Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally
Question: Assalam alaykum,
I have heard that conversion to Islam washes away all sin in the eyes of God. However, if some of those sins involved transgressions not only against God but against the rights of others, should one strive to return those alienated rights? What if these are too numerous to recall?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
Does Conversion Wash away Previous Sins?
“Say to those who disbelieve: if they desist, what has preceded them will be forgiven” (8:38).
Amr ibn al-‘Aas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated, “… When Allah placed Islam in my heart, I went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said, “Give me your right hand so I can pledge allegiance to you.” He held out his hand and I closed my fist. He said, “What is wrong, ‘Amr?” I said, “I wanted to stipulate a condition.” He said, “What is the condition?” I said, “That I be forgiven.” He said, “Do you not know that Islam wipes away what preceded it…?” (Muslim).
What if Previous Sins Involve the Rights of Others?
Practically speaking, one must fulfil one’s financial obligations and return alienated rights. Financial commitments, or injustices involving others, do not drop because of conversion. Repentance – conversion being an extreme form of it – involves rectifying past wrongs.
If those rights are too numerous to recall, one should strive to do so as much as one can. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “When I command you to do something, do so to the utmost of your ability” (Muslim).