By Syed Akbar Hassan
The Qur’ān (39:53-61) says: “Say: ‘(Thus speaks Allah): You servants of Mine who have transgressed against their own souls! Do not despair of Allah’s mercy: Allah forgives all sins; He alone is Much-Forgiving, Merciful. Turn towards your Lord and submit to Him before the suffering comes upon you, for then you cannot be helped. Follow the best that has been revealed to you by your Lord before the suffering comes upon you of a sudden, without your being aware of it, lest anyone should say: ‘Woe is me for having neglected what is due to Allah, and for having been one of those who scoffed (at the truth);’ or lest he should say: ‘If Allah had but guided me, I would surely have been among the God-fearing;’ or lest he should say, when faced by the suffering (that awaits him): ‘If only I could have a second chance in life, I will he among those who do good. (Allah will say]: ‘Yes, indeed! My revelations did come to you, but you rejected them. You were filled with false pride and had no faith at all.’ On the Day of Resurrection you will see those who invented lies about Allah with their faces darkened. Is not there in hell a proper abode for the arrogant? But Allah will deliver those who are God-fearing to their place of safety: no harm shall afflict them, nor shall they grieve.”
People are reminded of the fact that losing hope in Allah and seeking other deities and intercessors is not the correct way. They should, in fact, turn to Him in all circumstances. He is very forgiving and merciful. Hence before He seizes them, people should turn to Him and profess faith in this magnificent Book which the Almighty has revealed for their guidance. Otherwise, a day will come when they will yearn to profess faith and severely regret their deprivation. However, this shall be of no avail to them because the time for professing faith would have passed.
At this point, Allah shows the prospect of His forgiveness and mercy available to all those who have transgressed no matter how great the sins they have committed. He invites them all to turn back to Him with repentance, entertaining no feeling of despair.
It is divine mercy that will erase every transgression, whatever it happens to be. It is an invitation to all those who have gone far into error and led a life that has taken them far astray, telling them hope still remains available and Allah’s mercy and forgiveness are not far from them. Allah is most merciful to His servants. Allah is aware that shaitan sets traps for us at every corner, using a great variety of forces, never tiring of his attempt to seduce us. Moreover, Allah knows that we can easily fall when we let our bond to the truth weaken.
As Allah knows all this about man, He provides him with ample help, opening the gates of His mercy. He does not take him to task for his sin until He has facilitated for him all the ways and means to rectify his error and mend his ways. Nevertheless, when man goes deep into sin, thinking that he is totally rejected by Allah and that all is lost, he hears at this point of utter despair a fine address expressing the unlimited mercy available to him: “Do not despair of Allah’s mercy: Allah forgives all sins; He alone is Much-Forgiving, Merciful.”
This means that despite our repeated sins, all we need to receive Allah’s grace that revives all that is good in us is to repent. All we need to do is turn back to Allah through the gate that is left wide open. To turn to Allah in true submission and to surrender oneself once more to Him is all that is needed. No rituals, no barriers, no intermediaries, no intercessors. It is a direct link between servant and Master: whoever wishes to return, stop rebellion and approach in full submission may do so. What he will receive is acceptance, a warm welcome and grace beyond measure.
Should the chance be missed, there can be no help. The chance is open now, but its duration cannot be guaranteed. In fact, it can terminate at any moment of the night and day. Therefore, come on and “Follow the best that has been revealed to you by your Lord,” which is this Qur’an that you now have at your fingertips, “before the suffering comes upon you of a sudden, without your being aware of it.” Alternatively, someone may say that Allah condemned him to be in error: had He decreed that he would follow divine guidance, he would have been a God-fearing person. This is a baseless excuse: the chance is offered to everyone, the means are available to all, and the gates are wide open. Yet people deliberately miss out: “Or lest he should say, when faced by the suffering (that awaits him): If only I could have a second chance in life, I will be among those who do good.” This is something that will never be given. Once this life is over, no return is allowed. All people are now at the stage when they can do what they want. If they miss this chance, all is lost. They will be held to account, and they will be rebuked: “Yes, indeed.’ My revelations did come to you, but you rejected them. You were filled with false pride and had no faith at all.”
At this point, when the surah has brought our feelings and hearts to the Day of Judgement, it shows us the two contrasting images of the unbelievers and the God-fearing on that momentous day: “On the Day of Resurrection you will see those who invented lies about Allah with their faces darkened. Is not there in hell a proper abode for the arrogant? But Allah will deliver those who are God-fearing to their place of safety: no harm shall afflict them, nor shall they grieve.”
This is the final end: one group has faces darkened by humiliation, sorrow and the scorches of hell. These are the arrogant who, during their lives in this world, were called to turn to Allah and believe in Him, and the chance was kept open for them even after they went far into sin, but they refused to pay heed. Now, on the Day of judgement, they are left in utter humiliation that shows in their faces. The other group are the winners who will not be touched by grief or affliction. These are the God-fearing who, during their lives on earth, paid heed to Allah’s warnings and hoped for His mercy. They are the ones who will be safe: “no harm shall afflict them, nor shall they grieve.”
With all issues made abundantly clear, let everyone choose what they want.