Say Muhammad, “O My servants who have committed excesses against their own souls! despair not of the mercy of Allah, surely Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, He is Most Forgiving, Merciful. (Al Quran 39:53/54)
The following Hadith which is a parable illustrates beautifully that it is usually not too late for true repentance. The prophet says:
An individual from among a people before you having killed as many as ninety nine persons inquired who was the most learned person on earth. He was directed to a monk. He went to the monk and said: I have killed ninety nine persons. Is there any chance of repentance left for me? The monk answered: No. Forthwith he dispatched the monk also and completed a full century of victims.
This is a parable and not a reality, but it is interesting to note that the monk in a way got punished for his intolerant and wrong ideas. From the perspective of the murderer, however, he committed another sin and completed a century of murders. From ordinary worldly wisdom it would seem that this person is rotten and is a serial killer and is beyond reformation and forgiveness. But the Hadith continues:
Then he inquired again: Who is the most learned person on earth? and was directed to a savant, to whom he said: I have killed a hundred persons. Is there a chance of repentance left for me? The savant said: Yes. What can stand between you and repentance? Proceed to such and such a land. In it there are people who worship God. Join them in the worship of God and do not return to your own land, for it is an evil place. So he set out. He had traversed only half the distance when he was overtaken by death, and a contention arose over him between the angels of mercy and the angels of torment. The angels of mercy pleaded that he had come a penitent turning towards God; and the angels of torment contended that he had never done a good deed. Then there arrived an angel in human form and the contending angels agreed that he should be the arbiter between them. He directed them: Measure the distance between the two lands. To whichever he is closer to that one he belongs. So they carried out the measurement and he was found to be closer to the land whither he was bound. The angels of mercy thus took charge of him (Bukhari and Muslim).
The message in this parable is a message of the forgiveness of God. It talks about the situation when one makes true repentance and death overtakes one before complete reformation is visible to the human eye. In such circumstances God will give credit for the possible continued process of reformation, that had been interrupted by death. In other words there is all the hope despite the severity of the sins provided we show true repentance. However, the repentance should be true and sincere. Reformation is an inherent component of true reformation. In other words at least some early signs of reformation are an essential component of true repentance. Such repentance has to, however, come before one is on the death bed.
The above mentioned Hadith is quoted on page 5 of this collection of Hadiths: Gardens of the Righteous
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