Answered by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan
I have a question about this Hadith: Ibn Majah (4245) narrated from Thawban (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “I certainly know people of my ummah who will come on the Day of Resurrection with good deeds like the mountains of Tihaamah, but Allaah will make them like scattered dust.” Thawban said: O Messenger of Allaah, describe them to us and tell us more so that we will not become of them unknowingly. He said: “They are your brothers and from your race, worshipping at night as you do, but they will be people who, when alone, transgress the sacred limits of Allaah.”
Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (may Allah have mercy on him) in al-Zawajir (3/49) regarded it as pretending to be righteous outwardly and transgressing the sacred limits; even committing minor sins when one is alone is viewed as something significant, and he quoted this hadeeth as evidence and said: The one whose habit is to make a show of being good and concealing his evil ways causes more harm and misguidance to the Muslims because he has no piety and no fear of Allah. End quote.
I pray, fast, do good deeds, give sadaqa to Muslim foundations, remove obstacles from streets, etc., regardless of if there are people nearby or not. My intention is not to show off to other people. I intend to please Allah (SWT) as much as I can. But I commit sins as well, and some are hard to overcome, but I am young and in high school, so hopefully, I will get over it soon.
Also, I was born and lived in Sweden, and my father is from Palestina, and my mother is from Syria. However, I listen to music and do it both where there are people and alone, and I ask Allah to forgive me. But unfortunately, I do masturbate sometimes, and I am terrified that this Hadith is referring to me. Because I do good deeds, but when I am alone, I sometimes masturbate because it is very embarrassing and dishonorable to masturbate in front of people. What should I do and who is this Hadeeth really referring to? Is it referring to hypocrites?
Also, I asked someone, and he said (he wasn’t a scholar) that it referred to people who commit sins and don’t repent when alone. But it can’t be because if you repent of bad deeds, Allah will wipe them out. So the bad deeds on the scale on the day of judgment are obviously deeds that someone hasn’t repented from.
It is necessary to understand two crucial foundations before explaining the above hadith:
Allah is Most Forgiving
Allah has told us clearly in sura al-Nisa that He forgives all sins except shirk, ascribing partners to Him. He, Most High, said, “Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly gone far astray.” [Quran, 4:116]
The verse clarifies that Allah Most High forgives all the sins, public or secret, of those who repent and turn to Him seeking forgiveness.
Sinning in Private is a Lesser Evil Than Sinning in Public
In most instances, our Sacred Law considers sinning in private less reprehensible than sinning in public. Many traditions of the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) establish this. Consider the following hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah (Allah be pleased with him) in the Sahih compilations of Muslim and Bukhari: The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “My entire nation will be forgiven except those who sin in public. Among them is a man who commits an evil deed at night (in private). He then wakes up in the morning with Allah having concealed his crime, and says, O so and so, last night I did this and that. Thus His Lord concealed his nocturnal wrong and he exposed himself in the morning.”
The hadith of Thawban
Bearing in mind these foundations, the question is how do we understand the narration of Thawban?
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that when they are alone, they are guilty of intihak of the prohibitions of Allah. Intihak does not only mean to transgress as you mentioned in the translation above. Intihak encompasses the meaning of deeming insignificant (istikhfaf) and ridiculing (istihdar). Accordingly, the one referred to in the hadith above does not hold Allah’s Law in high regard. He considers disobeying Allah as something light and insignificant. Such a person’s belief is questionable and thus the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that his actions, even though they are as great as the mountains of Tihamah, will be like scattered dust. For the one who disobeys Allah with ease, thinking nothing of Allah and His Law, and only worships Him in public, is certainly not doing so out of love, reverence, and sincerity.
The fact that you are writing to us, fearing that the narration of Thawban (Allah be pleased with him) may be referring to you, speaks of one who sinned with much remorse and regret, not one that thought little of his Lord. Thus, while it is essential that you repent to Allah Most High for your crime, the hadith of Thawban most certainly does not refer to you.
Masturbation is sinful. Attempting to overcome it by oneself may be very challenging. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, however, gives good advice and insight on how one may stop himself from falling into it here
However, for many people, masturbation is an addiction. Like most addictions, you may require further guidance and support. One of our students is currently teaching a very beneficial course on addiction entitled “Breaking the Habit.” You may find those classes on the Dar al-Turath YouTube channel.
And Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan received ijazah ‘ammah from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib’ Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib’ Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi’i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.