بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِِ

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On Repentance

Chapter 2

Riyadh as-Salihin of Imam Nawawi
Translated from the Arabic by Muhammad Zafrulla Khan
Gardens of Righteous

The salutation to the Holy Prophet in the words ‘upon whom be peace and blessings of Allah’ after his name, and the invocation ‘may Allah be pleased with him’ after the names of his companions are expressly set out in the manuscript but are omitted in print in order to accomodate the text to the modern reader. They should, nevertheless, be understood as repeated in each case.

In this translation the form ibn has been used in both initial and medial positions in the names of persons, in order to conform with current usage, although bin occurs medially in the originally text.

Allah, the Exalted, has said:

  1. Turn ye to Allah, all together, O believers, that you may prosper (24.32).
  2. Seek forgiveness of your Lord and turn to Him in repentance (11.4).
  3. O ye who believe, turn to Allah in sincere repentance (66.9).


  1. Abu Hurairah relates that he heard the Holy Prophet say: Allah is my witness, that I seek forgiveness of Allah and turn to Him more than seventy times a day (Bokhari).
  2. Aghirr ibn Yasar Muzanni relates that the Holy Prophet admonished: Turn to Allah, ye people, and seek forgiveness of Him. For myself, I turn to Allah a hundred times a day (Muslim).
  3. Anas ibn Malik, servant of the Holy Prophet, said: Allah is more pleased with the repentance of a servant of His than would be one of you who were to lose his camel in a barren desert and then find it suddenly (Bokhari and Muslim). The version in Muslim adds: Allah is more pleased with the repentance of a servant of His than would be one of you who were to lose his riding camel, which carries his food and drink, in a barren desert, and losing all hope of finding it he were to lie down in the shade of a tree, and then should suddenly find it standing near him and should seize its nose-string and in his excess of joy should blurt out: O Allah, Thou art my servant and I am Thy lord.
  4. Abu Musa Ash’ari relates that the Holy Prophet said: Allah will continue to hold out His hand at night so that he who has sinned during the day might repent, and to hold out His hand during the day so that he who has sinned at night might repent, till the sun should rise from the west (Muslim).
  5. Abu Hurairah relates that the Holy Prophet said: Allah will turn with mercy to whoever repents before the sun rises from the west (Muslim).
  6. Abdullah ibn Umar relates that the Holy Prophet said: Allah, the Lord of honour and glory, will accept the repentance of a servant of His till his death-rattle begins (Tirmidhi).
  7. Zirr ibn Jubaish relates: I went to Safwan ibn Assal to inquire about the symbolic passing of the hands over socks in the course of ablutions. He asked me: Zirr, what brings you? I replied: Search of knowledge. He said: Angels spread their wings for one who seeks knowledge out of pleasure at what he seeks. I told him: Some doubt has arisen in my mind concerning the symbolic passing of hands over socks in the course of ablutions after one has been to the privy or the urinal. Now, you are one of the Companions of the Holy Prophet and I have come to ask you: Did you hear him mention anything concerning it? He replied: Yes. He directed us that while we were on a journey we need not take off days and nights, except after consorting with out wives. In other cases, e.g. sleep, a visit to the privy or urinal etc., the symbolic passing of the hands over socks would suffice during that period. I then asked him: Did you hear him say anything concerning love and affection? He replied: We were with the Holy Prophet in the course of a journey when a desert Arab called out to him in a loud rough voice: O Muhammad! The Holy Prophet answered him in almost the same tone: Here I am. I said to the Arab: Fie on thee, lower thy voice in his presence; Allah has so commanded. To me he retorted: I will not lower my voice; and then addressing the Holy Prophet said: What about a person who loves a people but has not yet found himself in their company? The Holy Prophet made answer: On the day of Judgment a person will be in the company of those he loves. He then continued talking to us and in the course of his talk made mention of a gateway in the west, the width of which could be traversed by a rider in forty or seventy years. Sufyan, who is one of the narrators of this hadith adds: This gateway is the in the direction of Syria. Allah created it along with the creation of the heavens and the earth. It is open for repentance, and will not be closed till the sun rises from that direction (Tirmidhi and others).
  8. Abu Sa’id Khudri relates that the Holy Prophet said: 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. 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 thine 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 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 (Bokhari and Muslim). One version has it that he was found to be closer to the land of the righteous by the width of a hand and was thus accounted one of them. Another version is that God directed the space on one side to expand and the space on the other to shrink, and then said: Now carry out the measurement. It was found that he was nearer to his goal by the width of a hand and was forgiven. It is also related that he came closer by crawling on his chest.
  9. Abdullah ibn Ka’ab, who had become his father’s guide when the latter became blind, relates that he had heard from his father, Ka’ab ibn Malik a full account of the incident of his remaining behind the Holy Prophet when he proceeded on the campaign of Tabuk. Ka’ab said: I had accompanied the Holy Prophet in every campaign except in that of Badr, and in that case there was no question of any penalty for the Holy Prophet and the Muslims had in view ostensibly the Quraish caravan, but Allah brought about a confrontation between them and their enemies unexpectedly. I was present with the Messenger of Allah the night of Aqabah, when we convenanted complete dedication to Islam. I would not exchange Aqabah with Badr, for all the fame of Badr as compared with Aqabah. My failure to accompany the Holy Prophet in the campaign of Tabuk fell out in this wise. I was stronger and more affluent at the time of this campaign than at any other time. I had then two riding camels, and never before did I have two. Whenever the Holy Prophet decided on a campaign he would not disclose his real objective till the last moment. In this case, as the season was one of intense heat, the journey was long across the desert and the enemy was in great strength; he warned the Muslims early and told them his objective so that they should make full preparation. The number of those ready to accompany the Messenger of Allah was also large. No register would have sufficed for setting down the particulars of all of them. Most of those who were minded to keep away imagined that they would get away with it, unless their defection was disclosed through divine revelation. Also the fruit on the trees had ripened and their shade was thick and this too operated on my mind.The Messenger of Allah and the Muslims who were to accompany him occupied themselves with their preparations and I would go out in the morning meaning to do the same along with him but would return without settling anything, saying to myself: There is plenty of time. I can get ready whenever I wish. This went on and the Muslims completed their preparations, and one day the Messenger of Allah started with them on his march, and I had not yet done anything to prepare myself. I still continued in my state of indecision, without settling anything, while the Muslims continued on the march. I thought I would go forth alone and overtake them. How I wish I had done it, but it was not to be. Now when I went about in the town it grieved me to observe that among those who were still at home like me were only those who were either suspected of hypocrisy or were excused on account of age or such like.The Holy Prophet made no mention of me till after he had arrived at Tabuk. There sitting among the people on that day he inquired what had happened to Ka’ab? Someone from among the Bani Salimah said: Messenger of Allah, he has been hindered by his two cloaks and his habit of admiring his finery. On this Mu’az ibn Jabal admonished him. The Holy Prophet said nothing. At this time he observed someone at a distance in the desert clad in white and exclaimed: May it be Abu Kaisamah; and so he proved to be. He was the one who was taunted by the hypocrites when he gave away a quantity of dates in charity.When I learnt that the Messenger of Allah was on his way back from Tabuk I was much distressed and began to resolve false excuses in my mind that might serve to shield me from his anger. I also consulted such members of my family whose judgment I trusted. When I heard that the Holy Prophet was approaching I realized that no false excuses would avail me and I resolved to stick to the truth. He arrived the next morning. It was his wont that when he returned from a journey he first entered the mosque and offered two raka’as of Prayer and then sat facing the people. He did the same on this occasion and those who had remained behind from the campaign came up and began to put forward their excuses on oath. They were well over eighty in number. The Holy Prophet accepted their verbal declarations, renewed their covenants, prayed for forgiveness for them and committed to Allah whatever was in their minds. When it came to my turn and I saluted him, he smiled, but it was smile of one angry and said: Come forward. So, I stepped forward ands sat down before him. He asked: What kept you back? Had you not purchased your mount? I replied: Messenger of Allah, were I confronted by someone other than yourself, a man of the world, I could easily escape his displeasure by some excuse, for I am gifted with skill in argument, but I know that if I were to spin before you a false tale today, which might even convince you, most certainly will Allah soon rouse your anger against me over something. On the other hand, if I tell you the truth and you are wroth with me, I might still hope for a good end from Allah, the Exalted, the Glorious. I have no excuse. I was never stronger and more affluent than when I held back from accompanying you. The Holy Prophet said: This one has told the truth. Now withdraw, till Allah issues His decree concerning you. Some men of Bani Salimah followed me out of the mosque and said: We have not known you to commit a fault before this, then why did you not put forward an excuse before the Holy Prophet like the others who had held back from campaign? Your fault would have found its forgiveness through the prayer of the Holy Prophet for your forgiveness. They kept on reproaching me so severely that I made my mind to go back to the Holy Prophet and to retract my confession. Then I asked them: Is anyone else in similar case to mine? They said: Murarah ibn Rabi’a `Amiri and Hilal ibn Umayyah Waqifi. When they mentioned two such persons who were righteous, had participated in the battle of Badr, and possessed many good qualities. I was confirmed in my original resolve.The Holy Prophet directed the Muslims to stop speaking to the three of us. People kept away from us, as if they were strangers, as it seemed to me that I was in a strange land which I could not recognize. This continued for fifty days. My two companions in misery were resigned and took to keeping inside their homes. But I being the youngest of the three and the toughest used to go out and join the Muslims in Prayer and walked the streets but nobody would talk to me. I would attend upon the Holy Prophet when he sat in the mosque after Prayer and would salute him and wonder whether he had moved his lips in returning my salutation. I would stand in Prayer near him and I noticed that he would look in my direction when I was occupied with the Prayer and would look away when I looked in his direction. Being oppressed by the hardness of the Muslims towards me I went one day and vaulted over the garden wall of my cousin Abu Qatadah of whom I was very fond, and saluted him, but he did not return my salutation. I said to him: Abu Qatadah, I adjure you in the name of Allah, do you not know that I love Allah and His Messenger? But he said nothing. I repeated my adjuration. Still no reply. I asked a third time and he said: Allah and His Messenger know best; on which I could not restrain my tears and beat a retreat the way I had come.One day I was sauntering in the market-place of Medina when I heard a peasant from Syria, who had brought a quantity of corn for sale, say: Would someone direct me to Ka’ab ibn Malik? People pointed in my direction. He came to me and handed me a letter from the King of Ghassan. Being literate myself I read it. Its purport was: We have heard that your master has treated you harshly. God has not made you to be humiliated and maltreated. Come over to us and we shall receive you graciously. Having read it, I said to myself: This is another trial; and I committed it to the oven.When forty days had elapsed without any indication in the revelation concerning us, a messenger of the Holy Prophet came to me and said: The Messenger of Allah directs you to keep away from your wife. I inquired: Shall I divorce her or what? He said: No. Only do not associate with her. I understood that my two companions had been directed likewise. So I told my wife: Go to your parents and remain with them till Allah determines this matter. Hilal ibn Umayyah’s wife went to the Holy Prophet and said: Messenger of Allah, Hilal ibn Umayyah is old and is not able to look after himself, nor has he a servant. Would it displease you if I were to serve him? He said: No. But he should not associate with you. She said: He has no desire of me; since this incident he is occupied only with weeping. Some of my people said to me: You should also seek the permission of the Holy Prophet that your wife should look after you as the wife of Hilal ibn Umayyah looks after him. I told them: I shall not ask the Holy Prophet for permission for I do not know what he might say. Besides, I am young.Ten more days passed like this and on the fifty-first morning, after communication with us had been interdicted, when, after the dawn Prayer at home, I was sitting in a melancholy state and the wide world, as Allah, the Exalted, has described it, seemed closing in on me, I suddenly heard someone shout at the top of his voice from the crest of Mount Sala’ah: O Ka’ab ibn Malik, good news! I immediately fell into prostration and realized that relief had come. It seems that the Holy Prophet had informed the people at the time of dawn Prayer that Allah, the Lord of honour and glory, had turned to us in mercy, and several people had set out to convey the good news to us. Some went to my two companions. One spurred his horse in the direction of my home. One of the tribe of Aslam ran up to the mount and his voice reached me before the arrival of the cavalier. When the one whose voice I had heard arrived to felicitate me, I took off my garments and made him wear them. I had no other garments for my own wearing and borrowed a pair to put on and set out to present myself before the Holy Prophet. On the way I encountered crowds of people who congratulated me saying: Blessed by the acceptance by Allah of thy repentance. When I entered the mosque I found the Holy Prophet seated surrounded by people. Of them, Talha ibn Ubaidullah got up and sprang towards me and, shaking my hand, congratulated me. He was the only one out of the Emigrants who got up and I have never forgotten this gesture of his.When I saluted the Holy Prophet his face was aglow with joy and he said: Be happy with the best one of all thy days that have passed since thy mother gave thee birth. I said: Messenger of Allah, is this from you or from Allah? He answered: It is indeed from Allah. It was usual with him that his happy face glowed as if it were a segment of the moon, which we took as a signal that he was pleased. I then submitted to him: Messenger of Allah, to complete my repentance I would like to give up all my possessions as charity in the cause of Allah and His Messenger. He said: Hold back part of it; that would be better for you. On which I said: I shall hold back that portion which is in Khaibar. Then I submitted: Messenger of Allah, Allah, the Exalted, has delivered me only because I adhered to the truth, and it is part of my repentance that for the rest of my days I shall speak nothing but the truth. Ever since I declared this before the Holy Prophet, Allah, the Exalted, has not tried anyone so well in the matter of telling the truth as He has tried me. To this day, since my declaration, I have never had any inclination to tell a lie, and I hope that Allah will continue to safeguard me against it during the rest of my days.

    Allah, the Exalted, revealed: Allah has assuredly turned with mercy to the Prophet and to the Emigrants and the Helpers who stood by him in the hour of distress when the hearts of a party of them had well-nigh swerved, and He has turned with mercy to these last also. He is Compassionate and Merciful to all of them. He has also turned with mercy to the three whose matter had been deferred and who felt as if the wide earth was closing upon them and whose lives became a burden to them and who became convinced that there was no refuge against the wrath of Allah save in Himself. He turned to them with mercy that they might turn to Him in repentance. Surely, it is Allah Who is Oft-Returning with compassion and is Ever Merciful. O ye who believe, be mindful of your duty to Allah and keep company with the righteous (9.117-119).

    Ka’ab continued: After Allah had guided me to Islam, His greatest bounty in my estimation, that He bestowed upon me, was my telling the truth to the Holy Prophet, and not lying to him and ruining myself as were ruined those who did tell lies to him. In His revelation Allah had said concerning those who told lies worse than He said concerning anyone: They will swear to you by Allah, when you return to them that you may leave them alone. So leave them alone. They are, indeed, an abomination, and their abode is hell, a recompense for that which they did. They will swear to you that you may be pleased with them but even if you are pleased with them, Allah will not be pleased with the rebellious people (9.95-96)

    Our matter had been left pending, of the three of us, apart from the matter of those who had made excuses on oath before the Holy Prophet which he accepted, and whose convenants he renewed and for whom he prayed for forgiveness. The Holy Prophet kept our matter pending till Allah determined it with: He has also turned with mercy to the three whose matter was deferred. The reference here is not our holding back from the campaign, but to his deferring our matter and keeping it pending beyond the matter of those who made their excuses on oath which he accepted. One version adds: The Holy Prophet set out for Tabuk on Thursday. He preferred setting out on a Thursday. Another version has it that he always returned from journey in the early forenoon and went directly to the mosque where he offered two raka’as of Prayer, whereafter he sat down there receiving people (Bokhari and Muslim).

  10. Imran ibn Husain Khuza’ai relates that a woman of the Juhainah, who had become pregnant in consequence of adultery, came to the Holy Prophet and said: Messenger of Allah, I have committed a capital offence, so direct the execution of the sentence. The Holy Prophet sent for her guardian and said to him: Treat her kindly, and when she is delivered of the child bring her back. He did accordingly. Her clothes were secured around her and the sentence was directed to be carried out. She was accordingly stoned to death. The Holy Prophet led the funeral prayers for her. Umar submitted: Messenger of Allah, she had been guilty of adultery. He answered: She repented so that her repentance spread over seventy of the people of Medina would suffice them. Can there be any higher degree of repentance than that she had laid down her life voluntarily to win the pleasure of Allah, the Lord of honour and glory (Muslim)?
  11. Ibn Abbas and Anas ibn Malik relate that the Holy Prophet said: If a son of man had a valley of gold he would desire two of them. Only the earth of the grave can fill his mouth. Allah turns to mercy to him who turns to Him in repentance (Bokhari and Muslim).
  12. Abu Hurairah relates that the Holy Prophet said: Allah, the Exalted, will be greatly pleased with two, one of whom kills the other and both enter Paradise. The first one while fighting in the cause of Allah is slain by the second, and thereafter Allah turns in mercy to the second and he becomes a Muslim and in his turn becomes a martyr like the first (Bokhari and Muslim).