There is a hadith that appears in different books of Hadith. In the Musnad Ahmad it reads as follows: “If you do wrongful acts such that the entire space between heaven and earth gets filled with your sins, and then you ask for God’s forgiveness, God will forgive you. If you do not make mistakes, then God will bring in your place another people who make mistakes, then ask for God’s forgiveness and so God forgives them.” (hadith no. 13493).
Every religious deed has two aspects—one quantitative, and the other qualitative. The quantitative aspect of a deed remains in this world. When a human being departs from this world and enters the world of the Hereafter, only the qualitative aspect of his deeds remains with him. It is because of this that in the Hereafter God will look at the qualitative aspects of our deeds, not their quantitative aspect.
This qualitative aspect of deeds is termed as qalb salim in the Quran (26:89). The literal meaning of qalb salim is a ‘sound heart’. By a ‘sound heart’ is meant, in other words, a spiritually-developed personality. In the Hereafter, God will select people for admission into Paradise. The criterion for this selection will be the inner personality of a person with which he or she has arrived in the Hereafter. The above-cited hadith offers great hope to people.
From this and other similar hadith reports we learn that the aspect of asking for forgiveness for one’s mistakes or misdeeds is more important than the external form of one’s actions. No matter how much the extent or magnitude of one’s misdeeds, if you show sincere repentance and ask for God’s forgiveness, then there is a promise from God that He will forgive you in the Hereafter.
Why is asking for forgiveness after making a mistake so important? It is because if a person’s sensitivity remains alive, then, after making a mistake, an urge to repent wells up within him. He feels greatly ashamed of his sin. He turns with greater earnestness to God, and with a restless heart, he seeks God’s forgiveness. It is this that causes God’s mercy to rain on one who has made a mistake.
If you do not make a mistake, it is possible that you might become a victim of pride. But when a person commits a mistake and after this feels ashamed of it, he becomes more serious about things. He becomes more modest. He seeks forgiveness from God with more earnestness. In this way, the awareness of one’s misdeeds helps one develop a new character.
If before making a mistake such a person would supplicate with God in plain words, his supplication is now expressed in the language of tears. If before committing a mistake he thought he was something, after this he thinks he is nothing. If before committing a mistake he relied on his own actions, he now realizes that all his actions depend on God and that only if God forgives him will he gain Paradise, and that if God does not forgive him he will not enter Paradise.
In this way, sensitivity towards one’s misdeeds plays a major role in developing a divine character, the character that one needs in order to enter Paradise. It helps cut a person down to size.
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