Is It Valid to Repent Only out of Fear of Going to Hell?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum

Imam Barkawi, defined repentance as,

‘Going back from desire to sin, with the determination of not returning to it, in exaltation of Allah and out of fear of His punishment.’

What is meant by ‘in exaltation of Allah’? What if one fulfills the conditions of repentance but turns to Allah purely out of fear for His punishment,not ‘in exaltation of Allah’?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

Yes, repentance (tawba) is valid if its requisite conditions are met.

As for Imam Birgivi’s definition, there are two considerations: (1) it excludes repenting for a worldly benefit, such as a fear of harm to your person or wealth, for example; and (2) repenting out of exaltation is a loftier station than doing so out of fear of being punished, but Imam Birgivi gathered between them both here so as to guide believers to the higher way.

Generally, repentance is an act of worship, actions require sincerity (ikhlas) to be meaningful, and the least of sincerity is intending Allah thereby. The specific conditions of repentance can also be understood in this manner. Hence, a person would leave the sin because he knows that the action is wrong, or sinful. His subsequent remorse and resolve never to return to it are duties, yet consequences and an extension of the first condition.

[Khadimi, al-Bariqa al-Mahmudiyya Sharh al-Tariqa (3.139); Nabulsi, al-Hadiqa al-Nadiyya Sharh al-Tariqa (2.169)]

Please also see: A Reader on Tawba (Repentance)

And Allah Most High alone knows best.

wassalam,

[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorised the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen, and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based with his family.

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