The authenticity and meaning of the Hadith of seeking forgiveness for repeated sin

Q: I read a Hadith in a book called: "Riyad Al-Salihin" by Abu Zakariyya Yahya ibn Sharaf Al-Nawawy Al-Dimishqy, on page 305, no. 6/392, chapter of "Al-Raja’" (Hope). The Hadith was reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) who said that that the Prophet (peace be upon him), relating from His Lord (Blessed and Exalted be He), said: A servant committed a sin and said, “O Allah! Forgive me my sin,” and He (Blessed and Exalted be He) said, “My servant has committed a sin, but he knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sin and punishes for sin.” Then he sinned again and said, “O my Lord! Forgive me my sin,” and He (Blessed and Exalted be He) said, “My servant has committed a sin, but he knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sin and punishes for sin.” Then he sinned again and said, “O my Lord! Forgive me my sin,” and He (Blessed and Exalted be He) said, “My servant has committed a sin, but he knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sin and punishes for sin. Do what you want, for I have forgiven you.” (Agreed upon by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). Would Your Eminence please give us information about the authenticity of this Hadith and its explanation?


A: This Hadith Qudsy (revelation from Allah in the Prophet’s words) that was reported by Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) as follows: "A servant committed a sin (Part No. 4; Page No. 417) and said..." is Sahih (a Hadith that has been transmitted by people known for their uprightness and exactitude; free from eccentricity and blemish), and it was related by Imam Al-Bukhari in his book: "Al-Sahih Al-Musnad" and also by Imam Muslim in his "Sahih". Imam Muslim said that ‘Abdul-A‘la ibn Hammad narrated from Hammad ibn Salamah, on the authority of Is-haq ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Abu Talhah, on the authority of `Abdul-Rahman ibn Abu `Amrah on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, relating from His Lord (Glorified and Exalted be He): A servant committed a sin and said, ‘O Allah! Forgive me my sin,’ and He (Blessed and Exalted be He) said, ‘My servant has committed a sin, but he knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sin and punishes for sin.’ Then he sinned again and said, ‘O my Lord! Forgive me my sin,’ and He (Blessed and Exalted be He) said, ‘My servant has committed a sin, but he knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sin and punishes for sin.” Then he sinned again and said, ‘O my Lord! Forgive me my sin,’ and He (Blessed and Exalted be He) said, ‘My servant has committed a sin, but he knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sin and punishes for sin. Do what you want, for I have forgiven you.’ In another narration, Al-Bukhari said that Ahmad ibn Is-haq narrated from `Amr ibn `Asim who narrated from Hammam, who narrated from Is-haq ibn ‘Abdullah, that he heard `Abdul-Rahman ibn Abu `Amrah saying that he heard Abu Hurayrah saying that he heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying: A servant committed a sin and said, ‘My Lord, I have sinned, forgive me.’ His Lord said, ‘My servant knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sin and punishes for it. I have forgiven My servant.’ Then as much time passed as Allah willed, then he committed a sin and said, ‘My Lord, I have sinned; forgive me.’ His Lord said, ‘My servant knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sin and punishes for it. I have forgiven My servant.’ Then as much time passed as Allah willed, then he committed a sin and said, ‘My Lord, I have sinned; forgive me.’ His Lord said, ‘My servant knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sin and punishes for it. I have forgiven My servant,’ - three times - ‘Let him do what he likes.’ (Part No. 4; Page No. 418) This Hadith is related in "Kitab Al-Tawhid (Book of Monotheism)". There is no ambiguity in the meaning of this Hadith, it means that as long as a servant asks for forgiveness with regret and repentance when they commit a sin, and they are determined not to sin again, Allah will forgive them. It should not be understood from His Saying: "Let him do what he likes" that it is permissible to commit misdeeds and sins, but that Allah will forgive a sin if the sinner repents and asks for forgiveness.Furthermore, Al-Hafizh said in "Al-Fath": Ibn Battal commented on this Hadith, saying: A person who persists in committing sins is left to the Will of Allah (Exalted be He). If Allah wills, He will punish them; and if He wills, He will forgive them giving superiority to the good deed they have done, which is: the belief that they have a Lord, a Creator, Who can punish and forgive them, and their seeking forgiveness from Him bespeaks this belief. This is supported by Allah’s saying: Whoever brings a good deed (Islâmic Monotheism and deeds of obedience to Allâh and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم) shall have ten times the like thereof to his credit Indeed, there is no good deed is greater than Tawhid (belief in the Oneness of Allah).May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.

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