From the principles of the people of Sunnah in regards to the repentance of a person of falsehood is, whoever publicises an innovation or mistake, such that he becomes known for this mistake, then it is upon him to clarify and distribute his repentance in the same manner he publicised and distributed his falsehood. This could either be by way of books, tapes, lessons or lectures.

It is a well-known principle from the methodology (manḥāj) of the pious predecessors, that whenever an innovator or a person of falsehood repented, it was required from him to rectify, correct and clarify his repentance to the people. Allāh ﷻ mentioned in His Noble Book;

۞ إِلَّا  الَّذِينَ تَابُوا وَأَصْلَحُوا وَبَيَّنُوا فَأُولَـٰئِكَ أَتُوبُ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ وَأَنَا التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ

Except those who repent and do righteous deeds, and openly declare (the truth which they concealed). These, I will accept their repentance. And I am the One Who accepts repentance, the Most Merciful.” (Q 2:160)

Ḥāfiẓ ibn Kathīr explained whilst commenting on this verse; “Those who return back from what they did and correct their actions and clarify to the people what they have been hiding.”1

Shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Saʿdī commented, “It is to rectify their corrupt actions and it is not sufficient to abandon the evil, but rather to follow it with good, and it is not sufficient for the person to hide it, but he should clarify what he has been concealing, so to show he is against what he used to hide.”2

Likewise it has been mentioned in the advice of the Prophet ﷺ to Muʿādh as stated in the ḥadīth of ʿAṭā ibn Yāsir, he reported that before Muʿādh was sent to Yemen, he said to the Prophet ﷺ, “O’ Messenger of Allāh, advise me.” So he replied, “I advise you to fear Allāh as much as you can and remember Allāh at every rock and tree [at all time]. If you perform a bad deed then repent, the hidden with the hidden and the open with the open.”3

This was the methodology of our pious predecessor in dealing with the repentance of the people of falsehood. al-asan ibn Shaqīq once mentioned that, “We were once with ʿAbdullāh ibn Mubārak when he said to a man, “Are you such and such Jaḥmite (Jaḥmī)?” to which the man replied, “Yes.” So he said to him, “When you leave [my gathering] do not return to back to it…” the man said, “I have repented.” Ibn Mubārak replied, “No you have not! Not until your repentance becomes apparent just like your innovations were apparent.”

The following question was asked to the major scholar, al-ʿAllāmah Shaykh Ṣāliḥ al-Fawzān:

Questioner: “The Prophet ﷺ said, “And whoever calls others to misguidance will have a burden of sin like that of those who follow it, without it detracting from their burden in the slightest.”4 So is the one who has repented from calling to falsehood – and this falsehood has spread, forgiven by Allāh or does the warning in this ḥadīth [continue to] apply to him?”

Shaykh Ṣāliḥ al-Fawzān: “Whoever repents then Allāh turns to him in repentance. If he used to call to falsehood and has repented and now calls to the truth then Allāh will forgive him. However, upon him is to declare his repentance to the people. And if he has books or tapes which call to falsehood, he needs to denounce them. So it is upon him to denounce these books and tapes with statements which show his repentance, this is in order that nobody can dispute with him of what came to pass. So if he has proclaimed and clarified [his repentance] then he may absolve himself. On the contrary, if he was to be silent then the people would dispute against him with what had come to pass and they would not know nor would believe that he has repented.”

Similarly, Shaykh Rabīʿ ibn Hādī al-Madkhalī was asked:

Questioner: “If there appears from an individual some opposition in matters of methodology (manḥaj), and then he repents from his oppositions, is it sufficient for him to say “I have repented…” or is a clarification and correction required?”

Shaykh Rabīʿ ibn Hādī al-Madkhalī: “Never! He must clarify [his repentance] until his rectification becomes apparent to the people. What did ʿUmar do with Sabīgh5 ? He beat him and imprisoned him, and he beat him and imprisoned him and he beat him and imprisoned him, for what reason? Due to his questioning of the verse:  

۞وَالذَّارِيَاتِ ذَرْوًا

By (the winds) that scatter dust.” (Q 51:1)

And that which resembled that. He was not an innovator but he had doubts and as such he would dupe the people with questions like these. So ʿUmar came and rewarded him with a number of beatings and imprisonment, until he finally said, “O’ commander of the believers, if you want the thing that is in my head to leave, then indeed it has left and If you want to kill me then kill me in a good manner.” Thereafter, ʿUmar exiled him to ʿIrāq and ordered the people of ʿIrāq to boycott him, [this continued] until he became like a scabby camel. If a person wanted to speak to him it would be said to him, “This is the decision of the commander of the believers, so nobody talk to him.” It remained like this up until his repentance had become completely apparent and correct, and then the Amīr of ʿIrāq wrote to ʿUmar  stating, “This person has rectified himself and his repentance has become clear.” ʿUmar  then replied “Order the people to speak to him.”

Consequently, it is binding that this person publicise his repentance and publicise his truthfulness. This is because we have been tried many times by people who have sly manoeuvres just like the sly maneuver of the fox. He says, “I have repented and retracted…” however, you do not perceive him except that he whispers here and there the falsehood which he claimed to have repented from him. So it is befitting that we examine [his repentance] and that we take our time with the people until the truthfulness of their repentance becomes apparent, then after he is our brother [upon the Sunnah].

You are all aware of the noble Companion, Kaʿb ibn Mālik6  who witnessed all of the battles except the battle of Badr. It did not please Kaʿb  to be ill [on the occasion of] al-ʿAqabah which he gave the Messenger of Allāh the pledge of allegiance nor to miss the battle of Badr. He did not stay back from the battle of Tabūk due to disbelief or hypocrisy, and when the Prophet ﷺ returned from the battle those [who did not join the Muslims in battle] approached the Prophet ﷺ in making excuses. He accepted their apparent [excuses and conditions] and left what they concealed to Allāh, it was thereafter that Allāh exposed them and clarified what they concealed from lies [in their excuses]. As for Kaʿb ibn Mālik, Hilāl ibn Umayyah, and a third man, they were truthful in regards to their excuses. The Prophet ﷺ said “As for those people, then they were truthful.” However he left their condition for 40 nights until it completed fifty nights, not a single person spoke to them. They repented and confessed, but still this strict punishment was placed upon them. Not a single person from Madīnah spoke to them (this is the Prophetic methodology, for indeed repentance is not a joke). After fifty nights – revelation descended from heaven – and if the boycotting lasted for years, the Prophet ﷺ and the Companions would have continued in boycotting them. So after fifty nights, the mercy of Allāh descended in forgiving those people and the Muslims rejoiced at this forgiveness. We have experienced many from the people of innovation, they say “By Allāh I have repented, by Allāh I have retracted” then you do not see him except that he is spreading his innovation here and there, some of us have experienced this. By Allāh, we rejoice at the repentance [of the innovator] and we encourage it. However, we have been stung many times by those who say they have repented and then the lack of their sincerity and their scheming plots becomes apparent. Nevertheless if he repents, retracts and the truthfulness of his repentance becomes apparent after some time – then all praise is due to Allāh, he is considered our brother [upon the Sunnah], his status is replaced – if Allāh wills. But if other conditions appear from him then we take our precautions.”

Questioner: “O Shaykh, of course his repentance has become apparent, so how do we interact with him since he has repented?”

Shaykh Rabīʿ ibn Hādī al-Madkhalī: By Allāh he remains under surveillance. As for surrendering to him before we have come to know of his truthfulness then this is only due to hastiness. What did I just tell you? Why did I give you the example of Kaʿb, his party and Sabīgh? [for the purpose of] caution. It is not a matter that he says “I have repented” and then he returns back to teaching and raises his opinions to us. It is binding he is freed [from his innovations].7

1 Tafsīr ibn Kathīr

2 Tasfīr al-Saʿdī

3 Narrated by Ibn Abī Shaybah in al-Musnaf (34325) and al-Tabarānī in al-Kubrā (20/159) and al-Albanī graded it ḥasan in al-Ṣaḥīḥah (1475)

4 It was narrated from Abū Hurayrah  that the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said: “Whoever calls others to guidance will have a reward like that of those who follow it, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. And whoever calls others to misguidance will have a burden of sin like that of those who follow it, without it detracting from their burden in the slightest.” Narrated by Muslim (2674)

5 Saʿīd ibn al-Musayyab narrated that Sabīgh al-Tamīmī came to the chief of believers, ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, and said: “O Chief of the Believers, tell me about the verse: “The Dhāriyāt that scatter dust”” He replied: “It is the winds and if I had not heard the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ say so, I would not have said it.” Sabīgh said: “So tell me about the verse: “And they bear the heavy weight of water””, He replied: “It means the clouds, and If I had not heard the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ say so, I would not have said it.” Sabīgh said: “So tell me about the verse: “And those who distribute by command.”” He replied: “It means the Angels, and If I had not heard the Messenger of Allāh , say so, I would not have said it.” Sabīgh said: “So tell me about the verse: “And those which float with ease”” He replied: “It means the ships, and If I had not heard the Messenger of Allāh say so, I would not have said it.” Then ʿUmar (raḍiyallāhu ʿanhu) ordered the man to be whipped one hundred times. Then he was imprisoned him. When he had recovered, he was called for and he was whipped again one hundred times until he was carried away on a saddle. Then ʿUmar  wrote to Abū Mūsa al-Ashʿarī  stating that he, (Sabīgh) was to be prevented from talking to the people. That remained the case, until Sabīgh came to Abū Mūsa and swore that there was not anything in him now from what was in him before. So Abū Mūsa wrote to ʿUmar, who replied: “I think that he has indeed spoken the truth so let him with the people.” [Related by al-Bazzār 299, Ibn Kathīr in his Tafsīr 7:390 and Ibn Hajar in al-Isābah 2:199. Al-Ajurrī says in al-Sharīʿah p.74]

6 [Saheeh al Bukhārī Volume 5, Book 59, Number 702] No. 4101 – Narrated ʿAbdullāh bin Kaʿb bin Mālik: Who, from among Kaʿb’s sons, was the guide of Kaʿb when he became blind: I heard Kaʿb bin Malik narrating the story of (the Battle of) Tabūk in which he failed to take part. Kaʿb said, “I did not remain behind Allāh’s Apostle in any Battle that he fought except the Battle of Tabūk, and I failed to take part in the Battle of Badr, but Allāh did not admonish anyone who had not participated in it, for in fact, Allāh’s Apostle had gone out in search of the caravan of Quraish till Allāh made them (i.e. the Muslims) and their enemy meet without any appointment. I witnessed the night of Al-ʿAqaba (pledge) with Allāh’s Apostle when we pledged for Islam, and I would not exchange it for the Badr battle although the Badr battle is more popular amongst the people than it (i.e. Al-ʿAqaba pledge). As for my news (in this battle of Tabūk), I had never been stronger or wealthier than I was when I remained behind the Prophet ﷺ in that Battle. By Allāh, never had I two she-camels before, but I had then at the time of this Battle. Whenever Allah’s Apostle wanted to make a Battle, he used to hide his intention by apparently referring to different Battle till it was the time of that Battle (of Tabūk) which Allāh’s Apostle fought in severe heat, facing, a long journey, desert, and the great number of enemy. So the Prophet ﷺ announced to the Muslims clearly (their destination) so that they might get prepared for their Battle. So he informed them clearly of the destination he was going to. Allāh’s Apostle ﷺ was accompanied by a large number of Muslims who could not be listed in a book namely, a register.” Kaʿb added, “Any man who intended to be absent would think that the matter would remain hidden unless Allāh revealed it through Divine Revelation. So Allāh’s Apostle fought that Battle at the time when the fruits had ripened and the shade looked pleasant. Allāh’s Apostle and his companions prepared for the battle and I started to go out in order to get myself ready along with them, but I returned without doing anything. I would say to myself, ‘I can do that.’ So I kept on delaying it every now and then till the people got ready and Allāh’s Apostle and the Muslims along with him departed, and I had not prepared anything for my departure, and I said, I will prepare myself (for departure) one or two days after him, and then join them.’ In the morning following their departure, I went out to get myself ready but returned having done nothing. Then again in the next morning, I went out to get ready but returned without doing anything. Such was the case with me till they hurried away and the battle was missed (by me). Even then I intended to depart to take them over. I wish I had done so! But it was not in my luck. So, after the departure of Allāh’s Apostle, whenever I went out and walked amongst the people (i.e, the remaining persons), it grieved me that I could see none around me, but none accused me of hypocrisy or one of those weak men whom Allāh had excused. Allāh’s Apostle did not remember me till he reached Tabūk. So while he was sitting amongst the people in Tabūk, he said, ‘What did Kaʿb do?’ A man from Banu Salama said, ‘O Allāh’s Apostle! He has been stopped by his two Burdas (i.e. garments) and his looking at his own flanks with pride.’ Then Muʿādh bin Jabal said, ‘What a bad thing you have said! By Allāh! O Allāhs Apostle! We know nothing about him but good.’ Allāh’s Apostle kept silent.” Kaʿb bin Mālik added, “When I heard that he (i.e. the Prophet ) was on his way back to Madīna. I got dipped in my concern, and began to think of false excuses, saying to myself, ‘How can I avoid his anger tomorrow?’ And I took the advice of a wise member of my family in this matter. When it was said that Allāh’s Apostle had come near, all the evil false excuses abandoned from my mind and I knew well that I could never come out of this problem by forging a false statement. Then I decided firmly to speak the truth. So Allāh’s Apostle arrived in the morning, and whenever he returned from a journey, he used to visit the Mosque first of all and offer a two-Rakaʿāt prayer therein and then sit for the people. So when he had done all that (this time), those who had failed to join the battle (of Tabūk) came and started offering (false) excuses and taking oaths before him. They were something over eighty men; Allāh’s Apostle accepted the excuses they had expressed, took their pledge of allegiance asked for Allāh’s Forgiveness for them, and left the secrets of their hearts for Allāh to judge. Then I came to him, and when I greeted him, he smiled a smile of an angry person and then said, ‘Come on.’ So I came walking till I sat before him. He said to me, ‘What stopped you from joining us. Had you not purchased an animal For carrying you?’ I answered, “Yes, O Allāh’s Apostle! But by Allāh, if I were sitting before any person from among the people of the world other than you, I would have avoided his anger with an excuse. By Allāh, I have been bestowed with the power of speaking fluently and eloquently, but by Allāh, I knew well that if today I tell you a lie to seek your favor, Allāh would surely make you angry with me in the near future, but if I tell you the truth, though you will get angry because of it, I hope for Allāh’s Forgiveness. Really, by Allāh, there was no excuse for me. By Allāh, I had never been stronger or wealthier than I was when I remained behind you.’ Then Allāh’s Apostle said, ‘As regards this man, he has surely told the truth. So get up till Allāh decides your case.’ I got up, and many men of Banu Salama followed me and said to me. ‘By Allāh, we never witnessed you doing any sin before this. Surely, you failed to offer excuse to Allāh’s Apostle as the others who did not join him, have offered. The prayer of Allāh’s Apostle to Allāh to forgive you would have been sufficient for you.’ By Allāh, they continued blaming me so much that I intended to return (to the Prophet) and accuse myself of having told a lie, but I said to them, ‘Is there anybody else who has met the same fate as I have?’ They replied, ‘Yes, there are two men who have said the same thing as you have, and to both of them was given the same order as given to you.’ I said, ‘Who are they?’ They replied, Murara bin al-Rabīʿ Al-Amri and Hilāl bin Umaiya Al-Waqifi.’ By that they mentioned to me two pious men who had attended the (Battle) of Badr, and in whom there was an example for me. So I did not change my mind when they mentioned them to me. Allāh’s Apostle forbade all the Muslims to talk to us, the three aforesaid persons out of all those who had remained behind in that Battle. So we kept away from the people and they changed their attitude towards us till the very land (where I lived) appeared strange to me as if I did not know it. We remained in that condition for fifty nights. As regards my two fellows, they remained in their houses and kept on weeping, but I was the youngest of them and the firmest of them, so I used to go out and witness the prayers along with the Muslims and roam about in the markets, but none would talk to me, and I would come to Allāh’s Apostle and greet him while he was sitting in his gathering after the prayer, and I would wonder whether the Prophet did move his lips in return to my greetings or not. Then I would offer my prayer near to him and look at him stealthily. When I was busy with my prayer, he would turn his face towards me, but when I turned my face to him, he would turn his face away from me. When this harsh attitude of the people lasted long, I walked till I scaled the wall of the garden of Abū Qatāda who was my cousin and dearest person to me, and I offered my greetings to him. By Allāh, he did not return my greetings. I said, ‘O Abū Qatāda! I beseech you by Allāh! Do you know that I love Allāh and His Apostle?’ He kept quiet. I asked him again, beseeching him by Allāh, but he remained silent. Then I asked him again in the Name of Allāh. He said, “Allāh and His Apostle know best.’ Thereupon my eyes flowed with tears and I returned and jumped over the wall.” Kaʿb added, “While I was walking in the market of Madīna, suddenly I saw a Nabati (i.e. a Christian farmer) from the Nabatis of Shām who came to sell his grains in Madīna, saying, ‘Who will lead me to Kaʿb bin Mālik?’ The people began to point (me) out for him till he came to me and handed me a letter from the King of Ghassān in which the following was written: “To proceed, I have been informed that your friend (i.e. the Prophet ) has treated you harshly. Anyhow, Allāh does not let you live at a place where you feel inferior and your right is lost. So join us, and we will console you.” When I read it, I said to myself, ‘This is also a sort of a test.’ Then I took the letter to the oven and made a fire therein by burning it. When forty out of the fifty nights elapsed, behold! There came to me a Messenger of Allāh’s Apostle and said, ‘Allāh’s Apostle orders you to keep away from your wife,’ I said, ‘Should I divorce her; or else! what should I do?’ He said, ‘No, only keep aloof from her and do not cohabit her.’ The Prophet sent the same message to my two fellows. Then I said to my wife. ‘Go to your parents and remain with them till Allāh gives His Verdict in this matter.” Kaʿb added, “The wife of Hilāl bin Umaiya came to Apostle and said, ‘O Allāh’s Apostle! Hilāl bin Umaiya is a helpless old man who has no servant to attend on him. Do you dislike that I should serve him? ‘ He said, ‘No (you can serve him) but he should not come near you.’ She said, ‘By Allāh, he has no desire for anything. By, Allāh, he has never ceased weeping till his case began till this day of his.’ On that, some of my family members said to me, ‘Will you also ask Allāh’s Apostle to permit your wife (to serve you) as he has permitted the wife of Hilāl bin Umaiya to serve him?’ I said, ‘By Allāh, I will not ask the permission of Allāh’s Apostle regarding her, for I do not know What Allāh’s Apostle would say if I asked him to permit her (to serve me) while I am a young man.’ Then I remained in that state for ten more nights after that till the period of fifty nights was completed starting from the time when Allāh’s Apostle prohibited the people from talking to us. When I had offered the Fajr prayer on the 50th morning on the roof of one of our houses and while I was sitting in the condition which Allāh described (in the Qurʾān) i.e. my very soul seemed straitened to me and even the earth seemed narrow to me for all its spaciousness, there I heard the voice of one who had ascended the mountain of Sala’ calling with his loudest voice, ‘O Kaʿb bin Mālik! Be happy (by receiving good tidings).’ I fell down in prostration before Allāh, realizing that relief has come. Allāh’s Apostle had announced the acceptance of our repentance by Allāh when he had offered the Fajr prayer. The people then went out to congratulate us. Some bringers of good tidings went out to my two fellows, and a horseman came to me in haste, and a man of Banu Aslam came running and ascended the mountain and his voice was swifter than the horse. When he (i.e. the man) whose voice I had heard, came to me conveying the good tidings, I took off my garments and dressed him with them; and by Allāh, I owned no other garments than them on that day. Then I borrowed two garments and wore them and went to Allāh’s Apostle. The people started receiving me in batches, congratulating me on Allāh’s Acceptance of my repentance, saying, ‘We congratulate you on Allāh’s Acceptance of your repentance.” Kaʿb further said, “When I entered the Mosque. I saw Allāh’s Apostle sitting with the people around him. Ṭalḥa bin ʿUbaidullāh swiftly came to me, shook hands with me and congratulated me. By Allāh, none of the Muhājirīn (i.e. Emigrants) got up for me except him (i.e. Ṭalha), and I will never forget this for Ṭalḥa.” Kaʿb added, “When I greeted Allāh’s Apostle he, his face being bright with joy, said “Be happy with the best day that you have got ever since your mother delivered you.” Kaʿb added, “I said to the Prophet ‘Is this forgiveness from you or from Allāh?’ He said, ‘No, it is from Allāh.’ Whenever Allāh’s Apostle became happy, his face would shine as if it were a piece of moon, and we all knew that characteristic of him. When I sat before him, I said, ‘O Allāh’s Apostle! Because of the acceptance of my repentance I will give up all my wealth as alms for the Sake of Allāh and His Apostle. Allāh’s Apostle said, ‘Keep some of your wealth, as it will be better for you.’ I said, ‘So I will keep my share from Khaibar with me,’ and added, ‘O Allāh’s Apostle! Allāh has saved me for telling the truth; so it is a part of my repentance not to tell but the truth as long as I am alive. By Allāh, I do not know anyone of the Muslims whom Allāh has helped fortelling the truth more than me. Since I have mentioned that truth to Allāh’s Apostle till today, I have never intended to tell a lie. I hope that Allāh will also save me (from telling lies) the rest of my life. So Allāh revealed to His Apostle the Verse:– “Verily, Allāh has forgiven the Prophet, the Muhājirīn (i.e. Emigrants (up to His Saying) And be with those who are true (in word and deed).” (9.117-119) By Allāh, Allāh has never bestowed upon me, apart from His guiding me to Islam, a Greater blessing than the fact that I did not tell a lie to Allāh’s Apostle which would have caused me to perish as those who have told a lie perished, for Allāh described those who told lies with the worst description He ever attributed to anybody else. Allāh said:– “They (i.e. the hypocrites) will swear by Allāh to you when you return to them (up to His Saying) Certainly Allāh is not pleased with the rebellious people–” (9.95-96) Kaʿb added, “We, the three persons, differed altogether from those whose excuses Allāh’s Apostle accepted when they swore to him. He took their pledge of allegiance and asked Allāh to forgive them, but  Apostle left our case pending till Allāh gave His Judgment about it. As for that Allāh said):– “And to the three (He did for give also) who remained behind.” (9.118) What Allāh said (in this Verse) does not indicate our failure to take part in the Battle, but it refers to the deferment of making a decision by the Prophet about our case in contrast to the case of those who had taken an oath before him and he excused them by accepting their excuses.”

7 Taken from the tape recording “Imām al-Albānī, an Imām of the Sunnah” by Shaykh Rabīʿ ibn Hādī al-Madkhalī