Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: I have a question relating to marriage and disclosing ones previous sins. If while considering a prospective spouse you feel sins you committed in the past may come to light later,  is it permissable to reveal this in general terms i.e “I committed a mistake and have sincerely repented” before the marriage /agreement? Or should we keep our sins quiet regardless of how likely we think they are to surface in the future.

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

I pray you are well.

The basis is that one does not reveal their sins, whether current or past, unless there is a shari`ah-countenanced interest in doing so.

As such, you should avoid revealing such sins to your spouse not only because of the clear prohibition mentioned in our primary source texts but also because of the potential harm it could cause your marriage. You can, however, mention how grateful you are for Allah’s guidance and your hope that He forgive you for any wrongs you committed without mentioning specifics.

Prophetic Statement on Revealing Sins

The prohibition of revealing one’s sins is demonstrated by the statement of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), “All my community will be excused except those who commit sins openly. Commiting them openly includes a man who does something shameful at night and when morning comes tells someone that they did such-and-such, while Allah had concealed it for them. They slept under the cover of Allah, and they removed Allah s covering from themselves in the morning.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

One of the reasons behind this is the fact that a sin is not something that the believer takes lightly. Rather, a sin is an action that Allah abhors and one that entitles its perpetuator to potential punishment. As such, the attitude of the believers towards the committal of a sin is to be remorseful, repent, and maintain the covering Allah has bestowed upon them.

Further, Imam Munawi said, “This is because from the attributes and favors of Allah is the manifestation of the good and beautiful and the concealment of the vile. Revealing sins is showing immense ingratitude towards such a blessing.” [Khadimi, Sharh Bariqa al-Muhammadiyya]

Revealing Sins Due to a Reason

Though the basis is prohibition of revealing one’s sins, exceptions do exist when there is a shari`ah countenaced reason.

Imam Nawawi said, “There is no harm in telling about a sin to one’s shsykh or other person who may be expected to teach one how to desist from the act or refrain from similar acts, or apprise one of the causes that led to it, or pray for one.” [Nawawi, Adhkar]

Even here, if it is possible to mention a thing in general without mentioning the actual sin or oneself then mentioning specifics would not be permitted.

And Allah knows best
Wassalam
Salman

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

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