Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Question: I have started taking my religion seriously. I am striving to nurture my faith, to pray my obligatory and sunna prayers, to engage in spiritual routines of remembrance and supplication (dhikr and dua), and to seek beneficial knowledge. This is through the inspiration of the very beneficial courses, lessons, and answers at Seekers. May Allah bless you. I was particularly inspired by attenting the last SeekersCircle (with Shaikh Faraz on “I Am Near” about Allah’s Closeness and what real religion is about). That got me thinking: I’m still not wearing hijab full-time, and I know that many times my dress is in reality immodest, deliberately. It is a weakness I know I have. My question is: Is dressing immodestly a small sin or a major sin? And is repentance accepted if I struggle to fully leave the sin?
Answer: walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits. May Allah bless your commitment to turn to Him and to seek Him through devotion, seeking knowledge and guidance, and acting on it. This is the way of light, to strive to stick to it with sincerity, consistency, and high resolve–relying on Allah thereby, and seeking Him through it.
What is the Ruling of Covering Properly?
It is an obligation for adult Muslim men and adult Muslim women to cover their “nakedness” (awra) in front of strangers of the opposite sex. This is defined by our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as being from navel to knee for men; and everything except face, hands, and feet for women. Uncovering anything of one’s nakendness is a sin.
Likewise, Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) have called us to uphold modesty (haya’) in dress and conduct, and to avoid any dress or conduct that goes against the beautiful, wise, and balanced standards and virtues related to modesty.
This modesty is upheld for the sake of Allah, seeking His Pleasure thereby, intending to follow the example of the Messenger of Beauty and Modesty (peace and blessings be upon him), and to promote and preserve good in one’s life, relations, and in society. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Allah is more deserving of one’s modesty than people are.” [Bukhari and others]
How Sinful is Immodest Dress?
Not covering fully is sinful, for both men and women. Likewise, immodest dress is sinful, for both men and women.
One’s focus should be repenting from the sin–even if one keeps failing. Ibn Ata’illah said, “Consider the Greatness of the one you’re sinning against, not the apparent smallness of your sin.”
Yet we balance our Fear of God with hope in His Mercy. In that light, Ibn Ata’illah also said, “No sin is small if you are faced by Allah’s Justice, and no sin is big if you are faced by Allah’s Mercy.”
What If I Struggle to Leave the Sin? Is My Repentance Accepted?
Even when you struggle to completely leave a sin, keep repenting and renewing your repentance. Know that repentance (tawba) is a returning to Allah, and is beloved to Allah. It isn’t a condition for it to be accepted by Allah and for it to be beloved to Allah that one succeed in completely leaving the sin. Rather, the condition is that one’s remorse be true, and that one sincerely seek and strive to leave the sin.
And never Allah Most High says: “Say: My servants who have wronged yourselves, never despair of God’s mercy. God forgives all sins: He is truly the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.” [Qur’an, 39.53]
How Does One Sincerely Repent to Allah?
Refer to the Seekers Answers Reader on Repentance (tawba):
A Reader on Tawba (Repentance)
Imam Nawawi writes in his Gardens of the Righteous (Riyad al-Salihin), On Repentance:
“1. Scholars say that it is a duty to repent of every wrong action.
2. If it is disobedience which occurs between a person and Allah and does not involve the right of another human being, repentance has three preconditions:
(a) The first is that one divest himself of disobedience.
(b) The second is that he regret doing it.
(c) The third is that he resolve not to ever return to it.
3. If one of the three is lacking, then his repentance is not sound.
4. If it involves to another human being, repentance has four preconditions: these three and that he discharges his duty to the other person. If it is money or the like, he pays it to him. If it is a hadd-punishment because of slander and the like it, he give shim power over him or seeks his pardon. If it is slander, he undoes it, He must repent of all wrong actions.
5. If he repents of some of them, the people of truth say that his repentance of them is sound, but he still has the rest. There is much evidence in the Book, the Sunna and the consensus of the Community about the obligation to repent.” [Nawawi, Riyad al-Salihin, tr. Bewley]
Allah’s Mercy Awaits Our Repentance
Allah Most High says, “Believers! Turn in sincere repentance to Allah.” [Qur’an, 66.8]
Allah’s Mercy awaits our repentance–and Allah is well pleased with us when we turn in repentance:
Anas ibn Malik, the personal servant of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Allah is rejoices more with the repentance of one His servants than one of you would rejoices if you found your lost camel after it had strayed from you in the the desert.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Allah Most High says, “Return to Allah in repentance, O believers!, so that you are of the successful.” [Qur’an, 24.31]
And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.