According to the verse, “Allah accepts the repentance of those who do evil, in ignorance and repent soon afterwards... (an-Nisa, 4/17), is the repentance of those who commit a sin but do not repent at once not accepted? Until when can a person repent?

Details of the Question
According to the verse, “Allah accepts the repentance of those who do evil, in ignorance and repent soon afterwards... (an-Nisa, 4/17), is the repentance of those who commit a sin but do not repent at once not accepted? Until when can a person repent?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

What is meant by the expression, “repent soon afterwards” may mean to regret committing that sin immediately after it or the moment one realizes his sin; however, what is really meant by the verse is the regret and repentance before death.(see Tabari, the interpretation of the relevant verse) As a matter of fact, that the door of repentance is open for all kinds of sins until death confirms this truth.

In fact Abdullah b. Umar narrates that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

"Doubtlessly, Allah accepts the repentance of a person until he is at death’s door and begins to wheeze."(Tirmidhi, Daawat, 99; Ibn Majah, az-Zuhd, 30)

The door of repentance is open as long as one is alive. It is expected that Allah will accept the repentance of His sinful slaves and forgive their sins when they get religion as a necessity of His promise and out of His grace. If a sinful person does not repent until the last seconds of his life and he repents after he loses hope of the world life and after he sees and feels some of the realities related to barzakh (the period between death and the Day of Resurrection) and the hereafter, his repentance is not repentance based on belief in ghaib (the unknown, the unseen) and it is not sincere repentance; it is repentance that aims to be saved from punishment that faces him; since there is no more time left for the testing of worshipping and obedience, his repentance will not be accepted. Another kind of repentance that is not accepted is the repentance of those who spend their lives by denying the true religion and repent after they die and see the realm of the hereafter. It will not be accepted by Allah either since it is not based on belief in ghaib and sincere regret. (Kur’an Yolu, Diyanet Tefsiri, II/24-25)

Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) says, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) say,

“Allah stated: ‘O son of Adam! I will forgive you regardless of the magnitude of your sins and no matter how many sins you have committed if you pray to me and expect forgiveness from me. O son of Adam! If you ask forgiveness from me, I will forgive your sins even if they are so much as to fill the skies. O son of Adam! If you come to me with sins that will fill the earth but without associating partners to me and without being engaged in polytheism, I will welcome you with forgiveness to fill the earth’.” (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 98)

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