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You Are Here: Knowledge Base Better Living through Islam

Keeping Sins a Secret

Compiled by Shawana A Aziz

References: Lecture by Allama Ehsan Ilahi Zaheer (rahimahullah), Qawaaid wa-Fawaaid min al-Arabeen an-Nawawi by Shaikh Nathim Sultan, Tafseer Ibn Katheer, and others.

From among the teachings of Allah's Messenger (salallahu alaihe wa-sallam) is to keep sins a secret matter. If someone commits a sinful act which is against the Commandments of Allah, or is against the moral character, or is such an act that may cause harm to one's honor, then he should keep it a secret and seek forgiveness from Allah in the darkness of night. The Messenger of Allah (salallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: "My entire nation is safe, except al-Mujahirin (those who boast of their sins). Among the Mujaharah is that a man commits an (evil) act, and wakes up in the morning while Allah has kept his (sin) a secret, he says: "O Fulan! Last night I did this and that." He goes to sleep while Allah has kept his (sin) a secret but he wakes up in the morning and uncovers what Allah has kept a secret!" [Saheeh al-Bukharee]

Zayd ibn Aslam narrated, 'At the time of the Messenger of Allah(salallahu alaihe wa-sallam), a man admitted that he had committed fornication, so the Messenger of Allah asked for a whip. He was brought a broken whip, so he said: "Better than this." Then he was brought a new whip—, he then said: "Lesser than this.' So, he was brought a whip that was used and had thus become soft, and the Messenger (salallahu alaihe wa-sallam) ordered that he be whipped with it (a hundred times). He then said: "O People! It is time for you to refrain from transgressing Allah's limits. He who commits some of these filthy acts (such as fornication), let him hide under Allah's cover, for whoever admits what he has committed, we will establish Allah's Book as regards him (by applying the warranted punishment for this sin)." [Musnad Ahmad]

Abdullah Ibn Masoud (radiyallahu anhu) related, 'A man came to the Prophet and said: 'O Messenger of Allah! I have mingled with a woman in the far side of al-Medina, and I fulfilled my desire short of actually having sexual intercourse with her. So, here am I, judge me according to what you decide.' Umar Ibn al-Khattab (radiyallahu anhu) then said: 'Allah had kept your secret, why did not you keep your secret?' [Sharh Muslim]

Similarly, if one becomes aware of somebody else's sin, he should keep it a secret. Allah's Messenger (salallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: "He, who relieves a hardship of this Dunya (word) for a believer, Allah will relieve (from him) a hardship of the Day of Resurrection; he who makes easy an indebted person, Allah will make it easy for him in the Dunya and the Hereafter; he who covers a Muslim (meaning his mistakes and shortcomings), Allah will cover him in the Dunya and the Hereafter—" [Muslim]

Abdullah Ibn Umar (radiyallahu anhu) related, "The Messenger of Allah (salallahu alaihe wa-sallam) once rose above the podium and then said with a loud voice, "O those who have embraced Islam only with their tongue, while Eemaan has not yet entered their hears, neither harm Muslims, nor mock them, nor try to expose their mistakes, for he who follows (searches for) the errors of his brother, Allah will follow his errors, and he whom Allah follows his errors, He will expose him even if he was in the middle of his home." [Saheeh al-Jamee] 

Imam an-Nawawi (rahimahullah) writes, 'This Hadeeth indicates that following and then exposing people's mistakes only occurs by the hypocrites and those whose Eemaan is so weak, that it did not yet fill their hearts—"

Exposing sins lead to humiliation and embarrassment, which ceases the possibility that the sinner might someday regret his mistake, seek forgiveness from Allah and purify his soul from sins because one of the things that prevent one from committing sins is the fear of humiliation. However, if the sinner knows that the people are already aware of his sins, then he does not experience the shame and distraction which he used to feel before and this might encourage him to commit sins openly!

Secondly, when sins are repeatedly mentioned in gatherings, etc. the fear of committing sins vanishes from the people's hearts. First the sin will become easy on people's tongue and gradually he, who does not feel any shame in mentioning the sin, will not find it difficult to even commit the sin. This is how, sins spread in the society!

So, if someone becomes aware of his brother's sins and realizes that nobody except him has seen him committing the sin, then he should keep the sin a secret. He should not encourage people towards sins by exposing his faults. Allah, the Exalted, has not only condemned committing sins in the Qur'aan but He has also condemned those people who mention sins in public. He said: "Verily, those who like that Fahishah should be circulated among those who believe, they will have a painful torment." [(24): 19] meaning, those who like to see evil talk about them (the believers) appear. [Tafseer Ibn Katheer]

Allah says in Soorah an-Nisa (4): 148, "Allah does not like that evil should be uttered in public except by him who has been wronged."

Ibn Abbas (radiyallahu anhu) commented on this verse, "Allah does not like that anyone should invoke Him against anyone else, unless one was wronged. In this case, Allah allows one to invoke Him against whoever wronged him—Yet, it is better for one if he observes patience." [Tafseer Ibn Katheer]

Today sins have become widespread in the society because we have forgotten the teachings of Allah's Messenger (salallahu alaihe wa-sallam), who discouraged people from revealing one's mistakes and sins as well as others. As a result, people have lost the fear of committing not only minor sins but even major sins - Moreover, we find people proudly attributing sins to themselves!!

Reference: qsep.com