying. We stop praying like we used to. Stop hanging around with good people like we used to. Started using words we never thought we would utter. Life becomes difficult. Our chests become constrained. Our relationship with people becomes strained. We even feel sometimes people are mean to us for no ‘apparent’ reason.
Reflecting on this, sometimes I’d go through a day and everything would be going wrong; my Mother would be upset with me for ‘no reason’. And I’d think to myself why? What had I done? And on deeper thought, it was actually because I’d done something I shouldn’t have. I disobeyed Allah.
Constriction of the Chest
Other effects we may find is that it becomes harder to do good deeds, harder to pray, maybe it becomes more difficult to wake up for the challenging prayers like Fajr. Our Qur’an memorisation falters, we find it hard to even recite the Qur’an, go to Jumm’ah, go to the mosque, seek knowledge and so on.
Whatever the case, these are all markers of our imaan, and our imaan is affected by sin. Why is that? Because understand your heart is a vessel like any other; and if Allah is pure and only loves what is pure, you can’t fill that same vessel with impurities and expect to reap the same sweet taste. No, it doesn’t work like that. So how can we remedy it? Is it all over? Are we done and dusted. Nope. It never is over until you’re over. For Allah SWT says in Surah Al Hadeed, directly after a verse warning the believers to not let their hearts go hard like those who came before,the following:
“Know that Allah gives life to the earth after its lifelessness. We have made clear to you the signs; perhaps you will understand.” (57:17)
The Importance of Shame¹
There’s a sodium channel in one of our cell plasma membranes called SCN9A. People with a mutation here are unable to experience pain. They maintain their ability to feel the sensation of touch but are physically incapable of feeling pain. This sounds like an amazing ability but in reality, it is considered an extremely dangerous condition.
Most people born with this disease, called congenital analgesia, never make it past childhood.
They have trouble learning how to chew, often biting off their tongue because they feel no pain when they chew incorrectly. They break their bones and then carry on, never realizing the bone is fractured and healing improperly. They let infections fester, not being bothered by the typical signs of sickness that other children suffer from. They never develop the instinct of jerking away from hot objects, resulting in numerous burn injuries.
Why am I mentioning all of this?
Just like we feel physical pain in our body to tell us that something is wrong with our physical body, we feel spiritual pain, shame, that tells us something that is wrong with our spiritual body, our soul. That shame and guilt is not pleasant. It is painful. It is nauseating. It is repulsive and it is distressing.
And it is necessary.
It will propel you to change your behaviour. Or it should. Either you will begin to close the gap by changing your actions until they are in conformity with your values or you will begin to disparage the values until you no longer feel they are worth being a standard to live up to.
All of this is summed up by the Prophet ﷺ in an eloquent sentence:
إنَّ مِمَّا أَدْرَكَ النَّاسُ مِنْ كَلَامِ النُّبُوَّةِ الْأُولَى: إذَا لَمْ تَسْتَحِ فَاصْنَعْ مَا شِئْت
“Verily, that which has reached the people from the sayings of early prophethood is this: if you feel no shame, then do whatever you wish.”
Look, for the most part, we all deep down know when something is dodgy, when we do something wrong. When we we’re looking or saying or acting in a way that we’re not meant to. We have that feeling inside of our heart. And that is good. It’s a sign of imaan. But as we said in the first half – if we click the snooze button too many times, surround ourselves with people that encourage immoral behaviour, that make us feel “better” about ourselves, we can start justifying things to ourselves. We start taking our desires as a master. As Allah SWT says in Surah Al Jaatihyah, Verse 23:
“Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah ? Then will you not be reminded?” (45:23)
So what should our perspective towards sinning be? Let’s share some practical tips.
Whatever you do, never justify your shortcomings
True freedom isn’t doing what you want, or “being yourself” to make yourself “feel better”. At that point, you’re not free, but rather you’re a slave to your desires. True freedom is obeying the One who created the very concept of freedom. Who tells us what to free ourselves from. Our lowly desires. And to have the true freedom in the next life.
So whatever happens, don’t justify your shortcomings, because at that point, instead of changing – or at the very least striving to change your behaviour – you’re changing your moral standards. You may try and change it, but know that Islam never changes as there is no changing perfection.
Seek knowledge to know what is right
Now if you’re saying to yourself, but “what if I don’t know what is right?” Or that we may not know if something is wrong. Well we need to take a means. Be proactive. For there are many meaning of guidance when we recite what we do in Surah Al Faatihah “Guide us to the straight path.” (1:6). As Ibn al Qayyim says in his ‘Inner Dimensions of the Prayer’, one of the types of guidance that the servant needs is, “…to have sound beliefs in matters he has based upon wrong and deviated beliefs. This form of guidance abrogates his deviated beliefs and replaces them with the right and sound ones.”²
And now we end in the best way possible. On a positive note. And that is to repent. Once you feel that regret, try to be sincere in not going back. If you get knocked down, you pick yourself up again. However many times you sin. It doesn’t matter. Never give up. Never justify. Do not lose hope. Repent, make dua’a to not return to it. And take active steps in facilitating that. And however long it takes. 1 month, 1 year, 10 years. Keep your head in the game, and know that Allah will never neglect you so long as you don’t neglect him.
For when you make dua’a to Allah SWT, you ask based on who He is and not based on who you are.
The Prophet ﷺ said, that Allah said in a Hadith Qudsi,
“O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.”
 Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s ‘Asrar Asrar al-Salah wal-Farq wal-Mawazanah bayna dawq al-Salah wal-Sama’, ‘The Inner Dimensions of the Prayer and the Comparison of Differing Experiences Between Performing Salah and Listening (To Music)’ pp.45-46, [Translated from the Original by Ayman ibn Khalid, Published by Dar As-Sunnah]