Does Islam practice absolution of sins?

The concept of “relieving one of sins” practiced by Christians does not exist in Islam. After all, there is no “preachers class” or “church” in Islam, which would oversee or administer the process.

Consequently, there is no process of or conditions for “confession” in Islam, because there is nobody (nothing), no vehicle, no interceder or institution between each individual human and his/her Lord Allah.

No church, no pope, and no cleric is capable of or qualified for relieving humans’ sins, for only their Lord and Creator Allah alone is rightful to do so.

The only way one can be relieved of sins is sincerely repenting directly to Allah.

What is repentance -tawbah and istighfar- and how is it offered?

Tawbah means “turning back” and signifies tuning one’s inner self along the straight path after an act of deviation. Istighfar could be translated as “Asking Allah for forgiveness in a way that a committed sin is never recorded as such.”Tawbah and istighfar are a two-step action to get closer to Allah: tawbah—“denouncing the wrong”—is the first phase, while istighfar—“finding the right”—is the second phase.

In short, the Qur’anic teaching concerning sins is the following: No one is to think that he/she committed a sin bigger than Allah’s mercy.

There are two more sins, which emanate from and greater than a committed sin: 

1. Being unconscious and oblivious towards one’s sins, and
2. Thinking a sin is unforgivable.

Being unconscious and oblivious of one’s sins is the worst sin. Thinking a committed sin’s gravity is larger than Allah’s mercy is equal to losing hope that Allah would forgive him/her. 

According to Prophet Muhammad’s words, Allah’s mercy toward humans is stronger than that of a mother toward her infant child.

The following Qur’anic âyah beautifully describes Allah’s divine mercy: “[Thus speaks Allah:] Say: ‘O you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your own selves! Despair not of Allah’s mercy: behold, Allah forgives all sins – for, verily, He alone is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!’” (Zumar 39:53) 

The condition for an acceptable repentance is sincerity and cordiality. The intention and commitment not to return to committing a sin is the cornerstone for forgiving that sin.

Who forgives sins according to Islam?

There is no authority or a class of pastors in Islam that would be capable of forgiving one’s sins. Islam teaches that only Allah the Merciful forgives sins of those whom He wishes.

Whatever their situation or status, no single Muslim, including Prophet Muhammad, is ever authorized to relieve a fellow Muslim of his/ her sins.

The Qur’an commands Prophet Muhammad directly and other Muslims by extension to acknowledge the fact that “there is no deity save Allah” and subsequently “ask forgiveness for thy sins and for [the sins of] all other believing men and women” (Muhammad 47:19).

Prophet Muhammad was not able to forgive sins of those who followed his call; he could only ask Allah to forgive their sins (‘Ali`Imran 3:159).

To be sure, in case a person he prayed for did not deserve forgiveness, even Prophet Muhammad’s appeals to Allah would not result in the former’s acquittal (Tawbah 9:84).

Thus, Islam teaches that only Allah forgives His servants’ sins. Consequently, every single Muslim, whether a man or a woman, is to recognize their sins in front of Allah alone and is to appeal to Allah alone to forgive them.

Only Allah does not take advantage of His servants’ sins; any other human being could exploit a fellow human’s shortcomings or sins to their own benefit.

Are one’s sins forgiven for believing in the prophethood of Muhammad?

Unlike in Christianity, no, they are not forgiven for doing so. A belief in the prophecy of Muhammad is only one of the pillars of faith in Islam. Being a Muslim does not mean attaining faith alone, for it is only one required half. The other half is committing “good deeds.” The Qur’an states in tens of verses that those who “attain faith and do good deeds” are on the path of salvation.

Is it true that everyone, including prophets, will be accounted for their deeds?

Yes, it is true. On the Judgment Day, everyone will be held accountable and responsible for actions and deeds committed, words uttered, and intentions conceived in this life.

In the Qur’anic words, “Thus, [on Judgment Day] We shall most certainly call to account all those unto whom a [divine] message was sent, and We shall most certainly call to account the message-bearers [themselves]” (A`raf 7:6)

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