In response to Ibn al-Muttahir’s false accusations and blatant lies regarding ʿUthmān bin ʿAffān, raḍiyallāhu ʿanhu, alleged incompetency as the Khalifah of the Muslims. Shaykhul-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah stated the following 10 ways by which a Muslim avoids the punishment of the Hellfire:
Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah mentioned:1 The general principle that applies here is that we do not believe anyone is infallible2 after the Prophet (ﷺ). In fact it is quite possible for the khulafāʾ (Caliphs) and those other than them to make mistakes, The general principle that applies here is that we do not believe anyone is infallible after the Prophet (ﷺ). In fact it is quite possible for the khulafāʾ (Caliphs) and those other than them to make mistakes, however whatever sin they committed they would have repented from it, or it can be eradicated by their many good deeds, or they were tested by trials from Allāh whereby it becomes a means of expiation for their sins, or it can be expiated by other means. Hence everything that has been mentioned about ʿUthmān, raḍiyallāhu ʿanhu, at the very worst it can be said that it was either a sin or a mistake, but there were many things ʿUthmān did and that happened to him that were reasons for his forgiveness; from amongst them: him being one of the first people to accept Islām, his Īmān, his jihad, and his other acts of obedience. Indeed it has been authentically narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) gave him glad tidings of the Jannah due to a great trial that he would face later on in life. Also from amongst them (i.e. the reasons for his forgiveness) is that he repented from everything that they held against him, and that he was tested with such a severe trial that Allāh made it a means of expiating all his previous sins, to the point that he was martyred oppressively, and this is one of the greatest deeds that expiates a person’s sins.3
Thus we do not say that none of them ever committed a sin (i.e. the Ṣaḥābah), rather we believe that those amongst them who committed sins, Allāh will not punish them in the hereafter, nor will He enter them into the Hellfire. In fact, they will enter into Jannah without a doubt, and they will be saved from the punishment of the hereafter either because of their repentance, their many good deeds, by an affliction that befell them, or because of other reasons which we clarified in other places. For indeed every sin that a believer commits is a reason for him being punished, however this punishment in the hereafter can be averted by ten different means:
al-Tawbah: for indeed the one who repents from a sin is like the one who never committed that sin. And tawbah is accepted from every type of sin; kufr,4 wicked/evil deeds, and disobedience.
“But if they repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, then they are your brothers in religion.”
Committing a sin then repenting from it often brings about an increase in fear, reverence, and humility for Allāh, which may not have previously occurred. This is why some of the Salaf used to say; a person may commit a sin because of which he enters Jannah, and a person may do a good deed by which he enters the hellfire. He commits a sin which constantly weighs heavily on his conscious, thus whenever he remembers it he repents to Allāh and makes duʿāʾ to Him and as a consequence He (Allāh) enters him into Jannah. Whereas the other does a good deed and becomes haughty because of it so he enters the hellfire.
al-Istighfār, for indeed al-Istighfār means to seek forgiveness which in reality is a form of duʿāʾ, and most times it accompanies tawbah, as it is highly recommended to be part of it (i.e. tawbah). For indeed a person may repent but he may not make duʿāʾ, or he may make duʿāʾ but he may not repent. al-Bukhārī and Muslim narrated from Abu Hurayrah, raḍiyallāhu ʿanhu, who said the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) reported from his Lord (ḥadīth qudsī) that He said, “My slave commits sin, then he says, ‘O Allāh, forgive me my sin!’ Then Allāh says, ‘My slave has committed a sin, but he knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sin and takes away sin. So I forgive my slave.’ Then he commits sin again, and says, ‘O Allāh, forgive me my sin.’ Then Allāh says, ‘My slave has committed a sin, but he knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sin and takes away sin. So I forgive my slave.’ Then he commits sin again, and says, ‘O Allāh, forgive me my sin.’ Then Allāh says, ‘My slave has committed a sin, but he knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sin and takes away sin. So I forgive My slave.’” In the narration of Muslim, “Let him do as he wants.”5 Thus tawbah erases all bad deeds, and only by making tawbah can all sins be forgiven, for Allāh will not forgive shirk but He will forgive everything else besides that to those whom He chooses.
“Say: ‘O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”
As for simply making Istighfār without tawbah, then this does not necessitate forgiveness; but it can be a cause from its causes.
“Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds.”
And the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) said to Muʿādh Ibn Jabal advising him, “Yā Muʿādh fear Allāh wherever you may be, and follow a bad deed with a good deed which will wipe it away, and interact with the people in a good manner.”6 He (ﷺ) also said, “The five prayers, the Jumuʿa to Jumuʿa , Ramaḍān to Ramaḍān; are all expiations for that which occurred between them as long as a person avoids the major sins.”7 The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Whoever fasts during Ramaḍān out of Īmān, hoping to gain the reward therein; all his previous sins will be forgiven.”8 The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Whoever performs Hajj to this House (Kaʿbah) and does not approach his wife for sexual relations nor commits sins (while performing Hajj), he will come out as sinless as a newly born child.”9 The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Charity extinguishes sins just as water extinguishes fire.”10
“O you who have believed, shall I guide you to a transaction that will save you from a painful punishment? [It is that] you believe in Allah and His Messenger and strive in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is best for you, if you should know. He will forgive for you your sins and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow and pleasant dwellings in gardens of perpetual residence. That is the great attainment. And [you will obtain] another [favor] that you love victory from Allah and an imminent conquest; and give good tidings to the believers.”
Imām Muslim narrated in his Ṣaḥīḥ, “All the sins of a shahīd (martyr) are forgiven except for his debt.”11 And many other aḥadīth that are like this, and to explain these aḥadīth would entail much further details. Perhaps a person may ask, “If the five daily prayers expiate the sins, then what sins are expiated whenever I pray Jumuʿa , or fast in Ramaḍān, ʿArafah, or ʿAshūrāʾ?” Some people say that these acts increase a person’s rank if there are no sins to expiate. However, what must be said first is that deeds that Allāh erases sins by and expiates bad deeds by, are the deeds that have been accepted, and Allāh indeed (only) accepts for those who have taqwá. And regarding this ayah which is His statement,
“Indeed, Allāh only accepts from the righteous [who fear Him]”
the people have three opinions; two extremes and one that is in the middle. The Khawārij12 and the Muʿtazilah say that Allāh only accepts the good deeds of those who avoid all the major sins, for according to them the person who commits a major sin, Allāh does not accept his good deeds period. The Murjiʾah say as long as a person avoids shirk (all his good deeds will be accepted). Whereas the Salaf and the Aʾimah (Imāms) say: Allāh only accepts from the one who fears Him as it relates to that particular deed, as He commanded that it should be sincerely for His face.
al-Fudayl ibn ʿIyāḍ said that about His statement:
لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۗ ﴿٧﴾
“…That He might test you as to which of you is best in deed.”
“It is what is most sincere and most correct.” They asked: “O Abū ʿAlī, what is most sincere and most correct?” He replied: “An action, if it is sincere but not correct, will not be accepted. If it is correct but not sincere, it will [also] not be accepted; until it is both sincere and correct. Sincere means that it is exclusively for Allāh, and correct means that it conforms to the Sunnah.” Thus the one who commits major sins, if he fears Allāh in that particular deed, it will be accepted from him, just as those who are better than him, if they do not have taqwá of Allāh when doing that particular deed, it will not be accepted from them even though their other deeds may be accepted. Indeed Allāh accepts the deeds that are done in the manner they were commanded to be done as has been narrated in the Sunan from ʿAmmār Ibn Yāsir that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Indeed the ʿabd (slave) would be distracted in his ṣalāh to the extent that only half of it would be written for him, or a third of it, or a quarter of it, or a tenth of it.”13 Ibn ʿAbbās said, “You have no reward from your ṣalāh except that portion wherein you were conscious (of Allāh).” And the ḥadīth, “Perhaps a fasting person will get nothing from his fast except hunger, and perhaps the one who stands to pray at night will get nothing from his standing except sleeplessness.”14 Likewise the same applies to Hajj, Jihād, and other acts of obedience. Thus the expiation of sins occurs when good deeds are accepted and most people are deficient when it comes to their good deeds; even in their ṣalāh. In the ḥadīth from Muʿādh who narrated in the Sunan: “Jihād is of two types; the Jihād whereby Allāh’s face is sought, the Amīr is obeyed, the best of one’s wealth is spent, you assist your comrade, evil is avoided, and the spoils of war are rightfully distributed. Nothing is equal to that. And the Jihād whereby Allāh’s face is not sought (in another narration: showing off), the Amīr is not obeyed, the best of one’s wealth is not spent, you do not assist your comrade, evil is not avoided, and the spoils of war is stolen before it is rightfully distributed. Then for such a person it is sufficient that he returns with nothing.”15
Thus forgiveness and expiation occurs in relation that which is accepted from the good deeds, and most people are deficient in their good deeds – even in their ṣalāh – for the best amongst them are those, who at the most, obtain half of the reward that is written for them, in addition to committing many sins. This is why the five ṣalāh expiates some sins, Jumuʿa expiates others, then fasting expiates some, and likewise other good deeds, for every good deed does not expiate every bad deed. Rather sometimes it expiates the minor sins, and other times it expiates the major sins, all based on the degree of a person’s sincerity and truthfulness in relation to the gravity of the sin. al-Bukhārī and Muslim narrated, “A prostitute from the Children of Isrāʾīl saw a dog on a very hot day wandering around a well, sticking his tongue out because of thirst. So she took off her shoe and fed the dog some water with it, thus she was forgiven.”16 So this woman – who fed the dog because of the sincere Īmān that was in her heart – was forgiven, for not everyone who feeds a dog would be forgiven. And verily deeds are multiplied in accordance with the level of Īmān and ikhlāṣ that is in the heart.
The duʿāʾ and the Istighfār of the Prophet (ﷺ) for him during his (i.e. the Prophet’s) life and after his death such as his intercession on the day of Judgment, for indeed they (i.e. the Ṣaḥābah) are the ones who are most likely to receive his intercession and his duʿāʾ during his lifetime and after his death.
The duʿāʾ of the Muslims; for indeed the prayers and the supplications for those who passed away is a reason for their forgiveness. And the Muslim up to this day continues to make duʿāʾ for the Ṣaḥābah.
The righteous deeds such as giving ṣadaqah, performing the hajj, and fasting; that is done on their behalf after they passed away. For indeed it has been confirmed from authentic aḥādīth that those deeds reach and benefits them, and this is besides the duʿāʾ of his/her child, for they are from their actions. The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Whenever the son of Ādam dies all his deeds are cut off except from three (sources); recurring charity, beneficial knowledge, or a righteous child that makes duʿāʾ for him.”17 And the child is considered from his earnings, thus his duʿāʾ (i.e. the child) is considered from his (i.e. the parent) actions, as opposed to the duʿāʾ of other people for that is not considered from his actions, yet still Allāh allows it to be a means of benefit.
The trials of this life by which Allāh expiates the sins as in the authentic ḥadīth from the Prophet (ﷺ), “Never does a Muʿmin experience pain, fatigue, stress, worry, sadness, or harm, except that Allāh expiates his sins by them.”18 And this is something that has been mentioned in many aḥadīth, for the Ṣaḥābah may Allāh be pleased with them were tried with personal as well as general trials such as the fitnah that took place amongst them, even if not many of them were killed therein, but those who remained alive – some lost their family and their loved ones, some lost their wealth, some were injured, other lost power and authority, and other forms of trials. Thus all of these are means by which Allāh expiates the sins of the believers other than the Ṣaḥābah, so much less for them? And this is something that must happen.
The trials a believer endures from the squeezing of the grave and the questioning of the two angels.
The overwhelming anxiety that will occur on the Day of Judgment.
From that which has been mentioned in al-Bukhārī and Muslim that the believers would have to cross the ṣirāt (bridge) whereby they would be stopped at a pass between the fire of Hell and the Jannah and thus they would engage in mutual retribution until they become pure and then they will be allowed to enter in Jannah.
From: Minhāj al-Sunnah (3/634-659)
Al-Ḥāfidh (Ibn Ḥajr) said: “And the Prophets are infallible by consensus.” Fatḥ al-Bārī 8/69 And Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah said: “The statement that the Prophets are infallible from the kabāʾir (major sins) but not the ṣagāʾir (minor sins) is the statement of the majority of scholars of al-Islām and all of the (different) groups to the point that it is (even) the statement of the people of kalām (thelogical rhetoric) just as is mentioned by Abu al-Ḥasan al-Āmadī that this is the statement of the majority of the Ashʿarīs. It is also the statement of most of the scholars of tafsīr and ḥadīth and the fuqahāʾ (jurists). Rather, it has not been reported from the al-Salaf al-Ṣāliḥ and the Imāms, the Companions, the Tābiʿīn and their followers anything except that which conforms with this statement. ” Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá 4/319
He is alluding to the ḥadīth that is narrated by al-Bukhārī from Abu Mūsá al-Ashʿarī whereby the said, “Let him enter and give him glad tidings of al-Jannah due to a trial that will afflict him.” (3471)
[Editor’s note] – This is referring to someone that was in a state of kufr, and then repented from that before death. The outright kāfir, i.e. Jew or Christian, will not be forgiven until he embraces Islām as his/her religion.