Is it permissible for a person to narrate his sins in the past so that others will take lessons?

Details of the Question

Is it permissible for a person to narrate his sins in the past so that others will take lessons?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

It is not appropriate for a person to narrate his sins in the past. For, he makes other people witnesses for his sins by doing so. If he wants to narrate them so that others will take lessons, he should narrate them without mentioning that he did them; for instance, he can say, "Once, something like that happened…"

Our religion orders a person to hide his mistakes and others’ mistakes. Man is a being that Allah created in a perfect form but he can sometimes commit deeds that are regarded as mistakes and sins deliberately or by mistake.  

It is normal for almost everybody to do things like that. Besides, the Prophet (pbuh) attracted attention to this issue by saying,

“Everybody makes mistakes; the best one among those who make mistakes is the one that corrects his mistake.” (1)

In Islam, people are ordered to hide such negative deeds, not to seek and display them. Hz. Prophet (pbuh) said,

“If a slave hides the mistake of another slave in this world, Allah will hide his mistake on the Day of Judgment.” (2)

On that great day, when everybody will flee from his mother, father, relatives and friends (3) and when everything will be made clear (4), everybody may have some mistakes and sins that he does not want to be displayed. If we want our sins and mistakes to be hidden on that day, we should act with the consciousness that we should help those who want their sins to be hidden. We should never forget that we would obtain something in the hereafter, along with the worldly and ethical aspects of our attitudes. We should not forget that we would need those thawabs so much that it is impossible to express now. It is a fact that we can win that day today and lose it today. We should think that the more we hid others’ sins, the more our sins would be hidden on that day. We should not forget that it is a virtue to cover sins, not to reveal them according to the holy values we believe.

The religion of Islam prohibits people from seeking the sins and mistakes of others and from revealing their secret states and privacy. On the contrary, our religion regards it an ethical virtue to cover others’ sins and mistakes. However, those sins and mistakes are the ones that are not related to the violation of others’ rights, that do not contain oppression and injustice and that will not be useful to anyone when they are revealed. It is not religiously permissible for a person who knows such sins to hide them. For, if such sins and mistakes are concealed, others will suffer. Our religion advises us to consider our religion’s principles of mercy and dignity of man when the sanctions are applied to the people who commit sins and violate rules. 

Footnotes:

1. Tirmidhi, Sifatul-Qiyamah, 49.
2. Muslim, Birr, 72. See also Bukhari, Mazalim, 3; Abu Dawud, Adab, 38.
3. Abasa, 34-36.
4. al-Mu’min, 16.

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