What is the state of the previous sins and good deeds of a person who becomes a Muslim?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

All sins of a person who becomes a Muslim are forgiven except the violation of other people’s rights. The good deeds of a person who becomes a believer do not go for nothing; besides, all of his previous sins are forgiven.

"Unless he repents, believes, and works righteous deeds, for Allah will change the evil of such persons into good, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (al-Furqan, 25/70)

Repentance means a voluntary renunciation of all kinds of denial, rebellion and evil by a person after his regret as a result of heart-searching, and a determination not to commit them again. The Quran regards such a repentance as very valuable in many verses; the Quran states that if a person regrets for the evil deed he has committed and decides to give it up with a strong will and then abandons that evil deed without committing it again, that repentance is enough for all wrong beliefs, thoughts, bad feelings and behaviors, including the biggest sins such as denial and polytheism, and enough for the forgiveness of his sins due to that evil deed. As it is stated here, giving up denial becomes possible with belief and giving up evil deeds becomes possible with doing good and righteous deeds instead of them. However, since all these are possible if they are based on a psychological motivation, the Prophet (pbuh) states the following:

"Repentance means regretting a sin and asking for forgiveness."1

It is stated in verse 70 of the chapter of al-Furqan that Allah will convert the sins of someone who repents like that into good deeds. This last expression of the verse is generally interpreted in three ways in tafsir books:

a) Allah converts the sins of their bad deeds they commit before repenting into thawabs and He rewards those evil deeds as if they are good deeds on the Day of Judgment.2 According to this interpretation, not only are the sins forgiven but are also transformed into thawabs. This interpretation is considered excessive and the verse is also interpreted as follows, which we prefer too:

b) Allah turns their bad state before they repent to good states when they repent; and after that, they believe instead of denying; and they tend to obedience and piety instead of rebellion and sins. Although they were bad people before repenting, they become good people and good believers thanks to repentance and with the help of Allah.3

c) Shawkani summarizes the views of some Companions and other scholars regarding that sentence of the verse as follows: The "change and converting" (tabdil) here means only "forgiveness". That is, Allah will forgive their sins in question; He will not convert them into good deeds (IV, 103). However, there is no difference between the last two interpretations.4

References:

1. Musnad, VI, 264; Ibn Majah, "Zuhd", 30.
2. see Tabari, XIX, 4748.
3. Zamakhshari, III, 105; Razi, XXIV, 112.
4. Prof. Dr. Hayrettin Karaman, Prof. Dr. Mustafa Çağrıcı, Prof. Dr. İbrahim Kafi Dönmez, Prof. Dr. Sadrettin Gümüş, Kur'an Yolu: IV/150-151.

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