Can Hypocrites Repent?
And others are left awaiting Allah's command as to whether He will punish them or turn to them. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.
(Surat at-Tawba: 106)
As Allah has revealed in the Qur'an, " ...He is not pleased with ingratitude in His servants ..." (Surat al-Zumar: 7). In other words, He wishes to lead His servants onto the true path, forgive their sins and admit them to Paradise. But hypocrites insist on turning their backs to this call. Although they know and understand, they remain unmoved by His verses and because of their cruelty and pride, persist in their denial. Yet there may be some among them who long to put an end to such behavior. In that event, anyone who wishes to repent needs to fully understand his own helplessness, beg Allah's forgiveness with the utmost sincerity, and repent definitively in such a way as never to return to hypocrisy.
On condition that he is truly sincere, it may be possible—if Allah so wishes—for Him to accept a hypocrite's repentance. Indeed, we are told that " ...if anyone repents after his wrongdoing and puts things right, Allah will turn towards him. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful " (Surat al-Ma'ida: 39).
A number of verses in the Qur'an deal with hypocrites repenting. It may be hoped that Allah will accept the repentance of those who confess the sins they have committed and sincerely intend to exhibit a genuine attitude towards His messenger:
But others have acknowledged their wrong actions and mixed a right action with another which is wrong. It may well be that Allah will turn towards them. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surat at-Tawba: 102)
Allah has given examples of hypocrites who lived in the past and how some of them repented. As is revealed in verses, some members of the people of the Prophet Muhammad (saas) made all kinds of excuses in order not to go to war and sought the permission of the Prophet (saas) to remain behind. Since they did so, they rejoiced and regarded themselves as very advantaged. In their own minds they had escaped the danger of death and ensured their own survival by not participating in the fighting. They did not think that the death they were seeking to avoid might still find them, even in their own homes. The fact is, however, that had they submitted to the Prophet (saas) and gone to war, then even if death did catch up with them, they would have been martyrs and by the mercy of Allah, would have earned, the right to enter Paradise.
However, since they harbored doubts about the Hereafter, they regarded death in battle as a serious loss. They regarded remaining behind with their families and saw taking care of business and similar matters as much more advantageous.
The Qur'an refers to "three people" from among this community who wished to remain behind. Like the others, they failed to participate in the war, failed to act alongside the believers and support the faithful against the deniers. However, these three differed from the others who "remained behind" in one important respect: According to what is revealed in the Qur'an, these people regretted not having gone to war, were ashamed of themselves and sincerely repented, seeking Allah's forgiveness. Allah accepted their repentance.
Why were they forgiven? The main reason was that they sincerely feared Allah, beseeched Him in their need and begged Him for forgiveness. One verse from the Qur'an describes their sincerity and the pangs of conscience they suffered:
And also towards the three who were left behind, so that when the Earth became narrow for them, for all its great breadth, and their own selves became constricted for them and they realized that there was no refuge from Allah except in Him, He turned to them so that they might turn to Him. Allah is the Ever-Returning, the Most Merciful. (Surat at-Tawba: 118)
In addition, Allah refers to hypocrites' repenting as being auspicious for them. This is a great blessing on them. If He so wishes, Allah will forgive them despite their wickedness, and forgive their sins—as is revealed in the following verse:
...If they were to repent, it would be better for them. But if they turn away, Allah will punish them with a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter ... (Surat at-Tawba: 74)
Most hypocrites imagine that they can commit all kinds of evil and then repent in their old age or when they realize they are about to die. Yet Allah reveals in a verse that He will not accept any repentance they make when they feel they are about to die:
There is no repentance for people who persist in doing evil until death comes to them and who then say, "Now I repent," nor for people who die disbeliever. We have prepared for them a painful punishment. (Surat an-Nisa': 18)
The repentance which will be acceptable is described in these terms in the Qur'an:
Allah only accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and then quickly repent after doing it. Allah turns towards such people. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (Surat an-Nisa': 17)