Command not to despair of mercy of Allaah addresses all Muslims
Fatwa No: 331810

  • Fatwa Date:18-9-2016 - Thul-Hijjah 16, 1437
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Question

Assalaamu alaykum. It was related in Sahih Al-Bukhari that Ibn Abbaas stated that the verse, {O my slaves who have transgressed against their souls, despair not of the mercy of Allaah, for Allaah forgives all sins} was revealed because of the pagans at the time. So in his opinion, this verse does not apply to the Muslims, is this true? What is your evidence for this? Ibn Abbaas has done this with other verses as well, i.e. stating that such and such a verse was revealed only to such and such a people.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

What you have concluded and attributed to Ibn Abbaas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him that the verse in question is specific to someone who repented from Shirk (polytheism) is incorrect. Ibn Abbaas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him stated about the reason of the revelation of the verse that it was revealed in connection with some people from the polytheists who committed abundant killing and Zina (fornication or adultery) and asked the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) about the expiation for this, then Allaah sent down this verse. Nonetheless, the fact that this was the reason for the revelation of the verse, according to Ibn Abbaas and others, does not necessarily mean that it does not include people other than them.

Ibn Hajar said in Al-Fat-h, “After the revelation of the verse {Say: O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning]…} [Quran 39:53], in the narration by At-Tabaraani: 'So the people asked the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) O Prophet, we have done what Wahshi has done (i.e. we killed people), and the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) replied, It is for all the Muslims.

Also, Ahmad and At-Tabaraani reported in Al-Awsat from the hadeeth by Thawbaan, who said:

I heard the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) say, 'This verse is better for me than the whole world and whatever it contains: {Say: O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning]…};' then a man asked, 'What about somebody who committed Shirk [and then repented]?' The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) kept silent for a while and then responded to him, 'Even if he committed Shirk,' and he repeated this three times. The scholars used the general meaning of this verse as evidence that all sins can be forgiven, regardless of whether they are major or minor sins and whether or not they are related to the rights of people. The well-known opinion of Ahlus-Sunnah is that all sins are forgiven with repentance and that these sins are forgiven for whomever Allaah wishes to forgive them, even if he died without repenting. But as for the rights of the people, if the one who transgressed against them repented, then repentance will benefit him as regards refraining from transgressing against the rights of others, but he must give the people back their rights or seek their forgiveness. Yes, it is from the vastness of the Mercy of Allaah that He may please the owner of the right so that he relinquishes his right and Allaah then does not punish the transgressor, and this is indicated by the general meaning of the saying of Allaah (which means): {Indeed, Allaah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills.} [Quran 4:48]

If someone who committed Shirk is forgiven when he repents, then someone else whose sin is less than this is to be forgiven with greater reason if he repents. Ibn Abbaas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him and other scholars did not say that the sins are not forgiven if someone has repented from them so that this would cause confusion to you regarding what he mentioned about the revelation of the verse and you attributed this saying to him.

What should be taken into account, as has been determined by the scholars, is the general meaning of the words, and not the occasions because of which they were revealed (i.e. it is the general linguistic indications of the text that establish a normative understanding, not its context).

Also, regarding the confusion that you mentioned about other statements of Ibn Abbaas, please mention those statements so that we can give you an appropriate answer. It might be that the confusion is in your understanding, as is the case in regard to the above issue.

Allaah knows best.

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