If you did not sin, Allah would replace you with sinners

In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

The trials and temptations of sin are a part of life. Each one of us will sin at some point in our lives, perhaps many times in a single day. We should not make excuses for our sins and we do need to repent for them, but we should also not fall into another extreme of cursing ourselves for sinning and despairing of the mercy of Allah.

Allah created us flawed, weak, and sinful as part of our test here on earth. It is part of our nature to sin, just as it is part of our nature to act right. If we were sinless like the angels, Allah would replace us with sinners whom He would forgive.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَوْ لَمْ تُذْنِبُوا لَذَهَبَ اللَّهُ بِكُمْ وَلَجَاءَ بِقَوْمٍ يُذْنِبُونَ فَيَسْتَغْفِرُونَ اللَّهَ فَيَغْفِرُ لَهُمْ

By Him in whose hand is my soul, if you did not sin, Allah would replace you with people who would sin and they would seek forgiveness from Allah and He would forgive them.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2749, Grade: Sahih

This tradition indicates that the presence of sin, within our souls and within the world, is due to the will of Allah and not any mistake in His creation. If Allah wanted to create sinless people, He could have done so. Rather, it is His will to resurrect us for judgment in the Hereafter based upon our deeds. Allah intends for us to use our free will to choose righteousness, not simply to be forced into it.

It is also in the nature of Allah to forgive and show mercy. We were created so that we might be blessed by His attributes of forgiveness and mercy. When we sin, repent, and achieve forgiveness, we are fulfilling the will of Allah to manifest His attributes.

Al-Qari comments on this tradition, writing:

فَيَغْفِرُ لَهُمْ لِاقْتِضَاءِ صِفَةِ الْغَفَّارِ وَالْغَفُورِ ذَلِكَ

That He may forgive them in fulfillment of His attributes of Forgiveness and Pardon by that.

And Zayd al-‘Arab said:

فِيهِ تَحْرِيضٌ عَلَى اسْتِيلَاءِ الرَّجَاءِ عَلَى الْخَوْفِ

In this tradition is encouragement to instill hope over fear.

Source: Mirqāt al-Mafātīḥ 2328

Consequently, when we forgive others and show mercy for the sake of Allah, the will of Allah is being fulfilled through us.

Hence, the Prophet (s) informed us that Allah created us with a sinful nature as a means of instilling hope in us for forgiveness and admittance into Paradise. The tradition is not intended for us to take this forgiveness for granted.

Al-Tibi said:

لَيْسَ الْحَدِيثُ تَسْلِيَةً لِلْمُنْهَمِكِينَ فِي الذُّنُوبِ كَمَا يَتَوَهَّمُهُ أَهْلُ الْغِرَّةِ بِاللَّهِ فَإِنَّ الْأَنْبِيَاءَ صَلَوَاتُ اللَّهِ وَسَلَامُهُ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّمَا بُعِثُوا لِيَرْدَعُوا النَّاسَ عَنْ غِشْيَانِ الذُّنُوبِ بَلْ بَيَانٌ لِعَفْوِ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى وَتَجَاوُزِهِ عَنِ الْمُذْنِبِينَ لِيَرْغَبُوا فِي التَّوْبَةِ وَالْمَعْنَى الْمُرَادُ مِنَ الْحَدِيثِ هُوَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ كَمَا أَحَبَّ أَنْ يُعْطِيَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ أَحَبَّ أَنْ يَتَجَاوَزَ عَنِ الْمُسِيئِينَ

This tradition is not to amuse those absorbed in their sins, as the deluded imagine about Allah. Indeed, the Prophets, peace and blessings be upon them, were sent to deter people from the façade of sin. Rather, it is a declaration of the forgiveness of Allah and His overlooking of those who sin, that they might find hope in repentance. The meaning of the tradition is that just as Allah loves to give to the righteous, so does He love to pardon sinners.

Source: Source: Mirqāt al-Mafātīḥ 2328

At the same time, we should not fall into another extreme that emphasizes the sinful nature of humans to the neglect of their innate sense of righteousness. Allah created people with the capacity to be either good or evil, and our struggle (or jihad) is to purify our hearts of evil.

Allah said:

وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا

By the soul and He who proportioned it, and inspired its sense of wickedness and righteousness. He has succeeded who purifies it, and he has failed who instills it with corruption.

Surat al-Shams 91:7-10

For this reason, the door of repentance is open for every sinner until the very end because at any time a person can wake and activate their righteous nature. One should not condemn or curse him or herself if they fall into sin.

Aisha reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَا يَقُولَنَّ أَحَدُكُمْ خَبُثَتْ نَفْسِي وَلَكِنْ لِيَقُلْ لَقِسَتْ نَفْسِي

None of you should say: My soul has become wicked. Rather, let him say: My soul has faulted.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5825, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

Too much fear of Allah is on the opposite spectrum of too much hope. Fearing Allah to the point of despair is just as wrong as hoping in Allah to the point of carelessness.

The truth is to be balanced between fear and hope, acknowledging our sinful nature while striving to fulfill our righteous nature. We should think of fear and hope like the two wings of a bird, which must work together in order for us to fly on our journey towards Allah.

Ibn al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy on him, writes:

الْقَلْبُ فِي سَيْرِهِ إِلَى اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ بِمَنْزِلَةِ الطَّائِرِ فَالْمَحَبَّةُ رَأْسُهُ وَالْخَوْفُ وَالرَّجَاءُ جَنَاحَاهُ فَمَتَى سَلِمَ الرَّأْسُ وَالْجَنَاحَانِ فَالطَّائِرُ جَيِّدُ الطَّيَرَانِ وَمَتَى قُطِعَ الرَّأْسُ مَاتَ الطَّائِرُ وَمَتَى فُقِدَ الْجَنَاحَانِ فَهُوَ عُرْضَةٌ لِكُلِّ صَائِدٍ وَكَاسِرٍ … وَقَالَ غَيْرُهُ (من السَّلَف) أَكْمَلُ الْأَحْوَالِ اعْتِدَالُ الرَّجَاءِ وَالْخَوْفِ وَغَلَبَةُ الْحُبِّ فَالْمَحَبَّةُ هِيَ الْمَرْكَبُ وَالرَّجَاءُ حَادٍ وَالْخَوْفُ سَائِقٌ وَاللَّهُ الْمُوَصِّلُ بِمَنِّهِ وَكَرَمِهِ

The heart on its journey towards Allah Almighty is as if it were a bird. Love is its head, and fear and hope are its two wings. When the head is secure, then the two wings will fly well. When the head is cut off, the bird will die. When either of the two wings is damaged, the bird becomes vulnerable to every hunter and predator… Some of the righteous predecessors said: The best of states is to balance hope and fear and to let love prevail over them. Love is the vehicle and hope and fear are its two drivers, and Allah will bring them to His blessings and generosity.

Source: Madārij al-Sālikīn 1/513

All of us will sin at some point, but that is no reason to lose hope. Every sin can be forgiven by sincere repentance and making amends with those whom we wronged in the world.

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

كُلُّ ابْنِ آدَمَ خَطَّاءٌ وَخَيْرُ الْخَطَّائِينَ التَّوَّابُونَ

All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best sinners are those who repent.

Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2499, Grade: Sahih

Repentance, then, is not simply a single act we do from time to time, but rather it is an entire way of life.

May Allah make us among those who frequently repent to Him and seek His forgiveness.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.