Among the Banu Israaeel, there was a man who had committed the crime of murdering ninety-nine people. After killing them, he felt remorse in his heart and thus wished to repent and reform his life.
He approached some people and asked them to direct him to the greatest ‘Aalim of that place. They, however, guided him to a certain worshipper who had disassociated himself from the world and devoted himself to the ‘ibaadah of Allah Ta‘ala. On coming to the worshipper, the man said, “There is a person who murdered ninety-nine people. Is there any taubah for such a person?” The worshipper replied, “No, (there is no taubah for him).” When the man received this answer, he murdered the worshipper as well, thus increasing his total to one hundred murders!
However, the feeling of remorse and the urge to repent still persisted within his heart. Hence, he once again asked some people to direct him to the greatest ‘Aalim of that place. On this occasion, he was not directed to a mere worshipper but to a knowledgeable ‘Aalim.
On coming to the ‘Aalim, he once again said, “There is a person who murdered one hundred people. Is there any taubah for such a person?” The ‘Aalim replied, “Yes! Who can prevent him from turning to Allah Ta‘ala in sincere repentance? (i.e. the door of taubah is also open for him.)”
The ‘Aalim then advised him saying, “(In order to reform your condition, you must) go to such-and-such place (a city named Nasrah), as there are people in that place who (are pious and) engage in the worship of Allah Ta‘ala. (You should go there and) worship Allah Ta‘ala with them. Do not return to your city (named Kafrah) as it is a place filled with evil and sin.”
The man accepted the advice of the ‘Aalim and thus set out for the city of Nasrah where the pious people resided. However, en-route, when he had covered half the journey, he was approached by the angel of death who had come to extract his soul. In his final moments, as he was breathing his last, he turned his chest towards the town of the pious (since he could not reach it).
After he passed away, two groups of angels arrived; the angels of mercy and the angels of punishment, and both groups claimed that they had the right to take him. The angels of mercy said, “He came in the state of taubah and repentance, with his heart focused towards Allah Ta‘ala (thus we should take him).” However, the angels of punishment said, “He never carried out any good deed (thus we should take him for punishment)!”
At that point, another angel arrived, in the form of a human, and was appointed by the two groups to decide between them. He said to the two groups of angels, “Measure the distance between him and the two towns (i.e. the town he came from and the town he is going towards). Whichever town he is closer to, regard him to be from the people of that town.”
However, before the angels could measure the distance, Allah Ta‘ala instructed the town of Kafrah, from which he had come, to move away from him, and also instructed the town of Nasrah, which he was going towards, to draw closer to him. Thus, when the angels measured the distances, they found that he was closer to Nasrah by the distance of one hand-span.
As a result of this, the angels of mercy took his soul and he was forgiven (and saved from the punishment).
(Saheeh Bukhaari #3470, Saheeh Muslim #7008 and Fat-hul Baari)
1. No matter how many sins we have committed, and how evil our actions may be, if we turn to Allah Ta‘ala in sincere repentance, He will forgive us. With complete remorse in our hearts, and with the sincere resolve that we will never repeat the sin, we must cry to Allah Ta‘ala and beg Him to forgive us. If we do this, then even if our sins are as numerous as the grains of sand in the world, He will forgive us and erase our sins from our records.
2. When we are seeking guidance in Deen, we must refer to those who are qualified to dispense guidance. If we require the answer to a mas-alah (shar‘ee ruling), we must refer to an ‘Aalim who is knowledgeable in fiqh and masaa-il. Likewise, if we require guidance regarding an issue relating to self-reformation, then we should refer to the Mashaayikh who are the experts at diagnosing and treating spiritual ailments and maladies. Just as referring to an unqualified person for health advice can damage and destroy one’s health, referring to an unqualified person for Deeni advice can bring damage and destruction to one’s Deen.
3. When a person wishes to reform his life and give up sins and evils, then among the requirements for his taubah to be accepted is that he should leave out sins and all the avenues that lead to sins (e.g. cell phone, internet, bad company, etc.). Similarly, he should ensure that he is in a pious and good environment, in the company of pious people. This will motivate him towards righteousness and assist him to reform his condition.
4. Allah Ta‘ala is so loving and compassionate to His slaves that when a person takes the initiative, and the first step towards Allah Ta‘ala, then Allah Ta‘ala makes the rest of the journey easy for him. However, what is required is that one turns to Allah Ta‘ala and takes the first step. Thus, when the murderer set out on the road to Nasrah, although he did not reach his destination, Allah Ta‘ala made the systems of the world work in his favour and forgave him – as the desire in his heart to repent and reform was true and sincere.