Islam holds that all individuals have sinned and must seek absolution from God. Without his forgiveness, the heart begins to harden and is overwhelmed by sin. Absolution is therefore one of Islam's central tenets. Muslims are enjoined not only to constantly seek God's forgiveness, but also to readily forgive others and to seek the forgiveness of those they have wronged. However, God's absolution is the most important, and once given, it is permanent.
Conditions for Absolution from God
Muslims believe that, to receive forgiveness from God, an individual must be sincerely remorseful. He also must resolve to avoid sin in the future. God will not forgive someone who does not truly desire forgiveness. The Quran says, "Those who remember God and implore forgiveness for their sins if they do something shameful or wrong themselves - who forgives sins but God? - and who never knowingly persist in doing wrong" (Quran, 3:135) will receive absolution. When God sees that a sinner is truly repentant and remorseful, he will even replace the sins with good deeds.
Avenues to Absolution from God
Prayer is the most common and important path to God's forgiveness, Muslims hold. Constantly beseeching God for absolution will prove irresistible to God, according to the Quran. Other avenues to absolution include charity, performing good deeds and enduring hardship with dignity and patience. An individual also may receive forgiveness through the supplications of others. For example, a woman who refuses to ask for forgiveness may receive absolution anyway through the prayers of pious friends and family members. Even after death, Muslims believe, the Prophet Muhammad may intercede for a sinner and change his fate beyond the grave.
The Quran teaches that God will not forgive an individual who withholds forgiveness from others. Even if the offender does not desire forgiveness, Muslims must forgive them anyway and even do good to them in return. Muslims also are required not only to forgive others, but to work toward a state of mind that enables them to forgive instantly any offense. The highest state of mind, however, renders a Muslim unable to even notice others' faults and wrongdoing. If a Muslim does not want to be questioned or rebuked for his sins on the day of judgment, they believe, he should not give others grief about their own sins.
Time Limits and Absolution
Muslims are urged to repent of their sins as soon as possible. If an individual repents within six hours of committing a sin, Islam holds, his sin is not recorded in the final account of his life. After the six hours are up, the sin is recorded and up to a full day is allowed for him to seek forgiveness. Waiting more than a day to repent is to risk incurring God's displeasure; it also makes it more difficult to receive forgiveness. Muslims believe that earnestly seeking forgiveness will result not only in being forgiven but also in rewards and longer life.
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