For whom is the hadith ‘Belief wipes out the page before it’?

The Details of the Question

“Belief wipes out the page before it; it eliminates the previous misdeeds in terms of faith.” Is the hadith about the non-Muslims who become Muslims or also about those who were believers first, exited Islam then and became believers again afterwards? For whom is the hadith above valid?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

When Amr b. As wanted to be a Muslims, he laid it as a condition that his previous sins be forgiven. Thereupon, the Prophet (pbuh) said,  

“Are you not aware of the fact that Islam wipes out all the previous misdeeds? Verily, migration (hijrah) wipes out all the previous misdeeds, and pilgrimage (hajj) wipes out all the previous misdeeds.” (Muslim, Iman, 192)

“Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them).” (al-Anfal, 8/38) That the verse above starts with the phrase “Say to the unbelievers” indicates that the issue of “the eradication of the previous sins” is valid for unbelievers, not for apostates.

The conclusion reached by Islamic scholars about the verse above by evaluating it together with other verses and hadiths is as follows:

Allah waives His rights and does not hold a person who attains guidance responsible since the state of denial, which is the basis and cause of his previous sins, has ended.

As for the violation of other people’s rights, they are compensated materially; damages are paid; the goods obtained unjustly are returned to their owners; the price of those that were consumed are paid.

Acting upon the general expression in the verse, some scholars state that all sins and all evil deeds that were committed will be forgiven after a person becomes a Muslim. (see Abu Bakr Ibnul-Arabi, 2/851 ff.; Ibn Ashur, 9/344)

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